It’s been a year since I left the city of Madrid. Just found this post and got a bit nostalgic. For your Friday viewing pleasure…
Prompt: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are @brenebrown)
I had to think about this for awhile because I had plenty of joyful moments this year, but they were often a bit out of the ordinary– at a wedding, somewhere in Germany, airports, etc. Those are not day-to-day events for me. What is fairly ordinary for me, though, is to be around good people and to have some sort of nom-worthy item or reason for gathering.
Two moments stick out in my mine as far as joyful goes: (a) my last day in Madrid at J&J; (b) rooftop BBQ #1 in Cadiz.
J&J was my comfort spot in Madrid, where I could speak in my native language and relax. As I have mentioned before, Brandi and I went there all the time, and we basically became regulars. We met several other regulars, some of whom were incredibly generous people, buying us drinks and sharing pizza with us just because they wanted to. On my last afternoon, I stopped in to say hi, and the place was not very busy. Dave and I shot the wind for awhile, and several other customers showed up. One regular, an older gentleman from Switzerland or something similar (memory fails me), told Dave that I was to pay for nothing. And I didn’t have to that day– a simple yet welcomed going-away present.
My second memorable moment was in Cadiz, where E introduced me to a whole bunch of new people, and we literally had a BBQ on a roof in Spain. The weather forecast kept saying it was supposed to rain, but there was no hint of that, as it was sunny the entire day. We ate and drank for quite some time, eventually wandering down to the beach. (Not before stopping to buy a bunch of bulk gummi candy, and someone found a bouncy ball, which we bounced off EVERYTHING in the streets.) It was a good time, in a good place, with an old friend and new friends. Sure, it was a foreign country, but hanging out and creating tons of random, little memories with friends is an ordinary thing for me.
We also got more cheeseburgers at the end of the night– Burger Enkaguti. Yum.
Where did I last leave you all?
Ah, yes. I was leaving for Barcelona.
Well, in a nutshell, Barcelona was fun, but the visit was too short to make sense of all the sights/sites. We took a 13-hour train trip from Cadiz to Barcelona, departing on Sunday evening and arriving early Monday morning. I discovered that couchette are not friendly to stomach/side sleepers such as myself; at one point, I curled up into a tiny ball, and shoved my head between the armrest and window. My spine hated me about twenty minutes later.
In Barcelona, The Pirate King and I checked into our youth hostel. We stayed at Center Ramblas, which is in a fairly good location, right off the Ramblas, which is a stretch filled with shops, cafes, and street vendors. After a much-needed nap and some laundry, we went wandering with another person who was staying at the hostel. We saw some of Antoni Gaudi’s casas, as well as the Sagrada Familia, which is a Christian temple. The temple has been under construction since the 1800’s, and it is still not finished. From what I can tell, I am going to want to visit once it’s closer to completion; it’s already stunning.
The next day was full of more wandering, although we got a late start. We checked out the maritime museum. It was alright, but it was free, which made it all the better. I had an awful allergy attack in one of the boat rooms, probably due to all the dust– the museum is also under construction. Go figure. However, I was intrigued by the submersion exhibit, which chronicles the development of deep sea exploration. That’s where we spent most of our time.
Food-wise, we ate a lot of tapas, as well as some paella. I had spinach croquetas for the first time, and they were a nice departure from the ham or chicken croquetas I have been eating in the past several weeks. I did burn my mouth on them, though, so always use common sense when eating hot food. (Grr.) The paella we had the last night in Barcelona was good, although I have only had paella twice now, so I can’t tell you if it was amazing or not. I will tell you that I ate way too much and woke up full the next morning. Yuuuuuck.
After Barcelona, it was time to venture to Paris. Again, we took the train. Barcelona’s train station was easy to get to; we took the Metro into the station. We did also go the wrong way on the Metro right off the bat, which was embarrassing because that’s the first time I’ve done that in Spain. But, regardless, we made it, got on the train, and went on to Paris.
