Is it too much to ask for something to eat that hasn’t bathed in oil and is completely naked of any sort of spice or flavor? All the Spanish women say “No, no it’s okay! It’s olive oil! It’s healthy!” First of all, no, it’s not ALL olive oil, I’ve seen what you have in your pantries. And second of all, I could care less if it were – I just want something that isn’t swimming in grease.
On the bright side, however, let me begin by saying that I officially and finally was able to cook something here in Spain. Pam and Lauren, two girls in our group, live on the floor below us and kindly invited us to make cookies with them in their mamacita’s kitchen. This lovely lady is trying to set every single one of us up with her sons…Yeah. Not happening.
Although we had to improvise with some of the ingredients (vanilla has gone extinct here in Spain apparently, and the only stuff we’ve found so far is ground vanilla bean…weird, right?), I’ll have you know that the cookies turned out amazing. I’ll have to post the recipe because they’re definitely not your average chocolate chip cookie. This being said, they can’t replace the hole in my heart that my favorite recipe can, but they should hold me over until I get back onto familiar ground. Did you know that Luisa (the host mom) had NEVER EVER IN HER ENTIRE LIFE had a warm, fresh-baked cookie before? They just don’t do that here! Oh, the inhumanity of it all.
Today, we all went to the Reina Sophia – a museum of modern art – in Madrid. I was really looking forward to see some paintings by Salvador Dalí, but unfortunately they didn’t have any of my favorite surrealist ones. The one below is actually a less-known one of his, but I really liked it.
I did see “Guernica” by Picasso though – pretty cool stuff. We took a forbidden photo of it too while no one was looking, even though it was surrounded by guards. Sinners.
I know I went on a rant about modern art the other day, but do you know what the funny thing is about it? Often, you’ll see a piece and think “oh, I could TOTALLY make that!” But then you set out your Pinboard and paints and other crafty stuff and realize that you really aren’t as talented as you thought you were. Seriously – the story of my life.
After an overload of modern art (traveler’s tip #11: If you’re on a time crunch and want to get some culture in during your time in Madrid, go to El Prado before hitting up the Reina Sophia), a few of us explored around parts of Madrid we hadn’t seen before, and we came across a nomad crafting market that was in town for the weekend. I wanted to buy everything, but then had a heart attack when I saw that one of the headbands I wanted was 80 euro.
It’s okay though, because “I could TOTALLY make that”. And I will. Mark my words. I made it out of the adorable market alive with a whole slew of business cards, pictures of products that I am convinced I could recreate, and with (most) of my funds still on hand. I bought a bronze belt buckle ring though. I can’t take it off though because I know that a certain unnamed mother and/or sister will most likely steal it from me because I have impeccable taste in style, obviously.
And then…dun dun DUNNNNNNN. It was time for the bullfight. And not just any bullfight either. My first, and very last bullfight, to be exact. Many people I have met here have recommended against attending, and an astonishing number of spaniards have never even been to a bullfight because they consider it a brutality. I figured it would be just short of a crime to live in Spain and not see one, and I was right. Walking through the halls and into the arena was when it really hit me that I am here, living in Spain. It may have been the floods of people, it may have been the sufficating smoke, but I have no doubt that it was the passion and danger that surrounded the matador and bull that I would never, ever, be able to forget. As Ernest Hemingway, a great aficionado of the corrida, wrote:
“Anything capable of arousing passion in its favor will surely raise as much passion against it.”
We made our way to the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas after a series of metros and scary Russian stalkers. This is one of largest locations for Spain’s famed “corridas de torros” and it was a sight to see, to say the least. The building was gorgeous and absolutely packed to the brim with people.
We were not expecting such a turnout because our host mom had told us that generally, the bullfights only run from March until September, and that this one was the last one of the year until they started back up again so it was likely to be less busy.
Aside from the sheer numbers that were present, what floored me most was how nice everyone had dressed up. I felt like I was attending a horse race, with all the men in their snazzy jackets and ladies in their blazers and mini crooked hats. I had no idea it was such an ordeal! Although there were people of all ages present, the majority of the audience was over 45 (I’m being REALLY generous) because apparently it’s an old and dying tradition due to all of the animal-rights movements lately.
The bullfight was NOTHING like I expected. I think that they are often romanticized and people don’t really understand what exactly goes on, and it was definitely worth seeing once. I probably won’t be inclined to go again just due to the fact that my lungs are a whole shade darker from all the cigar/cigarette smoke I inhaled.
The bullfight, or rather “corrida de toros” (literally “running of the bulls”), is often regarded as a “fine art” rather than a sport, because no elements of competition take place in the proceedings. It takes place in three stages and there are several different participants in each fight as well, which was probably one of the biggest surprises for me.
Each stage, or tercio, begins and ends with a member of the band blowing a bugle. Our seats happened to be just behind the band, so we had a pretty good view, even though it was in the blaring sun for the first hour.
The bullfight begins with the tercio de varas, or the “lancing third”. The bull enters the ring and is confronted by banderilleros (members of the matador’s team) with their capes, called capotes, and upon observing the behavior of the bull, the matador, take the stage. Matadors are trained to execute dancelike moves that are supposed to foster inspiration and an emotional connection with the audience that is transmitted through the bull. The matador will preform these maneuvers at a very close range, putting himself at risk of being trampled or gored. (Is it bad that I was a little disappointed when I saw that there are little walls for the matadors to hide behind if they lose control of the bull??) One of the Spanish women who sat behind us was extremely into it and provided violent commentary throughout the event.
Stage two, the tercio de banderillas, begins when several picadors enter the arena riding horses and carrying long lances. This was one of my least favorite parts of the entire corrida, because the bull would charge at the horses, who were completely blinded and weighed down by padding, and then proceed to attempt to gore it from the underside (if that makes sense). While attacking the horse, the picador would stab the bull repeatedly with his lance in order to weaken the neck muscles.
During the third stage, tercio de muerte, matadors proceed to stab the bull’s neck and back with decorated spears, until it is weakened enough to the point where it falls on its knees, spewing blood from its mouth.
Adding to the graphic nature of the scene, the lady behind us kept screaming “Stab him! Stab him! Don’t wait for him to fall just stab him now!”, amongst other vulgarities which I will leave out. The matador will then take a sword or dagger and spear the bull to death in the head.
After the bull is quite dead and laying in a pool of blood, four mules are brought out to drag the bull around the arena and it is cleared out to await the next bull. Anywhere from 4-7 bulls are killed at each event, and although the meat is donated to local shelters and orphanages, I can’t speculate that it would be very good after being pumped with adrenaline and then ripped to shreds by men wearing pink and gold glittery suits. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
And there you have it. Definitely worth seeing, but probably not something that most like to return to – if you’ve seen one bull stabbed to death, you’ve seen them all, right?
Oh, one more thing. We also saw some adorable uniformed curly-haired spanish twins (one’s face is covered in the picture, unfortunately) with a mom who looked like Kate Middleton wearing two spongebob backpacks. ADORABLE.