Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Last Post

Dear Readers,

THIS IS OUR LAST POST. We sit in Starbucks salting our lattes with the tears of remembrance.

(Writing this post)

Today is our last full day in Madrid; we fly back to reality tomorrow.  Before we get sappy on you, here are some highlights of the past week.

-We both finished at UC3M, and will never go back again!
-Our friend Lauren came and visited from Morocco.

Here we are in font of the Christmas tree in Sol

-The goodbye dinner. We were regaled with drunken stories and final speeches.  The food was superb; we especially loved the chocolate and banana cake.
-Rachel gave in and got some official Spanish crotch pants
-Many celebrations at bars and clubs!  We returned to the club we went to our first time out in Madrid.  So nostalgic. They even played Bon Jovi, our fave.  
-We said our final farewells to some of our favorite places in Madrid (Restaurant Bar, Llaollao, cuevas, etc.)

Here we are embodying Madrid as el oso (me) y el madroño(Rachel).

Tonight will be our final night out on the town (at Casa de Cerveza, obvi). Go big then go home.

(here is where we become sad messes)

Thank you all for following us through these past four months.  We really enjoyed this blog and we hope you did too.  Unfortunately, we are not interesting enough to continue blogging in our daily lives. So, we sadly must say adios to our blog as well as to Madrid. 
By way of summation we will share two final lists with you.

Things we will miss about JYA in Madrid:
Being in a vibrant city
All of our program friends and monitores (We really had the best possible clowder of amigos. It will strange not seeing them all everyday)
Cute Spanish children
The food, mostly

Things we look forward to:
Speaking English
Bagels, pizza, pasta, Christmas cookies…
Vassar, and real academics (pretention alert)
Our families and homes
Seeing our other friends
Having clothes
The holidays
VWM reunions

We could write more but are too sad to think of them.

We cannot believe how quickly these past months have sped by.  We truly appreciated our time here.  We will remember this experience for the rest of our lives.  We return to America with larger Spanish vocabularies (but smaller English ones), a greater appreciation of Spain, and of different cultures in general. We will come back to Madrid someday, but for now; all good things must come to an end, and thus we say goodbye. 

We wish you all happy holidays.
Hasta la vista (for the final time)
Hilary y Rachel

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shoeless and Pantsless and the land of the Gingers

I spent this past week in IRELAND! 

View of Dublin from the River Liffey

On Tuesday, I flew in to Dublin Airport and took a bus to UCD (the college where my friend Jerilyn lives).  Unfortunately, when I got off the bus, there was no college.  To make matters more interesting, it had just snowed and everything was covered in ice (even though it has not snowed in Ireland since the 80’s).  So, I made my slippery way, hanging on to my suitcase, through a very treacherous 2 hour trek.  Somehow I made it to her door, and thankfully she let me in, even though I looked like a wet and frozen zombie.  I don’t think I even spoke in greeting, but she must have known from my wild look, that I needed to warm up and dry off before could function properly.

Fortunately, I did not die of exposure, but unfortunately, my poor old boat shoes had never been so wet.  So after an omelet, I borrowed Jerilyn’s shoes and we went into the city of Dublin.  I got myself a blanket, a pillow, and some very stupid looking boots. These 6 euro boots gradually fell apart through the week, and in the end they were left muddy, salty, holey, furless and gravel filled in Jerilyn’s dorm, never to be worn again.

Here is a side note on the snow in Ireland.  They do not get snow very often, so they had no way to deal with it.  So mostly, I think they ignored it and stayed inside.  But a few sidewalks in the city were cleared by heavy machinery (ie back hoes) because there were no plows. And some sidewalks had gravel thrown on top of them, which was easier to walk on, but became painful as my holey boots became both wet and gravelly.

Anyway, that night we had a very relaxing night with freezer pizza and catching up and such.

The next day we saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  It is the oldest manuscript of the Bible in existence.  (very cool). I also bought myself a true Aran sweater, and it is lucky that I did, because it was FREEZING in Dublin.  I also did some souvenir shopping.  For lunch, we went to O’Neill’s and got some traditional meat and potatoes food.  I had Irish stew. We walked through St. Stephen’s Green, which at this point was more white. This night was also very relaxed as we ate cheese and crackers (the meat and potatoes were very filling) and watched a documentary about Meth addicts.

St. Stephen's Green

On Thursday we went to Kilmainham Jail (Gaol(?)) which was kind of creepy and a bit of a downer, but also very interesting.  Here is where the leaders of the Easter Rebellion were held and executed.  

