Explore
Questions/Comments?Contact Us

52 posts categorized "*Traveling around Spain"

A Week's Vacation in Three Parts: Cantabria

Spring has sprung in Madrid.  The smell of olives is wafting into my apartment.  People have morphed into vultures, circling around the cafe terrazas waiting to pounce on a free table.  The sky is lit until 9pm, deceiving you into thinking you could sit out until it got dark and still have time to accomplish everything you want to that evening.  So I’m in vacation mode and would like to return to the roadtrip. Part Two. Cantabria.

Teleférico of Fuente De.  The teleférico of fuente de.  Wow. What words are there to describe it?  High up. Snow. Mountains. Words not usually associated with me, but that day, they were.

We arrived in sneakers and well I guess we weren’t dressed properly for the skiing, wood cabin, put-up-a-fire-and-let’s-have-some-hot-cocoa mountain look, so we went into the trunk in the parking lot and I pulled out my winter hat.  Still in sneakers, we ascended the stairs to the entrance amongst a crowd of winter-hatted others with chunky boots and cameras. Does that age people now? To say they have a camera? Yikes. We had our disposable ones :) I digress.  Luckily there weren’t a lot of people because it was early. Perhaps also some stayed away because they thought it would be foggy. We were so lucky. Bright blue sky, bright sun, bright white mountains.

Now this is not a cheap experience.  17€ round trip. But it was worth it for me.  I’m not often up in the snow-capped mountains taking chairlifts up hills to ski down, let alone in one of Spain’s national parks--Los Picos de Europa--with access to one of the major tourist highlights.

Initially, I couldn’t see the thing.  I couldn’t see a cable in the air, or poles, or something moving, nothing.  Just gigantic mountains and little dark spots of trees poking out like hairs.  After paying for the ticket, I watched as a red, white, and blue box-like thing was lowered into the loading dock.  I was gonna get on THAT???? I was terrified. Absolutely terrified. It didn’t even stop swinging a bit, so when you get on, your foot is not in the spot you thought it would be when you picked it up to put it on.  Am I being dramatic? Absolutely. Did it feel this dramatic? Absolutely.

Before I could change my mind, the door closed and we were ascending.  I just kept thinking don’t look down don’t look down don’t look down. I don’t think I did.  I was looking up and straight ahead. It was getting brighter and brighter as more and more of the mountain range revealed itself.  Always hiding from people, make you work hard to see it.

At the top I breathed air like I’ve never before.  Both literally how I breathed and the air I breathed.  Full, crisp, intoxicating. To be eye-to-eye with the mountains was to soar.  If I had done nothing else “exciting” the whole trip, I would’ve been beyond content to have just experienced this.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in the gift shop (only after 200 photos, of course).  And then nearby there was a small room with photographs documenting the history of the teleférico.  I was reassured reading about the two ways you can be saved if your cable car stops in the middle.  It's clear that this attraction is a jewel of the region.

On the way back down I felt confident.  I had conquered. Triumphant, I looked down on the way down.  Before I knew it, I was back on the ground looking up at those glorious mountains I had just had the pleasure of meeting.  The world is open.

Day Trip: Sierra de Madrid

31747105_1672499059499864_8667693712173694976_n

If you’re looking for something fun and outdoorsy to do now that the weather is finally starting to warm up in Madrid, then a day trip to the Sierra de Madrid is for you!

The trail starts at a little outpost called Puerto de los Cotos and is relatively easy for those new to hiking, a fact to which I can personally attest, having just completed it as my first major hike since I was little. Despite my misfortune of making the trek before all the snow had melted and having to stomp through it in very soggy sneakers, I still found the course manageable and just the right amount of challenging.

 Even for the more experienced hikers out there, this trail does not disappoint. Its wide variety of landscapes are breathtaking and keep you guessing as to what you’re going to find “just around the riverbend.” From pine-covered mountains, to steep rock walls, to trickling streams, rushing rivers, rolling fields of grass, and majestic lakes, the Sierra de Madrid offers a little bit of everything.

31898242_1672499189499851_2206820369245929472_n

A Week's Vacation in Three Parts: Asturias

The trip started, as most do, with a car, a contract, and a discussion on whether or not we should pay for a prepaid tank of gas.  But I’ll fast forward through those nitty-gritties. On the road we went. Destination? Oviedo. Asturias would be our first stop.

