Friday, May 25, 2012

Last Spanish Day

Friday 5/25:

Today is officially the last day in Granada, Spain!  Our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 7am and I'll be back in NH around 8:30 at night. So it's going to be a long day full of airports, layovers and goodbyes but also a day full of reunions, English, and hamburgers! The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and I am looking forward to it with all my heart!! I'm hoping that my English language skills have not deteriorated past the point of comprehension and that I can keep from screaming every time a stranger walks by and I can understand them without thinking about it. Such an exciting life. :)  We just finished the last lunch our host family will ever give us now all that's left one more dinner, one more shower, and one more restless sleep waiting for our flight to come!  I'm all packed, and it all barely fits, I'm .2 over the weight limit in kilograms so we'll see how that goes at the airport and I might have to take out my sweatshirt or raincoat and just wear it through.  My carry on already weighs a ton so I won't be putting anything else into that either.  At this point I couldn't care less about any of that though because I am just so excited to come back!!!
See you all soon!!!!! :D
España, fue un placer conocerte, hasta hora ;) chao! <3

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

3 days left!!

Wednesday 5/23:

Only three more days until I leave Spain and return back home to good old America!! I can't wait and I've been trying to keep busy as best as possible to make the time fly!  Yesterday we had a little trouble keeping busy and ended up learning some of the dance moves to Thriller.. because yes, we were really that bored.  Today was a little better though and we slept in a bit and then headed to the other side of Granada near the Alhambra where there is a beautiful park called the "Carmen de los Martires".  It is filled with green plants and beautiful flowers especially now that its springtime.  It felt good to leave the city behind for a while and there were even kittens and peacocks in the park! I must admit though the cats were a little skittish and the peacock was rather intimidating because it would make its call (which is really deafening) and then it would run at us a little bit or puff out his feathers.  Beautiful, but intimidating.  After lunch I organized as much of my stuff as I could without actually packing because that is the only plan we have for all of tomorrow. I had a little bit of a headache so I took a short nap before we headed over to our Professor/Coordinator/Friend's, Pepe Ferrer, house for a little going away party.  He had printed out little spanglish songs for us to sing along to and we all learned the words and sang about friendship like you would at summer camp or middle school graduation and it was a grand old time.  His wife made us sandwiches, croquets, banana bread and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and everything was so delicious and all homemade!  We taught each other dances from old pop culture like the electric slide and the Spanish version of the chicken dance, which is quite similar to the English version and of course the "macarana" seeing as it is actually a Spanish song.  Then they went through the traditional sad goodbye songs like "closing time" and "american pie" etc etc some people cried, but mostly it was a good time.  For the next couple of days we'll just be wrapping things up here and packing, saying goodbye because Julie (the other student that has been living with us) is leaving on Friday and everyone from the UNH group is leaving on different days as well.  I am so excited to be back home but at the same time its a weird feeling leaving someplace that you've been for so long, I might even feel like a foreigner when I get back. It'll take some adjusting to but I still can't wait to be back home!!! 3 MORE DAYS!!!!! :D

PS. Hola Aunt Sue!!! ;) Thanks for being such an avid reader!!

Aqueduct in the Carmen 

Rose garden in the Carmen

el pavo real

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Adventures Away! Hiking Today! ;)

Saturday 5/19:

Today we got up bright and early to meet Marco, our guide Paco, and  3 other UNH students at the bus stop down town.  While we were walking, Pepe Ferrer, one of our teachers and coordinators, drove by a beeped at us to get in for a ride (really normal, we hang out with him cause hes great haha).  It turned out that Marco had asked him to drive us to the trail head because from where the bus would have taken us it would have been another hour just to get to the trail (considering we were planning on a 9 hour hike to begin with 2 more hours didn't seem to pleasant).  So he drove us about 45 minutes outside of Granada to a place called Güéjar Sierra and dropped us off at the trail head.  It was pretty chilly when we started walking but as the slopes got a little steeper and our hearts were working a little harder to keep us moving it warmed up pretty quickly.  Something that might help you understand the layout of our hike is that there are not a lot trees, so its not like hiking in New England where you pick one mountain and climb through trees blindly.  We hiked through a valley of several mountains until we reached the base of the largest continental mountain in Spain called Mulhacen (at 3478m or 11,411ft), crossed the valley and came back from the other side on a bunch of different mountains.  It was a lot of varied walking from going up to down, slopes to climbing cliff sides, and a few flat stretches in between.  That's the beauty of hiking in Spain, every five minutes of walking changes the climate and the scenery so that you feel like your in a new place, and since its spring there were so many flowers!!

