Global Business Study Tour 2012 to Spain
Day One and Two
The Global Business Study Tour 2012 to Spain started at Piedmont Triad International Airport. Flying out of Greensboro rather than Charlotte Douglas saved $500 for each of the ten participants. The connection to Philadelphia seemed as though it would be completely uneventful until we experienced turbulence during our descent that we were sure would have us landing in the Delaware River. The layover in Philadelphia went by briskly as everyone searched for food.
Most everybody found it hard to sleep on the flight to Barcelona which lasted just over 7 hours. The descent into the city was breathtaking with views of La Sagrada Familia and cruise ships docked at the city's Mediterranean port. We were met at the airport by two drivers who loaded us and our belongings onto Mercedes mini-buses. We questioned the existence of luxury vehicles within the city considering the relatively reckless style of driving used by most Catalonians. We did learn that motorcycles and scooters are the best modes of transportation in the city because weaving between the traffic is perfectly acceptable.
Montjuic and a bull-fighting stadium came into view on the way to the hotel. The Silken Concordia graciously allowed the group to check-in early. After a five-minute break to stash our luggage, we regrouped in the hotel restaurant. Breakfast was available for another 5 minutes so we did the hotel a favour by attempting to polish off the rest of the breakfast offerings that would otherwise be thrown away. The hotel, however, saw it differently and attempted to charge us. This was the first of many things that will be lost in translation.
An hour remained until our hosts would be arriving at noon to escort us to the RCD Espanyol of Barcelon club's stadium, allowing time to change clothes and for some to catch a nap. Our hosts were Megan, Photographer, and Ingrid, are employees at the European University in Barcelona. Together we rode the metro to the outskirts of town.
From there, our hosts were not entirely sure of the best way to get to our destination. The group walked extensively through the midday heat wearing business attire or to quote The Boss, "the two skinny girls kicked our butts." Fortunately, we were met by a vicious breeze upon arrival at the stadium. Serafin, our host, is a sports marketing professor at the European University and a consultant for the stadium. The club has a rich history dating back to 1900 but the stadium is only three years old. Although the capacity of roughly 40,000 spectators is close to half of the capacity of Camp Nou, home to the team´s rivals FC Barcelona, the stadium is considered one of the best in Europe. After completing an audit, Serafin consolidated the advertising for a cleaner look. There is a 10 meter minimum for advertising space. Quintana Roo, the Mexican state where the city of Cancun is located, is the major sponsor. Coca-Cola is the official soft drink, of the stadium as well as almost every other stadium in Spain. Estrella Damm, an authentic Barcelona beer, is the official beer of the stadium. We passed by a memorial to Dani Xarqi, a young player who died unexpectedly during a match, a phenomenon that Serafin says is occurring with frequency and that is being investigated.
We were then allowed into the Cancun hospitality suite and one of Estrella Damm's private boxes. It was while we were in the private box that we learned that Serafin once had dreams of being a professional tennis player. After realizing semi-professional would be as far as he could get, Serafin decided that he wished to be involved with the business side of sports. He then led us to the Estrella Damm hospitality suite which featured the club´s anthem artfully displayed in the shape of an Estrella Damm bottle as well as an allegorical image of the city. From this suite, we could see that the advertisements that were on the side of the stadium not facing television cameras were not quite as cleanly consolidated as those that would be seen by television viewers around the world.
Then we were led to the pitch and the benches, a perfect photo opportunity. We then had the great privilege of visiting the locker room, an area that is usually off-limits to guests. From there, we proceeded to the media room where players would be interviewed. Every last space was covered in advertisements to prevent the media from acting on there preference to use unbranded space as a backdrop. Our tour of the stadium ended with a visit to the presidential suite, complete with images of every club president since 1900, and the president´s seat with a bird´s eye view of the entire stadium. Behind these seats was space for the media.
Serafin than led us to the official store where some members of the group awaited a taxi to avoid the long trek back to the Metro. The remaining members broke up the odyssey back with stops at McDonalds and a playground. At McDonalds, Grant learned that refills really aren´t free in Europe. At the playground, business students in dress clothes made use of a short but surprisingly fast zip line.