The way there felt like we were rolling through that ride at Disney where you pass through different movie sets, except we rolled through seasons.  One second we were winding between snow-covered mountains, the next we were among the greenest hills I’d ever seen. Probably one of my favorite observations from the trip was that you’ll be on the highway and the speed limit will be 120 km/h, then it’ll be 90 km/h, eventually getting to 30 km/h when you go through a town.  These towns consist of a 1 to 2-minute stretch of highway (one lane, each direction) and on the mountain side of the road there’s a pharmacy, a bar, and laundry hanging out the window of homes. The other side is a drop down (I didn’t look). Before you know it, the town name is on a rectangular white sign with a diagonal red line through it signaling “you are now leaving” whatever town it was.  The speed limit jumps back up. We’d do this dance many times along the way.

We made only one stop on the way, to purchase jamón chips, of course, so we got to Oviedo just when the sun was setting around 8:30pm.  I’d picked this particular place to stay because it had beautiful views of the city. I’ve learned that if a place has beautiful views, that usually means the drive to get to it requires going up steep hills often with twisties.  Also picked it for the breakfast the next day. The room had a view and it was breathtaking. At night we could see the town lit up like the reflection of stars in a tiny pond between the mountains.

By 10:15pm we were seated at Tierra de Astur, recommended to us by the hotel and a popular spot on Calle Gascona--the street of cider.  This is where the major sidrerias are. Once you order your 3€ bottle of cider, the waiter will perform the pour. Proper pour position is: bottle is lifted above head, arm straight up in the air, eyes looking straight ahead, not up at bottle, glass is held in other hand below waist, that arm is pointing downward, commence pour.  Beware of some drizzle on your ankles! No one says that, but now I’ve told you.

Along with our yummy cider, we wanted to have fabada--the special Asturian stew of fava beans and Spanish meats.  They were out of it! So we had a similar stew instead, with cabbage. It was delish. The chorizo was amazing and having the bread to sop up every last bit was a life-saver.  Oh my goodness, I skipped perhaps the best part of the meal. We started with a wonderful cheese--Rey Silo. It arrived beautifully laid out on a block of wood with some quince (sweet) paste and apple slices.  I loved the cheese so much, I wrote down its name in my phone. It forced me to create a memo on my phone devoted to “Cheeses We Like.”

We finished off the meal with what the waiter suggested as a typical Asturian dessert: leche frita (fried milk).  It came cinnamon-sugared-up in a bed of tasty creamy yellow liquid.  Inside the fried exterior was a soft milky interior. All of this for 25€ people, get going!

The next morning we had breakfast in a room with windows for walls showing the beautiful views of the city.  At times it felt like we were looking at a green screen. It was hard to yank ourselves away, but we managed to do so and headed out to see some of Oviedo in the daytime.  We had to hustle because our next stop for the night was in Pembes--about 112 miles away. And we needed to stop in Gijón, Covadonga, and somewhere in the Cabrales region for a cheese tasting.  

We made a point of looking for Mafalda in Oviedo and we found her on a bench in a park!  After a solid photoshoot, we walked around. There were Botero statues, rainbow-painted benches, and a long line outside of Starbucks because they were handing out cups for a free drink.  We purchased 2 disposable cameras and headed for Gijón.

In Gijón we walked along the beach for a bit, took some pics with the established photo-op--Gijón in red letters on the waterfront--and got back in the car to go to Covadonga.  Along the way we pulled over for souvenirs. How could I not stop, it was a giant building filled with souvenirs. I left without a purchase and regret.

In Covadonga we circled around and around the same small area ready to pounce on a parking spot.  A giant waterfall jutting out of an imposing mountain cascaded into a tiny reservoir. People were walking up the side of it to go into a cave that housed a chapel and shelves of candles.  We would do the same.

If this post sounds a little packed, I’d like to tell you that the trip was more than a little packed, to the point where it’s hard to recall what was done on which day.  I’m getting stressed just writing about it. But I’m also grateful.

After Covadonga, we called a cheese factory to see if they were open for tours.  Luckily they were. I haven’t been that close to real cows perhaps ever. We even watched them get milked by a machine!  And we saw a baby calf. The tour finished with some samples. Queso de cabrales is not for the faint of heart, I’ll leave it at that.  

Leaving the cheese factory, I was struck by how peaceful it felt to be standing in the middle of fields and mountains.  My city-self is not always at ease in the midst of wide open spaces. But here, I breathed it in. And how wonderful it was.  Asturias.

