Friday, September 30, 2011

A note to my loyal followers (aka, my mom):

I went back and added "Read more" jumps to my long entries, because the super tangential posts were making my blog hard to navigate. So if you think an entry ends abruptly, it's probably because you missed the "Read more" link at the end. Click it, and you'll be linked to the rest of the entry.

That concludes your daily blogging lesson!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

12:30 am train to San Sebastián.

 I first heard about the city of San Sebastián two weeks ago, when some girls in the group mentioned they were planning a trip there. I decided to buy a bus ticket and book a hostel based solely on the fact I knew there's a huge beach there and that the city shares a name with my favorite miniature horse:

(if you don't watch Parks and Rec, I don't know why we are friends. So you should probably start watching it ASAP.)

Kat, Danielle L, and I bought tickets to a 12:30 am night bus, so we wouldn't have to miss class on Thursday. It sounded like a good idea at the time--we can sleep on the bus! we'll get 6 hrs of sleep! we can watch the sun rise over the ocean when we get there!--but it turned out to be pretty freaking brutal, mostly thanks to a group of horribly annoying Americans sitting behind us (stupid Americans!)

Waiting for the metro to take us to the train station. The metro car was filled with girls ready to go out for the nigt; I was wearing yoga pants, sneakers, and glasses
Danielle & Kat after we arrived in 6:30 am
We somehow managed to find the beach without a hitch, but once we got there, my Girl Scouts orienteering skills kicked in and I realized the beach faces north, so we wouldn't be able to watch the sunrise. But the beach was still incredibly beautiful--we didn't realize it at the time, but it was really something special to be there when there was not a single soul in sight.

La Playa Concha
It slowly got brighter...
The harbor and Monte Urgull

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

La estación fantasma.

On my commute home from school yesterday afternoon, I decided to keep my eyelids up to see what I could see (mom, that Dr Seuss reference is for you). I didn't see a horse and a wagon on Mulberry Street, but I did find an abandoned (and haunted?) metro station--significantly cooler.

I instantly got chills when I saw the white and green tile and the antiquated signs, even though it was almost pitch black and I was in a rapidly moving subway car. I've always loved creepy old abandoned things--after all, when I was three, I announced to my family that I was "interested in graveyards."

The abandoned station
[photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

As soon as I climbed up into the daylight and got back to my apartment, I did some googling. I discovered that the station, Chamberí, is usually referred to as "La estación fantasma" (the haunted station). Constructed in 1919, it was one of the eight stations that formed the original Madrid Metro. In 1966, during an expansion of the metro system, the line was closed due to its proximity to the more prominent Bilbao and Iglesia lines (Iglesia is the stop nearest to my apartment.) It quickly fell into disrepair and was heavily vandalized.

Pr-renovation--circa 2006
[photo courtesy of Andén Cero]

In 2006, the station went under renovation. It is now a museum--though I've never seen anyone down there, and I pass it multiple times a day, every day.

In any case, I like driving by it and pretending that men in hats and suits and women in gloves and wool skirts are waiting in the darkness for their train.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Songs to get homesick to.

Suburban War by Arcade Fire

Let’s go for a drive and see the town tonight
There’s nothing to do but I don’t mind when I’m with you

This town’s so strange, they built it to change

And while we sleep we know the streets get rearranged
With my old friends it was so different then
Before your war against the suburbs began

Before it began

Now the music divides us into tribes

You grew your hair so I grew mine
You said the past won’t rest
Until we jump the fence and leave it behind

With my old friends I can remember when

You cut your hair, I never saw you again
Now the cities we live in could be distant stars
And I search for you in every passing car...

I listened to this on repeat while I commuted this morning and had a lump in my throat the whole time. Arcade Fire sure knows how to make a song. 

I'm in the mood for a cozy East Coast fall but instead I'm sweltering in the Indian summer of a big city. I love it here, so much, but I've now been in Spain for 39 days and I'm feeling a little melancholy. It'll pass. I just wish I could have a jug of fresh apple cider (stolen from Vassar's dining center) to help me get through.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things to get used to, pt I.

