Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to Peel an Orange

Okay, so I suck... I wrote this post a few months ago, when I had only been here for 2 months. For some reason, I decided against posting it. Upon discussing this topic with friends and finding that we've all had this same experience, they convinced me to post it. Better late than never, right?!

I have been in Spain for exactly two months now... crazy, huh?! Since arriving in Spain I been picking up on many cultural differences between Spain and the United States. While I could list off dozens of little things that make me feel super American around here, and some of the biggest cultural differences are related to food.

A common topic of discussion between my auxiliar friends and I has to do with Spanish eating habits. There are quite a few differences in the types of food eaten, meal times, and table etiquette, which I plan to elaborate on in future posts. One thing that has stuck out to me when dining with Spaniards is how they eat fruit. In the States, fruit is a portable food. Hungry on the go? Grab an apple or a banana and eat it on the run. Fruit is a finger food. You simply bite into the apple, eat the banana straight from the peel, or tear into an orange with your fingers.

Just like this...

In Spain, you´ll be hard pressed to find someone eating fruit on the go. Fruit is eaten with a plate, knife, and a fork. I´ve never seen anyone eat fruit as gracefully as the Spanish. And until today, I have avoided any fruit besides bananas at the lunch table. Today at recreo, I decided to give it a shot. I picked up an orange and began peeling it with my knife. Super Spanish, right? I began peeling the rind off, and next thing I know I had dozens of pieces of rind covering my plate and my hands were covered in orange juice. The gym teacher just looked at me and laughed and commented on my peeling technique, and I tried to explain that I don´t like the white part on the orange. Called out!

I immediately looked around the room to see what was so different about my technique. I mean, I used a knife after all! Sure enough, everyone at the table had cut the top of the peel off their oranges, and neatly removed the rest of the peel in one piece. After the orange is peeled, they continue to eat the orange with a knife and fork. So proper. This same technique applies to almost every type of fruit: apples, pears, oranges, etc.

Well, there you have it: How to peel an orange in Spain. I´m going to give it another go tomorrow, and hopefully I´ll be a pro by Friday.

Update: 3 months later, and I still avoid eating oranges at the table, but mostly due to the fact that I'm too lazy to put that much effort into eating a piece of fruit.

Un besazo!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Alhambra: (Granada Part 2)

The Alhambra is hands down one of my favorite historical sites I have been to in Europe thus far. The Alhambra is a huge Moorish palace that dates back to the 14th century and is situated on a hill bordering Granada. We purchased our tickets online in advance for 14 euros, and it was well worth it. This is saying a lot coming from someone who hates paying for museum entry fees!

Our group was split up this day, as our other friends opted for a guided tour in the morning, and we decided to visit in the afternoon. This ended up being a good choice, as our friends apparently hated their tour and were freezing, and we got to explore the Alhambra at our own pace. Since neither of us did our research before hand, we decided to rent an audioguide. It was nice to get some background information on each site, but the guide did leave me with one question: who the hell is Washington Irving? (My question was later answered, thanks to wikipedia... apparently he is some guy who lived at the Alhambra in the 1800's... and we was our "tour guide".)

Who is this dude?!

Without a doubt, the Nasrid Palaces are the highlight of the Alhambra. In order to control the number of people visiting the palaces, you are assigned a time slot to enter them with your ticket. I absolutely love the Islamic tilework and geometric shapes, and the architecture was really impressive. I could probably go on and bore you with details of our visit, but I think the pictures speak for themselves.

The walk leading up to the Alhambra.

Palacio de Carlos V

Caña break... sightseeing sure is hard work. Oh, españa!

Nasrid Palaces.

Amazing ceiling

Detailing of one of the many doorways.

El Mirador de Lindaraja

View of Granada from the Nasrid Palaces

We stopped for a photoshoot that blew our senior pics out of the water!

Traveling is always more fun when you're in good company... especially when your travel buddy enjoys acting as a human radio. We spent the better part of the afternoon belting out Shania Twain songs. Any man of mineeee...


Hope you enjoyed my pictures. Going in, I didn't really know what to expect from the Alhambra, but I had a great time! If you're ever in Granada, I would highly suggest NOT missing out on the Alhambra!

Un beso!


Sunday, January 22, 2012


After a short 2 day work week, Spain gave us yet another puente in early December! This time, I headed to Granada in the south of Spain. Granada is known for its Moorish influences, the Alhambra, its close proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountains, and its plethora of free tapas bars. We had a good time, but for some reason I kind of expected more from the city. (Note: this is probably due to the fact that it couldn't compare to our epic Sevilla trip, and that it was colder than I anticipated.) I was still a bit tired and out of it, so I think that kept me from enjoying it to the fullest. But don´t get me wrong, Granada does have a lot to offer and I´d still love to go back someday... maybe next time in the summer. Here are some highlights from the weekend.

Granada is filled with cute little streets lined with Moroccan shops. These shops include trinkets such as loose-leaf tea and tea sets, hookahs, jewelry, tapestries, lamps, and a ton of other home decor. I wanted to buy everything, seriously! I have always loved Moroccan influenced decor. I surprisingly practiced self control and didn't go crazy at the shops. I left with only a few bags of tea, some postcards, and an adorable gold key hook. If you're in Granada, I recommend checking out the Alcaiceria shops near the Cathedral as well as those near Calle Elvira.

