Tag Archives: tourists

madrid con mis padres

When we arrived back in Madrid after visiting Prague, my parents, brother, and I were all pretty tired of site-seeing.  We opted for a more relaxing two days with less early mornings and all day walking tours and more leisurely walks and quite afternoons.

Luckily, we had fabulous weather – sunny, light breeze, and mid-50s.  We started the morning with a typical Spanish breakfast of café and pan tostado con tomate at a great bakery my dad discovered on the corner of Vallehermoso and Donoso Cortes.  And we spent the afternoon at El Parque del Buen Retiro (remember how I was there every weekend in the warmer months?) and finally rented a row boat in the Estanque (man-made lake).  During the off-season it costs 4,55 euro for 45 minutes, a great deal especially since we got so lucky with the weather!    

Didn’t get any pictures of Mom rowing (we kicked her out after her a few minutes) or Alex (I was sitting behind him!)

I treated my family to kebabs for lunch, which they thoroughly enjoyed although they were expecting barbecue kebabs (as in on the stick), haha.  And after a nice siesta, we spent the night over in Opera, showing them the Teatro Real, Catedral Real & Palacio Real and having delicious tapas in the Plaza de Isabel II.  It’s really a cool area over there, and I hope to explore it more often now!

{Parents in front of the Royal Palace}

The next morning, my parents got up early to explore the Thyssen Museum while my brother and I slept in, but we met them afterwards at Zara.  After a little bit of shopping we headed over to Cien Montaditos  since it was 1 euro Wednesday with my roommate Bruna and Dan’s cousin, Michael, who had just arrived from New York.  Though their trip was short, I think we packed as much into it as we could, despite all of the time spent in airports.  I can’t wait for them to come back again!


Miss you already, guys!  xxx

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el fin de semana como una turista

Here’s the thing about blogging: when it comes down to it, it’s a hobby.  So when I have an eight page Spanish paper, an HR project, a group International Business paper, visitors to entertain, and some co-op applications to fill out, I really do want to blog.  I just have a few more important priorities.  I know, I’m just making excuses, but I hope you can forgive me for the two week long hiatus I just took.  I promise to update more regularly!

That being said, let’s dive in to the topic at hand.  I’ve been thinking for a while now about the perfect weekend in Madrid because of a study abroad student challenge I found on this website that I’ve briefly posted about before, here.  After touring the city two weekends in a row with family friends, friends, and friends’ family (… that’s not confusing), I think I’ve finally got it.  So here you have it, my weekend as a tourist in Madrid.

The best walking tour I’ve got

To pack a lot of sites into a few hours time, start off at the Argüelles metro stop, and head straight down Calle Marqués de Urquijo (side note – my friend Lauren lives here!).  You’ll hit Parque del Oeste, and further to the left, el Templo de Debod and Plaza de España.  All three are Madrid must-sees in my opinion.  After that you can head straight up Gran Via, cut over to Sol, Plaza Mayor, and el Mercado de San Miguel.  I took this walk with a few friends this weekend and then stopped for some tapas and ice cream once we got to San Miguel.  There are also a ton of restaurants with Menu del Días and great tapas on the street “Cava de San Miguel.”


El Museo Nacional del Prado

Two weekends ago when our family friend Carolyn was visiting from Sevilla, I decided to take her to the infamous Prado.  I still hadn’t been and thought it would be great for her to see some of the most famous artwork in Spain while here in Madrid.  The museum is also beautiful inside, and we definitely enjoyed ourselves.  I found a great guide to the museum from Fodor’s Travel Intelligence and took notes of the most important masterpieces to see.  Here’s the link, and here are my notes on what we had to see, but make sure to grab a map!

Room 12 – Intro to Velázquez (1599 – 1660)

  • “Las Hilandres”
  • “Las Meninas”
  • Then rooms 14 – 16
  • Make sure to see his portraits of the royale family’s jesters

South end first and second floors – Goya (1746 – 1828)

  • King Carlos IV
  • “The Family of Carlos IV”
  • “The Cloth Maja and Nude Maja”

Room 75 – large scale model of the Prado

  • Then rooms 60 – 63A

Floor 0 near the Goya Entrance – 15th & 16th century Flemish works

  • “Garden of Earthly Delights”
  • And a table in the center of the Seven Deadly Sins


Cien Montaditos is the best place in the entire world.  You can get a few mini sandwiches for around 1 euro each and a large jar of tinto de verano.  They’re all over the city, so if you’re interested just ask anyone!

