Catching Up

Hello everyone!

 I know it’s been quite the dry spell with blog posts, and there are no excuses except the usual boring ones about being busy, so I won’t go into them.

 I’m coming upon my last month in Spain, which is pretty weird. It’s hard to imagine that this wonderful experience drawing to an end, and I’m torn between wanting to stay with the sunshine in Madrid and wanting to eat a proper hamburger and give my family & friends GIGANTIC hugs. So I’ve decided to make the next month full of a lot of work (I do still have to finish my thesis!) and good, quality time with my friends here. I’ve been able to meet a lot of really incredible people, for which I am grateful, and I can tell we all have some really great adventures ahead of us!

 Below I’m putting some pictures illustrating some of the shenanigans from the last few months—pictures are more fun to look at than reading long paragraphs. Enjoy, and much love to all you readers!

 Abrazos,

Molly

(P.S. What these pictures reveal are the highlights of the last few months, leaving out the many, many hours spent in the library, which I promise actually happened)

 Image

Group photo of our trip to the Basque Country in the north of Spain (green and mountainy, lots of delicious seafood, and excellent company)

 

 

Image

 

The Aqueduct in Merida (the Roman ruins there are the best place to make you feel like you’re in Gladiator)

 

ImageVisiting our friend Cervantes in Toledo

 

ImageA proper Spanish barbacoa (good friends and good food, what more could you want??)

 

ImageTouring Spain with Mom and Pat (We made it to Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Barcelona, and Madrid for Easter)

 

ImageMom in front of a procession in Granada: For Easter, brotherhoods belonging to each parish carry the very heavy wooden floats with the church’s icons (usually Jesus/Virgin Mary) through the streets, dressed in long robes and pointed hats that make you think of the Ku Klux Klan, but are actually traditional clothes they began wearing centuries ago.

 

ImageAnd a little jaunt to Ireland

 

 

The Christmas Edition!

Hello all! Have you had good holidays and starts to 2014? I hope so! Obviously this has been a dry spell for blog posts—but I’m sure you’ve all found other things to do anyway 🙂 I’ll try to be brief as I catch up and let a few pictures do the talking! (and Speed Read, of course, at the end)

Christmas Travels in Europe:

For the holidays I spent two wonderful weeks traveling and seeing family & friends. First, to Prague for five days to see cousin Jon, Natasha, and their cat Kenzo. We decorated a (very tiny!) Christmas tree, made risotto, walked around and saw the lights in the city center, and took a day trip to Dresden—my first time ever in Germany. Dresden had the cute classic Christmas markets that pop up all over Europe around when Thanksgiving should be; also little groups of children caroling on street corners and a million different kinds of sausages.

Christmas day I went to Mass in Czech and had no idea what was happening. But then, I figured that’s probably what it felt like to the regular people in the early Church when the entire Mass was in Latin—it also gave me the chance to admire the stained glass. The whole holiday was wonderful, so even though I was far from home, I spent good quality time with family.

Jonny, Nat, & Molly Xmas 2013

Family time in Dresden

Euro Christmas 2013-14 050

Pretty sights in Dresden

Coolest Prague things: Clock in the city center, learning how to cook risotto (kinda), being cozy on a couch and not having to do homework!!

From Prague I hopped on an overnight bus to Brussels. That wasn’t so bad as I thought it would be—we stopped a lot and the seats had their own movie screens, so I just watched movies all night (probably not the best format to see The Hobbit, but that’s ok). In Brussels, I was reunited with Ellie, one of my lovely Notre Dame/first study abroad/Minnesota friends and her friend Heidi, also lovely, and we set about exploring the city. Brussels was packed with folks there on their vacations—I overheard a lot of French and German, British accents, Italian, Turkish (I think??). But I knew I wasn’t in Spain anymore when it was Friday night and all of the store fronts and even restaurants were closing! In Madrid, dinner time doesn’t even really start til 8:30. Brussels had great Christmas markets, and they were huge and all over the place. They also light up their central cathedral and have a coordinated lights and music show every hour or so that lights up all the buildings—pretty neat.

