A Travellerspoint blog

Baaarrrcellloooona!

The song we keep singing as we walk down the street...courtesy of Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

sunny 78 °F
View Semester Abroad on alyin2000's travel map.

If you want to finally hear this song from the movie we keep mentioning, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMDxq9HZxek
The YouTube video not only plays the song, but also shows a picture slide show of Barcelona, so you can see what it looks like!

Well hey there everyone!

We're back, and we are now in Barcelona: the city of Gaudí! and by the sea! and lots of other things...

We got in on Sunday, exhausted, but happy to be moving back into an apartment after a weekend of hostel-ing with all our stuff. Our apartment is in a super old building...maybe hundreds of years old. But it's spacious and decorated nicely. The only thing we wish could be better is our bug problem. We didn't realize until a few days in that we had a BIG cockroach problem here...which is kind of unavoidable because of the age of the building, but VERY UNPLEASANT, let me tell you. Right before I started writing this post, a medium-sized one crawled up my leg as I was cleaning the kitchen. You can guess my reaction!!!

Anyway, Sunday afternoon we got settled in and slept. Stephanie was exhausted to say the least after her last night out in Lisbon, so we took it easy.

Since Stephanie's family visited Barcelona last summer, and I've never been here before, I got the guided tour courtesy of my lovely roommate on Monday. We walked all over our neighborhood, known as El Borne, and throughout the more popular areas of the city. Near the Cathedral of Barcelona I saw a huge sign that said Gaudí, so I already had one place to check out for my research.

IMG_3172.jpg

Steph also showed me Barcelona's most famous street, Las Ramblas. It's a big, wide boulevard that runs from Plaça Catalunya all the way down to the beach. It's also famous for its pickpocket-ers, so we didn't stay there for long!

On Tuesday, while Steph took a practice LSAT, I went on a bike tour to help get my bearings in the city. A lot of the cities sights are spread out over a large area, so this was the best way for me to learn my way around, and see what I wanted to come back and visit later. I went on a tour with the Fat Tire Bike Tour Company. We met in Plaça Jaume, which was the original center of Barcelona, back when it was a Roman city. What? Rome? I'll never escape! Anyway, Barcelona was a walled city, and was expanded a total of 3 times. There were about 43 of us that showed up for the bike tour that day (must be popular), so we were split into three smaller groups. My group of 16 was led by Buster, an expatriate from London. Buster led us through the old city-center area, known as Barri Gotic and showed us the Plaça del Rei, and/or Royal Palace, where Queen Isabella of Castille lived. Yes, that Isabella, you know, the one who Christopher Columbus begged for money to go on an exploration and sail to the new world. Apparently, we saw the steps that Christopher Columbus walked up to go knock on the Queen's door.

IMG_3167.jpg

Then we stopped by the Barcelona Cathedral, known as La Seu in some cases. We mostly talked about how it has been under restoration/construction forever, as everything else in Barcelona seems to be.

The next stop on our tour was the Palau de la Música Catalana, a Modernist-designed orchestra hall. It was gorgeous! I decided to definitely come back and go inside that one.

IMG_3173.jpg

IMG_3175.jpg

After that, we biked up to the Arc del Triomf. I swear every city has one, I don't know why Paris gets all the credit. This one was built when the world exposition was held here in 1888. It's also just about a block away from our apartment, how cool is that?

IMG_3179.jpg

We rode down the long plaza in front of the Arc until we reached the Parc de la Ciutadella. It's a large, green park that also houses the Barcelona Zoo.

From the park, we headed up to the Sagrada Familia. This church, still under construction, is by and large Gaudí's masterpiece, and is a huge reason I'm here doing on-site research in Barcelona. I'll probably spend a whole day visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

IMG_3191.jpg

From the Sagrada Familia, we bicycled down to the BEACH! We passed through the portal formed by two large skyscrapers built built to house the athletes for the 1992 Summer Olympics. We rode down the boardwalk of the Barceloneta beach, where we hopped off and parked our bikes in front of a beach-front café-bar. We sat in lounge chairs on the sand and ate lunch. It was kind of awesome...well, until I caught a full-frontal view of a topless woman playing beach volleyball...awkward, but that's Europe for you. After lunch we rode back up through an area known as Ciutat Vella to get back to the bike shop.

IMG_3210.jpg

Overall, it was a great 4-hour introduction to Barcelona. Except for the sunburn that came with it...ouch!

