May 29, 2010 - Spain Day 2
After our rough welcome Friday night, we were really looking forward to the fun part of the vacation to start, so a full day of walking around Madrid and seeing the sites was just what the doctor ordered. We were on our feet trooping around for a good 8 hours straight, and we got to see all of the "Madrid Essentials" (according the the guide book). Andreana served as our most excellent tour guide took us the most scenic and fantastic routes. We saw so many things, I can't remember all of the places right now, so I think I'll just write about my favorites right now.
One of the first places we went was the rose garden in a park I can't remember the name of at the moment. Summer just hit, so the flowers were in full bloom and it was so beautiful! Not to mention the light rose fragrance that filled the area. I've heard the garden in Paris are unparalleled, but this rose garden may have them beat - we'll see!
The next highlight for me was an Egyptian tomb transplanted right in the middle of town. It was a gift from the Egyptian government in 1968 for Spain's help in protecting some other temples. Basically, they shipped the temple over and rebuilt it stone by stone on a hill in a park. It's small and not that exciting to look at (except the neat hieroglyphs inside), but so incredibly cool when you realize there's a thousands years old tomb in the middle of Madrid. I kept commenting, "This is so cool!" - all my years of schooling and that's the best I could come with!
Next, we toured the Royal Palace of Spain - a residence still used by the royal family. It looks almost fake from the outside, since I've never seen anything so magnificent in real life. We had to wait in line almost an hour to get in, and we had no idea what we were going to be able to see inside, so we had low expectations. Those were blown out of the water in mere minutes. There are three main areas you can see. The first the royal pharmacy. We had no idea what that meant until we went inside and saw room after room filled with glass and porcelain jars gilded with the royal crest and labeled with Latin and Spanish names - everything from medicinal herbs, distilled water, and arsenic to crocodile skin. There were floor to ceiling shelves filled with the containers and information on the royal doctors of the past. It was all really neat, but nothing compared to what we saw next!
We went into the main palace and were totally awestruck! There was a grand staircase where we entered with a huge tapestry of the Spanish crest on the opposite wall, and walls and ceilings covered with paintings and carvings. All three of us walked up the stairs with our heads back checking out the ceiling and our mouths hanging out! Wow. Later, when we looked out one of the windows, Jessie and Andreana wondered how we got to he second story because they didn't remember the stairs part of the staircase! We saw several rooms upstairs including Carlos V's dressing room and bedroom, Isabel's dining room, and the silver "closet" (a huge room), each more opulent than the next. My favorite of all though was the throne room! There were the king and queen's chairs! Right there! I was imagining all of the famous Spaniards who probably knelt before the royals in that very room. It gave me chills. Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos at all inside the palace, so you'll just have to take my word for it. I know this is a kind of a lame comparison, but since we try to contextualize our experiences with what we know or have experienced, I kept thinking about Hearst Castle in southern California. I finally get the kind of extravagance Hearst was trying to capture, but his version doesn't even come close.
The last museum in the palace was the armory, which was really neat on its own. The knight's armor looked just like pictures I've seen. I know that shouldn't be a surprise at all, but somehow those things surprise me every time!
As I said, we walked everywhere, so a lot of the day was just taking in the surroundings. I absolutely love the architecture here. I like the plazas and all the balconies. Once again, it's no surprise, but everything looks so Spanish! I know I sound silly, but I love when the things I've read and the pictures I've seen turn out to be real. I had he same reaction the first time I went to Japan, too.
May 30, 2010 - Spain Day 3
We took a bus to Segovia to see the castle that inspired Disney's "Sleeping Beauty," some Roman aqueducts and more.
--More on this later!--
Monday, May 31, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Does anyone still read this? I forgot about it. Sorry!
Well, I'm graduating on Saturday and moving out of my apartment in SF this weekend. Chico bound for now, but we'll see where I end up. :)
My sister Jessie and I are leaving for Europe a week from Thursday (on the 27th). We're heading to Madrid, Valencia,; Paris, Strasbourg, London, and Bath with a few stops in between, so I'll try to update this blog as we go!