Category Archives: learning

Sweatin’ it in Spain

So as I mentioned yesterday, my gym membership is officially up! When I first got here I signed up for the three month deal they had going, knowing that I would want to be working out while I was here. Thankfully, that was a good move because not only do I have way too much time on my hands at all times, but I am not quite sure how I would avoid gaining 100+ pounds without it. Overall, it turned out to be a nice place, I loved the Pilates classes (although they are a lot easier than the ones at home- here the focus is more on stretching and not so much the work-out), I tried spinning for the first time (quickly realizing that my knees were not built for it), and I worked with a personal trainer and finally got over my machine-phobia.Don't those primary colors remind you of doing toddler gymnastics?

Spending time in the gym also gave me lots of time to experience and reflect on Spain’s attitude towards exercise, leading me to assert that it really is a lot different than back home! For starters, to see girls working out is very odd. I cannot tell you the number of times it was about 15 men and me in the weight room. But, oddly, I did not mind. (Which is funny considering at school, I refuse to enter the fratboy-infested area with all the weight machines due to intimidation!) Instead, I took a bit of pride in it (and I’m pretty sure they found it less strange because they could tell that I was American). Good news is that I took my folder with my workout regimen in it to maybe keep up it up in the states if I can find the courage! I really did like lifting and working my muscles though and not only doing cardio all the time because I do feel like the two go hand and hand and it made me stronger!

The walkway to the gym!

However, what women can do without reproach is Pilates and the stretching classes. This is where you will find old ladies who chat like you’ve known them for years and twenty-somethings trying to fit some sort of exercise in their routine. Like I mentioned before, a lot are easygoing stretching classes with some emphasis on resistance training so I do not think you can rely solely on these classes for “exercise.” I always liked going to Pilates though and found it was a great way to stretch and relax.

To be honest, my gym was rather stuffy and not the most comfortable place to spend the day and so at times, I would run outside in the park right by my house! I established a wonderful loop that I can run once or twice depending on how I’m feeling. Here I experience similar things though and sometimes get strange looks from old people sitting on benches and very rarely see other women running (but lots of men!) A few of my friends have even been called out while running themselves. The other day, one was forced to stop by men impeding her path, only to be told “You run too much,” and then allowed to carry on her way. Another one of my friends was mocked while walking home after a run by boys our age, I guess since it really just is not that common?!

Now don’t get me wrong- there are lots of women who do work out, but it is definitely more of an exception than a rule. I think everyone else just considers their exercise in all the walking we do everywhere. That, and I have found Spanish people are very proud of their diet- they think that it is the healthiest and best food in the world even it only revolves around olive oil, potatoes, bread, and  ham. So maybe they don’t think they need  a reason to work out when they eat so “healthy?”

Even so, for me, working out is not only a tool to lose weight and maintain physical fitness, but more importantly, it’s really makes you feel better and alert for the whole day! I can always tell a difference after I work out and it’s something that you cannot get just from walking.

So there you have it, my little take on Spanish culture and exercise.

In other news, I got my advent calendar filled with yummy Spanish chocolate and Taylor and me put up a tree in her apartment today whilst listening to Christmas carols!

My advent calendar! (Ignore the flash)

Our lovely Christmas tree

Now my dilemma for the day… if I go to Vienna tomorrow do I:

a) Eat all the chocolate for the 4 days I will miss beforehand

b) Bring the chocolate in a baggie and eat one piece a day

c) Wait until I get back and eat all the pieces at once

HELP!

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Filed under fitness, it happens, learning, reflections

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

So once the temperatures started dropping (although we still have gorgeous weather here!) I started to notice shacks being set up around the city to sell “castañas asadas,” or chestnuts! I never have had them before, only sang of them time and time again. When my mom was here, it made her happy to see them being sold and said that they used to eat them growing up during the holiday season.

