The Imperial City

Toledo & Madrid

june 29 – July 5

 

Monday in Madrid was so much. If you haven't figured it out by now, the party never stops in Madrid during the summer. How can it when there so many people from all of the world and so many great places to visit in the city? After class and dinner, a huge group of us went to Dubliners which was basically the go-to place for us. After a couple hours, we walked over to the most popular club on Mondays called Independencia. The place was so crowded and we lost each other multiple times. The club, like most clubs in Madrid, are averaged-sized, but filled with people from all over the world. While I was there I met a group of people from Mexico and a couple of other people from the United States. I finally left at around 5:30 in the morning, which is actually a pretty early time for the nightlife in Madrid. My walk to Sol and the Metro was probably one of the most interesting walks I've had. Even though it's just the beginning of the new day the city, it feels like the people never went to sleep.

Friday we traveled to Toledo. We took a long through the city that was very interesting. There is a lot of history in the city, but there aren't many people. I think it's probably because Toledo is so much hotter than Madrid. For lunch, my friends and I went La Abadía. We took forever to find it because we got lost along the way. When we finally found it, we were so relieved. After a lot of sangria and deserts, we walked over to la Plaza Zocodover and la Confitería Santo Tomé, a famous pastry shop in Toledo. The pastries were amazing there. Later at night, a few of us went out to find a famous club called el Círculo del Arte but unfortunately it was closed! Instead we sat down in a bar across the street to talk before we finally went back to the school we were staying at.

Saturday  we traveled through La Mancha and followed Don Quixote's route to see small towns, churches, windmills, and beautiful alcazars. We visit an old Plaza Mayor in Tembleque and learned about windmill technology. After traveling around La Mancha, we returned to Madrid. We arrived around mid-afternoon, and the first thing I did when I got back was take a nap. Later, a few of us went to Dubliners to celebrate The Fourth of July but honestly we didn't do much because we were so exhausted from Toledo.

Sunday I got up early to meet up with my friends at the metro stop close to our school. We walked from there to the metro museum in a closed metro station. It was closed in 1966 by the metro bosses because the station was on a curve and couldn't accommodate addition metro cars in the station. In 2006, it was opened again by historians and turned into a museum. The museum is kind of spooky because it's left in its original 1960s condition, and the trains pass by speeding along between the active stations. After, we went to la Chocoletería Santo Gines. It's said that they have the best churros in the city, and they were pretty wonderful. Later, we went to la Plaza Mayor and el Mercado de San Miguel. At the market, we all bought things to try while we walked around the city. Then we left for Tierra. Tierra is basically the Madrid version of Chipotle. After we ate there, we all went back to our host families. Around 11:30pm we went  back la Chocoletería Santo Gines because they were so great and then went to a bar for sangria. We ended our night early at around one to catch the metro back.


Toledo may be known as the imperial city, But Madrid has no equal in Spain

The City of Seven Hills

The Other One 

June 25 - 28

Castelo de São Jorge

Castelo de São Jorge

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and is one of the oldest inhabited capital city in Europe, not as old as Athens but older than Istanbul and even Rome. Speaking of, Rome is known as City of Seven Hills because it was founded on seven hills, but did you know that Lisbon is also known by the same name. I would definitely say that the title is more appropriate for Lisbon rather than Rome. To get anywhere in the city you have to walk what feels like miles and miles up and down the hills. Basically if you want great legs, move to Lisbon.


Thursday, I went to Lisbon with my friend, Rachael. I left for the airport at around five thirty in the afternoon, and met up with my friend Rachael at a metro stop along the way. The metro in Madrid is one of my favorite things about the city, and something that I miss since I got back to the States. If you need to get anywhere in Madrid—I mean anywhere—you take the metro. It's so clean, easy to navigate, and convenient. Anyway, we arrived at the airport at five forty-five and wandered around the airport until we found the check-in desk. There, we found out that we were on Stand-By because we didn't check-in to the flight until we arrived at the airport. We were worried that we wouldn't get on our flight, but there wasn't much we could do except wait for our gate to be announced. Fortunately, we found the flight attendants and got seats without much work. After an hour and a half flight, we landed in Lisbon at eight and got to our hotel about thirty minutes later. Later, we found a place to eat on a terrace in central Lisbon and walked around the city.

