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Madrid, Spain-Europe Day 10

I really enjoyed staying in Cat’s Hostel. It was my first real youth hostel and it was nice to be surrounded by other travelers my age backpacking Europe as well. Fiona, Milly and I got breakfast downstairs where we’d been drinking liters of beer only hours before. These croissants weren’t as good as the croissants in Ibiza, but the company was infinitely better. After breakfast we left for the Royal Palace, got rained on, and returned to the hostel to get money and postcards. After the rain slowed, we restarted our day an hour later and bought an umbrella on the way to the Royal Palace, via the Plaza Major.

Royal Palace of Madrid

The palace was opulent and exquisitely furnished, each room more elaborately decadent than the last. There were thousands of rooms within the massive building but only fifty were open to the public. Pictures were not allowed inside the palace, but I took a couple outside the building, and one inside.

Sneaky picture from in the Royal Palace

After the Palace, Milly, Fiona, and I had lunch on our way to the train station to get Milly and Fiona tickets to Lisbon, to join Kiana the next day. Once they’d bought their tickets, we went our separate ways, Fiona and Milly to the Reina Sofia, and me back to the hostel to edit pictures and pack for the trip.

Madrid Train Station

We regrouped that night on the night train to Lisbon from Madrid, 10pm to 7am. This was my second long distance train trip and first night train anywhere. The cabin lights went off around midnight and I managed to get a little bit of sleep in two hour spurts.

Madrid, Spain-Europe Day 9

Hostel finito, hostel finito!” I opened my eyes to see a short stocky spanish woman kicking me out of my hostel room at 9am. What she was saying exactly, or how she had gotten into my room, I wasn’t sure of, but I could tell from her yelling and body language I was supposed to leave. If I dated a spanish girl, this is how I imagine her mother would act when she found me with her daughter in the morning. Still groggy and confused, and mildly hungover from the night before, I packed my things and went to Cat’s hostel to check in and drop my stuff off.

 

 

 

I couldn’t move into my room until 2 so I wandered Madrid and found myself in Retiro Park, Madrid’s equivalent of Central Park. The park is massive containing its own bike paths, roads, fountains, monuments, and pond complete with paddle boats. I walked through the park for a bit taking pictures and relaxing in the open air. After an afternoon of enjoyably doing nothing, I returned to the hostel for a shower and siesta.

 

Retiro Park

 

 

Post siesta, I wake to a girl unpacking her stuff on the bunkbed next to mine. We start talking, turns out she’s a hairdresser from Scotland, named Fiona, traveling Europe on a short vacation. Her and I spent the day walking around Madrid. We walk to the Prado, another of Madrid’s famous art museums, Retiro Park again, and Centro Centro, a place I still don’t understand. Its a giant building with Roman columns, glass walkways, and nothing really inside it. Apart from several giant black and white photographs and several computers of the first floor, the building was empty. Perplexed, Fiona and I left the building and got some dinner on our way to the hostel.

My Scottish friend Fiona

Back at the hostel we met up with Susie and Mildred, a New Yorker I’d met the night before on the pubcrawl. None of us were up for the craziness last night’s pubcrawl had entailed and went to a bar for a few drinks and a more relaxed night. Nature thought otherwise. Ten minutes into our walk it starts to pour and the subways are no longer running. We seek refuge under the awning of a cafe and flag down a cab back to the hostel.

Madrid in the Rain

Madrid, Spain-Europe Day 8

Madrid’s Harlem is far less seedy during the day. Nevertheless, I wasn’t staying. I packed my stuff up, well it was never unpacked, I just picked it up and left. I found a nice place in Puerta Del Sol where a protest was going on and dropped my bags off.

Protest in Madrid

My first real stop of the day was at the Reina Sofia, one of Madrid’s most famous art museums. Admission was free when I got there and I spent about 4 hours walking around the museum listening to my iPod. It was an incredible experience, seeing some of the world’s greatest art set to my own soundtrack. One of the modern art exhibits in particular caught my attention. Yayoi Kusama had an exhibit there with loads of tentacles, golden jackets covered in macaroni, and mirrored rooms with hanging lights stretching into an infinite space beyond comprehension. Kusama started her artistic career in the 50s and 60s pushing the envelope of what was considered art. Many of her works, or performances, featured nude people and body paint. Still more featured tight repetition of patterns and objects evoking ideas of obsession and fractallian order. Later in Kusama’s career her mental and physical health began to decline and she voluntarily checked into a mental hospital where she continues to live and create art in her studio within the hospital. I left the Reina Sofia carrying with me a sense of peace and relaxation. When I return to the States I want to take time to appreciate art more and slow down the bustle of my day to day routine.

