The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Real Madrid

The following takes place on Days 136 – 145, April 12-21, 2011

Part Two of Corey’s Round the World Spectacular began in what turned out to be an amazing way. I arrived at the airport in Toronto with plenty of time, having spent the last of my Canadian money on one last Tim Horton’s coffee and donut and the fare for the metro/bus. It’s a good thing I did arrive so early too. Turns out that my first flight on this Round-the-World ticket with Continental Airlines was delayed to the point that I would miss my connection to Madrid. But thanks to the airline alliance, they quickly put me on an earlier flight with Air Canada.

In business class. Free booze for the win!

After landing in Newark, having took advantage of the free booze so much that I was literally stumbling off the plane(6 glasses of wine in an hour and a half long flight), I found my next gate quite fast. Boarded, took off, and said goodbye to North America. This was one of these flights with individual TVs for each seat so I spent the entire flight watching Big Bang Theory and a few movies instead of sleeping as I should have. I paid for that when I got to the hostel at around 11am. I crashed. I planned to only have an hour long nap just to recharge. I didn’t wake up until 2am.

IMG_4536Madrid, for being the capital, is very centrally situated for tourists. With my hostel being right in the downtown area, every significant place to visit was within easy walking distance. I was unfortunately still reeling from both the jetlag and the subsequent sleep that completely screwed up my schedule. It would take me almost a week before I felt as though my body was on the same time as my current location.

You know that idea in your head as to what European cities look like? Cobblestone roads. Building after building close together with no real beginning or end. Cafe’s on every street corner. This was Madrid and it helped really make it real for me that I was now on a whole new continent. IMG_4579

As the capital of Spain, Madrid is home to a massive royal palace that takes up more than a few city blocks and now houses an impressive collection of artwork and artefacts from the Spanish monarchy. The original building had been burned to the ground so the replacement palace was built with nary a piece of wood so as to avoid the same catastrophe.

IMG_4657I spent most of my days just wandering around the neighbourhIMG_4861ood in random directions. Checking out the royal gardens behind the palace one day, and the massive Retiro Park on the opposite end of the downtown core. Both places are insanely immaculate and a real nice change from the city bustle. And really peaceful, especially the royal gardens with their statues, fountains, and flower beds.

Admittedly, like back in Santiago, I found out that there was a theme park within a short train ride from the hostel. And, lucky for me, there was a promotion on offering two days for the price of one. How could I resist? With four rollercoasters, a couple water rides, and a short live stage version of Hairspray, I had a wonderful two days there. I got pretty lucky too as it was still very early in the season and there was never a lineup for any of the rides. I rode each rollercoaster multiple times each day.

IMG_4807It’s sad to admit this next thought though. I’m not a big art museum fan. I’ve never understood a lot about art to fully appreciate it to the extent that others can. Metaphors, the special treatment of light and shadow, the visualization of the human form, all these details are foreign to me. For me, I can easily run through an art museum in an hour, glancing at each artwork briefly, saying “Oh, that’s pretty” before moving on. In Madrid, the Prado Museum is one of the largest in Europe so I decided to give it a go. I also took the opportunity to be a real tourist and rent an audio guide which was a great investment as it helped me appreciate many of the pieces of art that were in the building. Without it, I would not have understood the significance and beauty of many of the pieces. In the end, I surprised even myself at having spent nearly four and a half hours in the museum.

In the end, Madrid was a nice city to start my European adventure, but at the same time I doIMG_4913 feel as though it suffered with my lack of planning. Europe will be much more different from South America in that there are ample opportunities for cheap day trips out to small towns around the bigger cities. I had yet to learn this little fact while in Madrid so spent the entire time in the downtown area. Albeit beautiful, there is no doubt much more to Madrid than I managed to see in just over a week. I was just lazy.

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