A Travellerspoint blog

Espana, mi amor

My quick recap of my time in Spain

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Visited: Madrid, Sevilla, Malaga (quick stop in order to get to Torremolinos), Granada, & Barcelona

Number of Days: 14

Favorite City: It's a toss-up between the Sevilla and Barcelona. Sevilla because it is really romantic and the atmosphere. Barcelona because there is so much to see and Gaudi's architecture is amazing

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Meals: Learned the difference between Tapas, Pinxtos, and Montaditos. Favorite thing about the food? So much of it has a sunny-side egg on top!

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Favorite drink: Tinto de Verano

Favorite sight: Alhambra in Granada

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Favorite activities: Wine and cava tour with Rahmah and pub crawl in Madrid

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Funniest moments: Rahmah and I running for our train to Malaga and the bags flipping over every time we jumped it off a curb haha!

Observations:
1) None of our hostels had air conditioner - and it is way too hot in June for that
2) People loveee to stand and eat - like at tapas bars
3) If you order a steak somewhere it will automatically come with an egg on top - winning! (maybe not every place but the 2 places I had steak did haha)
4) Every city has an H&M
5) I heard this from a person on my travels "The waiters are not slow...they are just making sure you enjoy your time without interruptions..." Um...I think my mom would still call that slow.

It was a great time with one of my best friends from high school! As I write this she is still travelling in Spain and she has told me that I need to add Bilbao and San Sebastian to my list the next time I return to Spain.

Posted by EscapewithKay 09:44 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Barcelona: Gaudi's playground

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Our last stop in Spain together was Barcelona. As I was planning for my trip back in the Spring, Barcelona quickly became the city I was most excited for. I had a list of about 12 things I wanted to do…but only 3 days. It looked like I was going to sight-see myself to death. Unfortunately, when I got off the overnight train into Barcelona my cold had gotten worse. I also had what felt like an ear infection. I did get some drops from the pharmacy and it went away in 3 days or so.

Day 1: La Pedrera & Historic Walking Tour

I was most looking forward to see all of Antoni Gaudi's famous works. We started with La Pedrera. There was scaffolding all around the outside so we decided to buy the ticket and go in. The roof was awesome. Gaudi loved making things that were functional also artistic. So he combined all of the chimneys into clusters and made them look like medieval knights.

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One of the sets of chimneys had some green glass on it that when reflected the light looked really cool. We found out that these are shards of glass from champagne bottles.

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On the next level of the house was a museum dedicated to his works. Gaudi's main focus was making sure all of his buildings had natural light and he did this with skylights and courtyards in the middle of the building. Also he loved designing his work to resemble nature. In the museum they showed us some of the animals and plants he used as inspiration.

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Afterwards, Rahmah and I decided to get more Pintxos because…they're awesome. We found this restaurant that had 50 different types. We ordered 5 each and felt like exploding after…but there were so many more I wanted to try :(

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Our free walking tour of the city was based in the historic center. Here I learned that Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya (just as Seville is the capital of Andalusia). Some people in Catalunya still believe they should not be part of Spain. Just recently a referendum was sent to the Spanish government asking for more of their autonomy back. The flag of Catalunya is 8 strips alternating yellow and red, but if you see a house hanging a flag with a triangle and star on it, it means they want to separate from Spain.

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Because I was really sick, I didn't take many pictures again, but I do remember Barcelona's Gothic Cathedral. This cathedral is built atop the ruins of an 11th century Romanesque church. It is hard to see in this picture but when you look down the alley you can see the Gothic part attached to the Roman part, attached to the medieval part. That part was really interesting because you can see the changes in styles over time and also the deep history of Barcelona.

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Our guide also showed us this plaque that is in front of some of the stores. The plaque is like a medal for serving the city [plaques]. So if you see one of these plaques on the ground in front of the store (Bakery, pharmacy, restaurant) you know it's good! You can buy a book with all the locations or go onto googlemaps and type "Guapos por siempre - tiendas antiguas"

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Day 2: Casa Batillo & Sagrada Familia

In the morning, I went to Casa Batllo. It is another building by Gaudi and this one is a residential building. Since I was on my own I decided to get the video guide. That's right - I leveled up from the audio guide. They gave me a little tablet and when you walk from room to room you can put the tablet up (like you are going to take a photo) and it shows you the inspirations for what you are looking at. So I kind of looked stupid walking around with this tablet in my face but it was really cool!

