PREVIOUS ENTRIES: DAY 1
Today we started off by visiting the royal gardens in Madrid (el parque de buen retirio - the park of pleasant retreat). We saw various sculptures, a crystal palace, and a rose garden. We spent about an hour walking around the gardens, but we could have spent a whole day exploring. There were various different paths that lead to interesting sights throughout the large park.
We next separated in to smaller groups and went to lunch. My group found a restaurant where we got paella and croquettes. We were a little rushed because our bus had to leave to go to Toledo so we ate in 20 minutes; however, our food was delicious.
We had about an hour bus ride until we made it to the picturesque city of Toledo. When we got there we drove around the city and were amazed by how old and preserved it was. There were many houses on very narrow cobblestone streets, a gorgeous palace, and a cathedral. Toledo was the old capital of Spain and the oldest preserved city in Spain. A lot of the buildings even have glass flooring to show off the Roman ruins from the empire. Most of the buildings were at least 1000 years old with Jewish, Muslim, Roman Pagan, and Roman Christian influences. We walked up and down many streets including the narrowest one - which is one arms length wide.
We left Toledo in the early evening and drove another hour to play our first match. We played a club team (Club Voleibol Ciudad de la Ceramica, 2nd Division) in Madrid which had about 10 players present from the team. The gym we played in was rented from a university and had no air conditioning, which was a new experience for most of the team. We played four sets; three of them to 25 and the last one to 15. It was very interesting to see how warm ups are different internationally. They have both teams hitting at the same time as well as shared serving time. International rules also have less subs and an automatic time out at 16.
After the game, we all showered and went to dinner. Originally, we were going to get tapas with the other team, but it was going to take too long seeing as we hit dinner rush even though it was 10:30 at night. We decided to order pizza instead. We sat and ate with the team for about two hours. We talked with the other team and found out many differences between Spain and the United States. We learned a lot about their club. We found out they had 5 different levels within the club ranging from young kids to adults between the ages of 25-35. They have about 152 players within the club which included both males and females. The team we played was made up of adults and was the highest team in the club. They had to call up to players due to injury who were only 12 and 15. We explained to them how we played for a college team in the United States and had been playing since middle school on various types of teams. Others talked about what it was like to live in the area, neat places to visit around Madrid, a lot about the culture and music, and flamenco. Two of my teammates even talked to one of the Spanish players in French because they were able to communicate better than in broken Spanish or English.
Before we left to go back to the hotel, we had a dance circle where they showed us flamenco and we sang Despacito. Lastly, we had an hour and a half ride back to the hotel and went to bed around 2 am. It was a neat day with so many different activities that gave us a better understanding of Spanish culture and history.