Artificial beach will add waterfront scene to landlocked Madrid

My last article written in Spain and second in Madrid. I was interested by the idea of a man-made beach in Madrid and was eager to find out more information on this project. Next time I am in Madrid I will be sure to go to Wet Madrid to try out some surfing in the city.

NU Journalism Abroad · Spain 2015

Story by Fernanda Hurtado Ortiz

MADRID–Perfect 6-and-half-foot waves, a health-food café, a surf school and shop and chilled-out bars will be some of the features of a landlocked beach 40 minutes away from the center of the bustling Spanish capital of Madrid.

The project, Wet Madrid, was officially announced on April 9 and is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016. The goal is to create a tropical escape in Madrid, not just for those interested in surfing but for people who crave a beach experience in a city that has nothing of the sort.

The future construction ground of Wet Madrid, Madrid's first man-made beach. The project is set to open to the public during the Summer of 2016. Photo by Joe Thomas The construction ground of Wet Madrid, the capital city’s future man-made beach. The project is set to open to the public during the summer of 2016.
Photo by Joe Thomas

Borja Camblor, 26, co-founder and chief financial officer of Wet Madrid, is also a surfer and said the idea for the lagoon first arose…

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Traveling Time

As I said goodbye to Madrid, a city which was very welcoming and offered a variety of attractions making it a great home for 2.5 weeks, I was able to make a quick stop in Salamanca, a Spanish city I had heard so much about but had actually never been to. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined and a good way to bid Spain adios, at least for now.

Good riddance to 97 emails

You would think that the last day in Madrid we would all be done with everything and get to go stroll around in the park, go to museums and or go shopping but instead about half of the people in the group people were still contacting sources and writing stories. Then again we are journalists and we work to the very last minute of our deadline. This program has been work pretty much 22/7. The 97 emails I will be happily deleting from my gmail account, all surrounding this dialogue, most of them begging for an interview (solicitar entrevista) count as proof of this, as well as these pictures:


Photo taken by Clara Cutbill


Photo taken by Clara Cutbill


Photo taken by Clara Cutbill


As I sat at the dinner table having one last glass, or several glasses, of sangria with the NU Journalism Spain 2015 group at our farewell dinner, I realized that although I was journalistically all drained out, I will miss and cherish the last 5 weeks, which were probably the hardest weeks of my life even if I didn’t have the language barrier. I will also miss the people I shared those memories and experiences with. I know I am younger than most of you and a little weird with my Mexican calls and tap/flamenco dancing but I hope that if we ever cross paths whether it be in Boston, on campus or around the world somewhere that you won’t hesitate to say hello. I am lucky to have met such great people and talented journalists this past month.


NU Journalism Spain 2015 group in Barcelona (minus Ellyn)



Almost there

My family, minus my brother, is on an airplane crossing the Atlantic as I am writing this. The feeling that I will see them tomorrow makes everything better. The stress of deadlines and the dialogue quickly coming to an end have been getting the best of me but the fact that I will be reunited with my sisters and parents makes me calm inside. We have a trip planned out around Portugal, a new country to add to my travel list, and Switzerland before heading back home.

This week I have gotten to check more items off my Madrid list like

  • Go inside the crystal palace at El Retiro
  • Go see the vertical garden wall by famous landscape architect
  • Eat authentic tapas
  • See a Flamenco performance

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As I show my family around my few local places I found during my time here I will remember the experiences I had and work I put in the last month, in Madrid as well as in Barcelona. My time is slowly dwindling down but I have to finish strong, especially regarding my two articles. Wish me luck!

Location, Location, Location

As mentioned in a previous blog, this week, our second and last full week in Madrid, we have been transferred to a new building to continue our work. At first it seemed very inconvenient especially for my apartment since we were a block from our previous school. Now I think it was the best thing that could have happen especially to my stomach, although the wifi, the reason we transferred, is still not cooperating.

I had been recommended to go to two famous chocolate shops in Madrid by a local friend, one offering the best chocolate cake in the world and the other amazing chocolate eclairs. Now it turned out that our school was one block away from the two shops. It is also very close to a restaurant offering a variety of amazing sandwiches, salads, and juices with a great vibe setting. It is known to be Madrid’s best sandwich restaurant. There for lunch I got a sandwich, which although had pastrami, not the number one pastrami fan, was amazing with a juice of watermelon, mint, orange and lime. I have planned to try the majority of their sandwiches this week. After lunch my stomach was content but it knew that not far away were two renowned chocolate restaurants calling its name.