  • Slippery floors. Madrileños are very clean people, which my inner germaphobe loves, but this becomes a problem when all floors--even in the metro and the airport--are mopped and waxed so frequently, you literally can't walk properly. I almost missed my train today because if I tried to run or even walk at a normal pace I would have slipped and knocked my teeth out...which is usually not my favorite way to start the morning.
  • English t-shirts. A couple days ago I spotted a nondescript middle-aged woman wearing a crucifix necklace over a tshirt that read "GOOD GIRLS GO TO HEAVEN, BAD GIRLS GO EVERYWHERE." Later that afternoon, I saw an extremely mild-looking, balding man wearing a fanny pack and a shirt that read "IF I GET SWALLOWED BY THE SEA, TELL MY GIRLFRIENDS I LOVE THEM!" And today at lunch, I saw a UC3M student with a shirt that screamed in neon letters, "SHUT THE FUCK UP." Cute, right? Do these people just not speak English but thought it would be fun to wear an English shirt anyway, or do Spaniards just have a weird sense of humor?
  • Gay...or European? The other day in the gym I found myself on a treadmill next to a man wearing an impossibly tight spandex shirt, a heavy gold chain necklace (while running? seriously?) and about a pound of hair gel in his highlighted coif. I spent most of my time on the treadmill wondering if he was gay or just Spanish. In the US, I have nearly flawless gaydar. But here, a dude with a manicure and white capri pants could be as straight as Michele Bachman's husband an arrow. There's really no difference between the clientele of a gay discoteca and a "normal" one. I'm pretty thankful I'm a taken lady, otherwise I'd be highly frustrated with all this ambiguity.
  • Eating all my food...and eating it properly. I'm no caveman when it comes to mealtime, but I'll be honest, I had no idea what a fish knife looked like until last week. I know the cup goes to the right of your plate and the knife's blade always faces inwards, but if you handed me a set of tiny dessert forks and spoons I would look around for a toddler. And when I don't like something on my plate or just don't feel like eating all of it, I have these two wonderful options called The Garbage Disposal and A Ziploc Container (or most of the time, My Dad). But here, I'm expected to use a minimum of five different utensils with each meal, and completely clear my plate. Gone are the days of using my fork as a knife because I was too lazy to get a knife from the kitchen. Gone are the days of picking the artichoke hearts out of my pasta. Last night my salmon fillet had espinicas (spine bones) in it, and in my attempt to remove them so I wouldn't die, my host mom informed me I was "destroying" my fish. And when I didn't touch the beets on my salad (I just saw Dwight Schrute's smirking face on every one), I was told to "cómalas, cómalas" (eat them, eat them)! I guess all this eating of weird foods is helping out with my goal of being más aventurera, but I don't think any amount of tiny forks will ever help me enjoy eating slimy, salty, gag-inducing anchovies.

Chiiicoos, bienvenidos a Segovia

Quick explanation of the title: the program director, Michael (or as we call him, Miguel), is a ridiculous, ridiculous man. He means well but is mostly useless and also has gorilla arms, which is weird. Sometimes he wears purple pants and tells us to say "gracias" a thousand times to everyone we interact with, though actually Madrileños find that to be excessive and insincere. But mostly he just sends us four million emails a day (not an exaggeration) and tries to get our attention when we're in a group by putting four fingers up to his face and whispering, "Chiiicooosss...chiiicooss..." It's 100% ineffective because I inevitably start laughing. Miguel also selected all the trips we go on this semester, which are all to cities that are, we're not going to Granada, Barcelona, or Sevilla. My host mom says the program is stealing my money.

Anyway, the most recent money-stealing expedition was to Segovia, which was kind of exactly like Toledo, except it had a cooler castle and no marzipan-making nuns. Also, there were much fewer bathrooms, which resulted in me having to unceremoniously sprint down a hill and into a ditch to berate myself for having drank a cup of tea, 16 oz of water, and a medium-sized Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (yeaaah, they have that here) before arriving in Segovia.

Kat ever so kindly took pictures of me as I sprinted off into the wilderness
So I guess you could say the trip did not get off to the best of starts...also because we had to tour YET ANOTHER CHURCH. I swear, if I have to see another giant and horrifically bloody statue of Jesus on the cross... I mean, I appreciate the architecture. I really do. But every church/cathedral we go to, we hear EXACTLY the same stuff. I could pretty much give a tour by now. "This church is in the shape of a latin cross. It was built over the course of a few centuries and has both baroque and gothic architecture. There is some marble. There is some gold. There is the nave. There is the transept. There are some arches. There is an altarpiece. BLAH BLAH BLAH."

Speaking of altarpieces...
(Iglesia de la Vera Cruz)
Thankfully, things got a little more interesting when we hopped back on the bus and drove to the famous Roman aqueduct. Constructed in the 1st century AD using no mortar--just perfectly shaped bricks stacked on top of each other--it's the best-preserved Roman aqueduct in Europe today.