I walk by such a cart frequently and have always been tempted to try them (just because it seems like the thing to do) but always was scared because I did not know if you just get them and eat them right away, or how exactly it all works out. But yesterday I barely got over my hesitation (I walked back and forth three times and then, waited to watch someone else make a purchase) and finally decided 2 Euro was worth the sacrifice (even if I did not know how to eat them once they were bought).

So I handed over my money to the cute old man selling them, he made a sly comment about how he saw me looking earlier and I went on my merry way back to my apartment warm chestnuts in hand! Thankfully, at first sight I realized that they are quite self-explanatory when it comes to consumption and you just need to peel the last remnants of the shell off and pop them in your mouth!

They were warm, sweet, and oh so tasty! And I found out later, they are good for you too!

 

My chestnuts in a a nice paper cone!

 

 

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Intercambio-ing

I apologize it has been so long since I have written. Not that I think any of you are that offended, but I also do not like when I forget to write because although nothing life changing occurs, I am learning new things everyday that I would love to share! But it seems like these weeks keep flying by and before I know it, it’s the weekend and I am off again. Since my parents have left, things have been pretty mellow. Halloween was nothing special on my end but I was surprised by all of the costumes that I saw in Madrid. Coming here, everyone talked about how they really did not celebrate the candy-grabbing holiday in Europe, but I am here to tell you naysayers that it is alive and growing in popularity every year. The biggest difference between the European and American costume bonanza is made most distinct in examining in the objective of the costume. Whilst American college girls view it as an excuse to wear the least amount of clothing as possible and boys seek the easiest costume to store as much as alcohol as possible, Spanish youth look for the most striking and scary costumes. We’re talking about fake blood running down the face and devil horn galore. Anyways, I would still see the holiday as a very American tradition, but we may see some competition from our European counterparts in the near future…

This past week was marred with new experiences beginning on Monday night when I had job training at a bar called Maloney’s. Now I know what you’re thinking… Why would I be getting a job when I have a month and a half left here and should be taking in the Spanish culture? Well the truth is, I did not realize it was job training until I got to the bar and the owner started showing us where the drinks are kept, how to clean the freezer, and the proper way to slice a lemon. Turns out, the owner needs bartenders to work during the week so thought that it would be a good night to show me and two friends the lay of the land in case a night comes where he was short on workers. Details aside, it was quite the night and I surprisingly learned a lot from how to make sangria to the proper way to fill a beer glass from a tap. He even called the next day to see if I could come in for work, but let’s just say that I am not that desperate for a job… Maybe something I will regret come Christmas time.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were all standard madrileño days, minus the Mexican restaurant me and Taylor visited Tuesday night for dinner to get quesadillas. Ironically, it was called Colorado Express and it did just the trick to satisfy my Mexican craving. Funnily enough, yesterday I was chatting with a friend who has found the sole Taco Bell in Madrid (and been there five times since) at a mall that is accessible on the metro, and I’m not going to lie, I think I am going to have to go within the next week. It’s not that I even like Taco Bell in the states, but it’s just one of those things that sounds like it would hit the spot right about now.

Visited Cave Bar on Tuesday with my friends from Brazil. I love hanging out with them because, while they speak Portuguese, English, and Spanish all pretty well, when we all hang out together, we only talk in Spanish. It’s a great way to practice and if all else fails and I cannot understand exactly what they’re trying to say, they can usually explain it in English. I had a similar experience in a bookstore yesterday when a French man started talking to me in Spanish and, although he spoke English as well, he said his Spanish was better than his English and, thus, wanted to talk to me in that! Then he went on to try to dissect how we define what language we speak better, whether it is “how we say beautiful things” or what. I went on to tell him, for me, it comes down to having the vocabulary to say what he refers to as “romantic and beautiful things.” Maybe not the wistful answer he was looking for, but I was not in the mood for his French banter.

