Day 3- Toledo

Our group began our day at Hotel Regina once again for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of buffet style with all sorts of delicious foods from traditional American breakfast such as eggs, bacon and toast to more European such as churros and more charcuterie style food. It was an early rise on our end as we needed to meet Maria Angelo and Professor Z in the lobby for 8:50 for the bus to Toledo! The bus stop being across the street and right outside of Hermes.

    Most of us tired from the night before took it upon ourselves to use our hour bus ride from Madrid to Toledo to nap- as it was much needed in my case. We began our Toledo journey on a panoramic view of the city via bus with our wonderful tour guide. Our first stop was around a windy corner over looking the Maumee river and the city itself. The view was breathtaking and turned out to be a great photo op. We gathered together to take a few group photos and heading back on the bus to finish our tour.

     Shorty after, we hopped off the bus to start our adventure of the day. It was pretty cold but all the walking uphill definitely warmed me up. We walked around following our tour guide to come across the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. It was filled with beautiful artwork such as alter pieces and frescos. I was amazed at the attention to detail in every room we entered. It felt surreal.

    We made our way through the city stopping at important historical and architectural points arriving at the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo. I can’t even put into words the absolute masterpiece that this is. There isn’t a place in this church that wasn’t covered in the most intricate and delicate designs. The gold of the Corpus Christi was almost blinding. From the amaranth gem on top to the silver plated pieces on the bottom- it was one of a kind and an honor to see. The main alter piece had to be my personal favorite. The colors and perspective were greatly appreciated. 

    We made a quick pit stop at Taberna Tristana to grab some much needed espresso shots and use the bathroom. The view from this little cafe was out of a movie. We once again used this opportunity for a photo op. 


After visiting churches and learning the history of the beautiful city of Toledo we broke off from the group to enjoy some food. Mia, Faith, Maria, Will, Sarah, Thiago and I landed on a place in the center of the city called “Niño Malo” where we enjoyed a Toledo original dish named Carcamusas Toledanas. We ended our lunch off with some pineapple ice cream and water. Experiencing a world of new food, drinks and overall culture has been truly eye opening. 

     We walked around some more, visiting shops, looking around and enjoying marzipan from Santo Tomé. We journeyed down from the hills through an escalator path. The bus arrived and we drove back for an hour to Madrid. Once again, most of us used this time wisely in napping. Upon arrival back to Hotel Regina, we split off to enjoy the rest of the cloudy afternoon.  

     After going to starbucks for a grande iced caramel macchiato, Will, Sarah, Tiago and I searched the streets neighboring our hotel for a place to eat tapas and drink. I enjoy people watching in the streets. It’s amazing how different every individual we encounter is. We went to Tiki Taco Clavel to order chips and guacamole to hold us over before dinner. This place tends to be a quick stop for us, as the fast service and small portions makes it easy to come and go. Plaza Canalejas was our next destination where we enjoyed Calamari, Spicy potatoes and Tuna Salad at Fontan-Canalejas. The food never disappoints and the atmosphere of the plaza adds to the ambiance. 

     Later in the night after getting ready, we hopped on the metro near Sol after walking in the rain to get off in Malasaña. We spent our night at Teatro Barcelo dancing, singing and meeting new friends. It was almost as if we walked into another world. It was surpassing to me how many pop songs they played in English. After a long night of dancing we walked to McDonalds for a quick late night snack. French fries definitely taste better in the streets of Madrid. Walking home taking in one last glance of Madrid night life, we arrived at our hotel once again to go to bed.