View from our hotel ~ Hotel Duas Nações

View from our hotel ~ Hotel Duas Nações

Plaza near our hotel

Plaza near our hotel


 
Conquering the hills of Lisbon

Conquering the hills of Lisbon

 
 

Friday, we took a free walking tour through the city. We started at around ten in the morning and ended a little after four in the afternoon. Our guide showed us many different parts of Lisbon and told us about the Lisbon that most tourists don't experience. We walked through eclectic neighborhoods and pasted through very narrow streets. We end next to a cathedral and on top of one of the hills of Lisbon that overlooked the entire city. Afterward, we stubbled upon a little cafe back down the hill we had just climbed. I had the best meal I had while I was in Europe there, and the wine was amazing. I would go back to Lisbon just to eat here again. It was wonderful. Later, we went back tot the hotel and napped. For dinner, we found a restaurant near the Tajo River and then a wine bar where we tried 30 year-old Port wine. 

 

 
Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Palácio Nacional de Sintra

 
 

Saturday, we took a train to a city outside Lisbon called Sintra. Sintra is fairytale city close to the coast. There are palaces, castles, and royal estates scattered across the many hills surrounding the city. The extravagance of the city's former royal buildings are breath-taking. The National Palace is very peculiar building, and not well planned. Rachael and I walked around the entire building and almost walked straight into the palace without knowing what we were doing. The Castle of the Moors was one of my favorite castles. It's expansive and has the best views of the city, the National Palaces, and the coast. The last palace we went to was Pena Palace. It's a grand palace that takes you back in time. The castle is one of the most eccentric buildings I've ever seen. After campaigning across the hills of Sintra we returned to Lisbon to have dinner at that little cafe halfway up the hill on the way to the cathedral. That night, we went to the wine bar again and went to a festival in el Praça do Comércio on the bank of the river.

 
 
Palácio Nacional da Pena

Palácio Nacional da Pena

 

Sunday we got up at eight to eat breakfast in our hotel, and leave for the airport. Our flight left at twelve fifty for Madrid. This time, we made sure to check into our flight the night before. Thankfully, we didn't have any problems at the airport in Lisbon. We returned to Madrid at three. Afterward, Rachael and I went to el Tigre, a bar with the biggest and some of the best tapas in Madrid. After I got back to my homestay around five, I immediately fell asleep. My trip to Lisbon was amazing, but I never got any rest the entire weekend. 

On the banks of the Tajo River

On the banks of the Tajo River

View from Palácio Nacional da Pena

View from Palácio Nacional da Pena

Andalusia

Discotecas, Córdoba, GRANADA & PARADISE

June 18 - 21

Kapital's Seven Floors of extravagance

So for those of y'all who don't know, the nightlife in Madrid is spectacular. In Madrid, and Spain in general, people eat dinner very late. There we start dinner as late as 9:30pm, and it could last until 11:30pm. Going out to the bars and clubs is an all-night affair. Most Madrileños don't return home until 5 or 6am. 

Thursday night before our trip to Córdoba & Granada, my friend, Rachael, and I went to Teatro Kapital. Kapital is probably one of the biggest club in Madrid. It's an eight floor maze of music, smoke, and people. Each floor has a different theme: the first is the dance floor, the second is the VIP section, the third is karaoke, the fourth is R&B, the fifth is a cocktail bar, the six is pop music, and the seventh is latino music. All of these floor are really fun, but the top floor, which is actually a roof terrace, is the best. It's a really great place to sit down, grab a drink, meet new people, and have a lot of fun! When you go to Kapital, you should show up after 1am, and you have to stay until 5am.


Córdoba & Granada 

The Streets of Córdoba

The Streets of Córdoba

Alhambra of Granada

Alhambra of Granada

Por eso mereces, rey, una pena muy doblada: que te pierdas tú y el reino, y aquí se pierda Granada.

Friday morning we met at our school to head south to Córdoba. It's about a 4 hour bus ride away. We arrived around lunch time, and we had about two hours to look around the city and find somewhere to eat. Afterward, we toured the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. It was super exciting to learn about the history of the Moorish kingdoms in Spain and see how the building evolved over time. Words don't do its beauty justice.

