WE FINALLY HAVE INTERNET! After 6 long weeks which involved ordering Internet from one company, finding out this company was completely useless and incompetent and fighting with it to cancel its service, and getting Internet from a new company, it’s here! This experience has definitely made me appreciate American customer service where the customer always comes first. However Spain definitely does not work this way and while it’s been a tedious and frustrating ordeal, it’s also been an interesting cultural experience.
Things just happen on their own time here. I still have yet to receive my health insurance card or been told when to go to the police station to get finger printed for my NIE–the card foreigners carry around as official ID. It’ll happen when MAPFRE feels like mailing my card out and when the police station person comes back from his vacation or whatever is going on over there. Only last week, over a month after moving in, our landlady randomly decided that the middle of the week was the best time for her to come over to supervise the workmen who installed the doors onto our shower stall (and luckily I was sick and resting at home and not at school so I was able to let her in). As an American, I like schedules and I like having specific dates and timelines so I know what to expect and when to expect it. However the mentality here is that things will get done… eventually. I blame this way of thinking on the infamous siesta that takes up 3 to 4 hours in the middle of the day. I think this block of time gives Spaniards the illusion they have all the time in the world to get stuff done.
Seriously, I thought I was lazy, but compared to how a lot of things are run here, I think Spain makes me look like a rather motivated person.
Ok I’m done complaining. For now. I have a lot to say about the teaching program I’m doing right now but I don’t feel like getting into that in this post.
Instead I will talk about the day trip I took to Aranjuez a few weeks ago with my friends Nicole and Sarah.
Aranjuez is a town in the south of the Comunidad de Madrid, about a 50 minute Cercanias (the suburban commuter rail) ride from Atocha, one of Madrid’s main train stations. It was Sarah’s idea to go visit–she had seen pictures of a mutual friend’s trip there on Facebook and decided it seemed worth it. And Sarah’s instincts proved to be right–Aranjuez did not disappoint!
From the 12th century up until the 19th century, the town was the official residence of the Spanish royal family during the spring. Construction on the palace started in the 16th century during Philip II’s reign and it was designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera (this last guy was also responsible for the design of El Escorial, the monastery/palace that was also used as an official residence). The palace bears a striking resemblance to the Palacio Real in Madrid–I think I remember reading somewhere it was modeled somewhat after it.
The first thing we did when we arrived was visit the palace. I actually liked this palace better over the one in Madrid and the monastery in El Escorial. It is prettier on the outside and I felt like there were more rooms to visit, but I could be wrong on that last one. Unfortunately, taking pictures was forbidden but there were some really awesome rooms in there. I found a few pictures of my favorite rooms thanks to google images. Also a bit random but it was a nice surprise: at the very end of the tour, there was also a room of all the wedding dresses worn by the current female members of the Spanish royal family–that would be Queen Sofia, her daughters Infanta Elena and Infanta Christina, and most recently Princess Letizia (who got married to Elena and Christina’s brother Felipe in 2004).
I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan of Letizia’s wedding dress.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the several public gardens. These gardens were gorgeous and so big–you could seriously get lost and just spend all day walking around them. The weather was gorgeous and it was just a great way to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Added bonus: no crying or bratty children. It was pure bliss. Aranjuez is truly a hidden gem–it does get its share of tourists but I feel like a lot of people forget about it and go to Segovia and Toledo instead. If I had known this place existed before this past September, I would have definitely brought my parents here when they came to see me!