My Birthday in Madrid

Today is my (Jackie) birthday and I am very excited to celebrate the occasion in Spain. I am twenty-one years old today and my Maymester classmates were kind enough to make it a great day, they even sang happy birthday to me before our class started.  It’s a bit weird that I cannot see my family in the United States today, since I have celebrated with them every year before. But it’s okay because I’m having a really good time here and experiencing new and exciting events that I’ll never forget. After today’s class, during which we learned about theater vocabulary and a summary of Fuenteovejuna, we went to a cafe for lunch called the Café Bicicleta. It has sandwiches, fresh juices, and other amazing food. There are so many cafes and delicious restaurants in the streets of Madrid, it’s really hard to pick a favorite. I am amazed by the variety of food here and really love trying the different types of eateries the city has to offer! Afterwards, we went shopping on the Gran Vía in Madrid because there are tons of clothing stores there, some of which we have also in the United States, and others that I’ve only seen here in Spain.

Afterwards, we rested until dinner when we went to buy really great tacos for only one euro each. Tomorrow all the students, professors, and FLAs will have lunch at the restaurant next to our hostel to celebrate.  I will always remember this year when I got the chance to spend my birthday in Madrid!

Back to Madrid

As I write this blog, I sit in a quiet cafe across the street from el Prado, the main Spanish national art gallery (I just finished studying and writing about “Las Meninas” a painting by Diego Velazquez for a class assignment). In the distance I can hear fireworks as soccer fans celebrate in the street over Real Madrid’s victory. The combination of calm and chaos has defined this trip for me so far.

The abrupt fireworks reminds me of when we were in Granada and watched the dynamic Sevillana dance performance while situated in a place of serenity. Walking around Granada during the day, we passed the white buildings which sat on cobblestone streets and explored the entirety of the Alhambra complex from the tile palace, to the fountains, and green and flowered gardens. We swam in the rooftop pool overlooking the Alhambra in our hotel and sipped cinnamon tea in an Arabic tea house. I could not imagine this place as anything but restful.

But Granada changed pace in an instant. I witnessed the most artistic passion I have ever seen in the Sevillana dance performance. The restaurant staff shuffled us quickly into a small, long room which had chairs lining the perimeter (one said “Michelle Obama,” apparently she had watched the same show.) The lights dimmed, while red and green spotlights glowed on the dancers who performed right in front of us. The quick clacking of the dancer’s feet and their dramatic flair was up close and personal and filled with passion.

The tempo of this trip is ever-changing and has proven to me you can have it all—concord and commotion simultaneously.

A Final Overview of Granada

Today is our last day in Granada before we return to Madrid. This trip was an incredible opportunity because we could see beautiful sites in two of the best cities in Spain, other than Madrid. We went to the Alhambra yesterday and my classmates and I were so surprised with the views and the complexity of the structures and buildings of the monument. The Alhambra is my favorite place we have visited on this trip because it has so much history and influences from other cultures, such as the Arabs who once took control of the region.

The hotel that we stayed in was so nice, and it had a roof terrace with a pool that you can look out from to see all the city in the distance. It is a view that photographs cannot adequately capture because it is so surreal and a 360-degree experience. The hotel breakfast was so good and necessary start to the morning, and afterwards we went shopping at the small market shops that lined a side street of the city. I bought gifts for my family and we had lunch before the train to Madrid. I really like the tea in Granada too, it was so much better than any I’ve ever had at home!  The best thing for me about Granada is the mix of antiquity and modernity in the city, especially with architecture.  There are big fashion clothes stores like H&M and Zara, then a 10-minute walk away are the historic buildings of the Reconquista era which was a major part of Spain’s history.

Vamos a Granada!! (2)

Today we visited the famous site of the Alhambra. The Alhambra was built as a military fortress and has existed since the 9th century. However, in 1238 the Nasrites arrived and began to restore the fortress of the Alhambra to what it now is today. The construction of the Alhambra continued into the 14th century. Then in 1492, the Alhambra became controlled by Christians due to the arrival of Isabel and Ferdinand in Granada. We were lucky enough to spend time exploring this amazing site. The details of the palace were amazing. The beauty of it all was incredible and to imagine it has been preserved for such a long time is amazing. The views were breathtaking. Visiting the Alhambra was a once in a lifetime experience that we are all very grateful for having experienced.

Vamos a Granada (1)

Today we visited the famous Alhambra, the expansive fortress and palace complex located in Granada. We took an audio tour in order to get the most from our visit and completely understand the history and importance of the site. The size of La Alhambra is unbelievably large and very well preserved, as it was renovated and rebuilt during the mid 13th century.

The most exciting part for me was the Courtyard of the Lions. When I entered I was hit with the strange feeling that I had seen it before. But obviously I had never been in the palace before so I could not figure it out. It was not until I listened to the speech on the room that I placed it: I had studied it in art history this year! I sent the picture of me in front of the Lions to my art history professor, who is going to post it on a wall dedicated to students finding art they’ve studied. It is such a rewarding experience to be able to travel and apply real-world experiences to the classroom as well.

Third and Final Sevilla!!