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For instance, when I was in front of this window, it showed that Gaudi used the sea-turtle shaped

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The stairs was a spine of a dragon

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This fireplace is a mushroom

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Gaudi decided to make this house as a water theme with blue, mauve and green tiles and wave shaped windows on the outside. I think this is one of my favorite museums I went to (also a UNESCO site). In the middle of the building is another courtyard where he put darker blue tiles at the top and lighter blue (close to white) tiles at the bottom because the light is brightest at the top.

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Afterward, because I couldn't get enough Gaudi, Rahmah and I went to La Sagrada Familia. Now…you know I've been to a lot of Cathedrals, but my reaction to this one is incomparable. Going along with the themes from the two houses I visited, we can see how Gaudi is inspired by Mother Nature. Instead of the columns being straight up, he made them more tree-like structures. And at the top of the columns is a canopy of leaves. He believed that coming into the cathedral should feel safe like when you are covered by the forest in a rainstorm.

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Day 3: Wine and Cava Tour & Park Guell

On our last day together, Rahmah and I went on a wine and cava tour. You're probably wondering what Cava is….I'll get to that.

Our tour was in the Penedes region. We started with the winery Jean Leon. He was a Catalan who left Spain to find fame in Hollyword (he changed his name from Ceferino Carrion to Jean Leon). He founded the famous restaurant in Beverly Hills "La Scala" with James Dean. After that he returned to Spain and started the "single vineyard estate" and imported French grapes.

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He is also the official wine of the Gaudi awards (and at the awards they give out a gold statue of the chimneys I showed you!)

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Next we went to Torres winery. They have wineries in Chile and the US (California). This one was the best because they gave us 3 different wines and for each wine was paired with a cheese and piece of bread! Rahmah and I went to town…when everyone was done and left we went around to people's plates and stole the cheeses they left hehe.

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The softest cheese (it was a brie type cheese) was paired with the white wine and the strongest cheese was paired with the darkest red

Lastly we went to Freixenet, a Cava producer in Spain. Cava is basically spanish champagne. They use the same process as champagne, but using Spanish grapes. They aren't allowed to call it champagne since those have to be produced in that region of France. It's named after the caves that were used in the aging of the wine.

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When we got back we quickly went to Park Guell…the last thing on my long list of Gaudi works. In 1900 Guell bought a hillside and hired Gaudi to create a miniature city for the wealthy. The project was abandoned but first Gauid had already finished 3km.. This is where you see the famous pictures of the mosaic benches…and it was exactly what I was waiting to see :)

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That night Rahmah and I went out on another pub crawl and ended up in this HUGE club. It was a great way to end our trip together and my time in Spain.

Posted by EscapewithKay 08:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Moor of Spain

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When planning our trip Rahmah and I realized that there were so many sights we were seeing and not enough relaxing. When we got to Malaga we went straight to Torremolinos, a small little beach town and spent the night. The next day was all about the pool, the beach, and the sun and I'm so glad we put this in our schedule. (Sidenote...we realized pretty quickly it was a topless beach X_X)

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The next day we took a bus to Granada and arrived late at night, but with enough time for me to try Tagine. Since Granada has a large Muslim influence there are a lot of Moroccan restaurants everywhere. Rahmah, who went to Morocco before she met up with me in Madrid, introduced me to tagine. The dish is named after the pot used to steam the food.

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Day 1: Alhambra & Mirador San Nicolas

I spent the morning and afternoon on my own because Rahmah had already visited the Alhambra with her mom and sister.

When I was in Seville I learned that you HAVE to buy tickets ahead of time for the Alhambra. I ran to the computer and found that all the tickets were sold out for the dates that I was going to be in Granada, but the Alhambra is the #1 site so I had to go. I was pretty upset with myself because I had let something completely slip, until I realized that there was no way that I could perfectly plan 70 days. I ended up paying double to buy a Granada card, which keeps some time slots open for the Alhambra. Although I didn't use much of anything else the card offered, visiting the Alhambra was worth it.

The Alhambra was originally constructed in 889 as a fortress and then rebuilt in the 11th century by the Moorish king and converted into a royal palace. The Nasrid palaces inside the Alhambra were built for the Muslim emirs (translates to something like a prince) and then after the conquest by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and (just like the Alcazer in Sevilla) you can see the Islamic architecture along with the later Christian building.

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The Patio of the Lions was my favorite. It is a courtyard with white marble columns and beautiful arches. The fountain has 12 lions and on each hour another one starts squirting water from it's mouth.

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That night Rahmah and I met up with two girls from Quebec that we met at La Banda (our favorite hostel in Sevilla). We went for tapas and then Paella up the hill on the other side of Alhambra called Albayzin. This part of town is known for its narrow winding streets and Moorish past. There is also has a great view of Alhambra at Mirador de San Nicolas, at the top of the hill. It was really nice to explore and go out to eat with people we met from another town.