Granada: Part II

Let’s talk about tapas.  Tapas in Granada are, as some would say, next level.  Tapas in Granada are when you pay 2-euros for a drink and are gifted a plate of something substantial.  In Madrid, when you order a drink, you usually will get a bowl of olives or potato chips with it.  In Granada, IN GRANADA I SAID, you may get any of the following plates with your ~2-euro drink:

  • Paella (Bodegas Castañeda - special housemade vermouth from a barrel as well)
  • Potatoes with ali-oli (Bar Aixa)
  • Meatballs with patatas fritas (La Porrona)
  • A mini hamburger with patatas fritas (La Botilleria - amazing, would eat sit-down dinner here)
  • A piece of bread with a slice of jamón, olive oil, tomato, and olives (Taberna La Tana - for wine lovers and everyone)
  • Sliced chorizo in a wine sauce (Bar La Riviera - you get to choose the tapa you’d like!)
  • Patatas caseras with bacon, onion, and a creamy cheesy sauce (Bar La Riviera)
  • A plate of fried sardines (Bar Los Diamantes, go early otherwise very crowded, one of the most well-known in Granada)
  • Tosta with guacamole and squid (El Cambalache, this was incredible)

And there is so much more!  So much more, the list goes on and on.  Moral of the story: after your beautiful day seeing the Alhambra, go on a self-guided tapas tour!  Start early to avoid crowds.  Or go late if you like the crowds!  If you see people outside an establishment with drinks and a small plate of food, it usually means you’ll get that plate of food free with your drink.

Now let’s talk about ice cream.  Helados San Nicolas, right by the viewpoint, which will seem like an outdoor party.  Vendors abound at the Mirador, people gather for the view of the Alhambra and the rest of the city.  I had a beautiful purple cone of lavender ice cream while looking at the Alhambra from a few ways away.  A bit more peaceful.  And there’s a splendid backdrop of the Alhambra in the shop for a photo-op!

The special dessert of Granada is the Pionono - a very VERY sweet little cake with sweeter sweet stuff on top named after Pope Pius IX who was supposed to come to Granada but didn’t (according to a tour guide?).  The dessert remains.  I enjoyed a spontaneous eclair from a bakery in Plaza Larga even more.  Be free with your food choices.  You never know what could surprise you.

So what are you waiting for??  Go get some tapas in Granada!  The Andalucian weather is just one of the many draws.

IMG_9952 IMG_0265
IMG_0260 IMG_9991 IMG_0130

Granada: Part I

Granada is a stew of religions.  A stone-roaded, twisty-streeted, living history map.  Coca-cola signs hang above bars in circles of the signature Grenadine white-and-blue ceramic style.  Street names change at every intersection, even while continuing in the same direction.  A small archway leads down a tiny street of shops, formerly a silk market.  Around the corner is the Aljibe de Trillo, which holds just some of the secrets to the city’s genius water system.  Teterías (Arab-influenced tea-rooms) calmly await visitors.  Carmens abound with orange trees and special views of, oh yes, the Alhambra.  

The Alhambra sits atop the city, guarding and guiding it as it has for centuries through all sorts of transitions.  The complex dates to about the 13th or 14th century (though there may have been construction earlier).  Now you can visit: Generalife (palace and gardens), Palacio de Carlos V (16th-17th-century Roman-style palace with circular inside and small art museum), Palacios Nazaríes (the most well-known with incredible patios, ceilings, and the quintessential tiles sold in souvenir shops around the country), and the Alcazaba (lookout point with flags and views of the city and surrounding mountains).  Quranic ideals flood the Palacios Nazaríes and Generalife in particular with patios of ponds, greenery, and fountains, paradise in the sacred book of Islam, as well as script from text itself.   

Once the Catholics took over the Iberian Peninsula, at the end of the 1400s by Ferdinand and Isabella (los reyes católicos), they continued using the Alhambra, described to us as a “city” by a local tour-guide.  But they destroyed the Great Mosque, and, upon that exact spot, placed a church.  Our tour-guide explained that a key to understanding the city is that the shift to Catholic rule did not entail eradication of all that had come before (though there was destruction).  So when he pointed out the Iglesia de San Gil y Santa Ana, he noted that the tower still looks exactly like a minaret, and still has the blue and white patterns from the time of Muslim-rule--it’s mudejar and reflects the coexistence of Muslim and Christian cultures.  

