Living the Spanish Life.

After spending a long but exciting day in Segovia last week Friday for our class field trip, it was off to Madrid on Saturday with some friends and without CIEE Director Cristina’s help. We started off by getting lost since we took a different train from Alcalá to Madrid than we did the first time and chose the wrong stop. If it wasn’t for my Badger friend Yoona and her phone GPS, it would have been a lot harder to find the Museo del Prado! (On an interesting note, when I asked a museum employee where the bathroom was (in Spanish) he responded to me in English). Thanks to our University of Alcalá student ID cards, we got in free! We browsed many famous paintings including those of Zurbarán and Velázquez. It was amazing to see court artist Velázquez’s Las Meninas after learning about it in my Spanish classes at UW-Madison.

Visiting the Museo del Prado in Madrid!
Visiting the Museo del Prado in Madrid!
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Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656

Infante Margaret Theresa, daughter of King Philip IV of Spain and Queen Consort Mariana of Austria, and her entourage

We visited the museum for about two hours, viewing only a fraction of the displayed collections. Since our stomachs were growling for food, we left to find that it was raining outside and there was just one umbrella for five of us. It took us about 15 minutes to find a restaurant, and after eating, we walked through the beautiful gardens of the Parque del Buen Retiro (once a recreation area for Spain’s Royal Family), stopped by at the Feria de los Libros (Book Fair) next to the park, and took the RENFE train back to Alcalá.

When I purchased a SIM card for my iPhone during orientation, I also purchased 10 Euros of calling/texting usage. Since I had apparently used up all 10 euros after less than a week and tried to buy more usage over the phone without success, mi padre Luis took me to El Corte Inglés shopping center to get it all figured out. I learned that since my credit card is from the US, any time I want to put more money on my phone, I will have to go to the Movistar cell phone store in person. After adding 20 euros to my phone, Luis then dropped me off at the Plaza de Cervantes as I had bought a ticket to see a flamenco show at the Corral de Comedias with some of my CIEE friends.

The theatre at the Corral de Comedias is very small and intimate; it reminds me of the indoor theatre at the American Player’s Theatre in Spring Green, WI. For the show, there was a band, a male and female singing duo, and the flamenco act. The flamenco dancing was a mix of tap dancing, finger snapping and clapping, and shouts of “Olé!”. It was a bit different from going to the Overture Center in Madison to see a musical, where you wait to applaud until after a musical number. At this show, anytime throughout it, audience members would shout “Olé!” or clap. It was entertaining and I enjoyed it very much!

Flamenco Show at the Corral de Comedias
Flamenco Show at the Corral de Comedias

I spent the last day of my first official weekend in Spain relaxing with my family. I went with Nacho and Pili to the Valdelasfuentes pool about an hour away. There were two water slides (toboganes), an exercise pool, a wave pool, and many water massage fixtures. It reminded me of going to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells with my cousins, but on a smaller scale. We then had paella for lunch (named after the pan it is cooked in), a typical Spanish dish more common in Valencia. It’s a mix of rice, vegetables, seasoning, and meat or seafood. While I am not a very adventurous eater, I can honestly say that this was AMAZING. I want to eat it all day every day! It was delish! If you ever travel to Spain, paella is one of the foods that you definitely must try.

I spent one of my weeknights going to the nearby shopping mall called Alcalá-Magna with Nacho and Pili to buy some things for my upcoming three-day-weekend school trip to Asturias with CIEE. Since we will be canoeing/kayaking for about four hours, we need to have shoes with a heel strap (so they won’t fall off) that can get wet. Since I only brought sandals and tennis shoes, I needed to go shopping for the right footwear. I was able to buy a pair of good canoeing shoes and another swimsuit for the upcoming trip. I had to remind myself when looking at prices that they are in Euros, not US dollars. I have to do some mental math and take the Euro price and multiply it by 1.3 to estimate the cost in US dollars.

The next day was a study day as our midterms (examenes parciales) were on Thursday. It’s only been a week and a half of classes since classes began and Session I is almost half over! After exams, I can focus on packing the essentials for the Asturias trip. Asturias is located in the northernmost part of Spain and to the west (I know this because it was on my Spanish Civilization and Culture midterm). Mi madre told me that for the long bus ride there (about 6-7 hours) she will pack an entire giant bar of chocolate along with my lunch and dinner. My whole family knows that my one great weakness is chocolate as I always have some after lunch and dinner. It’s a good timing that I will be going to Asturias, where it is going to be rainy and around 65°, instead of staying in Alcalá, where it will be getting as high as 95° (like today was!).

Badger Pride with Nacho: Go "Bookie"!
Badger Pride with Nacho: Go “Bookie”!