Euro Christmas 2013-14 062

Coolest Brussels things: European Parliament (spent a whole afternoon there!), Belgian history museum (sounds super boring, but was really interactive and put together well), a bar called Delirium (their logo is a pink elephant, which is awesome, and they had a really great Christmas beer)

 

We also took day trips to Bruges and Antwerp while we were in Brussels. Bruges is the kind of town that just makes you want to check into a bed and breakfast, curl up with a cup of tea by the fire, and watch everyone pass along the canals and bridges. Even though it has its share of modern store fronts and things, a lot of the town still has what I imagine an old-Europe feel would be like. Plus it smells like waffles and vanilla, and I’ll never complain about that!

Fairy tale castle in Bruges

Fairy tale castle in Bruges

Euro Christmas 2013-14 098

Antwerp was a nicer city than I expected it to be. It’s a coastal town and has a big main avenue that goes right through the city center to the water, and that avenue makes you feel like you’re in a big city with all the ads and international stores (H&M is literally everywhere), but we also found side streets too narrow for cars that were very quiet, full of classic store fronts and antique shops and old pubs (like, 100+ years old).

Ellie and me in Brussels

Ellie and me in Brussels

On to Edinburgh!

The three of us flew from Brussels to Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve. Aside from getting a few liquids confiscated at security, this trip was uneventful. Our airplane only had 7 people in it! While the airports were quiet, the streets were not. In Edinburgh, NYE is called Hogmanay, which basically implies a huge street party with concerts and drinks and tons of people all night long. We joined the party, naturally, and had a really good time, especially with the countdown to midnight and the fireworks. It’s the first time I’ve attempted a big event like that at New Year’s, and it was a blast celebrating midnight with that many people from all over the world.

The rest of the time in Edinburgh was just lovely. We were able to take our time exploring the city, and there was a lot to see! The city was built up basically by adding one layer on top of another, so it has lots of nooks and crannies, winding streets, alleys that lead down to other streets, and lots of hills. We visited the castle up on the hill, Greyfriars Kirk (church), where we stumbled upon a wonderful concert with lively highland music playing (five fiddlers rocking out on stage) –this church is also the home of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who faithfully sat by his master’s grave for fourteen years til he died. There’s a cute little statue of the dog (there isn’t one of his master…priorities 🙂

We also climbed up Arthur’s Seat on one of the few days that the sun came out—basically, Arthur’s Seat is a gigantic hill in a park between the city and the water. A ton of Scots were there walking with their dogs and their children, though most of the people doing the actual climbing were foreigners like Ellie and me. I imagine the Scots are over it by now.

Pretty darn cool ruins we saw on our way down from Arthur's Seat

Pretty darn cool ruins we saw on our way down from Arthur’s Seat

At the top of Arthur's Seat

At the top of Arthur’s Seat

 

One of my favorite days was the one we spent taking a tour through the Highlands from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and back. I got to see snow for the first time this winter as we drove through Glen Coe and little mountains and rolling hills. Even in winter, it’s still greener than central Spain! We were lucky with the weather again and the sun came out when we reached Loch Ness, so we got a lovely sunset. It’s a really narrow lake, but super long and super deep. I’m not surprised they haven’t found Nessie yet.

Me with a "Highland Coo!"

Me with a “Highland Coo!”

Coolest Scottish things: Tried a haggis and cheese sandwich and it was actually tasty; petting a “Highland coo” (Scottish cow, long shaggy hair with horns); deeelicious beer; cupcakes and tea on my birthday

And that sums up my Christmas break! I’ve had about a month now in Madrid without classes, but don’t worry, I was keeping busy! Between starting a climbing class, reading for my thesis, going to movies, tutoring, helping welcome the new undergrads to Madrid, hiking on the nice days, and just resting for real, I never got bored. Classes began again on Thursday, and I feel 100% ready for them. Okay more like 78% ready, but close enough. I hope y’all my readers are well, and please do stay warm and protect yourselves from the arctic weather over there!

Speed Read:

CHRISTMAS. It was lovely. Nuff said.

Five Things:

  1. Realizing that I am apparently wearing the same clothes in 95% of the photos we took, since we were always outside and I was always wearing my coat!
  2. Currywurst: tried it in Dresden. It’s supposed to be delicious, but the version we had was ketchup with curry powder, so not my most favorite dining experience…
  3. Belgium was the best for snack foods—famous for fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer (but none of the fries were better than my local spot, Convention Grill!)
  4. Don’t try baking things after climbing class—the mixing motion is really, really hard when you’ve destroyed your forearm muscles and fingers with an hour of dangling from them.
  5. Family for Christmas and reuniting with close friends are the best, even (especially) when you’re far from home

Halfway There!

