Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chamillionaire, Notebooks, and Hair Straighteners

By now, I have been in Madrid, Spain for a little more than a week and I love it. In this time, I have made a few observations. First, Chamillionaire (yes, the "Riding Dirty" guy from like 4 years ago) is popular in the clubs - why? I like his music and all, but still....

Saturday, May 15, was the Festival de San Isidro as well as the 100th Anniversary of Calle Gran Vía. San Isidro is the patron saint of Madrid and is married to another saint, Maria de la Cabeza. On this festival, the women wear special dresses with red flowers in their hair and the men wear checkered vests and hats. In Puerto del Sol, there was an improv band and dance troupe with three little girls and one pouting boy dancing; that boy did not have a happy look on his face for a single second. After doing two dances and collecting money from the circle that had formed, the group left and the men began playing songs in a mini-parade up the streets surrounding Puerto del Sol. We returned later in the evening for the 100th Anniversary. At 12:05 am, the Telefonica (a huge communications company in Spain) light up their building with a pretty cool light/projection show about the last 100 years of Gran Vía. There was even a part where they had King Kong swinging on the building. After the lights show, they lit fireworks off the roof of the Telefonica building and another. Apparently, there are not rules about how close you can light off fireworks in Madrid, so there were chunks of the fireworks falling on the crowd. The crowd was huge and traffic in the taxi ride back home was crazy. The taxi driver gave us suggestions about things to do in Madrid and asked how I liked Obama and why Americans do not like health care. I told him that I have no idea.

On May 17, I went on a short tour of the old part of Madrid from Puerta del Sol (at 8:00 am, you can look to the street with the bear ("El Oso y Madroño") and see the sunlight filling the street as the sun rises) to the Royal Palace and Calle de Codo. The tour was led by a teacher from International House (IH) named Isaac and I went with Caroline, a British student Elizabeth, a Chinese student Jose, and a Canadian photographer hired by IH. In Puerto del Sol, there is a spot which is the center of the city, and we stepped on "0 km." Also, the fruit from the tree that the bear is climbing has a little alcohol in it so it makes kids who eat it a lil tipsy. At the Royal Palace, there are statues along the sidewalk in the gardens. These statues used to line the roof of the palace, but a queen was afraid that they would fall during a storm, so she moved the to the plaza. The statue of the man on the rearing horse outside the palace is interesting because of the proportions - the man is the same size as the horse. The statue is also hollow in the front and solid in the back portion so that it does not tip over. Additionally, the statue was drafted by Galileo.

After the Palace, we went to one of the most ancient parts of the city that has influence of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in architecture. We wandered around here and came to a unique overpass. There is a high glass wall on each side of an overpass because apparently lots of people were jumping off into the ravine below to commit suicide so the city built a glass wall to stop people from jumping there. It's really sad because the place is very beautiful.

It took a ridiculous amount of time to find a notebook and an affordable hair straightener in Madrid. Caroline and I spent 3 days on this mission. After the tour, we went everywhere to finally find a notebook by the Bilbao subway stop. I was able to find a nice hair straightener for 14 euros at Darty, a line of French stores. They have good products for cheap prices. After that, I finally found one of the infamous Chinese "dollar" stores by my apartment that had all the office supplies in the world.

On May 18, I woke up to construction and power drills on the floor below me, literally right outside my window. I can open my window and since there is no screen, I can stick my arm out the window to touch the scaffolding! If I ever lose my keys...

After IH class, I went with Caroline, Elizabeth, and Jose to find an Italian place called La Vitta Bella by Plaza Dos de Mayo and after some wandering around, we found it! They have cheap, good food. I forgot the name, but they are up the street a little ways and have blue signs. From there, Caroline and I went back to explore the Royal Palace again because we wanted to take some good pictures. We ended up in the beautiful palace gardens and took some pictures there. I think the only way that people survive in Madrid during the summer is the plethora of fountains in the city. Afterward we went to the church right next to the palace and took pictures inside. It was so hot (80+) so we each bought 1.5L bottles of water for 2 euro and sat in a park and drank a 1/3rd of it. From there, I went home for a short nap, but there was still construction, so I took a short walk exploring my part of Calle Orense and found 3 bars/clubs (which, because they are in the basement, are dangerous and to be avoided) and 3-5 sandwich places, and 1 doner kabob (like gyros, but Turkish) place close to my house. I actually did get my siesta then went to explore Museums because May 18 was International Museum Day, but by the time we arrived, everything was closed. We are planning on returning later when they have free admission days.

I have also hit 96% of my Flickr monthly upload limit so I need to be more selective with my photographs. I do not have Photoshop or any type of photo-editing software so all the pictures uploaded are exactly how I have taken them with no cropping or other modifications. On Wednesday, May 19, a cool Italian student (Camilla) arrived, and it will be nice to have more students in the house.

Tonight (May 20), Camilla, Caroline, Shanna, and I went to a language exchange hosted by IH but not many other people showed up. Camilla is very familiar with Madrid so we left and wandered around some stores in a shopping district. On Friday (May 21), CAPA is taking our entire group to a Flamenco show, which should be interesting. This Saturday (May 22), five of my American friends and I are going to Toledo on the Renfe (Spanish bullet train).


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