January 12, 2016

New Madrid, Old Madrid

New friends explored an old city on a walking tour of Madrid organized by my program, USAC, the University Studies Abroad Consortium. Our tour guide identified multiple sites where additions to the city corresponded with original Madrid. Cultural center CaixaForum Madrid’s innovative vertical garden lusciously loomed over the small plaza on Paseo del Prado in which we stood. The oasis sits across the street from the Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid, or Real Jardín Botanico de Madrid, admired by many for hundred of years.

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CaixaForum Madrid’s vertical garden

Another sight I observed was Madrid City Hall, or Palacio de Comunicaciones, with the “Refugees Welcome” banner. It is important that I, and all other Americans, understand that the refugee crisis is much more real in Europe than it is in America. It reminded me to be alert to increased traffic within Spain, but to also be compassionate, moving me to send prayers to all who faced horrific circumstances on their journeys.

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Madrid City Hall advertises “Refugees Welcome”

Mi Casa es Su Casa

European life is small, but that is to be expected in a city like Madrid. In a perfect location, my apartment is 20 minutes from school and 20 minutes from the city center. I have my own room, but share a kitchen, bathroom, and living area with two other American girls from my program. Our little home has many amenities, but lacks a dryer, which we expected, and an oven, which we did not. We will have to adjust to the idea of hanging out clothes outside to dry, as well as going down to the tenants below us should any of our things fall off of the line.

Check out my apartment!

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The Spanish people are environmentally conscious, always conserving heat and electricity, so my roommates and I should have known that we would have had to pay for plastic grocery bags at the market. Needless to say, we were identifiably foreign when we finished checking out without bags for our goods. The market, like our apartment, is small, with a limited selection. Though I expected the content to be different, my usual staples like granola bars and pretzels were hard to come by. I am unsure if this is true for all grocery shopping in Spain, or just in the city.

Spain is not the place for a picky eater. My first official Spanish meal, a menú del día, included an appetizer course, a manin course, a dessert, and a drink for 10 €. The first dish, paella, presented a surprise shrimp head that ruined my appetite. Persistent, I tried again at dinner. My roommates and I went to a restaurant beneath the apartment called Triana Restaurante around 9 p.m. Not knowing what to order, we chose ham and shrimp croquettes and mixed vegetables. The croquettes were a success, but “mixed vegetables” turned out to be a salad, topped with ham. The Spanish love their pork. The meal ended with a delicious lava cake, chat with the staff, and drinks on the house for my roommates. A cheerful conclusion to a busy day, we vowed to return to Triana.

 

Destination Locations

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.

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