Friday, July 15, 2011

The road from madrid to pamplona...

           My final days in Madrid were enjoyable. I met with another local in the area and we went out for montaditos, which are these little sandwiches with different fillings. I tried the jamon iberico which is a ham that is revered in spain as the best and most expensive and one that I was eager to try. The pigs eat acorns almost exclusively which is supposed to be able to be tasted in the meat of the pig, but I honestly couldnt tell the difference. It was good, but i know later I won't be finding myself back home craving it like a ham hungry crackhead or anything. After that, we went for some tea at an arabian restraunt, where we sipped our tea quietly as the couple next to us provided the background noises of a lipsmacking makeout session.

           Later that night there was a gay pride festival in Madrid. There were several stages set up on gran via street and about 100,000 people made it out to the event. There were people drinking in the streets and ornately decorated "locas," which is the local word for drag queens. The energy in the air was energetically vibrant, as was the music. We walked around some, but then headed to a local jazz club to enjoy some music and have some intelligent conversation with a college music professor. We ended up making it home at the crack of 5am as is accustomed in spain. Most restaraunts dont even open for dinner until 9pm, so the Spanish are a late night people.

            On sunday, I did a jaunt of shopping at the outdoor Rastro market. It was one of the better markets that I have been to, I must say. I stopped into a nearby place for tapas which is popular to do between 2-4pm, after the rastro closes. Tapas are a sort of spanish snack. They are to tide you over until that late night dinner. There are typically small portions and are eaten while standing with a alcoholic (or on the rare occasion non alcoholic) drink. Olives or other little portions are sometimes given for free with the purchase of your drink. I imagine it's a similar idea to why american bars give you pretzels or salted nuts at a bar. The saltiness makes you even more thirsty.


shopping at the rastro
             I had "caracoles," or snails. (This is where the Andrew Zimmerman part of me kicks in). You have to take a toothpick to pry these little guys out of the shell. I found them quite delicious. I also tried the orejas, or pigs ears which I also enjoyed. But, I said "no thanks," when I was offered the lambs stomach, because my own stomach was already stuffed beyond its means. With my belly full of tapas, I made my way to the prado museum for a few hours of free art (travelers hint: its free 6-8pm during the week and 5-8 on sundays, but i think there closed monday but im not sure on that one). The art was great but a bit monotonous at times. The key exhibits they are known for are Velazquez and De Goya, so i focused on those and three hours was plenty enough for me.

             That brings me to Pamplona. I arrived and the people I was staying with picked me up at the bus station. It was a man named Antonio and his girlfriend Estefani. When we arrived at the flat, I met the other three flatmates. Only one spoke english, while another I couldn't understand a WORD that he said. I speak spanish but for some reason, I just couldnt understand him. After the introductions, Antonio's girlfriend brought me some food and kulumutxu (wine mixed with coke). It was noodles with mayonaisse and BBQ sauce. I HATE mayonaisse, but it was so kind of them to let me stay for free in their house since hostels and hotels are booked 8 months in advance for this time period. So, I politely gobbled up every last bite....... I would later regret this decision. I hadn't even given it a second thought when I saw Antonio out of the corner of my eye smelling the mayonnaisse and having a brief discussion with his girlfriend if it had gone bad.

               The next day I ended up wandering the streets of pamplona exploring it alone. I had some AMAZING tapas at the bars on Estafeta street. However, as I was looking for a cafe with wifi access, I somehow ended up becoming entangled in some drinking games with a stag party (bachelor party) with some guys from the UK. They made me feel as if I were one of "the guys." They even gave me my own toy soldier. When one of them said "soldiers!!! present arms!" You were to get in the position of your toy soldier. The last to do this, had to drink. But, it hardly seemed fair since the person who seemed to always be losing these games was the drunkest member of the group that they had endearingly nicknamed "finchie," after the guy from the movie american pie whom he slightly resembled. We all ended up going to their campsite (camping escabar) to have some more drinks.

The stag party, finchie is the one asleep standing in the pic.

               The campsite was as nice as campsites can be. I would definately recommend them to anyone looking for a cheap place to stay for San Fermin. Although the bathrooms were as gross as any typical camp sight or beach bathroom for that matter. In one of them, someone had actually took a crap on the ground. But dispite this, there was a good time had by all. Eventually I got so exceedingly drunk that I had to excuse myself and head home to find a nice toilet seat to cuddle with. That brings me to the morning of CHUPINAZO.... or the San fermin opening ceremonies!!!

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