Thursday, March 26, 2009


I am so excited because tomorrow my mom and my sister will be coming to Madrid for my sister's spring break! 8 whole days! I can't wait! :) And tomorrow is Brittany's birthday, so I can take her out on the town! What fun!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A weekend in beautiful Barcelona!

This past weekend was a holiday in Spain, so we had a four-day weekend and what better way to spend it than to go to Barcelona?! We went in the AVE (alta velocidad española) train, which was SO nice! It was just like a plane, but bigger and I didn't have to bring travel-size shampoo!

The train travels at speeds up to 300 km/hour (186 mph), so it was a nice three and a half hour trip from Madrid to Barcelona. We got there Thursday afternoon around 5:30. We checked into our hostel (the RamCat) and then walked around a bit by the mediterranean and saw the big shopping center, then went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was an early night because we were all tired and we knew we had a big weekend ahead of us!

Friday we started the day out at the Catedral de Barcelona, which was beautiful with each of the 28 chapels was ornately decorated. After the Catedral, we went to the Museo de Picasso, which was huge and very impressive. I never realized what a range he had, and I have such a greater appreciation for his work now. The next stop was the Chocolate Museum (Xocolate Museo in Catalan) had sculptures made of chocolate, history of chocolate, and of course included a free bar of chocolate! It was very interesting and very tasty! Then we took the metro up to Montjuic, "Jewish Mountain", to take in a great view of the city. The gondola was closed by time we got there, but we did see the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, a display of color, light, music, motion, and water acrobatics. It was really neat!

Saturday we began our day early, at the Sagrada Familia, one of the most recognized symbols of Barcelona. It was designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, who devoted his last forty years of his life to the project. Construction began in 1882 and is still going on today...scheduled completion date: 2020! So that tells you just how elaborate it is! Gaudí was inspired tremendously by nature and you can see that in the design of the cathedral. It was beautiful and I cannot wait to return and see the completed project! After the Sagrada Familia, we went to the Park Güell, another of Gaudí's masterpieces. At the entrance to the park are two buildings that look like something out of the boardgame "Candyland." It was very whimsical and there were mosaics everywhere...there was a large salamander and a large wavy bench with mosiac designs, so beautiful! After the Park, we went to another work by Gaudí, Casa Mila, an apartment building built in 1912. So basically, I am now a big fan of Gaudí and if you haven't heard of him you should definitely check him out!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rollin' with the Romans

This weekend Sondee and I went to Rome to visit our friend Riccardo, who we met at Carlos III. He was in Rome for a week because he had to take an exam, so we flew in for the weekend and stayed with him. It was wonderful! He picked us up from the airport (but there was a slight mix-up and Sondee and I flew into different airports, so we got a tour of all the airports in the Rome area!) and then we met a few of his friends for dinner. I had four cheese pizza--delicious! Pizza is a little different here...everyone orders their own pizza because the crust is thinner you can eat it all. It's not as heavy as pizza in the US. After dinner Riccardo and his friend Diego tried to take us to the city center, where all the night-life is, but the traffic was so bad we decided to call it a night.

Saturday was our big sight-seeing day! We started off with some Italian capuccino and a pastry at a bar near the apartment, then we went to another bar for some more pastries, then it was finally time to begin! We started off at the Basilica of Saint Paul, then the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Venencian Plaza, the Panthenon, the Plaza de Espana, and the Trevi fountain! It was a long day, but so much fun! We met up with a few of Riccardo's friends for dinner and then went out on the town!
Sunday was football day. Rome was playing another team, so we went to Riccardo's dad's house to watch the game with a few friends of his. His dad cooked us some amazing food and we watched the football game! After the game we headed to the Plaza de San Pietro, which was beautiful! The Vatican was closed, so we couldn't go inside, but it was still beautiful from the outside! I guess we'll just have to go back...


Tomorrow I leave for Barcelona... :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Family time :)

Today I made a torte with my señora and my little sister! It was so simple, but delicious! And a good way to spend time together! The dough was made of melted butter, two eggs, baking powder, and flour, and then we spread nutella on top and put little shapes of dough on the nutella. It took fifteen minutes total, I think. It was muy rapida y muy rica también! :) I can't wait to bring home all my new recipes and cook! Here are a few photos from our baking session!

This weekend: Rome!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Today is the 5-year anniversary of 11-M, the terrorist attacks in the Madrid Train Station, Atocha. 11-M consisted of a series of coordinated bombings in Atocha, the center station of the Cercanías (commuter train) system of Madrid on the morning of 11 March 2004 (three days before Spain's general elections), killing 191 people and wounding 1,400. The official investigations determined that the attacks were directed by an al-Quaeda-inspired terrorist cell, but with no direct connections to al-Quaeda.

