Spain is known for producing different types of wine from famous full bodied reds and crispy whites to cava and sherry. Not surprisingly, Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world. Being a wine lover that I am, I could not resist the temptation of visiting a few wineries during the harvest season. I was planning on going to Rioja, the most famous wine region about 3.5hrs outside of Madrid, for the past few weekends. Unfortunately, due to many obligations, it will have to wait for the next year. I was able, however, to arrange a one day trip to Castile and Leon’s wine region called Ribera del Duero, a land of Tempranillo, much closer to Madrid. It was a perfect fall day for excursion like this and together with two friends we were able to enjoy two wineries – one small, family owned and the other one – more commercial (Bodega Arzuaga). In the meantime we strolled the streets of adorable little town Peñafiel. What a beautiful day it was!
Over the past few weeks my life has been overtaken by reading, doing group projects, polishing my CV and attending a ton of networking and career events. I though I couldn’t let this craziness overpower me too early in the process, so I decided to go on a quick weekend trip to Valencia. I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things about Valencia but I didn’t research much before. I went with the flow. The city is located in the middle of the east coast and is the third largest city in Spain. That of course was a great opportunity to catch the last summer rays of sun on one of the city beaches, which we did as the weather was gorgeous. In the evening, before embarking on a long night of dancing till the early hours, we wandered around through the maze of narrow, romantic streets of the old town. It wouldn’t be a proper trip if I didn’t try paella which I mentioned in my last post. I found a restaurant which seemed to be a great choice according to the reviews. Despite the charm and the atmosphere of the place, the food was not as good as expected and left me a bit disappointed. Oh well…believe it or not, after eating out so much I am convinced that Spanish cuisine is just ok…shocker!
The next day a group of us went to the City of Arts and Sciences which blew me away. It is an architectural complex designed by world renowned Spanish architects – Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela. The complex is made up of 7 modern buildings which host a planetarium, oceanarium, a museum of science, an opera house and an art gallery. What is interesting is that some of the structures, which are located by the Turia river, are designed in a way to resemble an eye of knowledge, a skeleton of fish, and a water lily. The rest of the day was spent in oceanarium, which is in fact the biggest oceanarium in Europe, and sightseeing the city center. I highly recommend this city to anyone who wants to check out Spain. You cannot miss Valencia!
What do you think is a typical Spanish food? Some might say tortilla espanola, jamon iberico, empanadas or gazpacho. I think of paella…So what is paella? It is a rice dish, which originated from a Valencian recipe (hence often called paella Valanciana), often with meat (chicken and rabbit), white beans, vegetables, seasoned with saffron and rosemary. Other types of paellas include seafood or can be mixed (meat and seafood). The thing about that dish is that it’s not easy to make. The recipe might seem straightforward, but if you add too little of this, and too much of that, and if you cook the rice for too long/short or do all the process in a different order, you basically screwed up. A few days ago, as a group bonding exercise or ice-breaker so to speak, our MBA intake was divided into +/- 20 groups of inexperienced paella cooks. It was of course a challenge, and whichever group won, got a trophy, a few bottles of bubbly, and of course the title of the best paella chefs of September 2015 intake. My group was serious about winning. So serious, that we designated two seaoned cooks, and let them do their thing. We also delegated other people for roles such as: bartenders (someone’s gotta bring and drink that beer), dancers, photographers, chef supervisors and rice stirrers to mention a few (team work is what matters, right?!). I personally was a little bit of everything (I think it’s called a GM), but enjoyed taste quality control the most (“rice not cooked enough”, “too much salt”). The outcome was, I must say, pretty tasty. Unfortunately, it was not enough for the grand jury to pick us as the winner, but who cares! At least I know how to make paella now! If you’d like a challenge and make it yourself, click here for the recipe. This weekend I’m traveling to Valencia, the land of paella, so I’m curious to try the original recipe.
It’s been a few hectic days since I moved into my apartment (finally!). The time was spent on organizing it and because of that I was running around for a few necessities. Thankfully, I made it without a trip to IKEA which would not be convenient to get to. In the meantime, my MBA Program has taken off! The official ceremony took place in Segovia, a historical city with many architectural treasures including the Aqueduct of Segovia (dating back to year 50 AD), the biggest and oldest standing aqueduct in the world, and Alcazar of Segovia, the castle that apparently was an inspiration in creating castles in Disney movies. The opening itself was in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, which houses the IE University’s main campus. It’s worth mentioning that the ceremony took place in the church adjacent to the convent where Queen Isabella blessed Christopher Columbus before his trip to discover “India.” (How cool is that?!). The rest of the day was spent on mingling with new classmates, and I must say it’s probably the most diverse group of people I’ve ever been around (350 students from 65 different countries). It’s gonna be an interesting year!
