Archive for October, 2013

Top 10 Things to do in Madrid

October 31, 2013

A couple of weekends ago, we were in Madrid for about 72 hours. I decided the Madrid tourist card was not worth it. Also, a public transit pass is definitely not worth it. You’ll really only need transportation between the airport and downtown. And for that you should use the Airport Express Bus (5 Euros and not covered under the metro pass). You can easily walk around downtown to see all of the sights.

To sum up my experience, here are my top ten things to do in Madrid:

10. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina SofiaI only put this on the list because if you are into modern art, this is a must-see. I, however, am not, and thus was not too thrilled about this museum. But it’s one of the famous trio of museums in Madrid, so we saw it anyway.

9. Corpus Christi Convent – A really neat area with lots of old buildings. At this convent, the nuns make a special selection of cakes and treats you can purchase, although they did not have anything for sale the weekend we were there (the sign said to come back on Monday).

8. Mercado de Fuencarral – On Calle Fuencarral you can have a great shopping experience. And this three-story shopping area has some really unique clothing, including absolutely adorable 50s-60s inspired pieces.

7. Mercado de San Miguel – A great market hall to wander through specializing in seafood and drinks. We tried the sherry sampler from The Sherry Corner. It definitely expanded my (very limited) knowledge on sherry. Fresh oysters were also a must in this mercado. And there is a really interesting fish tapas that looks like a bunch of cold noodles piled on top on bread, but it’s fish. I dubbed it the “fish brains” tapas. It’s called Gulas (the article mentions its made from eels, but now it’s made from fish). It’s really good!

6. Buen Retiro Park – Such an expansive park. We especially enjoyed walking around the artificial lake to the semicircular colonnade with the monument to Alfonso XII. There is also a rose garden which had roses in bloom even in October!

5. The Royal Palace – The largest palace in Europe, boasting 3,418 rooms. Excessive? Naw…  It’s certainly one of those must-sees. I think the audio guide is worth getting.

4. Museo del Prado – This museum houses much of Spain’s (and the world’s) greatest art pieces. We particularly loved works from the 18h century and Goya’s dark period.

3. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – Art from 13th century to present day. Majority of works in late 19th century. Great collection of impressionist pieces.

2Almudena Cathedral – Ever wonder what a modern Cathedral the likes of Notre Dame would be? Wonder no more. This cathedral, officially completed in 1993, is so modern and yet is decked out in such grandeur to easily compete with famous Gothic Cathedrals around Europe.

1. See a Flamenco performance! We went to Casa Patas. An intimate performance space in a back room of a restaurant. 35 Euros gets you a seat with a drink of your choice.

I loved Madrid. Such a lively city with so much to see and do. It was my first time in Spain and hopefully not my last!

Almudena Cathedral from the visitors entrance.

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Château de Chillon Converted to Haunted House

October 17, 2013

Last weekend, Château de Chillon had it’s annual “la nuit de l’épouvante” or haunted house night in celebration of Halloween. I heard haunted house and I was in. I grew up on this stuff. Walking through an old mansion converted into Halloween wonderland? Yes please. I’ve seen some freaky stuff in some of the haunted houses back in the states. It’s certainly a sure-fire way to get an adrenaline rush (at least for me). So I was thrilled to see there was a haunted house in Switzerland, as I wasn’t even sure they celebrated Halloween at all.

Now, my worry was whether it would actually be a haunted house.  All of my Google searches weren’t turning up anything on what to expect. Not even on the official website did they have sufficient information. So we decided to go evaluate it for ourselves.

Chillon covered in cobwebs

And I’ve got to tell you, going to the Château de Chillon is a great experience for everyone living in Switzerland to see. But…the consensus was: if you don’t have kids, then you should maybe plan to visit the castle another day.

In fact, they should pretty much rename this event “Children’s Night at the Castle.”

Well, at least everyone was dressed up

It is absolutely not a haunted house. At least not in the sense of an overly decorated maze through a building with gruesome sights and strangely dressed actors to startle you at every corner. No. There was none of that. Instead, there was face-painting, raclette and a couple of kid-friendly Halloween-themed activities.

So, to all of you out there who may be interested in checking this out in the future, I have saved you the time. Not a haunted house. But, hey, if you do have children and want to take them out in their costumes, this is the event for you!

Probably the best part of our night was getting this unique view of the castle.

6 Month Reflection

October 13, 2013

It’s been 6 months!! I would say I’m in shock, but really, come to think of it, a lot of life has happened.

What I Accomplished from 6 Months in Switzerland:

  • Travel. Lots of travel. Saw much of Switzerland thanks to my handy GA pass and visited 5 new countries for the first time.
  • Language Learning. Made it through 2 intensive German courses (and still feel like I only barely have a grasp of the language).
  • Getting Connected. Started a new young person group at ZIWA.
  • Volunteering. Became a leader on an event team in the Red Cross.
  • Musical. Got connected with the English Theatre Group of Zug and performed in a musical.
  • Grad School. Applied for and got into Grad School. Yep, that’s right — I’m a future MPA candidate at USC!

Our Biggest surprise:

How long it’s taken to get settled. We spent a little more than half of our 6 months in temporary housing. And because of various engagements and external factors, it’s taken forever to make our home feel, well, homey. We got our lights installed (all except two, that is) last week. Yeah, that’s right, we spent over two months living by candlelight. Kinda romantic, really. I got quite used to it.  And just today we are finally breaking down the cardboard that we haven’t managed to give away.

We are still missing some key furniture items and curtains. And our housewarming isn’t until November. Which is kind of pathetic for having lived in Zurich for over 6 months.

But this just goes to show how long it’s taken to feel like we have a home here. To let it really sink in that we live here now. Seattle may still be home in many ways, but Zurich really is coming to be our sort-of temporary home.

———

So, what is this unemployed hausfrau going to do with the next 6 months in Zurich? Well, the MPA program is online and starts in January. Therefore, I think I’ll have something to keep me busy with not only the next 6 months, but much of the next 2 years.

Here’s to another 6 months of living the expat dream!