Hello everyone! Looks like this will be the blog post for the month of December, so I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season and getting a chance to play in the snow!

(Speed read at the bottom!)

It’s been a busy month here both school-wise and with a ton of other activities. All you need to know about school is that I’ve never had that many papers to write within such a short time (5 within a week of each other), and that even though it was tough I survived!

An outline of some sort might be the best way to tackle the last month (can you tell I’m a student??)

 Thanksgiving weekend

Thursday itself wasn’t that spectacular since we all had class to deal with, but Friday morning all of the Literature program  folks came over to our apartment and we had a special Thanksgiving brunch: pancakes, scrambled eggs, apple pie, and arepas, which are kind of like English muffins, and which were made by hand by César, the lone boy in our program. The next day, my roommate and I went to a Thanksgiving party that a Notre Dame alum hosted at her house, and that’s where we got some good traditional Thanksgiving food—it’s not quite the same as being at home, but it was pretty close!

Making arepas and apple pie with Kaylee and César

Making arepas and apple pie with Kaylee and César

 Random cultural things

 

NYU hosted a live concert of Sephardic music. The Sephardis were/are Spanish Jews who lived in the peninsula until they were expelled in 1492. But, if you go to Turkey and North Africa, you can find communities descended from the exiled Sephardis who still sing songs in Spanish that were handed down throughout the centuries, which is pretty darn cool. The music was really neat, and each song the musicians changed music, sometimes singing, playing guitars (various kinds, one like a banjo, one like a mandolin, one more traditional), drums, and castanets.

The Escorial: this is a huge palace/mausoleum/cathedral that’s a little ways to the north of Madrid. It was built in the 16th century for King Felipe II. It’s a huge, beautiful place, and they’ve preserved a lot of the palace as it was back in the day, including all of its religious art, architectural drawings and models, and lots of furniture. But it’s also super creepy because underneath the palace are the tombs of dozens of Spanish royalty. Kind of like keeping your ancestors in the basement. But I suppose it’s his palace and he can do what he wants. The Cathedral that’s a part of the palace is beautiful; it has a huge, lofty dome and a very beautiful organ.

The Escorial

Outside the Cathedral

Outside the Cathedral

The lovely organ in the cathedral

The lovely organ in the cathedral

I finally managed to watch a Notre Dame game in Spain! (with the rain on the plain) The sports bar my roommate and I discovered back in September finally came in handy, and were kind enough to divert one of the TV’s from soccer to the Notre Dame-Stanford game. It was a lot of fun to see the team colors, and even a few brief glimpses of the band! All we needed were some proper hot dogs to complete the gameday atmosphere, but I guess you can’t have everything 🙂

So then finals week happened and all fun stopped. Not that school isn’t fun, but it’s a special mixture of very interesting thoughts & ideas, lots of work, and little sleep. Luckily finals don’t last forever!

On the last day of classes NYU hosted a cocktail party for the grad students and our professors, which was a ton of fun, in part because that meant I didn’t have to cook dinner for myself, and also because we got to hang out with our profs outside of class. We ended up talking about school a lot, but it was still nice to be more relaxed with them. After the cocktail party we went out dancing, and some of our professors even came with us! (the next level of hanging out with profs!) That was a ton of fun, the music was great, and our profs showed off some pretty excellent dance moves 🙂

Me with Sam, one of our Linguistics students, at the cocktail party!

Me with Sam, one of our Linguistics students, at the cocktail party!

Group photo!

Group photo!

This past week has been full of epic success and some failure.

Failure: trying to ice skate in Madrid. I researched rinks in Madrid and found one right in front of the Royal Palace, which I thought would be perfect and beautiful. However, when we arrived to skate, we discovered that the rink was absolutely tiny (smaller than half a hockey arena), and that there were puddles all over the ice. Silly me—being from Minnesota, I just assumed that since it was winter, it would be cold enough for the ice to freeze. Apparently this is Spanish winter. (though the temperature is supposed to drop in January, so there might be hope)

Success: Turning in all of my papers! To celebrate, my roommate and I went to and exhibit on surrealism (it was super cool, they put artwork painted in the 15th and 16th century next to artwork made in the 20th century, and it’s crazy to see how similar they were. And just how crazy medieval artists were, their stuff was full of eyeballs and demons and all sorts of weird things. (But intriguing all the same!) After that, we treated ourselves to some well-earned dessert—a Nutella cheesecake in a cute café where we’ve gone to study a few times. That may or may not have been one of my favorite desserts ever. Perhaps because it tasted like victory.