Last night I went to my first Intercambio which are arranged by my school weekly. An intercambio is a function where students from the Spanish campus of my school and my program can meet up in the designated café/pub/etc. to talk and practice language. Most of the time, you end up talking in Spanish while they talk in English but that is the point of the night I guess? But my favorite part was when we made the transition from the café to a bar down the street to play the time-honored game, beer pong (or Beirut for all you Coloradans). This game is virtually unheard of in Spain, only known to bar owners trying to lure American frat-boys to buy jarra after jarra of cerveza to make some dinero (pitcher after pitcher of beer to make some money). Anyways, I ended up partnering up with my British friend (who also did not know of the game) and it ended up being a ton of fun. They loved the game and I really would not be surprised if you could find them back for another round tonight.

Speaking of my British friend, last night was “Bonfire Night” in Great Britain. Although he explained the meaning of the tradition to mean a million times, I still do not really get it and for the sake of not offending all my British readers (ok I don’t think I have British readers but maybe one day) I am not going to go into the history, but rather leave you with this picture. Apparently the bonfires are HUGE in Britain and they roast sausages and baked potatoes (YUM) while burning handmade figures of Guy Fawks. We basically did that too…

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Our mini-bonfire

And here we are today. This next month and half is going to fly by. Every weekend I am busy except my final weekend, and am already thinking of planning a one-final-hurrah-trip (OFHT, for short) that weekend. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself (or my bank account) so we will have to wait and see! I am headed to Germany, Paris, Barcelona, and Vienna so there is still lots in store and more intercambio action to be had!

For those of you who do not know, my grandpa immigrated from Germany to Canada (and later ended up in the United States thanks to my wonderful grandma) when he was just a young lad. All of his immediate family still lives in some part of Germany and so I figured it would be interesting to go and visit them and get a little taste of German culture so that is where I am off to tomorrow. Not sure if my German vocabulary (mostly consisting of food names) is going to get me very far but we shall see. Gute nacht! (I think that means goodnight?!)

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Lucky

Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting at Starbucks (per usual) reflecting on the past week with my family that flew by faster than you can say patatas. It feels like just yesterday I was picking them up at the airport (chocolate napolitanas in hand), anxious to spend a week showing off my temporary home. They were only here a week, but as I am sure they can attest to, we squeezed in a few weeks of activity… and food.

Dylan’s favorite find? Churros and chocolate. I only had it one time before they got here but now can successfully say I have sampled it at four different places and it really is crazy how each place tastes just a little bit different. Mom’s new jam? Tortilla española and pisto. And my dad really tried to embrace the Spanish culture, refusing to order cafe con leche at Starbucks like the rest of the family, and instead, heading to Pans & Co. next door like a “true” Spaniard.

I was the most antsy I have ever been in my life waiting for my family to get here. It is the first time we have had a week to spend together since I graduated from high school, and besides the few hours of class that got in the way on Tuesday, it really was like a normal fall break like I remember! I ate the best meals I have had in months, travelled to Sevilla, and enjoyed the time we all go to spend together sans cell phones, TV, and all those other silly distractions that interfere with togetherness at home.

In Madrid we spent time in Retiro, la Reina Sofia (art museum I wrote about before), el Museo de Prado, la Plaza Mayor, and they even got to meet my señora! We spent Tuesday and Wednesday night in Sevilla where we toured the amazing cathedral, Alcazar, bullfight musuem, intimate flamenco show and all the cute little side streets.

I could write for days about how great of a week it was but I am hoping my dad can guest blog it up with his description of the trip which would be both entertaining and give you his take on the whole experience. Here are some pictures that show you some quick highlights!

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Self time photo from the Rose Garden in Retiro

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Dylan and dad with one of the many gelatos we ate during the week!

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The fam with their calamari sandwiches

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Last night in la Puerta del Sol!

The last night, my mom said “You don’t know how lucky you are,” and the truth is, I think that I really, really do.

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Filed under food, it happens, learning, museums, trips

Mountains in Madrid?

Madrid is located in the center of the country in what is known as the “meseta” or high plain. I always knew that there were mountains on the outskirts of the city, but never planned out a time to see them. However, when a friend from school invited me to go camping in the area, I said “Why not?” Despite the fact they were leaving only hours later, and I had not planned on doing much of anything at all this weekend. Spontaneous, eh?

