Saturday, November 3, 2012

Madrid and Halloween

Plaza Mayor
So it's been a while since I last updated and a lot has happened!  But today, I am going to focus on the two main highlights from my last week and a half.

We stumbled upon a kayak race in the park in Madrid
First off, last weekend I went to Madrid with my friend Hannah.  She was going there to meet her friend who is working in Pamplona this year (where the running of the bulls takes place).  They were nice enough to let me tag along :)  It was only a three day trip but we definitely made the most of it.  The first day, we had a nice three course lunch of paella, pork, ice cream and of course the Spanish staple vino tinto (red wine).  Then, we decided to go see some of the main sights like plaza mayor, mercardo san miguel, the royal palace, the basillica, the puerto del sol, and more.  Then, later that night we went out for some tapas in the centre, and went to bed early so we would be well rested for our one full day in Madrid.  Saturday, I had breakfast in my hostel and then we went to Starbucks for a coffee!  Spain has pretty good coffee, but they always have it with milk which I'm not a big fan of, so I was excited just to get my plain dark roast black coffee :)  Then, we spent two hours in the Prado!  For those of you who don't know, the Prado is one of the most famous art museums in the world.  We got to see works from Rubens, Rafael, The Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Bosch, and many more and it was FREE for students between the ages of 18-25.  Such a steal!  I'm usually not big into art, but when you get to see a painting that is so famous that it is something you have studied in history class, it's pretty incredible.  We spent the rest of the day wandering throughout Madrid and saw the famous café Gijón that Ernest Hemmingway made famous, countless monuments, central park, and the famous road Gran Via.  Later we went out for a nice italian dinner, and experienced the Madrid night life (which means we didn't get in until 6am!)  Finally, Sunday we only had time for one activity before we had to catch the bus home (plus a trip to get some Dunkin' Donuts coffee!), so we decided to go to this HUGE flea market called El Rastro that only happens on sunday.  I bought a couple of cheap souvenirs and sunglasses.  Overall an INCREDIBLE weekend!  Madrid is so full of rich architecture, history, and culture.  I would definitely recommend visiting.

Madrid at night

Some of my students in their costumes
The Halloween Party Feast!
Wednesday was Halloween and here in Spain, they celebrate quite differently.  I think it's funny because even though the U.S. basically created the quintessential halloween holiday that is known worldwide, the Spanish find a way to make it their own.  The first thing you should know is that Spanish people only interpret halloween costumes as scary.  All night I saw zombies, vampires, devils, mummys, witches, etc.  Not like in the US when you will see a broader range of costumes like animals, princesses, athletes, etc.  Also, trick-or-treating does happen here, but on a much smaller scale.  Also, when trick-or-treating, its more common to go store to store to get candy rather than houses.  All shop-owners have candy for the kids.  At school, we had a halloween party.  Every student brought something to share which ranged from sandwiches and deviled eggs to any kind of pastry you can imagine.  I explained to them that halloween in the U.S. pretty much revolves around solely candy.  Here, its anything sweet: pudding, cake, donuts, you name it!  Also, later that night my city shut down the main street and threw a huge halloween party that included marching bands, concerts, street performers, a thriller dance, and much more!  Not how we would celebrate halloween, but still a fun night!  My favorite part of the night was seeing hundreds of paper lanterns being released into the sky!  It was an incredible a magical moment.  All in all it didn't feel like the halloween that I know and love, but it was still a fun way to celebrate, so no complaints here :)
The best shot I got of the paper lanterns!  This picture doesn't do it justice 

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