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Some friends of mine from the States are simultaneously backpacking Europe and our itineraries collided in Madrid so I walked over to their hostel and met up for the night. The three girls were approaching the end of their one month trip and were eager to tell of their adventures. They’d done everything from partying with Scandinavian hippies at a rave to sneaking out of a Czech hospital without paying their bill.

Cat’s Hostel in Madrid

After catching up, the four of us walked to a nearby hostel, Cat’s Hostel, and met up with Susie, a girl I had met in Ibiza, for her hostel’s pubcrawl. I was moving into Cat’s Hostel the next night, and it was the most interesting hostel I’ve stayed in so far. The building was built in the 18th century and its a national historic landmark. The hostel’s lobby is a two story open courtyard of Moorish architecture surrounding a fountain in the center. Topping the lobby is an elaborate stained glass window of cool blues and warm reds. Beneath the lobby was a bar serving up liters of beer and sangria for really cheap prices. After 2 liters apiece of beer and sangria, we were ready to leave the hostel and go on the pub-crawl. The crawl was good. We went to 2 bars and got free shots at each. At the end of the night the crawl finished at a nightclub where we got free admission and danced for a bit. I bailed early, as people know I usually do, and headed back to my hostel.

Cat’s Hostel Stairwell

 

Ibiza-Madrid, Spain-Europe Day 7

Kiana and I didn’t really sleep at all. We got back to the hostel around 6am and Kiana left around 8:30am to catch her flight back to Barcelona. I slept in til 11 when I had to check out then read on the beach for a bit before catching the bus to the airport. After all the crazy happenings that went on in Ibiza, it was nice to lay on the beach and lay on the chairs at the airport doing nothing. I lived out my Tom Hanks “Terminal” fantasy wandering the airport eating pastries and editing pictures to the soundtrack of boarding calls and jet engines roaring.

When it came time to check in, I was offered an earlier flight and jumped at the opportunity to get to Madrid 2.5 hours early and not at midnight. The flight went smoothly and I ended up spending the entire flight talking with the girl in the seat next to me, Virginia. She was moving to Ibiza from Madrid and was flying back to bring some more stuff over. I showed her pictures of my family and we talked about Ibiza and Madrid and she gave me a massive list of things to do in Madrid.

My Airplane Friend, Virginia

When we got to the airport she called some hostels from her phone for me. They were all booked so I decided to try my luck on Grand Via, Madrid’s Time Square. I got off the metro at Grand Via and wandered down a side road. Every couple of steps down the street there were women loitering, this should have been a sign. One of these women came up to me and propositioned me for sex. I was in the red light district, backpacking backpack and all. I told her no thanks and tried to walk around. She sidestepped me, said we could have “some fun”, and grabbed my dick: a grand slam in the hooker world. I stood my ground though, I still had my backpack on and this women had what appeared to be a small cultivation of herpes on the left side of her mouth. It was not an appetizing offer and I needed to get out of the red light district.

The Streets of Madrid

I made my way down Grand Via walking from hostel to hostel in search of a room. Up seven flights of stairs, down seven flights of stairs, up five flights of stairs, you get the idea. I was having no luck because it was a Friday night in Madrid’s Time Square. The last hostel I stopped at on Grand Via helped me find a hostel outside of town. I hopped on the metro, and got off at the right stop…in Madrid’s Harlem. I could hear sirens from outside the hostel as I made my way up the creaky old stairs to the hostel’s reception. It was a sketchy place, but I was tired and not about to go searching for another hostel at midnight. I checked into my room and passed out with my clothes on.

