The Top 5 Things I Did in Seville

So funny story. After our time in Madrid, Eric and I were supposed to head to Barcelona to wrap up our trip. But it had been overcast and drizzly in Madrid and looking at the weather forecast they were calling for rain in Barcelona as well. While Eric may have more than his share of sunshine in Cairo, it’s severely lacking in Copenhagen and I really wanted to soak up some rays before returning. So we looked at the weather around Spain and noticed that it looked especially nice in Valencia and Seville. One coin flip later and we were booking bus tickets to Seville.

Best coin flip of my life. Read on to see all the things I enjoyed doing so much in Sevilla!

1. Eating, drinking, and drinking some more

(Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

No, I was not an alcoholic in Seville. But we did enjoy  plenty of Sangria: a pitcher during our first lunch, a pitcher after dinner to enjoy the lovely evening, a pitcher by the water on our last day. The delicious drink was almost always accompanied by some equally tasty food. The best food memory from the trip was the night Eric and I decided to try our hand at making paella at the hostel. While we were cooking one of the adorable women who ran the hostel came in and started making Spanish tortilla and some sort of spinach and cheese dish. Then a couple girls from the UK who were staying there came in and mixed up a couple (more) pitchers of sangria. In the end, we all gathered around the table on the outdoor terrace and shared our culinary concoctions. The food was good (really really good), but the company was better.

2. Seeing the sights (and soaking up some rays)

We really knew nothing about Seville before we arrived, but we quickly realized that there are a lot of cool things to see in Seville! And most of them–blessedly–allow you to be outside in the sun. While this might be awful in the middle of a hot Sevillan summer (when it’s the hottest city in Europe), I was loving it in Novemeber. Over the next few days we went back and visited:

The Seville Cathedral: the massive mosque turned cathedral in the center of town, which includes a very tall minaret turned bell tower that has a great view of the city (more on that later).

Alcázar: the moorish fort turned royal palace which is architecturally similar to the Alhambra but quite possibly has even more extensive and beautiful gardens (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

The Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza (The Bullfighting Ring): Though we did not actually get to see a bullfight (I'm not sure I really would have wanted to), the ring was pretty beautiful, especially on such a sunny day. Hint: Click on the photo to make it bigger and you can see the ring in Eric's glasses!

The Waterfront: Although it's a beautiful view on it's own, the waterfront is especially good for people watching and enjoying a little sangria and cheese! (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

Oh, and then there was the Plaza de España. But more on that later…

3. Enjoying the view (and soaking up more sun)

As I mentioned above, the view from the Cathedral tower was pretty incredible...

But we were also lucky enough to have a rooftop terrace at our hostel (which was in a 500 year old jewish mansion, by the way) with a view that was not too shabby. One of my favorite afternoons we just sat up there in the sun with the towers of Seville surrounding us, enjoying an afternoon snack of Iberican ham and manchego cheese, while Eric attempted to teach me to play chess. Not a bad life, eh? Watching the sunset from up there wasn’t too shabby either.

Sunset from the roof (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

4. Plaza de España, Plaza de España, Plaza de España (sun, sun, sun)

I probably could have spent my entire time in Seville just hanging around this sunny plaza. We first came as part of the walking tour and then returned on our last day and spent almost the entire afternoon there just lounging around on the stairs and listening to some street performers play flamenco. I could talk more about it, but I think I’ll just show you pictures…

Approaching the Plaza

Beautiful bridges and tile work

Enjoying some flamenco music (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

Just hanging out on the tiled balconies. Pretty standard.

5. Watching flamenco

On our last night we went pretty classy and made reservations at this restaurant that had a free flamenco show. It was the perfect way to wrap up our Spanish vacation: several hour long dinner, paella, Sangria, flamenco. I was enjoying myself too much to document the show there at all, but if you aren’t familiar with flamenco you should definitely check out the video below of a street performer in Granada!

In case you couldn’t figure this out, the trip was all around fantastic. Thank you for bearing with my long posts–there was just so much I wanted to share! And with another trip in my near future and the Christmas season already here in Copenhagen, there will be many more things to share during my final month abroad.

The Top 5 Things I Did in Madrid

After returning from Granada, Eric joined Chris and I for five fabulous days in Madrid. Here are my favorite things that we did!

1. Eating ham & tortilla

Thumbs up for bocadillos! (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

Because Eric has been studying in a Muslim country and has therefore been suffering from lack of pork-products (specifically bacon), I took him to the Museo del Jamón for his first meal. It seems to be some sort of chain restaurant in Madrid, but they have walls covered in ham legs and a euro menu of bocadillos (simple Spanish sandwiches consisting of one topping on a baguette) so we ended up frequenting it during our time in Madrid.

As much as I loved the Spanish ham and chorizo, my favorite was a bocadillo with Spanish tortilla on it. Unlike the flatbread Latin American tortilla, Spanish tortilla is a meal in itself. It’s an egg-based dish and is kind of like the birth-child of an omelet and a quiche with a lot of potatoes and onions thrown in. It’s hearty yet tender, and especially delicious when paired with some flakey bread. I’m getting hungry just writing about it…

2. The Almudena Cathedral

I’ve seen so many churches during my time in Europe that I probably wouldn’t have gone in this one if Eric hadn’t wanted to check it out, and boy am I glad he did. The Almudena Cathedral, located adjacent to the Royal Palace in Madrid, is the most eclectic cathedral I’ve ever been to. It was kind of like a contemporary art museum inside–traditional religious works were up next to very modern stained glass and sculptures, the ceiling was covered in the vibrant patchwork of geometric shapes, and the prayer room was decorated with floor to ceiling sparkling mosaic depictions of religious scenes. Rather than feeling religiously imposing and gaudy, it was more interesting and inviting. I highly recommend stopping by if you’re in Madrid.