There were a few small information signs along the way as little educational markers about old abandoned houses or mines. We stumbled across one of the pyrite (fools gold) mines and right at the opening of the old rocky tunnel was an entire skeleton.  There were a few shocked screams and yells until that shock faded at the new shock of our guide waltzing into the cave.  As obedient and curious Spanish students, we followed Paco into the depths of the drab darkness of the rock and hoped for the best.  I had of course packed my little flashlight which meant that I was rightly prepared but also that I had to go first...  I asked all of the appropriate questions such as: Isn't this unsafe since mines are known for collapsing? --no, this ones too old.  (Obviously, that made sense?)  and why are there so many skeletons, did something bring them here to eat them? --its a possibility.  How do you know something doesn't live in here? --I don't.  Yep, that's Paco, such a charmer. So needless to say we were all a little on edge and wary of what might be hiding around the corner, or really in front of our faces since the pitch blackness made it difficult to see even your own feet.   There were 4 or 5 more almost complete skeletons scattered throughout the puddles in the darkness and we tried our best to avoid them.  We think that they were goats or cows, or things like that but still have no idea of why there were so concentrated in the tunnel.  The last section of the mine was a giant rock that had not been axed away and it was like lemon squeeze all over again with backpacks and wet rock until we hit a dead end.  After a few minutes of talking and claustrophobia we turned around and raced our way out of the emptiness that surrounded us.  It was quite the adventure and I'm glad we did it, mostly because it was a good story and to top it all off, there were poisonous plants all around the outside of the entrance that a few unlucky people rubbed up against.  They suffered a mild burning for the next hour or so where they had been   in contact so it wasn't anything too serious.

So we continued to hike along until we reached a part where the river widened and we crossed the bridge and stopped for lunch.  Ironically there was another weird animal bone just sitting on the river's edge, but they seemed to populate the ground randomly so we stopped being surprised by them.  Lunch was a wonderfully packed sandwich by our family of cheese and butter, wonderful... we packed our own snacks though and enjoyed the scenery around us.  We climbed on up and down until we reached our half way point at the base of the Mulhacen mountain covered in snow, where two of the mountainous rivers met and merged into one. The plan was to make it here and cross the bridge over to the other side, scale the mountain, find the trail, and walk back on that side of the valley.  Easy enough right?  Well, turns out the bridge was broken or just non existent so we tried our best to find a way to cross the two rivers with no luck.  When we all convened in the same place again, Paco was taking off his hiking shoes and rolling up his pants.  We all let loose a few curses and nervous laughs, knowing that yes, he was completely serious and we were going to have to cross the river without a bridge.  So we packed up our shoes and put anything valuable in whatever plastic bags we had (luckily I brought ziplocks) and prepared to step into the inclement waters.  The curses that escaped us before were nothing compared to the yells and cries that we let out when the water closed in around our legs.  It was about mid-thigh level and we made our way painfully across slippery rocks with sporadic gasps and pleas to make it to the other side without falling.  There were no casualties except for the feeling in our legs which came back after a 15 minute period of jumping up and down and stomping on the ground endlessly.  A small crowd of people had gathered on the other side from where we had crossed, staring at us curiously and wondering how we made it across.  A little later when we were climbing up the mountain side (literally climbing, it was so steep) we stopped to look back and saw others trying to cross the same way we did.  Every time we needed a breather we would stop and watch to see if the river was going to pull anyone down, but as far as we could tell, the river couldn't claim a victory that day.

