Buen Retiro Park

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Recently, I discovered that Retiro Park is only a short hop, skip and a jump from my host family’s house and it’s a fairly large park. Now it’s not Central Park per say, but it is a nice park and I can see myself coming here often on sunny afternoons to come and read a book or wander around. I might even attempt to go running in the park (if you know me, you know running isn’t really my thing) but its nice 🙂 There’s little secluded paths, large roundabouts, little parks, dog parks, a lake, soccer fields and tennis courts! They even have a little work out corner (or so I assume) where you can do pull ups and the like. I can’t wait for it to get warmer so my friends and I can go rowing on the lake. I’ve never done that and I think it would be great! This park seems like the perfect place to spend lazy, warm afternoons and I can’t wait for it to get warmer so I can grab a book and a blanket to spend the day soaking up the sun and being lazy 🙂

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El Rastro and Lazy Sundays

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In Madrid, practically everything closes on sundays. Everything that is, except for El Rastro. El Rastro is one of the largest flea markets that I’ve been too and it happens every sunday in Madrid. Located a short walk from Plaza Mayor and covering multiple metro stops, this flea market is bigger than any NYC street fair.

Leather notebooks

Leather notebooks

Clay piggie banks :)

Clay piggie banks 🙂

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I didn’t buy anything, but there’s no doubt that I’ll be back here. I didn’t see the entire place (and we spent at least an hour wandering) and I really do want to see it all! It had clothes, gas masks (I know what?), bags, undergarments, furniture, art, etc. I’m pretty sure they had everything that you could possibly want! I can’t wait to go back! If you’re ever in Madrid, this is definitely something that you should check out! Just make sure that you’re aware of your stuff because there’s a lot of people and it’s quite a easy place to get pick pocketed.

Getting on Track

So now that classes have started, we’ve stopped going on these really cool, yet somewhat yawn inducing (due to the lectures) trips around Madrid. But it’s okay, I’ve got plenty of time to do that on my own 🙂 So far my classes all seem interesting and so far the work load isn’t too much. Which means I got to check out a few bars the past couple of nights.

El Tigre:

I can’r say much seeing as the minute I got there, my friends rushed me to get a drink and then rushed me out of the place so they could get on the last metro. From what I could gather as a hasty first impression, the sangria has a lot of sugar in it and the bar seemed, well empty. But I’ll be happy to give it the benefit of the doubt and head back there one of these days. I mean I was literally only there for 10 minutes.

Gabbana 1800:

Free drinks and no cover from 12:30 to 1? Yes please. My friend got to talk to the club promoter the day before we went, so we got to skip the line of Madrileños waiting to get in and literally be the first ones at the open bar. True, the drinks tasted like they had no alcohol in them, but they were free so who’s complaining? Apparently it’s a thing in Madrid in which every wednesday a bar has no charge for entrance and drinks for about 30 minutes. however, I’ve only heard this from one person so I’m unsure if it’s true :p I’ll let you know when I do more “research” on the topic.

Those are it, but I believe my friends and I are going to try and hit up some more bars and discotecas this coming weekend! I’ll let you know if I survive!

Hasta Luego!

Mimi

Segovia!

One of MANY quaint little streets

One of MANY quaint little streets

So today, at 9 AM, we all met to go to our day trip in Segovia. Segovia is only about an hour’s drive away from Madrid and it is absolutely one of the prettiest cities I have ever been to. Despite the fact that it was cloudy and that it was threatening the rain, the buildings and the sites all took my breath away.

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As soon as we parked, we divided into our groups and walked to different areas of Segovia. Our group, along with a few others, headed near the Cathedral and stopped by a little cafe for some cafes (and sandwiches/eclairs/cakes). After that, we walked along quaint little streets to Alcazar of Segovia. Now this palace was very exciting for me, a large disney fan, because it was apparently one of the castles that inspired Walt Disney’s trademark castle 😀

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Isn’t it gorgeous? I thought it was. And the little girl inside me squealed with delight. As did my friends Jessi and Jess, who are also disney fans. We wandered through the palace which, despite the size, was done at surprisingly fast pace. Interestingly, this fortress had military origins that made it impregnable and was key  for the control of Castile. It was here that Isabella the Catholic set out for the main plaza to be proclaimed queen. We went through the courtyard, a foyer-esque place with suits of armor (for both soldiers and horses), a small room, a throne room, a wonderfully decorated hallway with a beautiful mural, a few more rooms and an inner church. We then got to climb up a tightly winding spiral staircase and emerged from the tower to see the layout of Segovia spread around us!

The view from the tower!

The view from the tower!

