Madrid: A Gloomy but Pretty Visit to Spain’s Capital

A couple of weeks ago I boarded a 7 hour overnight bus with two architect buddies to the gorgeous capital of Spain. After interrupted sleep and awkward bus temperatures, we arrived on a narrow street in the middle of the city, in front of a boarded up (definitely under construction) hostel at about 6 am. With only the name of the hostel’s alternate location, we roamed around for a couple of minutes until we came across a group of people coming back from a bar. One of them drunkenly gave us directions, and miraculously we arrived at the new hostel just around the corner! After napping for a considerable amount of time (nothing important in Spain ever begins before 10 am), we set out to explore the city. Taking a tour of “Hapsburg Madrid” thanks to TripAdvisor’s handy Madrid app, we ran into some beautiful squares and churches. We ended our self-guided tour at the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) which offers entrance to students for 5 euros. While we weren’t allowed to take photos, the palace was one of the highlights of this trip. Room after gorgeous room, we stepped through a life of lavish royalty that must have been a dream to actually own. Once we finished seeing the palace, we headed back to our hostel to go on a tapas tour. Wandering around the city and stepping into cozy restaurant bars along the way with a guide who knew just what to order was so much fun! I would highly recommend staying in a well rated hostel while in Madrid, because there is so much day-time stuff to do that it’s nice to have a hostel that provides food and bar crawls for the night-time. After the first night, we got some great recommendations and went exploring on our own. We stayed at “Cat’s Hostel” which, in regards to the name, did not contain any cats. Through the food sampling, beer drinking, nightclub going (Teatro Kapital, a multiple story & multiple music genre nightclub l is a MUST when visiting Madrid), and park sitting, Madrid was everything I could ever hope for. The ambiance is relaxed, the people are kind, the culture is compelling, and the food is wonderful. If you’re looking for an old city with a cool vibe, Madrid is the place to be.
Here’s a sampling of some of my photos from the weekend:
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Leaving Plaza Mayor, a tiny staircase that leads to another road.
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Sampling some delectable seafood tapas at Mercado de San Miguel. Smoked salmon with a mustard dill sauce and Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician style Octopus) are a must-try when in Spain. While you can eat a whole meal at one shop in the market, sampling a tiny dish from different stands (usually 1-2 euros each) is much more fun!
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Gloomy but beautiful visit to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real)

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 Watching the sun set over the Parque del Buen Retiro while eating delicious ham sandwiches.
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Stunning church near the Prado Museum.

Still can’t get over this European adventure,

M

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American Soup & Confusion on Cooking in a New Country

Before I delve into the wonders of soup, I’d like to apologize. While I may not have followers by the thousands (or even hundreds), I made a personal pact to document my traveler’s life on this blog and I haven’t been doing a very good job. While I don’t know why I feel like I have to say sorry, just putting it out there makes me feel a bit better and gives me more motivation to keep working on this journal/space/tiny piece of the internet that is mine.

For my first couple of weeks in Spain, I convinced myself that I was invincible and proceeded eat ,basically, everything in sight. The food here really is amazing and I was really content for a couple of days. After indulging in too much street food (although there is never such a thing as too much street food), my stomach basically yelled at me and I realized I had to cut down on the awesomeness.

Exhibit A. Churros: Death by sweet, crunchy yet soft goodness. Yes that is literally granulated sugar on top of fried dough (best combination ever).

Exhibit B. Fried Ham/Bacon – i’m not really sure. Delicious but more thirst-inducing than any potato chip I’ve ever eaten.

Exhibit C. Whatever this mouth watering dessert is.

Taking on the challenge of making homemade chicken noodle soup (something that I had , surprisingly, never done before), I was pleasantly surprised with the tasty outcome of this nice recipe, the fact that it was incredibly cheap to make, and that it definitely did the trick in helping me get over my stomachache (confirming the idiom that chicken soup is really Jewish penicillin).

Here’s the recipe
Pro tips/Modifications:

  • Instead of buying the vegetables in their general quantities, buy a soup-ready fresh veggie mix that is easily found in most produce sections as a combination of celery, carrot, and leek. In my version I used one of these packages (which was around 1 euro) and it contained 3 carrots, 1 leek, and 2 stalks of celery.
  •  I decided to double the recipe, which made converting everything to the metric system even harder, but ended up with not enough chicken broth and had to add more later – so I guess you should cook soup with the mantra “more broth is always better”
  •  A new kitchen often comes without the tools you’re used to cooking with, so I had to peel my lemons with a knife and chop the rind up. Not ideal, but still resulted in awesome flavors!
  •  Substituting orzo for macaroni shaped pasta made this soup a little less classy, but reminiscent of my late nights fueled by Easy Mac (impossible to find in Spain, by the way) – so it kind of made it even more comforting.
  • I bought some cheap chicken breast from the grocery store and boiled it before putting it into the soup. Not the most flavorful way of cooking, but definitely cheap and effective.

The day I made this soup, my flatmates put together an impromptu dinner party and decided to combine a bunch of random foods that we had all made to have a gigantic, delicious, feast. As expected, the soup was part of said feast and has been dubbed by my Japanese flatmate as “American Soup”.

Last but not least, I want to mention the fact that ,in total, it only took about 8 euros to make this GIGANTIC pot of soup which fed me for about 5 days (including serving it at a dinner party). I am definitely going to making a lot of soup this semester.

– M