Austin and I finally remembered to head out to the cemetery when it was open and were surprised by exactly how big it was! While the cemetery in Recoleta in Buenos Aires was very touristy due to the presence of the tombs of a few famous Argentines, the cemetery here in Trujillo is designed for reflection and visiting the tombstones of relatives. It also had a larger variety of graves/tombstones/family places than we saw in Recoleta. While there were the little buildings that were family tombs, there were also wall plaques, and underground tombs. It was a huge cemetery and Austin and I enjoyed walking around the place.
When we came into this area of the cemetery, we met a man who was refurbishing one of the tomb-plaques. He told me to take a picture of this arch and told us that we were standing where the old church had been. These arches are really common in the churches in Trujillo, there’s an old church near the castle that’s in a similar state of disrepair and it also has these arches. I’m sure someone who knows a bit more about history and architecture than me will know more about the style. Along the back wall you can still sort of see where the altar decoration was hung.
As we left the cemetery, we headed back to our apartment as the siesta was about to start. Once the siesta starts not much is open in town, and I love taking a nap. As we walked, we realized that the air was full of ants and that there were dead ants lying on the ground (see below). Looking closer we realized they had wings, and were kind of gross, and kind of everywhere. We had no idea what was going on but we hurried back to our apartment because we’d left some windows open and I wanted to google the ants. In the end, it turns out that a huge swarm of cicadas had come through town. Apparently that happens occasionally, the locals found them annoying but I’m guessing it happens pretty often since they weren’t as bemused/confused as Austin and I were.
Austin and I had spent a few weeks hanging out in Trujillo so we finally decided it was time for us to go to Madrid, it’s only a couple of hours away by car so we booked our hostel, looked at bus tickets, and realized that the bus schedule wasn’t so great. So, we got into a car with strangers and they drove us to Madrid 👍.
Now before you completely freak out, mom and dad, I’ll explain how BlaBlaCar works. The easiest way to explain BlaBlaCar is that it’s a long distance Uber/Lyft. Folks who are going to be driving long distances can register with the website, which verifies their identity, say when they’re making the trip, and how much it would cost for them to bring you along. You can see what type of car they’re driving, how much room there is for luggage, and reviews other folks have left after driving with them. It’s a lot cheaper than taking the bus, in general, and faster because it doesn’t make as many stops. The drivers can also rate the passengers and leave comments on the passengers’ profiles as to how awesome they are.
The site let’s you add your preferences for driving such as smoking/nonsmoking, pets, music or, my personal favorite, how chatty you tend to be. Chattiness is rated on a scale from Bla to Blablabla — hence the service’s name. I always considered myself more of a Bla and Austin a BlaBlaBla so I had my preferences at BlaBla. Then we met someone on the car ride back who was a true BlaBlaBla and I think compared to him, Austin and I would both be considered Blas. Like WOW, he really talked a lot.
To book a blablacar you pay through the website which generates a code to give to the passenger. Once the driver completes the drive, the passenger gives the driver the code, which the driver inputs into the website and the money is then transferred over to them. After that, the website prompts driver and passenger to rate the ride and leave a comment.
So Austin and I decided to try out BlaBlaCar and we loved it! We learned a lot about Spanish drivers — man are they good drivers and boy do they follow the law. If the speed limit is 120 km/h, they go 120 km/h and not one kilometer over, it doesn’t matter if anyone is around.We also had fun practicing our Spanish with the drivers and occasionally they enjoy getting to practice their english with us.
Our driver left us off downtown in Plaza España where we found a giant statue of Miguel de Cervantes with Don Quijote and Sancho Panza standing out front. We stopped to get some breakfast, then went to take a picture with the statue, and then we began exploring!
Austin and I have decided that Madrid may have been the sassiest city we have ever been to.
In Buenos Aires, they had nice signs that said things like “We recycle” or “We always standing behind the yellow line in the subway.” There was this great sense of community. We felt like we were living somewhere that had this community agreement based on these signs, which told us how we needed to behave.
Madrid is like the older sibling who got tired of community agreements because they weren’t working and just got sassy. This sign translates roughly to “How lucky it is to have a clean neighborhood.” AKA clean up after your dog, betch.
This one’s the real kicker though: “If you need a sign to use the trash can, this is it.” #SassyMadrid
Like the good, cultured, tourists that we are, we knew we couldn’t visit Madrid without going to at least one of the museums in The Triangle (The Prado, the Thyssen, and el Museo Reina Sofia). The three of them make a triangle on google maps based on their locations (hence the name). The Prado tends to be the most famous one because it houses the famous Las Meninas painting by Goye as well as paintings by many famous Spanish painters.
