We went to Madrid — all five of us, plus Stella — over the Thanksgiving weekend and the Monday after to see Ibby in a debate-team competition and to visit the American School. It was cold and rainy for most of the visit, but we also had a chance to do some sightseeing.
Like for instance on our first night there, when I went to walk Stella in the nearby park and came across an ancient Egyptian temple on a hilltop: the Temple of Debod, moved from Aswan before the construction of the Aswan Dam. UNESCO worked to avoid its destruction and Egypt donated it to Spain. Benji and I walked back there the next morning, and had a nice but foggy view from the hilltop, out over the royal palace.
We saw Ibby perform in one debate, where she and her team argued for the benefits of social media. Their arguments were organized, concise and hard-hitting. Her team placed in the top half of the 16 teams debating in English, which means that they will return to Madrid for another round (presumably against the top half of some other bracket) in March. And then while Ibby was watching other debates, the rest of us had lunch and visited a playground near the school.
We were staying in the center of the city, which seems to have great cultural diversity in people, stores, art, languages and restaurants — at least relative to the homogeneity of Sevilla. We went to a very tasty Mexican restaurant the second night in town, and then on Sunday visited both the Rastro, which is the giant weekly street market in the Embajadores neighborhood, and the Tabacalera, which is an old tabacco factory now partially converted into a very raw industrial arts space.
Benji had also really been looking forward to swimming in the hotel pool — the heated indoor pool was the main reason we had chosen our hotel — so when he learned (at 5 PM) that children were only allowed to swim from 2 to 4 PM each day he was very upset. Inconsolable, almost, until he found consolation through a bubble bath and a room service order.
On Monday we visited the American School, which is in an inner-ring suburb and which has a large campus. We were all immediately struck by how quiet the school was compared to the Colegio in Sevilla, which — before, between and after classes — has the noise level you expect to encounter when Justin Beiber takes the stage. And then Brook, Ibby, Mimi and Benji took the train home while I stayed on for a few meetings.
The train between Madrid and Sevilla takes only 2 and a half hours and is very comfortable. Good WiFi, great views. But the drive home through Extremadura, although it takes twice as long, is even more beautiful. As you can almost see in the photos below, the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra de Gredos are faintly visible across the fields.