Happy belated Thanksgiving and welcome to the blog post I’ve been trying to write for the past two weeks. The day after our last post, November 15, started as a normal Wednesday – a sleepy Amanda heading to campus for a long day of work, but everything changed around 10 AM. Before heading to campus, Derek bolted out of bed and made his way out of the apartment for “coffee”. Although he has never gone out of his way to get coffee especially at 9:30 AM on a Wednesday, I thought nothing of it and 15 minutes later grabbed the garbage and headed downstairs. As I turned right on the sidewalk to head to the metro, I saw Derek standing on the corner talking to someone. He saw me coming and started walking towards me stammering on about how the bakery right across the street from us doesn’t sell coffee so he was asking people on the street where to have coffee. I was very impressed with his confidence to practice his Spanish. Even more impressing, he offered to take the garbage and throw it out for me. You’d think at this point I’d realize something was going on. Nope. I say bye and start walking to the metro. As I turn the corner, I run into someone standing right next to the building. Annoyed at the inconvenience, I looked up and that annoying stranger was actually my annoying best friend!!!!!!!!!! (Kidding Cara – you’re not annoying) Cara surprised me! So. Badly. I can honestly say this was the biggest surprise and most shocked I have been ever. The surprise can be heard in my voice. Let me know if you have ever heard a voice so high. I finally accept Derek’s nickname for me “little mouse”. Oh, and then Derek proceeded to hand the garbage back to me so I could throw it out.
Derek and I had planned our trip to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, back in October and shortly after Cara surprised me I panicked thinking she wouldn’t be able to come. Those sneaky snakes (Derek, Cara and my mother) had already planned everything out and Cara had her flights to come to Tenerife with us! So, Friday morning we left Madrid for our weekend getaway. Following my well-constructed itinerary, we had a packed schedule. Friday afternoon we explored the area around our hotel and enjoyed some dinner by the sea. We ended the night rather early as we had a 6:30 AM wake up call to go see Mt. Teide, the island’s volcano. They have a cable car that stretches up the volcano. This was the most anticipated activity of the trip (minus the Monkey Park for me) and we wanted to make sure we would have enough time to explore so we arrived one hour early before our scheduled departure. We rented a car for the weekend so we could see as much of the island as possible. So, we drove the hour and a half from the hotel to the base of Mt. Teide, arriving at 8:30 AM. The difference in temperature from the coast to around Mt. Teide was drastic and my “winter” jacket did little to nothing for me. Shivering and sleepy we waited and waited and waited. Finally, at 10 AM, one hour after the set opening time, we decided maybe we should ask someone what was going on. The cable cars were going up and down with staff on board, but no one else was allowed on. Turns out, the cable car was closed for the day due to ice. We were furious, disappointed and cold.
We hopped back in the car to drive the hour ride to a town on the west coast of the island, called Garachico. Discouraged but warm, we parked our car and made our way towards the water where we enjoyed gorgeous views, the bluest sky, reflections in the natural pools, and some paella. Our lunch was delicious and interestingly enough, the pigeons were really keen to join our lunch. Cara, with a preexisting fear of birds, almost flipped our table twice and Derek had a pigeon legitimately grab his arm. We are still unsure what the pigeon’s end game was, but either way I don’t think either will ever look at a pigeon the same. Me, on the other hand, I was fine. The birds definitely recognized my calm aura and love for animals and decided not to torture me.
Ornithophobia (yes, I looked that up) aside, we left Garachico after a few hours of enjoying the sea and the sun and made our way down Playa de los Gigantes. About an hour drive from Garachico, the beach was located closer to our hotel on the south coast. We made it in time for the sunset and enjoy the remarkable view. Side note: my camera’s battery pack has been broken, but I finally got a new charger just in time for this trip and Playa de los Gigantes did not disappoint. After enjoying the sunset, we drove back to our hotel and collapsed into bed.
Sunday, our last day in Tenerife, was beautiful. We headed to the beach in the morning for about an hour and soaked up some much-needed vitamin C and then packed our bags and made our way to the Monkey Park. Monkey Park is basically a zoo, but one of those zoos that you can interact with the animals. In this instance, as soon as we entered the zoo we were met by, I kid you not, at least 100 guinea pigs. Although separated between three different enclosures, the guinea pigs were able to squeeze through the gates and move freely between the slots in the gates. I never realized how much I loved guinea pigs until this day. I fell in love with all of them and never wanted to leave. We were also able to feed little monkeys; however, they were extremely sneaky and smart. They knew what we wanted, to have them climb on us as one naturally wants a wild animal to do, but they just wanted the veggies we had to feed them. It took a little practice, but we all ended up having the monkeys on us. As adorable as all the animals were, we were very disappointed with ourselves for supporting a zoo and I still have regrets about it. Before heading back to the airport, we drove to a nearby beach town and enjoyed the view once more and inhaled some delicious tapas. Our trip seemed to fly by, but it was one of the most beautiful places I have visited and I wish we had more time there.
