Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Marvelous Madrid

This past weekend was fantastic. On Friday I had a stomachache; I don't know what it was from but maybe the combination eating of tortillitas de camarones (fritters with the tiniest mini shrimp I've ever seen), puree soup made from a straight up gourd (I think it was just squash but I like my description better and there's really only one word for pumpkins/gourds/squashes that I've heard), and mussels on potato chips in one day had something to do with it (I liked everything except the mussels). Either way I stayed in on Friday and then got up at a reasonable hour to get ready to go to Madrid on Saturday. 

These aren't the ones I ate but this is what tortillitas de camarones look like. 

This is what I've had for breakfast several times, including today and Saturday. These are called Ensaimadas but it's pretty much just individually wrapped really soft rolls with powdered sugar on the outside. Super delicious. 

I got dropped off at the train station and had another lovely and short trip to Madrid by myself. Even if I'm not sure exactly where to go, I think I've really mastered the "I've done this a thousand times" stride of confidence. Katie was getting in to Madrid at almost the exact time that I was and I actually found her before we got to our designated meeting point; I nudged her backpack on the escalator which was funny for me, but she was about to turn around and slug someone! The reason we went to Madrid was to visit our host brother Jaime! When we studied abroad in Segovia, Spain in 2011 we stayed with him and his family for a month and have kept in contact ever since. He's visited the US twice, during the summer in 2012 and this past summer so we've gotten to see him more than I thought we might when we left Spain the first time, but it's just such a special and exciting thing to be able to see him here in Spain where it all started. 

Jaime had sent us his address and we saved the directions to our phones so we set off from the train station to try and find his apartment. It only took us a little longer than he said it would; we paused a few times and looked like tourists checking our maps and looking for hidden street signs but we finally arrived after about 15 or 20 minutes. 

We sat around his apartment and talked for a long time, he made us lunch, we looked at pictures from his trip to London, and then while he showered we helped his roommate with an English proficiency test he had to take! The questions were pretty hilarious and obviously not written by a native English speaker. Then we went for a walk down by the river which had some lovely sights and was very relaxing. On our way back we stopped in La Casa Encendida, (a socio-cultural center which has different programs in the arts, traveling exhibitions, and a resource center) for a half hour or so to see an exhibit called "Metamorfosis." It's hard to explain, but the link takes you to a translated page of the description if you are curious. Here's a picture of part of the exhibit, the other parts focused on cinematic art with different animated bits included too. 

After that we went to the grocery store, which I love to do here. Seeing all the different brands and random foods that we don't have in the US is super interesting. Maybe I'll do a post entirely about the grocery store one of these days! The most important things we bought were 2 huge milk chocolate and Oreo candy bars to share. That night we had a snack and then helped Jaime make homemade empanada to bring to his friend Alejandro's birthday party! It had Gouda cheese, bleu cheese, bacon, and dates inside of a pastry and it turned out so good. We carried the pan in a plastic bag on the metro so we looked pretty goofy but it was absolutely worth it. There were probably 20 people at the party so we met a ton of Jaime's friends, and some of his friends of friends, which led to very lively conversations in Spanish and English. One of the guys had spent 3 summers in the UK and so his English was incredible and he had a strong British accent. He kept imitating our accents and calling America, "The Colonies," but it was only because he loved us, so he said. There was also an interesting conversation about the use of the N-word in Spain versus in the US - apparently it's not a big deal in Spain at all, so we (mostly Katie) were trying to explain our American experience of the word. I think the message might have been lost on account of the sangria though. Another guy, Emilio, wanted to know about the word "yeah," and if he sounded more fluent if he said "yeah" instead of "yes." I told him, "Yeah!" There was a huge table of food to snack on (which has been the norm in all 4 of the birthday parties that I've been to in Spain so far), and there was also cheesecake with candles! It seemed a lot more put together and low key than most of the birthday parties I went to in college.

We were going to go to the famous disco that has 7 floors, called Kapital, but it would have cost 17 Euros and we would have had to try and catch night buses back home in the rain. We took a pass on that to get some sleep so we could get up and have a lot of time on Sunday to spend together. We got up and had some breakfast at Jaime's apartment (toast and butter [haven't seen butter in ages] and jam with a pear), and then walked to El Rastro. El Rastro is a huge open air market in Madrid that's held on Sundays and public holidays. There can be up to 3500 stalls and there are also antique stores that are usually open along the way too. "El Rastro" means "trail" and apparently this name comes from the trail of blood that was left by cattle when they were transported from the slaughterhouse near the river, to the tanneries located where the part of the market is now. It was cool to see all the stalls selling anything and everything: t-shirts, jeans, leather jackets, posters, paintings, jewelry, purses, flags, books, DVDs, furniture, etc. 

Near the beginning of the market there was an American store that we stopped in! It was crazy to see so many things that we had either not realized they didn't have in Spain, or things that we had been craving. Katie was excited to see bagels and ended up buying some peanut butter and pumpkin pie filling! I was excited to see Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch and ended up buying Reese's cups, of course. We also picked up some ginger ale and root beer to share so that Jaime could try them; he really liked the root beer! They also had some American beers like Sierra Nevada and Blue Moon, and A1 Steak Sauce!

This is one of the antique stores that we went in. It had tons of furniture stacked up to the ceiling, books, and other knick-knacks. 

This is a space where lots of hipsters hung out, listened to music, and drank beer. There was also a community garden on one side. It was pretty neat even though we didn't really know what exactly you would call it. A concrete park in the middle of the city? 


After the market we went to have some tapas! Jaime has really good karma; we always got to the metro just in time for the train and we got a table right away at this crowded bar! We each ended up having two - mine had some kind of chicken and that delicious roasted green pepper that we had in Barcelona, Jaime's was pork, onion, and cheese, and Katie's was salmon and cheese with an itty bitty pickle.  

My second one was bacon and Gouda cheese. A veritable STACK of Gouda cheese. Amazing. 

At the second bar we went to we all had a big slice of bread with guacamole and chicken and shared a small dish of paella. Haven't had guac in a while and it made me crave Mexican food; I don't think I've ever gone this long without a taco or chips and salsa. 

Finally, we went back to Jaime's apartment to grab our stuff, meet his girlfriend Ines, and take a quick walk through part of El Retiro, Madrid's famous park. It's like Central Park in New York but it's a little bit less than half the size. We didn't get to see much but of course we had a great time anyways. 

Sadly it was time to go back to our respective cities. Katie's train was at 6:30 and mine was at 7:15 so Jaime and Ines waited with me until I had to leave. The Atocha station is awesome and has stalls with food in the middle of an indoor tropical garden complete with a turtle pond. 

I did my confident "I'm so Euro" stride again, but it was a lonely walk to the back of the train. There are some people you meet in life who instantly become "your people" forever, and Jaime and Katie are two of those people. They're more than just my friends and more than just part of my host family, but they're people with whom I feel at home, no matter where we are in the world. It's always sad to leave them, but that just means it's time to plan the next adventure together. I am so lucky to have a lot of those forever people, because even when I feel a little lost and drifting, I know there are always people I can call home who will understand.

Stay tuned, more big things are coming - I'm moving in with a new host family on Friday! 

If you want to read more about my feelings (of which there are a lot), you can pop over to the blog my best friends and I keep together:

I also encourage you to check out one of those best friend's personal blogs: 
Sam is in grad school in New Zealand and she's having many adventures and feelings to which I relate, and about which she writes beautifully.

Much love,

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