That's all for now, come back soon for more news!

Posted by alyin2000 13:04 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

The Vacation from our Vacation

Goodness gracious researching is such hard work!

sunny 75 °F
View Semester Abroad on alyin2000's travel map.

Bom dia!

Hey everyone! So Steph and I decided to treat ourselves to at least one big weekend away while we were abroad. Unfortunately, the flights to Paris are really expensive this time of year (surprise, surprise…), so instead we booked flights to Lisbon! I had heard from many of my fellow study abroad friends that Lisbon was one of their favorite destinations, so we were really excited.

We left Thursday afternoon, and arrived in Lisbon, where all the words were unfamiliar. We couldn’t speak it, but we could read it, because the language seems to be a strange combination of Spanish, Italian, and French, with a few variations.

We checked into the Lisbon Lounge Hostel. This boutique hostel had more of a hotel atmosphere, and is rated one of the top 3 hostels in the whole world for 2009. The hostel had a resident-chef, Petro, who made divine Portuguese meals for us during our stay. The hostel itself was decorated with a lot of quirky art, such as chandeliers designed from plastic cups.

Our first day, we just settled in, and walked around a bit to get the feel of the place.

IMG_3073.jpg

We had a nice dinner at an open-air restaurant over looking the city.

IMG_3076.jpg

IMG_3078.jpg
The view from out table

It was nice to be by the Atlantic, because there was a lot more air circulation than we’re used to. We stayed in the Baixa-Chiado neighborhood, and down the main thoroughfare, Rua Augusta, is a giant arch.

IMG_3084.jpg

On Friday, we decided it was that time of the year to hit the beach. We jumped on a train out of the city to the coast. We stopped at Tamariz Beach in Estoril, a little resort town about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon. We literally stepped off the train and into the sand; it was so nice.

IMG_3085.jpg

The weather was beautiful as well, so we sunbathed near an old Monaco castle.

IMG_3109.jpg

We had a fabulous time!
IMG_3120.jpg

Later that evening, we took part in a free wine tasting hosted by Portugal’s Ministry of Agriculture. We had the opportunity to try 6 wines from 3 different regions of the country. Some were good, some not so much, but it was a fun experience. That evening we had family dinner at the hostel with Chef Petro, and got to meet and chat with the other guests at the hostel. After dinner, Chef Antonio, from the Living Lounge Hostel (our hostel’s affiliate), took everyone from the two hostels out for the night. Chef Antonio showed us all the Lisbon hot-spots and even bought drinks for us, such a nice guy!

The next morning, Steph and I, along with every other tourist who has ever picked up a Rick Steves guide, took the #28 tram for a “tour” of the city. It was PACKED, so we didn’t really see that much of the city, but it was a nice break from the rain outside.

IMG_3125.jpg

IMG_3127.jpg

Lisbon seems a lot like San Francisco with all of its steep hills. Besides the trams, the city has a LOT of stairs, and even elevators to get from the lower city to the upper city.

IMG_3157.jpg

Later that afternoon, we took tram #15 out to the neighborhood of Belem, famed for its monastery. There must have been some kind of school event going on, because there were uniformed school kids everywhere, so we took advantage of the opportunity to slip into the cathedral unnoticed. The cathedral was pretty cool. We liked the un-orthodox architecture.

IMG_3152.jpg

IMG_3133.jpg

IMG_3130.jpg

Within the cathedral, the famous explorer Vasco da Gama is buried.

IMG_3135.jpg
Yep, that's him!

We moved on from the monastery to the brand-new Modern Art museum. It’s so new that all of the artworks haven’t even been installed yet! After taking a gander at all the weird and cool art, we found a great view of some interesting monuments of Lisbon:

IMG_3142.jpg
Something modern, the Monument to the Discoveries, and is that the Golden Gate Bridge?!

After gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge, we headed over to the real reason we came to Belem, the famous bakery. The bakery, called Pasteis de Belem, is named after it’s most famous pastry.

IMG_3154.jpg

The pastry is a custard tart that you sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. There was a line out of the door and down the street to try these sacred cakes: sacred, because the pastry comes from an old, secret recipe used by the monks at the monastery. Only 3 people in the whole world know the secret. For only 90 eurocents, they were pretty divine cakes alright. We caught the tram back into Lisbon, and still had hours to kill before our 9pm dinnertime! The Portuguese run on such a different time-schedule than us! So to pass by the time, we stopped for a pre-dinner aperatif at a Portuguese wine-bar near our hostel. It started pouring rain just as we were leaving, so we ran back to the hostel, trying not to slip on the tiles that pave the streets! Once again, we had dinner with Chef Petro: a Portuguese twist on a classic Italian lasagna, and once again, it was delicious.