I have never been a big fan of chocolate. I will eat a piece of chocolate or piece of cake but will always make sure there are berries or milk to wash the rich taste away. Today’s cake was the perfect amount of chocolate richness, which was tempered by a delicate merengue in between. You could even choose between 50% cacao or 73% depending on if you wanted more bittersweet vs. sweeter. I highly recommend this cake to anyone who is in Madrid.

Our new school is prime real estate not just for food but also since the Prado is only a few blocks away. Maddie, my roommate, and I decided to go see it since this was our last free afternoon we were sure we would have. The visit itself was overwhelming since the room’s assignment made no sense so we turned the visit into a scavenger hunt as we attempted to find all of the listed masterpieces as well as added our own admirations to the list. Las Meninas was by far the most astonishing masterpiece in the whole museum. It may be cliché of me to say but I do not care. Its grandiose appearance took my breath away so much I wanted to (forbiddenly) photograph it. As we got yelled at and forced to erase the picture I know for a fact that I will forever remember the work of art, for many reasons. (Maddie however managed to keep her picture, click here to read her post on our Prado experience.)

Update: No bats in the Batcave tonight. More food blog updates to come.

For those who are interested in going to the places mentioned here are the names and addresses:

Sunday adventures (The Bat Cave/ La Baticueva) 

This Sunday has been quite eventful since 9 am even until currently (10:30pm).

Here is how my day went…

Monica and I had been craving to go to El Rastro Market, the most popular open
air flea market in Madrid, since last weekend so today we set out early this mIMG_1333orning at 10 am. The market goes on from 9am – 3pm and is known to get really crowded since its low prices and assortment of stands are quite the attraction. As we were l
eaving the house we realized a dead, hairy creature next to Monica’s laptop with blood next to it. I took a quick peak and realized it was a dead bat, which moved slightly as Monica snatched her laptop. We decided to cover it with a cup and leave a little post-it for our fellow flat mates advising them of the semi-lifeless bat. (Foreshadowing: first appearance of a bat)

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro was an interesting experience, even if we didn’t end up buying anything. Getting there at 10 am was a perfect choice since all the stands were set up but it wasn’t overly crowded. The stands varied from art, antiques, 1€ scarves and glasses, shoes and artisanal jewelry. It was definitely a cool experience and recommendable but my favorite markets are and will always be food markets.

Another activity I had been craving to do, as well as several people from the group, was to go swimming. Madrid is a landlocked city with heat rising up to 32ºC (around 88ºF). Today was one of those sweltering days and so about half of the group decided to meet to go swim to a lake we had heard about in Casa de Campo. The lake turned out to be an unpleasing green color, full of big and sometimes dead fish and had no people swimming in it. We instead decided to go to a nearby pool, which although crowded, it was very refreshing and relaxing.

This Sunday was not entirely a lazy Sunday. I left the pool early to meet with Joe, one of the appointed photographers on the trip, to take pictures of the construction site for my upcoming story. It is located one metro stop away from the airport, which is about 45 minutes away and between two major highways, next to IFEMA, Madrid’s convention center. Finding the actual field of nothing itself was a struggle but it was nothing Google Maps couldn’t solve and once we did find it, Joe was able to get some good shots.

During the long metro trip back in my mind I was planning the rest of my night to involve some oven pizza and getting work done. As I was heating up my pizza one of my flat mates realized a bat had flown into her room. Indeed this was the second bat which has entered our humble abode, which is from now known as The Bat Cave or La Baticueva in Spanish since we are in Spain. We had been reading earlier about the many diseases bats are known to carry and so this second winged intruder has definitely brought up the topic of getting all the shots necessary. At this point we are unsure if the bat is still in the bedroom, dead or alive, but we have all agreed that although it is sweltering we would rather sleep with the windows closed.

I am hoping that the rest of this week will not make up of dealing with a bat infestation or preventive shots as I attempt to complete my “must do/see” list while being in Madrid as well as finish my three upstanding assignments. Signing off from La Baticueva for now.