We scaled the mountain for a while longer until it started to slope a little less and we could walk along more comfortably and enjoy the views of the Sierra Nevadas and the valley in front of us.  We stopped for another snack at one of the refuge houses called "la cucaracha" which as many of you know means cockroach, luckily it has that name because of the shape of the shack, not because it inhabits the vile little creatures :) it did have a giant fluffy dog inside though who was very happy to sit and play with us for a while until we continued on the last leg of our journey.  The downhill part was dreadful.  Paco refused to take the normal path which zig zagged downwards in a less than comfortable slope and instead made paths in the dust that went straight down.  My feet and my knees were screaming at me to stop but we kept going until there was no possible way to go straight.  The rest of the down hill was not so bad because they were harshly cut paths out of rock with no way to make crude painful shortcuts.  However, we did hit a little dilemma on this track too.  We were just walking along and then we smelled something that was not so pleasant.  As we were talking about what that oh so familiar smell could be it got worse as we walked onward. Caitlin and I were babbling on about the possibilities when Casey shrieked ten feet in front of us and we all halted immediately.  It was a giant rotting pig.  Just laying in the middle of the narrow path.  We hid our faces in our shirts, held our breath, and climbed around the revolting mess that was sprawled in front of us.  The good news it that the smell went away almost immediately after we turned the corner.   The rest of the hike was pretty relaxing, only a few steep spots that really made your legs burn and the rest was pretty flat or slightly downhill until we hit the parking lot.

We sat down at a restaurant to relax for a little while and we played with the cats while the guys talked.  After sitting for more than 10 minutes though we all began to stiffen and the soreness had already set in.  We were exhausted and because we only had one car to take us all back in, Casey sat in back and the rest of us piled into the little seat.  We were all so tired that the closeness was almost comforting and we all started to fall asleep.  Once home we made our own dinner pretty early and went to bed before it was even dark out.
Today (Sunday) I am incredibly sore, walking seems impossible, I don't even want to talk about what it takes to get out of my top bunk, but it was all very worth it!!

The beginning of our journey

miner's cave, skeleton and all

The freezing river we walked through

Sierras <3

These flowers were all over the place

don't pretend you didn't see this one coming...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hola Pizza Metro

Tuesday 5/15:
Our UNH professor Marco planned a dinner for all of the students and parents to meet up for the last time (even though we had only ever met up once before), give out the last checks, socialize and all that jazz.  We met at a restaurant called Hola Pizza Metro, which was rather far from our side of town but we took the car so it wasn't so bad.  It was just Casey, Pepe, Filo and I, not the extended family, and we were the first to arrive.  Next was the ever so famous Luis and Fernanda, who were the elderly host parents of two of the other girls in our group.  No one really knows much about most of the other host families except for people that they're very close with, except for Luis and Fernanda.  I had never actually met them before, but tonight Luis decided to sit right next to me.  He was a hysterical old man, who smelled terribly of body odor and tended to play with his one crooked tooth.  Hes quite the joker kind of like our host dad Pepe and the two of them got along wonderfully, singing and laughing at their own jokes, which weren't really all that funny.  For dinner they brought us out several appetizers of salads, bread sticks, salmon, avocado, etc but because we were sitting at the head of the table most of the food was placed in the middle.  Luis and Pepe made it a point of to be sure we had food at the end of the table, and cleared a large space for when the pizza came out.  When it finally did come out, it was an entire meter long (which is why its called pizza metro) and divided into four different types of pizza, all of which except for the plain cheese, were covered in ham.  They brought out several more for the other parts of the table so that everyone was drowning in pizza.  They brought out more and more and we refused the best we could but in total they brought out 6 pizzas.  To put that into perspective for you that is 6 meters of pizza, or  more than 18 feet!! (and mind you that is only one dimension, not including the width as well.)  For desert they brought out shared plates of tiramisu and and little cream puffs covered in fudge and whipped cream.  The tiramisu was so rich that even though we were stuffed full with pizza we couldn't help but keep eating.  We left early (around 11pm) because Casey had a headache and I was suffocating from Luis's ghastly body odor and before I could do anything to prevent it Luis was up and kissing me goodbye.  Nice big wet kisses on each cheek and a grip that you would have expected from a professional arm wrestler.  It took me a good minute or two but I managed to wriggle my way free and escape for the door.

