Wow, what an eventful week!
My flight from Chicago went smoothly, and we (10 girls, including myself) arrived safely in Madrid on Thursday morning. We were able to check into our hotel early, took a quick nap, then decided to explore the city.
One girl from our group had arrived the day before, so she showed us how to take the metro downtown. We found a place to eat, then walked around for a while, visiting places like la Puerta del Sol, la Plaza Mayor (main square/plaza), and a small market, el Mercado de San Miguel.
After walking farther than we intended to, three of us broke off from the group and decided to take a tour of El Palacio Real (the Royal Palace), which was incredible and definitely worth the price of 10 euros to see!! It was amazing to be in the same rooms in which the kings and queens of Spain lived. Things I vaguely remembered from my classes began to come alive! There were a few things about the palace that I found to be especially interesting: 1) the walls were decorated so intricately – some had designs in porcelain, others were covered in embroidered silk, and others featured amazing tapestries, 2) I was able to see FOUR Stradivarius string instruments that were given to Spanish royalty – two violins, a viola, and a cello – that were on display in glass cases. SO cool! 3) The ceilings of the rooms were covered in frescoes painted by professional artists. I can’t imagine living in the kind of splendor that these kings and queens enjoyed; I don’t think I could live there, but I really enjoyed visiting.
On Friday I went with two friends to explore the city again, planning to visit two art museums. First, we visited la Puerta de Alcalá, which is one of the old gates to the city, walked through el Parque Retiro, one of the most famous parks in Madrid, and peeked inside a cathedral. We ended up walking through el Museo del Prado, a famous and historical art museum for about three hours, stopped for lunch, and then went to a more modern art museum, la Reina Sofía, for a while. In el Museo del Prado, I saw works by artists like Goya, Velazquez, el Greco, and more. In la Reina Sofía I stood in front of paintings by Dalí, Miró, and Picasso. Again, the opportunity to see things in person that I had studied in class was absolutely fascinating! I was blown away by both the quantity and quality of the art that was there.
By Friday night sixteen of the eighteen members of our group had arrived in Madrid, and we all went out to eat together. I was definitely tired after the busyness of these two days, but I loved almost every minute of it!