Last night, our group traveling with Colby-Sawyer’s Alumni Travel Program boarded a flight bound for Madrid. This morning, we landed in the land of churros (Spanish-style donuts best eaten with hot cocoa), Don Quixote and Penelope Cruz.
In the 1500s, Spain ruled the high seas and was one of the world’s most powerful nations. Today, Spain is embroiled in an economic crisis (25% unemployment) that could damage the nation, hurt Europe and stagnate world economic growth. Well, from our day today you would never guess that there is any kind of economic crisis. The people are friendly, smiling and out walking the streets on this beautiful May day—it’s about 21 degrees Celsius, which is 70 Fahrenheit. No one seems to have a care in the world. Whatever troubles one might have are secondary to the sun, the tapas, the sweets and the smiles.
After arriving at our hotel and enjoying a fantastic breakfast (Serrano ham, churros, chistorra, tortilla Española), most of our group went off to nap. We went off to explore. We walked from our hotel up Calle Mayor, past internationally known stores, including Dunkin Donuts and KFC, and past the Bank of Spain, the Communications Palace, and Bourbon buildings. We went to the palace, where Juan Carlos does not live in any of its 2,800 rooms. We stood outside the cathedral and went inside the crypt—no space seems to be wasted there. We circled the opera house and tried to tag along with a tour in progress.
After a great tapas lunch, we reconnected with the rest of the group and toured the historic area, including the Oriental Square, Plaza Mayor, and the Plaza del Sol. At Plaza del Sol we all posed in front of a statue of the symbols of Madrid – a bear holding to the branch of a big tree, eating intoxicating berries. Why the tree? Because Madrid is the greenest city in the world — not because of its ecological sensibilities (we rarely see any recycling bins) but because it has more trees than its urban rivals.
Tomorrow we carry on with our guide, Juan (from France), who will be with us for our entire stay, and our local guide, Matti (short for Mathilda). Now it is off to bed for your very jet-lagged bloggers.