Tag Archives: Spain

Life reflections at the Reflection Pool in Madrid

By Rohan:

I am not religious by nature. I was never forced to abide by my parents’ religious beliefs and I try to learn about all faiths to gain a greater understanding of people. It recently occurred to me that I’m a very spiritual person. Not spiritual in the sense that I look to the stars for my future, spiritual in the sense that I am aware of life’s mysteries and believe that not all of them can be solved with science.

I’m currently sitting at the Parque de Oeste in Madrid. It’s a peaceful evening. The full moon looms overhead, acting as a spotlight on one of Europe’s liveliest capitals. It’s relatively quiet. Only the shutters of tourists’ cameras and faint sound of dying evening traffic are able to disrupt the still reflection pool at the Templo de Debod. Most visitors come here to see the sunset, but they only get half of the story. While dusk provides dramatic vistas of the city with skies that seem to be painted in dreamy shades of blue, there’s something oddly calming about nights here.

I turn around to the Plaza de España. In the distance, I hear a few street performers crooning. The moon stares right back, its light causing the Royal Palace to glow. Today reminded me that everyday life is tumultuous. We’re constantly worrying about what’s next, who we have to impress, where we have to go. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it”. Much like life, travel can be hectic. My friends and I all have a myriad of things to do before our semester abroad comes to a close. Today’s visit to the temple taught me something. Life isn’t about the main event. We spend so much time fixating on it that we forget how beautiful everything around us is. We all lead hectic lives with jobs, school, family, and friends taking over most of our decision making. It doesn’t hurt to take an evening to appreciate everything. To look into the still waters of a reflection pool and find peace, even if it’s in the heart of the city.

First Impressions of Madrid: Europe’s Hidden Gem

By Rohan:

From Gaudi-filled Barcelona to festive Ibiza, Spain appears to be the king of European coastlines. I remember falling in love with Barceloneta beach, its sunny shores the perfect complement to a fruity Tinto de Verano. It is hard not to fall in love with the Spanish people. I know I did, and that’s why I decided to spend my semester abroad in Madrid. Spain’s capital is completely landlocked, and most of its other cities are on its perimeter, making it not as frequented by tourists as some of Catalonian cousins. That being said, it took less than 24 hours to fall in love with it. Madrid is livable, lovable, and filled to the brim with life and excitement.

There are few cities in the world that make the kind of first impression that Madrid does. Whether you arrive into the stunning international terminal at Barajas Airport or the garden-filled paradise that is Atocha Station, Madrid delights the visitor from the start. The city has one of the best collections of art anywhere. The Thyssen, Reina Sofia, and Prado museums form a triangle of culture that is only rivaled by Paris, New York, and London. Many of the city’s main squares are within easy walking distance of one another, and feature amazing tapas, refreshing sangria, and picturesque architecture. As a college student living in the city, I could not be happier with how many free attractions Madrid has to offer. The Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple donated to the Spanish government, is situated in a park on the west side of the city, and from here, watching the sunset is the perfect way to end the day. Just across Madrid’s old square (the Plaza Mayor) is the Mercado de San Miguel, a 19th century market with plenty of cheap eats. And of course, Retiro Park is a people-watcher’s paradise. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, an ice cream and a grassy spot in the shade can be a perfect way to spend a few hours.

That being said, Madrid is one of the most livable cities in Europe. The government has clearly put a lot of effort in maintaining its historical charm, meaning that the city is clean, safe, and accommodating to tourists. Madrid also has one of the best public transportation systems anywhere, and I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient the Metro is when it comes to getting around town. Madrid combines the best of its European neighbors. It is a melting pot of Rome’s regal streets, London’s hip nightlife, and Paris’ trendy fashion scene. It combines old world charm with modern and efficient transportation. It is the perfect place to spend a few months. I’ve barely scratched the surface but Madrid, you’ve got me hooked.

Tapas restaurants line La Rambla–Barcelona’s buzzing shopping avenue

By Rohan:

Having never tried tapas prior to my Spanish adventure earlier this summer, I was told by friends and family alike that the cuisine was solely geared towards carnivores. This stung quite a bit, as I was hoping to have my first experience with this Spanish staple while exploring Madrid and Barcelona. A quick Google search did not help, as every response seemed to warn vegetarians like myself that tapas simply isn’t for us.

Luckily, that’s all a load of garbage.

Tapas can be vegetarian-friendly, and the wait staff at many authentic Spanish restaurants are willing to cater to vegetarians by substituting meat out of popular dishes. Even the veggie options on tapas menus are to die for, as they are composed with an eclectic range of vegetables and topped with savory sauces and spices.

While walking down La Rambla in Barcelona on our first day in the city, we encountered a quirky tapas bar named Luzia. The interior was beautifully decorated, and featured a 20-foot-long paper-mache dragon hanging from the ceiling–quite a way to make a first impression.

The menu had options that were to die for, especially for our limited diets.

We fell in love with patatas bravas, fried potatoes with a drizzle of spicy tomato aioli and mayonnaise.  I didn’t even know I liked mayonnaise until I tried this Spanish favorite.

Fried artichokes and crispy corn also found their way into our meal, and by the end, our bellies were filled with flavorful, authentic dishes and of course, plenty of refreshing Sangria.

Overall, the meal was an absolute blast, and proved that vegetarians can enjoy a traditional Spanish meal without feeling left out. For more information about Luzia, visit