Spain: Days 1 and 2

I’m back! Today’s post deals with the reason for my absence. I spent ten fantastic days in Spain with the Palo Alto Youth Chamber Singers, and now that I’m mostly recovered from jet-lag, I have started to record my adventures in detail. Since this blog does serve as a journal, this post is going to be a bit long. I apologize. If you want the short version, here it is: Plane Flight, Jet-lag, Chorizos, Park, Singing, Sleep, Segovia, Food, Aqueduct, Singing, Too much Ham, Sleep, Food, and Friends. If you’re interested, read the longer version below. I hope you enjoy it.

One more note before the journal actually begins. In the interest of privacy, I was intentionally vague about some things. You’ll know it when you see it.

Day 1:

Parque del Buen Retiro Statue

Parque del Buen Retiro Statue

After a 10 hour plane ride, we arrived in Madrid. We were picked up by our tour manager, Suzanna. She told us a little about the city: that it is Spain’s capital and that it is the “greenest” city in the world per capita. She also told us that if we slept on the bus ride to the hotel it would be death to our sleep patterns for the next few days. We got to the hotel, received out room keys, and began to unpack. The hotel elevators were tiny, but my roommate and I were on the 7th floor, so we decided to wait for the elevator rather than try to climb 7 flights of stairs with our luggage. (The floors in Spain start at 0, not 1.) The room was a nice size, with a view of the city and complementary water bottles. After visiting some other people’s rooms we went down to the lobby, where we met the rest of the choir. We were scheduled to go to the city’s park, the Parque del Buen Retiro. Before we left, Suzanna mentioned that we needed to look out for pickpockets, or chorizos, which means “sausage” in Spanish. Chorizo would be our code for pickpockets for the entirety of the trip. Once at the park, which was a five minute walk from our hotel, a few friends and I went looking for an open area in which to play Frisbee. On the way we observed some very buff men working out and a good number of people on roller blades. There were too many people and trees to play Frisbee, so we walked along some garden paths and saw some birds, a man in a Dolphins jersey (yes, the football team), and a bench, where we rested for a bit. Fearing that we would fall asleep, we walked on until we came to the opposite side of the park, which looked out upon the Museo del Prado. Here, we found a stray cat, emaciated from hunger. Although we felt bad for it, we had no food and were wary of touching it for fear of disease. At this point we met up with some other choir members to head back to the predetermined meeting point. Unfortunately, our original group decided to split from from the larger group, leading to a much longer walk back to the statue, where we found the rest of the choir singing. We joined the for the last song (Ain’t Got Time to Die) and walked back to the hotel for dinner, which consisted of soup, steak, and fruit parfait. I had the interesting sensation of vertigo during this dinner; the combination of exhaustion and a long plane ride knocked me off balance. As you may have guessed, when I got back to the room I immediately brushed my teeth and went to bed.

Day 2:

Segovia Aqueduct

Segovia Aqueduct

After a fairly good night of sleep, I ate breakfast with some frinds, then joined the rest of choir in the hotel lobby. We still had a whole day until our first concert so the choir took a trip to Segovia, an old city with an amazing Roman aqueduct. On the hour long bus ride, Suzanna told us about an accident that led to the “discovery” of the new World. A nursemaid of the royal family was standing too close to a window when the heir to the throne wriggled out of her grasp and fell to the bottom of the cliff. The nursemaid, fearing the wrath of the king, followed her charge shortly afterwards. Without a direct heir, people started to look to the king’s sister… it was at this point that jet-lag smacked me in the face. When I wasn’t drowsing, I caught bits of the story: a sterile king, a philandering wife, Don Jon, and eventually, a child named Isabella, who would marry Ferdinand of Aragon and send Columbus on his expedition. After we arrived, we met the first of many tour guides. He was informative and dryly funny, but otherwise unremarkable. He had a decent sized beard and wore a fedora. Walking around the city, the narrow streets and old designs contrasted with the modern storefronts. As a particularly ironic example, the city’s library is housed in the old medieval prison. The tour ended at the city’s town square, which comprised town hall, the church, and the theatre. On the small bandstand, the choir sang some songs from Frozen and the Heartbeats, the girl’s a cappella quartet sang a song.
We were given an hour for lunch, so some friends and I went searching for food. We ended in a chain tapas place. Unfortunately, none of us realized this, so we ended up ordering four plates of jamon iberico tapas, which is basically ham and crackers. One of us, being conservative, ordered French fries, fried eggs and chicken, which looked much better.  We returned to the town square and went to the castle/fortress. It was originally a training center for the roman military, then became a royal castle for when the king and queen would visit. It had ornate ceilings, a nice view of the river, and interesting carpets. Unfortunately, a fire went through it a few hundred years ago, so much of it was restored and not the original structure. After the castle proper, we went into the armory, where we saw cannons, the king’s crossbow, and a “treasure vault” where money was kept. At the end of the castle tour, we were given time to explore the town some more, so my lunch group went walking down the streets of Segovia. We looked at some interesting buildings and checked out a CVS-like convenience store, where we saw hot dogs in a jar and frozen fish. As our last stop, we went up to the top of the aqueduct and looked over the city. It was a nice way to end the visit. I slept on the bus ride back to the hotel, but woke up halfway through. Dinner was on the upper floor of a nice restaurant. The Heartbreakers, the boys a cappella quartet, sang “Runaround Sue.” This was the first of many renditions of that song, and it got stuck in my head every time they sang it. The rest of the night, I hung out in a neighboring hotel room with my friends. Thus ended day 2.

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