Christmas Market at the Plaza Mayor
Christmas spirit has arrived to Madrid! I didn’t know what to expect in terms of Holiday decoration but I must say, Madrid did not disappoint and looks gorgeous. The streets are covered with beautiful lights, which by tradition are turned on the last Friday of November, and other Christmas ornaments. The main Christmas Market is located in Plaza Mayor which is filled with a vast array of stalls mainly with decorations, Christmas trees, and artisan products. Unfortunately, it does not have a feel of Christkindlmarkt from Chicago. I miss the hot, spiced wine, rowdy atmosphere and closeness of familiar people. For that reason, I substituted hot wine with some churros and hot chocolate at a famous Chocolateria San Gines. I haven’t had any churro since I arrived here. I know…horrendous!
Churros & Hot Chocolate
It’s also not cold for December, which is of course fantastic, but wearing a light leather jacket with no gloves, hats, and scarves is a bit weird. I do not miss the shivering for sure though 😉 After walking around the city on Friday evening it was time to hit up the movie theater and see the last part of Hunger Games: The Mockingjay. It was definitely worth it!
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!
Puerta de Alcalá
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!
Old Town in Gdansk with its colorful buildings.
The view of Gdansk from the tower of St. Mary’s Church, the oldest brick church in the world (XII c.)Motlawa River and Gdansk Eye.
With my high school girlfriends after a night out in Sopot.
Sunrise in Sopot.
Gdynia, decided to go on a crazy ride!
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.