On our first full day in Madrid, we faced an obstacle more serious than the language barrier: jet lag. Our main goal for the day? Fight the urge to snooze despite having arrived at 6 am (12 am Boston time!). The day turned into a non-stop sequence of activities following our quick caffeine boost at the local café.
Our first activity was a group walk (while we waited for our rooms to be ready). At first I was a little overwhelmed, but after a couple of kilometers we reached the Parque del Buen Retiro, and I immediately relaxed. Birds were chirping and flying above the fountains, while dogs loyally trailed their owners through the sunlit courtyard of neatly groomed shrubbery. As cliché as this may sound, it was like a scene from a movie. Realization was finally setting in. I was in Spain and I was ready for it.
Returning to the hotel to check in and take a quick shower (trust me, we NEEDED it), it was time to really see Madrid. Even though we experienced a little bit of difficulty purchasing tickets, the Honors DOC successfully took the Metro into the heart of Madrid, arriving at Puerta del Sol. The buildings, the fresh air, the sounds of the traffic and people traveling through the open area made for an unforgettable first impression. We looped through the main streets as a group, passing through the cobble-stoned Plaza Mayor, stopping for a sketch of the Royal Palace and then the Plaza de Oriente (sketches above courtesy of Lily Tiarks), and of course for some traditional tapas at the Market de San Miguel.
Following the group walk, it was time to explore on our own. I headed straight back to the Palace. Traveling through only a handful of the some 2,800 rooms that were magnificently layered with gold, porcelain, and crystal of incredible detail, it was hard not to feel like royalty myself. However, the best part of my day was not daydreaming about being the Queen. The spontaneity of the day was far more exciting! While exploring the Plaza Mayor, Ori fearlessly led the way into the La Torre del Oro Bar. The walls of this small establishment were lined with memorabilia of traditional bullfighting – pictures, films streaming, and of course, stuffed bull heads-that truly made the place come to life.
Feeling even more adventurous, we decided to ditch the Metro and walk the four miles back to the hotel. The walk made me truly embrace where I was. It was only our first day, yet I felt as though I experienced a ton. The locals, the sites, the food- and I was still hungry for more. And what’s a girl in Spain to do when she’s hungry? More tapas of course. Ending the night with some mixed pintxos at a quiet outdoor bar around the corner, I could not have asked for a better start to this trip. As I finally climbed under the covers of my bed for the first time in over 24 hours, I was exhausted, but excited. Overcoming jetlag and immersing ourselves in this new culture, we were quite literally, taking this Spanish bull by its horns. Watch out Spain. Honors DOC is just getting started.
Julia Parascandola – Psychology