Inside the jail

Looking scared in a cell

So patriotic!
We then got a very disgusting lunch at a Spanish restaurant. But fortunately afterwards we went to the Guinness Storehouse, where all the magic happens.  our tour we went to the Gravity Bar where we, of course, drank Guinness and saw Dublin from above. 

Inside the Guinness Store House

At the Gravity Bar

Here is where my first pair of jeans ripped.  Well, they had actually been ripping all along, but things got out of control and I had to throw them out. 

To make up for our disgusting lunch, we went back to O’Neill’s and got our fill of meat and potatoes for dinner.

Later that night we went out to a lot of different bars including the (in)famous Temple Bar itself (what the Temple Bar District is named for).   I made a lot of new friends.  Actually, I had quite the crowd of men around me.  Except they were all over 70.  And very interested in my hair.  The way they were clamoring to touch my head it was like they had never seen red hair before. They all wished their granddaughters could have hair(s) like mine.  They also thought I was from Australia.  I was confused.

At Temple Bar

They next day we went into Dublin to a Christmas market, which wasn’t much of a market, but they did have superb sausage sammies. We then met up with our friend Sinead’s mother, Mrs. Cummins, and her nephew for drinks at a very traditional Irish pub. 
We took the bus with Mrs. Cummins to her parent’s house (her childhood home) outside of Dublin.  There we chatted and watched the Late Late show with Mrs. Cummins and her parents.  They were all so cute! 
We slept in the warmest bed in the entire universe!  And then woke up to a true Irish breakfast which included, black and white pudding, ham, sausage, a fried egg, a biscuit, and tea.  So good! 

The snow and ice finally melted today, which was convenient as we planned a trip to the Cliffs of Moher for the following day.

We got back to UCD, ate burritos and pretended to study. We took a nap, which unfortunately, turned out to be the extent of our nights sleep.   After the nap, Jerilyn’s friend and her boyfriend came over and we went on a mini pub-crawl in Dublin.  It was all very fun, and luckily I avoided the hoards of men clamoring for my hair.  Although we did meet a lot of people in very stylish Christmas sweaters (or cardigans as one guy kept reminding us).
We ate the biggest kebabs I’ve ever seen (these were our breakfast) and went back to UCD. 
One hour later we went back into Dublin, boarded a bus and went to the Cliffs of Moher.  It was quite a miracle that we made it there.  We were quite grumpy:
Jerilyn: I am too fat to go
Me: The Cliff of Moher don’t care if you’re fat, get up!

A bridge named for my darling cat, Clancy

In front of the Shannon River, the longest river in Ireland

We almost committed mutiny by pushing the bus over the cliffs.  As our bus driver talked the entire time, and sang, and recited limericks about bestiality, and tried to learn everyone’s life story. 
Anyway, with a few stops along the way, we made it to the cliffs.  They were absolutely spectacular and getting there was absolutely worth it.

As per usual, I climbed a tower.  This one was O’Brien’s Tower, where Cornelius (Horny Corney) allegedly took his mistresses.

O'Brien's Tower
We also were able to walk on the Burren, an odd limestone formation.  It was a very strange place.

The Burren

Here is where my second, and last pair of jeans ripped beyond hope.  I had luckily worn tights under them, so it was not completely inappropriate, just sad, and a bit cold.

We slept on the way back and ate cheeseburgers in Dublin.  Then Jerilyn studied for her final and I packed. 

I left a few hours later, in the middle of the night, without pants. 

But all in all, we had a grand time! 

Hasta la Vista,
 P.S. Tonight is the farewell dinner. I can't believe this semester is almost over.  Rachel and I will be posting our last blog post soon :'(.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


YES, after sending in a final reflection paper last night, I am finally done with our much-loathed school, UC3M (Universidad Carlos III). This past week was consumed by a ten page research paper, a creative project that was the death of me, a field trip to some Roman ruins on Friday for my prehistory class, and a prehistory final on Monday.

So after our amazing trip to Granada, Hilary went on another amazing trip to Ireland, and I literally the spent the entire puente working. A puente is a holiday off from school. Monday was Constitution Day for Spain and Wednesday was the day of the Immaculada (something religious?), so they made it a puente, which means bridge, by giving everyone Tuesday off too. I like this system, especially since I really needed those three days to do my Theory of the Image final paper and creative project. I ended up sewing a sort of pillow-looking thing shaped like a Madrid metro car with collages of Madrid and NYC in the windows to represent "My World in Images." It turned out fine, but was nothing compared to all the cool videos the media studies majors in my class made. But I am SOSOSO happy that class is now over, after a two and a half hour horror session of watching the rest of the class present their fabulous projects.

my host mom helped me with the windows

On Friday, I went on the strangest field trip of my life. My prehistory and ancient history class took a bus to Toledo to see an ancient Roman villa. Luckily a bunch of friends from my program are in this class and were as shocked and confused as I was. We have already been to Toledo with our program, and we were excited to go back again because it's a really pretty city and we did not see any Roman ruins the first time. Unfortuneately, the bus did not bring us to the city of Toledo- we ended up in a place called Carranque somewhere in the provence of Toledo. Misunderstanding. Carranque was in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and turned out to be pretty too.

