As soon as I came back from my Easter visit I had a tag-along; my sister. As a short break before her exams (and mine) she came to visit me for a long weekend. Of course, she’d already been in November, with the rest of my family, so there weren’t many more sites to show her, but it was lovely to have a bit of quality time with my little sister before we both got bogged down with essays and exams.
As soon as she left I threw myself into my dissertation, spending all my days in the library reading and researching until I felt prepared enough to make a start on the six thousand word project, written in Spanish. It was a stressful time, but I managed to break it up with the occasional day trip. The first was to Alcalá de Henares, Cervantes’ birthplace. It was the first trip Ella and I took of our own accord, without a tour group or university organisation… And it showed. We knew which bus to take and hopped on but it soon became apparent that neither of us had thought to look up the bus stop to take us closest to the centre of town. It’s okay, it was a practice; we’d learn from the walk back from the last stop of the bus route to the centre of town that next time we needed to look up the place to get off whatever transport we’re using in the future…
We finally reached the main plaza and just spent the day wandering around, scouting out the landmarks and drinking coffee because, hey, we’re Spanish now! Visiting the birthplace of Cervantes was of particular interest to me, being a philology student, even though I couldn’t really see obvious points of inspiration for him to have taken and used in his work. It was a small town with a university and not much else, though the architecture (as per usual) was lovely. Tired from our long walks around Alcala de Henares, Ella and I found a closer bus stop to take us back to Madrid.
A couple of weeks later I went to El Escorial with ESN as a short break from my dissertation. It was an afternoon trip, and we were to meet there (though I didn’t exactly know where). Much like the trip with Ella, I had to work out which buses to take and which stop to alight at, and then also make my way to the huge, really obvious, building on a hill. Piece of cake. Finding the ESN group was the real challenge; I didn’t know where the official meeting point was so, despite being ten minutes early, I was five minutes late to the tour… but I got there in the end.
From what I remember, El Escorial is a palace equipped with various throne rooms, reception rooms and, of course, mausoleums. And even though it was beautifully designed and built, the whole palace had this creepy, morbid kind of aura. But I quite liked it; it was new and different to any of the other monuments I had visited, and travelling alone made it feel a little creepier because there was no one to joke and laugh it off with. Still, being able to just go wherever I wanted, without having to think about whether another person wanted to go there too was great; just enjoying the new place in my own company with the freedom to see however much I wanted. The bus journey was more quiet than when I was travelling with other people, but only because my music didn’t have to be so loud as to drown them out! In all seriousness though, I do recommend taking day trips by yourself, any longer and I know I’d get bored, but day trips and time alone are a great combination.