The first day in Spain, after our treacherous travels to get to Madrid we finally arrived at the hotel. Literally, as I entered the hotel ran in to the Maryland Crew as they were heading out and we went to grab some delicious sangria in Plaza Mayor, which is an amazing open square that has tons of crazy stuff going on. There was a funky fat dude wearing a spiderman costume who just took pictures with tourists all day, which was pretty entertaining. There were also these two guys making the biggest bubbles that I have ever seen which was fun to watch. After the plaza, went to grab a Mahou beer at a café, then we went back to the hotel for our first meeting.
Sangria at Plaza Mayor!
We went to the later of the two meetings, and as they went over the rules and regulations we couldn’t help but laugh as we had already broken what seemed like 7 rules, and the sangria may have had something to do with it. The hotel we were staying in was called Hotel Moderna, and was really nice and centrally located in the heart of Madrid. The hotel was really nice, and we just shared rooms with our future roommates in Seville so Hirsh and me had room. We got to meet a bunch of people from our program and everyone seemed really cool.
A lot of people were going out that night, but was real beat from the flight so just had a couple drinks and called it a night. At the end of the day was real happy to have finally arrived in spain. The program API (Academic Programs International) has been real legit, and the people we’ve met have been even better.
Woke up around 9:30 and headed down to grab a quick breakfast at the hotel buffet. Around 10:30am, the entire program was taking a walking tour of the city. Naturally, the other 4 Maryland kids slept in so I was the only one who made it for the walking tour. We had a guide take us around the city and show us a bunch of the cool places, and got to meet some more people on the program and took far too many pictures as usual.
Tour guide con new api amigos
We went to this awesome marketplace, which had tons of fresh food everywhere and every type of cheese and ham that you could think of. We also went to the royal palace which was sweet, and a bunch of other really interesting places.
After another quick nap, we had to go as a group to the Prado museum at 3:15. We went to grab a bite at a doner kabob place called Istanbul which was delicious, and then headed back to the hotel to meet up with the group. Unfortunately, the group meeting time was moved up to 3pm so everyone had already left without us. The museum was only about 10 minutes away from where we were staying so we power walked there and had to go through the visitor entrance and pay. As we wandered around the museum looking for the group, and taking in the cool art we finally caught up with everyone as they were entering from the group entrance, and were greeted with some confused faces haha. After the tour of the museum, we went back to the hotel to hang out but on the way crossed this incredible group of musicians. We got back to the hotel, and as we left to go out for the evening saw another cool group of musicians.
Crazy Floating dude, we saw a bunch of crazy things!
This one got me real confused, Winnie the Pooh?
Tight Mariachi Band
We pregamed in our room with a couple of our new friends, and then headed out to see the nightlife in Madrid around midnight. It was Insane! Throughout the city, there are these random club promoters who wander around the popular areas and hand out these cards, which allow you free entrance to the bars, and free shots and stuff as you get there. At first we thought they were kind of sketch, but we took the cards and turned out to be a great decision. We started out at this random bar, and ran into everyone from API, which was a really good time. After a few drinks and some good times, we headed to a discoteque and that’s when things got reall weird. Had the most epic 3 hour dance party at the discoteque with some new and old friends, and then headed back to the hotel around 5am. Safe to say, the first night out in espana was a success.
Had to wake up real early in the morning around 10ish or so to go to a meeting in the morning to learn more about Sevilla and our classes and everything. The meeting was pretty funny as everyone was so hung over, with people falling asleep and dying for water. We found out our residencia location because they gave us a city map, and we have a great spot. It is extremely centrally located in an area called los remedios, and right by the river and metro stop. After the meeting, we went and grabbed lunch and then took another quick nap to prepare for our day trip. That afternoon, we went to this sweet monastery called El Escorial, that was about an hour away. We spent the day there, and had a good time checking everything out.
Beautiful Outdoor area
Once we got back to the hotel, we grabbed dinner at Istanbul again. I got a delicious Lamb wrap thing, and it came with a cool glass that’s come in handy so far. Everyone was pretty tired from the day’s activities and the night before, and had to be up really early so decided not to go to the bars again. Instead, we all went to a Turkish hookah bar with some nueva amigos for a real fun chill evening.
On the way, Tio Pepe!
Everyone at the Hookah Bar!
