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Te dejo Madrid, a tu boca de anís

Color. Contrast.
Stalwart classicism of a city defaced
by modern ideas and notions of revolution.

Madrid was just a six hour bus ride south of my home in Oviedo.
On every finde I felt its dynamic spirit coercing me to come visit.
Finally, at the end of March [2012], Annie and I meandered to the ALSA platform and hopped the next bus to Madrid.

The route was familiar, and I had it memorized by that point, as Madrid is the central mecca through which all routes pass.
Every twist through little Spanish villages, stopping to pick up frequent riders,
the gorgeous green mountainscape of the Asturian principality that welcomes you in or bids you farwell as you cross the border into stark plains of León, where the rain really does mainly stay.

We boarded with our weekend bags and an e-mail to a host from CouchSurfing, content to wander and experience Madrid as it would have us.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent on arriving.” 

– Lao Tzu

We wandered the streets of Madrid, exploring every little alley way.  I love the strong, looming buildings, dotted with eccentric life below.

Here are a few of our discoveries:

The Mercado de San Miguel

Great for a go at a round – or five – of tapas!  We made a few rounds just to be sure all the food was up to par and met code requirements of deliciousness.

Street Life

Spain in general has some crazy findings on the streets, but Madrid takes the cake.  Barcelona has a lot of weirdness because it’s meant to be colorful, but Madrid is just in its natural state with layers and layers of oddities.

Of course, I wouldn’t acclimate to the culture as well if I didn’t participate in the strike with the lot of them.


When in Madrid…


Annie was desperately looking forward to a bullfight as part of her Spain bucket list, and what better place than at the Plaza del Toros in Madrid?

The drizzle outside had a different idea.  We waited for about twenty minutes for the matador to come out in the ring, but nothing.  And then the Spaniards got passionate about their bullfight.

passionate bullfight

Don’t mess with the bullfight.

After another 15-20 minutes, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the match was cancelled – and it had stopped raining.  Angry booing ensued and seat cushions (5€ a piece, mind you) flew overhead into the ring, until the place emptied out.


Well, that went well.

…y Luego…

The rain didn’t let up much, so we popped in to get some tea at Gran Vía and did a little reading on the city while we tried to dry off and warm up.

write it out

Write it out

And what would a cold afternoon in Madrid be without some churros y chocolate?

churros y chocolate

You complete me.

CouchSurfing and the Music Scene

Our CouchSurfing host, Jay, was an incredible musician.  He and his band, Youthness, had a gig the first night that Annie and I went to support.  Jay has an incredible voice and is a ball of fire in a sweet little package.


Jay is a great artist

That night on the metro, we sang Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”.  He sang lead and Annie and I sang back up for kicks.  We accumulated a little immediate audience.  Every time I hear that song, I think of zooming through the Madrid underground.  Likewise, every time I think of Madrid, that song pops in my head, and I think of the good vibes at Quintana Nation (Jay’s place).

The next night, Jay took us to Café Berlin jazz club in the centro, where some of his musician friends were doing a tribute to a late Argentina jazz and blues musician. We wound upstairs and were welcome into a salon packed with some of the most talented people in Madrid.  Once again, it was a great experience.

café berlin

Café Berlin

And later that evening, we walked across the centro to BarCo, where more of his friends were playing some amazing jazz.  Annie and I had a crush on the lead singer from Portugual.  She had such presence!  I also had a crush on the Argentine trombonist.  It was a night from another realm.  I was sweating, intermingled with rhythmic bodies that felt the soul of the beats.  There was a lot of laughing, singing, swiveling, and dancing.


Fresh air after a long night of jazz and dancing!

We were pretty spent by the end of the night.


A little silly

My first experience in Madrid was incredible thanks to Jay.  CouchSurfing really is the way to go to see a new side of a city!  It’s akin to running parallel to all the other tourists, but actually traveling, and seeing a world that is right below their noses that they will never experience because the places aren’t on a map.  If you head to Madrid, I definitely recommend checking out the broad music scene.


We saved the masters for last.  Two trips to the Prado museum and one trip to the Reina Sofia crowned our time in Madrid.  Standing before so many masterpieces I’ve only seen in textbooks was like meeting a phantom face-to-face.  I loved the vibrant Spanish flag waving atop the Prado against the blue sky.  The Spanish deserve to be proud of the centuries of art prodigies that they boast.

