Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Week Eight: Trip of Miracles Part 1 - Madrid

Hello, first new country of the semester! Our trip to Spain this weekend has officially been deemed the trip of miracles. First of all, we were meeting my friend from home, Anne, who is studying abroad in Manchester right now, at the Dublin Airport. So we took the bus from Cork to Dublin, thinking that the 8:00 am bus would be plenty of time to get to the airport and take our time with things. We were wrong. With our plane boarding at 1:10 pm, we arrived to the Dublin Airport at exactly 12:50. Naturally we sprinted through to get our tickets scanned and get onto the flight. Except Claire’s ticket wouldn’t scan (we’ll blame that one on the internet at the library, right Claire?) so she had to run back, have them print a new ticket, and then go through the process of having it scanned again. Then going through security the person in front of me was called over for having suspicious items in their bag, but first the security officer motioned for me to come over until he realized that it was someone else’s bag. After having a near-heart attack, I joined everyone in running through the airport. We made it to the gate just in time, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see Anne. The first thing she tells me is that she almost wasn’t allowed to get on her flight, but was able to get them to let her on. We spent an incredible two days in Madrid, culminating in a trip to a bull fight on Friday night. I wasn’t too big on the idea of going to a bull fight, and it is safe to say that I don’t ever need to go to another, but I am glad I got to experience Spanish culture in that way. I learned that the bulls are raised by families who then donate them to the fight, and that it is considered one of the highest honors to have your bull participate in a bull fight. I also learned that while people in Spain do eat bull meat, they never eat the meat of the bulls from the bull fight. Which seems like such a waste to me, but I was pleased to learn that the fights used to take place every night, but now are only on weekends. Still not great, but at least it’s an improvement. The highlight of the experience, though, was sitting with Erin and talking to the Spanish woman who sat next to us, Theresa. She was about seventy years old, and told us that she spoke zero English but wanted to talk to us. Together Erin and I managed to speak enough Spanish to hold a decent conversation with her. She told us about all of the places in America she’s been (she put both Erin and me to shame, I must say), and all of the places she still plans on visiting. And every other sentence she said was that Erin and I were nice, beautiful girls and that she loved us, which was incredibly affirming. She also said that she doesn’t like the bull fights, but that she goes with her best friend, who loves them. Her friend was sitting on Theresa’s other side, and barely said two words two us, she was so invested in the bull fight. After the fight, we were able to meet up with our friends from Loyola who are studying in Alcalá, which is just outside Madrid. We went to a tapas bar (if you have never heard of/had tapas, stop whatever you are doing right now and find somewhere that serves tapas – once again, my experience with food has been forever changed) that serves you unlimited tapas as long as you order one drink. Done and done. Our Loyola friends were going back to Alcalá for the night, and even though we were originally planning on staying in Madrid, we decided to take a spontaneous trip out to Alcalá with them. Because why should we stay a half an hour away from our friends we haven’t seen in months while knowing full well they are so close by? So we hopped on the train, and went to Alcalá. I got to see Tori’s apartment and meet her host mom (thanks for having me over, Tor!) before we met up with everyone else. Somehow we managed to get ourselves onto the last bus out of Alcalá and into Madrid. We then slept at our hostel for a grand total of one hour before we had to check out and get to the bus to Barcelona (which is an 8 hour bus ride through the Spanish countryside, by the way). As we’re checking out of our hostel, the man behind the desk tells us that he is not going to let us leave because we haven’t paid in full yet, even though we did when we first arrived. To her credit, Molly held her ground and said that we had paid, despite the fact that we were all bone-tired, having just had a whirlwind adventure to Alcalá and then less than an hour of sleep. We showed our receipt and made it to the bus. But Casey and Claire didn’t have their tickets printed out, so they went in search of a ticket booth, and the rest of us got on the bus. At this point we figured out that you only needed your passport to get on the bus, not your printed ticket, but we had no way of telling them this. So we just hoped for the best, and with less than one minute left, they came running onto the bus and we made it just in time. 

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