Picasso, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Barcelona, Madrid, Tortilla Espanola, Flamenco, Prado, the Royal Palace, Gran Via, Poble Espanol … need I say more? No, but I want to!
Along with my friends Kate and Bonnie, I set off for a nine-day trip to Spain last week, not knowing Spanish or really too much about the places we were going.
Getting to Charles de Gaulle to leave for Madrid was easy, although Terminal 1 was sorely lacking dinner food, but flying the discount airline, Vueling, was way better than I expected. Discount airlines are quite popular in Europe; by not offering complimentary items and sometimes making one pay for toilets, discount airlines are a cheap and quick way to get to one place or the next. Can’t beat it.
British Airways, in fact, is facing fierce competition with these airlines as well as trains. Why pay more for peanuts and a blanket? But in BA’s defense, discount airlines will nickel and dime you to death if you are not careful, but with some pre-planning and a strong attitude, you can financially succeed in your travels just like we did!
Arriving in Madrid around midnight, we met some people from the SMU-in-Madrid program, Drew and Laura. They led us to our hostel, something none of us had ever stayed in and were frankly quite curious about the whole idea. It was actually pretty cool, and like the discount airline idea, hostels do not have that hotel charm some of us are used to, perhaps. The guy even gave Bonnie a free soda!
Although the complimentary breakfast was just toast and jelly, all the Spanish tortillas I ate definitely made up for it. Linens were free, and the bathroom was in the room, and my conclusion is that hostels are good if you want to pay next to nothing for just a bed and a light.
The best part is that things were so much cheaper in Madrid. For instance, I could get a Coke for as little as 60 centimes … something that would cost 3 EUROs in Paris. SO NICE. The food was excellent too, and one night we indulged ourselves in a Spanish restaurant near the Royal Opera that was amazing! FYI: French fries are universal (YES! Called “Patatas” in Spanish, I think.)
Madrid has an awkward flair to it. On one hand, it is a party scene happy to be rid of Franco, but on the other, it is a beautiful city with great public transportation, remnants of the past and tasty food.
We also witnessed a parade of sheep on Sunday morning, an annual parade put on to essentially glorify livestock. Really cool! Also, it was fun to walk into all the little churches and see this magnificent array of gold everywhere. Every cathedral was like a treasure chest.
Barcelona is way different than Madrid, though only an hour and a half away by air. First of all, they do not speak Spanish (though a part of Spain); they speak Catalan. Barcelona is like France’s Marseilles because it is always rebelling and quite independent.
We really enjoyed things like the Picasso museum, works of the famous architect Gaudi such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell (photo right), the beach, the warm weather, the Poble Espanol and just the general night life. It was nice too that our roommates in the hostel were much quieter!
Things are still pretty cheap in Barcelona, and the public transportation is especially great because it is air-conditioned, a nice relief from the hot metro of Paris. Pick-pocketers in Barcelona are professionals. While none of us got anything stolen, it was very obvious to point out who would probably get robbed and who were the robbers. Some of the robbers make these little mouth noises to distract you, and when you are dumb enough to respond to them, someone will come behind you and snatch your wallet. But really, awareness is the best preventive measure! I cannot stress that enough!
Flamenco dancing, nice beaches, good food, happy people … a great place to be when you need a relief. Highly recommended!
Looking at the development of Picasso, I feel assured that we have not discovered everything in terms of art yet. In the past, many have felt that we have, and they do now too, but I think it is close-minded to think so.
I remember when I was younger that I sent out letters to some admirable musicians asking them about their views on a “new” form of art, and the responses were quite exciting. I do not want to be a seat-rattler; I just want my own voice that people can understand, distinguish, and respect because I think have something valuable to say through music that will encourage people to think more deeply about themselves, thus promoting a more thoughtful society.
Well, check back in 10 years, and we’ll see where I am with this.
I am afraid of all the research papers, small papers, and reading to do this week. It’s like being crushed by a gravel truck! Argh! But, Germany this coming weekend!