I have only stayed in one other hostel before, when I went to Paris at the end of January. Staying at Way Hostel was definitely a bit different of an experience. Don't get me wrong, it was a very nice hostel with friendly and helpful staff, a free breakfast, four computers to use, and a lot more to offer too. However, in Paris the four of us had our own four person room and our own bathroom. In Madrid we stayed in a 12 person mixed dorm room with two shared bathrooms, one for the girls and one for the guys. There were two showers in the girls bathroom and the glass doors were somewhat see through so that got a bit awkward at times. We were really shocked to find that three other girls from our program (Demetria, Rita, and Emma) were in the same room as us! I knew that they were coming to Madrid that weekend two but I had know idea that they would be staying in the same hostel. Our friends Rachel, Sarah, Katie, and Marlee had made their hostel reservation earlier then Amy and I had so they were in a different room then we were.
After checking into the hostel, we met up with Marlee's friend who is studying abroad in Madrid for the semester. She showed us around the city a bit. Rachel, Sarah, and Marlee bought tickets to see "Grease the Muscial" that night. Right away I could tell that Madrid was a very different city from Granada. There were sooo many Americanized chain restaurants there, such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's, Burger King, and we even saw a TGI Fridays. In Granada, we pretty much have a handful on chain restaurants like those and then the rest are cute little privately own cafes, restaurants, and stores. Another thing that was very different in Madrid was the amount of English that you heard everywhere that you went. I feel like if I studied abroad there I would be able to speak English most of the time. I love how in Granada I'm forced to speak Spanish more often and I don't hear English being spoken everywhere that I go. I don't want to give Madrid a bad impression though. There were a lot of things that I loved about the city and I thought that it was very beautiful and historic. I just always realize how much more I love Granada whenever I visit a new place in Europe.
Anyways... after we walked around for a while Sarah, Katie, and Marlee decided that they wanted Thai food for dinner. Rachel doesn't like Thai food so her, Amy, and I walked around looking for a cheap place that she could buy some dinner while the two of us ate sandwiches that we had made before leaving Granada. Amy and I were seriously the budget queens on this trip. We are probably going to sound like huge cheapskates in this blog post, but our philosophy is try to spend the least amount of money as possible on meal expenses when traveling so that we can put our money towards better things. While we were waiting outside the Thai restaurant for the other three girls to pay, a huge group of African American men ran past us and down a side street. At first I was scared because I thought that they had robbed someone or something and that was why they were running away. Then we realized that they were the people that we always see on the streets illegally selling things such as sun glasses, bags, clothing, etc. They had seen that a police car was coming so they quickly wrapped up their stuff in the blankets that they lay them on (for a quick get away such as that one) and ran. Less then a minute later two little police motorcycles drove by.
We then stopped at a soft serve frozen yogurt place to get some frozen yogurt. Of course I had to get some because frozen yogurt is one thing that I can't resist spending money on. Sadly, they didn't have rainbow sprinkles as one of the toppings, but it was still delicious. The frozen yogurt shop was right next to the street where a bunch of prostitutes are at night. That was definitely a new experience for me too, watching a group of four or five prostitutes stop just about any man that passed on the street and try to get them to leave with them. Although it was sort of sad and sickening to watch, we sat there and watched them for a decent amount of time because they were right by the ice cream place and it was sort of interesting to see.
Rachel, Sarah, and Marlee left for the musical and Amy and I headed to a bar that she had heard about called El Tigre. She said that it is a pretty popular bar in Madrid, one of the reasons being that it offers free tapas. That's another thing that is awesome about Granada, pretty much all tapas are free! When we got there we were surprised to see that there was a line of people outside waiting to get in. A lady came out of the bar and said that there was another El Tigre that was near by and that there wasn't a line there so we walked over to the other one. Amy got a tinto de verano and a nice variety tapa plate a long with it.
That night in the hostel I slept horribly. I had the bottom bunk of a bunk bed that was right next to the window. The window was cracked open all night because it was the only way to get a little light into the room for people to see as they arrived back to the hostel from being out on the town. I was so cold and I kept waking up when people came in to go to sleep. We woke up at 8AM, got ready, and then went down for the free breakfast that the hostel had every morning. They had cereal, toast, nutella, butter, jelly, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Amy and I each took extra bread. Then a few hours later we bought lunch meat and a wedge of brie cheese from a Dia supermarket and made sandwiches for lunch. The turkey and cheese lasted us for two days and we got six sandwiches out of it (three each)! Considering we each only had to pay 1,60 euro, it was DEFINITELY the way to go. Luckily I don't each sandwiches very much in Granada because that's pretty much all I eat when I travel.
