Archive | September, 2010

El Pueblo de Mi Escuela

30 Sep

My friend and I started off our day with an authentic Spanish breakfast. According to Rick Steve’s Spain, which I carry in my purse most of the time, Spaniards have coffee and pastries for breakfast rather than bacon and eggs. So, we shared a croissant and churros with our coffee before going to visit our school.

Pastries, delicious coffee, YUM!

Our school is about a 45 minute bus ride outside of Madrid. At first I wasn’t too excited about the commute, especially since that means my monthly metro pass is 75 euro—way more expensive than a metro pass for just el centro. After visiting today, though, I couldn’t be happier! I will be working at an elementary school in a town called Manzanares El Real. The town sits between the bottom of a mountain and a lake…the view couldn’t be prettier! We got off the bus right beside Castillo de Manzanares El Real, which was a great first impression. It will be a nice change from the city and I can travel to surrounding towns with my metro pass!

View south of the town

View north of the town

Castillo de Manzanares El Real

We walked up to the school while the kids were in recess, and (obviously) I was immediately petrified. (Everyone reading this should know how awkward I can be with kids and that I am not a fan of large groups of them.) It was nice to find out that during recess, teachers get a break complete with a spread of coffee, cheese, ham, bread, fruit and donuts. After meeting some of the teachers I sat in on a 4th grade science class just to observe. The class was so fun! The kids are learning about weather and climate, even climate change (and being a geography minor, I actually love this subject)! I already thought of activities I want to do with them. Maybe I won’t be so bad at this after all…and maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon, ha.

XO

Plaza in the town where I'm sure to spend part of my 2 hour siesta when it's nice out!

These Shoes are Made for Walkin’

30 Sep

They aren't as old as they look.

Today I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to wear the most comfortable shoes I brought with me, and these are it…my very hot pink Nikes (that my boyfriend got for me…not very long ago, despite how dirty they are). According to the Facebook  page for Auxiliares, brightly colored tennis shoes SCREAM American (figures that’s exactly what I have!), but I think I pulled off a sporty-yet-not-unstylish-or-maybe-just-normal look. These are my running shoes, not that I’ve run one time since arriving to Madrid, even though I did have every intention of starting today. In my defense, I have literally walked at least 85-90% of the city in the past few days, which is why today I had to wear tennis shoes. My feet are killing me!

Today was just more running around, getting things done before I start working, helping friends find apartments and move, and, of course, ending with a beer at a bar with some friends and some locals speaking bad Spanish. I thought today would be more dramatic since there was a “huelga” in Spain. The public transportation workers were boycotting work in exchange for demonstrations for their rights and higher pay. I didn’t see any actual demonstrations in Madrid, and when I did have to use the metro today it didn’t take too much longer than usual. It was super packed, though. What I did see was the spray-paint and posters plastered all over the buildings along Calle de Gran Via. The posters claimed that stores and cafes were closed for the huelga even though they weren’t. I think this only deterred some business in the beginning of the day then quickly lost it’s effect. Even though it was anti-climactic, it was still something that wouldn’t usually happen in North Carolina!

XO

Lefties, not really closed.

McDonald's, definitely not closed.

Busy?! No, not yet.

28 Sep

I am kind of surprised to find that I have a to-do list that keeps getting longer. Not that I’ve been expending almost any effort at all to get around to said list. I’m sure sleeping until whenever I want to isn’t helping, but I want to enjoy sleeping and sight seeing before start my job as a teaching assistant on Friday (I’m so nervous!).

Anyway, today was no exception to not getting to my to-do list. Instead I met a friend for lunch then walked around to more of Madrid’s beautiful plazas, cathedrals and palaces. My favorite plaza so far is Plaza Mayor. It encompasses all things I would consider European. It’s an enclosed square with shops and restaurants and ample outdoor seating all along the bottom floor and apartments with Juliette balconies on the top. Every entry way is arched. There are paintings on the buildings and statues in the square. Street performers are always playing either the violin or accordion, which is the same for many places here…there’s always background music to this gorgeous city! Here are a few pictures of Plaza Mayor…

XO

Plaza Mayor

Even the sides of buildings are beautiful here.

