Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Madrid Part I of ...

I realize that I have already started slacking on the blog, but I do have an excuse! We moved into a new flat a few weeks back and don’t have internet set up yet. The other reason is: we went to Spain for 9 days! Let me preface this post (which will most likely end up turning into a novel) by saying that I am putting in a bunch of extra details so I don’t forget them later on down the road. That being said, here is a re-cap of our trip:

Thursday 9.16

Us getting on the plane…me rocking the no makeup look, which unfortunately was my look for the entire trip :P

Those of you who know me, know that I am ALWAYS running late…especially to airports. So Thursday afternoon, I was trying to get all our laundry done (which is hard when you don’t have a dryer and your washer is tiny and takes like 5 hours/load!), clean up, and get the last minute travel documents in place. When Kai came back from class, I still hadn’t packed or showered, so I took a quick shower, threw my clothes into my little black backpack. We were flying Ryanair since they are the cheapest way to get around, but the catch is they are sticklers on what you can bring (i.e., each passenger can have 1 item that can weigh no more than 10 kg). Since we didn’t have a scale, we really had no idea how much our bags weighed and then Kai suggested (and he was completely serious) that we make a scale using a few weights that were left in our flat that add up to 10kg. When I asked him how he was going to do it, he said very matter of factly, we could put the weights in a bag and hang it on one end of this 3 foot pole, and then hang our bags on the other end and see if it balances! I was laughing so hard watching him seriously try to make it work. After trying a few things, he gave up and we were on our way. We got to the airport with no problems only to find out that our flight was delayed by almost 2 hours! It was a huge relief to finally board and we got the seats in the very last row! I have flown more than my share with work, so I am usually pretty good with flights, but this flight was the worst thing EVER! I had started getting sick the day before, so my head felt a little congested. Seriously, I don’t think they pressurized the cabin because my head felt like it was going to EXPLODE! Between the loud noise of the engine, the plane abruptly dropping, and the baby in front of us crying, I think it is fair to say that I hope I never have a flight like that again!

Friday 9.17

We finally landed in Madrid around 2:30am, which meant that the Metro was closed. It was raining hard and there was a huuuge line for cabs, so we were debating whether we should take a cab to our hostel, which would be about 30 Euro, or sleeping in the airport til 5am and taking the metro. We decided that we wanted to sleep in a bed, so we waited in the taxi line. When it was finally our turn, I asked the driver how much it would cost to get to the city center and he said about 35 Euro, so we got in and started out. It seriously brought me back to the night we landed in Costa Rica and it was pouring outside. Our driver didn’t really speak any English at all (but he knew Beyonce and was listening to her CD), so it was an interesting ride – Kai would try and make conversation with the driver, who would get confused and have no idea what Kai was asking, so me and my 3 years of Spanish in high school, became the ‘translator’. We finally got to our hostel and the meter said 31 Euros. I had gotten out to buzz the receptionist and have her let us in, and Kai was going to pay the driver. I look over and see them arguing and I was wondering what was going on. Apparently the cab driver said we owed 39 Euros because there is an 8 Euro airport charge…kind of sketchy (and I think he probably ripped us off), but at that point, it was after 3am, it was raining, I was tired, and I did NOT want to deal with a mad Spaniard. So we paid him and went inside.

Since it was my first time being in a hostel, and because my mom raised me to be a clean freak, I was pretty scared to sleep in the bed (One of Kai’s friends had gotten bitten by bed bugs the week before in his hostel). Of course I had checked the reviews for cleanliness before booking, but I still didn’t know what to expect. It was nice on the surface, but I was still really nervous, so I slept with all my clothes on on top of the sheets they gave me. Thankfully, no bed bugs got me and I slept with no problems. When we woke up, we ate our complimentary breakfast (aka toast and room temperature milk), and headed out.

First stop: Plaza Mayor, this huge plaza with outdoor cafes, artists, and gift shops.

Stop Numero Dos: La Mallorquina in the Puerto del Sol (note that it has been in business since 1894), where we got a neopolitan and chocolate fudgey balls – sooo tastey!