I remember hearing about the bombings five years ago, back in the United States, but I was a junior in high school and had not even started studying Spanish, so I never dreamed I would be studying abroad in Madrid, or even Spain. And now, here I am! It was very humbling though, as I use the Cercanías every day to commute to the my university, which is in a southern suburb of Madrid. My station is one stop north of Atocha, and I go through Atocha everyday. The victims of attack are now very close to my heart.

On a lighter I bought my Ave (bullet train) ticket for Barcelona next weekend! The 19th of March is a holiday, so we have a four-day weekend!

And this weekend I'm headed to Roma!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reina Sophía, Valle de Los Caídos...y la Cocina Española!

Yesterday I visited the Reina Sophía museum with my Estudios Culturales class. The Reina Sophía is the home of Picasso's Guernica, the most famous single work of the 20th century. It was created as a Civil War protest and commissioned by the Spanish Republican government in 1937. I have seen this painting in so many textbooks, it was incredible to see it in real life. I was amazed at its size, I didn't realize how big it actually is--349 cm × 776 cm (137.4 in × 305.5 in)! Our focus was on art during the Spanish Civil War, so we also saw works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Horacio Ferrer, and Robert Capa. But there was so much more to see! So I'm definitely returning! :)

After the Reina Sophía, we took a bus to the Valle de Los Caídos (The Valley of the Fallen), the tomb of dictator Francisco Franco. The monument is a huge cross on the mountainside 50 stories tall (100 if you include the base!). You can see it from kilometers away! It was neat to see, but a little strange too. I don't know how to describe it, but it just had an eery feeling to it...

Today, Patricia, the directora of our program, had us all over to her house for a Spanish cooking class! And boy did we cook! For 2 hours! Tortilla española (omelet with potato--very popular here!), a spinich dish, Arroz con leche (translation: rice with milk, a dessert), and of course, sangria. It was so delicious, but so filling! I can't wait to make some of these Spanish foods when I go home!


Friday, March 6, 2009

(SNOW) Me gusta Segovia!

Today I went on an excursion for my Environment and Society class to Segovia, a small town in the mountains northwest of Madrid. It was absolutely beautiful, but I think we had the worst weather possible! The pass that we would normally use to get to the mountains was closed because of the snow that had fallen this week. So there was snow on the ground AND it was raining. The first "parada" (stop) that we made was at the Presa de Navacerrada, near the large reservoir, which if needed could supply Madrid with water for a year and a half if there were to be a drought. Navacerrada is also known for supplying Madrid with firewood and cattle, things that cannot be grown or raised in Madrid. It was very cold here, the wind was whipping off the water and the rain was falling...The next stop was a small cafeteria to drink a cup of coffee, then to the Bosque, a forest of Scotch Pines. Here, we ate lunch and then attempted to do a 5K hike, but with the snow on the ground and the rain, it was slippery and incredibly cold! I was wearing boots, but my feet were still cold and soaking wet by the end. It was such a shame because the bosque was absolutely gorgeous! I really want to go back when it gets warmer and go hiking! Here, in this region, the altitude is greater, so the type of rock is only granite. That's why the stream was so shallow; because the water is not able to erode the granite as easily as limestone. We got back on the bus and headed to La Granja de San Ildefonso, a community created just for the royal family and their servants. The city was carefully planned and is set-up like a grid (much easier than the medieval cities, such as Toledo and Segovia to navigate!). Here we walked (in the rain) through beautiful gardens, covered in snow. Again, I would love to return during the summer when the fountains are actually on so I can see the true splendor of the gardens! The last stop was Segovia. Finally. By this time we were all exhausted, wet, cold, and ready to go home. But we found some energy! We went first to see the Roman Aqueduct--simply incredible. It was huge! And until 20 years ago, cars would drive under it, through the arches because it was a major road! But now, it's closed off to cars and only open to foot traffic. It's hard to believe they ever let cars that close to this ancient aqueduct! The aqueduct was constructed by the Romans, out of granite, which they brought down from the mountains. You can see little dimples in the stones where they used the cranes to haul the pieces into place--all without concrete. The granite stones are simply stacked one upon the other. Incredible. In Segovia, we also saw the Alcazar Castle, which started off as an Arab fort, but at the end of the 11th century it was conquered by King Alfonso VI. During the Middle Ages, the Alcazar of Segovia was the favorite residence of Kings of Castile. It was beautiful, but closed, so we could not go inside...another reason to return!

It was a long day, and I'm cold and tired...but now I can say I've been to Segovia! :)