1 meter of pizza

me and Luis

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Thursday 5/10:
Our plane flew out from the Malaga airport which is two hours from Granada and it was schedule to leave at 2:30pm.  However, once on the flight we did not leave for almost an hour, and although the flight was only a duration of a little less than 3 hours or so, it was very simply the worst flight I have ever been on.  It was a classic scene of being surrounded by screaming children and idiotic people that did not know how to follow instructions. Once in the air the children (yes plural) did not cease to screech and cry and crawled all over the aisles and the seats around us.  One of the older kids even started yelling/singing Justin Bieber songs half way through the flight.  Dreadful.  But three or so hours later we arrived in Dublin to happy Irish faces and gray skies over the ever so green grounds.  We walked until we found our hostel, with a little help, two different strangers literally stopped working and asked us if we needed help.  One of them even insisted on calling his friends and asking them for directions for us.  Although the directions were a little off, we managed to find our way and settled in for the night.  It had only just started to rain a little bit and we headed to the nearest pub two minutes away called "The Bloody Horse" that was recommended by some random bystanders.  It was great pub with Guinness taps in the center of most of the tables and very friendly waitstaff.  We ordered one of the daily specials which was some kind of mince meat pie with the usual potatoes and vegetables that come standard with all Irish food.

Friday 5/11:
The sun comes up incredible early in Ireland, or I suppose at a normal time, whereas the sun in Spain does not rise until almost 8am.  We were up and ready fairly early with no where in particular to be until 11am so we did groceries (pbj sandwiches per usual) and bought some scones as a snack for our tour later.  We wandered around getting a feel for the streets and good pubs to go do and places to see later on and stayed at  a little cafe called The Queen of Tarts for some juice or coffee until it was time for our tour.  Our free walking tour was a 3 hour tour guided by a very enthusiastic Dubliner, who had just recently finished her Master's in history. She was very fun and knowledgeable and led us around to all of the important places in Dublin (ie: Trinity College, Christchurch Cathedral, Parliament, City Hall, Old towers and Castles, St. Stephen's Green, etc.)  It was a great tour and the weather had been holding out so nicely, sun shining only a few sprinkling showers every once and a while until the end of our tour when it started hailing.  The hail quickly turned into rain and we walked out in it until it slowed to a stop and we made our way to the Guinness Storehouse.  It is said to be the most visited building in Dublin, which tells you a little something about the culture, or what the tourists think of the culture anyways.  I personally hate beer, because I think it tastes awful, but as our tour guide says "when in Dublin".  It was actually pretty interesting to see how they made the Guinness and how it started out and the tour came with a free pint that you could receive in any of the various bars in the storehouse.  We chose the "learn how to pour the perfect pint" route and were given an instructor, a glass and a Guinness tap. Our instructor was very friendly and explained all 6 steps of pouring the perfect Guinness, it takes exactly 119.5 seconds to create your Guinness. I even got a certificate of the Academy of Guinness saying that I passed!  I felt a little shameful leaving almost an entire pint full on the table when we left, but hey I tried it and that's all they can ask of me.  For dinner we went to the oldest pub in Dublin called "The Brazen Head" and I ordered stuffed chicken breast wrapped in bacon with the usual vegetable delights! Early night for us again because we would be leaving very early the next morning.

