Top Social

Christmastime in Madrid

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Madrid is particularly stunning during the Christmas season, and I can't seem to get enough of how festive the city looks right now. Various Christmas markets have taken over plazas, colorful lights adorn the city streets, and sparkling Christmas trees are scattered throughout the city. 

In the past two weeks I've gone on countless adventures to seek out the most festive spots in the city. Some of my favorite places right now include the charming carousel next to the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, and the "Dulce Navidad" market in Plaza de Isabel II that exclusively sells candy and other sweet treats. 

While I'm soaking up Christmas in Madrid and loving every minute of it, I'm also getting incredibly excited to come back home to the States for Christmas. Christmas markets are great and all, but nothing quite beats spending the holidays with family and friends. See you in one week, Seattle!

Alcázar de Sevilla

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I arrived to Sevilla half a day before my friends did, so I spent my afternoon wandering around and redisovering some of my favorite spots in the city. My first stop was the Real Alcázar, Sevilla's stunning royal palace that was originally a Moorish fort. While this may have been my fourth time visiting the Real Alcázar, it felt just as magical as the first time. The palace itself boasts some of the most spectacular mudéjar architecture in southern Spain, while the lush gardens create a picturesque, exotic paradise.

While its history is fascinating, I preferred to spend this time around getting lost in the colors, architecture and intricate details of the palace. Going to the Alcázar simply to enjoy its beauty rather than to check a box off my sight-seeing checklist gave it a whole new meaning to me. Instead of rushing through a hurried bucket list of sights to see, I actually took the time to appreciate and experience its breathtaking complexity.

Everything about Sevilla is entirely captivating, and I'm already daydreaming about going back. So, who's coming with me?

A Taste of Seville at Casa Paco

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's a well known fact that Seville has some of the best tapas in Spain. I've held this truth near and dear to my heart (and my stomach) after my many trips to Seville in 2010, but sometimes it's nice to have a healthy reminder of just how delicious the food is here. I'm all about sightseeing through my tastebuds, you know?

Casa Paco undoubtedly makes my (ever-growing) list of favorite restaurants in Spain. Located outside of the touristic center next to the Alameda de Hercules, you'll only find locals and savvy food connoisseurs here. I indulged on the chicken with onions and mustard sauce, while my friends savored eggplant with goat cheese and honey alongside marinated fish and peppers. We also shared the bacon wrapped dates, which were arguably the best thing I ate all weekend. 

Alameda de Hercules, 23

(Sidenote: If you're looking for more amazing restaurants in Seville, be sure to try out one of my favorite restaurants in the entire world, Taberna Coloniales. Life-changing is an understatement.)

Rediscovering Sevilla

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sevilla is like Disneyland for adults with its quaint cafés, enchanting palaces and majestic cathedrals radiating charm and beauty. The musical horse drawn carriages gallop down the cobble stone streets, making the city come to life. The sweet scent of juicy oranges fills the air while the amber sunlight gently kisses my face, inviting me to stay here forever. Bright splashes of red, gold and pink explode across the city, as the sophisticated and delightful people embrace the captivating enigmas of flamenco dancing, bullfighting and the most delicious tapas in the world. Sevilla is truly the essence of romantic Spanish culture.

We spent the weekend soaking in the city's vibrant personality and flamboyantly Spanish charm. Coming here for my fourth time gave the city a brand new flavor. I was beyond thrilled to be back in my favorite city in all of Spain, and I reveled in pure delight as I remembered how to navigate the streets just as well as I had several years ago. Rediscovering Sevilla with new eyes and a fresh perspective brought me so much joy.

Sevilla is simply magical. While I still prefer living in Madrid, nothing quite compares to the enchanting beauty of Sevilla. This city will always have a piece of my heart. 

Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 28, 2013
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! While I'm still bummed that I can't celebrate with a gluten free American Thanksgiving feast here in Spain, I feel profoundly thankful for everything else in my life right now. Although 2013 has been a year of monumental transitions, I have so many things to be grateful for this year. While my list could go on and on, I feel particularly blessed by all of the following:

My Friends

Growing up is hard. Now more than ever we are all sorting out which friends are here for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I'm incredibly grateful for my lifelong best friends, who have encouraged me and loved me through the toughest of times. We're all going in different directions and embarking on new adventures, and although I wish I could be in Seattle/New York City/Orange County with them every day, the physical distance between us irrelevant. I love you guys so much.

My Job

How I managed to score a well-paying job in one of Europe's most struggling economies is completely beyond me. Nevertheless, I feel incredibly blessed to 1) actually have a job, and 2) work at a job that I genuinely enjoy. While teaching English is exhausting, it is incredibly fulfilling. Even when they're being little monsters, I love my students with all my heart. And nothing cures a case of the Monday's quite like getting tackled by 25 kids at once screaming, "We love you teacher Courtney!"

Since Spain doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, it's my job to explain to my kiddos what it's all about. It's hard not to play favorites when some include me on their turkey crafts!


It's a well known fact that my first time living in Spain didn't go so smoothly. Thankfully, living in Madrid is pretty much the opposite of living in Cádiz, and I couldn't be happier here. (I take that back. It would be awesome if Madrid had a beach. But I digress...) I'm so blessed to live in a city that I actually click with. Every day I'm reminded of something that makes me love Madrid even more. Yesterday I stopped dead in my tracks and realized, "Wait a second, it's November. Why is it sunny outside?!" As a native Seattleite, I had forgotten that sometimes it doesn't rain 3/4 of the year in other places. Like, where did the rain go, you guys? It may be freezing here, but a sunny November is a novel concept to me. I don't hate it.

Life in Madrid is undoubtedly enriched by my roommates, coworkers and friends I've met here. I'm thankful for the community that I'm building, the support system I can rely on, and the adventure buddies I can explore the world with.

and most importantly...

My Family

The beginning of 2013 brought some adverse times for me, and I couldn't have survived without the support of my parents. Their love, encouragement and wisdom kept me afloat during those times when I didn't think I'd make it through. My parents are and always will be my best friends, and I am lucky to have them by my side for constant support (even if they're an ocean away). Also, this past August I gained a new stepdad and stepsister! I lucked out with two new superb additions to my family. Every day I am grateful for the many ways in which my family supports me and helps me grow.

So with that said, I hope everyone has a wonderful Turkey Day! (And don't worry about me completely missing out, I'll surely be stuffing my face with all of my favorite gluten free Thanksgiving dishes when I come home for Christmas!)

Autumn in Retiro

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Between my love for pumpkins, brightly colored leaves, wearing boots and scarves, apple cider, butternut squash, football and Thanksgiving, autumn is undoubtedly my favorite season. While I initially felt disappointed that I'd be missing out on a beloved Pacific Northwest autumn this year, I'm quickly realizing that fall in Madrid is a truly magical time as well.

While the city is generally lacking in nature (especially in comparison to the ubiquitous greenery of Seattle), the undeniable presence of fall can still be found in Parque del Buen Retiro - my all-time favorite spot in Madrid.

I spent the majority of last week sick and cooped in my apartment, so this past Saturday seemed like the perfect day to take advantage of the autumn sunshine and take a stroll around Retiro. This is the only place in Madrid that truly feels like fall to me; the trees are adorned with vibrant reds and oranges, colorful piles of leaves scatter the ground, and the crisp autumn air remains untainted by the surrounding city life. While I do wish the rest of the Madrid felt just as much like autumn, I suppose that's what makes Retiro so magical.