Tuesday, April 27, 2010


After my one day back in Glasgow, I departed for Madrid on March 31. First, I flew to London and then flew from London to Madrid. I arrived in Madrid in the afternoon and met up with my friend David, who is studying in Madrid for the semester, soon after. He showed me around Madrid for a little while and we went to one of his favorite places, El Tigre. This bar is crazy and serves delicious mojitos in ridiculously huge cups. David and I each had our own mojito and enjoyed the tapas that come free with each drink. It was nice to sit and catch up with David after being apart for so long. After we finished our drinks, David walked me back to my hostel and he went back to his homestay for dinner while I showered and napped after an exhausting day.

When David was finished with dinner, he came back to my room while we got ready for a fun night out. Andrea, my roommate, had told me all the places to go in Madrid that she loved while studying there the previous semester. Orange was one of those places that Andrea had told me I needed to visit, so that was the goal of the night. David and I just hung out in the room for a while because the Spanish don't go out until late. When it was time, we decided to start the night out a little closer to my hostel and work our way to Orange. We were walking when we came across a bar called Ghetto. We looked at each other and knew that we needed to visit a place with such a great name. We walked into the bar and it was literally designed like a ghetto. After one drink, we decided it was time to go to the next spot. We walked to Liquid, another bar in the area, and stayed for a few drinks and chatted with some friendly Spaniards who wanted to practice their English. When we were finished at Liquid, we headed to another bar, where we pretty much spent the rest of the night and made friends with the bartenders, who gave us tons of free drinks. Since we were enjoying ourselves so much, we ended up skipping Orange and just going back to my hostel after one last bar in the area. The next day was a terror because my head was pounding and I was just exhausted.

David and our bartender friends

David and me at Liquid

Briana arrived the next day and so David and I went to meet her and her friend, Cara, in Plaza del Sol after a walk by the Mercado, Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace of Madrid and its beautiful gardens. We found Briana and Cara in the crowded plaza and then decided to go to Retiro Park to try and ride the boats there. It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Madrid, so we wanted to just play outside and spend as much time in the beautiful weather as possible. We sat outside and visited for a long time, deciding not to ride on the boats because the line was absolutely ridiculous. After a while, David and I were hungry so we left Retiro Park in search of food. We looked for almost half an hour for a sushi restaurant to eat in, but were completely unsuccessful. We finally settled for Burger King, where we both enjoyed giant sandwiches. When our meal was over, we parted ways and Cara, Briana and I walked back to our hostel to get ready to go out for the night.

The Gardens at the Royal Palace

El Mercado

Plaza Mayor

Symbol of Madrid in Plaza del Sol

David and me in Retiro Park

Briana and I got ready while watching the only American channel in Madrid and drinking white wine that we bought from an alimentacion by our hostel. Cara came over and we drank our wine and talked until it was time to go out. We started the night in Plaza del Sol and used Cara's connections to get into a few clubs. Since it was Easter weekend, not many people were at the clubs, so we decided to go to Orange, the bar I hadn't made it to earlier in the week. When we got to Orange, there were literally about eight people there, so we decided to leave and meet Liam and his friends at Pacha, another club. When we got to Pacha, we paid the outrageously expensive cover (€16) and went inside. We had finally succeeded in finding a good time, and were ready to dance. Liam and his friends showed up shortly after us, and we spent the night dancing and drinking and having an overall good time. By the end of the night, we were tired and our feet were killing us, so we went back to the hostel to pass out.

The next day, we slept in and then went to the bakery across the street for some chocolate croissants for breakfast. We ate those on the way to the Royal Palace of Madrid, where we waited in line for a long time before getting in to tour the palace. The palace was incredible. The furnishings were lush, full of rich, red velvets and lots and lots of gold. It was just gorgeous. After touring the palace, we went to the Prado Museum. The museum is home to many famous paintings, so we decided to just look at the masterpieces we all learned about in art history. While searching for the real masterpieces, we came across some hilarious pieces of art including breast milk squirting into people's mouths, midgets and extremely fat children. We spent a few hours in the Prado and then got hot chocolates at a cafe nearby. On our walk home, we got caught in an Easter procession and literally could not walk or even move an inch. The crowd eventually pushed us through and we made it back to our hostel, where we changed and headed out for a quick dinner at a sandwich place in the neighborhood.

Briana and me in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid

The Prado Museum

A Nugget from the Prado

We got ready with our cheap white wine and American television again before going to Dubliners, an Irish pub. Briana and I felt like we were back in Glasgow when we walked in and saw the drink specials included Bulmers and Magners ciders. The bar got crowded quickly, so we grabbed a table and hung out there for the night. One of the bartenders/bus boys, Lorenzo, that worked there had a crush on me, so he was talking to us for most of the night. Liam and his friends showed up at Dubliners later, and so we all hung out and drank for a while. At 3 am, the bar closed and Briana and I went home because we had a flight to Barcelona in the morning and also because Lorenzo was asking me to go home with him, which I was absolutely not going to do.

