Ferias de Sevilla

 

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My IE Business School Crew

Only six days after coming back from South Africa, I’m embarking on another trip. This time it’s a very quick one, down south of Spain, to Sevilla.  I could not pass this one by, as I was dreaming about going to Ferrias de Sevilla since last year when I saw it on Snapchat Story (that’s how you find out about things these days).

Ferrias is a week long festival where women and men get to dress up in their finest traditional outfits – women in spectacular flamenco dresses and men in suits with sombreros. Every evening, people dance sevillana, drink wine, and eat tapas. All of this takes place in casetas, special tents that are temporarily built for the fair and beautifully decorated.  These casetas belong to prominent families, groups of friends or associations and you need to know someone to get into one of them. Our group was lucky enough to be invited to one of the tents by an IE student from Sevilla, which made our experience unforgettable.

We arrived to Sevilla at 3pm on a Saturday. Girls changed into traditional outfits that we collected last minute in Madrid and the guys put on their finest suits. When we got to the fairground, we were transported into another world. Our heads were turning left and right as we were watching spectacular outfits, beautiful women and handsome looking men. I’m glad we collectively decided to dress up and blend in the crowd because we felt a closer connection with the tradition and culture of that place. We were taught how to dance Sevillana and had an absolute blast all night. Another great trip with a great group of friends. Check!

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Beautiful dresses at the fairground
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The rain didn’t stop us from having fun
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Managed to put together my costume few hours before
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True Sevillanas!

 

 

 

 

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Carnival in Tenerife 

 Carnival in Spain is a pretty big deal. It starts some time in February and finishes with the “Burial of the Sardine” on the night of Ash Wednesday which marks the first day of Lent. Yes, the Spanish burry a Sardine and the whole ritual has a sense of a festive mourning with a parade, music and dancing. Since Carnival in Tenerife, one of the Spanish Canary  Islands, is known to be the biggest, the wildest and turns out – the longest (it ends the weekend after Ash Wednesday) in Spain, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to relax before the final exams and experience local customs. Why not… 

    Along with three friends we arrived to Puerto de la Cruz, the northern city of the Island on a Saturday morning. We were hungry for some sunshine and since the weather was delightful we headed out for a walk around the little town and to the black sand beach, which I’ve never seen before. My observation of the day…black sand does not dirty your feet at all! It does not stick to feet so you don’t have the problem of “sand in your shoes.” 🙂 As we continued our stroll, there was one thing that quite worried us – the town looked like a destination for retiree’s retreats…We wondered whether we picked a wrong date to see the carnival. However, we quickly realized that younger crowd was just sleeping through their hangovers from the previous night of partying.

Since we were joining the parade in the afternoon we were on a mission to buy masks, which we did not have problem finding. I went for a seductive gold & black 😉 We dressed in completely unmatched costumes picked from random items collected from different events like Halloween or IMBA unite, which made us look ridiculous, but we couldn’t have more fun when we joined the parade and walked the streets of the city dancing and waving to the crowd (#carnivalqueens). The costumes of others blew our minds. Families and groups of friends were perfectly coordinated and creativity went through the roof (trust me, so much better than any Halloween costumes I’ve ever seen before). An interesting thing was that most men were dressed as women wearing tutus, tights, wigs, and makeup. I don’t know if that’s the Carnival thing or a Tenerife thing, don’t ask me but it was certainly entertaining. My absolute winners were a group of lady bugs and a group of sexy female (I mean male) firefighters.  The second, and the last day, was spent in the main city of Tenerife – Santa Cruz, in the southern part of the island. Since the weather was even better than the day before, we hopped on a bus and went to a man made white sand beach (Playa de las Teresitas) which was beautiful. Our luck ended after 15 minutes of sunbathing when we got unpleasantly surprised by the rain. Ariel found it a great opportunity to go for a 45 minutes swim (she’s a mermaid after all), while the rest of us went to a local beach bar which served delicious mojitos….and that’s where the story ends….

It feels like Christmas 

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!

Shopping Therapy

Being a (female) student = no spending = NO SHOPPING. That’s a frightening perspective to have for one full year especially when you have a “passion for fashion” (or shopping problem if you will). Up to date I was pretty good about it due to lack of time for such fun activities. But the time has come as my wardrobe choices grew smaller and my needs (or rather wants) grew bigger. I decided to release my accumulated stress and go for a therapy to my one and only Spanish love – Zara. I must say I have three of them within walking distance…(it’s like Starbuck in the US – on every corner!). Right of the bat, when I entered the biggest Zara store I’ve ever been to (3 levels of women’s clothes), it was clear that Zara’s Spring 2016 collection is the flashback to the 70’s. I must say that floral-embroidered maxi dresses, tie-neck blouses, furry finishes, and wide-leg denim are not really my style. I’m trying to remember when was the last time I wore wide-leg denim…maybe in high school. I like my minimalist, classy, non flashy style, so I don’t think I’ll convert this upcoming spring. That being said, it would not be me if I left empty handed…Here are some of my recent Zara finds.

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Valencia

 L’Umbracle in the City of Arts and Sciences 

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!

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (Museum of Arts) and L’Hemisfèric (Planetarium)L’Oceanogràfic 

 Inside the Shark Tank

Paella

 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.

Back to School

 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