 

After Alcazar of Segovia, we headed to te Cathedral of Segovia and that was another breathtaking site within itself. The Cathedral was extremely late Gothic in style and it was built to replace an earlier Romanesque one. It was also ridiculously huge!

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After that we wandered through the Sinagoga Le Mayor (Corpus Christi Church for the Jewish community) and then walked down to the aquaduct! This was another amazing site! The aquaduct is 2000 years old and still manages to deliver potable water to segovia from the mountains. How amazing is that?

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Well I’m quite tired and need to get ready for an out-and-about excursion with other NYU Madrid students in different barrios (neighborhoods) tomorrow, so hasta luego!

 

Mimi

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Before I say anything, let me just tell you, I’m SO tired from wandering around Madrid and being bombarded with Spanish history lessons. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, but it’s hard to focus when you’re tired and today everything my professors were saying sounded like nothing but Spanish gibberish. As in I understood that he was speaking spanish and I knew a bit of what he was saying, but I couldn’t retain/comprehend it. Whew, hopefully it won’t be like this all semester. I love NYU Madrid, but I think they’re overwhelming us with some things just a tad too much.

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After class, my room mate and I decided it might be best to return to our room for lunch in our barrio (neighborhood) and a short siesta. Unfortunately, while lunch was delicious, it lasted a long time (note to self: When eating lunch in Madrid, expect the quickest lunch to be somewhere between 30 min to an hour) and again we didn’t have time to have a short siesta before we were pushing ourselves out the door for El Reina Sofia (a museum). We did however find this little gem of a cafe no more than 10 minutes from our home stay, by the way did I mention how DELICIOUS the food is here? My señora also makes mouth watering food and I just can’t wait to ask her to teach me some recipes 🙂

El Reina Sofia is chock full of 20th Century art: Picasso, Pablo Serrano, Pablo Gargallo, Juan Gris, Julio Gonzalez, Georges Braque, you name it. Before you read any further, I want you all to know I’m not the biggest art buff and so I don’t frequent museums often. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of modern art. It’s hard to interpret and sometimes I find a piece of art that I’m pretty sure I can recreate myself. You know, the one with the paint splatters? Give me a blank canvas, some paint and I’m sure I can make something very similar. All jokes aside,  I thought that it was pretty cool and the tour given by another NYU Madrid professor was super interesting and full of the history of each artist. However, I did regret that we weren’t given the chance to wander through the museum on our own accord. Believe me, while it’s informative, I cannot find anything more aburrida (boring) than having to stand in a corner of a museum (unable to really SEE the art) while someone is talking, talking, talking about the backstory of artists I’m not that interested in. Especially since it was in Spanish and my mind had decided to leave the building, as in it didn’t seem to want to mentally translate and retain the information that’s spouting out at me. I found a few pieces of art that I could stare at forever, but I feel that my first visit to the Reina Sofia was definitely not a good one. While the art was intriguing, the tour made it kind of boring. I don’t think it helped that my tour guide would have us standing in the hallway for 5-10 minutes (which has no art) to simply talk about the history of an artist. Granted, I felt bad because my professor seemed genuinely interested and he was saying some very interesting things, but it felt like I was back in the classroom and personally, I’m not a huge fan of that feeling when I’m in a museum.

Well I’m off to bed, we’re off to Segovia tomorrow morning and I have to be up bright and early. I’ll let you know all about before I take a siesta and head off to the discotecas! I can hardly wait to experience the famed Madrid nightlife for the first time!

Hasta mañana amigos!

Old Madrid

So today after our classes, we traveled around Old Madrid for a bit. While the rain was a bit of a damper, the tour itself was anything but. We started off at Plaza Mayor, which according to my professor, was built in a closed off geometric shape to maintain the power of the king despite the rapid growth of the population. Apparently they held a lot of propaganda related events in the Plaza Mayor to maintain order within Madrid. There are only  two original buildings left within the Plaza Mayor.

This happens to be one of them

This happens to be one of them

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After that we wandered around the streets of Plaza Mayor, stumbling across gorgeous little plazas, churches, and other buildings. Some of the buildings were built with an Austrian style, while others were more modern. Apparently there is an imperial church near the Plaza Mayor and the aristocracy had a road built around the Plaza so that they wouldn’t have to walk through the Plaza, where they could be seen by everyone.

