Friday, September 28, 2012

Madrid: Week 1 Recap

It was a week full of apartment hunting, walking around the city, language exchanges, seeing museums, meeting new people, and a bullfight. You can read all about my apartment search here. As for the rest of it, here's a recap.

Upon arrival at my hostel, I promptly departed on a walking tour that leaves from my hostel every day. It was a good way to see and learn a little about a few of the sites in Madrid, such as the tens of thousands of bullet holes from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) that have scarred many of the city's monuments, something one wouldn't normally notice since they've been repaired but remain discolored spots on statues and buildings.

I went to my favorite museum, El Prado, home to some of my favorite artists, like Hieronymous BoschPieter Bruegel the Elder, and Francisco Goya.

El Prado is right next to Parque del Retiro, which I walked around after spending two hours in the museum (which is free every day from 6-8pm). Parque del Retiro is a beautiful park. It's where everyone goes to run and relax. There is a little lake where you can rent rowboats, there are statues, a couple of buildings that house temporary art exhibits, and a lot of people having a nice time. I went to the Palacio de Velázquez, named after the man who designed it in 1887. It had an exhibit of Nacho Criado's art, a pioneer of experimental Spanish art. His most impressive pieces takes the form of installations made of glass, iron, and other materials.

Palacio de Cristal, close to Palacio de Velázquez, is a very impressive building, also designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco. It is one of the most beautiful constructions of iron and crystal in Spain.

Afterward, I went to my first language exchange (intercambio), which took place at a cafe. The objective is easy— meet people and speak your native language and then practice the language you want to learn with native speakers. I met some very nice Spaniards and learned a lot in the few hours I was there. The next night I went to another language exchange, which was also fun, and everyone was very nice. I plan on frequenting these intercambios.

On Saturday night, I met up with a fellow English Language and Culture Assistant (Auxiliar de conversación), her Spanish friends, and my future British roommate. A good time was had by all, and I learned that in Madrid, 2:30am is not considered late. In fact, I was the first to go home by several hours. I also think I heard more Spanish conversation that night than I had the previous eight years.

Sunday morning is home to El Rastro outdoor market, one of the biggest markets in Europe. It is enormous. El Rastro literally means "blood trail," and got its name from the stockyard that was formerly in its location. Everything is sold there, from clothes to leather goods, CDs, vinyl, musical instruments, electronics, jewlery, keys, etc. I walked around for an hour and a half or so and bought an electric razor for 5 euro (much needed after a week without shaving due to the inability to find a voltage converter in this city). I started seeing everyone with the same plates of food, and asked someone where they bought it. They pointed across the street to a long line sprawling out of a small restaurant called El Capricho Extremeño. I figured I'd give it a try and I wasn't disappointed. A got a Spanish tortilla sandwich and a cured ham sandwich for less than 5 euro, and couldn't even finish them. 

Sunday night I decided to go to see a bullfight. I'm writing a separate blog post for that, both because it is warranted and because I don't want to subject anyone to reading about it who does not desire to do so. Check it out if you want to see a few pictures and read about my experience. And that concludes my first week in Madrid!