Upon return to the Silken Concordia, most members of the group slept until dinner time. Dinner at the Restaurant Basilico was at 8:30! The three-course meal included a salad with toast and goat cheese croquettes, veal with wine and mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes and skewers of fresh fruit drizzled either with chocolate or yogurt. A bottle of red, white and rose were also provided, though after exchanging cheers at the beginning of the meal, the group quickly discovered that the white wine was by far the best. Cindy was a human target at dinner with glass shattering in her salad and wine being spilled on her tablecloth. During our after-dessert coma, calls were made to rectify some telephone issues. Now one more phone is working. Two days down and seven more to go
Our day began with breakfast between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at our hotel the Silken Concordia Hotel. For breakfast we have many choices including an assortment of fruit, cereal, bread, meat, juice and coffee. The coffee drinkers are enjoying the variety of coffees that can be prepared at the touch of the appropriate button, including European espresso and cappuccino.
For our first visit of the day we had to leave our hotel at 830 a.m. lead by our tour guide, Sonia, and tour bus driver. Our first appointment required an hour drive to Cavas Freixenet. Upon our arrival at Freixenet, parked near the entrance we viewed a vintage Chrysler and two motor bikes resembling wine and champagne bottles. The entrance of the office welcomed visitors to walk up a wide and beautiful set of steps to a large porch. These steps gave us a perfect setting for our first group picture of the day. By 1985, Freixenet became a world leader in marketing their Cava. The French call their bubbly adult drink champagne, and Freixenet calls its Cava. In addition, Cava Freixenet is a leader with fine wines. Our guide shared a wealth of history which included the 1915 introduction under the name of Freixenet in Europe, till today its products are marketed globally in 150 countries, including the US.
Due to traffic we had to alter our next visits. We arrived at the top of the mountain where the Montserrat Monastery is located at 2100 feet. The view from the Montserrat is incredible and breathtaking especially since the sky was a bright blue. We made our way up to the Basilica to see and hear the Boys Choir perform. We were ten individuals of hundreds who were hoping to do the same. There was standing room only. Fortunately, since Todd is 6'4" and Mark is 6'2", they were the only people in our group who could see the Boys Choir perform. As we expected their voices blended perfectly in wonderful harmony. After the performance, three of us stood in line for over thirty minutes to see the magnificent architecture in the Basilica [cathedral] and view the Black Madonna. The long line was well worth the wait. In addition we were able to really view and examine the wood and stone work throughout the Basilica. In the location of the Black Madonna there was only room for a single line to pass by the enclosed case. The Black Madonna was found in a cave located at Montserrat and has become known as their patron saint.
Our last visit of the day was to the Basilica De La Sagrada Familia located in Barcelona. It is a church that has been under construction for one hundred and thirty years. Gaudi's designs, the famous architect, are prominent throughout the Church. Throughout the entire structure includes the life of Jesus, other religious themes, and brilliant architecture. The church is so massive it is incredible to believe it could be thought of not to mention seeing it being built. It is anticipated the church will be completed within the early part of the 21st century. The artwork of stories within the stained glass windows is inconceivable in its display of colors and gigantic height and width is overpowering to visitors. To fully take in all of the beauty and architecture of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia would take weeks, possibly longer to appreciate how the structure fits together in this beautiful structure.
We are learning to adjust to having dinner later than at home in the United States. We left our hotel at 8:30 p.m. to walk to our dinner location, just a few blocks from our hotel. This was our first opportunity to have dinner on the sidewalk outside our restaurant. There we had many menu choices for our diverse appetites of which every meal was large in size as well as perfect for our hungry appetites. As you might imagine the night temperature dropped and was uncomfortable for those who did not dress for the cool night air. Since Todd wore shorts he was so cold that he took his LR t-shirt and stepped into the sleeves and held the bottom of the shirt and walked back to our hotel. After our long eventful day everyone was ready to retire for the evening.
Wednesday started in the same fashion as Tuesday with the group staggering into the lobby to eat breakfast prior to leaving the hotel for the day. Today's agenda was planned to start with a business tour at the Mango Design Center. Due to a little translation issue we ended up at the Mango Outlet which called our names only to be diverted to the actual Design Center to start our day.
Upon arriving at the correct building, we met Cristina, our guide, for this tour. While at Mango it was impressive to learn that the average employee is only 28 years old and the main majority of employees are women;most employees are bi-lingual in at least English and Spanish. The company is built around the philosophy that ‘the company is everyone's company' and therefore everything is open. No department is ‘off limits' to any employee. The designers work in line with the purchasers for both the materials and the production as well as the other individuals to make each of the lines run smoothly. Mango has multiple lines; a few examples are the jeans, shirts, casual; the H.E. men's line, and the accessory line. Looking in the room down the long, open tables it was impossible to tell who the supervisor was versus the newest employee. Mango has done a great job of creating a very welcoming, working environment with many lovely art pieces throughout the entire building and a garden outside the cafeteria windows where the employees enjoy an hour-long lunch. The average work day is from 9 - 6:30. Mango's biggest market is the Spain market, but the fastest growing market is the Asian market. The location that sells the most is the online store of Mango.com. Upon completing the business tour we managed to find our way back to the Outlet Store with only minimal objections from the guys, even though the guys ended up buying almost as much as the women.