Now I’m out of class til January 30th. How will I fill my time, you might be wondering? Half of it will be spent on some lovely Christmas travels, and the rest of will be full of reading the stack of books that my thesis advisor gave me to work on for break. I think I’m equally excited for both of these things, which is probably good!

My travel itinerary is Prague for Christmas with my cousin Jon, his wife Nat and their cat Kenzo; then between Christmas and New Year’s, I head to Brussels to meet up with my friend Ellie and her friend who’s studying in Edinburgh; then New Year’s Eve and beyond we go to Edinburgh, and I’m back in Madrid January 5, just in time for the Three Kings celebration (the Three Kings are the ones who bring Christmas presents in Spain, not Santa!)

So with that I’ll bring this post to a close! Be well over the holidays (Festivus, Christmas, whichever!), spend some time with the family, and make some good New Year’s resolutions!

¡Abrazos!

Molly

Speed Read

Thanksgiving with Notre Dame alumni

Concerts and trips to cultural sites around Madrid

First semester successfully completed

Soon-to-begin Christmas travels

 

Random Things:

  • I have a new favorite café called Lolina. I spent half a day studying there without getting yelled at, plus I got to drink wonderful tea and pet a dog! I’ve been missing a good cuddle with a puppy
  • Gastrocroquetería: croquets=fried cheese and ham, typically. For my friend’s birthday we went to a place that serves fancy versions of these, which meant croquets full of squid in its ink, shrimp, and cheesecake
  • The lights are up in the city center and they’re beautiful! It’s also a mob scene there at pretty much any time of day—everyone’s there to admire the lights and do their Christmas shopping
  • I may be starting to like coffee…this could potentially be dangerous 😉
  • ¡Feliz Navidad a todos!

Happy Thanksgiving! (A little early!)

Hello readers! It’s been a while since I posted, and this one has to be quick, but once finals are done in two weeks I’ll have much more time to write!

Two weeks ago, we hosted a Jewish potluck at our house. Several of my friends in the program are Jewish, and they wanted to host an early Hanukkah dinner, so they made a bunch of traditional food and it was so good. We wound up hosting it, though we didn’t do any cooking (minus helping bake cookies the week before) because we were the only people coming who had a functional oven. Best decision ever. Almost everyone in our program came, and we ate bagels and lox, potato pancakes, homemade challah bread, brisket, hamentashen (cookies), and probably a lot more things I don’t even remember. Best part is that, since we hosted, we kept the leftovers J

Later that same weekend I went back to Manzanares to go hiking—it was still as beautiful as ever, and a good way to turn off my brain and let it wander outside of the books/paper-writing/city streets and all that.

Last week, a strike led by the street cleaners/trash pick-uppers finally ended. There was going to be a huge cut in their salary, so they decided to strike, and it took the government two weeks to finally reach a deal with them that was at least somewhat satisfying. In the meantime, huge piles of garbage starting accumulating in the streets and a lot of it was really unpleasant to walk through for a while—imagine the things that restaurants, for example, have to throw out, and then they just sat on the streets. I think a private company kept the tourist areas mostly clean, but it was tough. So that happened—one of the bigger ways “la crisis” has made itself visible.

Last Friday I returned to Toledo! I have a few photos, but I have yet to upload them—my bad. It was fun to see what had changed (a few stores here and there), and yet how much the same it was. The inner city of Toledo still feels really medieval, cars can’t get through so it’s very quiet, and the buildings have been there for centuries. We visited an ancient mosque, two synagogues, and the big cathedral, which is one of the best, in my opinion (though I may be biased, since I spent a semester there J)

Later that same weekend the Notre Dame club of Spain hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at a Spanish restaurant, which was a ton of fun. The food was pretty true to life—we had turkey and mashed potatoes and carrot cake, but instead of cranberries there was some sort of blueberry jam, and a pumpkin/carrot soup thing which I’d never had, but it was closer to Thanksgiving than I expected to find!