Serbia, Poland, Costa Rica, Peru, USA
It’s been one day in Madrid and so far so…great! Except for one thing…the apartment that I’m renting with two other girls is not ready for us to move in yet. Our lease was supposed to start on August 15th…It turns out that during bathrooms’ renovation the workers have uncovered an issue that needed to be fixed and therefore the process is taking longer. Bienvenidos a Espana! On the bright side of things, we’ll have brand new and fully functional bathrooms (or so I hope). Luckily, one of my roommates’ family lives in Madrid and they were kind enough to let us all stay in their beautiful apartment until everything is ready. When I arrived to my temporary home, I was surprised with a warm welcome from Ariel and her family. I also received a welcome bag which included some notebooks for classes, (Spanish) wine and my new phone number. So thoughtful!
In the evening, when Ariel came back from La Tomatina (the festivities in Buño during which you violently attack each other with nearly rotten tomatoes ewww), we went for a quick jog to Parque de Retiro – a mini Central Park of Madrid. I must say this place is lovely! It has many paths for joggers, a few gardens with perfectly shaped trees and a mini lake where you can rent paddle boats (and let your date paddle you around).
First run in Parque de Retiro
I was surprised that when we finished our run it was still bright out at 9pm. It doesn’t get dark until 10ish this time of the year and it might be the reason why Spanish culture is a late night culture where you don’t typically eat dinner until 10pm.
Speaking of dinner, my first meal I ate in Madrid was…Indian food. A lot of people from my program have been here for a few weeks, diligently learning Spanish, and they must have been a bit fed up with Spanish food already. I love Indian food so I didn’t protest against this idea. What was more important for me was meeting all the people I was conversing with during the past few months. The evening ended with joining the other group of students at a more traditional place, Tapas 44, for a drink and a few more introductions.
The next morning Tanya, my third roommate, arrived from Costa Rica and the three of us started the day with a cappuccino and a jamon y queso minisandwich (called minibocadillo) at a local cafe, discussing the things we need to do before the official start of classes. We picked up our school IDs and attended an information session about living in Madrid (beware of pickpocketers!) One more week before I get buried in books!
My shorties Tanya and Ariel
I spent last weekend with my high school girlfriends in TriCity, where they currently live. TriCity is a metropolitan area connecting three cities – Gdynia, Gdansk and Sopot, which are situated adjacent to one other on the coast of Northern Poland by the Baltic Sea. The first city, Gdynia, is known for being the most important and busiest seaport (Port of Gdynia) which was built in the early XXth century. The next in line, Sopot, is a small seaside city and spa resort. This popular summertime destination is known for the longest wooden pier in Europe (511.5m) which is a popular tourist attraction and a venue for entertainment events. The last is Gdansk, a city of a thousand year history charms with its narrow cobbled streets of the Main Town, monster red-brick churches, and grand, elegantly slender and colorful buildings. You can sip on coffee in characterful cafes, shop for amber jewelry and visit intriguing museums. TriCity is a a two hour car ride from my hometown, Slupsk and because I have a family in Gdansk, I often came here as a child. A walk along Dluga Street in Gdansk’s Old Town was a must, and it never got old. Strolling along the familiar streets made me feel like at home.It felt amazing to be here again and observe the changes that happened over the years. I would definitely recommend TriCity as a place worth visiting in Poland. Enjoy the photos!
I spent 2/3 of my life in Poland and 1/3 in the U.S. My biggest struggle after living abroad for such a long time is…where is my home? My immediate family lives in the States but we have a house in Poland that my parents build over the past few years. Although I never lived in it, it feels like home. It’s an oasis. It’s a place where I reset, recharge and forget about everything. There is nothing better right now than waking up in the morning and eating handpicked raspberries from the garden and drinking coffee on a terrace. Nothing better than lying in a hammock under the shade of trees on a sunny day. And nothing better than watching falling stars on a beautiful night on a clear, non polluted sky.
So this is it…The day has come and I’m on my way to Poland. Packing was successful and I ended up checking a bag that was about 6 pounds below limit (but my mom filled it with 6 pounds of candy…). As always, I arrived at the airport too early so I’m snacking on crackers and hummus at the United Club (found few expiring passes in my wallet 😁). Few tears were shed today and a few more goodbyes were said. The ones with my family were the hardest because I won’t see them for a year. I’ll miss Chicago but I’m taking my Chicago spirit and pride with me by wearing a Blackhawks shirt all the way to Europe 😃 Adios!
I thought that the worst part of moving to another country was packing (which I’m struggling with anyways). I couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the past nine years of my life in Chicago I met a wonderful group of people who I am proud to call my friends. I am leaving lots of great memories here but I am also excited for the new memories we are going to make when you come and visit Spain. I could not be happier to have met you all and I am definitely going to miss you. Until this day I felt like I was going on vacation but saying goodbye to everyone made it so much more real. And that is the worst part of moving.