Saturday, March 15, 2014

Elise's Visit!

It's sort of perfect that one of my very closest friends happens to work for an airline company because she gets free travel benefits! I live abroad and she gets to come see me for practically nothing! Seems to good to be true. I knew it was only a matter of time before Elise came to visit me, and three weeks ago she suggested to come visit me the second weekend of March.  It was pretty short notice but luckily it was a free weekend for me so I said YES PLEASE COME!
Elise arrived on a Thursday, which meant I was working. So, on my lunch break I went to pick her up from the center, dropped her stuff off at my place, and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Then, I was able to bring Elise back with me for the last two periods of school. She got to meet a bunch of my students, and I think she really enjoyed seeing where I worked.  Later that night we did what we do every Thursday, Trivia Night!  Stavros, Alexa and I (and whoever we can get to join us) have been attending a bilingual trivia night hosted by a bar in La Latina practically every Thursday since November. It was fun to give Elise a taste of what my life is like here in Madrid! School and trivia night, just like any other Thursday.
I was very fortunate on Friday because my 5th graders were on a school field trip.  Because of this, all my morning classes were canceled and the teacher I teach with during the afternoon told me to take the day off because my friend was here. Perfect for me! I gave Elise a little tour of Madrid.  It was the first of many GORGEOUS days to come (I don't want to jinx it, but we are currently on our 12th day of absolutely perfect weather, 60s and sunny!). So, naturally I decided to spend most of the day outside! I took her through Puerta del Sol, down through Opera, past the palace, to Templo de Dedob, and back through the royal gardens, and by then it was lunch time! We found a restaurant with a sunny patio with a lovely "Menu del Dia" which is a 2-3 course menu with select options including bread, a drink and dessert for a fixed price. Usually it's a pretty good deal.  We enjoyed our long lunch and then we spent the rest of our afternoon in the Sol area. Later that night Alexa, Stavros and I introduced Elise to one of our favorite places "El Tigre".  I wouldn't say El Tigre has the best or most authentic tapas, but they come free (and unlimited) with your drink so it's hard to beat that deal. After our drinks and mountain of tapas we enjoyed a couple more beers near the Sol area and called it a night.
Sunny day in Retiro Park!

Saturday we were planning on joining some friends on a day trip to Cuenca but unfortunately we overslept and missed the early bus. However, it still ended up being a great day.  Heidi (roommate), Elise and I bought some food and went to Retiro Park to have a picnic.  We munched on baguette bread, fresh strawberries (yes, it's currently strawberry season in Spain!), and some cheese as we sat next to Retiro's man-made pond where we watched the hundred or so rowboats on the water. A street performer seated just a few feet behind us was playing classical Spanish guitar which was the cherry on top of our little picnic. After lunch we explored Retiro for a few more hours. I've been to Retiro dozens of times and still haven't seen it all, it's HUGE! Heidi went back to study eventually and I look Elise to the Palacio de Comunicaciones for one of my favorite views of Madrid. From here you can see Plaza Ciebeles and up Calle Alcalá and part of Gran Vía. Later that night, we had some friends over to my apartment for drinks and appetizers, stopped by a friends birthday party and then spent another night out on the town in Madrid!

Sunday morning can only mean one thing, The Rastro! The Rastro is the oldest flea market in Madrid and it's HUGE.  It's only on Sundays from 9am-3pm in La Latina/Embajadores. Elise was able to find some great souvenirs there, and after a couple hours there we found another place to enjoy a Menu del Dia. After our giant meal, we were feeling pretty sluggish but we managed to walk down to the Manzanares River and spent some time laying in the sun down there. The Rio Manzanares is not such a beautiful river on it's own, but it's lined by beautiful parks and greenery. As the sun was setting Elise and I went back to the Templo de Debod because the view is completely different at night.  After that I took her to Plaza España, up Gran Vía and eventually Mercardo San Miguel which is my favorite place to take visitors. Although Mercardo San Miguel is a bit on the pricey side, it's a great place to go to give visitors a chance to try little bites of any type of Spanish food they would like to try! We sipped on some local drinks (vermuth and sangria) and tried lots of food. We called it a night after that because we had an early wake-up Monday.

On Monday we decided to go to Toledo for the day. It's only 30 minutes away by the fast train and it's much different than Madrid.  Toledo is a medieval town with tons of Spanish history. We spent the day exploring Toledo and even took the tourist train to get the best view of the town.  After 6 hours in Toledo, we came back to Madrid and I took Elise to the Prado during it's free hours.  Here's a BIG tip if you're coming to Madrid.  The Prado and the Reina Sofia (two most famous museums in Madrid) have free hours every day, so if you aren't planning on spending over 2 hours in the museum don't pay and go then! Anyway, after the Prado we went to Museo de Jamon and Cien Mondatitos for some cheap Spanish food. Sadly, Elise's visit came to an end just like that. She left on an early plane on Tuesday morning and I went back to work. It was so fun to show a friend around Madrid; I really love playing tour guide!  With every visitor I am reminded why I love Madrid so much, and I do my best to show it off.  It's a good thing I like visitors because there's more coming! Next weekend I'm hosting a fellow Bennie for a few nights and then in two short weeks my family will be here! Can't wait for these next visits :)

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