Free tapas
One of Granada's main appeals is that there are still plenty of bars offering free tapas! On our first night in Granada, we were slightly confused as to where to get said free tapas, but by day 2 we were pros. Calle Elvira is full of bars offering free tapas. We just walked in, ordered a caña, and received a big ham sandwich and fries with our beers, all for only 2 or 2.50 euros! I'm not going to lie, I thought I was going to turn into a ham sandwich. I may or may not have eaten 4 ham sandwiches in one day alone! I'd recommend getting tapas at La Bella y La Bestia near c/ Elvira... huge portions, and pretty tasty (not recommended for anyone watching their weight- very generous on the alioli).

Tea time
One of my absolute favorite parts of Granada are the cute little cafes serving tea and hookah. Mmmm, Pakistani tea, so delish!

The Alhambra
The Alhambra was hands down my favorite part of our trip, and it deserves its own post. I can´t stop going back through my pictures from our visit!

We had a subpar kebab on Thursday night, but we were already craving it again by Saturday. After watching the Madrid-Barca game in an Irish pub, we headed to the Kebab King restaurant around the corner. Little did I know this would be the best kebab I have ever eaten. Sometimes the sketchiest looking places turn out to be the best ones. I'm embarrassed to admit that we returned to another Kebab King for a 4 am kebab later that night... worth it!


Albayzin is a gorgeous Moorish neighborhood situated on a hill above central Granada featuring white-washed buildings, winding roads, and plenty of cute shops and plazas. My favorite part: the Mirador de San Nicolas. This spot has the most amazing view of the Alhambra and surrounding scenery. We were kind of hungry and had to pee, so we didn't get to spend as much time here as we would have liked. Next time I'll be sure to pack a bottle of wine and a picnic lunch.

The walk to Alabyzin

The gypsy caves in barrio Sacramonte... we weren't too impressed, but it was a nice walk with some great views.

Stopped to watch a random band jamming in a plaza.

Exploring the streets of Granada with Christina

We found this awesome hidden garden... perfect for a photo sesh!

Fall foliage.

Our weekend in Granada was fun yet relaxing, and I enjoyed seeing a new side of Spain! Granada is perfect for a weekend trip. It wasn't until I started writing about my trip that I realized just how many great things are packed into that little city. I wasn't even able to condense the entire weekend into one post! Stay tuned for another post about the highlight of my trip: the Alhambra.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day Trippin´: Toledo

** This was written late last month, and of course I´m just getting around to posting**

Two weeks ago, we had yet another day off in observance of Dia de la Constitucion, or Constitution Day, in Spain. A few friends and I decided to take a last-minute day trip to Toledo, the capital city of the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha. Toledo is only 30 minutes from Madrid on the RENFE train.

We didn’t really have an agenda for our day in Toledo. We arrived in the city around 11 am and walked from the train station to the city center. We spent the first part of our day taking pictures and walking around the city. We ended up in this little park with a great view, so we decided to stop for lunch. The girls packed lunch for us, and we spent an hour or so just eating and relaxing.

The view from our picnic spot.

After lunch, we visited one of the city’s Synagogues as well as the Museo del Greco. The Synagogue was a nice change of pace, seeing as I’ve been in quite a few cathedrals in Spain and while I appreciate their beauty and history, I don’t feel the need to go into every Cathedral I come across. After a quick walk through the Synagogue museum, we took a quick caña break and then walked across the street to the El Greco museum. El Greco lived in Toledo, where he created most of his most famous works of art. The museum is a replica of his former home in Toledo. The museum wasn’t anything too impressive, but it was worth the visit. Oh, and did I mention that both museums were free due to the national holiday?

El Greco Museum

After getting our dose of art and culture for the day, we headed to a restaurant for café con leche and marzipan cake before catching the 5 pm train back to Madrid. It was a nice little day and I came home with lots of great pictures. Unfortunately I’ve been a bit sleep deprived and exhausted recently and I haven’t felt quite like myself, so I didn’t have a ton of energy. Luckily, Toledo isn’t a city you need to rush through, so I was able to power through the day. Anyways, I will leave you with a few extra photos from the day.

Toledo is known for their marzipan, a popular holiday sweet in Spain.

Don't miss out on marzipan cake in Toledo... so good!

Un Besito!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm backkkkk

Hello all! I'm back from my trip and finally getting settled back into the Madrid life. After a month-long hiatus, I will finally be posting about my most recent adventures.

As you may or may not know, my lovely friend and travel partner-in-crime, Christina, and I traveled to Paris, Rome, Florence, and Venice during our winter holidays! Each of these cities are incredible, and I'm planning to give each city it's own post over the next week or so. I also failed to publish posts about my trips to Toledo and Granada last month, so I will catch up on those first.

I really thought I would be more diligent about blogging, but I suppose I've had a little lapse in motivation recently. To be honest, it just feels like normal life over here... well, with endless three-day weekends and some traveling. But in general, my life in Madrid is pretty normal. I basically just work on the weekdays and explore the Madrid nightlife, shop, and am generally lazy on the weekends.... normal, but good! It's weird... I've only been in Madrid for 4 months now, and I can't tell if I think it's flying right by or if I feel like I've been here longer. It seems like everyone is starting to think about plans for next year- whether to stay here, move elsewhere, or go home. I'm not ready to make any decisions yet, but it does stress me out a little to think that I will have to make a choice in the next couple of months. Living abroad has been such a great experience so far (definitely filled with ups and downs), and it's so hard to anticipate how I'll be feeling six months from now. So for now, I'm trying to stay present and not focus so much on the future. I feel like I spent my last year or so before moving to Spain just kind of waiting for the next step, so I'd hate to repeat that while I'm actually here.

Anyways, I digress... I hope that everyone had a great holiday season and is enjoying 2012 so far! And be sure to check back over the next week if you'd like to see photos and stories from my recent travels. Ciao bellas<3