Lack of sleep, lots of fun
8.26.12 - 8.30.12
August 26th: Madrid
We landed at 8:30am at the Barajas airport in Madrid, feeling very tired from the long plane flight and missing our friend Phil, who we eventually recovered. Knowing we had to stay awake to adjust to the time change, we dropped our bags off at our hostel, Las Musas Residence, and spent the day walking through the flea market, Basicilca de San Francisco, Catedral de la Almudena, and Palacio Real. After a quick nap in the hostel, we had sangria and tapas of all shapes and sizes outside Plaza de Mayor under some misting umbrellas - croquettes, calamari, chorizo, bienmesabe, etc. Our meal was at one point interrupted by a very persistant old man who didn´t speak a word of English. After shooing him a few dozen times our waiter finally got him to leave, but we suspected he may have cursed our friend John in the process. "Vamos, Antonio!" is now a catchphrase of the trip.
August 27th: Madrid
After a full night´s sleep we woke early to get to Puerta de Atocha to make seat reservations for our many trains through Spain. Our friend Audrey (who´s knowledge of Spanish is fair, but a little rusty) did an incredible job of communicating all of our complicated plans and managed to get us all set up, though with a little modification to the itinerary because the night train on the 1st was full. We now need to spend an extra day in Barcelona, rather than Paris. Next, we explored Museo del Prado, where incredible classic paintings and sculptures are housed. Lunch in a sidestreet restaurant consisted of olives, chorizo, gazpacho, and Spanish wine. The rest of the day we walked throughout the city, visiting Park Retiro, Fuente de Neptu, Fuente de Cibeles, Puerta de Alcala (the arches), and Gran Via. We wandered into a small street lined with restaurants that had outdoor seating and settled on a bar that had an extensive menu. We were a little more adventurous and tried Rabo de Toro stew, which is bull or ox tails cut and seasoned much like brisket and seated in a squash puree. It was a little fatty, but very tasty. And for the last part of our night, we joined a large group of people from our hostel on a tour of bars and clubs in the area. We ran into another Alpha Delta Pi, some New Yorkers, and a number of Australians. Much amusements and very little sleep were had.
August 28th: Valencia
We caught an 11:40 train to Valencia out of Puerta de Atocha and got to see some of the countryside. Our Hotel Olympia was a pleasant upgrade in accomodations, but the smell of the city as a whole was an incredible mix of body odor, sewage, and humidity. After an exuasting trek along the park strip that cuts through Valencia, we made our way to Oceanografic. It is the biggest aquarium in Europe and has large glass tunnels through the tanks so that you can see the creatures swimming slowly above and all around you. My personal favorite was the the giant sawfish, but our group was certainly intriqued by two mating walruses. Later, it was difficult for me to sleep because my head was filled with thoughts of what the next day would bring: La Tomatina!!!
August 29th: Bunol
I had a mishap with setting my alarm correctly, but we got off to an early start to try to beat the crowds to La Tomatina. The line at Sant Isidre station was about 300 people long when we arrived, but it moved quickly and we found ourselves in Bunol at 10am. We armed ourselves with sandwhiches, sangria, and cervezas, and followed the crowds down through the winding streets of Bunol. Everywhere people were wearing funny costumes, exposing bathing suits, and white t'shirts. Every few minutes the crowd would burst into song or chant "La Tomatina!" and whip themselves into an excited frenzy. We snuck down some back alleys and managed to end up in the road that the tomato trucks would have to drive down on their way to the central square. The crowd was incredibly dense and from above the locals poured water from hoses and buckets onto us. People would laugh and simply scream for more. As the 11 o´clock start time approached, the excitement in everyone was growing and I took the opportunity to climb onto my friend Matt´s shoulders to film the crowd. People went nuts for my camera and I launched them into another round of chanting "La Tomatina! La Tomatina! La Tomatina!" It was the best moment of my whole day. Soon the first truck appeared and the crowd somehow managed to press against the walls to let it pass ever so slowly. We were pressed together so close that you couldn´t move, couldn´t hardly breathe, and from above people in the trucks pelted us with gobs of tomatos. When it had passed, people began scooping the mess from the street and the fight began. Within moments tomato pulp was covering every part of us and I was very thankful I had brought goggles. Four more trucks passed during the hour and by the time we decided we´d had enough, the street was 6 inches deep in tomato juice and pulp. We made our way along more back alleys, where we could stop beneath locals spraying water from hoses and wash ourselves. The smell of tomato followed us all the way back to our hotel, where we paid for a room simply to take showers and wash any clothes we were brave enough to try to keep. We agreed that we wouldn´t feel like eating tomatos for some time.
A 5 o´clock train out of Nord station gave us a few hours to nap and update our journals before arriving in Barcelona. The sun had already gone down by the time we reached Sant Jordi Diagonal hostel. We were completely wiped from the long day and got to bed as quickly as we could. Though we did have some trouble with Daniel´s bed falling out from under him. Thankfully he wasn´t hurt and no one had been on the lower bunk at the time. Bed resecured, we all dropped off into dead sleep.