This train ride was a bit less enjoyable than my other Spanish train rides, as they stuck us on a vehicle that was probably from the 1980’s. Our seats actually came partially unhinged at some point, causing the seats to swivel awkwardly when the train went around a curve. Also, the W.C. (i.e., bathroom) left a lot to be desired. Instead of having a flush mechanism, the toilet bowl was inclined, causing any, uh, waste to drain backwards. It also caused said waste to splash all over the floor. Definite gross-out factor, especially when you’re a chick.
Paris did not impress me upon arrival. I found the train station to be dirty, with pigeons and their poop all over the place. Furthermore, their so-called wi-fi system screwed me out of 8 euros and some conversion fees when I was able to pay for access yet not complete the log-in process due to a “404 Error.” The information desk pointed my friend and I in the direction of an internet cafe, which we gladly trudged towards, since the person we were staying with would not be at the station for several hours.
When you are meeting someone at a train station in a foreign city, it is crucial to be as detailed as possible. You know where this is going.
We spent hours on pay phones, walking back and forth through the dirty station, wandering up and down side streets, and draining my UK phone of minutes. We finally made contact with our host, who got us on a bus into the Saint Michel area, where she had booked a hotel room for us. She was kind enough to get us a place at the Hotel Esmeralda, which is an old place, dating back to 1640. It is conveniently located across the road from Notre Dame, around the corner from an English-language bookstore called Shakespeare & Company, and near other touristy locations (and restaurants). Our first day came to a quick close because only had time for a quick meal and a few drinks before I needed to get to bed.
Thursday, we spent all day cruising Paris. There were the obligatory trips to Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eifel Tower. In-between, there was time for Indian food for lunch and ice cream.
Notre Dame was gorgeous, of course, but after visiting numerous cathedrals in Germany, I was not a fan of the huge crowds. The line to go up the tower was immense, and we stood in line for close to an hour. Also, word to the wise, there are a lot of steps up to the top. A LOT. Be aware of that. Otherwise, though, I enjoyed my venture into the famous church. There is a lot to see, and a lot of great photo opportunities.
The Louvre provided me with the same crowding problems, at least in the main painting rooms. I did, however, get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, so that was nice. There were other paintings that caught my eye long enough to warrant a photo, but my favorite areas were the wings showcasing art from civilizations in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and so on. In addition to that, I really enjoyed the Egyptian antiquities, as well as the Near Eastern antiquities.
After the Louvre closed for the day, we walked (yes, walked) all the way to the Eifel Tower, just to stand under it. No sense paying to go up to the top, especially since we had already seen Paris from above the Notre Dame. The Tower was impressive, but it made me miss the good ol’ Space Needle, I’ll be honest.
Dinner was an informal deal, but you will never guess where we ate. Any of you who are familiar with the show, How I Met Your Mother, should also be familiar with the episode where Marshall takes Robin to a “Minnesota pub.” Well, watch the episode and you’ll understand why Pirate King and I were thrilled to find The Great Canadian Pub. Hockey, poutine, and beers to round out a day of French culture? Yes, please.
Now, I would rather forget the French train station fiasco of this morning. I will just say it involved a cranky, sleepy, hungry ‘Dith, malfunctioning e-ticket kiosks, and French customer service. Nothing a friendly Italian cab driver couldn’t make me forget once we got to Torino, though.
That’s all I have for you today. We’ll see where the adventures take me next.
When I was in junior high, I used to rag on Britney Spears for using filters on her voice. I detested her as a singer.
However, at some point in time, years ago, I realized, “Wait a sec– this girl is so much more than just a singer. She’s an entertainer. And she is incredible at that job.” That’s when I flipped my view on B. Spears. And about that time, I started allowing myself to enjoy more mainstream music, and that eventually lent itself to me developing a renewed passion and interest in dance.
Nowadays, I can’t get enough of B. Spears, Lady Gaga, T-Pain, etc. and so forth. When I saw on Hype Machine that there was a leaked demo from Britney’s Circus album, I jumped on it– why? Because it was a leaked demo of “Telephone,” which is stupidly catchy (ya did it again, Gaga). The demo is heavy on Auto-Tune, and I’m fine with that.
Somewhere, my junior high self just facepalmed.
Speaking of my junior high self, remember how I kind of wrote to my past self a few weeks ago? Apparently, my past self wrote back to me. My mom told me I got a piece of mail at the house, and it’s from 10 years ago. Creepy coincidence. I won’t be able to read it until I return from Europe, but I can’t even imagine what my junior high self would say.