Today, the main cathedral of Granada is the second-largest in Spain.  We only got a brief look inside, but it seemed like one of the more interesting cathedrals in Spain visually.  The inside is a bright white--quite a change from the usual tannish brown stone.  The outside, though, does have that tan color, which makes the inside that much more exciting.  A mosque was here before, and it was destroyed and replaced with the cathedral.  According to Rick Steves, there was a plot of land nearby that would have been more suitable for the building of the cathedral, but the new rulers insisted on using the same plot as the mosque.  Also according to Steves, the “Ave Maria” at front-and-center of the cathedral’s facade was accepted by the Muslims because Mary plays a large role in the Quran.  This is just one of many tidbits of information that make Granada unique.  Though the religion in power shifted, there were still aspects of the previous culture that remained and kept it alive with the city’s inhabitants.

Instead of paying to go further into the cathedral, we decided we couldn’t pass on the Capilla Real--the burial site of Ferdinand and Isabel.  The right decision.  Though creepy in ways, the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs (as well as their daughter, Juana, and her husband, Felipe I) are aesthetically remarkable.  Carvings surround every side of the large cubes--the eternal beds of the royals--on which the monarchs lay.  On the tomb of Juana and Felipe, each monarch has an animal for a footrest and a pillow for their head.  On the other tomb, Ferdinand and Isabel have animals at their feet, but not below them.  All of the pillows are intricately carved with patterns and tassels.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Apparently some attribute Isabel’s large impression in her pillow, larger than Ferdinand’s, as a symbol of her intelligence.   

And if visitors aren’t already bombarded with the visual superiority of the monarchs, across from their tomb is the altar.  Not just any altar.  This is a humongous gold altarpiece filled with dioramas dedicated to various saints and biblical stories.  Two deaths of saints are centrally represented, one of which I remember for certain involves a beheading--one figure holds the head up next to the beheaded body.  Most interestingly, Ferdinand and Isabel are represented at each side of the altar on their knees praying.  The whole piece looks like a toy dollhouse, figures have skin-tones, eyeballs of color, vibrant outfits, and hairstyles.  The attempt at realism is alarming, as is the juxtaposition of this altar of colors-galore with the stone-gray tombs.  I’m not used to seeing life-size color sculptures of 15th-century monarchs.

Just beyond the tombs is Isabel's art collection, including pieces by Rogier van der Weyden, Sandro Botticelli, and Hans Memling.  Just before leaving are two sculptures of Isabel and Ferdinand kneeling in prayer.  These are the originals that were by the altar inside.  Ferdinand (I believe) didn't think they looked pious enough, or something like that.  Exit the Capilla Real, and you're back on the streets of incense.  To be continued...

Bespectacled in Madrid

How to

        Hello fearless future auxiliares & current teachers,

        I don't know about you, but even with very good insurance in the U.S. glasses for people with myopia can be extremely pricey. But in Spain--it's so easy and economical!! I have -3.25 in both my left and right eyes (meaning it's very hard for me to see things 3 feet or more away from me without extreme blurriness). Glasses are necessary for me, and maybe you too! 

        You don't need insurance in Spain to have excellent eye care. I walked down my posh street in Salamanca, Madrid to one of the many many chain Multiópticas.

Quick notes:

  • No contacts for 24 hours. They say it messes with the graduation for accuracy of determining your prescription and will turn you away, I know, not common in the States. 
  • No appointment needed.
  • They have deals as low as 2 glasses for 159€ INCLUDING: the eye exam, anti-reflective AND added protection for staring at screens. 
  • TONS of options! I'm super picky, and I found multiple that I loved!
  • You pay when you get your glasses. You may be asked to leave a minimum deposit of 20€ or you can just pay the whole price.

You don't actually see an optometrist like in the states. You will meet with a tech who'll complete your eye exam in literally 5 mins. You only need identification (TIE, passport) to proceed with an eye exam. They have literally the SAME equipment in the states. 

When you're in the eye exam, you are able to say the alphabet in English or Spanish, and you only need to know the words "mejor" (better), "igual" (the same), and "peor" (worse).

Depending on the business of the store, you can have your glasses within 1-5 business days. And there you have it! They were super nice, and so patient. I think I spent an hour trying on glasses, haha! 

IMG_1798

 

IMG_1799 IMG_1829

"4 eyes, 4 eyes you need glasses to seeee!" haha Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs reference. 

