Wednesday, September 25, 2013

{travel} madrid day trips: alcalá de henares

I loooove living in a city with such a great public transportation system. Yes, the metro might not always be running at 100% and figuring out the bus system is somewhat of a nightmare, but Madrid is so well-connected that it pretty much makes up for those two downfalls.

There are tons of cool little day trips in the Madrid region, and just outside of it as well, in cities like Toledo and Segovia. I've been on quite a few day trips from the city so I figured I'd write a series about day trip options for people who might be interested in getting out of the city for a day when they visit Madrid. Today, I'll start with a medieval town just outside of the city center!

Alcalá de Henares

This city is located within the Comunidad de Madrid, and just a short train ride away from Madrid Centro. It is a beautiful city filled with nods to Don Quixote, as it is commonly said that this is the town that Miguel de Cervantes was born in. I truly felt as though we had gone back in time when we arrived in the city, with the windy cobblestone streets, beautiful plazas, and historic buildings.


Plaza de Cervantes

This is the main square in Alcalá. It is filled with the most interesting trees I've ever seen. This is the center of the area that you will be wandering around in. If you get lost just ask a local, ¿Dónde está la plaza de cervantes?

Obsessed with those crazy trees!

Gran Via

Just off of Plaza de Cervantes you'll find Gran Via, the main drag through the old city center. There are lots of little cafes and shops along this road, although they all seemed a bit touristy. We enjoyed people watching on this street and taking in the beautiful apartments that sat above the shops.

Catedral Magistral de los Santos Niños Justo y Pastor - built in 1436.

This cathedral was really cool as well! It is incrediiibly old. Although what we can see of it now was built in the 1400s, a chapel was originally created on the site in year 414. It went through a long period of time in which different groups capturing it and making it their own, until the founder of the University reconstructed it to look like what it does today. Apparently during the Spanish Civil War, almost everything in this cathedral was completely ruined. Lots of turmoil throughout the years!

The Don Quixote wall across the street from the old cathedral

One of the many references to Don Quixote and Miguel de Cervantes throughout Alcala. We really enjoyed looking at all of the little pictures up close at the bottom of the wall.

Click on the picture to see it larger!

Palacio Arzobispal - built in 1209

Apparently this is where the first meeting place of Christopher Columbus and the Catholic kings took place. I love everything having to do with Christopher Columbus and the New World discovery, so this was pretty exciting for me.

Universidad de Alcalá

Alcalá is home to what is said to be one of the oldest universities in Europe, Universidad de Alcalá. It is still a fully functioning university which happens to offer master's degrees in international education and TEFL! Pretty cool!

Street with a view. Alcalá is a beautiful place!

Unfortunately, my meal was completely unmemorable in Alcalá. We went to the town on a whim and I had no idea where to eat while we were there! We tried to follow the recommendation of a friend, but never found the suggested restaurant. However, one of the fabulous expat bloggers I follow posted a list a while back. If only I had thought to google her suggestions before we went! Check out her suggestions for good tapas and delicious pastries in Alcalá.

Take train C2 or train C7 from Atocha or Chamartin stations towards Alcala de Henares. Trains every 10-20 minutes. Find out more here. We had a to walk a bit from the train station to the historic city center. We used the maps function on our phones, but you might get lucky and catch the TI open!

I hope you enjoyed this post on the beautiful Alcala de Henares. Posts on Casa de Campo, Segovia, Toledo, and Chinchón to come!

xx, Jen

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

{fashion} fall essential - the classic trench coat

Three days after arriving in Spain from the States, I decided to book a trip to Amsterdam. I left two days later. I love Europe.

Spontaneous traveling aside (and an entiiiire post on the incredible city of Amsterdam coming soon), I realized that I was going to have to quickly switch out of summer gear and get right on into dressing for fall again. It is still quite warm in Madrid, as it has been getting into the upper 80s during the day, so I was still dressing like I had been in Florida all summer. After booking my plane ticket and hostel in Amsterdam, I looked up the weather forecast. It was about 40-30 degrees cooler there... eek! Time to pull out my boots, tights, sweaters, scarves, and coat!

In front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Dam Square.

My favorite piece of clothing during the colder months is this Michael Kors Trench. My mom, being the absolutely fabulous shopper that she is, found it hung up on a rack in Marshall's. My trench coat is waterproof, which is perfect for those misty, rainy winter days and it is just roomy enough to fit a thick sweater underneath to keep me warm.

Although there are tons of adorable trench coats in different colors, I love having classic black.

In the Amsterdam flower market.

Get the look:

xx, Jen

Monday, September 23, 2013

{life} goodbye summer, hello fall!

Hello lovelies! I'm back in Spain after an incredible summer in America. Now that we are entering into fall, I think it is about time for me to recap all of my fun in Florida.

This summer, I twirled to lots of live music during happy hour, recreated the 4th of July with a family barbecue, visited a wild cat sanctuary, went to a speakeasy, boated to an island and floated in the Gulf of Mexico with my family, drove up to Tallahassee and pretended like I was in college again,  celebrated my university, FSU, with all of the Tampa alumni, drank local at a microbrewery 30 minutes from my house, went to a college football game (even if it was to root for my rival team... yuck!), drank butterbeer in Hogsmeade and explored Hogwarts at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, cheered on my football team at the FSU bar in Tampa, and threw a "Hotoberfest" party with my friends and family.

I'd say it was a pretty successful summer.

Tampa's SOHO - live music, craft beer, and good friends. What else could you ask for in the summer?

I was craving American BBQ the entire time I was in Spain, so I naturally requested it for our first family dinner with my aunt, uncles, and nana!

I really enjoyed visiting the Big Cat Rescue! People from all of the country and world come to my hometown just to visit this wonderful sanctuary. It is only a 10 minute drive from my house, but I had never been before. The stories were so sad. It was an eye-opening experience to truly understand how much abuse these gorgeous animals go through at the hands of roadside circuses and irresponsible owners. 

Although it had been raining NON-STOP in Tampa day after day, we got really lucky with the weather one Saturday and were able to go out on the boat! We boated to Egmont Key, and then floated in the water for hours. Perfect Florida Saturday if you ask meee. :)

Another fun night out with my girlfrienndssss!

Girls night at Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club was a real highlight of my time at home. I had so much fun getting all dressed up and drinking cocktails with my girlfriends.

Drinking locally at the Dunedin Brewery with some college girlfriends!

Reunited with my lovely friends in Tallahassee at my favorite bar, Proof!

Crawling around Tampa with some great girlfriends from college. GO NOLES!

I'm so happy I got to a college football game before going back to Spain, even if I had to wear orange and blue...... Go Gators?

Drinking butterbeer in the wand shop in Hogsmeade with some wizards. :)


Watching the first FSU game at the alumni bar in Tampa. :)
The summer ended with my Hotoberfest party! I made some beertails (beer cocktail) that you will love!

Pumpkin Beertail:
  • Cinnamon sugar rim
  • 3/4 pint glass pumpkin beer
  • 1/4 pint glass sparkling cider
  • Slice of lemon
I had such a wonderful summer at home that I hardly wanted to leave Florida, but am now looking forward to fall in Madrid! 

xx, Jen