A Rare Find – Madrid, Spain

I woke to one of my 3 roommates shuffling papers around. I had met the other two when I checked in. They are two girls from Mexico who are here to study for a year and were just on their way out apartment hunting. The paper shuffler is from Korea and after talking for a bit, we found out we had a few things in common. I asked if Aesoon wanted to go explore Madrid by night and she agreed. She was just about to go to bed but I guess my offer was more interesting. We spilled out on the street armed with a map and bottle of water. Madrilenos are nicknamed gatos (cats) for their feline-like habits of nocturnal living. After all the canineness I experienced in England, I thought it was high time to balance it out a bit.

We wandered for about 4 hours in the soft glow of the street lamps hitting many plazas, parks and monuments. I was pleased to have gotten to the point that I can give my entire story in less than two minutes. It was interesting to listen to the things that Aesoon noticed like the really tall doors on buildings and small stores squished side by side. I noticed things like the foods that were displayed in the windows of cafes and restaurants as well as what were on peoples plates on the patios we walked by. I guess I was hungry.

We walked on and found Puerta del Sol which is the square at the very center of this huge (3 million) city. From there we walked up one of the street “rays” called Calle de Alcala which was bustling with people on their way to dinner or home from work. We followed along Gran Via and ended up at the impressive Palicio Real. Though it was closed and we knew that the royal family doesn`t live there anymore, we couldn`t help but spend some time admiring sheer size of it all. Aesoon liked the exquisite landscaping and was especially delighted shrubs made into mazes. I was entranced the architecture of the palace which we learned has 2800 rooms but is still only a quarter of the size it was supposed to be. Apparently, the Italian designer Juvarra died before the project could be carried out. If it would have been built according to his plan, I imagine it would have had to have its own metro system!

The quaint cobblestone streets were full of people and the air was warm. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a capital city because of the laid back friendly atmosphere. We had fun taking pictures and I tried to teach my new friend some Spanish words. We got sucked into a busy little sandwich shop after seeing the giant menus on the wall. They offer over 100 choices of every combination of cheese, meat, fish, vegetable and sauces. They were stuffed into a little roll (which I noticed that the baked fresh right there) and sold for 1 Euro each. We ordered up a few, sat down in the outdoor patio and ate our delicious tapas.

After our tummies had a nice little taste, I made a mental note of the location and we walked on. It wasn`t long before I started craving chocolate when suddenly BAM!, there was a chocolataria right there in front of us. I just had to satiate my sweet tooth so I got a chocolate covered heart shaped pastry. Elated with my choice, I devoured it all (and it wasn`t small) before we even got back to the hostel.

Back at homebase, I showed Aesoon my TravelPod on the free internet in the lobby and suggested she should start one. The problem she said, was that neither of her parents read or write or even speak English. Infact, she cannot even check her email because it`s all in Korean font. Wow, I wondered how I would get along without. I think over the years, I could count the times I spoke to my parents on the phone on one hand.

We met a Russian guy called Leo (wasn`t his real name but even after much trying, I still couldn`t pronounce it) who made me feel really special when he learned about my TravelPod. He told me he was honored to be talking to one of the pioneers of the blogging world. “A rare find,” he stated solemnly and I was strangely flattered by being compared to an artifact. I thought he was joking but he let me know in no uncertain terms that he was not. Apparently, his life is advertising, marketing and PR in the webworld. He showed me a few things on the computer and I saw that he really knew his stuff. I was amused by his admiration, and laughed when he compared me to Columbus. He looked at me very seriously and informed me that was the truth.

So now I am just catching up on my day and sitting in the hostel common area. I am going to try and go to sleep now and get some kind of regular sleep pattern going. After all, tomorrow I have a full day of work to attend to. I think the sugar buzz just wore off so I should be able to drift off in a reasonable amount of time.

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