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.

 

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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