IMG_3163.jpg
Happy and full!

I went upstairs for a power nap before we went out to Lisbon’s most famous club, Lux Bar, but I didn’t wake up for my 1am alarm...European nightlife just starts too late for me! So, Stephanie decided to go along with out me, with some of our new friends from the hostel. The next morning, which for Steph was still night-time, we packed our bags, and ran out the door to catch our 9am flight to Barcelona!

After going to Lisbon to see what all the commotion was about, we decided it was definitely a sight to see, but just couldn’t quite match up with Barcelona.

We advise all our readers that they should watch the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona before reading our next posts!

Posted by alyin2000 13:51 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

¡Adios Madrid!

A reflection on our time spent in Spain’s capital city.

sunny 75 °F
View Semester Abroad on alyin2000's travel map.

¡Hola a todos!

Sorry for our long delay in posting, but we’ve been busy researching and whatnot. We don’t want to bore you with all the gory details, but here are some of the highlights of the first half of our trip.

Early Thursday evening, Stephanie needed to meet up with a Spanish playwright, Susana Sánchez, with whom she had been corresponding. We met her for drinks at a café near our apartment. Although it was difficult to find her…because speaking in foreign languages on phones would be harder than you might expect…we finally tracked her down, and sat down for a cerveza and a chat. She gave Stephanie a DVD and a text copy of her play, Donde Desdemona, which is about domestic violence in Spain. Susana was a super nice person, and even though our Spanish wasn’t as fast as hers, we all got on famously. We promised to watch the play, and meet up later that week to discuss it. On Thursday night, we went to see the play La Estrella de Sevilla. It is a play by Lope de Vega, so I figured I needed to go see it as part of my “research”. It was actually really interesting because it was a contemporary interpretation of the text. All of the characters on the stage wore modern-day business suits, even though the play is originally set in the 1500’s. This is just more evidence of how Lope de Vega’s legacy is still present within Spanish society today. He’s more than just a memory: his works are still relevant, and evolving, being interpreted for modern-day audiences.

IMG_2954.jpg

Friday was the feast day for San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid. I’m not really sure what to compare it to, maybe our 4th of July? Anyway, we were told that the best way to experience this holiday was to just be out in the streets. Everything was closed for the holiday, so we took a day off researching and wandered into the Madrid streets. A few blocks from our apartment, we ran into a cultural performance in the middle of the street. Check it out:

Then, we went to this awesome market near Plaza Mayor (the largest plaza in Madrid), called El Mercado de San Miguel. You all know how much I love markets! We decided to participate in the festivities by trying the traditional pastry of the feast, rosquillas de San Isidro. Roscas are doughnuts, so these were like little doughnuts with a bit of lemon flavored icing in honor of San Isidro.

IMG_2948.jpg

IMG_2961.jpg

IMG_2964.jpg

Delicious! After a little souvenir shopping (of course those places were open), we also took part in the Madrileño (Madrid-ian) lifestyle by stopping at an outdoor café on Plaza Ángel for a pre-dinner aperatif of cerveza. There were some street musicians playing flamenco guitar nearby, so overall, it was a very relaxing experience. Ironically, for dinner, we made Italian risotto…I just can’t escape Italy! Steph is definitely enjoying my newfound love for Italian cooking!

IMG_2978.jpg

On Saturday, we decided to do a small excursion to the medieval town of Toledo. Unfortunately, trains in Spain are the only things that do leave on time, so we missed our first train! I had gone to Toledo about 5 years back, on a high school trip, but Steph had never been. Toledo is a really, really small city, surrounded by walls and a moat. Notre Dame’s Spain study-abroad program was located in Toledo, and we’re not sure how they managed to survive out in the middle of the countryside with nothing to do! Like in my Siena adventure, we arrived in Toledo without a map, however, unlike in Siena, we didn’t get lost and managed to find our way around just fine.

IMG_2989.jpg

IMG_2987.jpg

We hiked up to the city, and stopped at a tapas bar for lunch to recuperate our strength. We ordered a large pitcher of Sangria: it was refreshing, and better than the sangria we attempted to make at home!