And the people at the dinner were great—again, I may be biased, but I feel like the kind of ND grads who live abroad are literally the coolest people in the world. The leader of the club is a professor here in Madrid, and the folks I sat by at dinner included a woman who works at an organization associated with the Jesuits that helps refugees in Madrid, her boyfriend, a Spaniard who’s a pediatric cardiac surgeon, another woman who worked for the United Nations for something like 20 years—etc. It was an impressive collection of people, at least to me, and I really enjoyed getting to talk with them.

Time for me to be done now—like I said, two more weeks of class plus finals week and the semester is done. I can’t believe how fast it’s going by, but Spain and grad school are still treating me well, though for the next few weeks I’ll probably be sequestered in the library!

Be well, reader folks, and happy Thanksgiving!

Molly

Speed Read:

  • Big, lovely potluck with Jewish food
  • Back to Manzanares to hike!
  • Trash strike starts and ends
  • Toledo day-trip
  • Notre Dame Thanksgiving
  • HOMEWORK.

 

Truco o Trato (Trick or Treat)!

Happy Halloween and Happy November!

(Speed Read below!)

This has been another full, busy week, and definitely the proudest cooking week of my life (not to brag or anything 😉

To start, last Saturday my friend Michelle, who’s in the teaching program at NYU here, came over and we spent the entire  day cooking delicious things. Studying was supposed to get mixed in with the cooking, but it just didn’t happen. For the main dish, we made a stew out of lentils, chorizo, and assorted veggies. It was a good healthy thing to balance out the brown-sugar smothered sweet potatoes and fried plantains we made to go with them!

Lentils and plantains, if only you could smell how delicious they were!

Lentils and plantains, if only you could smell how delicious they were!

After spending the day eating, my roommate and I went to an Irish pub to watch the big Madrid-Barcelona Clasico game. This is one of the biggest games of the year for Spanish football, and the bar was packed with an international crowd (I heard plenty of Spanish, Irish and British accents, and even a little German). We were all pretty bummed when Madrid lost (except for the four Barcelona fans in the bar), but my spirits rallied when I remembered that we were still planning to bake cookies that night.

The rest of my amigos in the lit program came over to help us bake the delicious cookies, which was good, since we made a lot. We made pumpkin bars (the recipe called for cookies, but they sort of evolved into bread, which was still tasty), and Nutella cookies (easiest cookies I’ve ever made: 1cup Nutella, 1cup flour, 1 egg, mix and bake). All in all, it was an excellent day of food and friends.

Baking with Michelle!

Baking with Michelle!

Fall seems to have snuck up on m unexpectedly—the leaves don’t really change color here, so up until this week it’s just felt like a slightly chillier version of summer. But this week the weather turned chilly, the Retiro Park was full of the smell of dried leaves, and a churros stand appeared across the street from us—definite signs that summer is really ending.

One of the many pretty and random buildings in Retiro

One of the many pretty and random buildings in Retiro

Halloween celebrations are really different here too—it’s not widely celebrated at all, actually, but the younger generations are definitely picking it up. But Spanish Halloween costumes are almost always the scary versions—zombies and vampires with lots of intense makeup—and you won’t see too many princesses or cartoon characters walking the streets. The real dress-up holiday in Spain is Carnival, so we’ll have to wait til spring to see everybody in costume.

The day after Halloween is a national holiday in Spain, so to celebrate I decided to travel to Manzanares El Real, a small town about 45 minutes north of Madrid that’s right outside of La Pedriza, one of Spain’s best national parks. I sort of had to wander around the town until I found people walking in hiking clothes, but once I made it to the national park I had no troubles at all. La Pedriza has a ton of well-maintained hiking trails and rock climbing areas that go straight into the low mountains outside of the town (Sierra de Guadarrama). It was fairly crowded, lots of Spanish families enjoying their day off by taking their kids and the dog to picnic in the mountains, and the weather was perfect—a little chilly, but the sun came out in the afternoon and warmed me up. The terrain is full of scattered boulders and it’s very green, lots of pine-like trees and long grass that I saw some cows munching on.