In the morning, Briana and I finished our packing, said our goodbyes to David and Cara and got on the metro to make our way to the airport to get to our next destination.

The Belle of Belfast City

After I left London, I flew to Belfast to visit Alan, Laura's flatmate. The flight was pretty short and very easy, which was nice considering I had to wake up around 4 am to get to the airport on time. I also got to finish the book I was reading, Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song, and ended up just bawling my eyes out on the plane. Luckily the flight was pretty empty, so not many people got to witness the scene I made. When I got off the plane, Alan was waiting for me and, since Laura wasn't going to get there for another hour or so, we drove around and then went for a walk by the sea. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so it was great to just relax and walk by the water. After our walk, we got back in the car and went looking for somewhere to eat. Unfortunately, it was Sunday so nothing was open before noon, so we just went to Spar to grab some snacks and sat in the car eating them. When Laura called to say that she had finally landed, we went to start the car up to go pick her up, but since we'd been sitting in the car for so long, the battery had died! Thank goodness Alan's mom was in the area and came and picked us up so that we could get Laura from the airport.

After the car fiasco, we took the train into Belfast and walked around the city. We went for a ride in the Wheel of Belfast, which is a lot like the London Eye, but much smaller. We also saw the Belfast City Hall, an absolutely gorgeous building. Then we did a little shopping when we stopped in TopShop, where I bought a few things including some Converse sneakers that I had been wanting for a while. Then we took the train back to meet Alan's dad to get the car started so that we could drive to Islandmagee, where Alan lives. Once we got to Alan's house, we cleaned up a little bit and then went to visit his uncle's house because his uncle's sheep had just had lambs, so we got to see the newborn lambs. After we visited with the animals and Alan's cousins, aunt and uncle, we went to the The Rhinka to get some ice cream. I tried honeycomb ice cream and loved it.

Belfast City Hall

The Wheel of Belfast

A Lamb from Alan's Uncle's Farm

After our ice cream, we went to the beach and got some gorgeous views of Islandmagee. It was an absolutely beautiful day, so we just hung out and played around on the beach, spending as much time outside as possible. When we were done on the beach, we went back to Alan's house to enjoy the traditional Sunday roast his mom had cooked for us. It was incredibly delicious and we were surprised in the middle of dinner when Alan's dad told us that one of the cows was calving, so we dropped our forks and knives and headed outside to the barn to watch a cow being born. It was truly something I never thought I'd witness, but was still very cool to see. When that was over, we just went back to the dinner table and finished eating the homemade pavlova that Alan's mom gave us for dessert. That night, we went out with Alan and his friends. We spent the night at a bar, sitting outside under the heating lamps, drinking cider and getting to know everyone.

The next day, we woke up and began the journey to The Giant's Causeway, which is the UK's fourth greatest natural wonder. The Giant's Causeway is created of a bunch of basalt columns, which are formed when lava cools after a volcanic eruption. The legend behind the area is that an Irish warrior named Finn McCool built the causeway to go fight his rival in Scotland, but when Finn got to Scotland and saw who he was supposed to fight, he got scared and went back home to his wife. When the Scottish warrior went looking for Finn, Finn's wife dressed him as a baby and pretended that Finn was her son. So, when the Scottish warrior arrived, he took one look at the "baby" and thought to himself that if the baby was that large, the father of that child must be an absolute giant. Thus, the Scottish warrior fled the country and tore up the causeway behind him so that Finn could never come and fight him. We hiked in the area for over an hour and took in some extremely amazing views. We also had lunch at the cafe there before we made our way to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, which is the smallest bridge in Northern Ireland.

The View from our Hike at Giant's Causeway
Laura, me and Alan at The Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway

When we got to the rope bridge, I was pretty nervous because I have a huge fear of heights. We started the hike to the bridge and then I decided that I was absolutely not going anywhere near it. It had started to rain and everything was getting pretty slick, so it was definitely not an ideal condition for crossing a tiny rope bridge. While Alan and Laura walked to the other side, I relaxed and took in the beautiful sea, which, surprisingly, was clear and blue, just like any water you'd find in a tropical location. It was absolutely gorgeous. When Laura and Alan were done crossing the bridge, we got back in the car for the nearly three hour drive back to Islandmagee.

Laura and Alan crossing the rope bridge

View from the rope bridge

When we got back, we went to The Rhinka to get some more ice cream. Then we headed back to his house to get ready for dinner and another night out with Alan's friends. Alan treated Laura and I to dinner at a restaurant near his house and then we went back and hung out at his house for a while until his friend picked us up and drove us to a bar where Alan's other friend works. Since it was a Monday night, it wasn't very crowded but we enjoyed ourselves. We didn't stay out too late because Laura and I had a flight in the morning, but when we got home we did enjoy the movie PS I Love You and Laura and I obviously wished for our own Gerard Butlers.

In the morning, we got up and flew back to Glasgow, where we'd have one day before the rest of our spring break journeys would begin.