Well, I made it home safe and sound. The flight was long as expected but free of delay and complication, so it was good. Being in familiar surroundings does feel great, and seeing my family and friends feels even better. I have almost a week left in Georgia before I make my way back to Boca Raton. How I have missed sunny South Florida. My experience abroad was one that I will never forget. I have come to the conclusion that Spain has a crazy culture. They like to party until wee hours in the morning, close stores for siesta from 2 in the afternoon until 5, and really enjoy the essence of living. Ian Gibson once said, “I always get the feeling in Spain that something unexpected is going to happen at any moment. You never quite know what is coming.” I definitely agree with his assessment. From the Spanish fiesta to their sacred siesta, it’s a come and go as you please culture.

girls
It’s much different than the American don’t stop until you drop work ethic. I feel like we take a lot for granted in America. For example, my senora would restrict our hot water use, and every time I left a room I had to turn the lights off. She was very conscious about little things that I don’t feel we are as concerned with in America. The cultural differences are crazy – from the time of day they eat, to the language they speak. I now have a much greater appreciation for other cultures. America is no better than Spain, it’s just different. From my experience, I feel like you tend to enjoy the customs you were raised with – at least I know I do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fall in love with something different. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Spain, but if I did, I think I would go to Valencia for Las Fallas. It’s a huge fiesta that involves the burning of 350 massive paper mache and fiberglass sculptures (some are several stories tall and cost more that $75,000 to construct). It sounds a little crazy to me, but it’s a fiesta that one could only find in Spain. I am glad to be home, but I will miss Spain and the Spanishness that I have absorbed in the past four months.

May. 13, 2007

Death in the Afternoon

Adios Madrid

As my last day in Madrid, I really wanted to make Sunday count. I wanted to take in every part of life that I had been living for the past four months. After a little packing in the morning, I took a leisurely walk over to Nicolette’s apartment. It was a beautiful day out. Thinking that this would be the last time I made this walk really made me sad. I did the tourist bit taking pictures of everything I saw everyday, from the intersection I crossed, to the Metro stop I used and the Spanish flags I passed. I fell like I’m finally getting comfortable in the city and now it’s time to leave. After hanging out at Nicolette’s for a while, we went to enjoy our last Spanish meal together. We decided the best food we could eat, for a relatively cheap price – kababs. They were delicious as I expected, but when we finished, I had to say goodbye to my Nicolette. I was so sad. We will definitely keep in touch, but it won’t be the same. It’s strange when you see the same people everyday for four months, and then have no idea when the next time you meet will be.

Toros Bravos

Before Madrid became my second home, I made the decision I needed to see a bullfight. It may be strange activity, but it’s a key aspect of Spanish culture. I think I would have been kicking myself if I studied abroad in Spain and never saw a bullfight. Bullfights start at exactly 7 p.m. Ernest Hemmingway wrote a famous novel almost solely based on the fight called “Death in the Afternoon.” He loved the bullfight spectacle. My friend Kate and I arrived at the bull ring around 6:15. We thought it would be easy to get tickets, but because it was San Isidoro’s fiesta (the bullfighting saint), the fight was entirely sold out. Fortunately, we were able to scalp tickets for a good price.

Bullfight

Continued…

Retiro Park

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The day before while I was shopping in Sol, I ran into my friend Kate. We talked about getting up early and going to the grand park in Madrid, Retiro, together. As planned, Kate called me early in the morning and we met in the park. I can’t believe I lived in Madrid for four months and this was my first time in the park. It’s quite depressing to be completely honest, but before this week, the weather has not been that great and what fun is it to play in the park when it’s cold and raining? However, Retiro was amazing! It was so much fun and so beautiful. There were huge fountains, a pretty lake, an amphitheatre-like structure, waterfalls, trees, flowers, sculptures, gardens and even a crystal palace! After a while, Nicolette met up with Kate and me. The three of us continued to explore the park. Right outside of the park we found the famous arches, Puerta de Alcalá. We took a few pictures, and then went to have lunch by the lake. Regularly, there are little boats that you can rent and ride around the lake. However, this week happens to be a fiesta for San Isidoro (the saint of bull fighting) so they built a huge stage in the middle of the lake for a concert and presentation of the lake. It was pretty cool if you ask me.

