Spain has been very interesting so far. I've tried more new foods in the past 24 hours than I have in the past 27 years combined.
This morning we got up and had a small breakfast at the house and then they took us on a car tour of Madrid. The weather is cold and rainy, but we still managed to get a few pictures and some video, although we're hoping to get more tomorrow and Monday. It seems to be a lot different than Paris. It doesn't seem to be as big, and the roads seem to be a little wider, and there aren't nearly as many crazy motorcyclists, but that could be because of the crappy weather. I'm surprised at how much we can read and understand here. I know VERY little Spanish, but I'm usually able to pick out a word or two every sentence, so sometimes I know what they're saying, and sometimes I don't. Both Mercedes and Gonzalo speak English very well - thank God.
They had a birthday party for one of their friends, so after our tour we went to a house for the birthday party. There were probably about 40 people there, and almost half of them were under the age of 5. LOTS of kids. They were really cute though. We did the Spanish greeting to everyone (kissing both cheeks) and then just kind of sat there and watched and listened. It seemed as though most people there knew some English, and while they weren't speaking it the whole time, every once in a while they'd talk to us in English. At the party we had charrizo, which is kind of like salami, except stronger and smaller. We also tried what they called a tortilla, but it was kind of like a breakfast pie, made of potatoes, eggs and oil. It was really good. We also had some spanish sausage, which was better than our sausage, and lamb. Lamb seems to be big over here. I'm not 100% sure I like it... It has a weird smell and taste, but it was okay. We also had some lesser quality of jamon again, but I still liked that a lot.
After the party, they dropped us off at the bull fight (la lucha del toro). It was held in this big, open air, very "spanish-looking" stadium. The seats were just very narrow rows of stone, so it was a little crowded, but because of the bad weather, the place wasn't packed. I was nervous about going to this all day, and would have been perfectly fine if it had been cancelled due to weather, but it wasn't. I didn't feel like we could pass up the opportunity to see a bull fight in Madrid though. How much more authentic does it get? Plus Mercedes parents gave us their tickets, so we didn't want to be rude. (They have "season" passes, but the fights are only held there in May.)
They started with this little procession of horses with riders carrying flags, and then a bunch of people in colorful outfits following them that I assumed to be kinda like rodeo clowns, and then a bunch of people in green outfits who I think were safety people of some sort. They have a live band sitting in the bleachers so they were playing music during this part. Then they let the bull out and the "rodeo clowns" all have those cloak things and they get the bull all fired up and chasing the cloaks, but they never went too far away from the wall bc when the bull chased them they'd run behind these walls and the bull would ram it's horns into the wall. Then the matador came out and the rodeo clowns would tease the bull and have it run at them and when it ran by the matador he would stick these things that were probably 2 feet long with a sharp barb or something on the end of it at the base of the bulls neck between it's shoulder blades. He did the thing with the sticks 3 times, and used 2 sticks each time, and if he got them in (which I think he did 4-5 times) they'd stay stuck in the bull. Then he got his cape thing and did his sort of dance with the bull and pretty much just antagonized the poor thing. At this point the bull was bleeding pretty bad from the stick things. It had blood all over it's shoulders and back and you could see it breathing really hard and it's tongue was sticking out too, although I'm not quite sure why. So after about 15 mins of them torturing the animal, the matador finally tried to kill it by sticking a sword, that was probably 3 feet long and maybe and inch or two wide in the same place he was putting the sticks. I guess if he kills it on the first try he gets a good "score" for that and then they give him the bulls tail. However, this particular matador sucked and he try to kill it the first time but only stuck the sword into the bull about 10 inches, so it didn't kill it. So then he pulled it out of the bull and tried a second time about a minute later and that still didn't work so then about 30 seconds later he finally stuck the sword all the way into the bull and it just dropped dead. Then they had 3 mules come running in and they pull the dead bull out of the arena by it's horns. After that they have a butcher shop behind the arena and they pretty much butcher it on the spot and they sell it to eat. (At least that part is good.)
I had such mixed feelings about this whole experience. My initial reaction is it makes me sick to my stomach that they torture these animals for sport. We were in the arena for maybe 25 mins, and I kept it together for the first half of that, and then I just sat there and cried, which was hard bc everyone else around me was cheering (except Mark.) I don't understand the traditions behind this sport at all. It's HARD to watch them kill a big animal like that, especially watching it bleed and then watching them try to make it mad. Bulls really do the whole paw at the ground before the charge. We left after the first one was over because I couldn't take any more of it. They have 3 matadors, who each kill 2 bulls, during the entire show. There's no way I could have watched that all over again... especially not 5 more times. We walked around the outside balcony of the arena though, and that's how we found the butcher place. There was blood all over the ground outside this building and you could even see them butchering it through the windows and doorway. Oddly enough, it made me feel better knowing at least they weren't completely wasting the animal. The whole experience was pretty traumatic, and it is something I will never forget.
After the bull fight we went to meeet Mercedes parents at a small bar and had appetizers again. (I'm beginning to think they don't eat actual meals here, just appetizers, because that's all we've had since we've been here.) Her parents don't speak English at all, so Mercedes and Gonzalo had to translate, but without them translating I could understand maybe 1/3 of what they were trying to say by words I recognized and their hand gestures. For appetizers, we had more charrizo, calamari (which we both thought was onion rings at first...) whole shrimp where you had to pull off the heads out get them out of the "shell", and anchovies. I tried everything, but I can't say I liked it all. And they also gave us an "after dinner" drink, that was a lot like a shot of Bailey's Irish Creme. I liked that.
It's been interesting in Spain so far. The main thing I don't like here is that everyone, and I mean everyone, smokes. I feel like a smoked sausage. I'm pretty sure I'll have black spots on my lungs by the time we leave here because of all the second hand smoke. It gives me a headache, but I don't know how to avoid it without being completely rude. Oh well. If you want to see the bull fight, Mark taped the entire thing...