Monday, November 22, 2010

Am I the only one who doesn't speak Spanish? Madrid: Day One

Day One in Madrid.

I finally had landed in Madrid. The final decent of the plane showed the long stretches of open land and greenery. There were no mountains, but I wouldn’t call the land flat either. A bit hilly. Gorgeous none the less...

Once I landed I immediately turned on my cell phone-I had promised my mom and dad a text the moment the plane hit the ground-only to find out that it didn’t work. It “couldn’t connect to a network”, which was extremely frustrating because I had talked to T-mobile and told them I was going to be in Europe and they said nothing further needed to be done-except that I should disable the internet from my phone.

I got my passport stamped and waited for my bags. All around me people were speaking Spanish-I didn’t understand anything. I figured my mom was having a bit of a panic attack since I had yet to contact her. So I hopped on a pay phone (which will probably cost me a fortune when I get my credit card statement) and called her. Sure enough, she had already worried enough that she called Jessica. I assured her that I was fine and my plane had landed…then she hit me with a bit of bad news. Jessica had gotten food poisoning in Ireland and had not made her flight….which meant she would not be at the airport to meet me. Remember how that was the ONE thing I was worried about? Of course it couldn’t go right. I called Jessica and she gave me the address of her apartment and assured me her roommate would meet me outside. She then gave me names of places to visit until she arrived…which would be 10 hours after I had been in Madrid.

I admit…I freaked out. I immediately called my mom again. No phone. No friends. No Spanish. I was scared out of my mind. My mom was just as scared for me-if not more. I hung up the pay phone and went out to catch a taxi. The only sentence the taxi driver knew in English was “first time in Madrid?” I tried to make conversation about how there were so many motorcycles in Madrid and about the tall, beautiful buildings…but he couldn’t understand me and kept rambling in Spanish.

Jessica had told me that her roommate would meet me in front of the apartment, near a waterfall. I got out of the taxi and looked around…no waterfall. I had already been in panic mode and drug my suitcase along the way for awhile, praying some waterfall would appear. Turns out, the waterfall had not been turned on…but there was an American girl. “Are you Jessica’s friend?” “Yeah!” finally. I had found someone who spoke some English and a friendly face.

I dropped off my luggage and went back down to the street with Lindsey, Jessica’s roommate. She was going for a run and I was going to grab a taxi and head to Palacio Real de Madrid. Again, my taxi driver didn’t speak English but took me to the Palacio.

I cannot even put into words how magnificent the Palacio Real is. The entire experience was breathtaking. From the outside, it was pretty and I was excited, but once I entered the building I was in complete awe. Every room is decorated so exquisitely. Every room is different. Each ceiling is painted beautifully and every inch of the walls are covered in bronze, porcelain, and other decorations. I took the tour with the audio guide and learned so many unique facts about each room. The Salon del Trono, or Throne Room was incredible and complete with chairs for the King and Queen. There was one room, the Gabinete de Porcelana y Saleta Amarilla, which was completely covered in porcelain decoration. It was the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. I cannot believe people LIVED here! To have that much beauty surround you every day, I cannot even imagine. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the Palacio..which made me extremely sad! All I have is memories...I wish I could have captured it all!

I was minding my own business, touring the Palacio with my audio guide when a group of second or third graders passed in a group. One boy said “hi” and I replied “hello!” he then proceeded to tell me that the boy next to him was his brother. I was like, “oh…he’s your brother” the two boys snickered and started speaking in Spanish and pointing at me. I wished so badly that I knew Spanish at that moment. Those little elementary children laughing at an American…who clearly knew nothing about Spain or any Spanish. It was funny…but kind of sad. Haha

I had to ask random people to take pictures of me next to the Palacio. It was awkward. Who wants to be in a picture by themselves? But at the same time, there was no way I was only taking pictures of buildings without me in them! It was hard to leave the Palacio. I stayed there for 3 hours. I wanted to keep looking and taking in the beauty. I literally had to force myself to leave. It is so gorgeous.

