The first thing we saw as we walked through the train station in Salamanca was a sign that read “Salamanca Madre de las Ciencias” which translates to “Salamanca mother of the sciences.” We assume it is referring to the University of Salamanca, which was one of the most important aspects of our time in this city. In addition, Salamanca is called the “golden city” because the tan colors that are seen on most buildings are reflected gold in the light. After a thirty-minute walk, through Plaza Mayor, which people call the “best plaza in all of Salamanca,” we arrived at our hotel, and for the first time, our rooms were ready. When we went into our triple we were very impressed by the size of the room. It even had two bathrooms! We then proceeded to get breakfast across the street; it was the cheapest we have had yet (5€ for coffee and quiche).


The most important part of Salamanca, as was mentioned, is the University of Salamanca (see picture). This university is the oldest in all of Spain. In 202 days the university will be 800 years old! There is a big countdown clock in the middle of the town square. Imagine the celebrations they will have when the university celebrates its 800th birthday!


We had an interesting experience at El Colegio de Anaya. We not only found beautiful architecture yet again, but also found secret passages and strange symbols on the walls. This was all new and exciting to us. But then as we ventured further we discovered the offices of the professors, classrooms, and even dorms. In that moment we realized that this university it is just like our home at Holy Cross except with a little more antiquated architecture.







The architecture of the entire city is amazing but we were particularly impressed with the architecture specific to Salamanca. One of the libraries of the university used to be a house called “La casa de las conchas” and it has physical shells incorporated into the outside wall of the building (See pictures). It is now a library. This is “estilo Isabelino”, a gothic style that is a very typical style of Salamanca. Although the views were amazing, it was the patterns and detail on the buildings that struck us most. There were many interior patios filled with gardens and nature, even in the university itself! It reminded us of a fancier version of the Hoval so of course we had to stop and smell the roses (see picture).





Another important element to the city of Salamanca is “la Rana” or the frog. So of course, we have a little game for you! Can you find the frog on this detailed wall (see picture)? We will give you a second…


Did you find it? If you spotted the frog, legend has it that you will get good grades next semester! Good job! The architect included it as a joke (una broma). What a good joke huh? It took us a very long time to find it but we finally succeeded!

Later in the day we found a park full of workout machines. We had quite a fun time experimenting with the different types of equipment. It was different than anything we were used to! We were thinking of coming to exercise here later. It was a beautiful setting.

Coincidentally, we were in Salamanca on the day of a major festival of the main part of Salamanca that occurs every year on June 12. On the night of the June 11, there was a spectacular fireworks show at “Puente de Roma” or the Roman bridge. The entire town showed up! We were lost in the sea of the crowd but the show was well worth it. (see pic of crowd and fireworks etc). The fireworks weren’t the only beautiful view. The view of the city was also amazing from our watching spot. We were on top of the world. The next day, the festivities continued with parades of song and dance through the main Plaza Mayor. The costumes and music were mesmerizing (videos/pics). The festival celebrates the city as a whole but they coincidentally placed it on the day of their patron saint, San Juan de Sahagun.







As part of the festival, the annual tapa (small appetizer) contest going on in the city. Each of the participating restaurants –35 in total– sold their tapa of choice for 1.50€ and people could vote for the best one. Profe Lokos and Profe Juan really enjoyed going around trying out the different tapas. A popular/traditional food choice in Salamanca is the chorizo tapa although we did not try it out.

It just so happened that we were in Salamanca on the same day we were to watch “La Cueva de Salamanca.” This so called cave is the home of many legends set in the same place as the play (more than 90 stories surrounding this cave exist). We got the opportunity to see were all these stories are set, and even hear a few of them. As part of the festival, an actor was retelling different legends of the cave every 30 minutes. He started up by telling the audience of around 25 people that the Cave of Salamanca is not really a cave. It a crypt linked to an old church through a narrow set of stairs.

With that said, the man told us the legend of men who studied witchcraft in the cave and were taught by the devil himself. He shared the intricacies of different versions and made metaphors using magic tricks. It was cool to learn about the origins of myths of the cave.