Madrid is a city to be visited over and over again, and you will never see the same thing twice.  I visited a handful of times and would visit a dozen more.  It has an unspoken elegance, a pride in its history, and a claim to all things progressive and modern.



Comentarios Literarios Hispanoamericanos del Siglo XIX.

Sounds sexy, right?

If you don’t speak Spanish, pretend like you’re in a Taco Bell commercial, then say it again.

This class is a contradiction, like all of my experiences in Spain thus far.

The roughest class I have this semester.  Interesting, but let’s be honest: I have no idea what the Helsinki Finland is going on.  Our professor mentioned that on the final we won’t have any reading samples from what we read in class, but we will have to identify the author of readings that we did not discuss in class.  Makes sense, right?

The teacher is a beautiful Spanish woman – thin, great boobs, gorgeous mop of morning-after curls, trendy, a smooth voice and an incredible passion for her field of interest.

In this classroom we have a hearty mix of students.  There are but a couple of us that are not Spanish.  And then you have your popular Spanish girls, your awkward wannabe popular Spanish girls, your token hipster, a middle-aged non-traditional student, a couple loners, and one single male student.

This post is dedicated to him.


About a month ago, we were reading the 1839 piece “El Matador” by the Argentine author Esteban Echeverría.  I remember that day in class vividly because it was the day my innocent American hormones went AWOL and became intoxicated by the literary sangria of Spanish culture.  It was not only the first day of the semester the professor asked for class participation due to a losing battle with laryngitis, but it was the day she called on Rodrigo.

Rodrigo…Rodrigo.  Each time that name rolls around the hollow of my mouth, I trade in cotton pajamas for black lace lingerie.

Rodrigo sits in the front row every day donning his coke bottle glasses and clad in sweaters, khakis and loafers.  He nervously bounces his legs under the table as he holds a bottle of medicated lotion he frequently applies to his flaking, red, patchy, burned skin.  He’s always the first and only to interject a commentary in class.  Clearly, he spends his free time pouring over these obras with his lit major friends; everyone knows who they are because the small handful of them hang around in the hallway between classes, sitting in archaic window sills next to the classroom and chatting quietly about what I – as the daydreamy foreign student – imagine to be planning sessions for poetry reading and wine nights at a local underground bar.

They’ve got this vibe of coolness.  Geek chic.

But oh, Rodrigo.  I was on to him.  His savage afro of sandy brown curls hinted to his secret.

On that day – that day when I became a real woman – I knew why this boy’s mother named him Rodrigo.

Profesora Gil asked Rodrigo if he would read.

This sweet dork-of-a-guy pushed his glasses up high onto the bridge of his nose, stood up and walked right to the projector screen where he planted his nose so he could see the already enormous letters.

And then he began to read.


…what was this feeling?!?!

I lost all control over my ability to focus.

I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair.

I felt the words rip open my chest and plunge their primal hands into the core of my soul, the factory where raw emotion and carnal desire is manufactured.


I was confused.  Here I was staring at the Spanish equivalent of Steve Urkel, but having a lustful affair on my own personal cover of a Harlequin romance novel.

Rodrigo became the author with a quill by candlelight, glancing over at the love of his life wrapped in a sea of white linen, quietly resting on the bed.  Rodrigo read like a debonaire, deliciously exotic Spaniard whispering sweet nothings into my ear.  Rodrigo was Brendan Fraser taming horses in George of the Jungle, except in this version Rodrigo was taming wild lines of poetry.  (If you are unfamiliar with this scene in George of the Jungle, you must watch it…it’s a hot, comedic, melodramatic moment.)  This nerdy kid beneath the plastic frames swallowing his face transformed into the most sensual guy I’ve come across in Spain.  His voice read each word with the longing and sensuality of an unfulfilled love, holding and caressing each one individually as if each line was his lover.

Please hold while I sit very unladylike and let a draft lower my body temperature just a little before continuing.

There are no words in English or Spanish that will do justice to the beauty that Rodrigo conveyed.  His voice trumped all prejudice the world may throw at him.  Beautiful.  Tender.  Tranquilizing.

Now when I’m wandering the second floor on campus, I’m secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  And when I do, I’m twittered, even if just from the mountain of respect I have for his knowledge and passion of written word, and his amazing ability to read even the most confusing texts so beautifully and deliver their meaning with such devotion.  And sensuality.  Let us not forget that little gem.


Way to go, Rodrigo.
Ten points to Gryffindor.