Chapter 38: Me Gusta Madrid
Madrid to Sevilla
Hello from Sevilla, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to follow this weird trip around the world, add your email below:
Buenos días, and happy Sunday to those who celebrate. Let's get after it.
Thursday, June 2nd
I woke up at 8ish (very early!) to meet a lady named Barbara for coffee. Barbara is an editor for Marketwatch (financial news site) and she was the first "real" journalist to share one of my blog posts last fall.
We chatted all things finance/Europe/her son being way too interested in crypto, and she gave me some recs for Madrid for the rest of the day. Grady and Mama Ruth did a tour of the city, while I headed to the hotel to work for a while. I met another one of my "Twitter friends," Nathan Baugh, for lunch. Nathan is a writer similar to me, and he and his wife are living in Madrid while she does her MBA. He went to Clemson, so somewhat similar background to me.
We talked shop for a while, and decided to work together on an online course about monetizing your writing (more on that soon, stay tuned). After we split off, I hit the gym then finished up some work.
I met up with my friend Kiko for dinner that night. Kiko is from Spain, and he played golf at Mercer while I played football. He's working for Deloitte in Madrid now. We caught up, and he told me all about the employment differences between the US and Spain. It's nuts how much better paying the jobs are in the States, we take that for granted.
We hit a bar afterwards, and ended up sitting beside 3 dudes from Northern Ireland. Kiko had just been telling me that Irish accents are the hardest to understand, and he wasn't kidding. I was struggling to put their sentences together. I know his brain was probably fried.
That being said, Irish dudes are hysterical. Two of these guys were farmers, and one of them farmed "Rapeseed."
I thought it was a crude joke. Turns out that is literally a plant. Very similar to sunflowers. Much more intense name.
I headed home at 1ish and called it a night.
Friday, June 3rd
Slept in ~somewhat late today, and Grady and I grabbed breakfast downstairs at 10:30. I took Mama Ruth and him down the road to get Covid tests at 12, as they're flying back to the US in the morning.
I finished up an opinion piece for Exec Sum (Litquidity's newsletter, of which I am the proud editor 😤) at 2, and we grabbed lunch and went to the Prado Museum.
The Prado Museum has one of the world's biggest displays of art, including a whole segment from Diego Velázquez. His most famous piece, Las Meninas, is on display here. The painter included himself (center left) while the king and queen of Spain are showed in the mirror reflection in the back. King stuff right there.
After the museum, we headed back to the hotel for a bit before going to a bullfight at 7:30. If you've never been to a bullfight in Spain, they are... interesting. It almost looks like a scene from the middle ages: A colosseum, matadors with traditional outfits, etc. And the stadium is PACKED. I mean 30k folks, shoulder to shoulder.
A typical bullfight has six rounds, where different matadors compete against the bulls. In the beginning of each round, multiple matadors with gold and purple capes face off against the beast, before a final matador with a red cape replaces them.
Bull fights are pretty gruesome, tbh. While the matadors spend the first several minutes avoiding the bull, a knight (another matador? idk) comes out on horseback with a spear. His steed is armored, and the matadors bait the bull towards him, where he proceeds to stab the bull.
The group of matadors then attempt to bait and stab him as well, before the final matador finishes him off. It's a spectacle/execution/ritual/entertainment of sorts, and the bull is supposed to lose.
In the first round that we watched, the bull almost bit back. One of the matador's capes got caught on the bull's horn, and the animal flipped the man into the air. He was slammed on his back, and the beast charged into the defenseless man horn-first. The other matadors distracted the bull long enough for the man to escape, but I thought the hunter was about to be hunted.
Given the somewhat sick dynamic of the whole thing, it was cool seeing the bull almost win. You kind of want to root for the underdog.
I'm glad I went to a bullfight, but not sure that I'll go back. It's hard to get hyped watching 10 dudes bait and stab a pissed-off animal. I understand it's cultural, but not my cup of tea.
After the bullfight, I hit the gym and then headed back to the hotel. I told Mama Ruth that I was meeting back up with some of my friends, but in reality, I had a date with a Spanish girl lol. Mama Ruth and Grady were going to bed early (leaving at 7 AM for the flight home), and I didn't feel like explaining myself. This blog post is the first she'll probably hear about this, actually.
I met this girl (hola Paula, cómo estás?) at the same bar that I had been to the night before, because it is literally the only place that I knew in Madrid. Turns out that she spent a year of high school in Michigan, and her English was mucho mejor que mi español.
We stayed at the bar for a few hours before walking around downtown for a while, and I headed home at like 3ish. (That's like midnight in US terms.)
Saturday, June 4th
Woke up at 7 when the fam left, and I went back to bed until 11. I was supposed to catch an 11:50 train to Sevilla, but I had an alert for a fraud charge on my credit card (not even a card I was using in Europe, ironically), and I saw that Grady had accidentally (or intentionally) taking my laptop charger. By the time I bought a replacement and sorted out the credit card, it was 12:15. I gathered my stuff and headed to the train station to catch a later train.
I got a 4:00 one instead (and I'm writing this sentence from said train, lol), and chilled at the station for a while. On the train, I met another American, Peter, who was headed to Sevilla as well. Turns out, we're staying at the same hostel for four nights.
We grabbed a taxi to La Banda together and checked in. La Banda is my favorite hostel in Europe, and the people who work here are fantastic. Federico, Francesca, Nico, Toma, Andrea, Chiara, and a new guy: Dan. Plus they remembered me, which is very cool!
My roommate from when I studied abroad here, Mason, was in Sevilla a month ago, and we facetimed him from the hostel bar.
I met Peter's buddy, Andrew, plus several other Americanos. I also met two other dudes, Drew and Malcolm, who were like Carbon copies of Tanner and Rylan. Drew and Malcolm are college buddies who just graduated, and they're doing a Euro trip before school starts. Two of the funniest guys I've ever met in my life. Like literally every conversation ends with people crying bc they're laughing so hard.
There was also a girl, Danielle, who met them in Madrid and just followed 'em down here.
There's actually way too many people from this hostel to list by name, ended up with a solid group. One other American of note is Ben, because he's about to start business school at MIT.
MIT rejected me, had to settle for Columbia. Sad!
Anyways, we all hung out on the roof, and everyone wanted to go out. So I ended up being the tour guide as the closest thing we had to a local. Like Moses leading the Hebrews through the wilderness, I had a pack of drunk American tourists following me through some finding streets. Moses and company were looking for bodies of water (probably, idk) while we were looking for watering holes.
We hit Alameda (main bar area) and had quite a late, but fun, night! Also walked past a busted shop window on the way home. Who would rob a ham shop?
Catch you guys later.
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