Saturday, May 19, 2012

Espana Dia 4 & 5 : Un Viaje Loco con el tren de Metro

19th of August 2011. The four of us, Larry, Bernard, Ann and myself decided that today was shopping day! Yes, that means we skipped some catechesis sessions again, and since Ann's mom wanted to go meet the Pope, she decided to follow us instead.

Our first stop was actually a shopping complex, La Gavia which has most of the recognizable brand names that we could think of over there, such as Starbucks, Ikea and Primark.

We had a decent lunch, played around Ikea and shopped at Primark. Not a bad way to spend a Friday morning in Madrid.

Later then, we headed back to Pacifico where we had to part with Ann, who had to go back at the evening. We bid her farewell, and fingers crossed, we shall cross path again.

Our friendship token :)
Anyhow, our next destination was again in Madrid town, where we opted for a community hall to watch the live screening of the "Way of the Cross" session, where statues from traditional Spanish Holy Week celebrations were used to illustrate each station of the cross along Paseo de Recoleto.

The hall which we watched the live telecast of the Way of the Cross
The Stations were actually dedicated to youth around the world facing various challenges. Youths from the Holy Land, Iraq, Spain, Albania, Rwanda and Burundi, Sudan, Haiti and Japan carried the WYD cross from station to station along with unemployed youth, youth who have overcome drug addiction and those who service people with HIV/AIDS.

I left slightly early though, cause I wanted to do some minor shopping. Had tapas again for dinner, enjoyed the tapas meal I had so far, despite not being that fine dining. We all met up back at Pacifico for the night, and talked amongst each other till the lights went out (literally).

Potato based Tapas, with ham and eggs. Really high on carbs! And beer. Trolololol

20th of August 2011. Since Ann left, that leaves with only the usual 3, myself, Larry and Bernard. Both Larry and Bernard wanted to attend a confession session, so that leaves me wandering around the park looking for something to see or eat. 

Confession Booths

Nature called, and called badly so I rushed in to the nearest cafe I could find and asked if I can use their Aseos (toilet). After relieving myself, I felt bad if I just use their toilet, so I ordered some pastry. That was when the sangria machine caught my attention. I was thinking, a glass of sangria won't hurt, after all the look like harmless fruit juice. As I ordered for my sangria, the waiter raised his eyebrow and asked for confirmation, "This early?". Don't judge :)

Anyway, the sangria wasn't heavily alcoholic as I would like, but it was just the beginning of the day, so I was fine with it. Later then, the three of us met up again and headed to Atocha to purchase our train tickets to Barcelona for the following day. Bad planning on our end, we ended up spending for a First Class ticket which violated our tight budget. 

Atocha Station
The three of us then made our way to Sol, where we met up with the Miri church contingent. The activity for the night was eucharistic adoration and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the Cuantro Vientos aerodome. Pacifico would be strictly out of bound evening onwards, so my choice was either to roam around Madrid, or join the crowd at Cuatro Vientos.

As I still have not catch a Flamenco show in Madrid, I made an agreement that I would go to Gran Via for the show and catch up with them in Cuatro Vientos. Our communications would be by call or text. And so, leaving the boys then, I made my way to Munoz Seca, for the Spana Baila flamenco show. The theater itself is not that huge, and I managed to get a seat pretty close to the stage. I was blown away by the performances. From the tapping male Spaniards, to the skirt waving ladies, the abanico and castanets are all what makes a flamenco show so dynamic. I was so impressed, that I was influenced to get a pair of castanets myself. They're still somewhere in my shelf display by the way, no chance to hone my skills yet.

Also that evening, I managed to make my way to Ibiza, well, obviously it was not the Ibiza everyone expected but I was just curious. I also managed to visit la Templo Debod, an Egyptian temple rebuild in Spain back in 1968.

Ibiza in Madrid
Templo Debod
I received a text from Bernard indicating their location in Cuatro Vientos. So I made my way via Metro all the way to Aviación Española, since the Cuatro Vientos station was closed due to security reason. Finding the way to Cuatro Vientos was relatively easy, all I had to do was to follow the bunch of pilgrims.

Upon reaching Cuatro Vientos, I was supposed to find the designated area from my tag. However, the security guards diverted all of us to one entrance, and apparently the Malaysian contingent was scattered somewhere else. It was raining, Pacifico was closed, I ran out of credit (thus, no means of connection with Larry or Bernard), and slightly frustrated that I couldn't find them.

Pilgrim campers

Telecast of the event over at Cuatro Vientos
Thinking quick on my feet, I decided to make my way to Barajas airport, where at least I can sleep and spend a night there slightly safer than any other places I could think of at that hour. So that's what I did, I made my way to Barajas and slept through (not that comfortably) with other tourists/pilgrims (surprisingly since I thought that all of them would be at Cuatro Vientos).

The fireworks over at Cuatro Vientos which I missed :\
Well, I woke up quite early, around 6am and waited for the Metro to start operating. I went looking for breakfast around town and made it back to Pacifico right before 12pm. Among the things I had missed was the morning mass, but it wasn't that bad of an adventure for me the night before, backpacker experience :)

Larry managed to returned less than an hour after me, and we packed our stuffs, bid adios and made our way to our next destination. BARCELONA!

