Holy Toledo!!

Lunes (5/28):  Well, as my coworker would say….”It’s a Monday!”  Meaning everything seems to be slower.  We worked all day and I went home, wrote my blogs, completed my discussions and by the time I was able to finish, I had to go to bed!

Martes (5/29): I went to work and received a 27-page translation to edit in English.  This is what I did for the rest of the week with smaller tasks mixed in occasionally as well.  After work, I went home for a bit and the friends I have met as part of the program all decided to go to the Temple Debod.  The Temple is apparently the prettiest place in Madrid to watch the sunset.  It is in a massive park and there are old ruins that are from the temple.  These ruins are where people gather to look out onto the city and the Royal Palace as the sun sets.  It is so beautiful, and it was a lot of fun to actually do something after work for a change!  After the sunset, we walked to a restaurant and had some dinner.  I didn’t eat, I just got water, because everything is so expensive here and I had asked my host-mother to save my plate of dinner for me.  I had my plate when I got home and went to bed!

Miercoles (5/30): I worked again, still completing the translation and asked if my friends wanted to go to the Reina Sofia after work.  It offers free admission 7-9 every day, so we got in line and were able to get in for free. My coworker that morning had told me that I should see Guernica and use my phone to research all the symbolism.  He said I could look at it for 3 hours and still not see or grasp everything in that one painting.  It was so humbling to see these massive works of art and be able to be so close to them as well.  I saw Goya and a lot of Picasso.  I was disappointed because I was so excited to see Guernica and look up the significance and there was security and museums staff ridiculing people the moment they tried to pull out their phones because they assumed they would take pictures, which is prohibited.  It’s a shame to me because what is the beauty of art if not to share with others and be able to examine it yourself.  It left a bad taste in my mouth.  However, I will say that this trip is once again inspiring my interest in art.  We learned not to walk into unmarked stairways, even if the door is open.  We walked into one and started going down and we realized none of the doors had handles to leave, and when we walked back up, the door had been closed and we were trapped.  We had to walk all the way down the staircase to the ground floor and exit in front of a security guard who was definitely confused about how we had gotten inside that staircase.  UGH.  I went home after the museum to rest up for work the next day.

Picasso at the Reina Sofia

Jueves (5/31):  As I mentioned earlier, I am getting a lot of my knowledge here by just observing.  It’s incredible how much your other four senses fill in when one begins lacking, such as hearing when someone is talking too fast.  My observation powers seem to immediately increase.  Well, a small observation I have made is that every single woman I work with has her nails painted.  Every. Single. One.  I asked my other friend who is also a girl and she said that she noticed that at her work too!  Even if they do not have a color on, everyone has at least a clear coat of polish on.  That is one aspect of Madrid that is rumored, and I have definitely found truth to it.  People genuinely care about how they look and how they groom themselves.  I feel like I have to re-powder my face at work and before I leave for the metro at the end of the day!  For lunch, my coworker and I both forgot to bring our lunches and he invited me to go to a restaurant that he said was very American styled.  It was called Faborit.  We walked in and it was very much like a Chipotle.  You bought your meal and then you got a receipt to make your own salad and you told the woman behind the counter what you wanted inside it.  She would put the ingredients in it and you could take your tray to a table.  It reminded me a lot of Hello Bistro in the states.  I thought it was funny that they called it American style.  Here, in Spain, people enjoy eating and it is normal to sit at the table for two hours with minimal check-ins from waiters.  Here, you do not tip because waiters are given proper wages with benefits too so there is no need to “turn tables” and move people through.  This quick lunch style is very American.  My coworker said that this was very popular, and he was right!  It was packed inside, and I can imagine the people inside love the change in customs.  It was the first time I had seen spinach since I had arrived, and my coworker was surprised that I ate vegetables so much in America because that is not what they believe our culture to eat.  That night, I bought a one-way ticket to Dublin, and then the return trips went up significantly, and honestly, I almost didn’t buy a return flight.  I did before I went to sleep, but I was really close to not buying one because the prices were so high.