Work in the city

This week has been quite the busy week as deadlines start rushing in, mine on Monday. I am not as stressed as I had been at the beginning of the week when realized that I had no story ideas for the two stories I would have to write during my time in Madrid, while also keeping in mind my culture project and culture essay. Now I am close to being done with my second story, coming soon to a blog post near you, with a third story pitched and approved and still working on my culture assignments. While I may not have my culture assignments ready on paper I have more than fulfilled that requirement as I have enjoyed venturing out, when I can, of my living room which has become our apartments office, and experienced Madrid’s amazing ambiance, as well as through our organized tours.

This week our tours have consisted of a tour of the senate, the royal palace which was beautiful although we didn’t get to greet King Felipe and Queen Letizia, and EFE, the leadin Spanish language news agency. The tour of EFE was by far my favorite because I was able to really get a first hand look at an international news agency, especially one so powerful and famous like EFE.

As for the rest of the hours of my days, they have mostly been spent in the living room of our apartment working, since the wifi is great, and doing interviews. I have gotten 3 interviews done this week and one actually led me to explore a new part of the city I had been to before. As I left my interview, excited that it had gone so well, I spotted an artisanal market on Paseo de Recoletos, which led to a famous fountain and the bank of Spain.

On Thursday Spain had a holiday, Corpus Christi, but for us that meant work-from-home day which was just a regular day for me. I woke up that morning sick of my living room and the one seat I had imprinted on and decided to instead work at El Retiro with Monica. We set up camp underneath a tree with great shade, almost protecting us from the blistering sun and 32 degrees Celsius. As I looked down at my work I realized I had managed to fully transcribe one interview during my first hour. I will admit that while working in the park was much better than being stuck in my living room I had a hard time concentrating.

... or hardly working?

… or hardly working?

Working hard...

Working hard…

All around me the park was full of life and all I wanted to do was throw my recorder and laptop in the pond and take a nap in the shade or get an ice cream. I decided the better and more economic option was to take a break and get an ice cream, and then get back to work. I finished transcribing my second interview just as an old friend, who is originally from Madrid, met up with me at the park and showed me a cheap and delicious local restaurant. I would say that my holiday was full of work and fun, which in general sums up my dialogue experience. Let’s hope the fun part continues to stay.

Today our school’s wifi finally gave out and we were forced to move out to another school, which is 25 minutes on the metro instead of 1 block away as it was before. While this was displeasing at first, the fast wifi, nice area, good food surrounding us and the fact that it is close to El Retiro made up for it. While I won’t be able to return home for lunch anymore it is a way for me to try new local cafes and this way I can go to the park after class any day I want. This also sums up my dialogue experience: there may be challenges but there is always a silver lining. For me its a park nearby, good food and fast wifi.

As Friday of our second week, full first week of being here, is coming to an end my heart begins to beat faster as I realize that we only have 10 more days. This is a mix of stress, anxiousness to see my family, as they will come meet me here in Spain, and sadness that this amazing experience will be ending soon. For now I am just looking forward to finish my second story and keep venturing out of my living room when I can, especially tomorrow as we take a trip to Toledo.

Exploring Madrid

Its been a great first few days in the second city of this trip.

I have always had the idea that Barcelona is better than Madrid, not just when it comes to fútbol. When I had visited it before as little girl I had never enjoyed Madrid as much I had Barcelona. Barcelona has a beach, amazing art and architecture where ever you went and well yeah, also the best fútbol club team.

Now that I have been in Madrid for the past 6 days I am not sure what I think anymore. Barcelona was amazing and it was a great experience to be living there but Madrid has a completely different vibe already. I have no idea how to explain it but it could be partly because my living situation is better since I am 2 blocks away from school now and our apartment is great. Here is a quick peak at our apartment, accommodating to 7 girls. The wifi is better here too but I do miss Mercè’s cooking as I had imagined.

On our first day we took a tour around the city and went to el Mercado de San Miguel where I ate some amazing olives and tapas, and will not leave without eating paella from there, visited the cathedral, Plaza Mayor and gave a quick greeting to the king and queen at the palace. Like the city, our apartment has a great vibe already too. Most afternoons the majority of us hang out in the living room talking, that is when they aren’t all taking servestas (props to Haley for her new word, which is meant to be siestas). Our second morning in the apartment I even woke up to Ellyn and Haley working out in our patio.

The other day I decided to begin my running early instead of waiting for the last day like I had in Barcelona and went to explore the city. I had been eager to go to El Retiro, Madrid’s largest park, and so I mapped out my run and headed down there. It was quiet and serene. In the estanque there were only ducks and one lonely rower passing by. I decided to cut my run a little short, not at all because I was too hot and tired, and instead sat on the steps of the statue and admired my surroundings.