La Pedriza

La Pedriza

The town of Manzanares also has some nice historical things, a huge castle that was built back in the 1200’s and was restored in the 1800’s (I think…), and an old church built at the same time that’s on a huge high cliff overlooking the town—from there you get a view of everything around it, you can even see the skyscrapers way off in Madrid! That plus the beautiful hiking made Manzanares one of my favorite days I’ve spent in Spain so far.

El Castillo

El Castillo

 

La Hermita (a church)

La Hermita (a church)

I hope you all are enjoying Fall (and not getting too cold), it’s going by fast! Be well, and don’t forget to tell me about your own adventures!

Abrazos,

Molly

Speed Read:

  • Cooking all the delicious food
  • Happy Halloween!
  • Beautiful hiking north of Madrid

The Rain In Spain

Hello all readers!

Speed Read:

>>Tour of where Cervantes lived in Madrid

>>Blues bar and dancing in Spain

>>Becoming an English tutor

>>Reading for class. All of the reading.

 

Sorry for the weeks-long hiatus, I have no legitimate excuses to offer other than being a grad student, especially in Spain, is busy!

As you may have guessed from the title, after weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, Fall has indeed arrived in Spain in the form of…rain. But I don’t really mind it that much, because and it usually doesn’t last for more than a half hour at a time so it’s easy to stay dry—plus, for some reason, the rain in Spain makes the trees and grass in the park smell really good and fresh. Retiro is still mainly green, but I caught sight of a few fall colors yesterday that I promise I’ll photograph once I remember that I need to be a tourist here sometimes.

But on that note, last weekend I went on a “Cervantes tour” guided by the professor, Paco, who’s teaching my class on Don Quijote. Paco is probably my favorite professor here. When he talks about Don Quijote, it’s like receiving a whole gush of the knowledge and wisdom he’s collected over reading this book (and literally every other book) over the last 25 years. Plus, he’s willing to digress from class and tell us about secret things about Madrid like where to find the best restaurants (he nearly became a chef instead of a professor), and how much his daughter loves the band One Direction, etc etc.

So Paco and his wife, also a professor, guided us through the old parts of Madrid where Cervantes was born, went to school, and eventually settled when he finally got famous after publishing the first part of Don Quijote in 1605.

Secret garden in a corner of Madrid

Secret garden in a corner of Madrid

Mosque-turned-church--I wouldn't mind climbing the tower for the view!

Mosque-turned-church–I wouldn’t mind climbing the tower for the view!

Cervantes fun facts: Fought in wars between Spain and the Ottomans, lost his hand and was captured by the Turks and held prisoner in North Africa for 5 years until he and other prisoners were freed by the Trinitarians. He had very little success, economically or personally, in his life until Don Quijote was published (lots of bankruptcy, marriage, mistresses, etc). After it was published he enjoyed his fame and released Part Two of Don Quijote. (There are a few theories as to why, since he probably didn’t initially intend to write a second part; but after Part One was published there were a lot of imitation books published, so maybe he wanted to make sure everyone knew how awesome the real write of Don Quijote was. Everyone agrees that he died in April 23, 1616, the same day as Shakespeare (even though it’s not quite true, but it’s close), basically broke and living off of his niece’s income. What money he had left he gave to his family and to the Trinitarians, the order that rescued him from imprisonment in North Africa.

Rain in Spain October 2013 004

 

(Where Cervantes went to school. It’s still a functioning high school–imagine having this as your cafeteria!)

 

Basically we got to walk through his old neighborhood, which is where four very famous Spanish writers of the time, Lope de Vega, Góngora, Quevedo (mainly poets, and Lope was a dramatist) all lived (it was very hipster back in the day), and, to make things fun, they basically all hated each other for various reasons.

Cervantes hated Lope de Vega because, since Lope wrote plays, at the time he  was the biggest, most famous, most successful writer in all of Spain, and the rest of Europe followed his example when writing plays (even Shakespeare), so Cervantes was very, very jealous of his success. Lope’s house is still basically intact, so we visited it on the tour and walked through his rooms and garden. (Lope’s life was pretty crazy too, he was married a few times, joined the priesthood, had like 15 children, and then wrote plays praising virtue and honor and suchlike things. Go figure).

