Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wok it Out

The week of February 18th kicked off our first round of exams at the Spanish-American Institute, not exactly the most exciting thing to blog about! Unfortunately, reviewing all the material and studying with classmates took up most of my free time and energy for other activities. Luckily all the craziness wrapped up just in time for a 21st birthday celebration for a fellow HPU student in our program, Kyle. A group of us had dinner at a famous tapas restaurant in Sevilla called Los Coloniales where we ordered mushroom croquettes, chicken with a delicious almond sauce and some crispy calamari, just to name a few! Afterwards we enjoyed some gelato at another famous Sevilla hotspot called Rayas; talk about scrumptious!

Bridge in Ronda
The next morning we were up bright and early and our on way to Ronda, a small cliff-side city about 2 hours away from Seville by bus. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't on our side that day and it down poured the entire time. After meeting up with our tour guide and taking a [wet] walking tour around the old section of the city, we were able to explore inside of the Plaza de Toros (bull ring), which is one of the oldest operational bull rings in Spain. Afterwards, we dragged our soaking wet selves back to the bus and returned to Sevilla for the rest of the weekend.

The following week we had only three days of classes because of a Spanish holiday on Thursday, la dia de Andalucia, giving us a four day weekend; the perfect amount of time to pack up our bags and head out on our own adventure to Madrid! Feeling adventurous and all but living by the phrase 'you'll sleep when you're dead',  Ariel, Erin, Tommy and I decided to hop on the midnight bus, leaving Sevilla at 12:15am and arriving in Madrid at 6:20am, where we met up with our friend Alex who had arrived the day before. After checking into our hostel before the sun was even up, we recharged with some cafe con leche and churros in a cafe until around 9:00am then began to explore the city. Fighting off the urge to take a quick cat nap on the nearest available bench, we walked down a main stretch of road called Gran Via, through the Paseo del Prado and ended up in front of el Museo del Prado (the Prado Museum), the largest and most significant art museum in Spain, that is home to many works by artists such as Goya, Velasquez and Greco. Feeling pretty cultured and dangerously close to becoming zombies, we headed back to our hostel for a little afternoon siesta before going out that night to explore the Madrid bar scene.
El Palacio Real

The following day, Ariel and I fought the urge to sleep away the sunlight and got up bright and early to continue touring the city. After hitting up a little coffee shop for a caffeine fix, we took a tour of el Palacio Real (the Royal Palace). Made up of over 3,000 rooms and situated next to the Almudena Cathedral. The palace was an amazing sight to see, both inside and out. Even though the tour for the public only brought us through about 40 rooms, it was clear the Spanish royalty take no shortcuts when its comes to decoration and lavish design. While the royal family no longer uses this palace as an actual residence, it was really interesting to visit the rooms that were once used by royalty for dressing, reading, throwing dinner parties and hosting weddings. After visiting the palace and the cathedral, we ventured over to Mercado de San Miguel, an indoor specialty foods market that all but blew mine and Ariel's taste buds out of the water. Tasting our way through what seemed like a never ending number of food venders, Ariel and I finally decided on treating ourselves to a little lunch consisting of fresh pesto lasagna and fried rice and cheese balls. Sitting out in the sun, enjoying our decadent plates of food in the middle of this beautiful city was definitely a memory we'll both have for a long time! After licking our plates clean (literally), we made our way to Plaza Mayor, a huge square nestled among the older part of the city, filled with restaurants and shops. Definitely a cool place to see, but maybe next time we'll save some room in our tummies.

Mercado de San Miguel
Afterwards, we met up with the rest of our group and shared stories about our busy morning before heading off to el Museo de Reina Sofia (Reina Sofia Museum), another amazing art museum that is home to many works by Picasso, including his famous Guernica. Having both studied this famous work in several of our previous Spanish classes, Ariel and I were so amazed to have the opportunity to finally see it in real life and develop a whole new appreciation for it's importance and enormity. Finally, after a long day of trekking all over Madrid, we headed back to the hostel for some much needed down time.

That night, without any concrete plans for dinner, we decided to wander a bit and came across a little Chinese restaurant that we normally wouldn't have looked twice at. Except this time, not only was it packed with people, but we could also hear the unmistakable sound of a sizzling wok; long story short, we were sold. They always say, when in Madrid you've got to try the wok bowls, right? Even if it was a little unconventional, we couldn't have been happier to be sitting on the floor of our hostel room, eating piping hot rice noodles out of a white Chinese takeout box, talking about what an awesome weekend we had had in Madrid. Needless to say, we were pretty reluctant to get back on the bus the next day for a grueling 6 1/2 hour ride back to Sevilla. However, we couldn't have been happier to finally see the smiling face of our senora, a steaming hot home cooked meal on the table and our own comfy beds to fall into after an exhausting yet incredible weekend in Madrid.
Overlooking the cliffs in Ronda
El Palacio Real
Overlooking the outskirts of Madrid with Ariel
La Plaza Mayor


  1. So happy to hear that you're making the most of every moment, Mallory! Enjoy Holy Week :)
    -Jenni, UW-Platteville Education Abroad

  2. I was there with the program in 1992 and worked at a Bar at Expo 92. I should have never come back. Is the Spanish American Institute still on Calle Cuna?