Madrid-Day 2.

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Bullfighting is a very controversial topic in Spain right now. Many people think that bullfighting should continue to be a sport, while others wish to do it only for holidays and special occasions and then there are those who want bullfighting banned entirely for its inhumane practices.

Today we went to the Las Ventas Bullring, the most historic stadium for bullfighting in the world. The building itself is amazing. It is Spanish style, built from brick and large slates of granite.

In Catalonia, the northern region of Spain (Barcelona) bullfighting is illegal. However, Madrid is home to bullfighting. The season, in Madrid, lasts from May-November with fights held every day in May and every Sunday the rest of the season.

Each round lasts 20-30 minutes and there are four rounds in a fight. Which means about four bulls are slaughtered a night.

The fights consist of multiple people (at different times) weakening the bull. First, they stab the bull 10 centimeters deep to weaken him as he slowly bleeds out, then another guy stabs the bull with flags that hang off the bulls body causing it to run around in confusion with the movement of the flags (like a dog chasing its tail).

Then once the bull is too tired to entertain the people the bullfighters get the bull to charge one last time and stab a spear all the way through its body, killing it…eventually.

If the person is not successful in killing the bull, the bull will have stabbed its horns through the person, killing them.

With the catch that the fans can hold up their handkerchiefs to save the bull (if it was really “brave”…has only happened once in Madrid) and they can also hold up their handkerchiefs to give the bullfighter a trophy and if he gets the trophy he can also be given the tail (has only happened once in Madrid).

While I appreciate the historical and cultural significance behind it, I just cannot imagine enjoying watching “a sport” with so much blood.

Following our visit to the bullring, we had three-hours of free time and Shannon and I decided to try to see Museo del Prado, home to the largest private art collection in the world.

We were prepared to grit our teeth and pay the 14 euro to enter even though we would only have an hour at the museum before it would close.

We get to the museum and there is a line from the ticket office that went, I kid you not, a quarter mile long.

Disappointed and confused we found an attendant and asked why there were so many people in line, he explained to us that the museum is free for the last hour and that we would have to wait in line to get a ticket. The museum stops giving tickets at 7:15 or at a certain number of people whichever came first so there was a good chance we would wait in line and not get in.

Well we finally made it to the front of the line at 7:07, entering the museum at 7:10 we had 50 minutes to explore the largest private art collection in the world. Therefore, we grabbed a map and picked some certified “masterpieces” to view.

We were able to see 9 masterpieces including, Adam and Eve, Madonna of the Fish, Queen Mary Tudor, Durer Self Portrait, The Triumph of Death, Crossing the Styx, The Table of the Seven Deadly Sins, and The Garden of Earthly Delights.

We spent most of our time at The Prado admiring the work of Bosch whose paintings are representative of his interpretations of religious scenes. The works are a commentary of the way we live and the repercussions of those actions, but moreover they are so insanely intricate that I could have stared at the three panels of the Garden of Earthly delights for hours and still have discovered new things within the painting.

As well as admiring a remake of the Mona Lisa, done by Da Vinci’s intern (fun to see, as we will visit The Louvre in Paris in two weeks) and several remakes of The Last Supper, one of which Da Vinci’s intern painted.

Even with very little time, the Prado was worth the hassle!

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Madrid-Day 1.

DSCN6311.JPGThis weekend we went on an excursion to Madrid.

In the morning, we went on a political history walking tour, where our self-proclaimed communist tour guide shared all his political bias, as well as some actual historical facts. Madrid is home to El Reyna, the king, so naturally we heard all about Isabel & Ferdinand and Phillip II and about the war of 1936.

The tour was interesting but what was far more interesting was the restaurant Shannon and I stumbled on for lunch.

Madrid is currently in the midst of a GastroFestival. Gastronomy is the study of cuisine and culture.

While wandering around near Plaza del Sol (The Time Square of Madrid) we wandered through some moderately sketchy backroads and found a restaurant called Casa Alberto. The menu el dia (will explain this shortly) was 40 euro or 17 euro both of which were above our typical price range, but the restaurant was so charming and it was on the GastroFestival list so we decided lets pay the extra money we will eat cheap tomorrow. BEST DECISION EVER.

First of all a menu el dia in Spain is the lunch menu that runs Monday-Friday (Sometimes Saturday) from 1-4 (most Spaniards eat lunch at 2pm and it takes at least 2 hours. It is usually 8-15 euro and comes with a drink (water is not free in most of Europe so this is important), a main course, and a dessert.

Well, after looking at the pricey menu el dia and deciding to eat there we expected the standard menu el dia, except with far better food (not that our food is ever bad).

Boy were we pleasantly surprised when the chef (there were no waiters only chefs delivering the food) delivered us bread (I miss free bread with dinner).

Then croquettes (deep fried deliciousness), and then a creamy potato and cod soup, followed by our main course of chicken meat balls with vegetables in some yellow broth that was a gift from the Heavens it was so good and finally strawberry and blueberry cheesecake.

My inner foody is crying with joy and amazement at the sheer amount of incredible food that graced my stomach that afternoon. Not to mention that lunch came with an entire bottle of very good wine and the couple in the booth next to us happened to be from Barcelona and spoke with us (in Spanish) for the 2+ hours we spent there. They even gave us their recommendations for where to eat in Barcelona!

Following our pleasant morning, we had the opportunity to tour the Bernabou, home to the winningest team in “football” history (Real Madrid). I am not much of a football (soccer) fan. However, I am learning ALL about it and the politics behind it in my Business of Sports in Europe course and I am just a huge fan of sport so it was quite an experience for me.

The stadium holds 81,000 people (which is huge) and they are about to remodel it! The museum of their trophies consisted of countless rooms, each trophy carefully marked and displayed with under lighting that made the trophy glitter.

One room had all the players’ personal trophies behind screens with flashing information/quotes from the players.

There was another room dedicated entirely to the team on FIFA. With walls that were interactive screens and life size images of each player.

The next room was four walls of video clips with the most memorable/best plays in Real Madrid history.

After walking through the museum and admiring all of Reals hardware, we had the opportunity to sit on the bench and stand on the field. If I were a Real Madrid fan, the tour would be somewhat of a religious experience.

Walking through I had several thoughts, “so this is what it’s like to be a Yankee fan”, “I need to pick a favorite ‘football’ team and it certainly can’t be Madrid as I live in Barcelona, but I feel like Angela (my housemate in the US) would disown me if I didn’t favor Manchester United.” “Why do I need to walk through their urinals” and “the Mariners HOF needs to step up its game.”

Following our adventures, we went to a nightclub called “Kapital” as people told us not to skip this experience.

Our professors and friends were right. It was seven levels of music and dancing. The venue itself used to be a theatre so each floor was a balcony overlooking a stage where there was live music and dancers and little people dressed as Oompa Loompas.

It was probably the most bizarre place I have ever been, but I definitely recommend it if you are in your 20s and in Madrid.