Now those who know me well know that I am not completely “outdoorsy,” no matter how hard I try. Granted, I do not shy away from excursions, but I also cannot go days without showering, swim in cold lakes, and survive being really cold. However sometimes I forget this little fact and eagerly jump on opportunities that involve such activities, only to regret it later on. For instance, this past summer I went camping for the first time since my YMCA sleep-away camp days in middle school. Immediately after, I said “I’m glad I went, but just was reminded about how much I am not a camper.” Even so, I found myself aboard a bus heading to El Escorial only hours after leaving class Friday afternoon.

I was enjoying my stint of impulsiveness only to reinforce it by failing to ask my travel partner very many questions, including how many days we were staying. I headed to the metro station only knowing that I did not need food, should bring warmer clothes, and the bus would cost around 4 euro. Well, here we go…

We first met up with two other students that my friend knows from another university and we all took a bus 45 minutes to El Escorial, an area just outside of the city (but still in Madrid) where the famous El Escorial palace is located. Somehow we got by not paying for the bus on the way there, so that was a plus! Once we got there, we met up with a Spanish friend of theirs, Fernando, who lives in this area and who served as our expert and guide of the mountain. He has been climbing this mountain, called Alabantos, since he was younger and was anxious to show it to us.

While waiting to meet up with him at the bus station I was confused why I was asked if I “had enough water for 3 hours.” 3 hours? For the ride up the mountain? I figured I had half a bottle full. “Yeah, I’m good!”

Then I ask how we were getting there (bus or did Fernando have a car?) and thought my friend was joking when he said we were walking. Wait. That’s what was going to take 3 hours?! Yup… That’s when we embarked on our uphill, 3 hour, rocky, slippery, steep hike…

Feeling optimistic!

Feeling optimistic!

I thought I was going to die about half way, it was a very steep, surprising and difficult hike (especially when I thought this was going to be my break from physical activity for the week!) but it was so worth it when we got to the top.

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You could see everything from the peak of the mountain once we finally got up there. We caught the sunset and later the lights of the city were beautiful when it got darker. It was hard to believe we were still in Madrid.

We set up camp and turns out camping up there is actually illegal so we had to be careful not to be spotted. That also means fires are illegal, something that I always associate with camping but once we were filling up our water bottles with natural spring water whilst hiking, I realized this was not my “normal” camping trip.

Our hidden camping site!

Our hidden camping site!

Once we got all set up, we started to make dinner and by that time it was pitch black. Fernando brought ravioli and meatball to eat which we warmed up with a small thing of propane, and we also enjoyed salchichon, queso, pan, and chocolate. It was a very welcome meal to say the least.

We spent the rest of the evening looking at the stars and lights of the city.

Ok, but the worst part and probably the only reason I do not enjoy camping? IT WAS FREEZING. I really cannot fathom how you can go from sweating while walking up the mountains to shaking in your shoes only a few hours later, but folks, it happens. Needless to say, around 1am I headed to the tent to curl up in my comforter and go to bed, free from the wind. I surprisingly slept very well (probably because I was so exhausted from the hike!) and woke up just in time for the sunrise.

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It was absolutely beautiful, but alas, still freezing! We then ate a wonderful breakfast of juice, oranges, nutella, and croissants. Then we quickly packed up camp when more people started to appear at the peak of the mountain to avoid getting caught in our illegality! After taking a few more pictures, we began to head down.

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While walking both ways there was lots of “caca” on the ground from wild cows. Although I did not see any cows, we did see some wild horses that we even ended up sharing a waterspout with along the way down.

The walk down the mountain took a lot less time, although it was very hard keeping balance on the really steep parts because there was little for your shoes to grip onto. At one point, we headed down the wrong path and I was a little more than ready to head home by that time so got a bit frustrated. However, eventually, we arrived back at the station and headed back into the city.

