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monday, june 22, 2015 the royalty
This morning started off with finalizing my plans for my trip to Sevilla this week. I know a lot of people have been telling me to go to Italy, but I've decided against it for this trip. I'm here to experience as much of Spain as possible, so with a few more trips to different cities is all I'll have time for. Besides, not going to Italy now gives me a reason to come back at some point! Back to Sevilla, I had already picked out the apartment that I wanted to rent on AirBNB, so I went ahead and made those reservations. I'm still amazed at what I can get for the prices that I'm finding. I should have trusted my students when they told me about it a few months ago, but I loved the hotels in which I stayed during the first two weeks of this trip. Once I finalized my lodging situation, I had to get a train ticket. Unfortunately, I have had problems with Renfe's website whenever I try to get book a trip, so I knew I'd have to go to the actual station and get my tickets the old fashion way. I figured today would be a good day to take a stroll through Plaza de España and finally get some pictures of the Palacio Real (the Royal Palace).

After getting an iced white mocha from Starbucks (you can't take the American out of me, plus it's the ONLY place that serves iced coffee to go), I headed towards Plaza de España to get some quick pictures and see what it's all about. I heard that there's a statue of Don Quijote somewhere in the park, and I really wanted to see it. I found it on the backside of the main monument in the center, and I was surprised to see that it was much bigger than I had expected. And much greener. There were a couple groups of people waiting to get their picture taken with Don Quijote, and they literally climbed through the horses legs to get to a good vantage point for taking pictures. I didn't feel it was necessary for me to do that, so I just zoomed in a got a few shots. All in all, pretty cool statue.

From Plaza de España I continue on through the Jardines de Sabatini where I found a bench and sat for half an hour. I didn't feel pressured at all to keep to a time schedule today, and it felt nice to sit down and do some thinking and not be around a bunch of people. I had a nightmare last night about the first day of school (it's not even July yet!!), so I was reflecting about that for a while. I know I'm supposed to be on 'vacation', but I can't help but think about how I'm going to include my travel experiences into the classroom this year. Call me crazy, but I'm excited to start teaching again. But in the meantime, I'll enjoy being in Europe and not in the classroom.

I made my way through the rest of the gardens leading up to the Palacio Real, and I finally had my camera with me to take some pictures of the front façade. I've passed by the Palacio Real twice already while biking, and neither time did I have my camera on me. I hadn't planned on entering the building, but I thought If I were in Washington D.C., I'd most certainly want to go inside the White House. And since I'm already here... And I'm so glad I went in! Pictures were not permitted in the rooms of the Palacio Real except for the grand staircase leading up to the rooms. It's a great shame that pictures are not allowed because I would have taken probably 100+ pictures of the interior.

El Palacio Real is royal in every sense of the word. The picture you see below is the first painting you see when entering the rooms where pictures aren't allowed. The portrait of the Royal Family was started in 1993 by Antonio López García and wasn't finished until 2014. At the conception of the painting, Prince Felipe (on the far right) was 25 and is now 45, and you can see how King Juan Carlos has aged over the years, but surprisingly Queen Sofía looks the same. Continuing through the Palacio, it was incredible to see how the walls of each room were beyond ornate, with some of the walls having relief textures to them and others actually having a tuffed-pillow effect. I could not believe how posh the walls were inside the Palacio Real—check them out here! I loved learning about the history of the many rooms and how each one was used during various reigns from different kings. El Salón de Columnas was really impressive with its many chandeliers, but even more impressive with ten gorgeous chandeliers was the dining room that literally left me with my jaw dropped. I'm pretty sure I walked into the room and said "Oh my God..." You can find a picture of this room among the pictures in the link I referenced above. I also was able to walk through what used to be a changing room for the king and even the royal throne room—it was all incredible! I'm really glad I decided to spend the 10 € to take a tour of the Palacio Real, and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits Madrid.

My next stop was the Atocha Train Station to purchase my train tickets to Seville and back. Paul had told me that I'd have to get a number to wait my turn. You can see that I got my waiting ticket at 17:36, and at that time they were on customer number 112. I figured I'd be waiting an hour, but it ended up being 45 minutes. It wasn't until around minute 42 of waiting that I started to panic that I'd need my passport to show documentation, because it's been a necessity whenever I've done most major purchases over the counter (hotels, really), and I figured they'd tell me that they couldn't sell me a train ticket without my passport. Luckily, it wasn't necessary. Talking with the guy to choose my times and get the tickets was really easy, and I feel very relieved to know that now I'm 100% set to go to Sevilla this week! If I had any idea that traveling in Europe would be this easy, I might have done it years ago. Now that I've had all these experiences, I can honestly say that I have no fear of traveling. Well, I might change my mind about that if I were to find myself in a country in which I didn't speak the language, but for now I'll just feel accomplished for surviving this long abroad!

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