See how happy Kai is! He tried to get all 3 of the workers to smile for the picture...one smiled, one turned around, and the other guy looked at him like he was an idiot!

At the top of Puerto del Sol, there is a statue that is in a bunch of tour books, so we took a picture…too bad I don’t know what the significance is :P

After leaving Sol, we stopped at Salla Alaca 31, which was a free art exhibit we passed. This guy apparently photographed fashion spreads and it was supposed to show how he used his personal life in his work. It was soooo weird! We went into the first few rooms and left after seeing random pictures of naked women, him as a little boy wearing underwear on his head, and a picture of snow.

We stopped at this spot because it is a HUGE intersection! There are like 4 lanes of traffic coming in from like 5 different directions. Funny story for this was while we were sitting on the bench, there was a photographer who would climb on the railings and take pictures of this double decker tour bus as it approached the intersection, then while they waited at the intersection, he would run (literally) to the other side and snap more pictures from another angle. He did this for a good 10 minutes and it was really entertaining to watch. He must have worked for the tour bus company, but what a job – he almost got hit by a few cars in his mad rush to the other side!

We took our first siesta in this little park (no idea what the name of it is, or if it has a name) with a cool fountain. Kai read his book while I tried to sleep on the stone bench (it didn’t work).

Spain has a ton of public WCs (which means bathroom in Europe!) on street corners that you have to pay to use!

This is the first of many jumping pictures – behind me, is this vertical garden…which is literally what it is…a huge wall with plants growing on it.

After a lot of walking, we made it to El Parque del Retiro…probably one of my favorite spots in Madrid. It is huuugggee and has tons of fountains, a man-made lake, statues, etc.

Kai really wanted to go to the Prado, and I wanted to go too until I found out how much it cost! Luckily, we found out that it is free after 6pm, so we went. It was pretty cool and Kai loved seeing all the different art pieces.

My favorite part of the Prado…the bushes behind it!

Me in front of a random fountain on our walk back to the hostel – there are seriously fountains and statues everywhere in Madrid!

One of the tourist workers at the tourism spot had recommended that we go eat at a place in La Latina for good authentic food, so we tried this place. I got Gazpacho, Carne Asada, and Flan and Kai got the Assorted Sausage plate (which we thought would be cooked sausages, but found out was just raw slices of hams), Steak, and the house special dessert. Don’t be deceived by my smiling face…I didn’t like my food at all (Not a good thing when you have been walking all day and are STARVING!!!)! Luckily the flan was decent and I didn’t go away completely sad! Kai was happy though, because when I don’t eat my food, it means more for him!

That pretty much sums up our journey to, and first day in Madrid! More to come!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tours of London

Being the smart girl I am, I didn’t bring any tour books or maps with me to London, so for the first day or two, pretty much the only places I was familiar with were: Tesco (the grocery store around the corner from us), Hyde Park (the park we walk through to get to Pepperdine), and Pepperdine. I was sure there were lots of things close by, but I had no idea where. Luckily, Pepperdine set up a bus tour for the students, so the day after we got here, we got to ride around in a double decker bus and see the sights.

I admit, my knowledge of history is extremely limited, so whenever our tour guide would give a fact and preface it by saying, ‘As everyone knows …’, I would just laugh to myself cause I had no idea what he was talking about. Anyways, here are a few pics from the tour (I left my camera battery charger in Costa Rica and it was being mailed to us at the time, so I don’t have that many pictures).

St. Paul's Cathedral, which didn't really have any significance to me until the guide told us that this is where Prince Charles & Princes Diana were married!

About halfway through the tour, Kai was ready to be done...see how excited he was when we got off the bus to see another sight?! ;)

This is us at Buckingham Palace...not sure why we didn't take one with the actual Palace in the background, but I guess we will just have to make a trip back there again before we leave!

This one is for my bad girls...apparently they have a pub called Bag O' Nails? I don't know who came up with that name...maybe they do nails there too? Or you can buy a bag? Hahaha!

Kai was so happy when the tour ended and they took us back to Pepperdine!