Monday, June 4, 2012

day one: arrival in Madrid

I left Boston yesterday morning at around 7am. Robin drove me to the airport after my having pulled an all-nighter in Burton Conner spending time with TRMC. It already feels like forever ago, since today was a whirlwind of culture and activity. 

My flight to Dulles was uneventful*, but my flight from Dulles to Madrid-Barajas was delayed for an hour, so I ended up landing in Madrid at about 8:15am on Sunday, June 4th, 2012. 

*I suppose you could count meeting Vinay, an MIT Sloan student who was going home to visit his family before graduation, eventful.

At this point of about 24 hours traveling, sans teeth brushing, plus airplane dinner and sleeping, I looked about like this:

In keeping with my new ideas about not being stressed and immersing myself immediately into the Spanish culture of chillaxing, I couldn't bring myself to be stressed enough to make my 10:00am apartment viewing. I figured it would be better to check into the hostel I wanted to stay at, drop my bags, check my email, and get ready for a full day of apartment viewing. The apartment was too far out of the city anyway, and it was a single apartment, which would have been depressing. So I decided to screw it and head to the Albuergue Juvenil by subway:

It's a bit unnerving not having a phone or constant access to the internet, but on the other hand it is quite liberating. I feel myself detoxing from technology and enjoying the pleasant Sunday afternoon madrileño atmosphere. 

When I initially wrote the start of this post I was sitting in the Cafe Comercial near the Bilbao metro stop, since I left my bags at the hostel and went for a walk in the area. The hostel is near the Tribunal barrio, a nice area filled with young people and locals (at least on a Sunday afternoon) with tons of cafes and bars. I sat down at the Cafe Comercial because it advertised wifi, but I haven't been assertive enough to ask the waiter for the password, since he brought my café con leche and churros, followed 2 minutes later by the check. 

The cafe was filled with 30-somethings reading the paper, young travelers getting wifi, and groups of older women socializing over coffee. It seems that everyone at this particular hour and cafe was ordering churros, with the occasional bocadillo (small sandwich) or cerveza (beer). The elderly ladies seem to all eat churros too, not caring that they are deep-fried strings of batter. To be fair, they are super delicious deep-fried strings of batter! 

My apartment itinerary took me all across the city of Madrid: 
  • Tribunal area
  • Lavapiés area
  • next to Plaza Mayor.
  • (I'll add a map soon)
And now that I've returned to the hostel and cleaned up a bit, the plan is to meet some other MISTI folks (Lucas, Carlos, Sam, and Cristina) for tapas or drinks for dinner. I met them all at Sam and Carlos's apartment in the Chueca district and we wandered around for a bit, chatting about phones and how we're all starting work tomorrow and the like. An Italian student named Fabio who lives in Lucas's apartment came with us, and we compared notes about the US, Italy, Spain, etc. We ended up eating at El Tigre, which had 5 Euro copas (mug of beer or mug-size-equivalent of tinto de verano (sangria with mint)) but which came with a heaping plate of tapas of various kinds - bread, paella, jamón (ham), etc. With so many of us we were able to get a bunch of different kinds of tapas with our drinks. 

Lucas overheard a few of the people standing next to us at the bar speaking in Portuguese, so being from Brazil he responds in kind. The people were done with their drinks and tapas, and decided that we would make better use of their extra beer and tapas than the garbage can, so free tapas for us! 

I went back to the hostel, passed out, and psyched myself up for going to work the next day.

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