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18 November 2009

Espana: Day Four

Today's adventures ran the gamut of emotion. At times I found myself in tears from awe and beauty and then raging and ready to murder. Happily, it all ended okay, but it took a while! Let me explain ...

My day started on the conference sponsored tour of the city. I wasn't excited about that, but a lot of my new friends were going and I figured I'd be a good sport. I much prefer exploring and seeing things on my own, going my own pace and feeling free to explore things that interest me. Once the bus tour stopped and the walking tour started, I said my goodbyes and headed out on my own. All was wonderful ... for a while. But we'll get there. Happy things first.

The trees in Plaza de Espana are all twisted and gnarled. Beautiful ugly.

The front of the monument in Plaza de Espana.

Santa Maria la Real de la Almundena Cathedral was A-MAZING! It took my breath away. It's an old style cathedral and is overwhelming.

The Sanctuary.

The Blessed Mother Chapel.

The cathedral has access to the dome, so patrons can walking up the million stairs (or take an elevator) to the top of the dome to look out over all of Madrid.

I hiked to the top, and this is what I saw.

By the time I got into the cathedral proper, I was close to tears. The experience was so awe-inspiring and moving. I stopped to pray in the cathedral and thanked God for the blessings that fill my life. It's hard not to be humbled when surrounded by hundreds of years of iron-clad faith.

Here, also, is where my day turned for the worst. I am normally a total misanthrope when traveling. As the Boy says, we wear "city face" and remain like stone. However, after leaving the cathedral, I was inspired and elated. I walked out of the cathedral, and, before I was even out out the gate, a woman approached me with a red carnation. She was speaking rapid Spanish and told me to go see the flamenco dancing tonight. I said, "Sure" and started to walk away. She stopped me and asked for a penny. I didn't have one, but I offered her a Euro ($1.50). She protested and wanted an American penny for good luck. (At this point, "normal" me would have just left, but "happy and kind" me had taken over and snatched my good sense!) I was still holding my wallet open when she reached across me to take back the carnation. I left and all was fine. Four hours later when I tried to pay for something, I realized that she had somehow snagged about 70 Euro ($125) out of my wallet. I have NO IDEA how she did it. My hands were on my wallet at all times and it was right in front of my eyes!! Talk about slight of hand. I was really pist at myself, but I did a good job of talking myself out of it. The Boy told me to write it off as a contribution to the church. It still makes me mad, but I still have my license and credit cards. I was still fuming though!

I wanted to visit the inside of Palacia Real, but the lines for tickets and entrance were RIDICULOUSLY long. Instead, I settled for some good exterior shots.

Changing of the guard.

Plaza de toros - The bull fighting arena

I also got to tour Estadio Bernabeu (where Real Madrid plays). I'm not a huge football fan, but this was pretty cool. I got to go through the trophy room, walk around on the pitch, check out the locker rooms (unfortunately no hot footballers were changing!), and sit in the stands. It was very cool. One of my students is CRAZY of Real Madrid, and I'm eager to share my pics with him.

After touring el estadio, I returned home to nap. I didn't get much sleep last night, and I as dragging. After a two-hour nap, I got up and ventured downtown to see La Reina Sofia -- the contemporary art museum. I'm not big on contemporary art (I'm looking much more forward to El Prado on Friday), but I did want to see Guernica. Wow. That was impressive.

On my back to the hotel, I picked up some snacks in una tienda poquita. When I got to the hotel, they were able to upgrade my room to a bigger room (because I'm staying for more than four nights). They couldn't do it before because the hotel was booked, but my new room was worth waiting for. I'm quite pleased.

Tomorrow I am taking the high-speed train to Segovia for 16th Century castles and Roman aqueducts. VERY excited about that!

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