Today was a much more relaxed, and typical Spanish day. I woke up and had coffee with my sister and her boss, which was quite the treat. Then, my sister and her fiancé went to work and left me and the rest of the family to explore the city on our own. We took the metro to the palace, where we had visited yesterday, because we were told that we needed to take the tour. So, we got there and saw tons of security guards, two of them on horses, and snipers up on the roof, and the museum was closed for the day. I'm still not sure what was happening, and I was very disappointed that I didn't get to tour this palace (I heard that it is the third largest palace in Europe).
The palace with the guards and horses out front.
From there, we solemnly walked to San Francisco el Grande Basilica, another recommendation by my sister's boss. We walked in and a tour guide-looking man asked me, in Spanish, if I spoke Spanish, and I said "un poco" and he laughed and told me to come to where the crowd was standing and he was giving a tour. Turns out, he was a tour guide. We walked into the first chapel (I think there were six) and started explaining who painted what and what everything meant. He talked in Spanish... a lot. I picked up fragments and kind of understood what he said, but was a little lost. After he told us to move on to the next chapel, he asked me if I understood what he had said and I said, "un poquito." Then, he explained it to me in his fragmented English. He continued to do this for the rest of the tour. It was really nice having a tour guide that knew so much and wanted everyone to really understand what was going on. The coolest thing about this basilica was that the paintings behind the altar were painted by Goya! That is the reason we absolutely had to see this place. They were nothing like the Black Paintings, because he had been hired to paint these and they weren't out of his own mind, but of someone else's. They were still beautiful and I felt honored just being in their presence.
The altar paintings by Goya.
The exterior of the basilica.
After the basilica, we took the metro back to the apartment and took a little siesta before our next activity. Then, we got a surprise buzz at the door, and found my sister who decided to skip class to spend more time with us. She took us to her favorite park and we saw a procession of government vehicles (maybe from whatever was going on at the palace?), the rose garden (filled with rows and rows of roses of all colors), and a glass house, before heading home for dinner. The glass house was very pretty. It was built in 1887 after a similar building in London and was used to house exotic plants, but now it primarily holds temporary art exhibits.
The rose garden.
El Palacio de Cristal.
I am all packed and ready to go once morning comes around. I can't wait to get home and get a full night's sleep before returning to my stomping grounds in Illinois. It has been a delight to get to spend so much time with my family, namely my sister, and I have been blessed by all of the things I have experienced while I've been here. From Barcelona, to Madrid, to Toledo, to Segovia, to La Granja, I feel like a real Spaniard, and can't wait to return here someday. I hope you have all enjoyed reading my blog. It has surely been a pleasure to write.
Aden and Jorge