After getting our shopping completed, we loaded into the bus again to head across town to Barcelona Activa to join with MBA students from European University-Barcelona. The best American agency to which we could compare Activa would be the Chamber of Commerce. Activia is responsible for aiding in the growth for the economic well-being of Barcelona. This agency offers free services to entrepreneurs in the community (even foreigners wanting to start in the community) that include learning how to start a business, getting it started by getting the company registered, the identification numbers, and even offers spaces that companies can rent as brick and mortar offices all the way to trying to move the company global.
Joining the students from European University was a great opportunity to network with students from across the world. There were students from Wilmington, NC, California, Netherlands, an Arabic country, France and the United Kingdom. They were very interested in the type of education we get as well as the cost and some of our cultural differences. After spending around an hour and a half at Barcelona Activa we once again loaded the bus, the same bus we were told we would not have, thus causing us to carry all of our belongings for no reason, to head back to the hotel for a little down time.
During our downtime prior to dinner, an array of activities occurred. Some took the opportunity to go shopping a little more, others took some much need downtime to rest and unwind in the hotel rooms, while others seized the moment to capture every minute in the city. Each day we are introduced to even more culture, politics, and the private inner workings of the city. The little things such as understanding what is a road and what is a sidewalk can prove to be a little more difficult than expected.
Our dinner tonight was a Flamenco dance and dinner with dinner starting at 8:30 and the dance starting at 10. According to the students from the EU, this is a very early dinner; however, our stomachs are telling us a different story. The dinner was a buffet-style meal with an array of options from chicken legs to rabbit meat, sausage rice to black squid ink rice, cream puffs covered in chocolate to corn layered apple pie. Everyone was able to find something that they personally liked to get their tummy full tonight. Once our dinner was finished and plenty of time for conversations we were lead into the performance room for the Flamenco dance. The performers were amazing. They were able to move their feet faster than what most people are capable of doing. It was quite a performance to see and to make it even better, this was our last night in Barcelona. But how in the world did Todd sleep through some of the show?????
Thursday began, for those who chose not to bring their own travel alarm clock, a good bit earlier than expected-since everyone's wake-up calls came at least thirty minutes earlier than requested. Today was our travel day between Barcelona and Madrid. Most of us packed the evening before so that when we woke up, all we had left to do was eat breakfast and do the last- minute round up of toiletries and such. Included in this last-minute packing was the distribution of our six, opened bottles of wine. Some were going to attempt to bring along the wine to Madrid, even though we do not have many big wine-drinkers in the group. I volunteered to carry a couple, and I ended up with two of the bottles of white wine in the front of my larger rolling suitcase. I was a little apprehensive about the vulnerability of my luggage if one the bottles were to be compromised. This unease was really brought to fruition when we met our bus driver; and as I was attempting to explain the fragility of the front of my bag, he nonchalantly responded, "No hablo ingles," as he tossed (let me rephrase: pitched) my bag into the undercarriage, storage compartment. He also decided to drive in the middle of two lanes the entire time, causing people to attempt to pass us on both sides, triggering a fender-bender with another tour bus. Luckily the bottles in all of our bags survived the treacherous trek, although none of us were sure that would be the case until we arrived at the Barcelona Sants train station and were able to check for ourselves.
Mark, time and time again, has proved to be quite a useful reservoir of intelligence on this trip, and today was no different. Besides his ability to translate for us, every step of the way-his impeccable map deciphering skills have come in quite useful. Not to mention all the little tidbits of his knowledge of Spanish culture he has been imparting upon us, throughout. One thing I noted, on day five, was his explanation of the way the European Union's license plates are devised, and how one distinguishes between the tags issued by different countries.