About to be hit by a car

Ibiza Town Coast

Ibiza, Spain-Europe Day 6

Waking up in the Che Guevara suite, last night’s hijinks were but a distant memory, with only a faint reminder in the form of a minor headache. Kiana and I had the free breakfast at the hostel, croissant, orange juice, and coffee. It wasn’t much, but the croissant was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life. We’d made plans to meet up with the DC guys at our hostel but not til 1 so we had time to kill before our rendezvous. We decided to go for a walk along the beach before our meet up. The beaches in Ibiza are postcard beautiful with bright blue water and soft sand. Something else worth mentioning, they’re all topless beaches and the women of Ibiza are beautiful…foreshadowing.

Ibiza Town Coast

Ibiza Town Coast

After our jaunt, we meet up with the DC guys at the hostel and debate renting some form of transportation. The shop across the street from our hostel rents scooters for 20 euro/day. Not bad split two ways, Kiana and I sharing a scooter. However, neither of us has ever driven a scooter. The second choice, rent a car between the 4 of us. A minor problem, only one of us can drive stick and he doesn’t feel comfortable driving in another country.

We end up talking with the shopkeeper and he offers to drive us all over the island stopping everywhere and showing us everything for 30 euros apiece. We eagerly agree, and wait for him to check with his manager. He comes back with another guy yelling at him…presumably the manager. Apparently he wasn’t supposed to offer deals like this without consulting the manager first. The two argue in rapid spanish for a bit as we look on, uncertain of our future. Then it begins to rain.

Literally everything in Ibiza closes when it rains: clubs, shops, banks, everything, including the island tour shop. Luckily it began to rain before we paid for the tour so our money wasn’t wasted on a tour of a very rainy Ibiza. As a group, we decided it can’t possibly be raining on all of Ibiza, and take a bus to San Antonio, Ibiza’s other city.

San Antonio is amazing. Everything is cheaper, the prices are lower, and there’s a more concentrated club area.  Stop 1, “English Breakfast” at the first restaurant we see. Five euro for sausage, bacon, beans, and toast with a cup of coffee. Post breakfast/lunch, we walk the beach and find a nice spot to lay out and read/tan. I notice next to our group is a couple laying out, the woman is sunning topless on her stomach and the guy is laying next to her. I roll over. A couple minutes pass and I roll back over, the guy is laying on top of his girlfriend. I assume he’s kidding around and about to rub suntan lotion on his girlfriend’s back. Jokingly I say to Kiana, “I bet they’re about to have sex.” How right my guess was. Sliding bathing suits around strategically, the couple starts having sex, right on the beach, surrounded by hotels and other people, in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon. The four of us do our best to ignore the couple and enjoy our beach day.

Several minutes go by and a group of older ladies drags some lounge chairs down to the water and proceed to tan around this couple, who are still going at it. Now the couple has an audience, pretty much all around them. One would assume they’re going to stop at this point. The couple did not stop. Apparently they thought better of it and decided to switch positions to her on top. I just want to take this time to say Ibiza is all kinds of bizarre, but this really took the cake and moments later, the guy took his cake and the couple packed their stuff up and left.

The less crazy beach

The less crazy beach

Now that our entertainment had left, we got up as well and went to explore another more secluded, and less crazy beach. It was a beautiful beach in its own little cove with only a handful of beach goers. After a bit of tanning and a far more normal beach experience, we walked back into town and watched the sunset in front of Cafe del Mar, a cafe right on the water playing really chill trance music.

Sunset at Ibiza

Sunset at Ibiza

Our DC friends

Our DC friends

Watching the sunset from Cafe Del Mar

Watching the sunset from Cafe Del Mar

Back in town, we caught the bus back to Ibiza town and showered up for SPACE that night. We met up with the DC guys at our hostel and went to SPACE’s Kehakuma party. Kehakuma is every Thursday at SPACE and its one incredible night of underground electronic music from midnight to 6am. We bumped and grinded to awesome music amid a sea of glittery clubbers, fake boobs, platinum blonde hair and roided out guidos in tiny v-necks. In addition to the usual club goers, we saw a lot of people in 90s rap clothing: NWA flat brim hats, flannel shirts buttoned all the way up and black ray-bans.

KEHAKUMA at Space

KEHAKUMA at Space

When 5:30 rolled around we staggered out of the club into a predawn Ibiza and made our way down the road to a cab and