This post is by Margaret Weiss, a St. Olaf College student. During the Fall 2015 semester she is participating in the the CIEE Liberal Arts program.
Last week was midterms for CIEE, and it was a pretty stressful week. However, with the help of my parents and the CIEE faculty, I made it through the week, and I’m feeling really good about all of my midterms. I’m happy with how they all went, and I’m happy that they’re done. Looking ahead, a couple of my final exams are research papers. I don’t think the final exams will be quite as stressful as the midterms, in part because I know how they’re going to look and in part because I’ll only have two exams to take!
I’m getting excited about my upcoming research papers (as dorky as that sounds). It’s still all very rough, but I’m thinking about writing about different aspects of Cuban life for both of them- one of the papers will be about European Union’s relationship with Cuba and one will be about Cuba’s national newspaper, the Granma. We’ll see how both of those topics turn out, but I LOVE Cuba, and I’m excited to bring that love to both of my Spanish classes.
To cap off the midterm week, I traveled to the Madrid area with two of my CIEE friends, Zoe and Laura. This weekend was a puente weekend, or a long weekend where we didn’t have class on Monday. Yesterday was All Saint’s Day, so all of Spain gets Monday off because of that holiday. The three of us had such a wonderful time in Madrid, seeing the city and the surrounding area. Moreover, we also had the opportunity to stay with a family in the Madrid area, so thanks to Paul and Sarie for being such wonderful hosts! Not only did they provide a home and home life for the weekend, they also helped us to make the most of our time in the Madrid area.
To begin with, Zoe, Laura and I got to see Paul and Sarie’s school and get to know some of the school’s teachers on Friday, which was absolutely wonderful. After that, Zoe, Laura and I explored the city of Madrid on Saturday. We started our day at an (impromptu) book fair before going to the Prado. The book fair was really cool- a lot of the books were used and old books, but there were also new books. Each of the three of us got a copy of the first Harry Potter in Spanish. Moving on, the Prado was wonderful to see. The museum is a lot of religious art, and there are quite a lot of masterpieces in it. Pictures weren’t allowed, but the architecture of the building was incredible, so here’s a photo of that!
After the Prado, we went to the Parque de Buen Retiro, another must-see of Madrid! The weather is cooler in Madrid, and the leaves were changing in the park, so it was really nice to feel a little more like it was fall. Zoe, Laura and I walked around the Parque, which is absolutely HUGE. We didn’t see half of it, but we did get lunch and got to see a little bit of fall in Spain.
After the Parque de Buen Retiro, Zoe, Laura and I went to the Reino Sofia. We didn’t see all of the exhibits (the three of us were all pretty tired from the Prado), but I think that I prefer the contemporary art of the Reino Sofia to the art of the Prado (not that I didn’t appreciate the Prado!). Moreover, we got to see Guernica, Picasso’s masterpiece, so that made the trip worthwhile in itself. I’ve studied Guernica a lot in my Spanish classes, and it’s really neat to be able to say that I saw it in person. Finally, both of the museums were free with student ID’s, so that alone makes the trips worth it! We saved around 16 euro each!
It was a long day in Madrid, but we ended it by going to the “most famous” churro place in Madrid, the Chocolatería San Ginés. I don’t love churros, but the chocolate was so good in the Chocolatería. And it’s nice to say that we did it! After a little more shopping (in all, I got 5 books and a scarf while I was in Madrid), the three of us headed home.
The next day, Sarie drove the three of us up to Segovia (thank you!), which is a GORGEOUS town with a lot of history and sites to see. We began our day in Segovia by seeing the Cathedral and the Aqueduct (see attached photos) before traversing up to the Alcazar, which Zoe, Laura and I toured. Laura and I are in an Islamic architecture class, and it was really cool for both of us to see the Christianity of the Alcazar imposed over clear Islamic influences. I saw a lot of the themes that we have talked about in class while I was in the Alcazar. To end our trip of the Alcazar, the three of us hiked the Alcazar’s tower, which has some beautiful and impressive views of all of Segovia.
To wrap up our trip to Segovia, the three of us walked around the town a little more. Segovia is a beautiful and walkable city, and I loved being there. Laura and I also bought a GIANT palomera (my favorite treat in Spain), and we happily split that. The three of us met back up with Sarie, and we drove home.
And that’s a summary of my weekend in Madrid! I am so grateful that I got to see Madrid like I did, and that Paul and Sarie allowed us to stay in their home. I had a wonderful time seeing two major Spanish cities, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity that I did. This was a wonderful way to spend the long weekend! I’m en route to Sevilla as I type this, but I’ll probably be back home when I post it. Thanks for reading, everyone! Time here is going really quickly, and I’m loving every opportunity that comes my way. Madrid and the surrounding area was wonderful to get to know this weekend, and I’m excited for the further adventures that are coming my way!