20 July 2005

Viva España.

At long last, Espana! We left Saturday afternoon from Fez, and after a train to Tangier, a night there since the last ferry had already left, then a ferry to Alegeciras, a train to and a night in Granada since the train was full, we finally made it to Madrid. We missed the Alhambra since we arrived late and left early, but we did have dinner at a fabulous Indian restaurant, and after 6 weeks of couscous and tajine, Ive never tasted anything so good!

Finally, after a morning train to Madrid, we arrived in Spain´s capital Monday afternoon. We found a cheap pension near the train station, halfway between the Prado and the Reina Sofia. Martin, Andrea and I spent the afternoon in the Reina Sofia, Spain´s modern art museum, since the Prado was closed. We saw Picasso´s Guernica (along with quite a few other Picassos), among other things. I also finally visited a real tapas bar and tasted authentic sangria- both among the best things Spain has to offer! A meal consisting entirely of different appetizers and sparkling fruit juice mixed with wine- what could possibly be better?! Although I miss the uber-cheap prices of Morocco, the better food of Spain is worth every penny, and our sangria-induced haze certainly helped ease the pain.

Yesterday, Andrea and I slept in late, then went to the Prado. After three days of traveling with a Marine and waking up obscenely early, we needed the rest! The Prado is beautiful, but since I prefer modern art, I was more impressed by the Reina Sofia. We did see an amazing collection of Goyas, however. After the Prado, we strolled through the streets of Madrid in search of paella and more tapas- the city is beautifully laid out, with small parks scattered everwhere to break up the urban sprawl. I absolutely love the city and the country- I hope to come back in the future and really spend some time getting to know the place. I've heard amazing things about Barcelona, so I'm going to try to make it there next year, in sha allah.

The next morning, we took the train/bus combo to Toledo, a small town outside Madrid, famous for swordmaking. It's situated on a series of hills, which made for quite the hike around town. We visited the famous cathedral- unlike any other I've seen. It was unusually ornate and colorful for a church- there was even an enormous (some 20 ft high) painting of Jesus on one wall. A very odd church. There is also a classic art/history museum, which for reasons beyond me was free that day- always a nice surprise. It had a fabulous exhibit celebrating the 400th anniversary of Cervantes' Don Quixote, showing dozens of the different artists renditions of the story over the years. There's something to be said for paying homage to the world's most famous idealist in his home country.

After a late lunch (more tapas and sangria, of course), we took the train back into Madrid, where Andrea found out that her parents managed to switch her flight to an earlier date- as in the next morning, so we cut the evening short to find out how to get to the airport before our last dinner in Madrid. I manged to get bored with Moroccan food in the first week, but I honestly feel I could eat in Spain for years before it got old. After dinner, we walked through the royal gardens near the hotel, where we saw the "Fallen Angel" statue, heralded as the only monument to the devil. The next morning, I visited the Thynessen Museum, a private collection similar to the Guggenheim, which had an breath-taking collection of contemporary surrealist and other paintings- my favorite of the three major art museums in Madrid. After the museum, I came back to the pension to pack, where I discovered that checkout time in Spain is noon, not 2pm as I originally thought! The woman who ran the place was not happy, but since there wasn't exactly anyone beating down the door to stay there, she got over it fairly quickly. Off to the airport for the flight to Berlin- German update coming shortly!

Adios!

jess

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