A diamond in the rough as far as free foods go is Meson Boñar de Leon
Restaurante on Travesía de la Cruz Verde.  The beers are a little pricey at 4 euro each, but they’re cold and very big.  And they come with plenty of tapas.  I was just there yesterday afternoon with Gabby and her mom.  We each had two tinto de veranos, with which came a plate of bread, paella mixta and two Spanish tortillas, all for free!


I understand when you’re away for the weekend and just can’t bring yourself to go out drinking all night after walking around all day.  Conde Duque, which I just discovered last weekend is your cure.  We saw an awesome flamenco jazz concert of two guitars, a cello, a drum set, a singer, and some dancing at the end for 10 euro.  Though they’re in the middle of a Jazz Festival right now, there are ongoing events, concerts, and exhibitions there.  I recommend getting there early to check out the building, which contains a huge plaza, as well.  (We were rushing, so I wasn’t able to snap any photos!)

A great easy option is going to Puerta del Sol.  From about 9pm onward there are promoters in the streets and plazas of Sol begging you to come take free shots or reduced priced drinks.  It’s like happy hour, but normally free, and in about 150 bars at once.  Go enjoy, it’s amazing!

I promise to update more for the rest of the month because I already have things to look forward to: my roommate from Boston coming to visit, Gabby’s 21st birthday, a trip to see a great friend in London, and a homemade Thanksgiving feast.

Ciao, amores:)

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real jardin botanico de madrid

After a long week of school work, group meetings, and long dinners with friends, Dan and I decided to have a relaxing Saturday.

We started off with Nana’s pancakes, which were of course not as good as they usually are at the Rowland’s house, but tasted very similar.  Thanks for the recipe, Yanya!  The butter and baking powder are quite different here, but that didn’t stop them from being delicious:)


After a very slow morning, we made our way over to the Royal Botanical Gardens.  They are located between the famous Museo del Prado and el Parque del Retiro in the old part of Madrid.  The 1,25 euro student price was totally worth it and I definitely plan on going back again.  A lot of the flowers were out of season, but it was still beautiful to see.  The vegetable gardens were in full bloom and besides the normal tomatoes, lettuces, and pumpkins, we also saw tabacco plants, artichokes, and a dill bush.  I had no idea how dill was grown, but this was a huge bush – probably five feet tall!!!


We also explored a cactus greenhouse, tropical palms greenhouse, and the bonsai tree terrace!!


After a snack of bread and cheese (shockingly!) and a siesta we went out for a nice relaxing dinner together.  We went to a little Italian restaurant in the plaza behind Dan’s apartment.  It was really nice to do so since we’ve been running around Madrid with new and old friends since we got here (not that we aren’t enjoying that!).  We sat outside despite the cool autumn weather, which finally started over the weekend, and shared a few different plates: provolone fondue with a fruit marmelade, eggplant rolled and filled with cheese and wonderful marinera sauce, and parmesan-stuffed gnocchi.  It was absolutely delicious, and we’re already planning on going back for seven euro pizzas during lunch soon!

I wrote recently about how inexpensive grocery shopping is in Spain, and we talked about this topic over dinner, as well.  We had a great meal and a bottle of wine for 20 euro each, but that’s how much we spend on nearly a week of groceries.  It made us realize the difference between the United States and Spain with regard to this.  Our meal probably would have cost about the same amount in Boston, if anything, a little more there.  However, to buy the food at the market or grocery store would be about half the price here as it is at home, which doesn’t make any sense!  Needless to say, we’ll be saving our money for groceries and eating out less frequently, as we certainly have been doing already.

Feliz lunes, amores:)

Covered in vines of grapes used in wines all over Spain

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la tarde en salamanca

Saturday we had the opportunity to go to Salamanca for the afternoon and the night.  A student tourism company, European Vibe, that Mikey’s roommate Katrina works for, is located just a few doors down from my apartment.  In fact, it actually has the same address, which I know doesn’t make any sense… Welcome to Spain.  Anyway, they had a 32-euro trip to Salamanca for the afternoon and night, so a bunch of friends and I decided to take advantage of it.