They prefer you don’t take photos in the museum because they want you to enjoy it, but I thought it was just no flash so I ended up getting this picture before I realized they don’t like tourists walking around with cameras. This was actually my favorite work in the Prado, it’s called the Blossoming of Love and it was made in 1905. They had it lit up with a million lights on it so it took me awhile to fiddle with the settings well enough to be able to fix the lighting so it wasn’t reflecting so badly. That, of course, gave it a dark background which makes the statue look even better.
After leaving the Prado, we walked behind it into el Retiro, which was the parks area downtown essentially. We knew that the Glass Palace was in one of the parks and just south of that was the museum of anthropology which was free after two pm so we decided to walk through the gardens.
Now before we go through gardens, I’ve gotta tell you that Austin and I had a very big disagreement in these gardens. You see, Paris is supposed to be the city of love, right? But Austin and I have both been to Paris and we weren’t all that impressed. Austin thinks that Venice is actually the most romantic city because taking a gondola ride through the canals has got to be the most romantic thing you can do. Now I would have probably agreed with him, except we went to Madrid. Now I’m pretty sure that is the most romantic city I’ve been in. So as we go through the parts of Madrid we visited I’m pretty much going to be making that argument to you. It didn’t sway Austin, but him and I have different ideas about romance I guess.
This garden was directly behind the Prado, we walked through it and took this picture looking back at the Prado (along with all of the other tourists). There were a few American tourists walking in front of us who were being the world’s most stereotypical tourists which I found incredibly embarrassing, they were super loud and were taking selfies with the street musicians. But anyways, this was the first garden we walked through and it was quite lovely.
This sort of was a gate to the rest of the gardens in el Retiro, through the gate we found a few different labyrinths to walk through as well as a beautiful forest grove. It was called the remembrance forest and it was full of walking paths through the trees. Austin and I walked through it for a while, appreciating the few trees that were changing colors and finally feeling like it was fall (without the pesky cold). There was a main street that ran through the center of el Retiro that wasn’t for cars that had a ton of people biking, roller skating, and walking along. The Palace of Glass was sitting on the other side of the passage so we headed out of the Remembrance Forest and over to the Palace of Glass, passing by a little sitting area that had a human sized chess board on the ground and lots of other folks sitting at tables playing chess. We seemed to have stumbled upon Madrid’s chess club and it was awesome!
The Palace of Glass is a huge building made of all glass, they generally have exhibitions inside but it was closed so they could set up a new exhibition. Luckily, they’re going to finish it on November third and we’ll be back on the fourth for my birthday! Next to it is a huge duck pond with a fountain in the center and all sorts of walking paths around the park.
Beyond the Palace of Glass we found a rose garden, who doesn’t love a rose garden? There was a rose garden in Buenos Aires as well, and this one definitely rivals it. We wandered through the garden, admiring the fountains and the roses, watching all the couples wandering through the rose garden (because rose gardens are romantic), and arguing about which city was most romantic.
Then we went to the Museum of Anthropology, which was at the end of a different path in el Retiro near the botanical garden’s labyrinth (which was unfortunately closed). The museum had all sorts of interesting things in it and was mostly dedicated to the indigenous folks who lived around the world. Each floor focused on a different region and they had a separate room for artifacts from eastern religions. It was a pretty interesting museum although I felt like they didn’t connect it well to the present, many of the peoples mentioned in the museums are still around today and dealing with a post colonial world that has screwed them over. Since they were focusing on marginalized communities anyways, it would have been nice to have added some sort of spotlight on the situation today. They didn’t do that though, and then again, I don’t know any museums that really do that.
They had one room on the bottom floor that was dedicated to the personal collection of the man who had collected the majority of the artifacts in the museum, the museum and originally been his house/laboratory/office. This giant skeleton took up the majority of the room and belonged to a man who had been 235 cm (7ft 8in) tall. The man who started the collection seemed most interested in skeletal mutations and he had a huge collection of skulls.
After the museum we had started running out of places to go, so I pulled out google maps and looked to see what was nearby. There seemed to be some sort of palace near us so we headed that way to see if we could find it. We did end up finding it, but after googling it, we found that it wasn’t really open to the public. Most folks said there was a two year waiting list to visit that didn’t actually turn into a visit at the end of two years so we followed some signs and found the Temple of Debod instead. Super casual.
