28. Madrid, Spain
(Actual Trip Date: November 6-7, 2010)
After spending sunshine days in Lisbon, I took a night train to the capital of Spain (Madrid) where I didn’t really know what to expect. I think the only thing I expected was warm weather and good food, but I was pretty excited to travel to this country. Not to mention I was meeting a dear friend for her birthday. Upon arriving, I realized two things: Madrid was actually pretty cold and the sky was already looking dreadfully gloomy. I can’t pin that on the city though since turbulent, dark gray clouds were slowing inching over all of Europe. The one thing that did live up was the food.
I loved, loved Spanish food. Of course, I ate more delicious dishes in Barcelona, but I got a taste in Madrid. I think I enjoyed the food better, knowing my lactose-intolerant brother could eat most of those without trouble. Yeah, I know. Weird reason to love the food more. Anyways, we checked into our hostel where we figured out that we were only the five people in the six bed room and finding the showers commonly amusing since it follow the regular hostel water conservation style (meaning when you press the button, water comes down for a mere five seconds = banging the button at least a hundred times before completing a shower). From there we ventured out for a late lunch because here in Spain, the time tables are different and everyone does everything late. I had the most delicious fajitas there though complete with flan dessert.
That night after eating seafood and chicken paella and sipping coffee to keep us awake past midnight, we went to see a traditional Flamenco show that ended around 2 AM. To say the Flamenco show with complementary Sangria was intense is an understatement. I’ll do my best to describe my experience there.
The low, humming, throaty, hoarse voice of the singers bellowing into the microphone accompanied by the side musicians caught my ear immediately as the lights dimmed, leaving only spotlights on the tiny stage. Hearing murmurs of Spanish rippling across the crowd in waves as they cheered excitedly as the beautiful dancers took the stage, I sat on the edge of my seat in anticipation, the music literally humming a beat in my body. The vivacious, rapid claps and clicks against the stage floor as the lady dancer alternated with the male dancer was memorizing as my eyes mostly followed the beautiful skirts twirling and whirling around the lady, her long mane of hair tossing angrily as she spun and spun. But, the best part? The emotions on this woman’s face was raw and bare and open to the sky. Tensed in concentration with sweat trailing down, she danced her heart out to the throaty background melody.
I think my favorite part of the Flamenco show was when they brought out a young boy to sing. By the encouragements and claps on the back, I can tell this dance was much a part of Spanish family life. A tradition to be handed down through many more generations….it was absolutely humbling to witness a part of it.
As the next day dawned and I spent my morning hearing a Spanish service and eating a Spanish omelette for lunch, I found myself rather bored. I didn’t even get to fully experience churros with chocolate. To be honest, besides my Flamenco show experience for my friend’s birthday, Madrid was boring. The city was quite….industrialized….but with a Spanish flare. I didn’t like it. Or maybe I found the days boring and the night time exciting, for when the second night of my time there descended, I found myself wandering through the Prado Museum (during their free hours because backpackers love free stuff!).
I’m taking Arts Appreciation right now over winter school, and I found myself super intrigued in the paintings and the styles and backgrounds of artists in each book. Why? Because I’ve actually seen half of these paintings now replicated in textbooks in museums like the Prado and the Louvre. It’s quite amazing to point at it and also the architecture of certain cathedrals and say, “I’ve been there!” I find now that after this arts course, if I was to ever go back to Europe and wander through those museums, I can actually look at the pieces, analyze the style, and know the brushwork and intent behind them. Before, I just wandered to whatever painting was aesthetically pleasing. Now I feel more rounded as a person.
Going back, the second night ended with my friends and I sitting in a smoky restaurant among many Spanish inhabitants chilling and chatting while eating plenty of tapas and paella. The soccer game was in full swing on TV and loud cheers and jeers reverberated in the air while the smell of cigarette smoke lingered in our jackets.
A typical Spanish night at its best.