IMG_2996.jpg

IMG_3007.jpg

The rest of the afternoon, we went on a (crazed-according to Stephanie) hunt for damasquinado jewelry. Damasquinado is the art of pounding 24kt gold wire into iron in intricate designs. When I was last in Toledo, I had purchased some damasquinado earrings, and had always wished I picked up a matching necklace. This was my chance to make those dreams come true! On our 27th tiendita (little store), we met a nice gentleman, who was willing to help us search for the holy grail of damasquinado: the perfectly matching pendant to go with my earrings. He went back to search the recesses of his shop, and managed to find a pendant that was pretty darn close. I was happy as a clam, and Stephanie was ecstatic that we got to go home. On the way back to the train station, we ran into an impromptu parade to one of the cathedrals…we weren’t really sure what they were celebrating, but it was entertaining nonetheless:

When we got back from Toledo, we made a quick dinner of sautéed chicken, potatoes, and asparagus. Yes Stephanie’s mom, we are eating our veggies!

IMG_3014.jpg

Sunday was a busy day for me research-wise. First, I went to the Casa-Museo Lope de Vega. The house is completely restored to the period-style. In our little tour group were some Spanish moms and their kids, me, and an older gentleman who didn’t speak Spanish. Our tour guide didn’t really speak English, so I had the fun task of translating when necessary. After the tour, the older man asked me why I was touring Lope de Vega’s house, it’s not really the #1 tourist attraction in Madrid. I said I could ask him the same question, considering he didn’t even speak Spanish, and he replied that he was there because his late-wife wrote her PhD dissertation on one of Lope de Vega’s plays, Tobias. His wife had died 10 years earlier, and he decided to take a sort of memories tour around Spain to relive their travels. I explained to the gentleman that I was here working on a research project for ND, and told me that he had actually received his doctorate in history from ND as well. What a small world! We spent the next 20 minutes chatting about the commencement at ND that day, and the Obama controversy surrounding it.

IMG_3015.jpg
Lope de Vega's Garden, the only thing I was allowed to take pictures of!

Afterward, I went back to the Biblioteca Nacional for a special presentation. Like Mayor Daley’s One Book, One Chicago, program, each month, the Biblioteca Nacional selects an important Spanish work as the “Piece of the Month”. They host special conferences about it, and have presentations at the library every Sunday. This month’s piece was Lope de Vega’s Arte nuevo de hacer comedias, which explains his new method for writing plays which made the theater so popular in Madrid, and made him eternally famous. The woman who did the presentation gave me a copy of her notes, which will be very useful for my research project.

IMG_3025.jpg

When I returned to the apartment, Stephanie and I went for a Sunday stroll, and stopped for a tapas dinner at her favorite Madrid restaurant, Casa del Abuelo. We tried a bunch of small Spanish dishes, including gazpacho, cold tomato soup, patatas bravas, fried potatoes with spicy sauce, tortilla española, which is a like a potato-egg frittata, and gambas al ajillo, shrimp in garlic sauce. We finished the night by watching Susana’s play, Donde Desdemona.

IMG_3039.jpg

On Monday morning, Steph went to the Biblioteca Nacional to watch another video for her research, and I went to the Reina Sofia art museum to study modernist art. There, I saw Picasso’s most famous artwork, Guernica.

IMG_3041.jpg

Later that evening, we met up with Susana and her husband, Ismael, the lead actor of the play at their home, which was only a short walk from our apartment. They were very gracious hosts, and Ismael was very anxious to show us all of their collectables from their careers in theatre and drama. Ismael not only acts but also makes recycled art, and he made an awesome dress for Susana made out of blue plastic water bottles. It was so cool. Steph almost asked to try it on! They set out drinks and tapas for us and we sat and chatted about the play and the domestic violence situation in Spain. As the night continued and we were still talking about all things under the sun, Ismael decided to make us some homemade pizza for dinner. Susana was showing us pictures of all the travels she had taken when she was our age, including a trip to Cuba. We got some very rare (truthful) insight into the embargoed country. It was such an interesting experience to be able to sit and talk about cultural differences and similarities. We might (I hope!!) have convinced them to visit the U.S. But we also learned a lot about Europeans’ perspective on Americans. We were there for over four hours and finally walked back to the apartment after midnight. Susana and Ismael walked us part of the way to point out the Royal Textile Factory (still in operation). There were remnants of the Spanish Civil War (the 1930s) left on the building from artillery fire. It was fascinating to see that they had not tried to restore the building, but rather just left it as a fresh reminder of the bitter conflict in the country.

