Madrid’s Bullfights

by Olivia Hebert

Today in Madrid our group had a late start to our first group activity. However, it was much
appreciated by many members of the group, as we were still recovering from our adventure to
the karaoke club the night before. Our day started with a delicious breakfast at the hotel and our
group anticipated our activities for the day. We were especially excited to meet our tour guide for
Las Ventas, as we had heard of his talent for showmanship. Despite our eagerness to start the
day, we all expressed our wishes to have more time together in Madrid. Our group reflected on
how we had all developed friendships with one another and reflected on our adventures together.
Arriving at Las Ventas was simple, just a few short stops on the metro. I was astounded by the
size of the arena, its vastness revealed the pride and grandeur of Spain.

We were welcomed by our guide, who immediately revealed his charismatic personality. Our group learned the deep-rooted history of bullfighting throughout Spain, including its famed heroes and their
influence on the sport. The arena itself was large and intimidating. Reminiscent of an ancient
amphitheater, its stone steps seemed incredibly steep.

After learning of the tradition of beer drinking and rowdiness of its patrons, I wondered just how many have plunged down the arena’s hard steps. Our group was also able to witness two of our members bravely fight against a virtual bull via VR. Along with an informational walking tour, we also visited the area’s private
museum. There, I viewed the ornate uniforms, paintings, and artifacts of past fighters. Some held
the gruesome experiences of their owners, with stains of blood and ripped garments. I especially
enjoyed learning about Juanita Cruz, the first female pioneer of the sport. I was intrigued to learn
of her relationship with Spain and Mexico, and her business relationship with Francisco Franco.
Additionally, our tour guide demonstrated the classic stances and movements of the fighters with
a cape. Passing the garment around our group, we discovered that is much heavier than what we
had anticipated. I was also intrigued by the multiple media outlets recording and filming
throughout the arena during our tour. It was interesting to witness them perform in action! I so
greatly enjoyed the tour to Las Ventas, and to commemorate the experience, I purchased a small
keychain resembling the elaborate costume of the bullfighters. For lunch, I went to Casa
Revuelta, a recommendation of James Blick. There, I tried their five-hundred-year-old wine
recipe and their famed fried code. It was delicious! For dessert, I took a short stroll to El Riojano
for their hot chocolate and pastries- another James Blick favorite. While I so greatly enjoy the
food of Madrid, I have yet to become accustomed to the relaxed pace of Europe. Along my way
to the hotel, I purchased commemorative gifts for my family at gift shops. I was able to find
international stamps and purchase postcards for my family. I am very eager to hear of their
arrival in the U.S. and am curious to discover the pace of Spain’s postal service. At the hotel, my
roommate and I began packing our bags for our next destination together- Portugal! Our final
dinner in Madrid was fantastic, filled with fun, good food, and flamenco dancing. My favorite
dishes of the night were the tuna salad and tortilla. It was the perfect ending to our trip, even if it
started to rain heavily on our way home. I enjoyed watching the numerous styles of flamenco
dances performed and was surprised to learn that both the music and dancing were improvised.
Before arriving at the hotel, I stopped at Mercado de San Miguel to try horchata. Interestingly, it
had hints of carrots- but it was nonetheless delicious. Arriving at the hotel, I completed my
packing and confirmed my flight for the following morning. Soon after packing, our group
decided to meet across the street from our hotel at McDonald’s for a final goodbye before
departing early the next morning. It was a bittersweet meeting, but I was intrigued to learn that
many of our members were continuing their travels across the world this summer. Thankfully, we
would be able to maintain our bonds via social media and school and hear of each other’s
upcoming adventures. Back at the hotel, the group prepared for our early flights and bus ride to
the airport. Hopefully, we are all able to wake up early!