Inside the Mosque Cathedral

Inside the Mosque Cathedral

Inside the Mosque-Cathedral

Inside the Mosque-Cathedral

Carina, George, and I at Artik

Carina, George, and I at Artik

Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

Arches in the Mosque-Cathedral

Arches in the Mosque-Cathedral

Anyway, we were free after we checked in to the hotel to grab dinner and do what we pleased. After dinner, some of friends and I decided to go out that night. The nightlife in Granada isn't as rowdy as it is in Madrid, but it's very quirky. I went to two different bars with my friends Friday night, and they were both very different from one another. The first one was called Artik; it was a modern bar. I really liked it, but we were definitely the youngest people there by at least ten or fifteen years. About 30 minutes after we sat down, one of the promoters from the bar came around and gave us some great paper mustaches to take photos with. So we got this great picture of the gingers, and this is probably my favorite picture from our trip. Later, we decided to try to find another bar or club. We left and wandered around for about 10 minutes until we stumbled into another bar. This one was the complete opposite of Artik. I don't recall the name of the bar, but as a group we all refer to that bar as the "vampire bar." It was so bizarre, and there really is no other way to describe that bar. It was dingy, dank, and had a weird ambient mix of Gothic decoration, "Buddhist" statues and metal music. It was the strangest thing I had ever experienced. The bar was appealing to too many aesthetics at once, and it end up giving off a creepy and slightly threatening vibe that didn't that sit well with us. Partying in the Granada on Friday night definitely wasn't the most typical, but it was actually really fun.  


Saturday

––another day, another tour––

Saturday, we toured the city of Granada, the Alhambra and the Palacio de Generalife. We spent the morning wandering through the narrow streets of Granada. We toured the Granada Cathedral, the Albayzín quarter, and the rest of the city. We stopped here and there to talk about this important building or that ancient plaza, but, to be honest, I lost myself thinking about how vibrant this city must have been during the high of the Emirate's power. Thousands flocked to Granada, to capital of the longest lasting Muslim state in Europe. After the tour, we were free for lunch. This time, I went to this restaurant called Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir has the best sangria, and probably the best drinks, that I had on my entire trip in Spain. I wish I could go back to Granada just to get another sangria from Pinot Noir. If you go to Granada you have to go! Anyway, after lunch we all met up to tour the Alhambra and my favorite part of the tour, it's beautiful gardens.

Palacio de Generalife

Palacio de Generalife


Sunday was our last day in Granada. We returned to Madrid that day, and by the end of the trip I was ready to get back to my new favorite city. But before we started on our six hour bus ride back to the capital, we had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Alhambra and the city of Granada. Lunch was nothing special–you'd be surprised at how difficult it is to be vegetarian or literally have any dietary restrictions in Spain–but spending two and a half hours relaxing on the terraza with my friends was a kind of like my mini-paradise. 


Conner & Rachel

Conner & Rachel

So MAD(rid)

De Madrid al cielo
— Madrileño saying

It's officially my fourth day in Madrid, so it about time I update everyone about my adventures in the capital of Spain.

We arrived in Madrid at about 7:40, Sunday morning. Like usual, I didn't sleep a lot on the flight. I always want to sleep for hours and hours on flights, but it never seems to work out for me. I'm always too excited or anxious to actually get an real rest. Because of that, Sunday was a very slow day for me. I spent the day wandering around the streets of my new neighborhood and then went to a soccer game in Real Madrid's stadium. 

Monday was our orientation, and later we went on a quick tour of the center of Madrid. You never realize just how people live in a city until you try to navigate your way through their Metro system alone. I will admit that I've missed my stop, gotten on the wrong train, and awkwardly searched for my Metro card while a bunch of people waited impatiently behind me for me to get my life together. It's really terrifying when your trying to get on one of the last trains before the Metro closes for the night, and you don't even know if you can get inside the station. 

On Tuesday, I had my first classes, and later that night my friends and I went to what may become one of my favorite neighborhoods in Madrid. Malasaña is a neighborhood north of the center of the city. It's a very distinct place that draws people from all over the city. Here, it seems, the nightlife doesn't seem to stop until the sun comes up.

Today is our second of class, and I've had a very relaxed day. This afternoon, I walked around Plaza Mayor, and I think my jet lag has finally caught up with me.


There is a saying in Madrid that goes: "De Madrid al cielo." In English: From Madrid to heaven. It means that once you have gone to Madrid, the only place left to go is heaven. Madrid is such a grand and enchanting city that it's not hard for me to see why they say this. The city is alive is unlike any other city I have visit. I can't wait to spend five weeks becoming a local Madrileño.

Honestly, I can't tell you that I had any idea about life in Madrid before I came here, but I will tell you that I have fallen in love with this city.