The train ride from Barcelona to Madrid was quite a breeze! I enjoyed it quite a bit. Previously, I had had pretty forgettable (or unforgettable) experiences while riding trains (as far I can remember) - but this time around was uneventful, definitely in a good way. There were a few reasons we chose the train over a plane for our Thursday location change. First off, we saved quite a bit of money choosing this route! And, that is never a bad idea. There also are not many flights offered daily between Madrid and Barcelona because everyone takes the train. The ease of the security check-in was another tremendous benefit of the train, as there was not as much of a need to arrive quite as early as one would at an airport. That gave us a little more time to sleep in, without the sacrifice of much, in terms of our estimated time of arrival. The actual locomotive was an AVIA high speed train; and when up to speed, it traveled at approximately three-hundred kilometers per hour. We departed at 10:00 A.M., and arrived at Madrid Atocha station ahead of schedule, at approximately 1:00 P.M. The seating on the train was also extremely more comfortable than that on an airplane. It has much more spacious seats, leg room, and luggage storage. Also of note, eight of our seats were facing each other, positioned around a table. This allowed conversation between most of the group throughout the ride; where, in a plane, you are really limited to conversing with those sitting beside you.
The scenery on the train ride was so beautiful! While I was able to stay awake, my eyes were fixed on the Spanish countryside that was zooming by the window-I just wish I would have realized that I have a setting on my camera that would have allowed me to take pictures, while in motion. I saw many old olive farms-and found it really interesting seeing the aqueduct systems many of them had installed for irrigation. This was made possible because of the hills on which many of the farms were situated. Each of them also had their own man-made reservoirs for the water. There was also (what I would call) a wind farm, with probably twenty to twenty-five giant, high-tech wind turbines used to harvest the energy from the wind.
I also saw quite a bit of graffiti along the railroad. Much of it was somewhat basic and maybe does more to degrade the land than beautify it, but I did see about ten or so intricate pieces which were really awesome. But, I am pretty sure that I am the only one on the trip who really has any sort of appreciation for graffiti as art work. Another quite interesting thing I saw in the Spanish country side was a random GIANT Ferris wheel, which looked like it had not been in use since the 1980s. What was really fascinating was it was in seemingly small, old, industrial town-in the middle of nowhere-possibly just to draw the attention of those riding the train.
They did give us the option (if you want to call it that) to watch an American movie while on the train ride. The name of the movie was Company Men, and it had many big name actors and actresses in it (although I had not ever heard of it before). Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones, from what I could tell, appeared to be the stars of the movie. When I was asking the others about Tommy Lee Jones, I was informed he was Al Gore's roommate at Harvard-which is definitely pretty interesting. There was a problem though; the movie was dubbed in Spanish and also only had Spanish subtitles, so none of us really gave much of an attempt to watch it.
Upon arrival, we traveled by bus to the Hard Rock Café-Madrid. It was quite nice to have an American meal, which we had no problem putting down. A few of us bought souvenirs from the gift shop. I purchased a really cool Jimi Hendrix shirt. Then, we were transferred to our hotel (the Principe Pio Hotel). It is a very beautiful hotel, but it is old and does not have some of the amenities to which Americans are accustomed. It was quite an ordeal for me to get a bucket of ice for our room, and I am not even going to get into the internet troubles we have encountered. But, since then, they have attempted to compensate us for our troubles. Nicki and Ryan's room was quite fragrant upon arrival, so a switching of rooms was also necessary. The remainder of the day's schedule was open to do as we pleased. My mother, Cindy, Nicki, and I walked up to the street that was perpendicular to the one where our hotel was situated, which had many shops for us to explore. I mainly had my sights set on checking out the Nike of Madrid store, but I did not make any purchases. Mark, Todd, Ryan, and Leslee all went on an adventure around the city-lead by the Dickersons, I am sure. According to them, the main achievement of their voyage was their exploration of Madrid's modern art museum, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. This is where numerous Picasso pieces are currently being displayed, including one of his most distinguished, Guernica. My mom, Nicki, and I went out in search of dinner later-although none of us were too hungry after our late lunch at the Hard Rock. My mother was craving some gazpacho, and we were really just along for the ride. Nicki and I did pick up some wings from T.G.I. Fridays on the walk back to the hotel though.
It was nice to get to Madrid and have a scenery change. We all really like the city! Overall, this was a pretty laid back day, and we did not have many obligations (besides making sure the train ride went by without any complications). So, I would declare it (as well as the rest of the trip, so far) a success!
¡Gracias por te tiempo!
Just like every other morning we all were up, ready and eating breakfast before our departure at 9:00. We made our way by private coach to the La Cabezuela Cheese Factory outside of the city. As we got closer to the cheese factory we noticed we were entering into what looked like the desert. Once we arrived we were greeted by the owner's wife and started our tour and observation of the factory. Shortly after the tour started, the owner Juan Luis Royuela, accompanied us. In the first room we saw where the goat's milk was poured into a huge tub that was heated. The cheese was stirred until firm enough to cut through. In the next few rooms the cheese was run through a salt water bath and then put in rooms of different temperatures to sit until molded into the type of cheese they are producing. And interestingly, the cheese also molds and has to be cut off before it is packaged.