Roman ruins + mountains

After our teacher, who is one of those people who never stops talking, lectured to us for an hour about random tidbits of ancient Rome that had nothing to do with the ruins, she said "Alright let's begin," and we started walking over this ramp that had been placed over the ruins of the Roman villa. We moved about 20 feet when she paused and continued to talk nonstop about how ancient Romans decorated their houses, and then all of a sudden there was a startling thud noise and one of the girls in our class had COLLAPSED. I think she fainted because she had not eaten any breakfast and was very tired from standing around listening to our teacher babble for so long. But then, about 10 minutes later, another man in our class collapsed! This was scarier because he is a much older adult. His name translates to Michelangelo. Someone called an ambulance and we all left the ruin site and went outside to wait for it to show up, which took about half an hour because we were in the mountains. Some older women in our class were getting very nervous at this point, and said that it must be the result of witchcraft. Michelangelo turned out to be fine, and we eventually continued on a quick version of our tour. A few minutes later, a nun in our class said she was feeling weak and had to leave. Witchcraft????? I think so.

Heather was a little too excited about the ambulance

the ruins had some very cool mosaics

the remains of an ancient basilica

On Sunday night my cousin Doli was in Madrid on her way back home from Morocco, so we went to my favorite vegetarian restaurant and walked around a LOT all over downtown Madrid. Muy divertido! I plan on spending the rest of the week enjoying Madrid as much as possible. We come back to NY on Monday. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Hasta la vista,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Muffinnuggins and Tinselfingers go to Granada


Hello there blog followers, let me tell you about last week!

I had most of my finals/final papers last week, but now I am ALMOST done with school stuff!!  I just have one more when I get back from the land of the Celts.

Anyway, so on Tuesday, Real Madrid and Barca (two v.v. important Spanish fútbol teams DUH!) played and Real Madrid lost miserably.  I watched this in a bar with some rowdy fútbol fans.  Unfortunately, Rachel did not attend because she assumed that we were all going to the real game (which was in Barcelona) and didn’t think her finances could handle that.  But we really just watched it in a bar.

On Thursday Rachel and I went out for tapas with Felicia, her dad, and some other friends.  And then we went to CASA DE CERVEZA! (sans Felicia’s dad).   We were feeling very international and so we ordered beers form around the world.  My fave was Delirium Tremens, which hopefully I do not get after this trip. 

The following morning, Rachel and I boarded a bus at 7am, (still recovering from the DTs) and went to GRANADA!  It had snowed that morning so the scenery was quite beautiful.

Here is Rachel at a snowy rest stop.

We got in at 12 and headed to our hostel.  We tried to take one cab, but we were promptly kicked out (who knows why).  The hostel was a little sketchier than we were bargaining for, but it all turned out to be fine. 

We took a bus up to the Alhambra where I fed my lunch to some cats.  First we went to the Generalife Garden.  This is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.  Rachel and I decided that we liked this garden even more than those of Versailles. 

We then toured the palace, which is also super cool.  The views of the city were incredible.  We met up with Felicia and her dad; they were also in Granada.

The Sierra Nevada mountains

 It was windy, I promise

Here is a side note on my shabby personal appearance.  Although it looks like all of the pictures of me in this blog were taken on the same day, they were not.  I just do not have very many clothes with me. And this is starting to become a problem because almost all of them have holes now. (ie. Both pairs of jeans, sweaters, shirts, a skirt, my coat, a scarf, some socks, my gloves, my shoes, my boots, my backpack and even my wallet are all ripping).    I am not really sure what I to do except wear all of my holey clothes at once.  Hopefully they will not fall completely apart in the next two weeks. 

Anyway, after seeing the Alhambra, we got ice cream.  This sounds like a great idea, but really I have never been so cold in my life (even though I was wearing all of my holey clothes).  So Rachel and I ran back to the hostel and got under our covers.  To distract ourselves from our hypothermia, and the eerie piano music drifting from the ceiling of our creepy room; we made up stories.  Which was tons o’ fun until we realized we were having a conversation as Mr. Potato Head and Muffinnuggins the Christmas elf.  So we quickly got ourselves out of there, clinging to the shreds of our sanity.

