Monday, October 3, 2011

Free champagne, homemade paella, and Picasso.

I realized I haven't really been posting about anything other than the trips I take, so here's the slightly less exciting stuff I've been up to since arriving in Madrid.

October 7th was Vogue Fashion's Night Out in Madrid, held in the swanky barrio of Salamanca (not to be confused with the actual city of Salamanca). All the stores along the main drag in Salamanca had DJs and bars, in an attempt to get people drunk so they would be highly overpriced clothing. My girlfriends and I got dressed up and headed out to dance in jewelry stores, keep an eye out for models and celebs, and score free champagne.

Sweet graphic design, bro.

Champagne in L'Occitane. If you don't speak French, that rhymes nicely
In a shoe store where the cheapest pair cost a minimum of €300
I tried to be fashionable but my host mom made me wear a cardigan...

DJ in the jewelry store
That following weekend, I had my first chocolate con churros--at 3:30 am, no less. There are a couple chocolaterías that are open 24 hours a day, because there are three traditional times to get chocolate con churros: for breakfast, for a late afternoon snack, and at the wee hours of the morning when you're sick of clubbing and just want some damn food.

From San Ginés Chocolateria
 You might be flinching at the amount of sugar in this "meal"...and it's certainly rich, but it's nothing like American hot chocolate or American (read: Disneyland) churros. The churros aren't sweetened, so even though they're very fatty, you can eat much a lot more than you could the cinnamon sugar-coated Mexican type...which is highly dangerous. And the hot chocolate is not to be confused with hot cocoa. It's sweetened, but not too much, and is incredibly thick--like you're eating melted semisweet chocolate. So it was pretty much heaven in a cup, but so rich, I couldn't finish--and if I don't finish eating something fatty and chocolatey and delicious, you know it's an intense food.

That same weekend, Pepa (one of the monitoras) invited the whole Vassar-Wesleyan group to her family's mountain house for an afternoon of swimming and paella-eating. I've known Pepa for two years because she was the Spanish Language Fellow at Vassar my freshman year, and I took a conversation class with her. Anyway, the mountain house is in a town called Robledo about 1 hour away from Madrid. I couldn't take pictures because the winding roads had my wildly carsick, but the sierras (mountains) of Madrid look so much like the mountains of Santa Barbara, it was insane. Oak trees, chaparral, everything. Every time we got to a viewpoint, I kept expecting to see the Pacific Ocean--but instead, I just saw the sprawling grey blur of Madrid.

Sammi, me, Danielle, Lucy, Kelsey, & Kat

[photo cred: Kat]

Pepa, master paella chef

The first paella I ever ate was made for me by Pepa at Vassar. She apologized profusely for it, saying she wasn't used to making it on a stove and with such a small pan. I had no idea how else you would make it...and now, two years later, I got to see Pepa in action making real Spanish paella--in a pan the size of a toboggan, perched on top of its own special grill. She didn't use a recipe or measuring cups, just threw everything into the pan, but it turned out perfectly.

Chunks of mystery!

Get in my bellllllly

The best part of the afternoon was when Pepa's brother?cousin?friend? broke out his guitar and started playing beautiful classic Spanish music. It was late afternoon and a perfect 80 degrees and the sun coming in through the trees made everything look golden.

Pepa singing along
The next day I went to the Reina Sofia museum with some friends solely to see Picasso's Guernica.

Super rad external elevators
 Photography isn't allowed inside the museum, so I don't have any photos of the painting, but that's what Google Image Search is for, right?

The second I walked into the room where Guernica is housed, I got chills and tears came to my eyes. It’s so incredibly huge and so incredibly powerful. No photo can do justice to the raw emotion Picasso put into every brushstroke. That’s what’s so different about seeing paintings in real life—the brush stroke is what really speaks about the artist’s thought process, the artist’s mental state. Some parts of the painting are thin, bare, as if Picasso was painting as rashly as possible. In others the paint drips down from lines, and in others you can see ghostly sketches that weren’t painted over thoroughly enough. And curiously enough, the horse in the center is the only figure that’s contoured; it’s also the most re-worked figure, as the first version of the painting had its head upside down, grotesquely contorted.

All that emotional art analysis made us hungry, so we grabbed tapas at Estado Puro, a restaurant famous for its innovative take on classic tapas dishes. We drank the best sangria I've ever had and grubbed on eggplant with honey-sherry sauce, mussels with a delicious mystery cayenne sauce, ham croquetas, and fried potatoes topped with chives and roe.

Eating the fruit slices at the end is the best part of sangria
The roe-topped potatoes
My daily life here is infinitely more exciting than my life in Santa Barbara or Poughkeepsie. I love living in a city--although at times it can be stressful and overwhelming, there is always something to do. Parks, cafes, museums, afternoons in the countryside...there's a high possibility I might never go back to the states...!


  1. Yeah dude I get to hang out with her on a regular basis, it's kind of the best thing ever