WYD was a pack of adventures, I basically adore the passion of the pilgrims, and how such event could unite all the devotees at one place, and brought Madrid to live. I am excited to see how this would turn out at their next location at Rio, 2013. I recommend that anyone could participate along, even if they're not Catholic. If I could do it, so can anyone.

Barcelona, here we come!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Madrid Dia 2 con 3 : La Aventura de Tapas, Abanico y el Flamenco

17th August 2011, we woke up to the heat of the day, and since the schedule for the day was only catechesis sessions, Larry decided to follow me and tour around Madrid.

Our first stop for the day, was the famous Museo del Prado. After breakfast, we headed to Atocha station and looked for the museum, which houses some of Spain's finest arts. And of course, although we were relatively early, we had to queue, and there were like 100 of them in front of us.

We managed to get it regardless, and entry was free since we had our WYD tag on. The architecture of the building is state of the art and well furbished, makes us wonder if our country could do the same for our own museums.


Later, we walked around Gran Via and stumbled across Hard Rock Cafe, where we bought some souvenirs but had lunch at some other place (sadly, HRC is not under the WYD program).

Pilgrims swarmed in Madrid :)

After filling up our tummy, we then headed to yet another museum, this time, a whole different genre from what we saw over at del Prado. Museo Reina Sofia has modern arts installed in it, and along the way, massive peculiar art work which blew our minds. Or in other words, weird but appreciated.

It was that hot, and we were sweaty all over. We decided to ride back to Pacifico for a quick shower, and then continue our journey. When we were back, we met some of the volunteers and discussed our activity routes and such. Like my grandma always said, information can be obtained at the tip of your tongue, basically meaning to just ask. And make friends along the way.

Voluntarios from left : Julio, me, Esteban and Merche
The other places we visited that day was the Theatro Real, not in there though since we weren't catching any show and the vicinity of Palacio Real and Plaza de la Armeria and Plaza de Oriente.

One of the Gothic sculptures
Palacio Real from a distance
The place was crowded, despite the stinging heat of the day, I guess they really do love the sun there. And it was a common sight to see a bunch of pilgrims chanting their country anthem along the way, and WYD anthems like "Be-Ne-Dict-To". The enthusiasm of the pilgrims are to commend for.

Massive turnout in town
Later that day we made our way back to Gran Via, hoping to do some shopping but stumbled across some local Spaniards who were in a protest against the visit of the Pope. Larry, who was carrying the WYD bag at that time was advised by one of the kind protesters there to not approach the protest too closely as she feared that some fanatics might harm us. The reason of the protest, was due to the fact that the entire program was feared to have used up a huge sum of the country's budget, and being economically challenged as they are, this angered quite a lot of the locals. Oh well, staying out of trouble we managed to escape unharmed back to Pacifico.

None the less, the pilgrims spirit is like a long lasting battery, from the streets to Metro, they seem to be having a full day fiesta.

Hams (Jamon) are quite a common food here

Speaking of fiesta, we had a nice supper session when we made it back to Pacifico and met more new friends, this time ranging from Portugal, Vietnam, and India. Larry even coincidentally met his friend from Miri who was working in London.

We instantly clicked together with this girl, Ann and the four of us immediately formed an alliance. Ok, that was exaggeration but hey, traveling is more fun if we have more company! Luckily we did not have to sing or ridicule ourselves that night, it was purely a relaxing chit chat session among friends.

From left : Aunt Mary, Bianca, me, Pablo, Larry, Bernard, Ann and Julio
Also, apparently there was a football match that night between Real Madrid and Barca, which was not so good news for our dear liaison Esteban, since his team did not perform so well that day.

Madrid's heraldic symbol, The Bear and the Madroño tree at Puerta del Sol (Gates of the Sun)

18th August 2011, this was actually the first day we traveled along with Bernard (Larry's friend who just made it the day before) but we couldn't get Ann to follow us since she have to accompany her mother. 

Our first destination of the day, was the Plaza del Toros. One of the things that I said to myself when coming to Spain, was to watch a bull fight. Unfortunately, there wasn't a show that day, and apparently it was a seasonal affair, so we just camwhored around, sadly.

Our next stop though wasn't disappointing as we visited Real Madrid's football stadium, la Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Well, if I can't make it to Old Trafford, I damn sure won't miss the chance to visit the stadiums here. 

Later on we walked around town, stumbled across Palacio Real again and visited a chapel along the way.

 In the evening, the boys wanted to attend at least of the catechesis, so I parted ways with them. Made my way to Plaza Mayor and went for some solo sight seeing.

With some random Korean dude at Plaza Mayor.
Had tapas and cerveza for dinner, food and beer, ample dinner for now.

Tapas con Cerveza
As dusk settled, so did we. We all met up back in Pacifico in the night and shared stories of what we saw while we were away from each other. That concludes day 3 in Madrid, half way there and the next day would be an even better one (we hoped) :)

Ivan's Tips
Don't be afraid to try the tapas there. Like the dimsum for Chinese and sushi for Japanese, these finger foods are basically appetizers cum snacks that could very well be dinner as well, if order the right tapas. And the variety in the menu is vast, there are lots to try.