Rain in Spain October 2013 005

 

(The garden in Lope’s house, one of his favorite things about his house, also where he spent much of his time writing)

In addition to discovering some history in Madrid, last weekend to celebrate my friend’s birthday, we discovered a blues bar that was super cool. It’s very close to the city center at Puerta del Sol, but from the street all you can see is the door, which honestly looks a little shady. But when you get inside and go down the stairs, you discover you’re in the cellar of a house that has probably been built several hundred years ago. Every weekend they invite musicians to play, all jazz, and they’re really good. The night we went, the band consisted of a guitar, drummer, two bass players, and a harmonica player (the drummer looked like Johnny Bravo with brown hair). The place was packed, and the audience cheered on the players during their solos, and as the night went on we cleared away the tables and chair and started dancing. It’s definitely going on my list of Molly’s Favorite Madrid Spots!

I’ve also started tutoring a few hours a week, which has been a good and interesting experience. I tutor at the George Washington Institute (classic) right by NYU’s campus, which I like because I walk by the Real Madrid stadium on my way there. Last week there was a soccer game and the streets were packed  with people in Real Madrid jerseys and scarves, everyone pouring out of the metro and waiting outside the stadium and getting pumped for the game. Spaniards don’t really tailgate, but I’m pretty sure everyone just hangs out in a bar before and after the game.

My students, as of now, are three university seniors who have to pass an exam in English in order to graduate. Basically, their whole college education depends on how well they do on this exam, which is a little intimidating for me and terrifying for them. Can you imagine needing to learn a language to graduate even though you weren’t a language major? But the good part is that it makes them really eager to learn, and they’re very patient with me

School-wise, I’ve been busy, mainly with reading and trying to think through ideas for the mini-thesis we’ll write in December. But since I can’t explain my topic coherently other than “secret Muslims in Spain in the 16th-17th century,” I’ll just leave it at that J

Thanks all for reading, I know it was a long one today! I hope everyone who got snow is staying warm and that you’re all enjoying the fun things of fall (especially pumpkin pie, eat some of that for me!)

Abrazos,

Molly

 

A little Don Quijote for your enjoyment:

“Don Quijote soy, y mi profesión la de andante caballería. Son mis leyes, el deshacer entuertos, prodigar el bien y evitar el mal. Huyo de la vida regalada, de la ambición y la hipocresía, y busco para mi propia gloria la senda más angosta y difícil. ¿Es eso, de tonto y mentecato?”

I am Don Quijote, and my profession is knight errantry. Those are my laws, to undo injustice, to uphold the good and to avoid the wrong. I flee from an easy life, from ambition and hypocrisy, and I seek, for my own glory, the most arduous and difficult path. Are these the acts of an idiot and a fool?

Seek for your glory, amigos! Hasta pronto!

 

Sweet Sevilla

Hi all!

(Speed Read and pictures below!)

I finally get to tell you about my trip to Sevilla! It’s one of my favorite cities in Spain. Orange trees in the streets, flamenco guitar in the plaza, the world’s oldest bullfighting ring, an old city that’s still mainly intact from sometime in the tenth century—it basically contains all of the Spanish stereotypes, and it’s amazing.

This was an NYU sponsored trip, which meant my only responsibility was to make it to the train on time Friday morning (I did, no worries!). Traveling by train is a lot more fun than airplane—less security, and the view out the window is a lot prettier! I discovered that there are lakes in Spain! Not many, and they’re really little, but they are there!

Anyway, we hit the ground running when we arrived in Sevilla—dropped off our backpacks in the hostel [which was amazing, it had an interior courtyard with a fountain and old furniture and book shelves with books about flamenco in the room] and then we headed right to the Cathedral. Two NYU professors came with us, and they guided us through all of our touristy things (and made it fun!).

Cathedral history: it was originally built as a mosque back in the day when Muslims ruled in southern Spain. Ferdinand III conquered the city in 1248 and turned it into a church, but the tower from the old mosque is still standing (it’s called la Giralda, named after the weather vane on top of it). Fun fact: There are no stairs in this tower, only a ramp that goes to the top. Back when the Muslim muezzin had to do the call to prayer five times a day from the tower, he would ride a horse to the top—much smarter than climbing a million stairs.