Signatura

Instagram: @kamalaalcantara

Follow the Music

The day in Málaga began beautifully - warm and sunny. The night before my friend and I had made a list of sights we wanted to see and now we were headed off in the direction of the first one - la Alcazaba de Málaga.

We arrived at the fortress wall, climbed up, and were rewarded with a lovely view of the city. We were slightly disappointed at how small the wall itself seemed, but decided to be on our way to the next item on our list.

We found a path and walked down it, came to the end, and had to choose which way to turn. Unsure, we were about to pull out Google Maps when, suddenly, the soft, twangy sounds of a violin echoed from a tunnel on our right. We peered down the dark passageway but couldn't see anyone in the bright glare shining from the other end. We made eye contact with each other, shrugged our shoulders simultaneously, and turned right. If ever there was ever going to be a moment when the universe sent us a sign to guide us, a violinist playing sweet music at the end of a tunnel certainly felt like it was one of those moments.

And our violin-guide did not lead us astray. As we stepped into the blinding, warmth-enveloping light at the end of the tunnel, we involuntarily stopped in our tracks, eyes glued to the splendid scene before us. This was the fortress we had come to see. Behind us, the wall meandered through the hills endlessly. Before us, the sparkling Mediterranean sea was framed by a bustling waterfront lined with little boats, and lush gardens and palm trees filled in the edges. We hiked up the steep path along the fortress wall, planted ourselves on a stone ledge, and soaked in the beauty of it all.

 Several peaceful minutes later, we descended down the fortress and were about to decide where to go next when we heard an electric guitar playing a slow song around the corner from us. Laughing to ourselves, we obediently followed the music. It took us to a lively plaza and up on our right appeared the ruins of a Roman theatre nestled into the bottom of the fortress. We nearly giggled with excitement as we stepped onto the crumbling stone, took our seats on one of the ancient benches, and imagined ourselves sitting for a play (the people-watching from our spot was just as entertaining as any Roman piece of theatre).

IMG_1788

So, for the rest of the day, we committed ourselves to following the music. It guided us to the breathtakingly beautiful Cathedral, to a giant, multicolored cube, a gorgeous waterfront with salty sea air and an adorable Christmas market, a bench with the perfect view of a caricaturist hard at work, and a quaint gelato shop with the most divine red orange flavored gelato we had ever tasted and probably will ever taste again in our lives.

 We forgot all about our list of “must-sees” and not once did we again pull out our phones to ask them where to go. We let Málaga and its music guide us to its little wonders and it made for an absolutely perfect day.

Día de los Reyes Magos

Christmas time in Spain is just as magical and wonderful as it is in the United States. Every city puts up a tree, festive lights are hung from the buildings, and children look forward to playing with toys on Christmas morning…

Oh wait, that last one doesn’t apply to Spain.

Gifts are most certainly brought, just not by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve night. Rather, it’s the Three Wise Men that visit homes and leave gifts the night before the twelfth day of Christmas aka Three Kings Day - el Día de los Reyes Magos.

I happened to be in a small port town in southern Spain called El Puerto de Santa María on January 5th, the day before Three Kings Day, and was treated to a spectacular show of festivities prepared for the occasion.

As I wandered through the narrow cobblestone streets, I suddenly found myself in the midst of Christmas music and crowds of children and families huddled together trying to catch a glimpse of the floats passing by for the Three Kings Parade. Children in costumes sitting on the floats tossed out candies, and the children in the crowd scrambled around with bags, gathering up as many pieces as they could and squealing with joy as they counted their treasures.

27398534_1570008616415576_1281965418_o

After the last float passed, I fell in line behind it and followed it to its destination - el Castillo de San Marcos. The magnificent castle was decorated with flags to welcome the Three Kings, who climbed up and stood between the stone pillars, telling the story of their visit to baby Jesus, and tossing out gifts to the children below. Jolly music and merry singing filled the air, along with puffs of “snow” and colorful confetti. The happiness of everyone there was palpable and infectious. 

27537089_1570008656415572_685215099_o

It was an absolutely marvelous celebration, and an experience I would highly recommend to all Spain travelers!