Granada and La Alhambra

group photo of maymester students and professors in gardens

After our exciting visit to Sevilla, we were off on the second leg of our journey. After two trains and a taxi ride, we arrived in the beautiful city of Granada, whose name means ‘pomegranate’ in Spanish, although the name of the city has Arabic origins. Granada is located in Spain’s autonomous region of Andalucia, which is known for its hilly landscape and Arabic influences. In the 15th century, Granada was the only Muslim territory throughout Spain, where the Nasrid Dynasty was established until its reconquest by the Spanish Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Once in the city, we were dropped off at the luxurious Barceló Hotel, where we didn’t hesitate to enjoy lunch with a view by the rooftop pool. We spent the rest of the day bathing in the sun, relaxing, and exploring the streets of Granada, which are filled with plenty of young people, shops, and restaurants, and got ready for the fun festivities of the night.

landscape image of tan and white houses amongst tall green trees
The beautiful view from the hills of Granada of the Albacin, the historic Muslim neighborhood of the city.

That night, our professors surprised us by taking us out into the outskirts of the city to experience the local and traditional culture. First, we drove through the Albaicín neighborhood, one of the oldest districts in Granada where the Moors lived during the Nasrid Dynasty. We maneuvered through its many winding, narrow roads, and steep hills until we arrived at an establishment where we enjoyed a special flamenco performance, where we shared the experience in an intimate setting with people from all parts of the world. The performance included a singer, musicians, and flamenco dancers dressed in beautiful flamenco skirts with ruffles and castanets.

A long, skinny, low roofed room with copper pans hanging from the ceiling. Along the walls sit all the audience members, and in the middle aisle is a female flamenco dancer in a long black dress striking a pose.
A sneak peak into the intimate room of the flamenco performance. The copper pans and multicolored lights really helped to create a dramatic and romantic mood.
Student dancing in a darkened room with a flamenco dancer
Bryn hitting the dance floor and killing it!

We were lucky enough to see our classmates Bryn and Helen, and even Professor Lokos, show us their moves on the dance floor when the dancers called up participants!

After the performance, we took a walking tour through the Albaicín neighborhood, where we learned about the carmen, a traditional house structure which consists of a garden and a high wall that separates the house from the street. We also got an amazing view of the Alhambra lit up at night from across the city, which we planned to visit the next day.

Landscape image of the pale colored la alhambra complex at night, from far away.
A view of the entire La Alhambra complex from Saint Nicolas’s viewpoint.

On our second and last day in Granada, we all made the trek from our hotel up into the hills to La Alhambra, the magnificent palace and former fortress which looms over the the whole city. The complex originated as a small fortress built in 889 AD, and has since been continuously been renovated and added upon, most notably by the arabic Nasrid Empire, the Catholic Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles I.

The famous Courtyard of the Myrtles – it features a serene and shallow reflection pool, geometric hedges, and quiet alcoves, all of which are trademarks of the Arabic Muslim style of architecture.

As we roamed through the seemingly infinite palaces, courtyards, and gardens of the Alhambra with Professors Lokos and Juan, we were all notably quiet – no doubt a result of the literal breathtaking beauty of each space. Because of its continued change of ownership by various empires, the Alhambra features a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian architectural styles, and therefore is totally unique in all the world, even on a peninsula notorious for its various cultural influences. But even amongst this seemingly chaotic mix of styles and structures, the Alhambra exudes a serenity and harmony that left each of us in awe. Just look at our photos – you’ll know too!










close up shot of flowers, which are in focus, and in the background is la alhambra

The night before our departure, some of us took the bus to the Feria de Granada, an annual springtime celebration for the people and visitors of Granada during the Christian holiday of Corpus Christi.The fair was vibrant with lights, filled with live music, dancing, restaurants, games, and rides. At the fair, we danced bachata together, shared a dinner of tapas, which included bread, calamari and Spanish omelettes (Spanish delicacies– Yum!), bought some sweet treats, and rode rides. We rode La Rana (The Frog), which is a ride that makes your stomach drop as you spin forwards and backwards at high speed. None of us were brave enough to take on the extreme thrill rides, but we enjoyed watching others as they screamed with excitement. Everyone had an amazing night while we unwound and took part in the festivities before a day of travel. Attending the Feria de Granada was the perfect way to end our trip, as it allowed us to share in the city’s culture and customs through the celebration of the city and its people.      

view of fair grounds at night
Spanish fairs seem not that different from American ones, in both spirit and design!



Day 1

Super-speed European train
Our train to Sevilla!

On Sunday, May 26, we embarked on our first overnight excursion to colorful Sevilla. Early morning we walked to Estacion de Atocha, where we took a train through the countryside to the city. We were all astounded at the sheer size of the train we were going to take – there are simply no trains like this at home! As the train began to make its way to our destination, we were amazed by the landscapes; it almost seemed surreal. Filled with naps, music, and excitement, the train ride took approximately two hours; after which, we made our way to our hotel. We were all eager and excited to be in Sevilla, it being our first overnight excursion, but we were also excited about other things such as the luxurious rooftop pool at our hotel. Although the pool seemed like such a good idea after a long trip, we decided to explore the city!

