Madrid is a great city, but something must be done about the cuisine. Spanish food, I'm afraid to say, is pretty lousy... Oh sure, there are a few nice things, but the typical lunch restaurant? Ugh. How many jamon y queso sandwhiches can a person really eat in one lifetime? And don't even get me started on the service. Let's just say that they don't work for tips around here. A half an hour can pass before you even see the waiter/waitress, and then only because somebody new sat down on the other side of the restaurant. The Spanish Chinese food isn't much better. Oh sure, it looks like normal Chinese food, but where's the heat? Where is it, huh? Even asking for my food 'muy picante', it's still pretty bland.
The city itself is beautiful, exactly like you'd picture a European city should be. Ornate lamposts. Tall buildings (but not too tall) with sculpted eagles and lions jammed on the top for no reason whatsoever. Tiny crooked streets (in some parts) leading to hidden plazas. Large round traffic circles with fountains in the center. Statues older than Washington State. At night they light up the buildings and statues and fountains, for no real reason other than it looks nice.
Today I went to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) with a group from the school. The palace is just as amazing and ornate and beautiful as you'd imagine a palace should be. Last weekend I went to El Rastro, the local version of Pike Place Market except only on Sundays, and Los Toros, a bullfight.
I wasn't too sure about going to see a bullfight, but as Jens said, how can I judge it without going to see it? Also, I do eat steak and hamburgers - somebody had to kill a cow for that. So I went, along with Jens and Stephanie and Tim and (insert Tim's wife's name here...). There were six bulls and we stayed for 3 1/2 of them. All I can really say about it is that it was better than I thought it would be. I was expecting something more like a slaughter, but it was more of an actual fight. Seeing a matador standing two feet from an enraged bull, with nothing to protect him whatsoever except his own skills, is definitely impressive. The movements with the matador's body and cape, at times coming only inches from the bull's horns, is almost like a dance. Still, he's rarely in any real danger, and if anything happens (one lost his cape once) three or four other matadors appear from behind their little wooden hideyholes to distract the bull while he can get away.
The bulls do end up dead at the end of it, however, and the bull has already been weakened before the matador goes one-on-one with him. First about four matadors run the bull around the ring for awhile to tire him out. Then a guy on a heavily padded, blinded, and deaf (not permanently) horse appears and gets the bull to charge him. He then sticks a long pointed spear into the bull's back. This was my least favorite part.
After the horse-spear-guy goes away again (did I mention he was the roundest of the participants? Guess that part doesn't actually entail much exercise) some guys come out with the long sticks with barbs on the end and covered in colorful ribbons, which they stick into the bulls back two at a time. You can hear a THUNK sound as they go in, and the bull gets distracted and tries to chase these long colorful sticks instead of the guy running away from him.
After the bull is tired enough from the heat and the exercise and the blood loss, the matador finally comes out with his red cape and does a kind of a dance with the bull for awhile. This is the part that's actually fun to watch, at least until he decides the bull is tired enough for him to get in close and stick his sword down into the bull's heart. Of course, this takes great skill and usually doesn't work quite perfectly, so they bring out a second sword with a crosspiece on the end that's designed to shatter the bull's spinal cord. This one drops the bull immediately, and then a guy comes out with a long dagger and hits the bull at the base of the neck to ensure it's really dead. Then the horses come out and they drag the bull out of the stadium.
Did I mention that everyone involved is wearing a really goofy outfit of some sort?
Anyway, I'm glad I went but I have no desire to go to another bullfight.
Other stuff I've done in the city... well, I've seen paintings by Velazquez and Goya and Picasso and Dali. I went to see "Road to Perdition", although in Spanish it was called "Camino a Perdiccion". We saw the V.O.S.E. version (version original something something) so it was in English. We've gone out to all kinds of restaurants and bars and clubs, but so far I've gotten home before sunrise. Well, except for one night.
Oh, and I've learned a little Spanish.
Anyway, it's time for me to go to bed. Adios!