Madrid, Spain – Europe 2010 Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series Europe 2010 (Spain and Mediterranean Cruise)

 

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.

Since we weren’t able to check into our hotel right away, we started exploring Madrid. Our hotel was centrally located, so we were able to do all our afternoon exploring on foot!

Practically right across the street from our hotel was the Plaza de Espana, which had some fantastic statues.

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana in Madrid Plaza de Espana in Madrid

A short walk from there, we discovered the Jardines de Sabatini.

 

Jardines de Sabatini and Palacio Real

Jardines de Sabatini Jardines de Sabatini Jardines de Sabatini in Madrid

The Jardines de Sabatini kind of “back up” to a beautiful structure called Palacio de Real.

Jardines de Sabatini and Palacio Real Jardines de Sabatini and Palacio Real Jardines de Sabatini and Palacio Real

We walked to the front of the building and saw the front of Palacio Real.

Palacio Real

 

Almudena Cathedral

Adjacent to Palacio Real was the Almudena Cathedral.

Outside the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid Almudena Cathedral Almudena Cathedral

We took some time and walked around inside the cathedral as well. I love when stained glass lights up the inside of a church so beautifully!

Stained glass window in Almudena Cathedral, Madrid Inside Almudena Cathedral Inside Almudena Cathedral Inside Almudena Cathedral Inside Almudena Cathedral Inside Almudena Cathedral

After spending time in the cathedral, we walked along the exterior some more, taking more (and more!) photographs.

Outside Almudena Cathedral Exterior of Almudena Cathedral Exterior of Almudena Cathedral

Then we stopped and had a quick lunch. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you know that Ham, or “Jamon” permeates every meal. So we thought it was appropriate to start out with some famous Spanish ham on bread!

Ham (Jamon) sandwich in Spain

So, I should point out that something very strange/amazing happened to me on this trip. Although I took four years of Spanish in High School (and managed to get very good grades in it), I had not really looked at or studied Spanish in eleven years. But there was just something about being around Spanish again that EVERYTHING I had learned in Spanish class just started rushing back. I mean, everything. Correct verb conjugations, random nouns and adjectives, interrogatives. It was truly a testament to how amazing the human brain is.

So, with that said, we had to go pick up tickets for the Bullfight for that night. We had pre-purchased tickets online, but you had to pick them up at some ticket office that was not the same location as the arena. We set off to find the ticket office, and once we got there, I just started conversing, almost effortlessly, in Spanish with the two older gentleman working the ticket counter. (Perhaps not effortless for them to listen to though. I’m sure I sounded like a toddler with all my grammatical errors I was probably making). I asked them the best way to get to the Bullfighting stadium. They got out a map and explained how to get there. Then the asked me what subway line our hotel was on. Told them what line we were on, etc.

Anyway, I digress. I hope this doesn’t sound too much like bragging, but I was so impressed with myself remembering all that Spanish all of a sudden! Ken thought it was impressive, but also bizarre. He knew I studied Spanish in high school, but I don’t think he ever heard me speak a word of it. So to all of a sudden be able to converse with Spaniards, it seemed so out-of-left-field!

After picking up our tickets, it was time to check into the hotel. It was a small, independent hotel, but we had fantastic views from our little balcony.

View from hotel balcony in Madrid

We were so tired and jetlagged, that we squeezed in a little nap in the hotel before the bullfight started. (I’m not one to try to “force myself” to stay awake when jetlagged. Somehow I never seem to have trouble falling asleep again later that night!).

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

We headed Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas for the bullfight. The stadium itself was beautiful both inside and outside. The actual bullfight itself though made me (and Ken) both pretty sad.

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid Outside of Plaza de Toros Outside of Plaza de Toros Outside of Plaza de Toros

We had purchased “sombra” tickets, which meant “shade.” “Sol,” or “sun” tickets were cheaper, but that meant that the sun would be in your eyes for at least a portion of the bullfight.

Tickets for bullfight in Madrid

As you can see, the “Sol” side of the stadium wasn’t very crowded!

Sol side of stadium at Plaza de Toros

We had actually arrived relatively early. The seats in the stadium were uncomfortable and hard, so we took advantage of the seat cushions they had available to rent. Here I was carrying them back!

Me at stadium

So, this is without a doubt the result of my own ignorance, but I did not quite realize just how violent the bullfight was going to be. I also did not realize that the end result is to kill the bull. I literally just thought it was a matter of waving colorful scarves and getting the bull to charge the matador.

The bull is systematically hurt using a series of awful looking tools, and then eventually killed.

Game 1 Bullfight begins. Round one is a general teasing of the bull with capes.

Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain

Disclaimer: Those who are a bit squemish should not continue beyond this point. Nothing too crazy, but certainly sad. There’s images of blood and animals getting killed.

Round two: After teasing the bull, someone comes out on a horse and stabs with bull with a large spear-type thing. Nothing fatal (yet), just to make the bull angry. The horses are blindfolded and wear armor. For a while in bullfights, more horses died from gorings than bulls actually died. So now they wear armor.

Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain

More teasing of the bull ensues. Since he’s hurt, he’s even more angry.

Watching a bullfight in Spain

Notice the dark blood pouring down his side:

Watching a bullfight in Spain

Round 3: Picadors stab the bull with some sort of stick that stays attached to the bull. This makes him even angrier.

Watching a bullfight in Spain

At this point, I’m really like, WTF?

Then more sharp sticks are added:

Watching a bullfight in Spain

There are these small walls that a matdor or picador can run behind for protection:

Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain

Then eventually the matador delivers the fatal blow using a sword. Apparently the more skilled the matador, the fewer the stabs it should take to deliver the fatal stab. This matador took so many stabs that people in the audience started whistling loudly (their equivalent of booing).

Then the bull finally lays down, dies, and is dragged out of the ring.

Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain Watching a bullfight in Spain

We stayed to watch one more round, then we left before it was over. Neither one of us are vegetarians or even die-hard animal lovers or anything like that. And apparently the bull that is killed is used to feed poorer families in Madrid. But I there’s just such a big difference between killing a bull humanely for meat, and torturing and killing them in a bullfighting ring.

As we left, we saw where the bull is dragged.

Watching a bullfight in Spain

We both left, feeling sad, but with a new understanding of what exactly goes on in a bullfight.

When we got back to the hotel, I feel like I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow!

The next morning, we were departing on an organized multi-day tour of different cities in Spain.

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