This weekend marked the beginning of Carnaval in Spain and many other European countries. This is a celebration of the beginning of Lent, with parades, and festive costumes, very similar to Halloween in the United States. To enjoy the Carnaval festivities, Rachel, Olivia and I headed to Madrid for the weekend. We arrived Thursday afternoon after an hour on the high-speed train and enjoyed the warm, sunny afternoon in a quaint park near Elise’s apartment (Olivia’s cousin who generously let us stay with her for the weekend). Exhausted from a hectic week we relaxed for the evening and slept in late Friday morning before heading into the city center to see el Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) and the cathedral nearby. We started by exploring the crypt underneath the cathedral, which was impressive to say the least!
Next we headed upstairs to the huge cathedral and spent about 30 minutes admiring the architecture and breathtaking ceilings.
After the cathedral it was off to el Palacio Real, where the king and queen of Spain address the public and have meetings; however, they do not live there. We admired the Palace from afar, opting out of the expensive guided tour. Before heading back to Elise’s for lunch and siesta, we walked through the neighboring royal gardens. For dinner, we headed to a restaurant and got burgers, hungry for some American food.
Saturday was another lazy day, but we made ourselves get out of bed in order to see a parade for Carnaval. As soon as we walked out of the metro, we were met with hundreds of excited people waiting for the procession. We pushed our way through the crowd to find a spot where we could see the parade. Each Spanish speaking country was represented and we had the opportunity to see traditional dance from each country.
After the parade ended, we made our way back to the metro station and returned to Elise’s where we had tacos for dinner. What a treat to have spicy food (Spanish food tends to have very little). However, our cravings for American food continued so, for dessert, we baked chocolate chip cookies and topped them with ice cream and hot fudge. Sunday proved another lazy day as Rachel and I headed into the city center to explore a bit. We ended up at the botanical gardens on the edge of Retiro Park, and spent nearly 2 hours enjoying what little green there was during this time of year. Unfortunately we won’t have the opportunity to see the gardens in the summertime, but nonetheless they were still amazing! Sunday evening we headed back to Valladolid by bus, which is about a 2-hour ride. Determined not to miss the Superbowl, I met up with my friend Álex, a devoted Broncos fan, to stream the game online. American football is very unpopular here, few know much about it and actually confuse it with rugby so I feel very lucky to have found a Spaniard who understands and enjoys football! Because of the substantial time difference, the game didn’t come on until midnight, but we stayed up and watched the entire game to see the Broncos take Superbowl 50! This weekend proved to be yet another great weekend, especially with no classes on Monday or Tuesday!