¡Buenos Días, Madrid!

For the past few days we have been given the opportunity to explore the different parts of Madrid that we have not visited yet. We snacked on some bocadillos and nachos in Malasaña at our new favorite café “la bicicleta”. Malasaña had a very artsy and hipster-like atmosphere that many of us found very fascinating. There were a variety of stores that had some stylish clothes and swimwear (for some amazing prices!) that many of us took advantage of in order to prepare for our trip to Barcelona. We also visited Chueca which was a very lively and exciting place filled with some of the nicest people we have met so far in Spain. There were so many different food options – I felt like I had to try everything! I personally enjoyed how the people here feel comfortable in their own skin to express themselves the way they see fit. In Madrid, it’s cool to be different and people praise these differences. If only the whole world was like this!!! Well, I need to find myself some coffee in order to get my day started on the right foot!

Reina Sofia Museum

Today we visited the Reina Sofia Museum, which houses many of Picasso’s artwork, the most famous being Guernica. As an art enthusiast and artist myself, these museums are always a welcome experience for me. I was especially excited to see Guernica because I first learned about it in eighth grade Spanish and I would finally be able to see it. A good majority of the museum is dedicated to inspecting and dissecting this piece, as it is one of the most influential masterpieces in the 20th century. To give a little background, the small Spanish town of Guernica was bombed in 1937 by Francisco Franco. Picasso had not been in Spain for three years, but he saw pictures of the catastrophe and was inspired to paint the aftermath. It was very interesting to read about people’s interpretations of the painting, as Picasso himself refused to give his interpretation. When asked, he replied, “the bull is a bull and the horse is a horse.” However despite this witty remark, Guernica is swimming with symbolism such as loss of innocence and the injustice of mankind. The most interesting thing to see aside from the actual painting was another artist painted his interpretation of Guernica in the peaceful moments before the impending attack.

Although photos are prohibited in most of the museum, including Guernica, we were forced to take quick pictures of each other trying to pose as casually as possible in front of painting before museum security saw. Enjoy this nervous picture of me in front of , where you can see the fear of God (or museum security) in my eyes.


As we’ve recently passed the half way mark on our Maymester, Madrid is feeling completely like our home. We’ve done laundry, bought snacks at the grocery store, explored a ton of different neighborhoods, and are now pretty comfortable with our new European surroundings. It’s crazy to think we have less than two weeks left in the beautiful country!

Over the past few days, the group has discovered some awesome and delicious cafes around the city that have become our new hangout spots. The coffee and food here are amazing and getting the group together for meals has brought us all closer and we’ve all bonded over the delicious tapas. We saw two shows recently, El Cartógrafo in Santander, which is in the Basque Country, and then La rebelión de los hijos que nunca tuvimos. Both plays were amazing and it has been such a wonderful experience getting to see so many plays here in Spain!

Everyday Life in Spain

Today after class many students took the day to recover from the weekend travels. Many students took the day to “shop till they dropped” while others took time to catch up on some homework. However, there were a few students that took the initiative to attend a zumba class in spanish. This class was very different from those in the United States, partially because they music was all in spanish, but also because Professor Lokos attended it with us. Being able to experience things like zumba in Spain have really helped to understand what everyday life would be like here. We are now over the halfway mark and many of us feel more comfortable with the language, but also we feel more comfortable living our everyday lives in another country. With only two weeks left, we hope to be able to experience all the wonders this country has to offer.

Back to Madrid!

Last night Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League, and we returned to Madrid today after an amazing trip to Santander and Bilbao. After getting back to our hotel we all rested for a little while before heading down to La Plaza de Sol, one of the central plazas in Madrid, to watch the return parade of the soccer team and to get a glimpse of the trophy. The plaza was packed so tightly with soccer fans and tourists that the police had to come through on motorcycles to clear a path for the team’s buses. We stood there patiently for nearly an hour and a half before the soccer team actually arrived, but when they finally did the crowd went absolutely wild, cheering, jumping, climbing lamp posts trying to get the best view. Luckily we were pushed directly to the front of the crowd so we had an unobstructed view of the trophy. Afterwards everyone followed the buses up the street while we returned to the hotel. Sports, specifically soccer, seems to be a uniting force in Spain, because nearly everyone is a fan of Real Madrid, even though there are multiple teams in the country. This is an aspect of sports I wish we saw more in the United States, and maybe it is prevalent in some parts, but I have yet to experience it. Overall I feel like Spain is much more lively than the US, which is very fun but also extremely tiring!

Vamos a Bilbao!!

Saturday we spent the day in Bilbao, about an hour and a half away from Santander, to visit the Guggenheim Museum (no not the one in New York, yes there is another one). I have been to many museums and while some of them tend to blend into each other, the Guggenheim set itself apart. The first exhibit we perused consisted of long slabs of metal that formed either a swirl or a wavy tunnel that visitors could walk through. The second exhibit we visited was abstract expressionism, which happens to be my least favorite form of art because I see no way of justifying how a canvas painted entirely black holds significance, no matter what the audio guide says. However it was interesting to go from “painting” to “painting” and listen to what kind of ridiculous meanings the museum came up with. For one large one the artist dumped blue paint on canvas and had a girl roll around in it for a while. There. Art. Perfect. Let’s put it in a museum.

