I’m five days into my study abroad trip in Spain, going on about 10 hours of sleep in total. Usually, I’m a firm believer in the eight hours of adequate sleep, but I’m realizing that Spain’s intent to change me is proving effective in more ways than one. Currently, I’m sitting on a bus with all of my new friends surrounding me, lightly dozing off in the peaceful content of an exhaustive, yet thrilling week coming to a close. It’s nothing other than a purely lovely scene.
Though the majority of our program will be in Valencia, a coastal city, our flights arrived in Madrid, the capital at 7:30 in the morning. To avoid jet-lag, our program directors immediately acclimated to the schedule of the locals, filling our days with multiple activities and tours. It’s certainly helped to keep our minds focused and alert, especially when we are immersed in the grandeur of such sites as the Royal Palace.
After walking about 20 minutes through the calles (streets) of Spain, we arrived in front of a building that astounds you the minute your eyes focus on the scene lying before you. All thoughts of the blazing heat, the dehydration, the scraggly soreness of your legs – it all dissipates with that first breath you inhale while the lux development stands before you.
We entered into the lobby, where we preceded to wait a little over a half an hour to receive our tickets and guides. This was one of the many occasions over the past week in which I realize the stark difference between the lifestyles in Spain and the United States. Our concept of time vastly differs in the case of punctuality; where we consider on time to be late and five minutes early to be on time, they shrug off the clock as though it were a nuisance – an added, unnecessary cause of stress. I actually much prefer their approach, but it’s something that might take a whole lifetime for me just to grasp.
Once we obtained our audio guidebooks, which were a headset attached to an iPad, we set out on our own to explore the palace. In the actual rooms, pictures weren’t allowed for the purpose of appreciating the beauty in person, but also for privacy, both reasons of which I admire greatly.
The Royal Palace is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. In the 1970s, Spain became a constitutional monarchy, following the dictatorship of Franco. Because of this, the King and Queen are no longer owners of the palace. They are simply the representation of the government, meaning they are not allowed to appear dressed in the crowns or sit in the thrones – even when the Queen was pregnant!
The audio tour itself provided a succinct, intriguing blip of information for each room. There were three versions of the tour, each lasting a different length in time. We chose the middle one, which took us an hour to get through. The iPad also had vibrant photography of each room, however I thought the iPad was a hindrance to my experience rather than a benefit. It was too large to carry around comfortably, and I was standing before the rooms – I didn’t need the pictures of them. Considering this was the only qualm of the tour, I’m pretty content with that.
Each room was a unique, standalone, ornate fixture of amazement. The craftsmanship encompasses multiple different architectural styles that somehow meld into one harmonious masterpiece for each room. Entering through a door, approaching a new room exposed us to an entirely different color scheme. You exit one and enter another room to see it hold its own in the most miraculous way. I never thought I was one to get emotional over interior design, but every 10 footsteps I found myself more and more entranced. Tapestries, vases, marble, sculpted ceilings, gold encrusted tables, lion statuettes. The Royal Palace transposed my senses, fusing them all into one. The throne’s red fabric seeps with blood that my eyes could taste. The touch of a rug produced soft melodies prancing lightly on my ears. Sipping the rose-infused wine following our tour pierced my eyes with the sparkle of golden scepters found throughout our tour.
At the end of our tour, we had the remaining time before our departure to walk around outside and take pictures with the exterior. This cathedral took me, as I’m partial to the hue of royal blue.
After taking this picture, our program director Manual – an amiable, comedic and resourceful man – came over to note this was the ugliest Cathedral in all of Spain. If this is the country’s spectrum of aesthetics, this being the worst of its kind, I’m not sure I’ll be able to control myself around something deemed merely sufficient. Spain is wooing me sweetly.
Julia Grigorian double majoring in English and religious studies with the intent on pursuing a doctorate in early Christianity and Judaism. She is blogging this summer from Valencia, Spain.