The rest of Cara’s time here was just as fun. Unfortunately, I had class all day, but Cara was a go-getter and explored the city on her own. She also met up with family friends because the Singers know someone everywhere! I wish I didn’t have to go to class, but we made the most of the rest of our time together and I couldn’t be more thankful for our very first visitor!
And now for the condensed version from Cara’s point of view:
HOLA from Derek & Mandy’s first, most surprising & best visitor!!!!
Somehow managed to keep my big mouth shut and pulled off the biggest surprise by flying to Madrid and freaking Amanda out on her way to class at 9 am- there were major tears after Amanda stared at me for 20 seconds as if I was a stranger (Derek, here’s your 83% credit for NOT ruining the surprise).
Highlights of the trip- getting attacked by birds, listening to Amanda and Derek bicker, driving up a mountain & being above the clouds, going to a monkey park and spending half our time with guinea pigs (if that’s not the oddest animal to have in a zoo, don’t know what is), embarrassing myself with my lack of Spanish speaking skills besides “Si”
And now Derek finishes up his next two weeks in Madrid before heading back home for a month or so. I will try to survive my final projects, papers and exams before flying back home for Christmas. See Grandma, I told you it was go fast.
Enjoy Derek’s latest from Tenerife. Hasta luego.
It’s been a quick minute – sorry about that! Derek and I have been busy perfecting our new apartment and going about our daily Spanish life. It’s funny how crazy moving to Madrid sounds when you’re in New Jersey, but now that we’re here, it’s just home (for now – settle down).
Like I mentioned, this past week and some has been all about purchasing everything we need for our apartment, finding our rhythm and enjoying much-needed quiet time. Some may argue (Dad) that this is a vacation, but let me assure you, while it is definitely not commuting into NYC 9-6 every day, it’s not exactly the same experience as my time in Barcelona. As expected, my master’s program is intensive and many times means 12+ hour days. However, when our classes were cancelled this past week, my classmates acted like middle schoolers the day before summer vacation. You would’ve thought we were given a full reimbursement for the degree – a girl can dream. Because my program is a short 10 months, we have “crash courses”, which involve a week focused on one class for 6 hours a day. Our first crash course on ethics and corporate governance was supposed to be this past week, but due to the professor’s illness, the course was rescheduled for term 2. When I heard the news, I immediately looked up flights home and then swiftly talked myself out of it and appreciated the $900 I didn’t spend on a flight. But of course, I still miss my people.
So instead of flying home, I spent the past week doing many errands that I had been putting off, as well as exploring our beautiful city. We shopped around the weekly El Rastro Market, explored the Tabacalera Promoción del Arte, and visited the stunning Royal Palace. Derek, my friend Ale (pronounced Ally) and I spent the whole morning and afternoon enjoying the elaborate decorations and rooms filled with armor. Fun fact - although the royal family does not currently live in the palace, the palace is still regularly used to host other important people to drink very important tea. Waiting on my invite - will keep you all updated.
Most recently, we spent our entire Saturday in the charming city Toledo. Located about a 30-minute high-speed train ride away, it is the perfect day trip from Madrid. We spent the day walking through the streets, admiring the many religious buildings and taking our jackets on and off. It was an insanely gorgeous day in the sun and a very chilly day in the shade. Don’t you worry, I wore three layers and a scarf. While we do enjoy visiting the many tourist attractions, Derek and I have a deep appreciation for nature and enjoying the quieter parts of the cities we visit. We visited a common landmark, Mirador del Valle, that allows visitors to enjoy a full view of the city. While we admired the city and I popped an excederin for my migraine, Derek saw some rocks up a mountain and decided that was our next destination. My headache didn’t improve on the way up, but somehow was magically better once we reached the top. Haters will say it was the excederin. I say it was the warm sun, comfortable rock and silence. We left the top of the rock, made our way back down to the center and nibbled on some tapas to hold us over until we were back in Madrid.
Enjoy some pictures, but more importantly don't forget to watch Derek's video!
Despite the brevity of this blog post, we do have something exciting for our lovely readers! In the last video Derek created, he hid a set of numbers in one of the scenes. Now the ~fun~ part, if you are interested in a receiving a tiny gift from Spain, go back to the last video from Manzanares el Real and pay careful attention to when I am shopping in the local market. When you find the set of numbers, comment them below. The first person to find the numbers wins the prize! Confused? Too bad. Best of luck!
Ps. Our weekly special people shout out below.