It's really hard to photograph something so massive...
Remus & Romulus statue

Streets of Toledo Segovia

Monday, September 19, 2011

Summer in the country

Being the inquisitive young travelers we are, on Friday my friends and I took it upon ourselves to make the journey to the town of Aranjuez, where the Spanish royal family had its summer house. And by "taking it upon ourselves" I mean the lovely Danielle planned everything and I just did whatever she told me to, and by "summer house" I mean a GIGANTIC PALACE. But regardless of how you word it, Friday was a splendid, hot day filled with good company and beautiful sights.

Home sweet home?
Me & Lucy
We weren't allowed to take photos inside so I had to be sneaky

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Holy Toledo!

(Please forgive me for what is definitely my most cheesy blogpost title yet...)

Our second excursión (guess THAT cognate!) of the semester was to the city of Toledo, about 70 km (45 miles) south of Madrid. Settled during the Bronze Age, it is known as a "three-cultures" crossroad, as it had large Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations. It was also the home of one of my favorite artists, El Greco.

We were supposed to leave Madrid at 9 AM, but in typical VWM Program fashion, one of the kids in the group arrived at least 30 minutes late. Upside: I had time to get an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts (yep, they have those here...). Downside: I woke up 30 min earlier than I needed to...and on this trip so far, sleep has been a highly precious commodity. Thankfully, the drive to Toledo went quickly, though not exactly pleasantly, since the tour guide spoke over the loudspeakers literally the entire time, repeating each sentence at least twice: "Vamos por la autopista. La autopista es financiado por el gobierno, y es gratis. Es gratis porque es financiado por el gobierno. Vamos por la autopista, que es gratis porque es financiado por el gobierno." ("We're taking the freeway. The freeway is financed by the government, and is free. It's free because it's financed by the government. We're taking the freeway, which is free because it's financed by the government.") Although we may speak it hesitantly, everyone in the group understands Spanish perfectly well. All of our tours so far have been in Spanish, and it was frustrating to have this woman think we weren't proficient in the language. But on the upside, she looked excatly like Anjelica Huston, which was more amusing than her repetition was irritating.

Our first stop in Toledo was to a hill with a spectacular view of the city--the exact vantage point from which El Greco painted this in 1597 (currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC--I wrote an essay on it last semester):

El Greco manipulated the landscape to include all Toledo's landmarks

The actual view...I love how it still looks ancient, nothing modern in sight

Aaaaand a little tilt-shift action

We started our tour in the Christian area, spending over an hour in the cathedral, which was my favorite we've visited so far. It was a beautiful mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture and ornamentation.

From the outside

I love the vaulted ceilings and Gothic arches

An illuminated Bible, all drawn by hand

One of the few portrayals of a smiling Mary

Demon ornamentation

My favorite part of the Cathedral; hard to photograph, but it's a series of reliefs/statues leading up to a skylight
Incredibly detailed reliefs of Bible stories

The most celebrated work of Baroque ornamentation in Spain
Paintings by El Greco in the Cathedral museum

After the Cathedral tour, we had a free half our to explore a bit. I bought my first item of Spanish leather--a bracelet--and we found a convent that's famous for its marzapana (marzipan). The convent is closed, and you order the confections from a tiny white-washed room fitted with a sort of grated lazy susan. You tell the nun on the other side what you want and place your money on the lazy susan. The nun then nun spins the lazy susan around, takes the money, places the box of marzipan on the lazy susan, and spins it back around for you to take.

Om nom nom
Allllll of the bracelets
(photo stolen from Kat)

Kat & me

Exploring the street is hard when you have to flatten yourself against the wall every 3 min to let a car pass

Orange marzipan the director bought for us

On our way to the Muslim area, we stopped at the church of Santo Tomé to see El Greco's most famous painting, El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz. It's painted directly onto a wall in the church, so if you want to see it, you have to go to Toledo.

There were security guards everywhere so I couldn't take pictures, but I was extremely excited to see the painting, since I studied it in my art history class last semester. There's really nothing like seeing a work of art in real life...even though Vassar has a giiiiant screen and state-of-the-art HD projector, the painting was a thousand times more stunning en vivo.