Palacio de Cristal

palace

Continued…

May. 11, 2007

Shopping in Sol

After sleeping in, I made a trip to Sol to explore the area and maybe pick up a few quality souvenirs. Man oh man was I successful. I have this treacherous weakness for sun dresses and summer clothes. I love them so much! I could go shopping in the winter and not find one thing I really loved, but you put me in the stores in the summertime and it’s like a mad woman has taken over. I was particularly looking for clothes that had a European flare. I was very proud of my selections and so was Nicolette. She met up with me later in the afternoon. I can’t wait to wear them! After a long day of shopping and exploring Sol, I went back to Choni’s, began packing and called it a night. 

So Long Danielle

Well, today was a little bit depressing. Danielle woke me up around 10 a.m. We had breakfast together. Then I helped Danielle bring her luggage to the taxi stop up the street. I was so sad to say goodbye to my best friend. I will see her in a few weeks, but it won’t be in Europe. I have so many exciting things planned to do in Madrid this weekend, and I won’t have my sidekick to do them with me. I have made lots of friends here in Madrid that can accompany me, but it’s not the same. Danielle and I are inseparable almost everywhere we go. However, I didn’t let it get me down too much. It was a gorgeous day out and there was no way I was going to let it go to waste. I have decided that the best feeling is having a beautiful day to enjoy with no obligations. Not having to worry about work, or school, or anything! It’s just so relieving. It’s absolute freedom to choose whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. Nothing is planned, no time constraints are imposed. It just makes me the happiest girl in the world!   

Atocha + Museo National del Prado

For my first exciting stop in Madrid, I went to Metro Atocha to visit the Prado. A lot of my friends were still taking exams, so I went by myself. It was a great decision. I have decided that you need someone to accompany you to a museum. In fact, it’s better to go by yourself. You can take your time looking at the exhibits you like, and hurry through the exhibits you don’t find as intriguing. Before going in the Prado, I walked all around Atocha – up to Ritero Park, by theBotantical Gardens and all around the museum. I saw the Ritz Carlton, the famous Fuente de la Cibeles and many more sights. 

Continued…

School’s Out for Summer

Well, I would first like to mention that there is hope for the Spanish youth. Although they have quite a bad reputation for being out of control adolescents, one little Spanish boy made my day – as I was walking to school to take a final, a little boy, he couldn’t have been older than three, picked a flower from the ground and gave it to me. It was absolutely precious, and was by far the best part of my day. Simple gestures of kindness always make me smile. Plus, I am officially finished with my semester at Suffolk University. I am so happy the school portion is over! No one likes to burn the midnight oil studying. It’s a wonderful feeling to have no real obligations hanging over my head, at least until Monday when I get back to the States. Although I’m happy to be done with school, I’m heartbroken because Danielle isn’t staying for the weekend. She leaves tomorrow! It was our last day and night in Madrid together – so sad.

Choni’s Gift

After our exam, Danielle and I headed home. We had been so swamped with studying for exams that we hadn’t had time to get Choni a farewell gift. Being that it was Danielle’s last night, there was no more time for procrastination. Every place Danielle and I visited in Europe we brought Choni home a little trinket, but we wanted to give her something special for her to remember us by. So we took a quick photo with her, went to a store nearby, got a nice frame, printed the picture and gave it to her. It may have been last minute, but it worked out perfectly in my opinion. I think she appreciated it too. Plus, the flowers Danielle and I got Choni for Mother’s Day were in the picture too. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

Last El Cabañon Visit with Danielle

Continued…

Well, I thought I had gone to a palace on Thursday night when we went to the club, Palacio Gaviria, in Sol, but I was wrong. After our exams Monday morning, Danielle and I headed out for an afternoon at the Palacio Real de Madrid. The king and queen no longer live at the palace, but it was beautiful! I now realize why marble is so expensive. It’s because back in the day, while building all of these phenomenal palaces, they used it all. Hehe. But in all honesty, it was breathtaking. Walking towards the palace through Plaza de Oriente filled with hedges, gardens, statues (including the famous horse statue) and water fountains, the palace got grander and grander.  