Our first Sunday here has come and gone and although everything does close, as per “rest day”, at the same time museums like the Reina Sofia become free to the public on given hours. So Monica and I decided to go visit the museum, including Picasso’s famous Guernica. Since it was so close to El Retiro we thought it would be nice to walk across it. It seemed like all of Madrid was at El Retiro enjoying the lovely, yet hot Sunday evening. Activities included a book fair, roller blading, reading by the flower garden, playing Frisbee, listening to a guitarist, paddling on a boat in the pond, doing a yoga, watching street preferrers, jogging, having a picnic birthday party, and more. It was definitely a change of scenery from my 8 am jog on a Friday morning but even more beautiful, as it defined a regular Madrileñen Sunday.

I have enjoyed exploring other parts of Madrid, not just the park. Thursday night we went on a tour to the Temple of Debod to watch the sunset. It was really beautiful how the clouds reflected on the pond and the lights illuminated the temple. On Saturday we ventured an hour outside of Madrid, into Segovia, yes it is pronounced like Genovia, the made up village from the Princess Diaries. We saw the castle and the historic aqueduct and later for lunch we had a Segovian delicacy, cochinilla, which is a baby pig. The meat was actually quite tender and I will admit even delicious. I’m thankful I did not get the hoof as some people did.

As our first Monday here in Madrid begins I look forward to beginning my new story, while exploring more of what Madrid has to offer, making me see it in a new light, maybe even outshining Barcelona a little. One thing is for sure, I will not be exploring Real Madrid’s stadium, Santiago Bernabéu, anytime soon, even if it is only 15 minutes away from my apartment.


As my last full day in Barcelona comes to an end, it almost becomes unreal that I have been living here for the past two weeks. The hardest part is that I have already created routines and relationships but now I have to leave them. I won’t miss that my living situation was 15 minutes away from my school but I secretly loved the walks to the metro where I would pass by my favorite place in Barcelona. I know I am meant to choose the beach or any of Guadí’s majestic architecture as my favorite places but I have to admit that my favorite place during my stay is a street called Passeig de Sant Joan where in between the street is a boulevard, separated from the street for people to walk on. Along one side there are benches where elders watch as on the other side little kids play on the playground. There is a sense of familiarity that makes it feel like a close-knit neighborhood.

Our school was small and I won’t miss the stairs which always winded me, which is a little depressing, but I will really miss my routine where I would sit in the cafe blogging, researching, emailing or just doing work. I would walk over to the kiosk and the woman at the counter would greet me with “hola niña de las empandas” translating to “hi empanada girl”. I will genuinely miss their empanadas. But what would I, or for the fact the whole group, do without the succulent chocolate croissants, from which a lava of warm chocolate would always goo out. I am certain that the freshman 15 I didn’t gain during my past year, I will have gained through my study abroad 15. I am secretly wishing Madrid’s school doesn’t have chocolate croissants, at least for my health.

Today I finally got to do a few of the things left on my checklist, better late than never, which were to go back to visit the geese at the cathedral since last time I was turned away since I was wearing shorts. They were really worth the wait. And I was able to finally buy postcards and pins, to add to my travel collection. As we said goodbye to our dear friend and amazing guide, Inma, it really hit me how strong some relationships have become and to really cherish the friends you make while traveling.

Lastly, I just want to give a shoutout to my wonderful host family who always made me feel so welcome, comfortable and well fed. Many of my colleagues had problems with their host families whether due to language barrier or getting mystery meat every night. I instead had a great host mom and host brother. Every night I would look forward to the food and chats, which

Mercè, my host mother.

Mercè, my host mother.

would sometimes just go on for 40 minutes. Sometimes making me feel bad for my roommate who would sit there quietly while I tried to translate bits and pieces. And my host brother, who if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have gotten to go to the FC Barcelona game, although I won’t miss waking up to your beard hair on the sink after you shaved the night before. Mercè and Xavi, if you are reading this, gracias por todo.  I will definitely miss their kindness and most of all the yummy food as I will have to cook for myself in Madrid. Next blog will be written from the capital city of this spectacular country, my motherland! Stay tuned.

Not looking forward to the hot weather that awaits me. For FahrenIMG_1167heit people, this is like high 80s and low 90s.