The futuristic-looking Las Setas de la Encarnación structure, which is beige with rounded edges and looks almost like a cubic mesh material.
Las Setas de la Encarnación

Our first stop was La Plaza Mayor de Sevilla. In the Plaza you cannot miss the architectural parsol, a wooden structure built and positioned in a strange way in the middle of the plaza, yet so modern, mixing in well with old Seville. The structure is popularly known as Las Setas de la Encarnación, or the Mushrooms of Incarnation. The building is home to the Antiquarium, Central Market, an open surface for public events, and two terraces, giving one of the best views of the city’s plaza. We were excited to look at the view, but unfortunately the entrances were closed, so for many of us this is now something to include on our bucket lists Picture of one of the student's hands, which is making a "Hang-ten" sign, with their thumb and pinky fingers extended, and the rest pulled in to their palm. On the student's wrist is a braclet, which has white block beads which spell out "Sevilla"for a future trip back to Seville. We continued exploring the city, attentively looking for a place to have lunch. As we entered our second week in Spain, many of us were missing food from home, although Spanish food is always exquisite. Luckily, we came across L’Oca Guiliva, an Italian restaurant, where we had massive amounts of pasta and other delicious plates. It was great to reminisce something from back home, but we were ready to continue enjoying the Spanish lifestyle. 

Group photo of the students and professors in Sevilla
Can you tell we’re happy to be here?

We made our way back to the hotel to get ready to meet Prof. Lokos and Prof. Iso, where we would go visit the Plaza de España and see the theatrical performance, Arte, at Teatro de Lope de Vega. As we made our ways back, many of us stopped to buy some souvenirs, ice cream, or coffee. All sugared up, we arrived back to the hotel, where we rested for a while before our next few stops in beautiful Sevilla.

Later that night, we met outside the hotel for an evening stroll and show. Our first stop was Plaza de España – the plaza is located in the Parque de Maria Luisa, where the architecture and scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Mixing elements of the Renaissance , Moorish (Muslim), and more classic Mediterranean styles, the Plaza evoked a sense of intense wonder and awe. As we walked around and took in its beauty amidst the setting Spanish sun, we found ceramic murals, commemorative alcoves for each province, and incredible plaster work. The Plaza also consists of buildings along its edges, the Vicente Traver fountain, and bridges over the moat. 

Panoramic image of the Plaza de España in Sevilla, Spain
laza de España is truly a magical place. The pictures we captured are amazing, and they still don’t do the place justice!

A black horse drawn carriage being drawn by a black horse, jaunting through the picturesque tan and gothic looking Plaza de Espana

Fountain in the middle of a plaza with a rainbow passing through its streams of water
As if the fountain wasn’t picturesque enough, we captured a photo just as a rainbow was soaring over the water. Yes this real life!!!

Image showing the blue, white, and yellow ceramic features of the Plaze de Espana, which are decorated with flowers, geometric patterns, and filigree

After a few photos, we continued to our next stop, Teatro de Lope de Vega, which conveniently is located only a few minutes away from the Plaza.  On the schedule for the night was Arte. Written in 1994 in French, Arte has since been translated and performed in 35 different languages. The show centers around Another group picture!three friends, one of whom buys a white painting for an exorbitant amount of money. Their ensuing taunts, laughter, and commiserations show how one small event can be used to explore and provoke the essence of human relationships. While, as audience members, we shared that emotional journey with the characters, we were all enchanted and delighted by the frequency of our laughter, and so Arte has definitely become a favorite. After an exciting play, we were ready for a nice dinner together. We settled in a restaurant near the Guadalquivir River, where we ate adobo, solomillo al whisky, brochetas de pollo, croquetas de gambas, and many other delicious foods. Afterwards, we waddled our way back to the hotel for the night, walking and singing down the streets of Seville with our bellies full and spirits high. We can’t wait to see what day two in Seville has in store for us!

Day 2

Day two was just as packed as our first, though thankfully we were able to sleep in a little before the fun began! At 11 AM we were off to visit the famous Real Alcázar de Sevilla, one of the most expansive complexes in Spain, and perhaps one of the most visited historical sites in the world. Even today, the upper levels of the Alcázar remain as the official residence of the royal family when in Sevilla, making it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, as its construction began in the 14th century! We spent over two hours making our way through the upper and lower levels of the palace, taking in all of the beauty and history within the intricate details of the walls, doors, patios and gardens. To think it has been preserved over so many lifetimes is truly astonishing!


