Highlights from my short adventure in the capital city of Spain.
While I only spent a mere eight days in Spain, which is absolutely not enough, I saw so much beauty and experienced so much culture that I felt the need to split my Spanish adventure into more than one post.
So I dedicate this post to Madrid, the central capital of Spain. This city had so much to offer in terms of history and culture, and also in terms of entertainment and fun. So whenever my cousin and I weren’t fan-girling over ‘El Prado’ or other things that history nerds like, we were buying bottles of wine for 2.50 euros and enjoying ourselves. While our 4 days in Madrid were packed with excitement, I will outline the absolute highlights in order to please those with short attention spans (which I think is everyone these days).
Because El Prado is one of the most famous art museums in the entire world, my history nerd self was literally shaking while waiting to enter the building (Also it was really cold out and we were underdressed. Note: Just because Madrid is further south than London does not mean it is warm). Anyway, the history nerd in me was BLOWN AWAY by this museum. Not only was the artwork physically and aesthetically incredible, the amount of monumental historical figures that have walked through that prestigious museum made me want to kiss the ground. I didn’t kiss the ground, but I did possibly shed a few tears while looking at some of Goya’s paintings that changed the course of history and art forever. No shame. But my favorite paintings had to be those of EL Greco. I can’t even find words to describe seeing the exaggerated figures and saturated yet eerie colors of his work up close and in person. El Prado was definitely three hours well spent.
Wine and Tapas
Naturally, when visiting a different country, you must try the local cuisine. In Madrid, this means wine and tapas for many meals, and churros con chocolate for breakfast. Though it was difficult to ingest so much sugar so early in the morning, our hostel gave us complimentary churros and insisted that this was an ordinary breakfast in Spain. So we ate them shamelessly, and they were fabulous.
When looking for a prime example of Spanish cuisine and hospitality, El Tigre was the perfect place to go. With our order of sangria, the waiter also brought us a heaping plate of free tapas to accompany our drinks. The plate consisted of bread with cheese, spanish omelette, and patatas bravas, all of which were absolutely delicious. Had they not been delicious, I still would have been happy because they were free.
We also tried other traditional Spanish foods, including paella, gazpacho, and lots of wine. I need to reiterate a statement I made earlier in this post: one bottle of wine was 2.50 euros. I have never bought a bottle of wine for that cheap, and the wine was pretty high quality as well. I love Spain.
My cousin and I briefly took a break from our thrifty college habits and bought tickets to a Flamenco Show, which turned out to be absolutely worth it. After being welcomed into a tiny, intimate showroom and given a complimentary glass of wine, we spent the next hour in awe as we watched the performers sing, dance, and play guitar flawlessly. Having never seen real Flamenco before, I was amazed at the precision and speed of the dancer’s feet and the intense passion in the singer’s voice. The amount of talent displayed on the small stage was unbelievable, and the whole performance was incredibly moving.
One thing I’ve learned in my travels: every big city needs a green space. The best green space in Madrid was Parque Retiro, a massive and peaceful getaway from the loudness of the packed streets. In addition to the wide, pristine walkways bordered by trees, a large pond sat in the middle of the area where people rode paddleboats and relaxed under a majestic monument dedicated to Alfonso XII.
But my favorite spot in the park was Palacio de Cristal, a huge, domed structure whose glass walls and ceiling enveloped you in sheer nothingness and chaos at the same time. While standing inside the vast building and hear the wild chattering of other tourists, you can look outside from anywhere and see the serene elements of nature resting calmly.
Though the area lacked saturation and flourishing plant life due to the time of year, the park’s beautiful landmarks and peaceful presence of nature brought life to the winter.
That concludes my list of highlights in Madrid, but overall it’s the entire city itself that blessed me with such an enjoyable four days. The outstanding hospitality of our hostel, Sungate One, provided us with free community dinners and the opportunity to meet interesting people from all over the world. The city’s abundance of historical landmarks exuded regality, and the flawless, detailed architecture revealed artistic superiority. So Madrid instigated my newfound love for Spain, and this love only grew stronger when I visited Barcelona and Toledo, which I will write about in another post. So stick around, we’ll be right back!! (Disney channel reference, if you picked up on it you’re awesome).