The bus left Plaza de Espana around 2pm, and we got to Salamanca just around 5pm.  The traditional Spanish city is located just north west of Madrid, and is fairly popular with regard to tourism but is especially popular with American study abroad programs, for one reason or another.

I’m not sure if I spoke about this before, but Lucia and Lauriane were lucky enough to get a Spanish city guide made for them by one of their Spanish professors.  It’s really great, and I definitely plan on making a copy of it.  It has historic sites, restaurants, and bars to go to in most of the major day or weekend trip cities around Madrid, as well as traditional foods, drinks, and desserts to try while there.  We used it when we were in Toledo a few weeks ago and again here in Salamanca; it was extremely helpful!

We had four or five hours free after we got to Salamanca, so we took this time to hit most of the places of interest in Lucia’s guide.

  • Catedral Nueva and Catedral Viejo (the new and old cathedrals),which are connected in the interior though we couldn’t figure out where they began and ended.
  • La Universidad, which is the oldest university in all of Spain, and one of the oldest in Europe (from the seventh century).  There is a little frog hidden in the architecture work on the front of the main building, which is literally impossible to find.  We had someone help us and we took a photo, but I won’t put it up in case you’d like to look for yourself someday!  Fun fact: this is why a frog is the symbol of Salamanca.
  • Convento de las Dueñas, where the nuns sell all sorts of sweets and cookies, of all different flavors to support their convenent.  They come in two different sized boxes, so webought three or four small boxes of a few different kinds so that we could each try them all.  My favorite was a hazlenut biscuit-type cookie covered in powdered sugar that crumbled atevery bite!
  • The lower and upper school plazas close to the university were also very beautiful.  Liz actually stumbled upon them unknowingly before we even saw they were on the list from Lucia’s professor.
  • Plaza Monterrey, where we sat to have a drinkand wait for the city lights to come on,which was not as exciting as it sounds nor as I anticipated it would be.
  • Puente Romano, a bridge built by the Romans in the first century (seriously, so old!!!), which is the only bridge in Salamanca that doesn’t allow cars!
  • Plaza Mayor, which was absolutely beautiful with all the lights on at night.  We sat at Café Real (from the list… yay for recommendations)for some tapas before meeting up with the rest of the group.  Sidenote:  in case you were wondering, we came to the conclusion that there is mostdefinitely a Plaza Mayor in every city in Spain… and they may or may not all look exactly the same).

Anyway, we met up with the group at 10 and went to three different bars/clubs right around the main city center.  It was fun, but we were all tired from walking around the city all day.  As well, there were over 100 people on the trip with us, so at most of the places there was no one but the tour group there.  We got back on the bus around 3am and back to Madrid about 6:30am, just in time to catch the first Metro home.

I’m definitely glad we went on the trip, but it was a very long day.  Dan and I decided that we generally prefer either an entire day trip where you head home around or after dinner or an overnight/weekend trip where at least you have a place to refresh and relax for a bit in between your daytime and nighttime activities.

Hasta luego, amores:)

Julie, Lucia, and I enjoying sangria, a plate of ham & cheese, and patatas bravas (my favorite tapa) in Plaza Mayor!


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el palacio real

Since we don’t have any Friday classes, Lucia, Lauriane, and I went to El Palacio Real (the royal palace) in the afternoon.  We were there for quite a few hours, but it was really cool to see the different rooms that they have in display for the public to see.  Among many other important things, we got to see:

  • The smoking room, which a former king had completely decorated in bamboo panels that have oriental paintings all over them
  • The Salon de Columnas (Column Room) where Spain was signed into the European Union and the pen that was used to sign it … extremely useful information
  • A movie room that was put in for Sunday afternoon family movie showings
  • The armory, where we saw enough armory to satisfy our fill for the rest of our lives… they even had traditional armor for seven year old children!!!

We also got to see the Royal Pharmacy, which was my favorite part.  It’s the only old royal pharmacy in Europe that’s still used today.  There are jars marked with all sorts of natural aliments and remedies: black tea, rose water, whale sperm (???), and a zillion more.  It reminded me a lot of a place we went in Morocco last year where you can buy all sorts of these natural remedies.  I bought orange oil, rose water, mint tea, and cinnamon there last year.