Exploring The Royal Palace and El Rastro

Today we met our guide, Fran, at 11:30 at the hotel lobby. We set off for the Royal Palace of Madrid, which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. Along the way, we passed through La Plaza de la Puerta de Sol, which is a large plaza in the center of Madrid. Sol has 7 arches leading out to different streets, and one of these arches took us right to the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is open to visitors as a museum, even though it will still house the royal family when they are receiving dignitaries. It has 3,418 rooms (only a few are available for the general public to view, though) and it’s the largest palace in Europe. Our tour guide for the Museum, a nice fellow named Tino (short for Florentino) met us at the entrance, and from there we headed to the opposite end of the palace to see the view of Madrid from there. Even though it was a cloudy day, it was still an amazing view of the city. It only got more breathtaking once we headed inside, though. Just about every inch of interior of the Royal Palace was decked out from top to bottom. I got neck strain from craning my head to look at the stunning paintings depicting scenes from Greek mythology, Christianity, and Charles the Third’s ascension to the throne all over the ceiling, but it was worth it because I love Rococo-style art. Pictures weren’t allowed in many of the rooms, so I can only describe my favorite room in the Royal Palace, which was the Gaspirini Chamber. In this chamber, the king would get dressed by other nobles in front of the entire court. The ceiling had sculpted vines criss-crossed from one end to another, and each corner depicted a painted scene of Chinese figures going about their day. The wallpaper and mirror-framing fixtures were golden and incredibly ornate, with more greenery and flowers sculpted everywhere your eyes landed. A massive chandelier illuminated the room, and the green and black swirled marble floors matched the ornate decorations.

After the Royal Palace, we headed over to the open-air flea market, El Rastro. It was massive and almost overwhelming, with vendors selling anything from Nintendo t-shirts to crochet chickens to children’s mobiles. I saw countless stalls devoted to jewelry, secondhand clothing, trinkets, art prints, and dishes. The scene reminded me of bazaars that I had been to in Turkey and Uzbekistan. I almost keeled over in shock at seeing a rack full of leather jackets all priced at 15 euros! Unfortunately, most of the stalls began to pack up by the time we explored a few shops since we got there shortly before the market closed. We ended up liking what little of it we experienced enough that we wanted to try and visit it again next Sunday if we had the time to spare.

One of the massive paintings on the ceiling of the Royal Palace

Day 1 – Welcome to Madrid!

Our first day in Madrid, Spain began in the airport around 5am, which is 11am back home. Although it felt like nighttime to us, it was just the beginning of our day in Spain! After some time waiting at the airport, Maria Angeles, one of our API tour guides, arrived to take us to our hotel.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I decided to freshen up before heading out to explore the city with a friend. Our hotel is in a prime location, very close to Puerta del Sol, the heart of Madrid. As we walked through the city, we were amazed to see the beautiful architecture. Each building is unique, yet they all complement each other perfectly!

Instead of choosing a specific destination, we chose to wander around and explore freely. Leading up to the trip, we had learned about some of the most popular sites and areas to visit in Madrid. We came across many of these familiar locations as we explored! One of the first we visited was the Mercado de San Miguel, which translates to “The Market of Saint Miguel.” It’s an indoor food and drink market, similar to Faneuil Hall in Boston. It was packed with people (probably because it was lunch time on a Saturday) but that didn’t stop us. We made our way through the crowd to find a wide variety of delicious foods: many different types of meats and cheeses, seafood, breads, beautiful pastries, and more!

 After our stop at Mercado de San Miguel, we ventured on through the city. Soon we found a beautiful garden in front of a large, ornate building. We later realized that this was the Sabatini Gardens outside the Royal Palace of Madrid! The garden was full of people relaxing and enjoying the sunny weather. The white marble statues stand out against a backdrop of lush greenery. In the center of the garden is a long reflection pool with ornate fountains. The garden felt so quiet and still, even though it was so close to the busy city. We gazed in awe at the stunning marble statues throughout the garden, almost all of which are hundreds of years old, yet still incredibly detailed and elegant.

As we ventured on, we saw that the large white building next to the gardens was much bigger than we initially thought. It looked familiar, and I realized that it was the Palacio Real de Madrid, the Royal Palace of Madrid. The palace walls are beautifully ornate, with many statues and carvings. As we walked along another side of the palace, we passed a line of several statues of former kings and queens of Spain. It was incredible to think about how old many of these statues were and how they had stood the test of time.

I had only been in Madrid for a few hours at this point, but I was already in love with the beauty and warmth of the city. I noticed how many people in Madrid seem to be so relaxed and aren’t in a rush to get somewhere, but rather just enjoying the moment. Another thing I noticed was how fashionably dressed everyone was! Although I brought some fairly nice outfits, I still felt a bit underdressed compared to the madrileños, the people of Madrid.

