Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Making our way in Madrid

by John

Madrid was not on our original list of places to visit, but when we had to pass through on our way from Egypt to West Africa, it seemed like a good way to practice the Spanish we had learned earlier in Nicarauga.

Madrid is a beautiful city teeming with cafes, restaurants and art galleries. Stuff any 9 or 11 year old would love (or not). Our 7 days there were full, as always, and we had an interesting and pleasant time there. Here are a few of our impressions – things that surprised us and highlights.

- Eating dinner at 9:00 pm is hard to get used to.
- Cafes not opening until well after 8:00 am or 9:00 am is hard for John to get used to (Starbucks opened early though).
- Stuff is expensive. Spain is not the poor cousin in Europe.
- When you order a hot chocolate you are not supposed to drink the melted chocolate syrup they give you. It is for dipping churros in – great once you figure out the system.
- Getting just a "regular coffee" is next to impossible unless you go to Starbucks.
- Cien Montaditos – one hundred sandwiches each for 1 to 1.5 Euros. A real find when you are on a budget (photo)

- Iberian Ham and the Museum of Ham – Mardrillenos love their ham and so do I.
- Toledo was once the centre of weapon making in Europe and Simon just had to have a small sword. We had a wonderful day on our day trip to this historic town (photo)

- Strawberries grow on trees. Not really but Madrillenos believe this is the case. Their symbol is a bear trying to reach up a strawberry tree.
- Bull fighting is hard to pin down but is very big in Madrid. We didn’t go but met some students who did and they were disgusted. We saw a bit of it on TV and it seemed like a dance – we didn’t see the gory parts though.
- Our Spanish language skills are barely past functional and the kids did learn a tonne. They often had to add a word for us.

Now it's time to pack our bags and prepare for West Africa. Allons-y!

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