My weekend went as follow - first of all, it's wonderful to not have any classes or work commitments on Fridays (for the first part of the semester at least). Although I had planned to get up early-ish and do some work, it ended up being a guilt-ridden sleep in then navigating the Madrid Renfe system and an unfamiliar suburb to get me to a rock climbing gym. Some of the exchange students at Carlos III had created a facebook group for those interested in outdoorsy activities, and rock climbing was on the cards for Friday. #mishapinmadrid number 300 happened, when I discovered this place (which was a 1/2 hour walk from the train station) was in fact a bouldering gym. However, the lady there was lovely (she'd also been in NZ for 2 months to climb) and me plus the two other exchange students spent several hours attempting to scale walls and not fall too far onto the padded mats underneath. The other people there were obviously pro-climbers and looked like lizards going all over the walls. I think I was more like one of those sticky ball things that's supposed to stick to windows when you through it, but that eventually loses its grip after falling on the carpet too many times and falls onto the floor after a few seconds.
Friday night was a cute dinner out with Molly, who I met at the AFS arrival camp in Chile in February 2009, and some of her friends who are in Madrid on Fullbright scholarships this year. Our little spot, that we keep returning to, is called El Buho and is in Malasaña, a trendy little neighbourhood close to the city centre. As per the Spanish way, you don't order an individual dish for each person. Between the 6 of us, we got 3 dishes (plus brownie) and divided it up on our plates. It's a much more fun way of eating and you get to try more! El Buho does the best Spanish tortilla I have tried so far, so if you're heading to Madrid I'd recommend checking it out. We ventured on to a hipster bar in Malasaña, decorated with stuffed deer and goat heads, an elaborate tiled floor and counter (if you're a Wellingtonian, think Hawthorne Lounge crossed with the bar at The Library, minus the books), spherical lightbulbs, and a very hipster clientele. The DJ was playing a range of music - from the inevitable Justin Bieber to some more alternative bands like Washed Out. The night had to end at some point, and for the next 1/2 hour I wildly navigated myself through the city streets to get to my bus stop to get back to my delightfully far away suburb of Getafe.
Saturday was Caturday - a visit to La Gatoteca aka a cat café. The concept is that you pay 6 euros for an hour, can get some coffee, tea, juice or soft drink, then take it to an area full of cats. The cats there are also up for adoption, and get free reign of the most part of the cat café plus a crowd of people petting them every day. And the people get cats, so it's a win-win situation.
With no pressing commitments, we wandered around Madrid in the afternoon, when the streets are quieter and the sunlight has a glowing golden quality to it. I can't think of a better adjective other than magic. The apartments were so beautiful - balconies with plants, elaborate hand rails, twisting alleys and the faint beat of reggaeton (in some places). We settled on getting some food from a supermarket and taking it to a park to have a picnic. I can't think of an afternoon like that last year, when I felt like I had the time and no stress to just relax and laugh for a few hours.
|Apartments in Lavapies|
The contrast between how I feel this year and the terrible time I had last year is so strong. For a number of reasons (some inevitable, some perfectly avoidable) it was a pretty crappy year and the brave face I wore 99% of the time was masking hours spent unable to function as a human. I never thought I would hit the points of having to stuff my fist in my mouth to stop myself from screaming, or that I would wear sunglasses while walking to uni to hide the fact that I was crying, or knowing if I saved my tears for the shower there would be a smaller chance of being overheard. Let alone not being able to focus on university work, or barely interact with friends at some points, all the while attempting to carry on like nothing was amiss. The feeling of desperately wanting to tell people what was going on, but being forced to keep everything confidential was also really frustrating, and the knowledge I couldn't openly discuss the severity of it with the other people who were also affected. I thank those that I did trust with the situation with their support, and for everyone else who was there for understanding that something was wrong. I feel for anyone who is going, or has been, through something like that. Moreover, several of you will know what situation I am referring to, but many of you won't - you are welcome to ask me, but I won't disclose it on here, aside from saying it was 'workplace' issues (and general life hit home hard too last year, the death of a friend, a break-up, the usual student-stress, the 'what am I doing with my life/I will not be good enough to do anything' dilemma). From this I just want to say to everyone reading this - be nice. There's absolutely no reason or justification to cause another human being to suffer in any way.
|Picnics in the park!|
Anyway, Caturday was fun! The day ended with us going to a friend's apartment to cook dinner, and we were all in the same mind of what we wanted - lots of veges! So we made a pasta sauce with zucchini noodles as a substitute for pasta. It was wonderful to be able to cook with friends and share a meal, as in my apartment I am generally cooking just for myself.
Sunday is the trip to another place that the title to this blog refers to. It was an early morning start on a Sunday, and the metro was filled with runners wearing fluorescent tops for the 'Corre para Siria' charity run. Coincidentally, that was right by where the bus left from.
One hour on the bus and we had arrived in Chinchón, a small town with a town square that doubled as a bull fighting ring. We had about an hour to walk around the town and take pictures, which so ample time to visit a cathedral, a lookout point and a café to get much needed morning coffee.
|Chinchón town square|
|Very candid photo|
Back on the bus, and it was onto La Ciudad Encantada, a national park full of rock formations that resemble animals, objects and maybe people. This was my favourite part of the day - after living in a city for a month, it was amazing to be outside in nature, surrounded by trees and grass and the odd black labrador. There was even a bit of snow, although it wasn't that cold. I think for the entirety of the trip the group of us was making jokes, and just generally happy to be there. It's a great feeling to be with so many other people who are also in a good mood. It was also a really sunny day.
Da nek stop was to Cuenca, where we were to spend the most time. We got a tour of the city from the tour guide; unfortunately I was too busy taking photos to really pay that much attention - I think my attention span for walking tours has decreased significantly, so please don't ask me about the history of Cuenca, I will only direct you to Wikipedia. It was a nice city though. There are houses there that are built right on the edge of the cliff, something you would never see in earthquake prone NZ! Here are some photos, to apologise for my lack of attention:
|Church in Cuenca|
|This dog had the longest ears! They scraped along the ground when he walked <3|
|Church in Cuenca (another church, yes!)|
|The houses on the cliffs|
|"Shall we get a beer after this?"|
Now, it's about 5ºC in Getafe and I have a class at 1930 - it's now 1745 - and an assignment to finish before then, so I'm about to go to the library to work on it as my apartment is freezing!
Thanks for reading mah leetel blahg, chau!
I'm also too lazy to go back and properly edit, so please excuse all the grammar and spelling mistakes.