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.

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(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).

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(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!)




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



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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