The most interesting exhibit was a video titled “Human Mask,” and featured a kind of monkey with a traditional Asian mask, wig, and dress on. The monkey was alone in an abandoned restaurant where it had worked as an entertainer, serving and dancing for guests until a tsunami forced everyone out of town. The monkey’s attire gave it a scarily human air and due to this, its actions and even emotions (we could sense fear and boredom) seemed human as well. We follow it through an unknown amount of time–it could be a day it could be a month–as it stays in the restaurant. The video is on an unending loop where the end and beginning is ambiguous. When I first entered I thought it was a horror movie due to the eerily abandoned setting and small masked “child” (who I did think was a real child for the first five minutes). This film raised many unanswered questions: what happened to the monkey? Why does she never leave the restaurant? Does she receive help? And most prominently, what was the artist trying to convey?

Bilbao… Wow!

Unfortunately, it was raining when we went to Bilbao from Santander to explore the Guggenheim Museum.  However, it turned out fine in the end because the museum had many exhibits to look at and even provided audio tracks to listen to when viewing certain pieces.  First we went to The Matter of Time exhibit where we could walk through the sculptures because they were so big.  After, I saw many pieces of art, my favorites being Die berühtem Orden der Nacht, a floral sculpture called “Puppy,” and an all-black painting (which we could see different colors composing the piece if we looked at it for a long enough time).  The museum was very big, but I enjoyed it because there were multiple exhibits that focused on different styles of art, so there was something for everyone.  Since we had many hours in Bilbao for the day, we ate gelato (of course) and had a great lunch before returning back to Santander for the night.  Once we arrived back, we went to a restaurant to eat and watch the finals for soccer and Real Madrid won!  Everyone enjoyed the win because Madrid has become our “home city” and it was great to support and celebrate our team’s win.

Vamos a Santander!

This morning we woke up early to catch the train for Santander (the city, not the bank). The ride from Madrid was beautiful because we were moving from the center of Spain all the way up to the northern coast, giving us the chance to see the difference in climate and weather along the way. Eventually, the rather dry and flat farmland turned into a luscious rainforest. Instead of the sunny 90 degree weather we were struggling to get used to, it was a cool 65. After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we directly went to get some food. Since we are right on the shore, most restaurants have a large amount of seafood to offer. Personally I am not a huge fan of seafood so I stuck with my favorite plate in Spain: Patatas Bravas (potatoes with a slightly spicy dipping sauce). Afterwards we visited the shore, and along the boardwalk were many large white tents where you could buy art, food, clothes, and other souvenirs. One of our favorite small snacks we like to get from these small markets is fruta seca, which is dried fruit, because it is REALLY sweet. We walked towards the Palacio de la Magdalena, passing by a small zoo where we saw penguins and sea lions. The palace was massive and right above a large cliff over the ocean. I really enjoy looking at all of the architectural differences between the United States and Spain, because nearly every building is picture worthy here. That being said, I wouldn’t mind living here in Santander for a little while to enjoy the lively beaches and the beautiful city.

A Day in Santander

Hola from Europe! Sam here, bringing you all an update of our trip thus far. Today we made our way to Santander in the north of Spain. It was the first time we saw rain in about 2 weeks since we have been here (we’ve been very lucky!). As a group we explored the city, dipping our feet into a different Spanish culture and for some of us thrill-seekers into the Atlantic ocean! We stopped to regain our energy which came in the form of fish and chips along with our favorite Spanish tapa, patatas bravas. Personally I am not a fan of seafood, but my Dad would have rolled his eyes if I sent him another picture of a hamburger, so I decided to expand my palate –  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised! At night we went to see the production of “El Cartógrafo” which was a fascinating and overall amazing show. Some of us in the group have a sweet tooth (guilty as charged) so we got some gelato before heading back to the Hostal for a good night sleep before our trip to Bilbao the next day… Well I have to go grab some lunch now because writing this blog has made my mouth water! Hasta luego!

A Visit From the FLA’s!

Today we had a lot to celebrate. It might have seemed like a normal Thursday in Madrid for us, but we went to a wonderful lunch at Ginger to celebrate Jackie’s 21st birthday AND two of our favorite foreign language assistants and Spain natives from Holy Cross, Javi & Laura. We had a delicious meal and chatted with our guests for hours. Then we made our way to the Retiro park on this hot day and ended up in the Prado for a few hours to check out the new “Treasures from the Hispanic Society of America” exhibit. After spending an afternoon looking at art and enjoying the sunshine, we are back in the hostel packing up for another viaje. We are so lucky to be able to travel north this time – although the weather is a bit colder, we will be heading to Santander & Bilbao to see the Guggenheim Museum and another play. Stay tuned for updates to come early next week!