The Cathedral houses the tombs of several important Spanish kings and also, supposedly, Christopher Columbus (the Dominican Republic also claims to have his body, although I think they did some DNA tests a few years ago to verify this. You can Google it and let me know J )

The Cathedral was really neat, but also dark and kind of like other cathedrals—a bunch of side chapels with paintings and statues of saints, central chorus area where the organ is, and a huge altar. After the Cathedral, we ate lunch (Spanish lunch, so it took like two hours. But it was lovely J) and then visited the Alcázar, the royal palace.

Alcázar: First off, this is one of my favorite sites in Spain. Although it was built for a Christian king, he was a huge fan of Islamic architecture, o he commissioned Muslim architects to build it. This means that the decorations are a mix of the royal Spanish coat of arms and lines and lines of Arabic calligraphy quoting from the Qur’an. All of the walls are covered beautiful tiles (azulejos) and I’ve decided that in the future mansion I own, I will cover the walls in the tiles. The Alcázar also has a huge garden (from the Cathedral tower it looked like a jungle in the middle of the city), but we didn’t have much time to explore it.

After seeing the Alcázar, we walked through the Jewish quarter, which was a lot of pretty, old buildings and winding streets, then went back to the hotel to rest for a while, since we’d missed our siesta earlier. Later that evening, we went out for dinner, and then some friends and I went to a flamenco show. It was pretty informal, mainly a bar with long tables surrounding a little stage. The flamenco show was short, but amazing, and I really wish I had a video because I don’t think I’ll be able to explain it well. There were three people on stage, a guitar player, a singer, and the dancer, and the musicians started to play/sing, and it seemed like the danger just got up and started pretty much whenever she wanted to. Flamenco dance seems to have a lot of expressive arm movements, jumping, twirling, and incredibly fast tap dancing. [Fun fact: you can get a PhD in flamenco. They even train you how to do the facial expressions. Crazy right?] It was a ton of fun to watch, and I wish it would have lasted longer!

Saturday morning we visited la Macarena, the Virgin Mary that’s the patron saint of Sevilla. La Macarena is a statue of Mary housed in a church (same name), and every year during Holy Week there is a huge celebration with floats, people in costume, and they put the statue on a float that’s carried by a group of men who are members of groups connected with the church. Carrying the float is a huge honor—I’m not quite sure how they work out who gets picked, but I suspect donations are involved. People work all year round maintaining the floats and the robes and costumes that everyone wears.

We were also lucky enough to see a wedding when we visited the Macarena! This one looked pretty traditional—all of the women were wearing really brightly colored dressed (magenta, orange, green) with big hats that had huge feathers on them. They were a lot of fun to see!

After that we went to the Maestranza, the bull ring in Sevilla. It’s the oldest bull fighting ring continuously in operation in the world, so it’s kind of a big deal. (We just toured the building; we didn’t have tickets to a show). We learned about the history of the ring, the school for bullfighters that’s next door, and the culture of bullfighting (tauromaquia). I’m not a huge fan of the idea of bullfighting, but I can respect their dedication to it.

I spent the rest of my time in Sevilla walking around the narrow streets in the old city with some of my friends, stopping for cookies on the way, before we had to get on the train back to Madrid. It was a lovely trip, but, as always, too short!

This past week nothing too notable happened, since we’re in the height of paper deadlines, so my fellow students and I have been spending most of our free hours in the library. I did, however, manage to find the time to return to our taco place and walk through the Retiro park—we’re just starting to get some fall colors here, I will try to take pictures before the leaves fall (apparently autumn is super short here).

I hope you’re all well and you enjoyed reading!

Speed Read:

-Awesome trip to Sevilla, saw ALL the sights

-Spent 95% of my time in the library

 

Some things:

1. There was an adoption drive for puppies and kittens in Retiro this weekend. It was so hard to resist the cute fluffy things!

2. I got my flu shot! Now I can travel the metro without fear of infection

3. I learned the word for “discombobulated” this week: despistado

 

PICTURES!

Calligraphy on the Alcazar walls

Calligraphy on the Alcazar walls

Me in the Alcazar!

Me in the Alcazar!

A view of Sevilla while climbing the Cathedral tower

A view of Sevilla while climbing the Cathedral tower

A little sample of the tiles I want in my house someday :)

A little sample of the tiles I want in my house someday 🙂

La Giralda (Cathedral tower)

La Giralda (Cathedral tower)

"Touchdown Mary"

“Touchdown Mary”

Maestranza (Sevilla bull ring)

Maestranza (Sevilla bull ring)

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