Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Madrid, Alcalá de Henares y Segovia

This last week was jam-packed with traveling, and I have to admit, it's nice to be back home. As I was my butt was going numb from sitting on the bus for the past 5 hours, with another 4 hours to look forward to, I caught myself thinking "I can't wait to be home again." But this time, home didn't refer to the states. I was thinking about my piso in Algeciras. It's nice to finally feel that comfortable, here in a strange country.

As you might have read, I went to Germany last weekend. And then I was back in Algeciras for a whole 24 hours before bussing off to Madrid for the next weekend. Kaitlin, one of my roommates from college, lives in Madrid and so myself and Vanessa, another friend from college, decided to meet up and crash on her couch/extra mattress.

This was the first time I had been to Madrid to actually see the city, instead of just going to the bus station or airport. You tend to have a slightly pessimistic view of a place when you're only there for short periods in between 7 hour flights or 5 hour bus rides. So it was nice to actually get to know the city a little bit. Conclusion? Gorgeous! Amazing! Exciting! Not somewhere I would want to live, but definitely some place I want to go back and visit.

I had taken the overnight bus Wednesday, so I got in bright and early at 7am. Yuck. I detest the overnight bus. We went back to sleep until 11. Much better.

Thursday we spent the day walking around the city. We walked past Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Plaza España, Puerta de Sol, and some other touristy places that I had seen before, but not in a long time. Plaza Mayor had Spain's version of a Christmas Market going on. Very disappointing after being spoiled by Munich's Christmas Market. The stalls were full of mass-produced stuffed animals and reindeer antler headbands. (Which people wore proudly, both during the day and night.) However, they did have some 'make your own Christmas wreath' stalls that I thought were really cool.
And then there was the 'buy your Christmas tree here' stall, that was just really....different. The Christmas trees were tiny! And potted. So wrong.

That night Kaitlin introduced us to something really cool. It's called microteatro. It's like a play and a movie combined. The first floor is a bar and a ticket office, and then down in the basement there are 4 salas. Each room has a different play, that is performed about 10 times each night, in 20 minute intervals.
We went to the play Victoria. It was a comedy, and it was very very funny, but if I try to explain it it probably won't make any sense because I only understood about 75% of what was going on. (Which is still pretty good if you ask me...it was all in rapid-fire Spanish.)
There are only 15 audience members at each showing, which is because its held in a very small room with standing room only. We stood around the sides of the room and then the 3 actors used the space in middle. It was very personal and intimate, and such a unique experience.
Read here to find out directions and times!
Kaitlin and Vanessa, before the show
Friday was a day trip to Alcalá de Henares. The whole of Alcalá can be explored in about 3 hours, and it was a nice chance to get out of the city for the day. We saw the house were Cervantes was born, and in Vanessa's words saw a "clusterf*** of old stuff". The old city is divided up into parts, the old Jewish quarter, the old Christian quarter, and the old Muslim quarter. Each quarter is very different and still has many of the original churches/buildings.

Alcalá is famous for its stork population. They like to make nests on top of the highest points of the tallest churches.
The highlight of Friday was going to see Cirque du Soleil Zarkana that night. For those of you who haven't had the chance to experience a Cirque show yet, DO IT!!! The level of thought and precision and execution put into each show is insane. Every second, every moment, every breathe of each person is planned out to a tee. I always feel like I'm missing something because there is not a single person on stage who isn't moving. The things they can do with their bodies are incredible, and just when you think "that's it, they must be done now" the up the act to the next level.

This wasn't in Zarkana, but I did see something similar to this in Mystére. 
Saturday we splurged a little and slept in. Then at 11:15 we realized if we wanted to go to Segovia we had to take the 12:15 train. And it took 45 minutes to get to the train station. Shit. We jumped into over-drive, and somehow 3 girls (with 1 bathroom) got it together and left the house 15 minutes later. We ran to the platform just as the sign said 'next train: 1 minute." Ohhh yeah, we gots skillz.

I had been to Segovia before, but it was about 6 years ago. I think I had idealized the city in my mind, and Kaitlin had done the same thing. Sure, it was gorgeous and a nice day trip, but it was nowhere near the idyllic-most-beautiful-town-i'd-ever-seen-must-go-back-asap town that I had stored in my memory.
However, that is not to say that it wasn't gorgeous. Segovia is well worth the day trip from Madrid. I left my heart somewhere between the aqueduct and the fairytale-esque Castle.

That night we watched the Barca/Real Madrid game (well they watched, while I tried to keep updated on the NFL scores), ate the biggest fruit/cheese/bread platter I've ever seen in my life, and drank tinto. It was a good end to a good week. (The Packers are still undefeated, btw :) )

Yep, 3 girls ate allllllll of that. 
This poster came with Kaitlin's house. Look at those smoldering eyes ;)

Kaitlin told me "if you put your hand riiiiight here, you get...UNIBROW!"
Then all of Sunday was spent wishing I could kill myself as I took the 9 hour bus ride back to Algeciras. Tall people and Spanish buses are just not a good mix.
But I survived.
And now I'm home again :)

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