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Day 2: City tour, Cave tour, & Overnight train

The next day we took a walking tour of the town through the historic center and learned the changes that the Christians made to the city of Granada when they took it. Later that evening, after we made sure to have an Alhambra beer (it tasted gross), we went to the cave tours. I actually was reallyyyyy sick during this tour so I didn't take any pictures. The tour is in an area of town where people have homes in caves excavated from the soft rock of the hillside. I did get some views of Albayzin though!

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After our last tour of Granada, Rahmah and I took an overnight train to Barcelona. I had really wanted the experience of sleeping on a train in Europe because I've seen it in movies, but people always say that they don't get good sleep in it. Luckily, Rahmah and I had a GREAT night. We each had beds in a 4 person room with two other girls, and we just passed out almost the whole way. I think it helped that I was really sick and had a fever because all I wanted to do was sleep!

Posted by EscapewithKay 09:38 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

The Romance of Sevilla

Capital of Andalucia

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Sevilla is the 8th romantic city in the world (but I think I might love it more than Venice, which is #1). I think I've said that a lot in this blog: "I would definitely come back here"…but for Sevilla it's somewhere that I wish I could live one day. Although Rahmah will probably beat me to it haha. I think it's the people there, the Andalusia laid back feeling (that's the region of southern Spain), and the culture that really pulled us in. Not to mention that we loved our hostel. It is my favorite one so far!

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On the night we arrived we just went out to dinner and here is where I learned that Sangria, for people in Andalucia, is just for the tourists. Immediately when we sat down, the waiter basically told us we wanted Sangria. We usually just order glasses of it, but he brought us a liter (that's more than a bottle of wine!)

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The next day our guide on our walking tour told us that the drink here was Tinto de Verano. Rahmah and I fell in love. It's basically:
1) 40-45% Red wine - we asked what kind and they said it's just the cheapest house wine
2) 55-60% Lemonade or Limeade or 7up…something bubbly

I think we had about 5-6 glasses of tinto verano a day….

Day 1: Free walking tour of Sevilla & Hostel Dinner
From our hostel, La Banda, we went on the free walking tour that they provided. Free walking tours are becoming really popular because it's just tip-based. So you pay them what you think it was worth. Rahmah and I loved our guide, Medi. He was hilarious. He gave us lotsssss of information and the tour lasted 3 hours but it was worth it…well it was free, but we tipped him well.

1) No8Do

On all of the sewer grates, the official motto of Seville is written: No8Do. It means "No me ha dejado" or "It (meaning Sevilla) has not abandoned me". The 8 represents the shape that wool was put into, which is called madeja. So putting No + madeja + do = "No me ha dejado". King Alfonso X said this because the citizens stayed behind him when his son tried to usurp him from the throne.

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2) Triana

Triana is the neighborhood that lies on the other side of the Guadalquivir River - basically separated from the main city. We learned that the Trianeros identify really strongly with the neighborhood and don't consider it part of Sevilla. Some want to separate altogether. Our guide told us that what makes Sevilla so well-known, the flamenco culture, actually comes from Triana because all of the gypsies lived on the other side of the river...the poor side...

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3) La Macarena

I learned that the Macarena song came from Sevilla! It's about the girlfriend, Macarena, of a spanish army recruit who then hooked up with his two friends. Once he said the lyrics in English, I got it haha! Also, apparently, a lot of girls are named Macarena in Sevilla…Rahmah and I found this to be true when we went to a food place where they call out your name to pick it up at the counter and they kept calling Macarena!

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4) Tobacco Factory

We stopped by the old Royal Tobacco Factory. Sevilla was the first place for tobacco manufacturers in Europe and they held a monopoly on tobacco from the Americas. The reason our guide took us here was because hundreds of Operas were made about the gypsies that worked here. The Opera Carmen is about a soldier who was seduced by the gypsy Carmen. I didn't know the opera but I knew the famous song when he started humming it…youtube Habanera song from Carmen.

5) Plaza de Espana

This plaza was built in the 1920s in preparation for Sevilla’s 1929 World Fair. Along with Plaza de Espana, Sevilla also built the Maria Luisa Park. The Park has a number of pavilions for different colonies Spain made in the Americas as a sort of "apology" for their acts there. In the guide books, they then say that Sevilla made the Plaza de Espana as a semicircle with the opening towards the park "welcoming and apologizing" to the Americas. Our guide told us that they only said this because they ran out of money to finish the whole circle of Plaza de Espana!

Tidbit for my uncle: remember this from Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. It's Planet Naboo (but in Star Wars they completed the circle).

