The hostel we stayed in in Madrid was my favorite one from the trip-- it was clean, with good breakfasts, and nice people. The city was also pretty cool-- it had really clean and efficient subways, pretty cheap food (although I am not a fan of Spanish food overall), and just very pleasant. Attractions we saw: Palacio Real (very cool and beautiful and big palace), Plaza Mayor, El Retiro park, and some other pretty plazas. I met up with a friend that I made in DC in the fall who was doing an abroad program in Madrid through Georgetown and she took us out to dinner and hung out with us for an afternoon, which was very cool. Meeting up with people you know in random places is always fun.
This was the crazy part of our trip where we managed to be in 4 cities within 36 hours. We took a train to Granada and went to see the Alhambra Palace. It was kind of random for us since we were mainly sticking to the really touristy cities. But a girl in the group really wanted to see the palace and I was glad that she did. Granada and the Alhambra palace are part of Spain Moorish legacy and its Muslim influences, so the sights were really different from everything else we saw in Europe. The Palace was gigantic and just really gorgeous in every room. We were there for over four hours.
The train we were supposed to take from Granada to Barcelona was full so we had to take a detour to Seville, and we hung out there for just a few hours. We got to see the famous cathedral there and just walked around for a bit. We then caught an overnight train from Sevilla to Barcelona.
This was definitely the highlight of Spain. It was just gorgeous! We saw the works of the famous architect Gaudi, including La Pedrera and the highlight of Barcelona: La Segrada Familia, which is this amazing unfinished church. We climbed almost 200 feet to the top and got gorgeous view of the city, albeit with some sore legs. We also saw Barcelona's famous cathedral and monastery. We also went to the Barcelona waterfront and marina and took a skycab/ ski lift thing to the Olympic Stadium from 1994 and then to the Barcelona beaches and Olympic villa/ boardwalk area. It was a great city with lots of fun stuff to do...
The one funny story from Barcelona was at our hostel. We were staying in a really cheap hostel and the service there was just really bad. They charged us extra for sheets! We were really annoyed with them all around. But the last straw was when they tried to charge us for keeping our bags there later than 3 pm the day we checked out. They never told us about this rule and then tried to charge us 3 euros each for six people even though are bags just sat in an empty room together. We were trying to argue with them and then one of the two ladies got up to take a phone call. I had been eyeing the key for the luggage room the entire time because I had seen where they'd set it down. So when the one lady got up for the phone, I discretely took the key off the desk and slipped to one of the girls behind me. Me and another girl kept arguing and distracting the woman while the other girls used the key to get into the room and get their stuff. Unfortunately, my luggage was on the other side of the room from the rest of theirs and the girls' hands were full so they weren't able to get mine. I saw them come out so I went in to get my luggage, but by then we'd been found out and the women were really mad. They trapped me in the room with my luggage and wouldn't give me back my suitcase until we paid up. By this point, it wasn't about the money anymore. I was just so mad at these stupid extortionary women. First the woman was asking me for three euros just for my bag. I should have probably just paid up at this point, but I pretended not to have any money on me. My plan was to exchange the key that I thought we still had for my bag. Unfortunately, the other woman had scared one of the girls into giving the key back to her. She actually grabbed Veronica [Sudekum-- my current roommate, very cool!] and made her give back the key. So my plan was lost and then the stupid woman started saying that we had to pay 9 euros to get my bag back. So I had three euros that someone had given me originally. We were starting to get late for our train, so one of the girls just coughed up 6 euros to supplement my 3. But I told the woman that I wouldn't give her my 3 euros until she gave me my bag back. So she gave me bag and I proceeded to run out with my 3 euros (of course) and the women were screaming behind us. But we got out just fine. I am still mad that we had to pay the 6 euros, but it was quite the adventure and it certainly makes for a good story. I hope I told it okay... =)