The Temple of Debod was a present from Egypt to Spain after Spain helped Egypt save some of their temples in the 60s. They only let 15 people in at a time so we decided to skip the line this time around and come back when we were feeling more patient. We had decided to visit the Museo Reina Sofia at 7 when it became free so we sort of had a time crunch.
The Temple of Debod is situated in a different park that also had a rose garden type area down the hill, so we headed down the hill on our aching legs to enjoy another rose garden. This one was very cool because all of the roses had plaques that said where they came from and when, with some of them being sent to Madrid before 1900 (as best I could tell from the translation).
As we walked through the garden we noticed what I think should be my trump card in this whole Madrid vs. Venice discussion. Because if Venice’s key romantic feature is gondola rides, then really, shouldn’t this mean that Madrid is on par with Venice and all the gardens and lovely areas push it over the top?
A gondola is a gondola is a gondola right?! How can riding a gondola into the sunset to a completely unknown destination over Madrid not be totally romantic. We wanted to do the gondola ride that evening since it was around sunset and the view promised to be amazing, but the line was even more ridiculous than the line for the Temple of Debod so we decided to come back here in the morning on our next visit and do it then.
We finally made it to the Sofia Reina Museum which is a mix between contemporary and modern art, they let you take photos of some of the exhibitions and not others so while I couldn’t take a picture of Picasso’s Guernica, I did take a picture of this lovely piece of modern art that we really liked. It’s hard to tell from the picture but because the strings were so thin and there were so many, they seemed to shimmer as we walked around the room. It looks like it was in a line because of my angle, but if you look at the ground you can see that the whole exhibit was actually a large square.
Guernica was also very cool to see, though both Austin and I for some reason had pictured it being in color.
All of that exploring was stuff Austin and I did on our own on our first day in Madrid. Our hostel organized walking tours so we took one of those the next morning and were glad to find that it took us to see all the things we hadn’t seen the day before. I’d say we planned it well, but we were actually just pretty lucky.
As with Trujillo, Madrid has its own Plaza Mayor which is now home to the information center for tourists and a few restaurants, but which, historically, was where executions were held. And by historically, I mean all the way up until the late 1900s. This was a statue of one of the past kings. I don’t remember which one.
Here’s a view of one of my favorite buildings from the plaza, I’m pretty sure this one also had the tourist information in it.
This restaurant is the oldest restaurant in the world. (So like, date ideas here: You go to Madrid, you walk through the park/rose gardens, ride a gondola and enjoy whatevers at the other side, then ride it back into the sunset and then you go eat dinner in the oldest restaurant in the world #romantic). Anyways, it was opened in the early 1700s and is still open today. The owners have kept the style the exact same since it opened, updating everything but ensuring that it always looks the same. It’s a beautiful old restaurant and not overly expensive (unless you order the baby eels, but who wants to eat baby eels?).
Our tour guide then took us to this beautiful church which was even more gorgeous on the inside. It’s located near the original royal palace so our tour guide told us they purposefully designed the outside to be slightly less grand so it wouldn’t outstrip the palace. It took them over 100 years to finish, but, as our tour guide said, at least they finished it (unlike the Familia Sagrada in Barcelona, which he admitted was more impressive but still unfinished).
We then visited the former royal palace, the royal family now lives in a slightly less modest palace on the outskirts of Madrid. Austin and the tour guide both scoffed at that statement at almost the exact same time and we all had a good laugh.
The palace is now a museum for the public to visit. It has over 3,400 rooms, most of which you can’t visit because it would take forever. We didn’t actually head into the palace this time around, we didn’t have time since we had to catch our BlaBlaCar soon after the tour ended.
The tour ended in the exact center of the country in the Plaza del Sol. Calle Arenal is a super crowded street that led to the plaza and was probably the biggest tourist area we’d seen. Our guide showed us a famous chocolate store that is open for twenty four hours and we stopped to get some amazing thai food before heading out of the city, back to Trujillo; we passed this store on the way down Calle Arenal.
For the most part we’ve settled here in Trujillo, but I’ve been a little behind on my blogs so most of the stories in this section are a few weeks old, but they’re important and amusing nonetheless!