IMG_3047.jpg
Us, Susana, & Ismael

The next morning, because we were working so late the night before, we decided to sleep in a bit. I headed to the Prado for the day, a museum I have wanted to visit for the past five years because we were not able to go on my last trip to Spain. Steph headed up to the University to check out the library resources at the IUEM (Instituto Universitario de Estudios de la Mujer) (University Institute of Women’s Studies). She was reading books and doing research most of the day, and we met back up in the apartment for dinner. We decided to make paella one last time before we left Madrid! It was yummy!

IMG_3048.jpg
Steph really likes taking pictures of every dinner...

On Wednesday, our last full day in Madrid, we decided to stick together and walk around to check out a few last places for both of our research. First we headed to a few women’s shelters around the city for Steph and then we decided to walk to the Royal Palace and the theatre district for Alyssa. We took some good pictures, and just strolled around and soaked up the Madrid atmosphere. Mid-afternoon we stopped for a refreshing drink at Faborit, a Spanish response to Starbucks. We headed back to the apartment and stopped at a cool-looking bar on our street. We have walked past this bar countless times per day since we have been here, and were saving a drink here for our last day, but we were greatly disappointed with our daquiris ☹. That evening we made an easy spaghetti dinner and started packing and cleaning up the apartment. To finish the night, we watched the movie “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” People have been telling us to see this film because the plot is about two American girls in their early twenties, one blonde, one brunette, who go to Barcelona for the summer to do research. Although not many other people would appreciate the movie (it’s a Woody Allen film…), we thought it would be fun to watch a film related to our upcoming travels. Hopefully, we don’t have quite as much adventure while we are in Barcelona!

This morning, we are traveling to Lisbon, Portugal for the weekend. We were running around frantic this morning trying to get all of our stuff into our suitcases. Hopefully we have a nice person working at the check-in desk who will let our suitcases on the plane a few kilos overweight… otherwise we don’t know what we will be throwing out!

Here’s a few last photos of our small, but quaint, Madrid apartment:

IMG_2979.jpg
Our apt. building

IMG_3035.jpg
I am pretty sure clothes dryers just don't exist in Europe. This is how everyone dries their clothes...

IMG_3070.jpg

IMG_3071.jpg

IMG_3072.jpg

¡Adios! See you in Lisbon!
-Alyssa and Stephanie

Posted by alyin2000 14:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A day of challenges...

"Didn't you know this is what Spain is like?"

sunny 75 °F
View Semester Abroad on alyin2000's travel map.

¡Buenos días a todos!

Yesterday, Steph and I decided to go work on our research endeavors together. We were traveling to parts of the city that we weren't familiar with, and she has been helping me with my still rusty Spanish, so it seemed a safer and more beneficial solution. First, we were heading up to the north side of the city, but before we reached the metro, Steph accidentally bumped into her favorite little bakery shop from her vacation in Madrid last year. She said the pastries were to die for, so we picked up a post-breakfast snack. They had doughnuts! It was so exciting! I don't remember the last time I've even had a doughnut, because the only pastries Italians seem to make are variations on the "cornetto", which is basically a croissant. Still delicious...but not a doughnut by a long shot. Steph got a sugar one, and I got a chocolate one. They were divine!

So anyway...I've really got to stop going off on food tangents...we hopped on the metro, and went to the north side of the city. There, we visited the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City). But before we went in, we stopped to eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (poor students) in a cute little rose garden.

IMG_2890.jpg

I was going to the museum with the intention of learning about the city during the Siglo de Oro (the Golden Age), when the writers' quarter was flourishing. However, I discovered that the museum was hosting a special exhibit, Madrid literario (Literary Madrid), about how the city has been characterized by its writers; it was perfect for my project!