So. What did I get out of this experience?

a) I am not as outdoorsy as I would like to think I am. Not now. Not ever. Maybe now that I have written it down for all to see, someone will remind me next time I say something like “Oh! I’m going to go camping/hiking/mountain biking/anything that does not involve a cabin, bed, electricity, etc. that’s outdoors” that I do not actually enjoy it once I am there. And that’s ok. It’s not for everybody. For those of you who do like these activities, know that the only reason I always attempt them is because I admire you guys so much and I think that I want to make myself like them so that alas, I can be as cool as you.

b) “Somos una piña” is a colloquial, fun new way to refer to a group of close friends that I am going to continue to use! (Hence, some of you probably saw it as the name of my album on Facebook).

c) I am still thankful that I am in some sort of shape and able to take on a mountain without prior notice, although next time, I will be sure to ask for more details so I am in the mindset.

d) Salchichon is a good type of sausage that I would like to buy at the supermarket, while canned ravioli in Spain is no better than Chef Boyardee and thus, not something I would like to buy. But turns out, anything tastes good when you are exhausted and on a mountaintop. Especially, when your guide is talking about how he knows how to find roots and worms to eat around the area in the case that we ran out of food. Thankfully, we did not have to worry about that problem.

e) It is crazy that you can have the two extremes (mountains and big city) just 45 minutes away from one another. Especially when you cannot even see a glimmer of mountainy terrain from the city.

f) There is nothing like the view from on top of a mountain anywhere, and the cold cannot take that away.

g) Spanish people like practicing their English just as much as we like practicing our Spanish and thus, most of the time, the conversations are bilingual but reversed using our non-native languages. Likewise, they like learning colloquial English phrases like “cut the cheese” (that was Fernando’s favorite) just as much as we like learning colloquial phrases like “Eres la leche” which means “You’re the milk,” but is similar to our “You’re the man.”

Anyways, good news it that this list could go on and on proving that this was definitely worthwhile, as is usually the case when I get done with such activities. Plus, I got out of the city for a night and only spent 3.30 Euro, compared to the 150 many of my friends spent on plane tickets all around! This weekend has also been a good break from going out and exhausting myself with the various nightlife activities. Tomorrow, I am planning on locking myself in the library until later when I am hoping to go to a concert in Plaza de Cibeles where local artists are performing to publicize Madrid’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. We were talking about it the other night, and my money is on Brazil. What are you guys thinking? Either way, I do not think Madrid has a chance but they sure are trying and it is endearing!

Also, in case you are not following college sports, Miami is rockin’ it and I am hoping they pull out a big W against Virigina Tech this afternnon. Of course, by the time I post this we will already know but either way, I gotta say I am proud of my boys!

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That was an experience.

Wow, what a whirlwind this weekend has been. I cannot even believe that it is only Sunday because when I think about what I did Thursday it seems so long ago. Well good news first, I got through my first tests. After both of my teachers gave us a speech about how the Spanish grading system is so much more difficult than the US one, I was so nervous and studied as much as I could. They let us know that no one ever can get an A and that a B-/C+ is a GREAT grade here, and don’t worry, American schools understand that. Little do they know, it is my GPA that does not understand that and I couldn’t care less what my professors think, but that is besides the point. I am in Spain and thus, school comes second (or third, or fourth, depending what else is in play).

So once those were out of the way, Thursday night I went to a theatre to go a Flamenco show. Last time I was in Spain we went to something by the same name in Sevilla, but this was a whole different ballgame. We were in a HUGE theater (big red curtain and all!) instead of a small little restaurant with a stage that was basically an aisle through all the tables. And this time, it was not just men and women dressed in polka dot dresses and suits with tassels. Here, the curtain rose and a lady and man started singing while a video played on a giant screen behind them. I realized quickly that this was not your stereotypical “flamenco” show. This was more of an actual dance production, involving flamenco and ballet styling. It lasted almost two hours and was comprised of 9 dancers and 12 musicians ranging from 3 singers to a cello player to a drummer. It was unlike anything I ever witnessed before. After, I noted how it was definitely something I am glad I experienced, but would much rather sit through a Broadway production for that long and at that price!