We went out to dinner with Felicia and her dad.  There was quite the scare that there might be brains in Felicia and Rachel’s entrees, but luckily this was a miscommunication and they were really mushrooms.   After dinner we had the most delicious star fruit mojitos in the entire universe, and then went to bed.

The next day we did some souvenir shopping and, of course went to a cathedral!  We saw the tomb of the Reyes Catolicos (Isabel and Ferdinand). So cool!  We have seen the tomb of every Spanish monarch since the 1450s.  The cathedral was also very impressive and huge.   We also ate a granada (pomegranate) in honor of the city.  We used my house keys to cut it!

After getting lunch, we boarded the most crowded city bus I have ever been on (there must have been 60 people on that bus) and then boarded another bus back to Madrid.  Luckily we were entertained by Never Been Kissed and… High School Musical 3!  These movies only get better when dubbed.   And so, although we were only in Granada for 26 hours, it was certainly worth it. 

Sunday was a day of work, but I finished my paper and am even closer to being done with UC3M and the convoluted Spanish education system!!!
That night, we went out for the most American thing in the world.  Beer and football (no, not soccer).  It was GREAT!

Today we went out for Indian food for lunch and then llaollao (like yow yow) for some frozen yoghurt.  Unfortunately I have not been able to accomplish anything because everywhere is closed, even the supermarkets!  Today is a celebration of Spain’s constitution.  I need to print some tickets, get $$ on my phone, and buy a blanket before tomorrow.  But as that is unlikely to occur, I will have to walk from the airport to Jerilyn’s apt, and I guess sleep in all of my holey clothes.

Tomorrow I am leaving Madrid and Rachel for Ireland where I will be visiting my friend Jerilyn for a week.  I am so so so excited!!!!!
Hasta la vista,

Monday, November 29, 2010


First snow of the year in Madrid! More like slush that is not actually sticking, but it is still very pretty. I am sitting in the Bellas Artes library pretending to do work/watching the snow.

Bellas Artes, our not-so-beloved library in Madrid

This past week has not been very eventful because, since about half of our classes (the ones with American students) have ended, we now have finals and final papers to do/more accurately whine about. Biggest highlight of last week: THANKSGIVING!! Or, as it is known in España, EL DÍA DE ACCIÓN DE GRACIAS. Not as catchy. Probably because they really have no idea what it is or why we eat turkey.

After a horrifically full day of four classes, I went home on Thursday to skype with all of my family members who were gathered at my cousin's house in the burbs of Albany. Super fun to see and talk to everybody, especially my grandfather, who didn't really get that I could hear him speaking. Then we all went to our program Thanksgiving dinner at a pijo (fancy) restaurant. Many people's families were there and it was fun to meet them and observe how frighteningly similar some parents were to their children. Our first course of the meal was New England clam chowder. Kind of an odd choice for Thanksgiving, but I appreciate Spain's shout out to Massachusetts and the Pilgrims, and it was delicious. Our main course was everything you would expect to see at a classic Thanksgiving dinner, followed by amazing pumpkin pie for dessert.


yum yum yum

After such an exciting beginning to the weekend, the rest of the weekend was mostly devoted to studying. I have less finals and work this week than most people, so I had time to do fun things as well. A bunch of us had PIZZA for lunch on Saturday, our first good pizza since August. Afterwards I went to the Rastrillo with Felicia, a charity market where her host mom was working. Her host mom was super nice, gave us cookies, and introduced us to all of her friends. Later we ordered Tio Pepe, which we thought was beer, but turned out to be sherry. It was surprisingly really good. On Sunday I sampled the best chocolate croissants in Madrid (clearly delicious) and saw Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (again). Even better the second time. This is definitely my favorite movie of the series, and this is just part one. I really like watching English movies in Spanish theaters that are subtitled in Spanish because it's really interesting to compare the English to what is written in the subtitles, and we are always the only ones in the theater who laugh at all the puns because they don't translate well into Spanish.

It's still snowing. I'm so happy!!

Madrid has also begun turning on its Christmas lights at night. All of the major streets are lined with various kinds of Christmas lights. They are super pretty and generally very tasteful. My host mom told me they are much uglier this year than usual and I shouldn't bother looking at them. Apparently normally there are even more lights, but they had to cut back this year because of the economic crisis. ¡Qué pena! What a shame! I will still be looking at them.