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We liked the little alcoves for each of the major cities in Spain. There is a picture of the city with a map. We took a picture of all the cities we were going to.

That night we ate dinner at our hostel. Favorite thing #1: They served dinner for 6 Euros and you eat at the rooftop bar family style with an amazing view of the Sevilla Cathedral lite up at night. Not to mention Tinto Veranos for 2 Euros. We met so many people - England, Australia, Quebec, France, China, the list goes on. After eating we bar hopped with the people we met. Again we gained our titles as the Jersey Girls haha.

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Day 2: Alcazer, Plaza Espana, Arabic Baths, & Flamenco Show
This day will forever be our favorite day together in Spain. We did so much and I still was able to get a siesta in!

We started the morning with the Alcazer. It is a medieval Islamic palace but you can see the fusion of Spanish Christian and Moorish architecture. I really liked how there were a whole bunch of courtyards with a fountain and little garden. I definitely need my house to be like that.

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One of the highlights of our day was going to the Arabic Baths, Aire de Sevilla. There were Thermal baths (hot, medium, and cold), hammam, and a Jacuzzi all in this 16th century mansion. It was perfect because we received 2 hours there and it was great to relax after all of our sightseeing. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep in the medium temperature pool. The music was really soothing.

If that wasn't enough to make a perfect day, we then went to the Museo del Baile Flamenco and saw an early Flamenco show. My only regret was going to the early show because there was a tour of senior citizens who didn't turn off the sound from their camera. So every couple seconds you would keep hearing the noises of cameras, which kind of takes away from the singing and music. Overall I really enjoyed it. The way they sing is so different, I don't even think I can do that with my voice. I would love to do a dinner show next time.

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Our hostel was serving Paella that night, so we ate with our new friends and went around the town. It made us kind of sad because we were having such a great time, but we knew we were leaving the next day.

Day 3: Catedral de Sevilla

Our last day, Rahmah and I planned a light schedule so that we didn't feel rushed to get to our train to Malaga (which was at 5pm). We woke up late and went to the Seville Cathedral. The mosque that used to stand in this location was torn down after Sevilla fell to the Christians, but the minaret of the mosque, La Giralda, still stands. We walked up 30 floors to the top of the Giralda Tower to get some views of Sevilla. You can see the bull fighting ring in the picture and next time I definitely have to make time for that.

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The Cathedral itself is an icon of Gothic architecture and also houses Christopher Columbus' tomb.

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This next story looks long, but trust me it's funny:

Afterwards, Rahmah and I had a really nice lunch sharing a Paella and then had about an hour to get to our train. Unfortunately, we got on the bus that took us through THE ENTIRE city and it took 45 minutes. The sad part was that we were only a 15 minute walk from the train station and Rahmah still needed to print out her ticket! We jumped off the bus at the station and booked it. My bag has really big wheels so I was able to jump it off and on to curbs easily, but Rahmah's bag kept flipping over. It made me laugh so hard because Rahmah runs faster than me, but then her bag would flip and I would pass her and then she would pass me and then her bag would flip again. Finally we made it to the customer service with 4 minutes until the train. She tried to find her ticket using the credit card that she used, but they couldn't find it. At this point, Rahmah yelled at me to go to the train. I look at her and scream: "Okay, I'll see you in Malaga" and run. Once I sat down on the train I realized, Oh my God…we didn't make a backup plan. Then just as the conductor was getting on the train I see a head running in the window waving her hands: "Senor, Senor, Por favor!!" We sat on the train for about 15 minutes trying to catch our breaths and laughing so hard. We had both made it and we were on our way to Malaga, a port city of Spain...it is also a city hated by Sevillanos.

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Posted by EscapewithKay 09:37 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

The Land of Siestas and Tapas

Basically a place made just for me...

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From Nice, I had to say goodbye to Kelle and take a plane to Madrid, with a stop in Barcelona. My first flight in Europe. It went really smoothly and this time I welcomed the language change (although I don't really speak Spanish, but at least I understand more of it than French!)

I definitely want to fly back into the Madrid Airport because I really liked it. I then took a Metro to my next hostel and there I met up with my friend, Rahmah. We have been friends since the 7th grade and even through being apart for 6 years while I was in Pittsburgh and Atlanta, it's like nothing has ever changed. We have talked about Spain for a while and I am still so excited that we actually were able to make it happen.

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Day 1: Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Tapas Tour, and Pub Crawl
Rahmah and I started our 1st day walking around Madrid stopping at the Royal Palace and some plazas. The Palacio Real or Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family (although they do not actually live here). We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but I snuck a picture of this one Rococo ceiling we really liked. Rococo is an 18th century style and it’s a more florid and graceful approach to Baroque.