Photo stolen from Wikipedia

La Mezquita de Cristo de la Luz (Mosque of the Light of Christ)

Since the bus had to be back by 8 PM, we had a gourmet lunch instead of dinner (every excursion includes a "gastronomical learning experience"...aka food at a 4 star restaurant. ME GUSTA). I felt highly out of place at the restaurant since I was wearing denim cutoffs and Converse, and I didn't like the food as much as the restaurant in Santiago, but it was still a very fun couple hours.

Of course, Michael (program director) ordered bottles of champagne

Danielle, a very serious Nelson, and Sami
Me & Kat...we're pretty much always together

After lunch we went to la judería, the Jewish quarter, to visit two synagogues. Since the restaurant is at the bottom of a hill and the Jewish quarter at the top, we took a series of five or six outdoor escalators, pretty much meant to cater to lazy tourists. It was weird to see something so modern in a city so old. Unfortunately, synagogues aren't as elaborately decorated as cathedrals (at least, the two we visited weren't), so all of the pictures I took were quite boring.

The last thing we did before we left was walk across an old Roman bridge.

Danielle & me on ze bridge
(photo stolen from Kat)

And bam! Another city, another bracelet on my wrist (can't remember if I wrote about this earlier, but I'm buying a bracelet from every city I visit). It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too long, and we arrived back in Madrid at around 7:30 pm--just enough time for a siesta and dinner at Vips (a diner chain) before heading out para ir de juerga--to party!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

¡Hola, Madrid!

I'll spare you the grisly details, but I woke up on Monday morning--the morning of our departure from Santiago--feeling deathly ill. Nine days of eating Galician food had finally caught up to my American stomach. I really can't think of a worse combination than illness and airplanes, but I grinned grimaced and bore lugging three suitcases through Santiago's airport, paying an ungodly amount of money for my checked bags (damn this horrible euro-->dollar exchange rate!), and boarding an incredibly tiny Iberia plane. You know a plane is small when I, at not even 5'4", complain of not having enough leg room. The flight left half an hour late, but thankfully I was able to sleep for almost the entire flight, and I felt slightly less queasy upon landing...but that might be because the nausea was replaced by extreme nerves. In the airport I said goodbye to the people I'd been living with all week, and even though I knew I'd see them the next morning and probably every day for the next four months, it was bittersweet. I found the taxi stand, slid into the backseat of a cab, and was off to meet my host mother, Vicki. All I had was an address and her name. I really can't think of a more awkward situation than showing up at a stranger's house, 100+ lbs of luggage in hand, looking greenish and sleep-deprived, and saying "Hi! I'm going to live with you for the next four months! Please like me!"

The awkwardness only got worse when I arrived at my apartment building and realized I had no idea how to "call up" to the apartment to be buzzed in. They make it look sooo easy on Seinfeld, but it's actually really confusing. Do you hold the button to talk, like a walkie talkie? Or is it connected once you press it, like a phone? (Turns out it's the latter, but I just kept jabbing and stammering until I heard the door click.)  Vicki, my host mom, met me downstairs, and we somehow managed to fit both of us and all my suitcases in the tiny elevator. She lives on the seventh floor (which is technically the eighth, because the first floor is counted as zero). It's the top floor, something I found extremely exciting, as I've lived in single-story houses all my life. The apartment is small but homey and cozy, filled with souvenirs from Vicki's travels. She showed me to my room, which is small but has two big windows, and is connected to my own private bathroom! This'll be the first time in my life I haven't had to share a bathroom with smelly boys. The toilet seat will always be down, and there will never be stubble in the sink. Seriously, this might be my favorite thing about the country so far...but anyway, my jaw absolutely dropped when Vicki took me out to la terraza (the terrace), which stretches the length of the apartment. Half of it is in the sun, and Vicki grows judiasverdes (green beans), pimientos verdes (green bell peppers), and tomates (tomatoes...that was a real hard one to guess, huh?) The other half is covered and has a couch, a table, and chairs. That's where Vicki and I eat dinner every night, and breakfast when it's not too chilly. But the best part of all this is the VIEW! If you stand in just the right place on my back porch at home, you can kind of see the mountains (but you mostly see a huge, ugly, white engineering building.) But here in my Madrid apartment, THIS is my view...

The clouds are INSANE here.
I'm obsessed with it. Vicki laughs at me because every time I go out there, I immediately walk over to the railing and just look at the view. A night shot will be coming shortly...

