April 15-18, 2017
We took a five hour bus ride to Madrid from Granada. I slept 95% of the time. This should be shocking to exactly no one. We found our hostel in the city center much faster than our place in Granada. We were learning. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with a hostel, but I was really ready to experience it.
Shortly after checking in to our 6-bed hostel room, our friend arrived from her solo trip in Portugal. She’s from Texas and will be with us for 6 weeks of this journey. After traveling all day we were famished so we walked across the street and ordered the biggest meat plate that I’ve ever seen, then called it a day.
The next morning we took an hour train out to the El Escorial Monestary- which was my first experience with Castles. By god, y’all. Unbelievable. Those people skimped on nothing.
We weren’t allowed to take photos in the castle but they had all these beautiful pieces, rugs, decorations of all sorts and then they had these ridiculous looking paintings of people that made me laugh. I snuck one picture. It was the only one I took inside the castle and I regret nothing. Tomorrow on my walking tour I would learn there was some extensive inbreeding in the Spanish royal family and I now think this woman may have been mixed in that line.
The views were unbelievable of the castle. I’ve never seen such extravagancy and to picture people actually living here at some point blew my mind. How did they even make something this large back then? How long did this take to build? I had a lot of unanswered questions. Either way, I found it very surreal to be there.
We took the train back and picked up some pita type food at a place called Istanbul next door to our hostel. We went and sat on the lovely terrace to eat and were joined by our two German friends we met the night before.
Almost the second I walked out, a cat showed up out of nowhere and followed me around. This happened in Portugal, Granada, and now Barcelona. My friend told me a while ago that once you hit a certain age unmarried, they just know. I’ve embraced my future and welcomed the big guy to join us.
We spent hours on the terrace as these Russian-Germans drank their Vodka and Redbull and smoked cigarettes. The first, Dim, is in the German military and works as a mechanic. He was 25. Den, in his 3rd year of engineering school, was 26 and spoke a little less English than Dim.
They asked about our politics, our health care system, our thoughts on all of these, and told us about theirs. They really loved the universal healthcare system they have and said it works really well in Germany but not in all the countries. He asked what Americans thought of Germans and then added “I think we’re good people. I mean, except that one thing we did. Back then. But we won’t do that again.”
They had a huge love for soccer (they were in Spain for the Madrid versus Munchen game), cars (when he talked of seeing cars with dents I swear he teared up), Vodka (the Russian in him) and his super passionate hatred for “criminals” and how he wants to murder them all. It was fun to be around people with such passion for anything. His love of cars was equal to my love of desserts- not something you often encounter.
Around 1130pm they went to go out while our group decided to go to sleep. The difference between 25 and 30 is astonishing.
I, however, decided for option C: and went to find some dessert before bed. It’s a great habit I’ve built since arriving in Europe and I’m sure it’s doing wonders for my waistline. I also need to practice some solo time for my upcoming trips. Unfortunately, I wasn’t gifted with a sense of direction. I started my self-talk prep.
You can do this! Everything is close. Just stay close. No more than one turn. There’s food everywhere. You’ll find something. You can remember one turn. You got this!
In my zip up hoodie and workout leggings, I walked out the door and went left. The dessert place on the corner I was planning to attack was closed. I took a left up a busy alley. No desserts here. I was getting nervous.
Okay, one more left and I’ll be on the road back to the hostel. I’ll find a dessert.
As I turn the next left, a guy who worked for this bar starts talking to me. He’s speaking in Spanish and trying to get me to come inside.
“No. Gracias. Quiero…un…dessert?” Crap. What is the word for dessert??
He told me they had great drinks inside. I think. He only spoke Spanish. After some of his buddies jumped in on the peer pressure, I got shoved inside. I’ll find a back door to escape out. No backdoor. No dance floor. Just people. Talking to other people. In Spanish. Not wearing their workout/pajama clothes. I don’t belong here.
As I try to b-line it out the front door, the same guy caught me. In our Spanish exchange, I told him I don’t drink, but need dessert. He didn’t understand the word. I couldn’t remember it still.
“CHURRO!! Necesito un churro!!.. no bebo. Quiero CHURRO!”
“Ohhh! Churro! Bueno!” He said as he grabbed my hand and we stared walking. Is he showing me to dessert? I walked with him on the chance he was. And also because he never let go of my hand. I wasn’t even going to try to think of that word. Can I have my hand back? Nope. Never gonna happen.
We turn from the street we were on. He talks some more in Spanish.
We did two left turns. That’s two rights when I come back.. but right at what? Shit! I didn’t look at what was on the corner. I am so bad at this direction thing.
Two more turns. More walking. The streets are filled with people. It’s past midnight on a Monday. This is why this country has siestas!!
He assures me we’re still getting churros. He’s still holding my hand. I have ZERO idea where I am. I only now realize this may have been a bad idea. I could only think of churros before, now I was still thinking of churros, but also a little of my safety.
In broken Spanish, I asked him if the city is safe for girls at night. He enthusiastically says yes. I then ask for a picture with him. I decide to send it to my friends. Should I go missing, my mother would like to know what my killer looks like. He happily agrees. It makes me feel better. Killers don’t usually like their photo taken, let alone selfies. Maybe I’ll be okay.