One student walking through the lush and green gardens of the Palacio Real in Sevilla. There are plam trees, cubic looking coarse shrubs, and orangey-red clay or plaster colored gothic fountains

Another fountain at the Palacio Real, in front of a wrought iron open door which leads to a garden behind








For lunch, the ten of us stopped at an authentic Spanish restaurant, where we embraced the Spanish tradition of ordering a variety of smaller dishes, or tapas, and sharing them as a group – patatas bravas, croquettes and tortilla have come to be a few of our favorites 🙂 We are finally starting to get this lifestyle down, and we’re loving it! With full tummies we were recharged and ready to take on the breathtaking Catedral de Sevilla, trekking 35 floors to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower, la Giralda. The view was SO worth it!

The very gothic-looking entrance to the Catedral de Sevilla. There is a statue in front of an angel , who holds a bushel of wheat, and a flag with a banner and what looks like a shield. The catedral itself is huge - it's nearly 16 stories tall!
The Catedral de Sevilla is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Seville, whose construction was completed in the early 16th century. It stands today as the largest cathedral in the world!
Interior shot of one of the daises of the cathedral
Here’s a peak inside!!

Gold, textured wall and beautifully ornamental main altar in the cathedral. There is a table at the altar with flowers and figurines. In the gold and grand wall behind it are carved images and figurines or major saints and people in the Catholic religion.

After a “go-go-go” two days, we were thrilled to be able to head back to the hotel and enjoy some pool time before dinner. Seville wiped us out! Next stop: Granada! But can it top Seville?!

Our First Day Trips! Almagro and Segovia

The students of the Maymester program sitting down in chairs, and smiling at the camera
Us at Los corrales de comedias, one of the oldest open air theaters.

Our first two days in Spain were spent in the center of Madrid in what is called El Barrio de las Letras, one of the many crowded and lively areas of the city. It is a place filled with excited tourists, such as our group, who are looking for adventure and cultural immersion. Even though almost everyone in our group fell in love with the city in only the first few days, we were given the opportunity to visit two of the most beautiful and historical towns of Spain, an experience that many tourists do not get to visit. When people think of Spain, they think of big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, which are indeed beautiful and exciting places to visit. However, Almagro and Segovia are special and breathtaking, for their unique histories and beauty.


Rows of seats inside an open air theater in Almagro, Spain.
The inside of Los corrales de comedias. During the Spanish Golden Age, theaters such as this became popular sites for theatrical presentations. The performances here were held in the afternoon and lasted two to three hours, without intermission, and with few breaks. That makes modern theaters seem even more luxurious!

Almagro is a small town about 2.5 hours outside of Madrid, and is famous for  Los corrales de comedias,  one of the oldest open air theaters in the world. When the theater first opened, the lower class men would stand on the lowest/bottom level of the theater and the women stood separately on the first level. The nobles, on the other hand, would sit on the higher levels away from lower class people, and their smell. Thankfully, this tradition has been abandoned for modern audiences, so we were able to enjoy the performances in chairs and with mixed company. Being present in the space and acknowledging the long history and influence it had many years ago was something truly special. We saw two entremeses by Miguel Cervantes; these being short plays that would normally be in the middle of a longer play to provide comic relief. The two entremeses that we saw were El rufián viudo y Laguarda cuidadosa. We were all laughing along the entire time – the plays were so funny! And when the show was over, us and the other audience members were able to ask questions, which was definitely a unique and educational experience.  Following that, we ate at a lovely buffet with our professors for lunch. (Side note: the food here is AMAZING!)

The student of the Maymester program with Codi. All of them are excited, with arms wide open, posing for the camera.
Here we are with Codi, our amazing improv/acting teacher from the Entremeses

Next, we had the privilege of meeting up with one of the actresses, Codi, from the entremeses. She ran through a variety of acting exercises, which introduced us to the world of acting.  During our short time together, we found ourselves running around, improving short scenes, and performing dramatic readings of a skit about olives! It was an amazing experience where we were all able experience how actors and actresses go through their creative process.The final part of the workshop was to perform a short entremese of our own. Everyone did an amazing job performing their scene and improvising in Spanish the parts that we did not remember.


Picture of the skyline of Segovia, Spain
Our view of Segovia!
Image of the large, grey stone aqueduct in Segovia, Spain
The famous Aqueduct of Segovia, a Roman holdover estimated to have been in the 1st century A.D. Astonishingly, it was constructed without any adhesives or binders – it survives and stands simply because of the precision used it cutting and laying the stones. It is the foremost symbol of Segovia, as evidenced by its presence on the city’s coat of arms.

