Also known as: Madrid, the city that welcomed us for most of the trip
This post is a little over a month late — I apologize. Real life caught me in its grip and refused to let go. I still owe you guys like, a ton (or okay, five or so) entries about Europe. And so…here I am.
After the WYD festivities ended, we all had one more day to use up our free city passes and our unused food stubs from the past week. After a long night of figuring out our mission trip for the next weeks of our Europe trip (where I suddenly became one of the heads of our mission team) and booking our tickets, we all set out on a sunny Madrid summer Monday for a city tour. :)
I’m no expert in history or even tourism, and the fact that we had our city passes for free meant I really hardly got to experience Madrid in the most “rugged” way possible. We were only armed with a guide in our WYD pilgrim packs that lists the Top 20 places we should see in Madrid, which we attempted to visit. Attempted only, because the heat makes it really hard to go around. I think we managed to hit up to 8?
Anyway, photo dump up and comments up ahead!1
Here’s one thing I learned as we toured the city: the train systems are nice, but the best way to really experience and see Madrid is to ride the buses. The buses in the city are pretty efficient, and if you have a multiple-ride ticket for the metro, you’ll be able to use that for the buses, too. Oh, and they’re not like the buses here in Manila, too — they’re more of coasters with pretty comfortable seats and sometimes, Wifi. Interesting, yes?
We weren’t really sure were to head out first, so we just decided to ride a bus to Sol and figure stuff out from there. Of course, since it’s our first time to ride a bus to Sol and we were used to riding the metro, we weren’t sure where the bus would go. After some time, we decided to go down and we had no idea where we were going. But then we ended up here:
And it turns out to be the real start of our walking in Madrid adventure. :D
From Plaza de Espana, the rest of the sights we wanted to visit was already a short walk.
We weren’t the only pilgrims who decided to go around the city, too. We wanted to go inside the palace but the line was too long. Beside the palace was the Almudena Cathedral, and look at all the people gathered in front of it that day:
We were able to go inside the cathedral, and as expected, it was packed. After a short prayer, we looked around at the sculptures inside. It was very pretty inside, as expected of a Catholic cathedral, and I think it would be nice to hear mass there. :) There were several prayer stations inside with different sculptures, and this one was my favorite:
After the Cathedral, we continued to walk, taking random photos and smiling at other pilgrims. You know, it still felt like it was just another day in the week-long celebration. There were groups walking and singing and chanting (the kind that gets into your head :P), carrying their country’s flags, heading to a destination. There were still lines for food, there were still joyous shouts of “Benedetto!” and all that. I guess there were less people then, but the air was still thick with post-WYD hangover. :)
We had lunch at McDonald’s in Sol and then headed off to go around and take more photos.
One of the things I really wanted to take a photo of (and with) in Madrid was their Kilometer Zero located in Puerta del Sol. I had no idea what it looked like, but the guide book kept on showing the statue of Madrid’s icon, the bear with the tree. All the while we thought Kilometer Zero was at that point, so when we saw it, we immediately took photos:
Turns out that wasn’t the real Kilometer Zero — the real one was a few feet away from the statue — and we had to look down. I haven’t even seen Kilometer Zero in the Philippines (fail, I know), so how would I know, right? Anyway, I had to go back and get a real, proper picture:
If you also want to see this, it’s just in front of the House of the Post Office. :D
And more walking and picture taking (and shopping ;) ):
Our Madrid city tour concluded with us having our last WYD-sponsored dinner in TGI Friday’s. Sigh. It just goes to show how much God was taking care of us then — how generous is our God? :)
I actually had more time to go around the city when I got back from the mission trip, and I wanted to go around on my own. I managed to do it for a while and I did not get lost. But it was nice to hang out with my host and other friends I met in Madrid for one last night.
You know, I don’t think I ever really dreamed of going to Madrid, until I learned that it was going to be where WYD 2011 will be held. But in my short stay there, I saw how beautiful and warm (both literally and figuratively) the city was. :) While it’s not quite home, I know I felt very much at home while I was there. :) But I don’t think I wouldn’t feel at home if it weren’t for my lovely host family, and our SFC friends who made our stay there comfortable.
There are still times when I’d wake up here and miss Madrid all so suddenly. Ah, how I miss its easy transportation system and even the summer heat!
Muchas gracias, Madrid, for being our first home in Europe. :) Estaré de vuelta!2