After the Palacio I took a taxi to a museum Jessica had suggested. 12 Euros later I was at the museum and excited for another adventure. I was extremely depressed when I saw that the museum is closed every Monday! 12 Euros wasted! I started to wonder down the street toward Downtown when I saw a payphone. I figured my mom was extremely worried and gave her a call…I was right. She hadn’t even slept she was so worried. I feel a bit bad now; I was enjoying the beautiful Palacio while she was worried sick for my safety. I assured her I was fine (and that I had my pepper spray with me) and filled her in on the adventure I had just taken. She was glad I was safe and sound.

I walked Downtown and decided it was time for some lunch, by then it was 3:00pm and I hadn’t eaten since my plane ride. It was far more difficult to find somewhere to eat than I thought! It doesn’t help that I’m a picky eater and was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to find something I liked. Twenty minutes later, with an angry tummy, I found a restaurant that said Pizza & Pasta! Perfect…America food and English words! I was stoked.

I sat down and ordered a cheese pizza…the host spoke great English and I felt extremely happy and welcome. The cheese pizza didn’t taste like the pizza here, but I had two pieces and enjoyed the American music videos that were playing on the TVs in the restaurant.

Suddenly, I felt extremely tired. So tired I thought I would pass out in the restaurant. I had traveled for 13 hours and the jet lag had finally hit me. I hailed a taxi and went back to Jessica’s apartment. I rang the bell (she lives with four other American girls), praying one of them was home. In my mind I had decided that if they weren’t home, I was going to a hotel. I was THAT exhausted. At one point in the taxi I dosed off, I had to get into a bed somewhere! Just my luck, no one was home. I found a payphone and got out my cell to look up Jessica’s number, when I realized my cell was FINALLY working! Whoo hoo! My dad had called T-Mobile at 6AM and gotten everything figured out. I could officially call out and take incoming calls. No texts, but I felt so much safer with a cell that works! Thanks dad!

I called Jessica and she told me to go upstairs to her host mother’s room. She said, “Ring the door bell. When she opens it and says hello say ‘Jill’ and hand her the phone.” Such a great friend…she knows I don’t understand anything anyone says! I did just that and the house mother showed me to my room. I was extremely excited. I slept for four hours.

At 8PM Jessica finally arrived. She had just started to feel better. It was amazing to see her! We went upstairs and ate Pumpkin Soup (surprisingly it was extremely good), tortillas, and fruit. We ate with her other roommates (One of them is a Pi Phi!!!) and talked to the house mother. Thankfully the girls translated everything; the house mother speaks no English.

After dinner we went down to Sol Plaza and walked around. We stopped at Starbucks and got hot drinks and wandered the city, catching up on the past 3 months of life. Everywhere you look there is an amazing statue or waterfall. There isn’t an inch of the city that isn’t decorated…it’s absolutely gorgeous. I can’t believe Jessica lives here. After an hour or so of wondering, we took the Metro back home and decided to turn in early and get a good night’s rest (especially since Jessica was so sick yesterday/this morning).

The first day was a bit rough, but it was also great. I learned that in a tough situation I can still manage to be okay. I didn’t talk to anyone, unless I was asking them to take a picture (haha), it was weird feeling so isolated but it was also nice to have some time to ponder the beauty I was looking at and have some “me time”. I felt safe here. There are people ALL over and police are everywhere, on horses of course! I was extremely worried and anxious that I would be scared the entire time, but I was calm (although I did be sure to hold my purse tight, be aware of my surroundings, and act like I knew where I was going)—and I’m not just saying that to calm the nerves of my mom & dad who are reading this J This city is far more beautiful than I expected. I am so excited for the days to come.

It’s midnight and I am extremely exhausted. I’m going to turn in….I’ll update the blog again tomorrow!


Michaela said...

What an adventure for your first day!! You handled it well, i would have cried and got back on the plane, you're so brave :) Hope the rest of your trip goes much better :)

JRuud said...

Jill!!! Your trip looks so fun.. well the first day anyways :)

You are brave; dunno if I could've done all that. I hope you have an amazing time. Be safe.

See you when you get home.

PPL xoxo.

Lizzie said...

It's on days like this that you surprise yourself and realize how grown up you actually are. I'm impressed with your solo sightseeing. I enjoyed Madrid when I was in Spain.