Our trip started, inevitably, with a delay at the Atlanta airport. We were supposed to take off around 2:40 to Philly and didn’t actually do so until after 5:15. Considering our Philadelphia-Madrid flight left at 8:45, we were just a bit panicked. Luckily it all worked out, and we didn’t spend too much time in the Philly airport (a shame, because it’s actually quite nice, as airports go). Our flight attendant was one of the nicest, coolest people I’ve ever met on a plane. He came by to check on our veggie entree request and mentioned that he was also vegetarian. When we got our dinner, he came by twice to check on us to make sure that we were enjoying it. I wasn’t able to get much sleep on the plane, maybe 4 hours total, though definitely not consecutive. We arrived into Madrid a little after 10 and hopped to it. Clearing immigration in the EU is a breeze, even if you’re not an EU citizen, and we had our bags and were on the Metro by 11:15. Yeah.

We struggled to find our hostal, but eventually did and checked in. Our room was tiny, but immaculate and enough for our needs. From there we walked to the Prado (about a 2 mile walk, maybe) and saw some really nice, if very traditional, masterpieces. Lots of Goya, Velazquez, Bosch (El Bosco), etc. I was glad to see The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch and Saturn Devouring One of His Sons by Goya. After that, we were just wiped out, so we went back to the hostal, took a brief nap, showered, and then went out on the town. We hit a couple of places on Cava Baja (where I ate the best olives I’ve ever had in my life), walked around the Plaza Mayor, and the Puerta del Sol. After that we turned in, since we had an early bus to catch the next morning.

We took the Metro to the bus station where we ate breakfast (yep, at the bus station…they make a mean cafe con leche) and caught our bus to Sevilla. Bus travel in Spain (and probably Europe in general) is way better than in the U.S. It was fast, efficient, and pretty cheap, despite the dollar’s weakness (more on that later). We got to Sevilla in the mid afternoon and again, had a lot of difficulty finding our hostal. The streets of Sevilla are narrow, windy, and don’t operate on a grid system. Dragging along 35 lbs of luggage whilst doing so was not my idea of a good time.  The hostal was in a beautiful old house and our room was pretty cute. We had a shared shower/toilet, but it wasn’t a big deal. We never had more than one other room to share with, an older Belgian couple on an extended weekend holiday.

Sevilla is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. It exudes a ton of old Spanish charm, with the white stucco, wrought iron, and orange trees growing everywhere. Our first night there we ate chocolate y churros at a sidewalk cafe and watched the sunset. It was amazing. We toured the Cathedral the next morning, and it was fantastically beautiful. We saw Christopher Columbus’ tomb and climbed up the Giralda, a really tall tower in the cathedral that provides a stunning panoramic view of the city. I got some incredible pictures up there!

The next few days we just sort of wandered aimlessly, taking in sights like the Tower of Gold, the Plaza de Espana, Maria Luisa Park, and the Alcazar. We found an excellent tapas place about a 10 minute walk from our place that provided delights such as berenjenas con miel or con salmarejo (fried eggplant with sugar syrup or with a thickened cold tomato soup…sort of like gazpacho, but not) and patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce). You  order tapas there in tapa, media racion, or racion sizes, though you can only get a tapa sized order at the bar. One nice thing is that you don’t have to be drinking to sit at the bar, and I was even able to get a cafe con leche at the bar. I also drank a decent amount of Fanta, since theirs is made w/ sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. There IS a difference, y’all.

More to come, later.