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