Our second day trip! Segovia is a old city in the northwest of Spain about an hour outside of Madrid. We stepped off the bus and were immediately enchanted by the giant arches of the aqueducts in front of us. The aqueduct dates back to 1 AD and is a remnant of from when the Romans conquered Spain. One of the most amazing facts is that the stones have no mortar in them, only the other stones surrounding it to hold up the structure . It was a breathtaking sight and the picture barely does it justice.

The Segovian Cathedral
The Catedral de Santa María de Segovia, a Roman-Catholic cathedral in the main plaza. The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in a Gothic style in the mid-sixteenth century.
A rural and pastural landscape of the Segovian countryside
The view of the Segovian countryside from the balconies of Alcázar, the famous castle in the city. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy.
The red velvet canopy bed of the royal bedroom in Alcázar.
The royal bedroom in Alcázar. Almost as sweet as our own digs!

We then walked around and took in the other sights of Segovia like Plaza Mayor and Burgos Cathedral. We took a pitstop for lunch to consume an excessive amount of food at a good price. Our favorite part of the trip was visiting the Alcazar of Segovia. A castle as beautiful as the ones in the Disney movies. It is absolutely breathtaking that there are no words to describe it. It is definitely a place to visit if you are a history and/or an architect lover, or simply looking for adventure.

Can’t wait for the adventures that await in Seville and Granada!

First Impressions of Madrid

Hello everyone – we have arrived in Madrid! Our 5:30 PM flight landed at 6:30 in the morning,  and we immediately took a taxi to our hostel in “el barrio de letras” (in English, “the neighborhood of letters”). There was practically no one on the streets and Madrid seemed… empty.  We were all pretty exhausted when we got to the hostel, but we decided to get some breakfast. For many of us, that meal our first experience trying Spanish food. We ordered cafe con leche, which is a coffee with hot milk. This is a typical coffee in Spain, but to us it was so small. After we ordered, we noticed that the portions are a lot smaller than they are in the United States.

After breakfast, while we waited for our rooms to be ready, we visited the Reina Sofía museum. We found the museum to be very visually interactive. The whole museum was beautiful, and allowed us to begin cultivating an impression of Spanish culture and art. After this, we went back to the hostel and took a siesta. As we found our way back, we noticed the streets filled with people – Madrileños seem to love their sleep!

Later that night, we had our welcome dinner with both of our professors: Professor Lokos, who came with us from Holy Cross, and Professor Juan Iso, who is a professor in Spain. Surprisingly, when arrived at dinner at 8 PM, no one was in the restaurant. We later found out that this is considered an early dinner in Spain; most Spaniards dine around 9-11 PM. Because dinner is eaten so late here, many people end up staying up and on the streets until 3 or so in the morning on the weekends. The night-time is very lively. It was difficult to fall asleep because of all the commotion going on outside of the hostel.

The next day we had our first class! Our classroom is located in the basement of our hostel, which makes it very easy to get up and out every morning. After our first lesson, we got to roam around Madrid and we go to one of the largest flea markets: El Rostro. It was a really great experience to see what the locals were making and selling, and how many people were out on the streets buying stuff.

A group picture of the students and professors of the Summer 2018 Madrid Maymester standing under a poster advertising the show "El Concierto de San Ovidio", or "The Concert of San Ovidio" English.
Us and our professors outside El Teatro Maria Guerrero before the showing of El Concierto de San Ovidio!

That night we had our first theatre production: “El concierto de San Ovidio”.  Written in 1962 by famous Spanish playwright Antonio Buero Vallejo, the play details the lives, loves, and trials of six blind men in Paris in 1771 who sing and play music at the request of a cruel philanthropist. No spoilers here, but we all loved it so much, and it was a really great introduction to Madrid and Spanish theater. We are so excited for what is to come! With several more shows and trips and our imminent future, be sure to stay tuned!

Madrid, Here We Come!

Hello everyone! Welcome to the Holy Cross Madrid Maymester 2018 blog!

Today we are off to Madrid, the capital of Spain and our home for the next four weeks.  We are all maybe a little nervous,  and definitely very excited! Over the course of our trip, we will be attending daily classes, traveling around the entire country, attending performances of classic and modern theater, and immersing ourselves completely in the Spanish language.

Keep checking in with us, and we look forward to taking you along for the ride! ¡Hasta pronto!