Real Christmas tree in Callao

Fake light-up Christmas tree in Sol

Today was mostly spent walking around looking for a cafe to do work in that was not Starbucks, failing to find one, running into my friend Sarah from language class who was headed to a Starbucks (¡qué casualidad!), and joining her because being in Starbucks with a friend is at least slightly more enjoyable. We met a couple from Austria with an ADORABLE baby who were very nice and gave Sarah their email and phone number because she is visiting Vienna in a few weeks and they said they would love to hang out with her. Madrid is a crazy place.

Next weekend Hilary and I are trying to organize a trip to Granada before she goes on her epic adventure to Ireland. I am very excited to see the Alhambra. Get ready for pictures.

Hasta la vista,


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

London Jubilation

We Love London!
This past weekend 10 Madrid friends and we met up with some Bologna friends in LONDON!!! 

We arrived late Thursday night, and we were surprised to find 4 rows of triple-decker bunk beds and not enough room to stand up at our hostel. They were not so sturdy and quite a tight fit.  Group meetings were conducted on the top bunks because that was the only place where we could sit. However, it was cozy!  A rando came and slept in our room and all were confused the next morning.  We are still not sure who she was. 
Friday morning we arose bright and early for a day of sightseeing!

First we went to the Westminster Abbey.  Here we took an audio tour narrated by Jeremy Irons.  ("We saw the famous dead people"-Rachel)  There was the Poet’s Corner where tons of famous writers are either buried / commemorated.  Many kings and queens of England are also interred here.  We liked the dueling tombs of QE1 and Queen Mary.  

Here is an illegal pic of us and Jeremy Irons

We happened upon the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.  (Lots of scary guys with silly hats –Rachel)  It was super formal, Felicia thought the Queen was arriving, but she was not, bummer.

We ate authentic British pub food for lunch i.e. fish n’ chips and some meat pie.  YUM!
We went to the London Eye, which is a gigantic eye.  Just kidding it is a Ferris Wheel.  Rachel almost died in a 4D experience.  (not really, this just sounds like she almost died while time travelling).  We watched a 3d movie about the London Eye and lots of things flew out at us (I guess making it 4D), such as confetti, smoke, water, and Rachel thought she was being attacked by a sea gull and later a fire breathing dragon.  4D was a little too real for her. 
The Eye!
Riding the Eye.
View from the Eye

Anyway, the London Eye was super guay and we were able to view London from above during the sunset!  We guess this is kind of like London’s version of all the church towers that we had to climb in other cities (this time without steps).
After this we walked to the Millennium Bridge (featured in the 6th HP movie) and the London Tower and Tower Bridge.

For dinner we met with everyone and went to a ‘pub’ called The Horse where they randomly served Thai food.  It was great!  We made a quick stop at platform 9 and ¾ where we took the train to see the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1) unfortunately this train was not the Hogwarts Express. 
9 3/4

The movie was in IMAX and was sooooooooo gooood. Unfortunately, in the middle an alarm rang out and we were quickly evacuated.  After an hour in the freezing cold we got back inside and finished the movie!  Hooray.

 Here are some of us looking sad and cold.(except Felicia seems to be happy about this)

After little sleep and some tight hostel maneuvering we got ourselves to the Tower for a tour.  Some of us left a little early and walked to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  The Tower tour was a bit gimmicky but tons o’ fun!  Our guide was a Beefeater aka Yeoman Warder. 
We were dazzled by the Crown Jewels as we rode a conveyor belt right by them!  The largest diamond in the world was there. We were all jelly cat. 

Rachel and some peeps went to Chipotle for some Mexican and Hilary and some other people went to another pub and got burgers and sausages.

We took some pics walking across Abbey Road! (These were not on my camera and will be uploaded at another time)

And then entered a Winter Wonderland!  This was a Christmas themed fair/carnival.  Rachel says “It was probably the most genuinely Christmas-y thing I’ve ever gone to.”  It was so much FUN!  We got spiked hot chocolate, Rachel doesn’t know if she can ever have normal hot chocolate again.  It really was so delicious.  We also got hot pretzels, something Spain does not have.  AND we went on a ride!!!! 

Stacy and Hilary with a stern looking Santa
Another Ferris Wheel!

We returned and played pool in the pub under our hostel.  Rachel was great, Hilary was not so great.  But it was fun!  After some Indian food we returned and played some more pool!! Everyone went to bed around midnight, except Rachel and our friend Ian, who continued to play pool until 3 am.

After a delayed flight, we arrived back in Madrid.  Although we love Spain, it was much easier to do everything in London because there was no language barrier (even though we did many British accent imitations).  Interactions were so much easier and less stressful in London.

We both want to go back; London was bloody BRILLIANT! 
This week we have thanksgiving and final exams/papers to look forward to!
Hasta la Vista,

Hilary y Raquel