Friday I celebrated the birthday of a friend at her host mom’s apartment who was nice enough to invite all of her friends over for appetizers, alcohol, and cake! My favorite part was when we sang happy birthday, but not. Her “mom” led us in a rendition of a traditional Spanish birthday song. She also poured us each a glass of champagne and in the birthday girl’s glass went a ring. She then has to drink the champagne (without swallowing the ring in the process) and it is supposed to bring some sort of good luck! I love learning about all these little traditions.

The birthday girl post blowing out the candles!

The birthday girl post blowing out the candles!

The cake that we had was SO good and eating it was followed by dancing the Macarena in the cramped living room. Later that night, we went for churros and chocolate, something I had been missing out on since I got here! While I did enjoy them, I am certain that I can find a better chocolateria around here somewhere, even though this was the most famous one! Besides, I am not opposed to doing research when it comes to churros and chocolate if that is the sacrifice I have to make for when my mom comes and visits! I’m pretty sure she is more excited to try these than see me…

Saturday I slept in (finally!) and wandered to Sol to pick up a Real Madrid scarf. Afterwards, I tried a fried calamari sandwich which is something else Madrid is known for! It was SO good (and not good for you) and less than 2 Euro! That’s one thing that amazes me here. Even though the Euro is expensive to our dollar, things that are here are so cheap! You can get a good sandwich for less than 2 Euro at almost any restaurant and every time I go to the grocery store I am so surprised at how far 20 Euro can get you! Later, I needed to write postcards so went to this ice cream shop I had read about that is really close to me. It was very tasty and I finally got my postcards written!

Later that night was La Noche en Blanco. It is a big festival that happens once a year where the main street Gran Via closes down and decorated with beautiful lights, the Plaza Mayor is covered in white balloons, and all the museums, theaters, parks, art galleries, and music venues offer free things. My favorite part was how in four plazas they had big screens set up playing videos that were dance lessons. The plazas were packed with people all doing this dance while looking up at this screen.

learning how to dance in the middle of the street? totally normal.

learning how to dance in the middle of the street? totally normal.

the group for the evening!

the group for the evening!

Before, we all met at an Irish pub to watch the UF vs. Tennessee football game. I did not think that I would, but I actually miss watching a good ol’ game of pigskin every now and then, especially now that Miami is apparently doing good! While there, we also saw people eating some American fare, and I can tell you, I have never been craving a hamburger more in my life than I am right now. On the bright side, we went to a gelato place called El Cupido which was amazing. By far, the best gelato I have had since I have been here so that was a success!

But back to La Noche! While if I was a local, I am sure that I would pick a movie to go to or art gallery to peruse, but for us it was just fun to walk around and observe everything going on. Even while walking home, we randomly walked by an outdoor screen set-up showing some Japanese film. It was crazy to me how there were still little kids out at 2am, but such is the life of a madrileno!

And finally to today! My dad told me about la Vuelta de Espana that was ending here in Madrid today. It is like the Spanish version of the Tour de France and apparently there were some pretty big riders participating. I looked at the schedule and knew I would be cutting it close but decided to go wander towards the route this afternoon anyways. I went to a Plaza and plopped myself down to wait and see if any action would occur before I had to leave. Unfortunately, all I got to see was what looked to be the race for the younger people or maybe just testers for the course? Either way, it was cool to see bikers nevertheless, but I would have loved to see the actual race!

the bikers i did see!

the bikers i did see!

Nevertheless, it was all ok because tonight I had the Real Madrid game! We made sure to get there with plenty of time. The away team must come from relatively close to Madrid because they sure had A LOT of fans that were not scared to show their support throughout the entire game. We collectively sat at the top two rows of the GIANT stadium but it really was not too bad because at least we could watch the whole game!

view from the top!

view from the top!