Since you can’t take photos inside, I don’t have many pictures from the day, but I highly suggest taking a few hours to visit if you’re in Madrid.

Tip: the plaza between the Royal Cathedral and the Royal Palace is magnificent as the sun is setting.  We left around seven, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Ciao, amores:)


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el templo de debod





Unfortunately, as you may be able to tell from the above photos and/or title of this post, I didn’t make it to El Escorial on Saturday.  In fact, I stayed in bed nearly alll day (again) besides the 30 minutes I took to run to the farmacia and pick up some bread, chicken broth, and vegetables.  My sore throat had grown much worse over night, and if you know me well enough… you know that’s nothing to be surprised about.  Before I get in to the point of this post, however, I would like to point out the positive aspects of social health care as experienced by a poor college student:  the prescription that is currently healing me cost less than two euro (less than $3) for 40 pills.  Please excuse the interruption.

Fortunately, I did manage to make it out of the house for a few hours Saturday night to what is becoming one of my favorite spots in Madrid, El Templo de Debod.  El Templo, located between El Parque de Oeste and Plaza de Espana, was one of the four ancient temples gifted by Egypt to the countries that helped save them during the construction of a dam that threated their existance in 1968.  The other three are in New York City, Italy, and Holland.  (Disclosure: I knew none of this historical background until I read about it on Wikipedia.es before writing this post).

Anywaaay, el Templo is extremely popular at sunset, which makes me slightly more content with the fact that it was the highlight of my Saturday night, haha.  But really, it is beautiful and is definitely a must see for anyone visiting [me] in Madrid.  It is so beautiful that I also spent my Sunday afternoon there, having a picnic and relaxing with friends before the week began.

Hopefully, I’ll make it to El Escorial for a few hours the weekend after this coming one, as early Friday morning I leave for Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany!


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un dia en toledo

Spire of the Catedral through the Winding Streets of Toledo

Friday was a city-wide holiday in Madrid (can’t tell you what it was for though!), so we took advantage of the fact that everything in the city was closed to make a day trip to Toledo!

Toledo is a small city south of Madrid.  It takes only 25 minutes  (read: short nap time)  to get there by train from the Atocha station and is very cheap.  Toledo was one of the long-standing Moorish strongholds because it is fortunately surrounded on three sides by a river.  The Moorish roots are very prevalent; the city is very reminiscent of Granada, Spain and Morocco where we visited last year.  It has the snake-like skinny street that wind up and down the hills, little markets, and small cobblestone plazas full of tree-shaded restaurants.

Despite the 104 degrees Fahrenheit heat, we still managed to pack a lot into the eight hours we spent there.  We visited the Catedral de Toledo, which is very beautiful.  I hate to say it though, the more cathedrals I see in Spain, the more they all start to kind of look the same haha.

After the cathedral we walked around for a bit and then had lunch at one of the many plaza restaurants.  The menu del dia was pretty good for 12 euro… Dan and I each got one and shared the courses, which was awesome!  We had seafood paella, gazpacho, grilled chicken, and a Toleden speciality: pork in a red sauce of vegetables served with french fries.  It was very delicious!!

With renewed strength (we were running on 5 hours of sleep afterall) we made our way down the hillside to La Casa del Greco.  The museum commemorates the life and artwork of El Greco inside of an old Toledan style home, which is very similar to the ones El Greco rented and lived in while in Toledo.  It was very interesting, and I like how you were able to learn about the artwork and the artist at the same time.  To anyone visiting Toledo, I strongly suggest it … it’s also free with a university ID (win!)

After these two major stops, we also took some time to explore some of theother reasons Toledo is famous.  We looked in a number of little market shops selling swords and knives, but of course didn’t buy any.  I’m not really even sure why, but Toledo is famous for their swords and because of this, they are                                everywhere!!  They also produce a lot of marzipan in the city.  Marzipan is used in candies and sweets, and tastes like a sweet, candy-like dough.  It’s very confusing to describe, but is actually pretty good!

Other than that, we spent most of the day walking around (read: sweating our brains out)… I drank 3 liters of water!! and exploring the city.  It’s very small, which leant itself very well to just a day trip, but I would definitely go back again.  There are many museums and sites to see!


More about the weekend to come soon!  Ciao, amores:)

Sunset in Plaza Zocodovar

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