Following the tour we were served samples of three different kinds of cheese, a yogurt, and wine which were insisted that it be served in a wine glass rather than a plastic, sample cup. The owners of this family-owned business were very generous and welcoming. This visit was not only to see the how the cheese is produced but also an example of Spanish entrepreneurship.
Juan was tired of traveling approximately 200 miles back and forth from the city for the cheese so he opened his own business. This little family-owned business has received awards. After saying our goodbyes with the traditional Spain way of kissing on both cheeks we set out on our 25-minute drive to visit the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial Palace. Before making our walk to the palace we had a quick snack break which resulted in Mrs. Dr. King almost getting kicked out of a cafeteria for having food inside that was not purchased there. The palace was remarkable and the size of just the courtyard itself was immense. Inside the rooms and hallways felt like they went on forever. In each room were exhibits of tools that were used during that time and many paintings which mostly represented the birth and death of Jesus Christ.
The rose garden and yard bushes were a great view from windows inside the palace. The Basilica in the Palace was breathtaking from the painting on the ceilings to the huge pipes for the organ placed on both sides of the church. We made our way back to the bus and back into the city. We then had about 3 ½ hours of free time which some used to Skype and talk to their family members, sneak in a quick nap, and some used the time to keep exploring the city and visiting other museums. Just like all the other days, we met for dinner at 8 or later, to which it is still hard getting accustomed to eating that late. On the menu for tonight we had breaded vegetables with sweet and sour sauce for an appetizer and for the main meal hake steak in green sauce. To everyone's surprise this wasn't beef steak like we had assumed, but salmon. For dessert we were served a type of pudding with caramel sauce that in the states would taste similar to egg custard. With many laughs in the dining room of the hotel our night was coming to an end. We had a little group discussion on what the plans for our free day as a group would be for day 7. During our late night discussion we all got a laugh out of The Boss, Mr. Dr. King, doing an interpretation of QuasiModo. After a full day of venturing out of the city day 6 came to an end.
Today started off great considering we got to sleep in later than usual. We left the hotel at 9 o'clock and headed over to the Royal Palace. On our way over we took a short cut through the Royal Gardens and stopped to take group pictures. Unknown to us, a native Black Labrador used the fountain in which we were in front as a place to cool off while playing ball. She jumped out right as we were finishing up and started to shake the dirty, green water off so we scrambled to get out of her range. When we reached the entrance to the Royal Palace we were informed that it doesn't open until 10 o'clock so we spent the left over time taking pictures in the courtyard and listening to a man play the accordion.
As we entered, we noticed that the line, which was once ten feet long, had grown to over the size of a football field in a matter of thirty minutes. As always we went through the metal detectors and started towards the palace. As I headed up the stairs I tried to snap a photo of the stairway and was startled by a guard yelling "Americano, no, no, no!!" so I had to put my camera away. As we made our way though the palace we walked slowly behind a tour that was proceeding and caught a few informational facts about the different rooms we entered. The most interesting was that there were 2,800 different rooms in the palace. Little did we know, we were only allowed to see about thirty.
The dining room opened up to a table that seemed never ending and a decent sized dance floor. Too bad there was a rope or we could have shown everyone how to do a North Carolinian shindig. The tour guide informed us that the King and Queen sat at the 5th seat across from each other and that their chairs were a few inches higher. We went though many rooms, which all had a different name and purpose and got to see the different china and cutlery they used. There was one room that surprised me because it wasn't like the rest. All of the rooms were so elegant and enchanting and this one hit right at home. Don't get me wrong; it was beautiful in every way and over the top, but when I think of a palace that was built so many years ago I do not think of it containing a poolroom. I can just picture a Queen getting mad because the King hit the first solid in and she wanted to be solids (I know I used to prefer solids over stripes). After the poolroom we walked down to the chapel. The ceiling was covered in gold except for the murals and the white angels that were reaching out from the wall. I don't think you could have taken in all of the beauty of that room even if you could spend the whole day there.