We’re still walking. I ask him if he was working. Yes. I said.. but you just left work? And walked away? To bring me to churros? He responds that he’s from Morocco. Okay- that last one must not of translated right.
“All she wanted was a churro.” I decided that’s what I wanted my headstone to say. I hope my mom would know that. She would. She understood me.
As I came to terms with my impending death, I decided it’d be from hunger, not murder. Why are their portions so small here? While I calculated the time it’d been since I last ate (2.5 hours) this gleaming, big, beautiful sign illuminated the street: CHURROS. I screamed and hugged the guy. Not going to die tonight! Winning!
I’d never encountered an option of so many churros in my life: sugar, cinnamon, big, small, long, short, 3-pack, 12pack, chocolate covered, chocolate filled… I, of course, wanted the 12-pack but was a little worrried I’d be judged. I ordered from the lady.
“Un Churro.. chocolate.. grande. Muy grande por favor.” She smiled. She understood and handed me a piece of heaven.
With happiness in my hand- things were really going my way tonight. Now time to head to bed! Fuck. Bed. Where am I??
He asked me where I was staying. I told him a hostel. He asked the name. Shit. What was the name? What was it by? I couldn’t think of it. Of anything. A few moments of silence passed.
“HAM! HAMM!!” I shouted!
He didn’t understand. I started frantically scrolling though my phone.
“Aw!” He knew it! In five minutes we were standing outside my hostel. I thanked him 100 times. For the churro. For walking me back. For not murdering me. My mom would’ve been SO mad at me.
He didn’t understand my rambling. I hugged him. “Muchas gracias.”
I’m really nailing this Spanish thing, I thought. And I went to bed, belly full of chocolate churro.
On our last day in Madrid we did a walking tour. We learned a few things about Spanish history, their plaza, and the significance of the word “gato” to the people of Madrid. We also learned that there was a lot of inbreeding in the Spanish Royal families, so much so that towards the end of the line (like Charles III AND Francisco the IV or something) they were marrying their nieces and were unsurprisingly impotent by that time. It also started to show in their genes though. Seriously. Look it up. Or reference that picture above.
The end of the tour ended at the Royal Palace of Madrid. We had heard this was the “luxurious” one of the castles so I was more curious since El Escorial blew my mind.
We spent a little over an hour running though (because we wanted to make the free entrance of Prado at 6pm). I didn’t think I’d see a difference in luxury since El Escorial blew my mind already. How could it be more luxurious than that?
But it was. Rooms had 12 and 15 chandeliers. 1 of 3 changing rooms for the king, each room the size of my ground floor of the house I grew up in. Gold on gold. Royal blue velvet curtains 20 feet long. Hand stitched rugs easily 50 feet wide. Crystal everything. It. Was. Extravagant.
The outside of the Palace overlooked the city as well. It was pretty, but wasn’t El Escorial views. What an asshole I am. Did I really just say this castle wasn’t as great? Clearly I’m so well versed in it all, being that I’ve now been to TWO.
Then we left and ran to the Prado Museum. We saw a lot of the portraits of the royal family and would point them out to each other and laugh each time. We may have looked like uneducated assholes, but only because we were.
I wish I had more to contribute for going to one of the best art museums in the world, but I don’t. It was a blur as we had barely over an hour and I just remember a lot of blood, war, depression type pieces and then I would move along.
The most exciting to me was the midget. (Photo we snuck before promptly being yelled at)
After walking all over the city, we went to our hostel, the girls drank wine on our room floor, and we all went to go to sleep around 2am. Things just run later in this country.
Two guys from Mexico had joined our room earlier that day. We went to go to sleep the same time as them and asked if everyone was ready for the lights off and bed. We heard yes. Everyone was in bed and we closed our eyes to sleep. 3-4 minutes of silence pass and then we hear something. It gets a little louder. The guy in the bottom bunk starts singing. To Adele. He was singing to Adele.
He had not done that before or after this night. He was also no Ed Sheeran, but had the confidence. The three of us lay there wondering what the fuck was going on. It continued until he sung himself to sleep. We now reference him as our midnight singer. Just so weird.
The morning before we leaving, KT and I went to El Retiro park.
Katie had to pee at the worst possible time. I asked a gentleman in Spanish where the bathrooms were. He gave me an extensive answer back.
“Okay. Gracias” I told him. And we started walking.
“What did he say?” Katie asked me.
“No idea. I have to stop asking things in Spanish. They think I know it because I can speak it but I can’t understand anything.”
“We’ve been in Spain a week and you’re just now figuring that out?”
She made a valid point.
“Just wait to pee.” I told her
“It’ll probably cost you a euro to use a bathroom if you don’t! You gotta pee before we leave the hostel from now on. I bet that’s how the rich stay rich.”
“Timing their pees. Probably.”
Then we ran back to our hostel to make it by 11:02 for our 11am check out. We headed to the train station to learn the hard way about the Spanish eurail system and spent 4.5 hours at the station- the longest we’d stay anywhere in our entire 2.5 days in Madrid.
… and we headed off to get into some Shenanigans in Barcelona. 😜👆🏼😂
PS: they sell vibrators in a vending machine in the Madrid Train station. (79 euro if you were wondering.)