IMG_2921.jpg

This is basically what I'm researching, but I'm narrowing my topic down to focus on the particular writer and playwright, Lope de Vega. We were just about to enter the exhibit, when, the power went out. We moved over toward the stairwell, where there was some natural light, and heard the museum workers complaining that this had happened once already that morning. About 15 minutes later, the lights turned back on, and we were on our way. The exhibit paired quotes from books with modern-day photographs. They even had photographs of Lope de Vega's house. I was really excited to see the information presented this way, because this is exactly what my professor suggested I do as well to add another dimension to my research project. It was a good feeling that I was on the right track. At the end of the exhibit, we were looking at the special guides, dvds, and books, when, again, the power went out. Twice in one day! Steph and I were commenting on our bad luck, when one of the guards came by accounting for the visitors in the museum. The ladies on our floor said something to the effect of, "these poor girls, the lights went off twice on them already", and the guard replied, jokingly, "didn't they know? welcome to Spain, this is exactly what Spain is like!" (He said it jokingly, but a woman Steph was supposed to interview for her research project on our first day still hasn't contacted her, so I am starting to wonder...) After fumbling around for change in the dark, I bought the guide and dvd to the exhibit: the entire transaction was carried out by flashlight, too funny. After they managed to fix the lights, we headed upstairs to the next floor, which recounted the history of Madrid. There was a whole little section on Madrid's famous writers during the Siglo de Oro, and a model of the Teatro Español as well, so I was happy.

IMG_2898.jpg

On our way back down the stairs, the lights went out, AGAIN. We decided to high-tail it out of there before something else bad happened!

Our next stop was the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library). There was a huge statue of Lope de Vega out front, so of course, I had to take a picture with him.

IMG_2929.jpg

Upon entry, we had to explain to the woman at the desk why we wanted to go in. We said we were university students working on projects for our thesis, and we wanted to study some of the materials. Well, the word for study, estudiar, was totally the wrong word to pick. She lectured us that this was not a library for "studying", but a place were you "consulted" important texts for research purposes. So we tried to explain, yes, that's exactly why were were there. She asked what we were studying, as if our entrance was determined by whether we had a worthy-enough topic or not. Well, we both got through, to security checkpoint 1. Then, we were given a list of things we were, and were not, allowed to bring into the actual library itself. The list of things we were allowed to bring in was quite short in comparison to the list of prohibited items. We were basically only allowed to bring in a small notebook, a pen, and a laptop into the library, nothing else. But as we walked to the next security checkpoint we were told to go back and put our computers away, because we weren't allowed to bring them in until we had library cards. So then, we went into the library, and got interrogated again about our intentions, and research topics, before we were allowed to get library cards. We were told we were not allowed to access some materials without official letters of introduction from our university stating that we were legitimate researchers. Finally, we got shiny, new plastic library cards with our pictures on them. Then, we had to exit the library, go back to get our stuff, and then check in with security, again, before re-entering. At this point, they stopped me because of my computer. They took it out, registered it, stuck a barcode on it, and scanned it along with my library card before I got to go in. Weird. So then we finally get in, but guess what? After all that, the library server was down, and we couldn't access the library catalog. I was out of luck, but luckily, Steph remembered the title of a documentary she wanted to see, so she managed to track it down. For the next 110 minutes, I had to find something to do, so I gave myself a tour of the library, checked out the Museum of the Library (which involved leaving the building and entering from the outside, going through security another 2 times...), and intermittently checked to see if the card catalog came back up. It never did. At least Steph got something productive done! I suppose the hardest part of the visit to the library was actually getting in, so it shouldn't be so bad to come back. Before we left, we had to go back through security: they scanned my computer and card again to check it out, and rifled through my papers and notebooks (to make sure I wasn't stealing anything?) before they would let me go. As we were walking away from the library, Steph had the sudden realization that this was the Biblioteca Nacional, the NATIONAL library. We had basically just gone to the Spanish equivalent of the Library of Congress. No wonder there were so many security precautions! If we were in the US, I'm not sure we would have even been allowed in to use the materials.

IMG_2925.jpg

We headed home with aching heads after a long day of confusion due to language barriers. Oh España, what a crazy place!

Posted by alyin2000 00:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

¡Bienvenidos a España!

Our first days in Madrid...

sunny 72 °F
View Semester Abroad on alyin2000's travel map.

¡Hola a todos!

The next morning after Steph arrived, we had to wake up super early to take the train and bus to Ciampino airport for our flight to Madrid. We arrived in Madrid slightly early and jumped on the metro to get to the city center. Unfortunately, we probably got off the metro a few stops too early and ended up lugging our huge suitcases about a mile to our apartment. We got our keys and took our time settling in the apartment. It is tiny but nice and cozy! After unpacking for our 11-night stay, we started to walk around our neighborhood to get our bearings. Since it was Sunday, most of the stores and bars were closed, so we weren't able to do much that night. We were super exhausted, so we decided to call it a night and get organized the next day!

