1 Going to and from Spain, I flew Iberia - it was a very comfortable flight. In all, the flight from New York to Madrid takes about seven hours. http://www.iberia.com/
2 This is the Gran Via, or "Great Way", an upscale shopping street located in central Madrid. It's also known as Spanish Broadway, with many hotels, movie theaters, and stores.
3 In the heart of the Salamanca district of Madrid, is the Mercado de La Paz, a great shopping spot with a wide range of products.
4 The food market has provided local residents with fresh food for more than 130-years. It includes butcher shops, such as this one, with the finest meats.
5 All the meats were fresh and well labeled in their refrigerated case. Neatly stacked smoked meats and sausages were on top.
6 Patrons come here to shop for fresh produce seafood, meat, cheese, fruit and more.
7 A fish monger, with many fresh selections in his stall.
8 There were baked goods to enjoy, such as churro and bretzel arandanos, a butter puff pastry covered in blueberry jam and sugar icing.
9 In another deli case, fresh sardines and anchovies.
10 And, if you love olives - this was the counter for you. All kinds of delicious olives.
11 This stall shop sold linens.
12 These hand towels had some very pretty patterns.
13 The shops offered many decorative bedding selections. Some of their sets were also sold with slippers.
14 Here was a bedding set in white and gold tones. Bed sheets could also be monogrammed.
15 Blankets for the baby, and soft plush toys in soothing blue shades.
16 Plus, holiday decorations - the stores were definitely well-stocked for visitors.
17 While at the American Embassy in Madrid, I taught a cooking lesson to some aspiring chefs in the "First Professional Experience" - a program for at-risk youths interested in learning how to cook.
18 I worked with about eight to 10-young students - all very eager to make anything and everything.
19 I showed them how to make traditional American biscuits.
20 Embassy chef, Byron Hogan, also helped students with their biscuits.
21 I enjoy teaching, and explaining why some techniques are important in cooking and baking. Here, I went over the importance of sifting the flour.
22 We also had shortcakes with blueberry compote, and herb butter biscuits.
23 Each station included a small group of students who mixed, sliced, and rolled their biscuits from scratch. This program is sponsored by JP Morgan and the local NGO Pinardi.
24 Here, I showed this group how to roll out the dough.
25 I helped place the biscuits on the baking sheet as they were being cut.
26 And then, we brushed the biscuits with a coating of butter. These students learn how to cook, but they also learn how to work with teams, and how to work professionally and maturely, so they can succeed in the work force.
27 At the end of the lesson, we all tried the biscuits.
28 The students did a great job and enjoyed eating the "fruits of their labor".
29 Chef Byron Hogan and I had a great time working in the kitchen together.
30 We were able to capture a group photo with our hardworking student chefs.
31 The next day, we departed for Santiago de Compostela, the capital of northwest Spain's Galicia region. The top sign, Camino de Santiago, is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes used to get to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
32 The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago.
33 The streets of Galicia were rich in history, so quaint, and so clean.
34 They were also very narrow - only one way driving on these streets.
35 Visitors could purchase scallop shells in all styles and sizes.
36 They were also made into jewelry charms.
37 Many shops, including this lighting store along the pilgrimage route, sold scallop charms as souvenirs.
38 And scallops would be seen embedded into the street itself. The scallop shell is also a metaphor - the grooves which meet in a single point at one end represent the various routes pilgrims have traveled to get to the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela.
39 The Santiago Cathedral of the archdiocese is in the World Heritage Site of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The structure is Romanesque with additions in Gothic and Baroque styles added over the years.
40 Scaffolding covered one side of Santiago de Compostela for cleaning.
41 The Praza da Immaculada, or Immaculate Square. For medieval pilgrims, this would have been the entrance to the church, and the final stop along the Camino de Santiago journey.
42 Another scallop shell labeled Camino de Santiago.
43 The church's facade is one of the most beautiful in the country, and is featured on Spain's one, two and five cent Euro coins.
44 This is Hotel Parador de Santiago de Compostela in the Praza do Obradoiro, one of the plazas of the church.
45 This is the roof of the Cathedral de Santiago. Visitors are able to take tours on the roof.
46 Walking on the granite roof felt precarious without any railings, but everyone loved the views of the four surrounding plazas that make up the cathedral.
47 Everyone took multiple photos from the top of the cathedral.
48 It was a gorgeous day, so the views went on for miles.
49 Here was another view from the roof of the cathedral.
50 The clock tower base was built in the 1400s, but the upper section was remodeled in the Baroque style in 1680 by architect, Domingo de Andrade.
51 The inside of the cathedral was just as beautiful as the outside - here were the massive organ pipes.
52 Ornate altars around the church were plated in silver and gold.
53 This was a view from directly under a chandelier in the cathedral.
54 Every statue was made with such detail, and so well kept.
55 Look at the gold-guilded ceiling.
56 Here is some of the work of the stonemasons who built the granite blocks of the pillars and walls.
57 There is always a priest available in the confessional.
58 A view looking down onto the central nave from one of the cathedral's upper levels. The barrel vaulted ceilings extended the full length of the main gallery.
59 Susan and Michael joined me for this quick photo. My next blog will include more photos from Spain and its historical sights.