Each city that we visit becomes my new favorite place.  In Sevilla, we left very early in the morning for a 6:20am train.  It was not too bad, however, because we could sleep on the train and in no time, we were in Sevilla.  After we ate a croissant and had some coffee in our systems, we walked through the streets of Sevilla together and shopped at the small stores near la Plaza Mayor of Sevilla, also known as the “Mushroom.”  Because we were all together, Professor Lokos insisted that we take many photos on our first weekend trip together.  I am grateful because now I have many memories there that will stay with me for many years.  

We divided into small groups to see the city and its famous sites.  We traveled to la Plaza de España which I think turned out to be one of my favorite places in all of Spain.  I took many photos of all of my friends by the fountain, the ceramic walls and in the circular river where some decided to rent a boat and row.  The place was very large, but extremely beautiful and we were there for two hours, which I think is completely necessary in order to absorb all of the history and hidden places in the Plaza.  Also, there were benches to mark each of the big cities in Spain, so of course we took one in our home city of Madrid.  Later in the day, we visited the library of a professor who Professor Lokos previously had and he was generous enough to gift us three books.  We traveled to dinner where we enjoyed each other’s company and enjoyed the view of the Guadalquivir River.

Vamos a Sevilla (2)

Another look at our time in Sevilla….We woke up today so early that some of our friends and family in the US were still awake. After a long train ride, we finally made it to Sevilla, Spain. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and started the day off right sitting outside drinking either a coffee or an orange juice. Our day of exploring started at the Metropol Parasol (Plaza De La Encarnación) and went to the Plaza de Espana (pictured above) and also the Catedral y Giralda, el Torre del Oro, Manak plaza toros , and ended with dinner by the Puente de Tríana. Another highlight of our day that cannot be forgotten was the visit to Prof. Lokos’ former professor’s honorary library. Francisco Márquez Villanueva had a huge collection of books and now his work is part of a school for children in Sevilla. We were lucky enough to go home with a gift of a few of his books and a much bigger appreciation for our professors 🙂

Vamos a Sevilla (1)

What a tiring but fantastic day I had today! I clocked 11.9 miles walking around and exploring every corner of the beautiful city of Sevilla. I was even able to get in a row (for a small fell of 6€)!  Our day started off with an early 5:00am wake-up call and we all dashed to the train station to catch our morning train. It was funny because as my group and I were running to the train, we saw that the nightlife of Madrid was still very much so happening. The places we saw once we got off the train to Sevilla:

  • The Mushroom: a beautiful architectural structure that was built on both sides of the road & had great vendors that sold handicrafts, stones, earrings, scarves and dried fruits.
  • Catedral de Santa María de la Sede: what a breathtaking cathedral! We were unable to go in because it was closed for the day
  • Plaza de España: This was a beautiful castle that we were able to walk up the steps and view the entire landscape. There were row boats here that Hannah, Erin & I went in– I of course was tasked with rowing… needless to say it is much different than the crew boats I am used to rowing in!!
  • Rooftop pool: The hotel had a beautiful rooftop pool that my peers & I relaxed in before the evening
  • Library of Francisco (Paco) Márquez Villanueva: A children’s library dedicated to Profe. Lokos’ teacher & mentor at Harvard. We even received books written by Villanueva. He is THE specialist about the Golden Age. This was pretty amazing to have a private tour.
  • Dinner by the Guadalquivir River & the Mercado: We finished off the night with dinner at a restaurant by the river. I had my new favorite: patatas bravas! I also had a dish made of spinach, garbanzo and egg. It was very good. We walked over to the Mercado to watch the flamenco! It was so cute seeing the little flamenco dancers learn from the talented & experienced dancers.

This was my favorite day- even if it did start the earliest and include lots of walking. I was able to accomplish so much and see lots of Sevilla! I cannot wait for more adventures like this!

Las Maravillas de Madrid

As we spend more time in Madrid, we have begun to see more and more of what the city has to offer. Since our arrival, we have been exploring the city and the art of Madrid has continued to reveal itself to us. Whether it be the music that street performers play or the street art that cover the city streets, this city is full of art new and old. Madrid contains many museums like the Prado and historical sites like the Palacio Real. However, the real life of the city is in the people. There is always some sort of music outside our windows many times preventing us from sleeping, but it’s part of the experience. We’ve learned that Madrid is really the city that never sleeps. The music, the art, the language, and the theater of this city are all waiting to be explored. We’re excited to continue to experience the wonders that this city has to offer as we prepare for our trip to Seville and Granada this weekend.

Viendo Por Gafas Rosadas

Yesterday we visited the rose garden in el Parque del Oeste. The roses were the most beautiful roses I’ve ever seen and the smell was so strong and incredible. It was such a beautiful day outside and we all could’ve stayed in the gardens forever. After walking around for a few hours, we decided to take the teleférico that is a gondola that brings you high above the city. It had the best views of the city as well as the mountains in the distance. Then we leisurely walked around the city and took in all the amazing sites that we hadn’t seen yet.

After a great day out in the city, we all relaxed together and got to know each other a lot better because so many of us are in different grades and from different places. It’s awesome to know we will all leave our trip with 13 new and awesome friends! We ate 1-euro tacos for dinner together which was amazing and then we finished our night by singing Spanish Karaoke! It was a perfect day!