Month: December 2013

Feliz Navidad

Even though the temperature is above zero in Minnesota this Christmas, I look forward to staying in. While I enjoy a white Christmas sitting by the fire, I can’t help thinking back to decorated and warmer Madrid. Feliz Navidad with photos from Madrid!

Gran Vía

Gran Vía

Callao Plaza

Callao Plaza


Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor


Consejos para los Exploradores

Escribo para el próximo grupo de estudiantes en el programa de CIEE Liberal Arts en Madrid. El semestre en el extranjero ha sido una experiencia de aprendizaje para mi, y estoy segura que será lo mismo para vosotros. Probablemente, como yo, esperáis encontrar un entendimiento de la cultura española. Viviendo en otro país está dónde empezar, pero no está dónde acabar. Es decir, durante os tiempo en España tenéis que trabajar para integraros en la cultura. Ahora, os ofrezco reflexiones y consejos de mi tiempo aquí en Madrid.

Al principio del programa, los otros estudiantes, y para algunos, os anfitriones, os invitan a pasar por la ciudad y hacer actividades. Aunque esteráis cansados, tenéis que ir. En estos momentos formáis las relaciones que durarán todo el semestre. Más que en el pasado he adoptado la frase “dormiré cuando me muero.” Es un poco dramática, pero es verdad que tenéis la oportunidad de descansar y relejaros en las siguientes semanas. No digo que debéis dejar os valores y maneras de vivir, sino que probáis lo que Madrid ofrece.

Luego, utilizáis cada oportunidad para hablar español. Siempre es más fácil hablar en inglés, como es os propia lengua, pero sin práctica, no mejoráis. Al final del semestre, no queréis reflejar en como esperáis que había hablado más español. Finalmente, siempre trabajáis para mantener la mente abierta. No sois sentenciosos porque nunca aprendéis apreciar la cultura española. Esto es todo que os digo. Espero que os disfrutéis de la experiencia como yo.

One Not So Quiet Last Weekend

As much as a quiet last weekend in Madrid did sound nice, I took my last traveling opportunity and left for England. Of all the countries I visited this semester, England was my favorite, followed by Spain and Brussels. Part of my love for England is likely due to the fact that I managed to leave London and see more of the country.

Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge, which is actually small and disappointing)

Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge, which is actually small and disappointing)

Without a doubt, we wanted to see London, so we spent the first day and night in the city center. We saw the major sites (Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Tower Bridge, etc.) and ate fish and chips. Before all this, we took a trip back to America. We ate Chipotle and I shopped at J. Crew and Anthropologie.

I proudly say I bought nothing!

I proudly say I bought nothing!

Except then I bought a shirt at Anthropologie. After all, I had no hope of resisting both my favorite stores!

The next day, after scrambled eggs for breakfast, we took the train the Stratford to meet my friend’s friends. The family warmly welcomed us into their home, fed us and showed us around. We saw Shakespeare’s birthplace, which, by the way, is older than the United States (yes, my friend Christian asked that) and went to a cafe for afternoon tea.

The following day these friends took us to Birmingham for the Christmas market, which is the largest in Europe. It was indeed very large, and warm cocktails and sausages were the specialties.


Even though I’m somewhat still in denial that this was my last weekend, it was a pretty spectacular one.

A Different Kind of (Thanksgiving) Tradition

Though it was the strangest Thanksgiving thus far, I nevertheless enjoyed the day with family and delicious food. After my host family welcomed my United States family into their home for a traditional Spanish lunch, my immediate family did a little touring around Madrid and went to Ten Con Ten for dinner.

In the trendy Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid (which, even if not to eat here you should visit), Ten Con Ten almost always has a full bar and dining room. We ordered a complete meal, since it was Thanksgiving. To start we shared tomato and mozzarella salad, tuna tartar and sautéed vegetables. We enjoyed all of them, but the salad stood out, and we could tell it was made from fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Then, I ordered the fish of the day, which was a cod with roasted apples. It was a pairing I wouldn’t have thought of, but one I will definitely try to replicate at home. Also to note was the oxtail hamburger, which my brother Andrew loved.

To finish off my most distinct Thanksgiving, I ordered the traditional: apple pie. As I unfortunately expected, I was a bit disappointed. The dish lacked flavor, and the pairing with chocolate chip ice cream was strange at best. On the other hand, the mango mousse that my dad ordered (and I obviously stole a bite of) was lovely.


Apple pie

Ten Con Ten is a bit pricey, as a dinner for four with wine easily soars into the 200 euro range. Though for a special occasion, this is the perfect place.

No turkey or stuffing was served, but we still ate more than we should have. After all, since Thanksgiving is all about food, family and being thankful, we celebrated the right way.

Ten Con Ten

Calle de Ayala, 6

Madrid, Spain 28001


Eight Days of Family


My lovely family and I spent eight whole days together. Leave it to three months away to make you welcome a family visit. After all, running around Europe is fun, but nothing rivals time spent with family.

I am far from calling myself an expert, but I do know a little about Madrid, and I loved sharing. I kept my mom, dad and brother Andrew busy. When I wasn’t dragging them along to meals and activities, my dad took over to fill the schedule.

When they arrived on Saturday, I took them for a familiar American brunch at Carmencita Bar, where my mom and I enjoyed eggs bennedict, my dad French toast and eggs and Andrew, never one for brunch, a hamburger. I was a bit embarrassed to not have found something more Spanish for the first meal, but I miss breakfast food in Madrid, so I easily reconciled the choice.

Carmencita Bar

Calle de San Vincente Ferrer, 51
28015 Madrid, Spain

The next day we headed to Valencia, Spain. We saw the special Sunday market, the cathedral and a traditional dance festival. Then, of course, we ate paella for lunch.

Can you guess who ate which portions?

Can you guess who ate which portions?

We returned Monday and stayed in Madrid until Thursday. I brought my mom, an academic at heart, to university with me and to volunteer with me and the family visited the Prado, Reina Sofia and el Palacio Royal while I was in class.

We also fit in a flamenco show and lunch at my wonderful hosts’ home. They served a Spanish meal with some of my favorites, including salmorejo, paella and Spanish wine, making sure each food item came right from Spain.

This woman, the owner, chose my dad as her crush for the night. She always turned back and smiled at him.

This woman, the owner, chose my dad as her crush for the night. She always turned back and smiled at him.

Unfortunately, the Christmas lights in Madrid turned on the weekend of December 1, and my family left that Friday morning. Luckily, we happened to be in Plaza Mayor one evening when the lights illuminated the street for only a moment, just long enough for them to witness the magnificence. I’ve been enthusiastic about Christmas light tours my entire life, so yes, magnificent.

We ended our time together in Paris. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited Notre Dame and ate delicious food, including crepes on the street and Café Constant. While my parents viewed the art museums, Andrew and I headed to Disneyland. We are Disney fanatics, so we could not wait. With a giant tree, decorations all along Main Street and a special Christmas parade, we loved it all. We found the rides similar to those in Disney World in Florida. The big difference was the weather, since Paris was cold and Florida rarely is. Regardless, we loved it.


My mom, dad and Andrew left for Minnesota from Paris Sunday morning, and I flew back to Madrid. I loved (almost) every minute of our time together. It wasn’t too sad to say goodbye, knowing I would be home in 19 days!

Oh, one more thing: my dad ate the largest paella portion, I ate middle one and my mom ate the little part.