Finally finding the entrance, Danielle and I went inside. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but the rooms were exquisite. We saw the king’s quarters and the queen’s quarters in addition to the Royal Chapel covered in gold, lovely vases from the 18th century, fine silver, portraits and even the Royal Pharmacy. This room was filled with hundreds of bottles with cures for possibly every sickness. They even had their own distillery in the back. It was pretty impressive. The palace itself was impressive. However, if I ever had the option of living in it, I don’t think I would. The marble makes the hallways so cold. The main courtyard in the center, Patio del Príncipe, didn’t have any grass – it was only white stone. Maybe it would be livelier with if it were filled with flowers. Plus, I think I would get lonely living in such a big place.  

Continued…

Danielle and I got up and out of the house bright and early on Sunday morning. We met Nicolette in the Metro at 9 a.m., and the three of us headed for the Rastro. It’s one of the largest flee markets in the world, and it is held right here in Madrid every Sunday! It doesn’t technically open until 10 a.m., but it gets so crowded there by noon, that you have to get there early. I think my expectations were set too high for the Rastro. I was expecting to find so many awesome trinkets at a super-low, must-buy price, but I was rather disappointed. It was really large, and there were vendors lining the streets, but the things they were selling were not that cheap. In fact, a lot of the summer dresses I saw and wanted, were the same price (if not more expensive) than the department stores like Zara that offer the luxury of dressing rooms and return policies. Oh well, I’m still very happy that I went, saw and conquered the Rastro.

By noon, the streets were so crowded we could hardly walk. Danielle, Nicolette and I headed back to town and got kebabs for lunch. Kebabs are not the skewers with meats, peppers and other goodies on them like we have in the States. Kebabs in Spain are pita like sandwiches filled with gyro-like meat, lettuce and tomato. They are a delicious cuisine here in Spain. Although I’m beginning to love Madrid, there’s still a lot more I need to do. The clock is ticking, but I won’t let time run out.

I can’t believe this semester is winding up so quickly! I’m so happy that classes are finally over and in merely four days, I will be done with exams too – crazy stuff. The last few days here in Madrid have been amazing. On Thursday, the whole gang from Suffolk went to an Irish pub, O’Connell’s in Sol, and then headed over to a club called Palacio Gaviria. The club was awesome. It was literally like a palace. You had to walk up a flight of white marble stairs. Then, once you got upstairs, each room – with vaulted ceilings and royal-like decorations – was different. Some rooms played dance music; others were relaxing with a bar. Some rooms had people dancing on stage; others had people playing bongos. Basically any type of party you wanted, you could find.

Friday was a very lazy day, Danielle and I headed over to T.J.’s for a few hours that night. It was fun to see everyone, but they were all going to a club called Kapital. I didn’t have the money to spend and I didn’t want to stay out all night again, so Danielle and I headed home around 2 a.m. when everyone else was going to the club. I definitely think it was a good decision. I wanted to go to it, but I still haven’t figured out how Spaniards can stay out and party every night until 6 a.m. I don’t think I will ever understand. They are pretty crazy if you ask me.

Although I love Madrid and don’t want to go home in 9 days, I really wish I could be home today. My first cousin, Mary Porter, is getting married in Augusta tonight. She is so much fun, and so is her soon to be husband Wes. I absolutely love weddings – especially when my family is there. We always have such a great time getting dressed up and dancing the night away. Oh well, I will just have to live vicariously through them in the pictures. As for Saturday in Madrid, I have a lot of studying to do to prepare for exams. Yuk! Tomorrow Danielle and I are heading to the Rastro, a famous flee market here in Madrid. I can’t wait!

Apr. 29, 2007

Hard Rock + Homework

After our adventures at Samba, Danielle and I slept in. We decided to go get lunch at the Hard Rock. The Hard Rock is at Paseo de la Castellana – a beautiful place with fountains and always full of people. Our lunch was amazing! We got ribs and fajitas – a delicious feast. After lunch, we headed back home to finish some school work for Monday. Because of a Spanish fiesta, we don’t have classes on Tuesday or Wednesday. That means I only have one of each class before exams – pretty exciting if you ask me. Days with no school are always fun. Hopefully we will have time to explore the city of Madrid, but I still have a lot of work to finish before I can enjoy myself too much. I can’t believe I have been living here for more than three months and have yet to fully see the city – disappointing but true. I only have 15 days left, but I vow to make changes in the situation. I will see Madrid.