After moving into a new apartment, as I’m sure you all know, the first thing to do is immediately leave and go shopping. Cleaning supplies, groceries, towels, whatever we forgot in the United States: all this had to be found and brought back to our apartment. Grocery stores are always an exciting challenge in a new country, who knows what you’ll find? Who knows what you won’t find? Austin and I headed to the nearest grocery store to pick up some food to cook, armed with shopping lists (or at least, I was armed with a shopping list). We began with just wandering through the aisles for the most part, grabbing things when we saw them, pointing out strange things as we passed (such as the giant pig legs hanging near the back of the store, all set to be taken home and eaten). The dairy section was rather important to me since the easiest breakfast to have is cereal and I wanted milk since I use it so often when I make crepes. Lo and behold, there didn’t seem to be any milk in the dairy section, butter was about five times cheaper than in the states though, so that was nice. No milk was an oddity, so I scanned the section again and finally noticed one lonely bottle in the bottom of the refrigerator. Thinking that maybe the milk was in a different refrigerator section we checked them all and still came up empty-handed. We didn’t even see bagged milk so I grabbed the bottle I saw and we continued our trip. Austin remembered that eggs weren’t refrigerated so we were able to find those sitting on a shelf in the store. When we next saw our friends I asked them about the lack of milk at the store. They explained that the milk wasn’t refrigerated until after it was opened here, so milk would be on a shelf just like the eggs. Returning to the store I located the aisle and found every type of milk I could ever want.
As in Argentina, the spaniards work on a slightly different schedule than Americans and that’s even more true in Extremadura than in the large cities. Whereas the city folks might not take a siesta very strictly, the extremadurans love a good siesta and the town shuts down from 2pm-5pm everyday (except for the cafes in the plazas). If you’re Austin, you take this time to relax, maybe watch a show on netflix, read a good book; if you’re me (and much of Trujillo), you pass out for a few hours and wake up at 4 or 5 feeling rested and incredibly disoriented. I love me a good siesta. This does throw a bit of a kink in the schedule though, if you’re taking a nap in the afternoon you don’t go to sleep at ten pm. And, if you have a nap to look forward to, you don’t necessarily need nine hours of sleep. So generally we wake up whenever; school starts between 8:30 and 9 and most of town isn’t open until 10am. So breakfast happens at some point before that. Because you might have had an early breakfast, occasionally people will have a second breakfast (usually some toast with ham or butter) around eleven am or twelve pm. Then you have a nice big lunch around 2:30 (so just after the siesta starts). Then the food coma kicks in and all you want to do is sleep and because of the siesta, you can! At five or six, if you’re hungry (or if you have soccer practice), you might have a snack. Austin and I call it a merienda which is the spanish word for snack, but tea time works just as well. Then dinner rolls around somewhere between 10:30 and midnight. Austin and I are quite the abuelas so we occasionally eat dinner early and then go to sleep at midnight. Other people who enjoy the nightlife that Trujillo offers will go out to the bars around midnight. If you get there earlier than that, you will be in the bar all by yourself.
To end on a positive note, I’ve got one last story that’ll make you laugh. When we looked at apartments our realtor showed us the lines to dry our clothes outside of our kitchen window which we would share with our neighbors. We also have a stand alone drying rack and we tend to use both, depending on what we’re drying. Sheets and such tend to dry better outside because they can stretch the length of the line, but it’s a two story drop so smaller clothes like shorts of underwear we dry inside so we don’t lost them.
Now on to the story: Austin and I were sitting in our kitchen one evening, finishing up dinner and chatting when we suddenly heard scratching in the wall. And both of us jumped, we had no idea where it was coming from. It sounded like rats in the wall, but we couldn’t imagine that there were rats in our walls. It just seemed super unlikely. We don’t have an attic, we’re on the second floor. And then we’d heard the noise again, a grating, scratching type noise. We were completely contemplating the prospect of ghosts haunting our apartment, I mean we live in a town that’s been here for hundreds of years. There’s a 16th century convent up the street, ghosts seemed like a reasonable guess for once in our lives. So we continued our conversation, occasionally listening to the ghost haunting the walls.
The next evening, Austin was in the kitchen alone when he heard the noise again and happened to glance out the window to see our neighbor pulling her laundry inside. Our lines are on little pulleys, but they’re kind of old and the line doesn’t always stay on the pulley so they’re a little noisy and the scratching noise we’d heard in the wall was actually just her putting her laundry out on the line. No ghosts, no rats, just our neighbors. I still jump about a mile every time she puts her laundry out because I’m not expecting the noise, but at least now I know there’s no ghost haunting the apartment….