Entry to Plaza Mayor from Calle de Toledo

Comida Buena

26 Sep

I love to eat. While I have been eating less over here so far, mostly due to smaller portion sizes and being cheap, I made up for it this weekend. The people here seem to like papas fritas (potato chips) and patatas (french fries) A LOT. There are entire tapas bars and little shops dedicated to these two foods. Some friends and I ate at a tapas bar called Patatas yesterday and it was delicious! I’ve always loved french fries, and Patatas has the best. They’re made fresh and served with salsa or other dipping sauces rather than plain ketchup.

Patatas with salsa mexicana, yum!

Of course, what everyone really, REALLY loves to eat in Spain is paella. I reintroduced seafood into my diet before coming to Madrid just to be able to eat paella. Tonight, some other friends and I split vegetable paella…and it was SO GOOD. The flavors were perfect, and it was cooked perfectly. So really, it wasn’t just good, it was perfect. We opted for the veggie version tonight since all three of us are vegetarians who are willing to eat seafood only because we are abroad. (I’ve also met one more vegetarian and five other Aquariuses, btw.) I can’t wait to eat this dish again and to try it with seafood!

Perfection on a plate.

XO

La Discoteca

26 Sep

My friends at home were right when they told me I would love discotecas! In fact, I loved the discoteca so much last night (and this morning) that I think I could LIVE in a discoteca. Confetti, fog machines, laser lights, five floors, (HOT) professional dancers, a mix of dance/popular/techno music…perfect! My friends and I had a blast. We stayed on the dance floor from midnight until 6 a.m. Of course, we HAD to stay until at least 6 a.m. since the metro doesn’t run between 2 and 4 a.m. 🙂 The only thing I hated was not having my camera to document the awesomeness of la discoteca Kapital, which is by far my favorite club so far in my life. So, I took a picture from google images to give y’all and idea even though this only shows the first floor. I will be taking everyone that visits me in Madrid here!

XO

Kapital

Parque del Retiro

25 Sep

This afternoon some friends and I wondered around more of the city and into Parque del Retiro. The park is absolutely gorgeous and is apparently the equivalent to Central Park in NYC. (Madrid is constantly compared to NYC here, the way Barcelona is compared to L.A.) Here are some pictures!

XO

Approaching the first walkway from the main entrance.

Fountain in the middle of the park. Madrid has a LOT of fountains and they're all beautiful!

My FAVORITE part of the park. Parque del Retiro has Central Park beat on the canoe-paddling area. My boyfriend and I will be doing this when he visits 🙂

Another walkway. I love the fall leaves on the trees!

A garden at another entrance of the park.

Esta Noche

24 Sep

Today was my second and final day of orientation. I learned a lot about different teaching methods and the expectations of our bilingual program. It was an informative and long session. Afterward, I ran around town with a couple of my new friends. We decided to meet some friends of a friend and have a glass of wine, and on the way we walked up Calle de la Montera, a wide, cobble-stone pedestrian street that leads to Puerta Del Sol. If you’ve been abroad and read Rick Steve’s Spain travel book, you know that Calle de la Montera serves as prime pick-up area for prostitutes and that prostitution is legal in Madrid. On my first visit to Puerta Del Sol (at four in the afternoon, btw), I only saw two prostitutes that were somewhat discrete…at least as discrete as a prostitute who wants potential patrons to know she is a prostitute can be. Tonight, though, there were so many more in such outrageous, skimpy and obvious outfits (even though some of them had on some great shoes). I even saw one grab a passer-by’s crotch. I wanted to take a picture to post but didn’t know if that was the best idea. Next time I definitely will so stay tuned!

Anyway. We went to a cute bar tucked away in the allies of Chueca, the gay neighborhood in Madrid. During the walk, we passed by the beautiful architecture, crowded plazas and wide sidewalks to graffiti-covered storefronts and narrow allies. It was a little sketch, but cool and not too scary. At the bar we met two REAL Spanish people, had a glass of wine with them and even had some real conversation (albeit slow and simple on my part). We even said hello and good-bye with a kiss on each cheek. I feel so legit, ha ha.

XO

Shot from the street leading to La Plaza de Chueca, which is lined with bars and filled with umbrella-covered outside seating.