Tuesday morning was our first day going to la uni (short for Universidad Carlos III de Madrid). It's a loooooong commute. In high school, I'd complain about the 15 min drive; at Vassar, I complain about a 10 minute walk. But my commute here takes almost exactly 60 min. I leave my apartment, walk a block to the metro station (and I'm lucky it's only a block), then take linea 1 to Atocha-Renfe station (yes, the one that got bombed in 2003), where I catch el cercanías (the commuter train). I take el cercanías to the Las Margaritas stop in the suburb of Getafe, and then walk about half a mile to the UC3M campus. Thankfully, I have an abono, a pre-paid pass that allows me unlimited rides on all public transportation in Madrid. Also thankfully, the metro system here is insanely wonderful! The slogan is "Madrid Metro: uno de los mejores metros en el mundo. Usálo." (The Mardid Metro is one of the best in the world. Use it.) It's clean, usually not foul-smelling, totally devoid of homeless people, and it's almost impossible to board the wrong train or get lost because all lines run through at least one major transfer station. The signage is excellent, and every line runs in both directions (you just have to make sure you get on the right side of the track). Everything about it is completely unlike the NYC Metro, which never ceases to leave me stressed and broke after accidentally boarding an express train to Queens at 10:30 pm...but let's not talk about that.

The blissfully peaceful metro station

Day 1 at UC3M consisted of lots of waiting, since like everything this program organizes, the day was poorly scheduled. We split up into groups to take language placement exams--one written, one multiple-choice, and one oral. Despite sleeping through most of the multiple-choice exam (getting back into school-mode is really rough for me, okay?!), I got placed into the second-highest language group, Avanzado Alta A--so I'm pretty happy about that! For lunch, the monitoras took us to this absolutely unreal sandwich shop. I wish I had pictures, but there are signs everywhere asking for no photos to be taken...what killjoys! But anyway, the interior of the shop is entirely covered in pieces of brightly colored construction paper reading "El de ____": "El de Olivia, El de Katie, El de Pedro," etc., meaning "Olivia's Sandwich, Katie's Sandwich, Pedro's Sandwich," etc. I ended up ordering "El de Nech," which was chicken, caramelized onions, avocado, and brie on pan integral (wheat bread). I almost fainted from happiness as I watched one of the two ladies who work there--angels in aprons, for sure--pick up a perfectly ripe avocado, slice it in half, pit it and peel it, then spread an entire halve onto the freshly toasted bread. The whole sandwich only cost €5, less than half of the €11 we're allotted daily for lunch. I have a feeling I'm gonna be going back to this place a LOT. And by a lot, I mean multiple times a day. (This is my inner Liz Lemon speaking...)

After we finished at UC3M, we did a brief spin around a couple of Madrid's barrios.

This is the symbol of Madrid...the statue is tiny and super anticlimactic, pushed all the way to one end of the Puerta del Sol
La Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor

All roads lead to Santiago, pt II

I don't think I knew what it meant to "walk somewhere" before I got to Spain. I mean, I'm not the kind of person who will drive the 200 yard distance from her house to the neighborhood pool, but I'm also not used to walking on rough cobblestone roads til my feet blister all over. So in addition to being a crash course in Spanish culture and history, Santiago was also a crash-course in bipedal endurance. I passed...but just barely.

From Monday to Friday, we had classes (Spanish history and Spanish literature) from 9 am to 1 pm. That would be all well and good if the monitores (guides) didn't take us out til at least 3 am every night. I'm an eight-hours-a-night kinda girl, and four hours left me completely catatonic. I did my real learning after my afternoon siesta, when we went on walking (duh) tours of the city.

Tour guide speaking insanely emphatically about Baroque architecture
Add caption
My not-so-baroque nails and lefty ballpoint pen stain on my ring finger
My first jarra de sangia...perfect way to end a long day
My favorite tour was of the cubierta (roof area) of the Cathedral. The view was absolutely incredible, and it was fun to walk around on the dangerously sloped roof. There's no way something like this would exist in the US--there was not a single guard rail in sight!