After a few hours of exploring Madrid, we returned to our hotel to go to orientation and dinner. We met up in the hotel lobby with our API tour guide, Maria, and our professor, Julian Zabalbeascoa, before heading out for the orientation presentation. The presentation reviewed our exciting itinerary for the week, as well as some useful information about the culture of Madrid. We were able to ask any questions we had about adapting to the city. We were each given our own personal metro card, with unlimited rides for the month. Madrid is very walkable, but it’s nice to have another option for transportation around the city.

Following the orientation, we all went to a restaurant nearby for a group dinner! Here we also met our second API tour guide, Francisco Correa Jr, or Fran for short. For starters, we were served some amazing Spanish tapas dishes. My favorite was huevos rotos, which is fried eggs broken over ham and fries! The dinner was a great opportunity for all of us to get to talk about what we were looking forward to in Madrid and get to know each other better. After the dinner, I headed back to the hotel to get some sleep after the long and busy day.

After just one day in Madrid, I can already say how incredible it is. Every moment walking in the city feels special. I can’t wait to see more of what the city has to offer!

Day 2- Trip to Palacio Real de Madrid and More

Today was an adventurous and busy day. In the morning we got some breakfast at the dining hall and ate a variety of fresh fruits, tortillas, and pastries. I liked the fruits because they were fresher than American fruits. After breakfast, I met with the rest of the program members and we walked around Madrid. We saw some historical places and learned how to use the metro. I notice a lot of Spaniards use public transportation rather than using private cars and it’s probably because of how the streets are. There is barely any parking, and everything is within walking distance in Madrid. The metro was very crowded when we used it after going to the market. Before we went to the market, we visited the royal palace and got to see some various unique rooms. It’s exciting to know that I was in a historical place that is still used by the royal family, even though they don’t live in it. My favorite room was the embroidery green and brown room, the king’s dressing room. A history I was shocked to learn was that the king got dressed in front of other high figures in the city, every morning. This tradition was very important to the monarch. The design of the room was very beautiful and tied in with the Asian culture. The throne room was also highly fascinating because it had statues that symbolize different virtues and Greek gods. I learned that leaders and other important figures would enter the room to greet the royals, one by one. After, they would head to the big dining room to eat and talk with the king and queen. It was interesting to know that the first king to live in the palace was Charles III and the king was Alfonso XIII.

Group on their way to Palacio Real de Madrid Tour

After the museum, we went to El Rastro. There were various stations to buy from; there were clothes, bracelets, bags, and animal furs hats/scarves. I was able to get a jacket for my mom. It was very affordable and cute. When we were done, we went to Vermutería Black Bolita and drank some vermouth. I didn’t really like the vermouth; it was too strong. I’m really not a wine person so that was probably why too. Later, we ordered shared dishes from a restaurant called Camas y Tapas. The food was so good. We enjoyed every last of it. Something I noticed about Madrid is that there are a lot of restaurants and tapas spots. This is probably why the prices of food are less here than in America. With the huge amount of competition between the food places, they have to keep the price low to attract customers. While walking, I also got to see the oldest restaurant in the world. After that, we got to go shopping at Gran Via. We shopped at Primark and Zara. The prices were less than the prices in America. I was able to get some nice clothes and practice my Spanish as I had to communicate with the customer service workers.

Madrid Primark

I ended my night by going to a restaurant called La Purilla de la Reina. I ordered some barbecue ribs and mashed potatoes. The food was yummy I made a mistake and tried walking out with my water bottle, but was told that I can’t take it out. These few days have taught me that in Madrid you can’t take food or drink home. The foods were meant to be finished with no leftovers. With this system, if you’re a tourist and stay at a place with no kitchen, you have to go to a restaurant every day and spend money even though the food here is cheap. I find the system a little annoying because I have to waste his food that I could save for later when I’m hungry. Other than that complaint, my experience in Madrid has been wonderful and I can’t wait for the rest of the week.

Madrid: Day 1

The group landed in Madrid around five in the morning. Barring two of people, Leo who arrived with his family and Kleve whose whereabouts were unknown to me. Once landed, all of us eventually made it through customs, and at around 7:30, we found each other, gathering around the baggage claim area.

            Although a longer wait than we all thought, we all found some ways to entertain ourselves. Dalton, Kiara, Brianna, and I, Joey, found ourselves watching Everything Everywhere All At Once to pass the time. Quite an odd movie, in my opinion, but nevertheless, still very entertaining, and much better than sitting on my phone for the next couple of hours, so I thank Brianna for bringing that idea up. I believe the others had been chatting during the majority of the time.

