I successfully navigated the unusually complicated Metro and headed to the hostel the AEGEE group was staying at, knowing I wouldn't be able to check in but hoping to leave my bag so I wouldn't have to haul it around until noon. I accidentally woke up the manager because I didn't realize the door from the street was unlocked, but I dropped of my backpack and port bottles and went out to find some breakfast. I passed through the Puerta del Sol (we'll see it later) and the Plaza Mayor, and both were completely empty, but at that point I didn't care and I found a cafe for some churros and orange juice.
My main goal for the morning was to go to the Museo Reina Sofia and see Picasso's Guernica, because I knew that wasn't a stop on the tour we would be doing as a group. Luckily the sleepy/angry hostel manager had given me a map, so I started walking down a very long street that appeared to lead to my destination. But then guess what I saw?
I guess the Spaniards wouldn't patronize a store that they thought only sold donuts. But then why is coffee written in English? These questions did not stop me from entering. I got a chocolate donut and some hot chocolate, but I had forgotten that Spanish hot chocolate is pretty much chocolate syrup, only more bitter. Not very drinkable, is what I'm saying. I saw the newsstand across the street open up so I went across and bought a newspaper, and then instead of reading it I fell asleep in the chair for about 40 minutes. When I woke up my stomach was upset, possibly from the nasty hot chocolate, but I'm sure my schedule and eating bus station food the past few days hadn't helped. So after a visit to the basement restroom I continued to the museum.
Looks like they are trying to decide what color to paint this room. Put this in the category of "Art I Could Probably Do"
Unfortunately, the only picture in the whole museum you AREN'T allowed to take pictures of is the Guernica, but I saw it and was impressed. It's huge, and they also have a bunch of the sketches and studies Picasso made as he was planning the painting. Since it was getting close to when the AEGEE group was supposed to arrive, I went back to the Plaza Mayor and browsed the Christmas markets that they had set up there, looking for ornaments to give as gifts. No luck, however, as most of the stalls sold various nativity pieces/landscapes. I did see some interesting things there though, as you will see below.
In my sleep deprived state I combined E. bola with E. coli in my mind, which made me think this was a hilariously funny name for a cafe. I didn't realize my error until I got back to Oviedo . . .
My group of fellow foreigners showed up an hour late, as usual for AEGEE, and after getting settled in to the hostel we set off on a walking tour of the city. I'm not really gonna narrate that, so just look at the pictures to see where I went.
Puerta del Sol, a famous plaza that many regard as being the heart of Madrid. This is where the crowds gather for New Year's celebrations, when they eat 12 grapes at midnight, along with the chimes of the clock when it strikes 12. The neon sign in the center of the picture is also really famous, but I have a picture of it lit up later on.
Hmm, this may have something to do with the Puerta del Sol being considered the center of Madrid - they measure all distances from Madrid from this plaque. (Additionally, we have a bigger monument for this at the state capital in Richmond)
The main shopping street in Madrid, Calle Preciados (literally - expensive/valuable street). Well, at least they're up front about it.
Another famous neon sign on the Gran Vía, one of the main arteries of Madrid. According to the guides, these signs are really old and now they are protected landmarks and can't be taken down. Hello, free advertising! Rock on, Schweppes!
Dirty, tired, and unshaven in front of the Metropolis Building on the Gran Vía. It's just an office building, but it's one of the most iconic landmarks of Madrid, which is a city generally lacking in representative landmarks. (Paris = Eiffel Tower, London = Big Ben, Madrid = ?)
Seat of the city government on the Plaza de Cibeles, where Real Madrid fans shut down traffic when they celebrate major victories.
Awesome lake in the park with rowboats you can rent. Beth doesn't know this yet but we are totally doing this when she comes to Spain.
I told you I had a picture of Tio Pepe lit up at night. According to the interwebs, this is the best selling brand of sherry in the world. The sign says "Bottled Andalucian Sun".
I didn't go out on the town with the rest of the group that night, instead opting to go to bed at about 9:30. The hostel had some of the most comfortable mattresses in the world (well at least on my bed, I didn't sleep in any of the others), and I'm not just saying that because of how tired I was. The next morning we went on another walking tour, because there was still stuff to see. You know the drill, look at the pics.
Almudena Cathedral, across from the main entrance to the palace. Construction began in 1859 but it wasn't consecrated until 1993!
This is the only Cathedral in Spain I've had to pay to get into, and it's definitely not the most impressive. The inside is very toned down and modern.
Waiting in line to get into the palace, we saw the funniest accordion player ever. You'll have to twist your heads to the left, though, because I couldn't figure out how to rotate the video.
The Royal Palace of Madrid - the official residence of the King of Spain, although he actually lives in a smaller palace on the other side of town and this palace is only used for official functions.
Pictures weren't allowed inside, and there was even a really mean security guard that yelled at one of the German guys for taking one and made him delete it, so my next picture is of the palace gardens.The Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was given to Spain by Egypt as thanks for helping to preserve the Temples of Abu Simbel. The Netherlands and the US also got one; ours is the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
After we saw the temple I got some Chinese food with a few American girls I had met on the trip to Galicia, and then we got on the bus for the 6 hour trip back to Oviedo. And so ended my Portuguese/Madrid adventure, almost 4 months ago. But I'm trying to get caught up, so bear with me. I leave you with this picture of some fruit I saw at a rest stop on the ride home.