It was definitely the nosebleed section, and for once in my life, my nose did bleed. It was such an amazing environment. Although you always here about how into soccer the Europeans are, until you are in a stadium with almost 100,000 fans can you really take it all in and truly understand their devotion to these teams. Thankfully, Madrid pulled it out 5-0. I say thankfully because although, yes I do live here and would want them to win, but also, I was wearing a scarf and was not in the mood to be heckled the whole way home.

the group before the grand victory!

the group before the grand victory!

The best goal came from Ronaldo, of course, when he headed the ball in off a corner kick. It was just classic.

Wow, so yes, this weekend was full of all sorts of experiences and I am absolutely exhausted. I do not have a full week ahead so I am sure I will have plenty of time for rest and recuperation!

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Little Observations

Coming back to Madrid from Valencia made me realize just how much I love this city. While I loved the laidback, beachy feel of Valencia, I really missed the buzz and excitement of Madrid. While we were gone over the weekend, the city also decided to cool down. Making my walk to school today in a tank top and scarf a bit chilly! Thankfully, I had to walk rather quickly which warmed me up instantly, but my professors still looked at me like I was crazy, only made worse by the fact everyone else in my class was wearing sweatshirts. My bad.

The walk back from school though today was lovely and I am absolutely obsessed with how it feels outside. Without it being scorching hot, I’m not exhausted in the middle of the day, begging for a nap. It also made me forget that everyone else is siesta-ing around 2-5 which means a lot of shops are closed. After grabbing lunch with Taylor, I wanted to shop around but almost every place was closed down! I even walked into one little knick-knack store (the door was open!) but the owner rushed in telling me it was closed and I realized she was right outside loading things into a car. No wonder the lights weren’t on inside… I figured she was just saving electricity!

Speaking of lunch… We had our first Menu del Día experience today! Menu del Día is something that a lot of restaurants offer for lunch. It is a fixed price (usually around 10 euro) and it gives you a chance to try nice restaurants for a cheaper fare. You choose a first course, second course, and it comes with a drink and pastry! Since lunch is the biggest meal of the day for most, the portions are huge. Me and Taylor did not really know what to get, so had the waiter choose. For the first course, we got a spaghetti with meat sauce, and steamed spinach with shrimp (SO GOOD). Next we got grilled chicken in some sort of sauce with peppers, and potatoes. Also very very tasty. And we finished with a chocolate cake and postre de Santiago, which is almost like a shortcake! After all is said and done, I feel accomplished! Customs like tapas and el menu del día are things restaurants offer that have really intimidated me. Thankfully, workers are always really willing to help you out, but you with all the cafeterias and bars there are ways of doing things and if you do not know exactly what to do, it can be very nerve wracking walking in!

Today I also got my room cleaned so decided it would be a good time to take some pictures! So here ya go…

Where I sleep

Where I sleep

Clothes hanging outside my window

Clothes hanging outside my window

And no need to worry about closet space!

And no need to worry about closet space!

I have my first test tomorrow morning, and another on Wednesday. It is technically our mid-terms. Next Tuesday I also pick the classes I will be taking for the rest of December and so I am hoping that works out well and I arrange a schedule that I like.

Sorry this is turning out to be a long one but yesterday I also took a quick tour of el Museo Reina Sofia. It was once a hospital (one of my professors was born there!) but it is now a contemporary art museum, with its most notable piece of artwork being the Guernica by Pablo Picasso. After studying this painting for so long in so many different classes, it was amazing seeing it in real life.

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I was also a fan of this one by Miró. We also some some really interesting pieces by Dalí. The tour was really quick so I definitely want to go back another time (all the museums here offer free days for students!) when I can walk around more and see more of what the museum has to offer.

Ok, I think that is enough for now. I am going to go to Pilates for the second time since I have been here. Surprsingly, it is very similar to the classes that I go to at home, but this one is taught by a large (but fit and skinny) gay man. It is a great way to stretch though. After walking around all day I always wake up super tight and achy so I do not doubt that incorporating Pilates into my schedule will help out mucho!

Hope you guys are all off to a good week! And if reading this is making you want to come visit me, please

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