|This morning was taken at a very leisurely pace, as I had been fairly busy the past few days, and a morning to just relax a little bit seemed like a much needed reprieve. So after finishing up yesterday's blog and packing my bags, I headed to Barcelona Sants. My train for Madrid left at noon, and I've become very comfortable with knowing how early to show up and the process involved to get on a train. In all honesty, it's very easy. It was a very comfortable, relaxed three hours and ten minutes on the Renfe train, and I don't mind saying that the landscape was more appealing to me that it was when I traveled to Paris. I think on this train trip we traveled through more mountainous terrain and saw a lot of neat vegetation, along with a bunch of small little towns sprinkled between Barcelona and Madrid.
Upon arriving to Madrid, I was greeted by my long-time friend Paul, with whom I'll be staying for the next four weeks. We headed back to his apartment, where I learned the ropes of how to get in and out of the building and how Spanish flats are set up. It's a nice, comfortable apartment that has all the amenities one would need. It's a good sized space for one person, I think, as I expected it to be much smaller from what I've heard about living spaces in Europe. Everything is just much more condensed than it is in the U.S., which doesn't bother me. In an unexpected twist of events, as I was getting settled in and we were discussing our plans, the power in the apartment went out. Paul started to mess with the circuit breakers only to see that they all worked except for the water heater, so that threw a wrench into things. Luckily I had just washed a load of laundry, which I had desperately needed to do. He called his landlord, and he agreed to come look at it in the morning. If a cold shower is the worst of my problems for the day, then I'll still consider myself rather fortunate.
After taking care of the water heater issue, we headed out to see a little bit of Malasaña, the neighborhood in which Paul lives. The streets here aren't set up in blocks, but they're actually kind of random and dead end into other streets, which makes it feel like a labyrinth at times. It's going to be a decent learning curve to make a mental map of the area. We headed to las Vistillas to meet a group of his friends, and on the way we passed by the Royal Palace, which was a beautiful sight with the sun setting behind it. I wish I had taken my camera with me, but since I didn't know exactly what we'd be doing, I decided against bringing it out. I learned my lesson that I want my camera on me more or less all the time, and as a result of not having it, I missed some great photo opportunities. But I am here for four weeks, so thankfully I'll have other chances to take pictures.
When we arrived at las Vistillas, there were a ton of people celebrating Manuela Carmena becoming the mayor of Madrid, which means a dramatic shift in politics focusing on the underpriviledged instead of catering to the wealthy. It was exciting to be a part of this experience, where history was being made in Spain and changes were underway for the government and the people. I'm learning about it still, as I don't pay attention to government as much as I should, but it's a very important topic right now in Spain. My mind was in overload from the amount of people surrounding me, which did make me a little nervous since large crowds tend to freak me out, but I managed to take it all in and just enjoy being there for the moment. We didn't stick around too long, as it was nearing 10:00PM (it gets dark here so late!!), and his friends wanted to grab some food. The rest of the evening was spent eating patatas bravas and rosca con lomo y queso (looked like a giant bagel ring with meat and cheese), and while I was able to get in some conversation here and there, I mainly listened and tried to feel out the situation. I warned Paul that that's how I would be. I know myself well, and I know that if I'm not entirely comfortable with the people and the environment, then I might not be too talkative. I think that's to be expected with anyone in my position who's on the outside looking in, but hopefully as time moves on I can become accustomed to his friends and feel comfortable conversing.
The evening ended late—like 2:00AM late, which is early for Spanish culture. I'm not much of a night owl, but it looks like I'm going to have to be for a few weeks! We walked through the Plaza Mayor, and again, I wish I had my camera because it would have been nice to get some pictures. Now that I'm in Madrid, I expect my schedule to slow down greatly. I won't be on the go as I was the first week and a half, so there might be days on this blog that are more uneventful than others. I'll try to fill those days with more thoughts and things that I'm learning rather than an account of what I did that day. There's still a lot to do in Madrid and I'm anxious to start exploring!