Well, little did we know that most stores and museums are also closed on Mondays!! So instead of researching, we walked for 3-4 miles that day around the entire city to get acquainted. We saw a bunch of the museums, like the Prado and the Reina Sofia (that I will be returning to for my research) and walked around our barrio (neighborhood).

IMG_6608.jpg
Parque de Retiro- a HUGE and BEAUTIFUL park in Madrid. I go running there in the mornings...

IMG_6610.jpg
The Prado Art Museum

We are staying in the Barrio de las letras, which is the oldest and most historic area of Madrid.

IMG_2853.jpg

IMG_2823.jpg
The street we're living on for the next 11 days!

There are a bunch of museums, monuments, old theaters, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars all over, and it is right in the center of the city. It is so easy for us to get wherever we need to go! We finally found a supermarket and did a bunch of our grocery shopping for the week. We made a delicious dinner and then organized ourselves for our research here this week.

IMG_6613.jpg
Lemon-Garlic Linguini with Chicken and Peas

Since Friday is a feast-day here for the patron saint of Madrid, Saint Isidro, a lot of places are closed then as well, which we weren't anticipating. We're not quite sure what's in store for that day, but we'll keep you all posted.

On Tuesday, I was all ready to get started on my on-site research. I was really excited to visit the Casa-Museo Lope de Vega, because it is the house Lope de Vega, the famous Spanish playwright (who I'm studying for my project), spent the last 35 years of his life. Because of our fabulous location in the center of the Barrio de las letras, the museum is only two blocks away on Cervantes street. But, when I got there, I found out that I had to make an appointment to enter the museum! All the tour slots were filled up through Sunday, so my plans for the day were a bust! How disheartening. However, it was a beautiful day, so I took some good photos for the multimedia portion of my project.

IMG_2822.jpg
Lope de Vega street: located between my street and Cervantes street where Lope de Vega's house is...and Cervantes' house? Nowhere near here...so why did they name the streets like this??? Just one of my unanswered questions about Madrid.

IMG_2821.jpg
Lope de Vega's House

IMG_2855.jpg
Lope de Vega sign on our street: the guy must be popular!

IMG_2825.jpg
Lope de Vega's buried here, a couple blocks away from our apartment.

IMG_2859.jpg
Lope de Vega quote inscribed in the pavement on our street. The whole Barrio de las letras has quotes like these from famous Spanish writers that lived in this area.

Since my visit to Lope de Vega's house was postponed until Sunday, I had to do some schedule re-arranging. Next, I headed to the Teatro Español: built in the 1600's, and where Lope de Vega premiered a lot of his plays. It's basically like the Spanish version of the Globe Theater. It's still a thriving theater today.

IMG_2830.jpg

Since Lope de Vega's new kind of plays were so entertaining, he basically single-handedly turned Madrid into a theater-going public. This is apparent in the theaters built subsequently in Madrid. A lot of them have characteristics similar to the Teatro Español.

IMG_2826.jpg

Next, Steph and I partook of the Spanish literary tradition of the tertulia. The tertulia is sort of like the French salon, where a bunch of scholarly-type people got together to discuss cultured topics. In Spain, they took place in coffee shops. So we went to a coffee shop next to our apartment and discussed our research projects over cafe con leche and pastries.

IMG_2861.jpg
Dulce de leche cake...yum!

After all this hard work, Steph and I decided we needed a little retail therapy. There's this store that sells the popular Spanish shoe called the Espadrille. My Mom cut out an article from a magazine about this store the LAST time I went to Madrid, which was my junior year of high school. Since I was traveling with a school tour group I never had the chance to go, but I found it again this time around! Apparently the store was opened back in the 1800's, and is kind of famous...it's called Calzados lobo.

IMG_2866.jpg

IMG_2867.jpg
Only 8.50€, what a steal!

IMG_2870.jpg

IMG_2872.jpg
Modeling our new purchases!

To cap off a day of immersion into the Spanish culture, Steph and I decided to make traditional Spanish cuisine for dinner. We made homemade Sangria, and paired it with the Spanish rice dish called Paella.

IMG_2875.jpg

IMG_2881.jpg
The paella gets its bright yellow color from the saffron added to the rice.

IMG_2880.jpg

Cheers!

Posted by alyin2000 13:30 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 39) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »