Gracias, Madrid!

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! ((I’ve decided to quit putting the gigantic watermark on the images — it was tiring, and distracting. More subtle watermark from this post onward :P))

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?

Madrid buses!

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:

Plaza de Espana

And it turns out to be the real start of our walking in Madrid adventure. :D

Cookie at Plaza de Espana — one side of it, that is :D

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¡Esta es la juventud del papa! (WYD Chronicles, Part 3 of 4)

Also known as: Seeing the Pope, and the Way of the Cross
Rough translation: “This is the Pope’s youth!”
* Here’s part 1 and part 2, in case you missed them

You know how you know some things or some people are exist because you see them on TV or read about them, but it never becomes really real until you see it/them with your very own eyes? That’s how I can sum up my third day of WYD 2011.

Buenas tardes, Madrid!

The third day of WYD’s highlight was Pope Benedict XVI’s welcoming parade in Madrid. Here’s the thing about WYD that I learned that day: you need to be able to tolerate enjoy crowds if you want to enjoy and make the most of all activities. Remember that it’s an international crowd, too, so be prepared to squeeze in with people from all parts of the world, some of which seem even unfamiliar. And be prepared for all kinds of culture to surround you, especially those you are not used to. More often than not, you’d be standing with them for a loooooong time, so it’s best to learn to enjoy the experience because hey, all of you are waiting for the same thing, anyway.

So, we headed over as near to Cibeles as possible to wait for the Pope’s welcoming parade.

We're all waiting for him!

Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to arrive at around 7:00pm, but we were already at our spot by 4. So what do to while waiting?

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Jornada Mundial de la Juventud (WYD Chronicles, Part 1 of 4)

Also known as: Hola, Madrid and JMJ!
Translation: World Youth Day (WYD Chronicles, Part 1 of 4) — I know the title is redundant, but let me be :P
Warning: Photo dump ahead. :D

So the weeks leading to our flight to Madrid was really kind of busy. Okay, that was an understatement – it was busy. Seeing that we only had our visa a month before we had to leave, and my ticket was booked three weeks before I had to leave, and I also got sick two weeks before I had to fly…it was crazy. It was a good kind of crazy, though, even if I had to remind myself every time I feel stressed that it’s all good ((Besides, I get asthma wheezes when I get stressed, so stress was a no-no)).

The other, excited part of me couldn’t believe that I was actually almost about to leave. I mean, I only dreamed of this at the start of the year. Now that it was almost a reality, that part of me couldn’t help but be amazed at it. Truth be told, it was almost like the month of August was nonexistent, because I had no idea what to expect during the second half that I would be spending in Europe.

But enough of that. The days leading to the flight was kind of a whirlwind — with meetings (finally meeting other delegates and sort-of finalizing our itinerary for the second week of the trip), work stuff, dinner, send-off stuff and shopping. When Sunday night finally rolled around, I was so wound up with anticipation that I could hardly sleep!

Then came the long wait at the airport before the flight. I was there extra early because our car’s plate number was part of the coding, but I didn’t mind. I was excited and nervous because again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Especially that I have been out of community for so long and everyone I was with for the next two weeks were all so active.

But like what they said before the trip: empty yourself out and God will fill you in the next few days. Why not, right?

Cookie Monster the traveling doll, first time on a plane :)

There wasn’t really much to say about the flight because it was…well, long. It was my first time to fly for more than 4 hours, so I entertained myself with movies and my Kindle and took pictures of clouds, like this:

Aerial shot! =) I think this was somewhere in Russia?

Too bad I always seem to get the wing seats.

But anyway. We arrived at Amsterdam about 12 hours later — it was 7:00pm in Europe, but it was bright as day. Talk about jarring my body clock.

Just arrived at Schiphol Amsterdam airport. It's 7:00pm but LOOK. HOW. BRIGHT. IT. WAS.

We got on our connecting flight to Madrid an hour later — me and Mitch — while the rest of the team stayed in Amsterdam for the night. Four hours later, we got to Madrid, and our SFC hosts picked us up in the airport. We got settled in, ate breakfast at midnight (because it was already 6:00am in Manila) and finally, finally settled to sleep. After all, World Youth Day officially starts tomorrow — and we need to keep our energies up by then.

The next day.

Buenos días, Madrid!

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