In this journal: a beautiful cathedral; Sophie thumbs up a 4-level Chinese pot; and I visited the oldest restaurant in the world.
Paris, for the 6th time
I have to begin this journal by apologizing. I am sorry that I cannot show you anything during my 6th time in Paris. I have been here too many times, and it has basically become my home. If you are here to see something about Paris, please refer to my journal in EuroHop15/16 and Round’aWorld2016. Sophie, as usual, was gleaming with happiness. Her contagious smile and overly cute French accent were just too good of a reason to keep coming back. I have practically become a part of this simple French family, and I do not regret it one bit. It was not hard for me to find her in our normal meeting space in the McDonald’s right by Gare du Nord, and we caught up on the half a year that we were apart.
from my Parisian home’s balcony
We would wake up way past 10, and drink tea on the tiny balcony together, while the morning sun had already made us feel lazy. The summer air in the city was filled with unwillingness to do anything, and we would spend the day watching random movies, eating baguettes crumbs, or laughing at our old time stories. This is Parisian life, and there are no fancy pictures or mind-shattering facts. Just simple, carefree days. It is too bad that Chipie, family’s old cat, passed away while I was absent. However, seems like we inherited her spirit of sitting around and doing nothing all day. Rest in peace, Chipie, you live on in Sophie’s heart, and mine.
taking Sophie to a crazy Chinese restaurant
I took Sophie to a restaurant since she wanted to try some Chinese food, which featured a steam pot on top of frying pan on top of barbeque on top of hot pot. Yeah, even I do not know such thing exists! After the few days of genuine Parisian life, I had to say goodbye to my French family. The world’s wonders await. After hugging Sophie goodbye, I boarded the bus to Orly Airport, and within 2 hours, I was on my Iberia flight approaching Madrid. Thank you, Sophie, for letting me know, home is not something you are born into, but something you are grown into.
sunset in Madrid
Madrid, for the 1st time
It was surprising, even to me, that I had never been to the capital of Spanish empire before this trip. Even the 12-year-old boy from across the hallway in my Shanghai apartment had been there! Twice! However, this would not be fun if I did not get to show off my Latin-American Spanish, and proceeded to get confused stares.
I picked a hostel right next to all the action, which meant at night, while all the hip kids went out partying, the ugly Asian guy had to stay behind. This also meant that I got to wake up early and explore the city on foot while everyone was hangover.
Muralla Árabe, oldest structure in town is actually Muslim-built
Madrid is a very special town. It is the capital of an empire that conquered so much that it was no longer itself. People from all over the world blended in this city, sharing their pride of being part of the most powerful country back in the days. Unlike London, this empirical capital felt more at ease, and less formal.
Plaza de la Armería
It was likely due to the weather. Sun shines bright here over 300 days a year, and the Madrileños, who sometimes still refer to themselves as gatos(cats), seem to take advantage of the pleasant climate to the max. A lot of businesses still take siestas, while Sundays are the sacred day of respite. If London is a active yet jumpy bunny, then Madrid is a lazy, snoozing elephant seal.
Catedral de la Almudena
I followed a free walking tour offered by our hostel, a standard practice in Europe, and got my bearings for the city. Sunlight seemed to penetrate every cobblestone street, forcing it to be partially scattered everywhere.
Restaurante Sobrino de Botín
One of the stops was Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant that is still operating today. Founded in 1725, the restaurant has kept its oven burning for almost 300 years without putting it out, so that the perfect temperature can be maintained for their signature dish conchinillo asado (suckling piglet). It is so old that Francisco de Goya, one of the most influential Romanticism painters, worked here as a waiter 2 centuries ago!
Guinness World Record confirming the restaurant’s history
looking at Catedral de la Almudena from the Palace
I took an afternoon exploring the beautiful Catedral de la Almudena and Palacial Real. It happened to be one of the big Catholic festivals during my visit, so I experienced a very special sermon, delivered by someone who seemed to be an archbishop. Then a long, long parade of over 3 km started marching from the cathedral, going all the way around the old town, effectively shutting down the entire downtown.
iridescent sun rays projecting to the wall
Inside the royal palace was a series of rooms that one can discover following an audio guide. The chambers were stuffed with artworks and antiques, and I could not resist the urge and secretly took a few pictures, despite the no-photo rule.
inside an antechamber
I then visited the famous museum trifecta, Museo Prado, Reina Sofía National Museum and Art Center, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art. There is no point showing you the myriad of artwork as you can simply look them up online. However, it was indeed one of the best museum scenes I have seen. I ended my 3 days in Madrid with a mandatory sunset in Templo de Debod. No matter where I am, the sunsets always gets my emotions going. After this leg, everything would be pure adventure, and I could not even begin to ponder how I ended up like this, traveling across continents as if they were my neighborhood. As the sun slowly sank into the Iberian Peninsula, I stood still. Moments like this, is why I travel.
sunset in Templo de Debod
Next stop: Ecuador!
I thought my flight to Mexico City would depart at 10 p.m., but the stupid Google told me the time it would depart in North American time, so by the time an alert went off on my phone around noon, my worst nightmare came true: for the first time in my travels, I am mistaken about a flight’s departure time. I immediately called for a taxi, and rushed off to the airport, barely catching the 1 hour cutoff for check-in, making it to the 2:30 flight. This was too close, too close!
descending into the valley of volcanoes
After a quick transit, I was on the red-eye to Quito. The final approach to one of the highest capital of the world was absolutely breathtaking, as the plane was lower than over a dozen volcanoes all around. Some of these mountains soar way above 6000 meters, and it felt like the plane was navigating carefully between these mother nature’s giants. I had barely slept, but I had no intention to sleep anymore. The adventure, was upon me.
looking up the cathedral