I left for my first ever trip to Europe last Friday night. I was lucky to have a direct flight from LAX to Madrid so with the time differences I arrived in Madrid at 2pm local time on Saturday – just in time to check in at my hotel and meet my travel group! The first two weeks I’m in Europe will be spent with a tour group traveling through Spain, southern France, and Italy, followed by a 5-day road trip through Tuscany and Venice and a few days in Paris. I’ve been planning this trip for the past couple of months and I can’t believe it’s finally happening. These past two days in Madrid have seriously been a blast. Everyone in my group is great and I’m also getting to share these European adventures with two of my friends! Since I’ll be gone for the next three weeks my posts will be limited but I will try to send pictures and a brief update for Molly to share with you while I’m gone.
Since I’ve only been here a couple of days, I just wanted to give you a brief highlight of Madrid! Flying into Madrid, the landscape reminded me a lot of Arizona – dry desert with some mountains. Fortunately, it wasn’t too hot the two days I spent there (only in the 80s both days). After meeting my group on the first day, N, M, and I went to find somewhere to buy water (we were advised not to drink the tap water in Spain). We walked to a market the girls had previously been to (they arrived in Spain a couple of days early and had scoped out the situation) but it was closed, so we walked around the corner and into this cafe/pub (all the restaurants here seem to be part pub). We attempted using our Spanish to order, which the waiter appreciated. He was a younger guy and seemed to enjoy our attempts at Spanish and all of our questions about how to say things in Spanish. Prior to leaving, he was nice enough to give us directions to a gas station to buy water. One thing I noticed in Madrid is that everyone was so nice. We attempted speaking in Spanish to all of our waiters and I feel like our attempts made them more willing to help out.
On Saturday night, the group went to a nice welcome dinner of paella and then went to some of the popular bars in downtown Madrid. Sunday was a packed day with visiting the Royal Palace and the Valley of the Fallen. The Royal Palace was gorgeous inside – my favorite room definitely had to be the one with real silver painted on the walls. It must have taken a lifetime to finish the palace. The Valley of the Fallen is a monument to all the Spaniards who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. 40,000 bodies are buried in the actual tomb/monument. It was an interesting experience seeing this. That night we also went to a traditional Spanish dinner complete with tapas of grilled onions & peppers, calamari, chorizo, and egg & potato frittata – followed by steak for dinner and Napoleon for dessert. Dinner was followed by salsa lessons and a fun night of attempting to salsa dance.
My favorite thing about Madrid was definitely the people! Everyone I encountered was so nice to us and willing to help when we had questions. It was also nice to talk to some of the local people and learn more about the culture. Having a conversation with someone who knows minimal English while I know minimal Spanish was quite difficult – thank goodness for Google Translate. I feel like that one conversation made me remember so much of the Spanish I had learned in high school and it really made me have an appreciation for those individuals who speak multiple languages!
Next stop is Barcelona! Let me know if you have any suggestions for fun things to do or eat in Barcelona, Florence, Venice, and Paris!