(These accidentally are now out of order by one post, whoops....deal with it)
In the morning, I slept a little later and took a little longer in the shower than I should have and because of that had to pack too quickly. I just threw everything in there and it ended up being lopsided and very heavy, which I regretted in the hills of Madrid.
We kinda ran to the train station and then ran to buy our tickets. Barcelona Sants, the station, thought it was an airport and had security at 3 different points and a bag scanner. To each his own, I guess. We got onto the train with about 5 minutes to spare and settled in for the ride. I read the entire time on the Nook (I'll write about my book later) and it was no time before we were in Madrid!
It was also very warm there (thank God, I'm not ready to give up this warmth). The ride, as Braden had pointed out, looked a lot like Southern California, and made me miss one of my homes away from home. We went to the ticked office to book our night train from Lisbon to Paris and the first office told us the train didn't exist and sent us to the International office. Ugh. We got there and the woman tried to tell us again that it didn't exist. She was the 3rd person we had talked to about this train and the first that actually looked it up. Probably because we were not taking "no" for an answer. When she looked it up for the day we wanted, though, it was FULL! U.G.H. Fail. We tried to book it so many times and now it was sold out. We had to buy the ticket for the day before. Now we have to rearrange hostels and book a new one. On the plus side, I'll get to see another city in France :)
We walked to our hostel (of course entirely uphill) and checked in. There was a mix-up and instead of a 4 person room, we're in a room to ourselves. Fine by us! We don't have to be so stingy about security this way! After orienting myself with the city on the map for a while, we went out to explore the Spanish Capital.
We started our self-guided city tour at the Plaza del Sol, which is the point that all major roads in Spain lead. It is also where the statue of the symbol of Madrid (a bear climbing a fruit tree) is found. It was not very crowded and made us happy already that we were leaving the majority of the tour groups behind us at least for a while.
After exploring there and getting some cheap food, we walked over to the Plaza Mayor, the main plaza in Madrid and saw people sun-bathing. We loved Spain for its weather, and Madrid did not disappoint.
From there we moved on to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) which turned up closed because of an official event. Spain still has a royal family, so it was kinda cool thinking there was some royal function going on. We then walked around some of Madrid's really awesome gardens and just relaxed the rest of the day. Madrid is a great city, but there isn't a ton to do. That night we went to the Hard Rock and got drinks and an app.
When we got back to the hostel that night, we did not expect what we saw. The entire hostel had turned out for the "All you can drink" Sangria party the hostel was throwing. It was very loud and messy and all of the public areas were filled with people. It wasn't a very welcoming looking place and it did not look like a lot of fun, so we just went up to the room. It was SO loud. We had some e-mails we had to check for the changes we made to the trip, so we waited until it quited down to go downstairs to where the Wi-fi was available. It wasn't until about 12:30 that everyone finally went out to the clubs. When we went downstairs, we saw that the police had arrived. I guess one of the other hostel guests had called the police because of the noise and they were going through the halls telling everyone to leave or quiet down.
There was an Irishman at the front desk who asked us if we knew what was going on. He called us "lads" and said we had an American accent, and didn't believe us when we told him his Irish accent was just as thick. He informed us that the hostel was host to 80 students from Dublin and they were there until Thursday. Thank God we only had one night in that hostel! The police left and we did our internet stuff and we hurried up to bed before they all got back from the clubs. Our room had no window and was very hot and the fan didnt help much, so getting to sleep wasn't very easy and just when we did finally get some zzz's in, they came back and didn't go to bed until around 8. They kept knocking on our door because we were the only room on the floor that didn't have Irish occupants, so they assumed we were a part of their group, and they kept slamming all the doors. It was probably the worst night of sleep we had gotten up to that point of the trip.
In any case, the next day we checked out on time and went off to do a little more exploration. We were taking a night train to Lisbon and it didn't leave until 10ish, so there was no hurry all day. We saw all the fountains that you were supposed to see (some that night and some during the day). We also did some more walking in the park.
My thing I was really excited to do was the Royal Palace, but it was kinda just like every other palace and once you've seen one they all blurred together. There were far too many people in this one and the hallways were blocked by Asain and Spanish tour groups and it really detracted from the whole experience. I would say it was beautiful, but I spent so much time stuck between people that I didn't really enjoy myself. Overall, Madrid was not our favorite, and the weather the second day was overcast. It just left a bad taste in our mouth after how awesome Barcelona was. I think I would like to explore the south of Spain a little more, but I probably won't go back to Madrid. We did, though, eat Churros in the city they were invented. LOVED THEM!!
That night was our second night train. After having such a great experience with the first one, we were excited for this one, except that we had chairs instead of beds. We heard they were fine though. They weren't. That was by far the worst night of sleep and I will never subject myself to that again. The man in front of us had an awful snore, the lights were never turned off, and our seats were not very big and didn't recline. I had to tie a scarf around my head to block out the light and listen to the "Braveheart" soundtrack the entire night to block out the sounds of people not really sleeping and constantly moving around. It is well worth the extra 20 Euro for a bed. WELL WORTH. We got to Lisbon, on time though, and Portugal was awaiting us.