This is the first thing I had in Madrid, a cappuccino at Cafe Mahoudrid. It was so great!

            Before you knew it, Maria Angeles had found us all at “Café Mahoudrid” a little café just inside the airport doors. After introducing ourselves and stretching a bit, Maria Angeles led us to the bus that would take us to the hotel that we would be staying at, Hotel Regina. During the bus ride, which had been about twenty minutes, I found my eyes closing on their own and ended up napping through most of the sights to see on the ride to the hotel.

            Once we had all gathered at the hotel and settled into our respective rooms, Dalton and I decided to relax for a bit and hang out. After just a bit, I decided to finish up some homework that I had due and Dalton decided to rest. After that, I also decided to nap, but did not expect to find myself in a deep slumber for three hours. Once I awoke, Dalton told me that he had gone out and explored a bit around the area. By that time, around 5:00 p.m., it was time for orientation.

            Maria Angeles asked us to meet down in the hotel lobby at about 5:15. So, after Dalton and I had gotten ready, we headed down to see most of the group waiting for us to leave, except for a couple of stragglers. After only a couple minutes, we all managed to find ourselves gathered and ready to leave, including Leo who I had met for the first time, and Professor Z.

            For orientation, Maria directed us towards this building in Madrid. This was the first time the group had really walked together in the city. I do not know about the others, but I was watching the people and how they acted, admiring the buildings, and overall just observing the city of Madrid, while of course talking to my fellow group members.

            After walking into the building we had reserved for orientation, Maria Angeles talked to the receptionist for a minute or two, and then we followed her downstairs. There, we were led into a little room, having just enough space for our group, and we moved into our seats waiting for Maria Angeles to set up the presentation. It seemed to have gone by quickly, considering the information she gave us was just general facts about the program and some tips and tricks to enjoy Madrid just a bit more. In addition, Maria Angeles kindly gifted the group some tote bags, and handed us our respective Metro cards, for when the time comes.

            After orientation, the group ended up splitting up, all finding the necessary things that we would need for the trip. Once again, Dalton and I found ourselves together, so we made our way to a sim card shop so I could have service for the week.

            However, as I found out quite shortly, my phone carrier does not support the sim card that I purchased and although I am a tiny bit upset, I think it is quite nice. The reason being, instead of being on my phone as much as usual, I am absorbing the new environment and enjoying the beautiful city that I am lucky enough to visit.

            After the sim card debacle, Dalton and I had gotten a little hungry before dinner, which was at eight at night, so we decided to visit the best restaurant on earth, McDonalds.

            I find that every time I am in a new country, I have to try some sort of fast food to find the differences between the United States and wherever I am staying. This time, I ordered my favorite sandwich, the “Quarter Pounder” with cheese and bacon. And let me tell you, it was delightful! I was so excited to find myself enjoying a great meal at a great restaurant.

            Anyways, after McDonalds, Dalton and I migrated back to the room, only to find ourselves with very limited time until we were to meet up with Maria Angeles for dinner. Once the group had gathered, we only had a few minutes’ walk to the restaurant, although I forgot the name.

            While we were seated, two more guests joined us, Neal and Fran. Neal is a current study abroad student, also from UML that will be in Madrid for the whole semester, which sounds like a fantastic time. Fran, of course, is our other API resident director, along with Maria Angeles.

            From there, the group ordered our respective entrees and desserts, with appetizers coming out on their own. Every was delicious! Although my fried cod was great, I think that the eggs, potatoes, and chorizo were the best thing that we had that night.

After dinner, we all had our desserts, and I had chosen the Creme Brulee, which was quite good.

            After talking over food, and getting to know each other, we all found ourselves quite tired and walked back to the hotel, ready to rest up our bodies for the next day.


In this study abroad course, UMass Lowell’s Honors College will explore the past and present of Spain’s vibrant capital city: Madrid!

Follow UMass Lowell Honors College students and faculty as they immerse themselves in the culture and history of Madrid, Spain. UMass Lowell Honors College and the Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences offers this exciting short-term study abroad program to Madrid, Spain. Interested – check out the program’s webpage.