Monday, October 10, 2011

The ballet, the circus, and the Prado. And cupcakes. A lot of cupcakes.

Living in a foreign country and going to school in a foreign language is stressful. One night you might be given nothing but brussels sprouts and bacon for dinner; one morning you might have to inexplicably switch commuter trains and accidentally leave your folder (filled with homework and notes) on the seat next to you; one afternoon you might be informed by your sociology professor that you have to conduct a 14-page interview with not one, not two, but THREE illegal immigrants.

But thankfully, there is a remedy for such ills. The remedy is cupcakes from Happy Day Bakery.

Yes, that house was edible
For just €2 (or €1,70 if you have a Madrid Cultura y Arte card...yeaaaah, discounts!) you can drown your sorrows in a carrot cupcake with dulce de leche frosting or a heaping slice of raspberry cheesecake. Needless to say, I've been here more times than I care to disclose on here...

Happy Day is in the neighborhood of Malasaña, which I have fallen in love with. It's filled with bookstores, vintage shops, record stores, and cute cafés. It's also the only part in town where I don't look so odd wearing cut off Levi 501s and moccasins instead of diaper-like harem pants and sky-high wedges.

Justin would fit right in in Malasaña too--there's a Spanish comic book shop!

Right down the block from Happy Day is my favorite coffee shop, Lolina Vintage Cafe. It has free wifi and cute vintage furniture, and the likes of Elvis, Buddy Holly, and the Shangri-Las are always playing over the soundsystem. They also make DELICIOUS tostas and brownies with ice cream :)

Fanta Limón is the most delicious ever. Also, check out that rad wallpaper!

They keep all the doors open all the time so it's always sunny and breezy
Tosta with sobrasada (sausage + tomato), brie, honey, and herbs
In addition to stuffing my face, I also get around to some cultural activities. A couple weeks ago I went to see the the Cuban National Ballet's production of Swan Lake (El lago de los cisnes). It was directed by Alicia Alonso, an extremely famous ballerina who is now 90 years old. You should skim her Wikipedia page (which I linked in her name) because she's had a really remarkable life. I know my ballet enthusiast mom and aunt are jealous I got to see such a legend in the flesh!

The video above is Alonso herself dancing the role of Swan in 1958. The choreography I saw for the pas de deux was almost identical, including the 2034839 fuettes.

 I also went to the circus! I had absolutely no idea what to expect, as it was an impulse decision, but I hoped it wasn't full of abused tigers and creepy clowns. Thankfully, there were neither of these things--just incredibly talented acrobats! Photography wasn't allowed, so I had to sneak shots when the music was loud enough to drown out the sound of my shutter.

Looks easy, right?

Later that weekend I went to the Museo Prado. I have a museum pass that lets me into all state-owned museums fo' free. I spent two and a half hours wandering around the galleries. I got to see one of my favorite works of art (and the subject of my study abroad application essay), The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

Where's Waldo?
It's a MASSIVE oil-on-wood triptych (7 x 12 feet), and definitely the most horrifying/captivating thing you've ever seen in your life. I took advantage of my height (or lack thereof) and stood right in front of each panel for at least ten minutes, taking the time to notice all the tiny, bizarre details.

La entrada Jerónimo
Statue of Diego Velázquez

I've really been enjoying just wandering around Madrid. I have a monthly metro pass that gives me unlimited rides, so it's easy to wander to wherever I'd like. I've never been a dependent person, but in high school I was definitely that girl who would never go to the bathroom alone. In college, I didn't work up the courage to eat alone until spring semester sophomore year. At home, sometimes I go shopping alone, but before I got to Madrid, I'd never eaten a meal (outside of my house) alone.

But since being here, I've learned to genuinely enjoy alone time. I can walk at my own pace through museums and read every single placard if I want to without worrying about getting separated from a group or slowing down a friend. While walking down the street, I can wander in and out of every other store on the block, and I can pick the tiny window table at the café for prime people-watching. And if I need to ask the shop clerk if they have those shoes in a size 37, I can't plead with my friend to ask for me because the clerk looks bitchy--I have to be confident in my language skills.

And the best part is that if I get a cupcake from Happy Days two days in a row, no one is there to judge me--well, now the secret's out...

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