Note the program director awkwardly walking into the shot...
Stripey friends! Kat in yellow, Danielle in red
View of Santiago...more red, white, and blue than I expected in Europe ;)

One of my biggest fears before coming to Spain was that I wouldn't like the food. I'm not a picky person, but I like to eat healthily and I'm not the biggest fan of seafood. I was told that vegetables didn't exist in Spain and I would subsist solely on french fries and churros. Well, vegetables certainly are scarce in Galicia (unless you count oil-drenched pimientos de padrón [tiny spicy green chili peppers]). But it turns out, I actually like seafood! Chipirones (squid) are absolutely delicious, and I've even started to like gambas (shrimp) because here they are fresh and not at all chewy. But the one food I'm about ready to wage a vendetta against is pulpo (octopus). Traditional Galician pulpo is simultaneously bitter and spicy, tasting more than faintly of bacon. But the worst part is definitely the texture. If I wanted to eat erasers, then I could get them for a hell of a lot cheaper, and erasers don't have SUCKERS that can potentially LATCH ONTO YOUR THROAT if you don't chew them thoroughly enough (and since chewing is an intensely laborious/nauseating task, it's tempting to just swallow the pieces whole).

Pulpo--this picture doesn't do justice to its repulsiveness

On Wednesday, we toured yet another church, la Iglesia de Santo Domingo, which is now a museum. In Galicia, the people speak a dialect called gallego, and although in most places signs/menus/pamphlets are in both gallego and castellano (Castillian Spanish), this church/museum was entirely in gallego. I can read gallego, because it's very similar to castellano, but it's pretty time-consuming. So instead, I just took a lot of pictures.

Tomb of a famous Galician
A locked enclave of the church

On the walk home, I met my first Spanish kitty!

Thursday was incredibly rainy and cold. Apparently Galicia has a climate similar to that of Washington state, but since we arrived during a heatwave, the thunderstorms took us by surprise. We took a bus to a brand-new building on the outskirts of town called the Cultural Center of Galicia. It's supposed to be a library/museum, but since it's so new, the library is sparse and the only museum installation was of...typewriters. The external architecture of the cultural center is striking--I guess it's called the Guggenheim Bilbao of Galicia--but since it was absolutely miserable out, I didn't get to look at it much.

Cultural Center library

Typewriter ribbon cases
My last name!
Since Thursday was the eve of my birthday, I was dragged to a bar called Coffeepop to celebrate. It's a cute little hole-in-the wall place frequented by Santiago's gay population (hence the DJ's penchant for playing Madonna, Elton John, and Lady Gaga). Everyone counted down to midnight, then serenaded me with the "feliz cumpleaños" song. I was afraid this birthday would be lonely, but the people in this group are the best I could have asked for. Even though I'd only known them for a week at this point, they felt like old friends.

Lucy & me

On Friday night, my girlfriends took me out to a fancy crêpe dinner. I'd never had dinner crêpes for dinner, and they were exquisite...but not as delactable the chocolate ice cream/banana/Nutella crêpe we ordered for dessert!

Adorable card my friend Kat made for me. I'm an old woman now! 20 years old!
Birthday toast!
In front of the Cathedral after dinner
Saturday was exam day. Yes, for some reason, the program thought it would be a great idea to give us exams a) on a SATURDAY MORNING and b) after only a week of classes... but thankfully, the exams were open-dictionary and open-topic, and even open-note for the lit exam. After the tests were done, lunch was eaten, and a hefty siesta was taken, we headed out again for a last hurrah in Santiago.

Me & Kat

Kat, me, & Eliza. Ignore my wrinkly skirt...I tried to iron it with a curling iron. Didn't work too well.
About half the group!
Sunday was our last day in Santiago, and sadly it was mostly spent packing. In the afternoon Sami, Eliza, and I went out for coffee and to explore the Parque Alameda, a park with beautiful wide tree-lined paths and stunning views of the city. Then at 8 pm--an early dinnertime by Spanish standards--the whole group headed out to Tafona, one of the most swanky restaurants in Santiago. Here was the menu:
  • bread with roasted vegetables 
  • lobster carpaccio with arugula and lime-basil sorbet
  • scallops with chorizo crumbs and paprika
  • cod with garlic mousseline and romescu (traditional andalusian sauce)
  • chocolate lava cake with Bailey's Irish Cream ice cream
The lime-basil sorbet was TO DIE FOR. The pictures I took didn't turn out at all, so you'll just have to imagine the absolute decadence of this meal.

Amazing views while walking to dinner
With the chicas before dinner

I woke up early on Monday morning to finish packing before heading to the airport to fly to MADRID! The week in Santiago was absolutely incredible. I never anticipated I'd adjust to Spanish culture so quickly and meet so many ridiculously fun and kind people...and that I could do so much learning and exploring in only one week. I can now navigate Santiago's streets, museums, churches, and restaurant menus...that's a more valuable education than I could ever get in a classroom.