Political Madrid

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“People who don’t travel cannot have a global view, all they see is what’s in front of them.
Those people cannot accept new things because all they know is where they live.”
-Martin Yan

This past week was midterms week, meaning by them time the weekend rolled around I was wiped out.  Nevertheless, I got myself out of bed around 8 a.m. on Friday to go on yet another tour of Madrid that I had signed up for the week before.

Madrid is the capital of Spain, which of course means there are lots of political happenings here.  My school offered an exclusive inside of the Spanish Senate and Congress for free.  As a (half) International Relations major with a geographic area specialization of Europe, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the inner workings of a European country’s government.  Now that I think about it, I haven’t even been inside government buildings in Washington D.C.  I’ll add that to the to-do list.

We had an informative and detailed tour of the Senate.  This closest seats in the above picture belong to Spain’s leftward leaning political party, the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español).  The other main political party, the rightward leaning PP (El partido popular), sits on the exact opposite side of the room.  The smaller political parties, no matter where they fall, sit in the center.  The main room in the Congress building is set up exactly the same way.  In Spain, the representatives votes must align with all the others in their political party, otherwise they are fined.

The older part of the building used to be a church/convent.  This room looked straight out of a movie.

As did the library.  The tour guide even said it looks like it’s from Harry Potter.

If only I could actually go there to study!

We walked around a little bit and stopped at a café because we were early for our tour of Congress.  I had the best orange juice I’ve ever had in my life, which is saying a lot considering I used to live in Florida.  Spain’s oranges are absolutely delicious though.

Congress was just as pretty as the Senate, but unfortunately they are very strict and we were “forbidden” from taking pictures.  Instead, we took one on the steps outside.

The most interesting part of the Congress visit was when we were in the main meeting room, where a coup d’etat occurred in 1981. There are still bullet holes in the ceiling and walls.

Most of the group decided to leave at this point, but three other students and myself decided to stay for the rest of the afternoon.  After having a relaxing lunch at an Italian restaurant with our teacher, Pilar, we continued our political journey through Madrid.

The Spanish Stock Market building

Wearing one of the highest awards given to Spanish politicians. I would like to extend a thank you to my friend Lorne for taken the above picture and the awesome one below.

Our teacher, Pilar, had a ton of interesting artifacts because she wrote a book on past politician Francisco Fernández Ordóñez.

She even has letters from the King of Spain to Francisco Fernández!

The above card was signed by the royal family the year I was born.

On our way to see a memorial in El Parque del Retiro, we stopped at what Pilar says is her favorite building in Madrid.  Tommy Hilfiger offices are up those steps.

My favorite part was the painted elevator.

We entered El Retiro on the side opposite of where I live, so it was nice to see a different part of it.  The park is so large I practically feel like I won’t see all of it by the time I leave in December.

The purpose of our visit was to see a memorial dedicated to the people that died in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train attacks. 191 more lives Al-Qaeda decided to take away.

We sat on park benches discussing the incident when Pilar’s husband and 21-month-old son showed up for a visit.

As the Spaniards say, ¡qué mono!

How cute!

Like most other almost 2-year-olds, he’s a little ball of energy and I ended up chasing him around and trying to speak to him in a mix of English and Spanish because he is learning both languages.  His favorite English word is spoon and Pilar demonstrated how excited he gets when he sees one because he knows it means that food is on its way.

We continued our walk through my favorite park in the world.

We arrived at the train station in Atocha, where the train bombings occurred, to see another memorial.

It’s a giant balloon filled with the hopeful words of notes placed in the train station after the attacks.

I could’ve sat there and read it all day.

It even caught the attention of the 21-month-old.

I headed home after seeing this, but I’m glad I decided to stay with the teacher for the afternoon because I wouldn’t have come to see this powerful memorial on my own.

Peace. Freedom. ♥.

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