South of the Border – Weekend Stories Part 3 – Saturday 21:00-25:30 (ie 1:30)

The BU program includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner with your family every day except for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.  To make the most of our nights out, I started going through the travel guide Michael gave me before I left.  I was dismayed by what I found.  While it includes lots of great information about sights and areas of the city along with a really useful pocket-sized map (always with me), in the restaurant section everything falls apart.  Practically every restaurant reviewed either has €€€€ (signifying a really expensive meal, ie 40+ euros) or just happens to be Italian food.  I complained to my Señora that we didn’t come all the way to Spain to go broke or to eat fake Italian food (Americanized would be the word to use; it just doesn’t work because of the whole being in Spain thing…  it’s the same idea though).  She told me we should go to a street near La Plaza de España called Calle de San Bernadino where we would find lots of choices that were rather inexpensive as they were off the tourists’ beaten path.

So Saturday night we took her advice.  And she was certainly right.

In addition to Spanish food, there was Persian, Indian, even Peruvian.  After passing lots of places to eat, we settled on a busy Mexican restaurant (yes, I appearantly did go to Spain to have fake Mexican food; at least it was the right language).  While hardly authentic, it was pretty good food and, as promised, not too caro (expensive).

After our experience with the Metro on Friday night we were resolved to finish our night before 1:30 to make it on the last train.  By the time we finished dinner, though, it was already 11:30.  We wandered over to Puerta del Sol in search of some dessert.  A little further on was Plaza del Angel, home to Maestro Churro (since 1902).  Being cheap, we ordered inside at the counter and then stood outside to eat (most restaurants have tiered pricing, price for the bar, a little more for an inside table, and even more to eat seated outside).  After some dessert (dulce de leche cream stuffed churros are definitely a good investment) and light conversation, it was already time to head back and get some sleep.

El Corte de Ingles y Una Excursion – Weekend Stories Part 2 – Saturday 16:30-21:00

After our Real Madrid stop, we headed toward Puerta del Sol where our city tour was to start at 7:00pm.  As we had a lot of time before then, we did what the Spanish do and stopped to get coffee at a place called Rodilla right in the plaza.  Of course, I got ice cream instead of coffee, but nonetheless it was a good stop.  Even though the 2 bolas (scoops) of ice cream cost 3 euros, it seemed really cheap as I paid in all coins.  With Euros, there are no bills smaller than 5, but there are both 1 and 2 euro coins.  So for small purchases you can pay with coins (and not have to risk being obnoxious because of a fistful of coins).

With a little more time to kill, we went to El Corte Ingles in the next building  over.  I think I’ve mentioned El Corte in some other posts, but I don’t think I ever really went into detail about how great it is.  Essentially, it’s Macy’s, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Publix all rolled into one.  The Puerta del Sol location is split between 3 buildings of 5 floors each.  Needless to say, the Corte carries a lot of merchandise (breadth and depth).  From the same store they sell cell phones with calling plans (highly recommended, a Sagem my-202x with Vodafone’s Targeta Vitamina plan), fine cheese, DVDs, designer clothing, and tomatoes.  I could even get a fancy suit if the need ever arose (don’t worry Mom, it won’t).  The selection makes El Corte the perfect place to kill some time.  This happened to be a trip on which a friend bought DVDs.  Then it was off to the tour.

Ray, director of our program, gave us a tour of old Madrid, starting and ending at the Puerta del Sol.  In true madrileno fashion, though, we didn’t actually start the 7:00 tour until 7:25. We passed the Royal Palace, countless churches, and the city’s oldest resaturant via tiny cobblestone streets.  I posted pictures from the tour along with a little running commentary in the photo section if you’re interested.

The tour lasted about an hour and afterwards we decided to get some more coffee (at 8:30 it was way too early to have dinner).  We stopped at a place called, simply, Cafe y Te (Coffee and Tea).  I ordered Te Americano and got something that was hardly American and barely qualified as tea to me.  It consisted of a bitter tea bag and cinnamon languishing in overheated milk.  Quite a misnomer.  Since, we’ve encountered many other mis-translations.  While some of the errors are rather innocent, like "Touristic Walking Tours" offered by the city (translated from "Turisticas"), some are downright perplexing.  Last night (Monday), for instance, a cafe translated "brownie" (Spanish for "brownie", of all things) to "pancake" to make for an interesting-sounding dessert concoction. Hmm.

Off to bed.

Real Madrid – Weekend Stories Part 1 – Saturday 15:00-16:00

I decided to split the rest of the weekend into mini-stories to make it easier to post and to read.  The first thing I did on Saturday after lunch was meet some people at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to find out about Real Madrid tickets.  Real Madrid is one of the top futbol (soccer) teams in the league.  Madrilenos go crazy for futbol.  When we got to the stadium around 2:00 pm, the air was already filled with claning and honking in anticipation of the game at 8:00 pm.  The statium is huge; while it held more than 120,000 at one point, its current capacity is 80,354 (thanks Wikipedia).

Anyway, we went got to the box office and found out that while there were still tickets left for Saturday’s game, they were either 40 euros or 70 euros (depending on which window you asked, appearantly).  The game also conflicted with a tour of the city given by the program that was to be at 7:00 that night (on which we could meet the Language and Liberal Arts Program kids who arrived on Friday), so we decided to put it off until next week.

Ultimately, we found out that due to a trip to Sevilla next Friday and Satuday, we’ll get back too late on the 2nd to make the game.  With the season ending, I’m not sure if we’ll make it to a futbol game after all.  There’s one other team in town (Atletico Madrid), so we might try there.

Coming Soon: The Weekend

So it’s been a very busy weekend and I’m headed to sleep now so I can get up for my internship tomorrow.  I’ll be posting about the weekend and other things sometime this week, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve gone ahead and put up pictures from the weekend for your enjoyment (some of the captions aren’t done yet, I’ll finish those up when I get a moment).  Let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve written or want to know about something I haven’t written about yet!

The Spanish Schedule

While typing the last post, I realized that I hadn’t given a proper introduction to Spansih life.  It generally follows a schedule like this:

  • Breakfast
  • 9:00 or 10:00 – Work Begins
  • 2:00 – Lunch (the largest meal of the day)/Siesta; Most all stores close.*
  • 5:00 – Siesta Ends; Stores reopen
  • 9:00 or 10:00 – Dinner

Also, a little more about my program.  It’s an internship/acadmeic program, meaning that for 7 weeks I work at an internship from 9:00-2:00 (Mon-Fri) and take a class on Spanish culture from 5:15-7:00 (Mon-Thurs).  On the weekends we have free time/organized trips.

Hope that clears up some of the basics.

*Generally, tourist attractions, restaurants, and large department stores (like El Corte Ingles) remain open.  Also, while business people go to lunch around 2:00, too they generally return to work at 3:00.