I’m winding down my time in Madrid, and today, I’m seriously debating going to the Thyssen museum or just vegging out at J&J because I’m over being touristy in Madrid. The other day kind of solidified that. I’ve told some of you about the ridiculous day I hate, but in a nutshell, here’s what happened:
I was woken up way too earlier by this: “MEW MEW MEW MEW MEW MEW MEW MEW.” I thought it was the girl I tutor running around, acting like a cat, but it was actually a kitten. I don’t know where said kitten is anymore, but that thing would not quit mewing. At 8AM. Which isn’t that early, but it’s early by my current standards.
Once I made it to el centro, I trapped myself in the Movistar (cell phone) store. Like, could not figure out how the door opened on the way out. It took maybe 5 minutes of me standing helplessly in front of it until a salesperson opened it for me.
Then the best part of my day: It was so windy, I got a seed blown into my eye. One second I was fine, the next I was being stabbed in my left eye with the tiniest knife available. I continued walking towards the Paseo del Prado, crying out of one eye.
Longer story short: Thyssen is closed on Mondays. I went to the Reina Sofia museum, and I was so hungry, tired, and angry by that point, I literally spent 45 minutes in the museum. It would have been a full hour, if not for the giant line outside and the rude family that tried to cut in front of me when we finally got to the ticket booth.
Later that night, the ridiculousness was further proved when all the machines in the complex gym decided they didn’t want to turn on for me. And the worst part? All the instructions were in English. So, thanks, Treadmill. I’m glad you’ll work for everyone else in the gym, and not me. One of my friends here blamed it on the “electricsexy.” It overloads the systems, and I guess since I’m American, I operate on a different voltage. A powerful combination.
I was going to tie this post together with a quick blurb about how over the years, I’ve been really good at several things– writing, dance, piano, etc.– but I’ve never been The Best.
I guess with me, you can’t separate all the things out. I’m a package deal. I am more than the sum of those separate aspects. It all boils down to awesome.
So never mind. Can we just focus on the fact that I got attacked by tree pollen the other day in Spain?
What a doozy of a weekend. I don’t even think that’s how you spell doozy, but it’s completely irrelevant at this point.
Friday started the weekend out right. Brandi and I hung out again, eating lunch at a cute little cafe in one of the neighborhoods. We also found a bakery just a few doors down that sold cupcakes, so naturally, we had to get some of them. Afterward, we hung out at J&J’s, chatting with Dave and another visitor named Duncan. I had to take off to tutor, but apparently, the shop got really busy afterward and consequently, really awesome.
After my tutoring for the day, I waited at my flat for Super Ninja to arrive. He was set to land at 7:50PM in Madrid and somehow find his way to where I’m staying. Well, I figured it would take awhile, and I was correct. It wasn’t until around 10:30PM that the boy showed up, but regardless, I was pretty excited. When the intercom rang up at the flat, the little girl I tutor answered it, then called out, “Ardiiiiiith! It’s for you!” I went downstairs to let Teh Ninja in, informing him that he was about to meet my host family.
“Isn’t it a bit early in the relationship for that?” he responded.
After meeting not only my host family but a few of the neighbors, we went into el centro to check into the hostel. The location was great, the cleanliness of the place was great, and everything seemed fine– until Super Ninja opened the bathroom door.
The bathroom smelled awful. Not awful enough to keep me out of it, but terrible enough to keep the door closed at all times. It was perfectly clean in there, and granted, after standing in there, working on my make-up for a few minutes, I could barely tell that it stunk. Oh, the joys of hostels.
We didn’t go out for too long; we did, however, go to “The Stop” for some food and drinks. Not bad, other than not recognizing anything on the menu, other than sangria and chorizo. It was kind of fun that way.
Saturday was a long day. We left the hostel around 10:30 or 11AM, grabbed some coffee, then started a marathon walk. It was a beautiful and sunny day, so that was a blessing, seeing that it had been raining off and on for the past two weeks. I dragged Super Ninja to all the tourist hot spots: Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Temple de Debod, and so forth and so on. Even though I’d seen most of the sights, it was great to have to have Teh Ninja with me.