3. Spending time in public places

The popular bubble man street performer in Plaza Mayor

Because people in Madrid socialize in the streets rather than in the home, the city is full of excellent public places to spend time in. Plenty of my time in Madrid was spent doing just that: sitting in a park or a plaza, catching up with my good friends from back home, and watching Spanish life pass by. There are also plenty of street performers around for added entertainment. One morning in Retiro park we were even lucky enough to get an hour-long sax performance from across the lake!

Another great space to check out if you’re going to Madrid is the Atocha train station. Not only is it pretty amazing architecturally, there’s a giant palm tree forest inside that’s pretty cool to walk around. When we were there, there was an exhibit of photographs related to the Russian railroad. Random, yes, but also interesting.

4. Hitting the museums

Madrid is also full of museums. We went to the two main attractions: the Prado and the Reina Sofia. The Prado is more traditional and renaissance art, which isn’t my favorite. The most interesting thing there was Goya’s black paintings, which were the pieces he originally did on the walls of his home while he was going crazy and nearing death. They’re pretty gruesome but very interesting.

The Reina Sofia is full of contemporary art and much more down my alley. This included several works by the crazy Dalí and Picasso’s Guernica. As part of the Guernica exhibit, the museum also has a bunch of his sketches and studies done in preparation for painting this major work. I love seeing the process of great artists almost as much as I like seeing the final product, so I thought this was a very well done exhibit.

A quick tip if you’re planning on visiting museums in Madrid: if you plan it right, you really shouldn’t have to pay admission. If you’re a student you can get in free to almost all of the museums with your ID, but for the rest of you most of the museums have free hours or days. Check the schedules before you go and plan accordingly to save a lot of euros!

5. Enjoying the nightlife

Madrid has an incredibly varied and lively nightlife that is known for starting late and ending later. We really enjoyed a spectrum–from our first crazy night at the seven story club El Kapital to dancing at a jazz/funk bar to a quiet night sipping wine at a cafe until they closed at 2–and I had a great time every night. Whatever your nightlife style, Madrid probably has it and it’s bound to be a good time.

Up next? Our spontaneous trip to Sevilla!

On the Fly Brownies

This article was originally published in AmWord, a student magazine at American University. If you’re on campus, make sure to pick up a copy to read this in print and check out other great articles!

Hello hungry readers! I’m excited to be writing to you this semester from Copenhagen, Denmark! Throughout the semester I hope to be picking up some Scandinavian cooking techniques (and sharing them with you!), but this month I am writing a thoroughly American recipe: the brownie.

After living with them for a week, my host family had already heard me talk a lot about how much I love to cook and bake. However, they had yet to actually taste anything, so I decided it was time to show them what I could do. After scrounging around their kitchen for ingredients, I found almost everything I needed to make brownies–at least enough that I could wing it. Little did I know exactly how much winging I would be doing…

Almost immediately, I realized that their butter was in a tub, not in sticks like I was used to. I pulled from my baking knowledge, guessed about a stick of butter and put it in the pot to start melting. I had to guess on the amount of chocolate, too, since I was substituting the little chocolate wafers that they eat on toast in the morning. I figured as long as it looked chocolaty enough, it would turn out okay.

While the butter and chocolate were melting, I went to measure the flour. That’s when it hit me; they don’t use cup measures in Europe! I was too embarrassed to ask my host mom if she had anything equivalent or a kitchen scale or something, so I grabbed a teacup out of the cabinet and just guessed. I added a little of this and a little of that until the batter looked about right, then popped it in the oven and prayed to the kitchen gods that brownies would emerge.

Thankfully, it worked and the brownies were a hit! I’ve since discovered sticks of butter, a kitchen scale and even a measuring cup in my host family’s kitchen, but it’s nice to know I can whip something up on the fly.

On the Fly Brownies

(Adapted from Desserts by the Yard)

If I can make these with hardly any of the necessary tools, you can ditch the boxed brownies and go homemade! I promise, you’ll never go back. This is also a great base recipe to get creative with variations: go crazy adding mix-ins, spices, or whatever your heart desires!

  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with Pam.

Melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power for about 2 minutes or in a pot on the stove over medium heat. Stir until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool until tepid.

Add the eggs and sugar to the cooled butter mixture and whisk (it is important that the butter has cooled so that the eggs don’t cook!). Then add the flour and salt and mix until combined. (Alternatively, you can blend the eggs and sugar using an electric mixture until they are light and fluffy before combining them with the butter mixture. Doing this will make the brownies a little better, but may not always be worth the extra effort or cleanup.)

Scrape the batter into the pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are slightly firm when touched and a crust has formed on top.

Allow to cool in the pan (or don’t) and enjoy!

Photo credit: Cristiano Betta