Madrid, Spain

Madrid is very much a normal city. I stayed in a business-y district, so there wasn’t a lot of cultural differences or exceptional architecture. If you go to Madrid and only Madrid, it would not be an accurate portrayal of all of Spain. However, that’s how most large cities are. My favorite part of Madrid, which was pretty awesome, was going to El Museo del Prado. This museum is home to Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, my favorite piece of artwork I saw in Europe.

My second favorite thing I saw in Madrid was the Royal Palace. I cannot explain the lavishness of these rooms… not even a picture does it justice. Each room has deeply colored walls and patterns with sparking, ornate chandeliers. The detail that blew my mind the most was the amount of gold decorated in every single room. So. Much. Gold. Each room was so decadently furnished and maintained; it was really a sight worth seeing.

Madrid is a cool city, but not my favorite place in Spain. Reflecting back I really loved the more cultural, smaller towns. Which I will divulge into! In later posts 🙂

From the Beginning… Of My European Backpacking Trip

All adventures start somewhere…

As I set out on the first of many transportation methods of my trip, I floated through a daze of excitement, fear, and an overall disbelief that I was embarking on this adventure. I managed to touch the ground just enough to locate my correct train and board on time. I took my allotted seat and stared out the window, frozen by anticipation and the overzealous air conditioning. The train ride up the Pacific Coast, leaving from San Jose arriving in Portland, Oregon, is a beautiful ride. The sunset reflecting off the water highlighted the palette of graffiti that painted the walls beside us into a colorful tunnel, leading to somewhere new. A perfect rainbow shone in the sky, born at the blood red horizon, layered by orange, yellow, a foggy green, teal and topped with deep blue. It was a picturesque journey. In the morning we passed a slight canyon with dips and brown hills, whose textures caught a portion of light from the rising sun. After that we rode by Mt. Shasta, a huge blue mountain sprinkled with snow. Oregon struck me as extremely green, something I’d only previously ever witnessed in Maine. The roads were closed in by trees and hills, all that same shade of bright, healthy green.

 Three things I learned from the train: number one; pack a heavy sweatshirt with you if travelling over night. And socks.  And maybe a blanket. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was too cold, absolutely shivering all night with no way of warming myself up. Everyone else on the train seemed to have gotten this memo, since every unknown travel companion I had was swaddled tightly in nothing thinner than a quilt. Second, I love chocolate covered pretzels with a passion and I highly recommend them as a travel snack / road to happiness. Thirdly, never leave your bags unattended! I learned this the hard way, leaving my backpack in my paid for, ticketed, reserved seat as I went to the observation deck for an hour or so. When I returned someone had stolen my seat and passed the bag up to be “claimed.” I then had to recover my bag from the snack bar as a lost item. This led to an embarrassing intercom retrieval call and an overly-thorough investigation of my personal belongings executed by the unfamiliar male snack bar guy. Not fun.

 However, all in all, the train ride was scenic and educational, and when my friend picked me up in Oregon I was ready to travel to Washington!