9 Reasons You Should Drop Everything & Teach Abroad in Spain

9 Reasons

Hello dreamers, world travelers, future auxiliares and teachers abroad, 

If you opened this, maybe you want a change in your life, thinking about living abroad, maybe you're on the fence about moving to Spain to teach--or you've already made up your mind and want a sign or more affirmation! Here's your sign--go, DO IT! As a recap, I'm Kamala, I moved to Madrid, Spain in August 2017 with the CIEE Teach Abroad program. I'm 27 years old, dedicating most of my adult life to higher education, educating university students and then homebuyers as a mortgage banker. My fiancé and I were falling into a tiny existential crisis--we have so many skills and degrees between each other and so much ambition. We knew we wanted to make a positive impact on the world...but first we wanted to know the world---we dreamed of traveling the world first! But, we didn't know how and didn't have much money saved at all. SO, we found a legit program that also married what we loved: education, the opportunity to make a positive impact abroad, the chance to learn and grow, and we could travel! Which brings me to my very first reason:

Retiro Park Lake

Adobo Stock Photo, Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
  1. You can travel Europe and to the gate of Africa CHEAP! By cheap what I mean is freakin' cheeeeap flights to another European or African country as low as 20€ ($25.00) ROUNDTRIP! You can stay in hostels for as low as 15€ a night (maybe lower), we stayed in a hotel even for 50€/ night in Paris (YES, Paris!!!). I even found a flight to the Philippines for 400€ (easily a $1200 flight in the U.S.). 

via GIPHY

2. As an auxiliar you only work 16 hours PER WEEK 4 days per week, I repeat: SIXTEEN hours per week & 3 day weekends! If you're already a working professional, you know that we work an average 40-60 hours a week easily in the U.S. and we STILL make time to have fun and have a social life, take selfies and "adult". IMAGINE, 16 hours a week of work,  you could find yourself, travel to over 20+ new cities and countries, make sooo many friends, actually go to the gym, sleep for 8+ hours, nap AND anything else your heart desires. We're paid 1000€ per month, that's plenty to live on--but I do suggest saving money before coming (at least $3000).

via GIPHY

3. Food & Drugs--Legal Drugs ;) -- are so affordable! During the weekdays, a lot of restaurants in Madrid have a "Menu del Dia" this is basically a hearty 3 course meal (including wine, beer or soft drink) for only 10-15€! In Spain, LUNCH is the biggest meal of the day! You'll find so many deals everywhere you go! With over 6,000 restaurants, you're bound to never run out of delicious affordable meals. Pharmacists in Spain have the amazing superpower to grant you drugs that normally need a prescription in the U.S.! In the U.S., when something minor ails us (headache, cold, 1st day fever) we usually go to Urgent Care or maybe even a hospital or primary care physician. Here in Spain, you can walk into a 12 or 24 hr pharmacy anywhere and tell the pharmacist your symptoms and right there and then they hand you medicines to alleviate your symptoms--even prescribing multivitamins and the like. For example, WITH INSURANCE, one of my prescriptions in the U.S. costed me $180 per month. Here it is $49/month. Ibuprofen is around $2.00. Antibiotics, cold medicines, and other medicines cost under $10 as well.

4. You can finally become fluent in Spanish! So many Spanish people in Madrid want to learn English, and meet up to have a language exchange. You'll also be surrounded by the beautiful sounds of European Spanish (Castellano) every single day. If you're already fluent, you can learn French or German or another language, you have 152 hours in your week you can basically do anything! When I first came to Madrid in August, I didn't even know how to order at a restaurant, have a regular conversation outside of small talk or even understand Spanish spoken to me. Now I can eavesdrop on the metro (just kidding), have intimate deep conversations, navigate different shopping situations in Spanish and converse with anyone I meet! I'm still learning everyday. If you want more tips on becoming fluent in Spanish, check out my blog about it!

5. It's a humungous Resume booster! Top employers in the U.S. are looking for leaders, self-starters and people with excellent communication skills. When you live abroad, you are faced with so many challenges and opportunities that will force you out of your comfort zone and beyond your limits. Living abroad changes you, it betters you and equips you with skills you can't possibly obtain living in the same country your entire life. You have to learn to navigate a completely different world and work with people with different cultural practices and beliefs. You might even add Spanish to your resume! If you're coming straight out of college, this would look impressive to a future boss or hiring team. Living abroad, away from family, far from friends--you learn to be independent, increase your own confidence and if you travel even further while living abroad, the possibilities for tremendous positive growth and enlightenment are that much closer. 

