For my first article written for the BlueXpress last year, I wrote about a trip that two Millbrook teachers, Mrs. Merschan and Mrs. Hillyer, embarked on in the previous summer. That article, titled Two Teachers, Two Countries, told their personal experiences on a trip to Europe, one they would never forget.
This article not only interested me from a journalistic perspective, but also from a personal one, and inspired me to pursue my own adventure overseas. So this year, I am excited to present my first trip out of the United States and into the beautiful countries of Spain and Italy.
Our journey began on July 9th, when for the first time in my life, my fellow travelers and I drove our convoy to Dulles International Airport and boarded a double-decker plane en route to Paris, France. Although we were only in Paris for approximately twenty minutes, while sprinting from one terminal to the next to catch our connecting flight to Madrid, it was still a sight to see. I remember catching a glimpse of the famous French city briefly as we made our way to our flight gate, but sadly I couldn’t spot the Eiffel tower or any other unique architecture.
After yet another half an hour of flying, we reached our destination, Madrid, Spain. As we exited the airport, the first thing I noticed was the heat. Luckily, I had packed for the hot weather and adjusted to it rather quickly. We met up with our guide, Jesus, pronounced (hey-Zeus), entered our tour bus and began our venture into the heart of Madrid.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, was a great way to begin our trip. We began our tour by taking a train to Sol, a center that Jesus described as the “heart of the city”. From there, we walked to the Prado Museum, famous for its variety of paintings, with its main attraction being art from Diego Velazquez and his masterpiece “Las Meninas”. After the museum, we met up with the groups that would be tagging along with us for the remainder of the trip (they were from New Jersey, North Carolina and Kansas) went to dinner, then finally arrived at our hotel.
The next morning, after dining on a delicious buffet for breakfast, we began the new day by touring the glamour-filled King’s Palace. The gigantic castle is home to the current King of Spain, Felipe VI, and his family. The courtyard was an enormous square, with columns riddled across the east and west sides. There are two separate buildings, on the north and south, one being the King’s living quarters and the other being either a chapel or a government building, I’m not quite sure.
The interior was beautiful. It was full of beautiful mosaics, paintings and antiques. Every room had some sort of antique clock feature that seemed to be the centerpiece, or main attraction. Our guide explained how a previous Spanish king, who built the Palace, was an avid clock collector and took pride in his unique clocks. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take photos while inside.
After the Palace, we grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant and took our bus to a nearby city, Toledo. Once we returned from Toledo, we traveled to our hotel and relaxed for a couple hours until it was time to go out and experience the nightlife. We made our way back to Sol, the same area where we first experienced Spain in the morning, however, at night it was much different.
Street performers and salesman littered the streets, families and friends bustled around and talked at nearby cafes, and tourists shopped at souvenir stores. It was truly spectacular. Jesus allowed us to shop for family and friends and later led us to an off-the-path restaurant for a late night dinner. We ate numerous amounts of dishes called Tapas, which are the Spanish equivalent of appetizers to split with friends at a restaurant or pub. The dishes included fries, with tons of dipping sauces, calamari, salchichas, and much more. It was definitely the best meal I had in that city, and a great one to have before we left the next morning.
Although Madrid was much different than I had expected it to be, its blend of both modern and classic architecture, and culture, made it extremely unique and interesting. With it being the capital, the city’s population is teeming with diversity, and the nightlife is one you cannot miss. I highly recommend visiting Spain’s capital if ever given the chance. You won’t regret it.