Madrid mates

Oslo Travel Blog

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Back from another trip, and time for another blog.

This time I went to Madrid with Hannah, Candice & Almaz. We left Oslo on Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Madrid at midnight on Wednesday. We stayed in a nice new hostel with an included "Spanish breakfast" that turned out to be toast, cornflakes and lots of pre-packaged sponge cakey things! We were incredibly blessed with the weather - cloudless blue skies and warmish temperatures every day. It was a lovely change from cold, dark Norway, and we spent as much time outside as possible.

On Wednesday after a bit of an explore we went to the Reina Sofia, Madrid's contemporary art gallery. I am not really a contemporary art fan so this wasn't the highlight of the trip for me, but it was good to be exposed to famous pieces of art (like Picasso's Guernica). There were also some photographic exhibitions that I liked. Wednesday evening we had a typical Spanish night out for my birthday - bar hopping for tapas and sangria followed by a traditional hot chocolate. Chocolateria San Gines has been around since 1894 and apparently it's the proper Spanish thing to go there after a night out for chocolate and churros (long, skinny Spanish doughnuts). The chocolate is pretty much pure melted dark chocolate - very strong! 1 cup was enough for all of us to share. It was a really fun night out, and so cheap compared to Oslo!

(I'd already had a nice birthday surprise on Monday night when I came back from Norwegian class to find that Hannah & Georgie had made me a cake and invited lots of our friends around. They also all chipped in to get me a massage at our local gym which I'm very much looking forward to! Thanks to all my Oslo friends and also to everyone who sent me emails, sms's and Facebook messages on my birthday. I felt very blessed.)

On Thursday Candice & I went on a free walking tour that we found out about at the hostel. It was very interesting and really made our Madrid experience more substantial. We saw the Palacio Real (modelled on Versailles), the old Moorish area (Spain was originally inhabited by North Africans before the Christians kicked them all out!) and the more modern, wider streets with their beautiful grand buildings. Grand Via, for example, is modelled on Paris for half of its length, and on New York for the other half. It was all really interesting and worthwhile. On Thursday evening we all went to the Museo del Prado - the traditional art gallery. It was free because of a new exhibition opening, but that also meant that the lines were hideous (they'd put us off the day before!) Still, it didn't end up being too bad, and it was great to see the art. There were lots of traditional Spanish paintings (Goya & Velazquez) as well as international art (Reubens, Botticelli etc) After the gallery closed we went for a late dinner in a little Spanish/Mexican restaurant we found. The food was nice, but the evening was marred by the fact that my camera got stolen by a homeless guy who came in while we were eating. I didn't notice until we were almost back at the hostel, but after I ran back and checked at the restaurant, I knew that he had taken it. I am lucky it was just my camera, but it's still not a nice thing to happen and it spoiled my Spanish experience a bit. So the photos you can see are kindly donated by Hannah and I don't have any from the walking tour, unfortunately.

Friday we didn't do much. We had a nice walk around the gardens near the palace (we were planning on going in, but the long queues and the gorgeous sunshine put us off spending the day inside) and then had lunch outside in a little cafe. In the afternoon Hannah and Almaz braved the busy Madrid shops (I started off with them but didn't really feel up to it) and I wandered around the huge park - Parque del Retiro - and read my book in the sun! I bumped into Candice on the way back to the hostel, then we met the others for tea (after pushing our way through the massive shopping crowds that are just as large, if not larger, in the evening as during the day). It's really weird how they have a long siesta in the afternoon when everything shuts down, but then things open up again and stay busy until quite late. There was a cool narrow street near our hostel that was lined with shops that were all covered with graffiti - no one seems to care, they just have roller shutters to ensure their windows don't get affected! I would show you a photo, but... Another interesting but sadder Madrid experience was walking along one street in particular that was full of prostitutes (from quite early on, but more so later at night) Not quite what we're used to.

For our last day we headed off to the Parque del Retiro again for a picnic lunch - really nice bread and fresh dip from a deli just near our hostel. Again, luxuries we don't have in Oslo! After a last lie in the sun we headed back to the hostel to get our stuff and go to the airport. What with plane delays and long bus trips from Torp (last time ever, yay!) we didn't get back to Sogn until quite late and we were all pretty tired! At least we had a quiet day today before starting back at uni tomorrow. It was a lovely break and a fun trip, but back to the humdrum of study now...
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photo by: sarahsan