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We then walked around and saw Plaza Mayor. This plaza used to host bullfights until 1878. Also during the Spanish Inquisition heretics were tried here.

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Afterwards I took a well-deserved siesta, because…I'm in Spain so that's what I'm supposed to do right? Plus I had to get my stomach ready for our self-guided Tapas tour in the La Latina neighborhood - Madrid's home of tapas. We started at a place called Almendro 13 and I had their specialty: huevos rotos. Literally translated to 'broken eggs' it is potato chips with a sunny side egg on top with some cured meat (I'm not sure what kind of meat it was…)

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We then went to a place called Txacolina. The tapas they make here are called Pintxos..they are tapas from the Basque area. All of these tapas are food that is "pierced" to a piece of bread (pinchar is "to pierce" and where the word pintxos came from)

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Our tapas tour ended here because we were already too full.

On this night we also went on a pub crawl with our hostel, and we actually started to meet people! I'm not the most outgoing person until I get to know you, so I was always a bit nervous about hostels and starting random conversations. But we had an amazing time! We met a great group of people from Virginia that we kept close to, a guy from Chile, some girls from Toronto and a guy from Jersey. No, I do not mean New Jersey, I literally mean Jersey…England!! It was so funny because everyone started calling Rahmah and me the Jersey Girls, and then a guy says: "Oh, I'm from Jersey"

The best part is that everyone is doing the same thing we are: travelling around Europe. It was so much fun to find out where people are from, where they have been and where they going, receiving and giving tips about different cities. It was funny because this was a Monday night, but Madrid was so lively. I can't imagine how it would have been if we were there until the weekend!

Unfortunately, the night ended on a bad note with Rahmah's phone getting stolen in the girl's bathroom. It was really frustrating and upsetting for her because she lost some pictures she took on her trip. At the time I'm writing this she has, thankfully, already received a new phone from her Insurance company. It was a lesson for me because I had already felt so complacent and safe here, with 3 weeks of nothing bad happening. But I also learned to back up pictures every couple days.

Day 2: Prado Museum & Palacio de Comunicaciones
Today was my first day sightseeing on my own. I gave Rahmah some space as she needed to deal with her phone and insurance company. However, at this point, I have never been to a museum by myself or found my way around by myself while in Europe. It was surprisingly liberating. I had breakfast in the park and just spent my time admiring the buildings. I downloaded a self-guided Prado tour and spent how much time I wanted to at each piece.

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The Prado starts with Italian Renaissance, which I had already had a lot of exposure to - so I walked through these rooms a little faster. Then there is Northern European Art and Flemish art, since the Netherlands was once part of the Spanish Empire. Finally I reached the Spanish art. I really enjoyed El Greco (he was born in Greece, trained in Venice and then moved to Toledo just outside of Madrid). My book summed it up perfectly: "His paintings are drenched in Venetian color and fused in the fires of Spanish mysticism. Lastly, I saw Francisco de Goya and the stages of his life from his court paintings, his scandalous paintings, and then his famous "black paintings" (those were a bit creepy).

I also did a lot of walking along the Paseo del Prado and passed some other museums and monuments and squares.

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I went up to the top of the Palacio de Comunicaciones to get some great views of the city.

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I started to get hungry so I went to a bar by my hostel and got some Montaditos. These are also tapas but different from the huevos rotos or the pintxos because montaditos are all made in a little baguette. I got some Chorizo and Spanish Tortilla.

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At the end of the day (after my siesta of course), I met back up with Rahmah and we had the best dinner at a Tapas restaurant. We learned that you just walk in and get a plate and then go around and at your own pace pick from the tapas in the display. Then at the end, they charge you based on how many toothpicks you have. I had different combinations of chorizo, shrimp, croquette, beef, and cheese tapas. Rahmah likes more fish than I did so she had some with salmon and crab.

Day 3: Templo de Debod, Mercado San Miguel
On our last day, Rahmah and I went to the Tempo de Debod and Market before our train to Sevilla. The Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple that was transported stone by stone after Spanish archaeologists helped save Egyptian monuments during a flood. We got some pretty cool views from the hill that the Temple is on, as well.

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Our last stop was quite possibly my most favorite stop of all of Madrid (well the pub crawl night was also great!). When you walk into Mercado San Miguel you immediately are hit with this great smell. Rahmah and I did a couple of laps of the place before deciding on what tapas we would buy. I got a glass of Sangria, a tapa made of Burrata, and three different empanadas and spent 7 Euros. If we had gone here on the first day, I probably would've ended up eating here every day.

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Posted by EscapewithKay 13:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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