After we left the palace, we headed over to the Zara store. For those of you who don't know, it's a clothing store. We were assigned a mission to find five different articles of clothing and find out where they are made and analyze how it is possible for Zara to have such a fast supply chain. After completing this homework we all split up and went different ways. A group of us went to get food and then continued on shopping at the different stores that lined the streets. It was interesting to see how the same stores had different locations that were only across from each other or a few stores over. On our way back to the hotel, it had started to rain. We darted through the sidewalks trying to stay under the little dry spots that were crowded with people; we came to a stretch of covered area that no one was standing under. As we came up we were hit smack in the face with the worst smell that words cannot describe. We soon found a homeless man and knew why everyone chose to get wet instead of putting him or herself in danger of suffocation or robbery.
For dinner we had green beans with cured ham for our first dish and pork leg boiled with mushroom sauce for our second dish. For dessert we were served a delicious fruit medley and ice cream to hold our stomachs full for the night.
On our last official day of the Global Business Study Tour, eight of the ten of us decided to begin the morning by visiting El Rastro open air market. Armed with three Madrid maps, we headed out of the hotel after breakfast. We boarded the Metro at the Opera station and ascended out of the Puerta de Toledo station. We were then greeted by an overcast sky and cool breezes as we headed to the outdoor market. El Rastro is one of the largest outdoor markets on the European continent. While we would consider it a flea market in the United States, it literally translates into a market of thieves.
As expected, the vast majority of items for sale were bric-a-brac and one-man's-trash-is-another-man's-treasure type of deal. Batteries, CDs, DVDs, toys, old dolls, cheap shirts, and bundles of socks were probably the most typical items. Those on our group expecting a good place to find quality souvenirs at El Rastro were sorely disappointed. Needless to say there were some good items, and a number of people found unique things to purchase. The eight members of the group returned to the designated meeting place to which we returned to the metro. Unfortunately, due to the leisurely, Iberian pace at which Madrilenos board trains, the doors shut on Mrs. Dr. King while the rest of the group semi-panicked as we made our way to the next station. We waited for her at the Opera station, two stations later, thinking that this would be an event that we would later laugh. Nicki admitted she would have cried if she had been the one stranded on the platform.
We headed back to our hotel to meet Nancy and Grant, along with our tour guide and bus driver at 12:30. Our bus driver was Agustin, who had also graciously driven us to and from La Cabezuela and El Escorial. Our guide was a native Madrilena by the name of Beatriz. Beatriz was very proud of her city and knows it very well. She basically directed Agustin into giving us a personalized tour of Madrid before we went to the Museo del Prado.
We started off in the Old Austrian quarter of Madrid and then proceeded to the Plaza del Sol area. We drove past many buildings that were handsomely designed and played an important part in Spain's government, including but not limited to: Chamber of Deputees, the Senate, Bank of Spain, and the Palace of Communications. The Palace of Communications, which is housed in a beautiful wedding cake-like building, is right across from the Plaza of Cibeles. Cibeles, or Cybil, is a Roman goddess of fertility and a symbol of Madrid.
We went to the Museo del Prado, which was included in our tour package. Beatriz followed us into the Museum and acted as our guide in there as well. She did a terrific job, albeit she was a little difficult to hear at times. Beatriz continued to emphasize that much of Spanish art was originally inspired by Italian artwork, so naturally we began with the Italian works and moved on to more "homemade" stars like Goya, El Greco, and Velazquez. We had approximately two hours to spend in the museum, and at the pace at which we were going, it looked pretty close.
We met Agustin, our faithful bus driver again around three and began to explore the northern end of the city. We saw many modern buildings and skyscrapers, along with Bernabeu Stadium, which used to house Real Madrid soccer team. We also saw the Plaza del Toros, which is the largest bull ring in Spain. The Plaza del Toros was a magnificent building, red brick with some Arab touches. Beatriz also pointed out that many words have come into the cityscape through the Arabic language. Madrid itself comes from a derivation of an Arabic word that means "mother of the source of water."
The end of the day was spent predominately eating and conversing. Both Drs. King, Cindy and the Dickerson brothers headed to TGI Fridays' while the rest of the group went elsewhere to eat or shop. The food was good and the service was superb, which can unfortunately be a real miss in Europe. After spending two hours at TGIF, we headed back to the hotel to do some last minute packing and then head off to dinner (which most of us were too full to truly enjoy anyway!). Dinner was a bastion of Spanish classics: mixed Paella, Tortilla Espanola (an omelet, essentially) and then an ice cream dessert.
After dinner, we all went upstairs for Mrs. Dr. King to give us all small gifts and recap our trip to Spain. This has truly been a wonderful learning experience for all of us and a great way to experience another culture first hand.