Eventually, we took the Metro up to Retiro, which is basically like Madrid’s Central Park. The plan was to meet up with Brittany, but I was having problems with my phone– a.k.a., I totally forgot to charge it and it was dying. I shot a text stating, “We are at Fuente de Galapagos. We are the obvious American couple,” before the battery decided it hated me. Without access to Brittany’s number, we waited on the bench, playing games on my iPod and watching the various street performers.
I kept an eye out, and after roughly half an hour, I spotted someone who could have been the girl we were looking for. She had the “I’m definitely looking for someone” walk going on, and I waved at her from across the small plaza. It was, indeed, Brittany, and the three of us moseyed along in the Retiro for awhile. After some drinks in the sun, we met up with another new friend, and the adventure continued.
I mentioned to Teh Ninja that we should hit up J&J Books and Coffee, and it turned out that B was pretty tight with the staff there. We hung out for a good while there, although Teh Ninja disappeared downstairs, presumably rolling around in the books.
The next stop was at a cafe for more drinks and some food. Unfortunately, after waiting for a table, we were seated, then informed that the cook wasn’t in the kitchen, so there was nothing to eat. The beer tasted funny anyway, and we left, with one of our friends literally telling the waitress, “Yes, we wanted to order more awhile ago, but now we don’t.”
Then we went to “The Bird’s Eye,” which is not what it’s called in Spanish and I’m forgetting the name. That place was rad, and we parked ourselves there for several hours. The food was amazing, the company was better, and the atmosphere was great. After maybe 10 minutes, I was stupidly-full, so I pulled up a chair to our tall tables and sat awkwardly as we continued to chat (yell) and laugh (be obnoxious).
The rest of the night consisted of more food, some late-night coffees, a walk into Chueca, and wrap-up rounds of drinks and food in Plaza de Santa Ana. I was exhausted afterward, but it was definitely worth the good times.
On Sunday, Teh Ninja and I wandered for way too long trying to find breakfast. We couldn’t settle on a place, since most of the cafes were closed. It seemed that every time something sounded good, there was the potential that something better would come along. After probably over an hour of this terrible game, we found a place with pastries and coffee, a standard Spanish breakfast. Delicious.
The original plan was to browse some local shops, but I totally forgot that things are shuttered on Sundays. Instead, we went to Museo del Prado and checked out the art collection there. It was a good way to get out of the sun, too, and there were some impressive works in the building. After the Museo, we grabbed some paella, and then…
Then came the real fun. Super Ninja realized at around 7PM that his flight was leaving at 8:25PM, not 8:50PM like he thought. We had to jump on the metro from my flat and race to the airport.
Long story short, we totally lost the race. By the time Super Ninja made it to check-in, it was 8:20PM. So that was a no-go. The next flight back to Frankfurt-Hahn was on Monday night; while it sucked that we totally botched the arrival to the airport, it also meant I got to hang out with him for an extra day. (Yay!)
We traveled into Sol to track down a hostel for him, which went like this: exit the Metro station, walk about 20 feet, look to the left. “Oh, there’s one.”
His hostel for the night was fantastic, and it didn’t even smell funny. And it was right on Puerta del Sol. What a lucky little duck. We grabbed even more food, and Super Ninja attempted to inform his family that he was alright, just stuck in Madrid. I got deliriously tired and had to head back to my flat around 11:30PM; Super Ninja was an absolute gentleman and accompanied me the entire way back. Apparently, at least according to Teh Ninja, there was a man on our Metro that was “looking for a target” to mug. Good thing the boy came with me.
With the extra day, Super Ninja was at least able to do some shopping. Well, and so was I. We met in Sol, grabbed coffee and breakfast at a nearby cafe, then started looking for clothes. For lunch, we were total tourists and camped out in Plaza Mayor. Fat Spiderman made an appearance; what good luck!
After hitting up a few more shops, it was time for me to head home again (where did the time go, seriously?). I wished the boy a safe trip back (a.k.a., “Don’t miss your flight!”), and here I am. Patiently waiting for the kids to come back to the house, and looking up destinations for the coming weekend.
Is there a way I can make having weekend fun my job?