 

via GIPHY

6. The Spanish lifestyle is so different, lively and exciting! Most Spanish people do not start work until 9am, they don't eat lunch until 2pm and dinner is at 9pm or later. When you walk the center of Madrid, on a Tuesday around 11pm-1am, you'll notice hundreds of people out having dinner on the many many restaurant patios, laughing and talking very very late into the night. Clubs do NOT close until 6AM. SIX in the MORNING. Most Spanish people don't start to go out until 2am. If you're a party-goer or clubber you know that in the US, most clubs will close between 1:30-4:00am and the party doesn't start til 12am. Some clubs in Spain don't even open until 6am so you can keep the party going all night!!!! I know I didn't believe it at first but it's true.  Some clubs have live shows included in their entrance fees, and almost always come with a free drink or two. You'll find that ladies get in free before 1:30am at a lot of hot clubs too!

7. You could become a world-traveler. Besides being severely cheap to travel between European countries, EVERYTHING is super close to Madrid. You could fly to Portugal, Africa and several luxurious island/beach paradises in 1 hour; Paris and Rome in 2 hours, and Hungary in 3 hours. Before moving to Spain, in nearly the three decades I've lived on this Earth, I had only been to two other countries outside of the U.S.: Mexico (Rocky Point, of course--I'm from Phoenix, AZ!) and the Philippines (my mom's home country, and my 2nd home country). After living in Madrid for only 5 months I have been to over 5 more countries and I have planned travel to over 10 more countries in the next 3 months alone.

 

via GIPHY

8. You will make a positive difference in so many young lives. As an English language and cultural assistant (auxiliar), you have the unique opportunity as a native English speaker to impart Spanish children ages 3-18 with a required skill to obtain high-paying jobs. In Spain, many jobs require Spanish citizens to pass an English test (it's literally similar to the GRE and is tricky for me--as a native English speaker). Check out my blog on what a day in a Spanish school as an auxiliar looks like! Come teach abroad!

9. Build valuable connections and incredible new friendships (or love?) In Madrid, there are so many opportunities to meet and connect with people from across the globe, or someone like you who just wants to live life to the fullest and see the world. It takes a certain kind of person to travel to a new land and experience diversity on purpose! You're going to expose yourself to new people and sometimes that means a new friendship or even romance. I've seen it and experienced it first hand. Traveling here WITH the love of my life has strengthened our bond like never before. I've made wonderful new friends that have become like family. I've even deepened connections with friends back home. When you move away from home, you know in your heart who your true friends are--they are the ones who are still right there with you even though thousands of miles separate you. You have to see for yourself. JUST GO!

 

via GIPHY

Signatura
 

To see more of my adventures or if you have any questions or comments, follow me on Instagram! @KamalaAlcantara

 

 

It's Next Year!

It’s Next Year!  Happy 2018.

We meet again, blog.  How does it feel to be back, you ask?  Good.  And overwhelming.  Mostly good.  It was wonderful to see family and over a gazillion works of art in approximately 16 museums in 3 cities.  I am, however, tired.  Grateful and tired.  Transitions are always difficult.  And the weather in Madrid has not been its usually wondrous self!

I desperately have to get the students’ papers together so I can get back on track with them.  It’s hard, though, when every student is on a different page.  I’m still getting some to sign up for the blog, some are still giving me drafts of their short stories, some are already revising drafts I’ve given back with comments.  My appreciation for teachers just grows and grows…

Back to vacation.  Here are a few (really not a substantial list at all...) highlight artworks/art-places seen:

Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère (drooled, my mom and I photographed our own stellar interpretation of the painting in front of the painting)

Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe

Delacroix’s July 28: Liberty Leading the People (I heard the people sing)

David’s Oath of the Horatii

David’s Napoleon Crowning Himself Emperor (such a big painting)

van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (Als Ich Can ;) )

Chaim Soutine exhibition at London’s Courtauld Gallery

Museo Cerralbo (dripping with luxury, a must-see in Madrid)

Sir John Soane's Museum (why, a London townhouse filled with antiquities from ancient Greece, Rome, etc. of course!)

The furniture floor at the V&A in London (speechless)

The Morris Room at V&A cafe in London (spent more time with the Pre-Raphaelites)

Happy to see you again, blog!  More next week…  [not pictured: photos of my face, both with expression and expressionless, in front of treasured paintings]

P-1934-SC-234-tif-15319
Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883), A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882, Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
P-1934-SC-234-tif-15319
Jacques-Louis David, The Coronation of the Emperor Napoleon I and the Crowning of the Empress Joséphine in Notre-Dame Cathedral on December 2, 1804, 1806-07, Louvre, Paris
Server
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, National Gallery, London

Keep Me Updated