WHO: Anne Donovan, 50, and her daughter, Mary Kate , 21, of Wellesley
WHEN: One week in April
WHY: When Mary Kate Donovan, a rising senior at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., went to Madrid for a semester abroad program, "I knew I'd get over there at some point," her mother said.
OFF DUTY : Mary Kate spent her spring semester at Carlos III University outside of Madrid. "It was total immersion for her," Anne said of her daughter, who is majoring in Spanish and photography. Not only did Anne appreciate having a translator, she said, " It was the first time where I was not the leader of the pack. Mary Kate figured out where to go and how to get there. That was a nice change." Mary Kate's school break was during Holy Week, the week preceding Easter. They spent their first few days in Madrid, then headed south to Seville, known for its Easter pageantry.
ROOM WITH A VIEW : In Madrid, they stayed at Hotel Regina , near Puerta del Sol , the city's central plaza. "It was a perfect location, and we had a room with an enormous old window that opened onto the avenue." They spent a day at the Museo del Prado and another half-day at the contemporary Reina Sofía Museum. A day trip northwest of Madrid took them to El Escorial, home to the Monastery of San Lorenzo. "It's a burial ground for kings and a very elaborate building with gorgeous architecture and murals, a cathedral, and beautiful gardens."
HOT TICKET : "We had a lot of tapas," Anne said. "There's a street where she tends to gravitate, the La Latina district, an off beat kind of place with a lot of young people. On the street called Calle Cava Baja you go to the door of these places -- and they're minuscule -- and if there's available seating you take it or you move on ." Mary Kate had purchased tickets for a sold-out show of flamenco star Joaquín Cortés. "It was a very passionate, emotional performance, with singers and musicians, and people were just cheering and cheering."
ENLIGHTENED: Being in Seville near Easter was "a once-in-a-life experience, to see how the culture is so alive in this city," Anne said. "We knew there were processions that went out at various times. . . . On Thursday night, the two biggest processions were going out and we waited on a curb with thousands of people. The first was a silent procession. You see the candles first and everyone starts shushing. There were upwards of a thousand people in the procession wearing robes with pointed hats and their faces covered , with holes for their eyes. They carry enormous candles."
PASSING FANCY : All processions ended with a platform, called a paso, "carried on the shoulders of stocky guys," that would hold an image of Christ or the Virgin Mary or scenes from the Passion . "When it passed, people would bless themselves and reach out to touch it if close enough," Anne said. Mother and daughter "scurried around to see as many processions as we could. We didn't go to bed until 5 in the morning. The whole thing was fascinating."