It is one of the mantras that you will hear very often in Madrid – not for its literal meaning of “nothing happens,” but the real translation, which is: “Don’t worry, be happy.” Madrileños live with that attitude. Life in Madrid is wonderful.
I am now participating in the SMU-in-Madrid summer program. It is a very intense program focused on Spanish language and culture, while living with a local family, using local transportation, and eating as much local food as possible – and at the same time, obtaining 6 credit hours through your major or minor. That really sounds like a dream come true.
In our first Saturday, we went to El Escorial and El Valle de los Caídos. El Real sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial is one of the Spanish royal sites and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum and school. It is also known shorthand as El Escorial or the Escorial.
Before we went into the palace, we encountered a businessman who was selling pine nuts, and almonds that were coated with salt and sugar. Every little bag of pine nuts came with its own nutcracker. It does not get more traditional than this. He was so thankful that we stopped and bought some of his merchandise.
After we finished our visit to El Escorial, we went to El Valle de los Caídos. We were told that this beautiful and impressive place creates a lot of conflict among Spaniards as it is a surviving artifact of Franco’s rule. We were there to admire the enormous monument and to try to understand a little bit more the culture of Spain.
I believe that food is always the most representative object in any culture, and Spain has a lot to offer, but before I start I have a confession to make: Behind the Foundation where we take our classes, there is a VIPS. Not the most gourmet of places to eat, or traditional for that matter, but it was so close to home (in Mexico), that I had to go inside and eat. I am not going to narrate how the food was, I am only going to say that every once in a while, it is OK to eat the food that makes us comfortable or is close to home, even if it is not local.
Now for the really good stuff! After a fantastic day of taking the tour bus around town, and playing tourist, I stopped in downtown Madrid for some local cuisine. My first dish was Ensalada de patatas con salpicón de mariscos, y (and the second was) Cochinillo horneado con verduras. The pictures do not get even come close to showing how good these were! I can’t wait to try tapas y cañas while in Madrid. Hopefully you will be reading about that in my next blog.
¡Hasta la próxima!