My professor had wonderful tidbits about all the buildings, roads, and etc. Not only did I find cute shops with amazingly cute zapatos (shoes), I found the Madrid equivalent of New York’s Chelsea Market! It’s called Mercado de San Miguel. Our tour guide took us in and bought us all sangrias to warm us up 🙂 Did I mention our tour guide is one of the professors at Madrid? And that I absolutely love him? He’s this sweet elderly professor and he’s by far one of the nicest Madrileños that I have encountered (well all NYU Madrid faculty are the sweetest). We had been walking around in the cold and then it started to drizzle. We all agreed it was time for a little break. And then I had my first churros con chocolate there. It was delicious, though I’m old the best place for churros con chocolate is San Gines. I’ll let you know when I taste it for myself. But for now I’ll leave you with some photos of my adventures in Old Madrid 😉

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Mercado de San Miguel (aka Madrid’s version of the Chelsea Market)

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Zapatos de españa. According to my tour guide, it’s typical for spaniards to wear these during the warmer seasons and when they go to the beaches

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Just another pretty square on casual street. The raindrops reflected the flash making it even prettier

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One of the many churches within Madrid

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Just a casually quaint spanish street

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Sangria break

All in all it was a pretty awesome tour. I got to get to know new people (some who knew some friends from New York, proving how small the world can be) and I got to know more about Madrid. Tomorrow, we’re going to the Reina Sophia Museum!

Hasta luego chicos!

Mimi

Samoas


Yes you read that right. I found a recipe for Samoas or caramel di-lites, at Sweet Kiera’s blog and decided to make them for myself! Because well, why wouldn’t you? You can find the original recipe here. I was a brownie back home in Japan, but we never got to sell actual girl scout cookies. I think it was because they didn’t ship the girl scout cookies abroad? Because of this, we sold plain ol’ sugar cookies that weren’t even girl scout cookies. My mom has the recipe still taped to one of the cupboard. It’s called “the Unofficial Girl Scout Cookie recipe.” Bleh. Anyway, so my first ever encounter with the real deal was freshmen year at NYU and they were amazing. I loved the thin mints and the samoas, which is why I nearly died when I came upon this samoa recipe. Pat also loves samoas, so that was another extra incentive to get baking.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!

Ingredients:

Base:
-1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-2 cups AP flour
-1/4 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp vanilla
-1 tbsp milk (or not)
Topping:
-12 ounces Coconut flakes
– 3 cups chewy caramels
-3 tbsp heavy cream
-8-12 ounces chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the coconut until a single layer on a roasting pan and place in the oven. You want to toast the coconut until it’s a nice golden brown. Be careful though, once coconut starts to brown, it can easily burn! I recommend taking it out and tossing the coconut around every 2 minutes (although Kiera says 5, so I assume 5 is okay too). While the coconut is toasting, begin assembling the caramel. By that I mean unwrap the soft caramels and place them in a bowl. 
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until well combined. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and add it to the butter mixture.
  3. Once everything is well combined, add in the vanilla and mix until it forms a dough. If the dough is still crumbly, add a bit of milk (little by little) until the dough is nice and smooth. Kiera says to roll out the dough and place it in the fridge, but since I didn’t have the space in my fridge, I simply wrapped the dough (divided into two) in the plastic wrap and chilled them for at least 30 minutes.
  4. If you haven’t rolled out the dough, do so on waxed or parchment paper. Then using a circular cookie cutter, cut out the cookie shapes the dough. Now you can use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the center, but I simply used a thumbprint cookie method. As in I used my thumb to punch out little circular holes in the center of the cookies. The dough is really delicate, so it’s recommended to cut out the cookies (about ½ an inch apart) straight on the baking sheet and then peel away the excess dough.
  5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until they become a nice golden brown. While keeping a close eye on the cookies, begin making the caramel. Add in the heavy cream and heat at 30 second increments in the microwave. Once the mixture is melted and well combined, combine it with the toasted coconut and set aside.
  6. Melt the chocolate and set aside. Once the cookies are completely cooled, transfer on a wire rack. You want the cookies to be completely cooled or they WILL break. They’re very delicate. Top with the coconut/caramel mixture and then using a spatula or a ziploc bag, drizzle on the melted chocolate.
  7. Now comes the hard part that I always tend to skip because I never have enough chocolate (I really should start to measure it). Place the remaining chocolate in a small shallow bowl and picking up the cookie very carefully, dip the bottom in the chocolate and place on the wire rack to cool. I think it might be best to layer the wire rack with wax paper so the chocolate doesn’t stick. It’ll also help with cleanup in that there will be no drips of chocolate on the table under the wire rack!

My mommy and my sister LOVED these samoas and I think that’s an accomplishment because my mom hates things that are too sweet! I took some to the dentist as well (how ironic) and they were so pleased (another irony). I think giving people stuff that you bake gives it a lot more meaning than simply buying something (not to diss on those who don’t bake). It just shows that you care because you invested the time and effort.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post! I’ll definitely be making these again. It’s without a doubt my favorite recipe (along with all my other recipes :p)

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi