Monday, June 21, 2010

Surprise! A Weekend in Madrid

So, since my friends decided to go to Paris for the weekend but I chose to postpone a French vacation, I had the weekend mostly to myself to just wander around and explore Madrid. It was pretty low-key but still a nice break.

On Friday, June 18, I enjoyed one rare morning where I could sleep in. Since I have had a tremendous craving for good rice Persian style, I found one of three Persian restaurants in Madrid, Tehran Restaurant. It was a little pricey for my taste (chelo kebab kubideh being the cheapest full dish, at 17 euro), but the food was good and I don't think I have been to a restaurant that uses as much saffron in the rice as they did. Since it was the middle of the day when most people are still working, the restaurant was empty and I had the chance to speak (in a crazy mixture of Spanish and Farsi) to the girl about my age working there. She said the restaurant has been open for 26 years but that since there are almost zero Persian people in Madrid, it is mostly visited by Latinos. It was funny because when she found out that I was from the United States, she immediately thought that I was from Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles), but no, sorry to disappoint, ha ha ha.

After I got my Persian food fix, a friend and I met up to visit the inside of Palacio Real and Templo Debod. The Royal Palace was huge and as ornate as it was, we understood why the current king would choose to live elsewhere, retaining the palace for state functions only. There were two normal rooms in the whole palace - the television room and the billiards room. The rest were more or less like the dressing chambers of the king - covered in ornate (bordering on gaudy) porcelain artwork. Still, it was pretty cool to see and in one of the rooms, there were two violins, one viola, and a violincello by Stradivarius, considered to be among his best works. The armory was cool, too. In the pharmacy section of the palace, there was a room filled with every type of medical herb or solution possible, each in its own jar. Guess this was not good enough for the king though, because he commissioned brand new, blown glass jars with the royal seal on them, displayed in the next room over.

From Palacio Real, we wandered over to Plaza de España to go to Templo Debod. Templo Debod is a temple built in the 2nd century BC and was a gift to Spain in the 1960s from the Egyptian government, thanking Spain for the work its archaeologists did to help save ancient artifacts from the Aswan floodwaters. Of the original three entryways, the temple currently only has two. The temple was free and the inside is open during the day. Pictures are allowed inside and in the main chamber of the temple, you can still see the original hieroglyphics carvings, which were pretty sweet. The temple also has some small crawlspaces off of the main chambers that were said to have held offerings for sacrifices and sacred artifacts. There was nothing closing it off and I could definitely fit easily inside, so next time.... The temple is also open on the second level, where there is a bit more information, an altar, and a map situating the temple. Since we knew it was illuminated at night, we returned later to take some pictures and to see a photography slideshow of Madrid in the park right next to the temple. From behind the temple, it is possible to see the Royal Palace lit up at night, as well.

On Saturday, having a lot more time to myself, I maxed out my Flickr uploads again and then went off to Metro Príncipe Pío because they used to have España jerseys for cheap prices. Instead, I found a really nice Ronaldo jersey for Real Madrid (12 euro). Right now, Ronaldo is playing in the World Cup for Portugual so wearing his number would be supporting them, so I might buy this at some point if I cannot find one of Garay (who is actually playing for Argentina right now). After browsing around the huge shopping center here, I got back on the metro to explore Casa de Campo. Casa de Campo used to be part of the royal hunting fields but is now a park five times the size of New York City's Central Park. I wandered around a little bit and then made my way over to the lake there. After walking around the lake, I returned to the city and wandered around Paseo del Prado, where a lot of the famous museums are. However, as they were closing, I kept walking and found the Glass Gallery. This used to be part of Palacio Buen Retiro, but is now part of the post office and is a plaza covered by a glass ceiling. It echos a lot inside and if you sneeze, it sounds like a firecracker.

On Sunday, June 20, the center that I work with organized a trip to Álaca de Hernanes to visit the Universidad de Carlos II (the oldest university in Spain, built in 1499) and the house Miguel Cervantes was born in. It was a nice little town and very easy to get to from Madrid (public bus number 233, roundtrip ticket was 5.70 euro). There was a group of about eight that went and it was nice to practice Spanish again. Unfortunately, the weekend went by too quickly and back to the grind in Madrid. Coming up, my friend and I will be returning to the south of Spain to visit Malaga and Cordoba.


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