After breakfast we headed out to do some sight seeing and to take some pictures before going to Plaza Mayor for a free walking tour that we had signed up for. We saw places such as the Catedral, the Palacio Real, and the Jardines de Sabatini. We also went to the Parque de las Vistillas that had some pretty cool street art. My friend Amy loves street art and always takes pictures of it. She has gotten me a bit obsessed with it too, so I've been taking a lot of pictures of graffiti lately. There is just so such awesome graffiti in Europe. At 11AM we went to the Plaza Mayor for a free tour. The tour was through the same company as the one that we went on in Paris. However, this tour wasn't really as fun or interesting as the one in Paris, so we ended up leaving it early.
It was time for lunch so while the other four girls went off in search of a kabob restaurant, Amy and I headed back to the hostel to make our sandwiches. After lunch Amy and I went to a free art exhibit at the Instituto Cervantes. She had seen online that there was a street art exhibit there, but they must have changed it since then. There was an exhibit by an artist named Max Panoptica, who was a graphic artist. When the other girls were done with lunch (they couldn't find a kabob restaurant and settled on KFC) all six of us went to the Reina Sofia Museum. It was a huge museum with so many different types of art in it. They had paintings, photos, short films, still life, sculptures, and just a bunch of very modern and different types of artwork. Unfortunately I ended up loosing the rest of the group though. I felt bad when I finally decided to go and get my phone from my backpack in the coatroom and found out that they had tried calling me and had waiting for me for a while on the floor that we started on. We also ran into three other girls from our program in the museum. What are the chances of that! They told us about a row boat ride that they had taken in a park the was near by, so we decided to go there and check it out.
I'm so glad that we went to the Parque del Retino and road in the row boats in the lake there because it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Retino Park is a huge, beautiful park in Madrid. We split up into two groups (I went on a boat with Amy and Katie) and each only had to pay 1,55 euro to row around the lake for 45 minutes. After our boat ride, we did a bit of shopping before meeting up with Demetria, Rita, Emma, and Rita's friend who is studying abroad in Ireland for the semester. We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I wanted soup and I usually get sweet and sour soup at Chinese restaurants, but I decided to try a new kind and ordered chicken and mushroom soup. I also got a delicious roll of sushi. After dinner Rachel, Sarah, Amy, Marlee, and I went to a Chocolateria that served Churros con Chocolate. The restaurant was packed with people, all eating churros with hot mugs of thick chocolate to dip them in. I don't like churros since they're fried, but Sarah only used half of her mug of chocolate, so I drank the rest. I was exhausted from the long, action packed day so after the chocolateria I took a shower, checked my e-mails and facebook and such on one of the computers in the hostel, wrote a lot in my beautiful journal that Heather gave me for Christmas, and then went to bed. I slept a little bit better that night, but not much better.
Sunday was our last day in Madrid. After breakfast we went to the Museo de Prado. We thought that it opened at 9AM, but it was actually 10AM. It wasn't a big deal though because there was already a decent size line forming outside when we got there. Like every museum that I've been to in Europe so far, we got in free with proof that we were students between a certain age (I forget what the age range is). The Prado Museum had mostly painting and drawings and includes artwork from artists such as Goya, Velazquez., and Rubin. I liked the museum, but I got bored with it sort of quickly and I definitely liked the Reina Sofia Museum more. Outside of the museum we took a picture with out "Roaming Redbirds" study abroad tshirt to send to our program coordinators. Then we went to this flee market that they have every Sunday. There was a ton of stalls with things such as scarfs, bags, clothing, jewlery, and more. There were a lot of places that were selling scarfs for only 1 euro. I went to buy two scarfs and when I gave the lady a 2 euro coin I think she miscalculated because she gave me 1 euro back. That means that I got my scarfs for ,50 cents each! After the market Sarah, Rachel, Marlee, and Katie went to eat lunch at a kabob place since they hadn't found one the day before. Guess where Amy and I went? That's right, back to the hostel to use up the rest of our cheese and lunchmeat and make sandwiches with the break that we had taken at breakfast that morning.
When we were all reunited at the hostel, we packed up our stuff and took the Metra to the Estacion de Sur. Our bus left Madrid at 4:30PM. Amy and I were on a different bus from Rachel, Sarah, Marlee, and Katie. Since our bus was the second bus, it was only about half full. There was no body in the back row of the bus, so Amy and I went back there and got the five seats along the back to ourselves. We arrived back at the Granada bus station around 10PM. Then we got on the Granada public bus and took that back to our houses. It's funny that when I come back to Granada after a trip, I just love Granada that much more. Granada is definitely my home away from home.