Crazy guy that gave the girls and mike flowers, but came back and took them away 5 minutes later when we didn’t buy anything.
Amigos with the giant hookah’s
They only had apple-flavored hookahs, so we got one of those along with a giant tower of Sangria and hung out for a while. After a second tower of sangria and some good times, we all called it a night in preparation for the long night ahead.
Day 4 – Toledo and onwards to Sevilla!
Woke up real early and packed all of our bags as we prepared to head off to Toledo for the day, and then the 7 hour busride to Sevilla!
Everyone all ready to go
It took about an hour to get to Toledo, and was really glad we went. The city is really cool, as it is a city that is surrounded by fort like walls. We had to take escalators up to get into the city, and it was incredibly foggy and chilly out as that day started so was kinda hard to see anything. Toledo was really cool, and we had a guide who led us around the entire city for a couple hours. The city was beautiful, and so were the places we visited. Unfortunately, some of the places that we visited didn’t allow you to take pictures, so I had to develop a sneaky methods of snapping some pictures of the gorgeous places throughout the day.
Entering the city
Toledo is also regarded as the sword capital of the world, and apparently the sword that Aaragon and other characters form Lord of the Rings used.
Aaragon’s sword on the left (Silver one not in the middle)
We also saw some cool harry potter symbols
It also has a bunch of awesome curvy ally ways that are fun to walk through.
Only problem is that since the alleys are so small, makes things weird when cars are trying to get through with you on the road.
Once we had finished our guided tour of the city, we went to the gift shop before we decided to head back. Nikita and I wanted to send postcards to people back home, and saw that the prices were a little cheaper at the store next door so we headed over there. Our friend Alyssa joined us in the store, and we spent some time shopping around. I bought a sweet backscratcher for 3 euros, which has been coming in handy all the time as I tend to scratch my back more than most haha. We waited on Nikita to buy a pocketknife she wanted as well, and then the three of us turned around to head out of the store.
Turns out that while we were in the store, we managed to ignore the fact that the other 75 people on the trip had already headed back. We had taken a 2 hour walking tour, and there a million streets that all looked the same so we it was safe to say we had no idea where to go. Mini Monica (Nikita) was all confident that she knew where she was going and said follow me so we did. Turns out nikita wasn’t as directionally gifted as she thought, and we had no idea where we were going but we ended up stumbling on an incredible view.
We had been separated from the group for a good while, and were starting to feel a little nervous that we needed to find everyone. Luckily, Alyssa had a phone so she called someone with the group, and they gave us vague directions on how to get back which amounted to find a McDonalds. It must have been quite amusing for the Spaniards watching the 3 americans walking around asking for a McDonalds in broken Spanish. Finally, we ran into our search crew of Hirsh and Juan and finally got back to the bus. We were greeted with sarcastic cheers as we stepped on the bus, as everyone woke up at 8am and hadn’t eaten all day and had to wait for us but it was all in good fun. After we got on the bus, the program directors decided to do a final head counts before taking off. They counted 40 of 42 people on the bus, so the wait continued. They had a whole search crew and even the police looking for the 2 people who were missing for what felt like an eternity since we were all so hungry, but it turned out that there was no one missing all along so we finally headed off on our way.
It was about a 7-hour ride to Sevilla, and we were riding in a relatively nice coach bus. The Spanish countryside is absolutely gorgeous, and really enjoyed viewing it through the giant windows on the bus.
We stopped at some rest stop about halfway through to grab a bite, and had a tasty beef stew meal. The restaurant was crazy, and had these funky stuffed rabbits that looked like military soldiers, which was quite an interesting site.
The rest stop also gave me an opportunity to finish off the API Ethiopia hat album I had been working on. My roommate, Mike Hirshhorn has a sweet hat that says Ethiopia he bought at thrift store that he was wearing and I took a picture of him. Then Marlena came in and took a picture of both of us with our crazy hats, and then decided for some reason that it would be a good idea to take a picture of everyone in the program wearing it and make an album. It started out as a joke, but actually turned out really well.
Here’s a link to the album if you’d like to take a look, I think it’s pretty amusing.
Sevilla has been incredible, and i will post some details about it soon. Hope all is well with everyone back home, keep in touch! My skype name is Sahil.Rahman1 so find me and we can skype because i’m starting to miss all your beautiful faces…and it’s free!