Viernes (6/1):  I went into work a bit early and made it my goal to complete the translation because I only had a little more than 2 hours to finish before I left for the day!  I finished it and left at 11:15 for the city tour of Madrid.  I wish that this had been sooner, because I had seen almost everything already.  We saw the major plazas, the Palace and a few more sights.  We saw the oldest restaurant in the world in Madrid which I didn’t know was there before and we even saw the Guinness Book of World Records paper as proof.  I also learned where the word tapas came from.  A man once owned a restaurant of the beach in the South of Spain.  He always had a problem with sand entering into people’s drinks.  So, when the King came to his restaurant, he didn’t want the King’s drink to get sand from the beach inside of it.  He had to create a solution.  He decided that he would put a piece of ham on top of the glass to cover it from the sand and the King could also snack on the ham too!  The king loved this idea of having a top to the glass that was also a small snack while he drank.  Top = Tapa and thus, the word tapas was born!  I also learned there is an unused, haunted metro stop near my house that I see every day on my commute, and now I want to visit it!  I went out to lunch with all the students after the tour and somehow managed to order tuna on both of my plates, which I do not like.  Unlucky, because tuna is very popular here.

Sabado (6/2): Today, I had the great idea to convince the group to take a day trip to Toledo!  Go Sarah!  I was so proud of myself for taking the step and the group has taking to calling me the leader as I generally make the decisions, pull up and follow the directions, and I typically have done my research.  Not in a bossy way, in an endearing way. (:  We got to the city and it was pouring and we decided to walk to save money.  Everyone was getting soaked but that’s to my poncho, only my pants got wet, and my shoes as well.  We got coffees to warm up as soon as we arrived up the hill at the city.  We went to the Cathedral first which is one of the biggest in Europe and it was absolutely gorgeous!  We paid for a self-guided audio tour and we were in there for a few hours.  After we got lunch at a place I found in my Rick Steven’s tour guidebook.  It honestly saved us, and we followed it all day.  I genuinely loved using it and it had great tips.  I found our restaurant in the book and read aloud the description to our group.  I had read about these two women running the restaurant and I kept seeing the same two women employees, so when one of them was at our table I asked her what her name was.  Sure enough, she was one of the women in my book!  I told her she was in my book and I showed her the page.  She was so excited and went and got her daughter Anna.  They got so excited and I felt like I was meeting celebrities.  Someone at my table made a joke about getting their signatures, and I thought it was such a good idea, so I asked and they both signed it.  We then got a photo together and I showed the woman and she thought the picture was so cute that she gave me her cell phone number and asked me to send them to her.  Nobody could believe what was happening.  A quick side note:  Toledo is famous for their marzipan and she told me to wait here, and she ran away and came back with Marzipan for everyone at our table, then she brought me to the shop and asked to take another photo at that store too. She told me to send those photos to her too, and her daughter brought me their business card and flyer.  She told me they were going to put the photos on their Facebook and asked me to write a recommendation too.  They were so sweet and friendly that this interaction made my entire day and week!

Above are photos of me with the women at the Restaurante Placido!

After we ate, we went in some shops, and found our way to the war museum in Alcazar and walked around inside.  When we got out, it was looking like it was going to storm so we decided to walk to the El Greco museum.  As soon as we started walking there as a massive bolt of lightning and a deafening crack of thunder, we screamed and started running.  Again, the skies opened up and we were running in a general direction to find coverage, we had to job to the museum and arrived soaked.  We somehow got into the museum for free.  I thought we were just going to see the courtyard because that was free but then we ended up in the museum, and it was really amazing.  One of the boys thinks that we got in for free because we were students.  I don’t know but it was incredibly cool.  We sat to watch a film about El Greco while we dried off and it was about the significance in his artworks.  It was incredible.  I almost bought the movie but decided that was not the best use for my money.  I loved all his art and I decided I was going to look into an art history minor at Pitt.  After this museum, we went and got coffee and some of the group wanted to go get dinner, but I told them I wanted to take a train outside the city around the natural moat, and they didn’t have to go if they didn’t want to, but I told them I was going to go.  It took you to a beautiful vantage point that was where El Greco painted the city from.  They decided to go.  It was the best way to end the day and give our feet a break!  We walked back down and took the 30-minute train back to Madrid.

Me at El Greco’s viewing point of the city.

Domingo (6/3):  I slept in and only left my house at 5:30 pm to meet my cousin Greg for the Real Madrid vs. Arsenal “Legends” charity soccer game.  It was in Real Madrid’s stadium called Santiago Bernabéu.  It was so cool and a great environment to be in a packed stadium.  An interesting fact is that you can bring drinks in, but you have to throw the cap out before you can enter the stadium because they used to have problems about people throwing their bottles at the players, and without the cap, the bottle loses the liquid on the way and becomes much less dangerous and people don’t even throw them anymore.  I bought a Real Madrid scarf from the championship game that I watched as a memory.  This is my favorite souvenir so far.  Bandwagon fan?  Maybe.  But, I am a fan now nonetheless! (:  I returned home to go to bed and get ready for another week of work!

Real Madrid game: HALA MADRID!