Saturday 5/12:
We met our tour group at 6:40am in downtown to catch our bus and guide to the Cliffs of Moher for the day.  It was a long ride but I brought my book and finished it before we made it back and the countryside itself was a sight for sore eyes so I didn't mind.  We stopped in Limerick to look across the River Shannon (yay!!) and at King John's Castle.  It was a short stop and we continued on until we stopped again briefly at Bunratty Castle for some pictures and a short history.  We kept driving until we finally reached the cliffs and spent almost two hours there walking around and taking in all there was to see.  The cliffs themselves split into two sides one with a lookout tower (O'briens Tower) and the other side being much longer and the more picturesque of the two.  There were sea birds everywhere because it was a protected habitat and cows lazily grazing in the sunshine nearby.  Everything was green, aside from the water which was a frothy blue when the wind and tides willed it to crash into the cliff sides. We also explored a small exhibit that talked about the cliffs and the wildlife and then headed out to a small town called Doolin for lunch.  We stopped at a carvery and were given the assortment of Irish vegetables, potatoes and your choice of meat.  It was delicious and because we didn't know the next time we would be eating again we wolfed down the entire meal as if we had never seen food before.  On our way back we drove into the middle of nowhere where there was nothing but green until we found this little ruined Abbey.  I know the cliff's where breathtaking but there was something so nice about this little broken down stone building that I think it might have been my favorite stop of the day.  It was still sunny and everything was grassy or covered in moss.  It had looked like it had been abandoned and untouched for years except for the neatly set flowers on some of the worn stone graves. Next we stopped at a small fishing town called Kinvara.  I especially liked this town too because it was so quaint that it didn't even have souvenir shops, only a few craft stores and the little pubs and a grocery store.  There were boats beached in the little harbor and the sea bed was covered in seaweed.  We stopped in at a little grocery store and I couldn't help but buy a Snicker's ice cream bar, and let me tell you that was the most delicious bite of home I could have asked for.  From there we made our way back to Dublin and passed the same countless sheep, cows and fields of green, that we had encountered on our way there.  We made it back around 7pm and searched around for a bar called the Stag's Head.  As instructed, we searched for the little mosaic plaque on the ground and we had passed it the day before but we couldn't remember exactly where.  Finally we spotted it peaking out from a pile of trash bags and made our way down the alley into the pub.  We stopped in for a little while and played some cards until we were hungry enough for dinner and headed out to find a new pub.  Apparently things tend to stop serving food rather early in Dublin though so we had a hard time finding a place to eat.  As a last resort we found a restaurant with an empty table called "The Hairy Lemon" which aside from the name was a popular restaurant bustling with people a good smells.  I ordered the seafood chowder because they said they were famous for it and it was actually quite good.  Exhausted and full, we stumbled back to our hostel and fell straight asleep.

Sunday 5/13:
Again we woke up earlier than expected and got ready for the day.  Today we were up late enough for the hostel's free weekend pancakes though, which sounded more exciting that it actually was because they don't have maple trees in Ireland so there was no syrup and the pancakes were a little off.  I think it was the fault of our makeshift chef, who had also been our previous messy roommate who seemed to have moved right into the hostel, but no matter we ate our breakfast without complaints and headed out.  While we were waiting for the first Trinity College tour we wandered through St. Stephen's Green park and enjoyed the grassy areas, flower gardens and pounds full of ducks, seagulls and swans.  The tour started around 10am and our guide was a student who had just finished his exams.  He was a magnificent speaker and enlightened us about the history and interesting facts about the College.  After our tour we went into the library and looked around in there and of course saw the famous Book of Kells, which is actually a manuscript not a book and did not originate in Kells either. It was full of celtic symbols and beautiful calligraphy as were many of the other books in the museum/library.  Next we headed off to O'neils for lunch because we had heard such good things about it.  We were too early for lunch so we stayed for coffee and played some more card games until we could order.  Since I had yet to do so, I ordered fish and chips which came with the ever so famous "mushy peas" it sounds awful I know, but honestly their great.  Then we wandered around Grafton Street which is a pedestrian only street full of shops and bustling with people and street performers.  We stopped to watch a few performers and did a little gift shopping before we headed over the the Museum of History and Archaeology.  It was a giant museum (and free too!) full of old viking remains, Egyptian, Roman and old Irish exhibits.  It took us a while to go through but we walked around until we were too exhausted to go on and went back to our hostel to rest a while.  We went out again for dinner but because it had started to rain and it was incredibly windy we just went back to the Bloody Horse since it was just so welcoming the first time.  I wasn't very hungry so I ordered a Greek salad that came with a tortilla wrap but our waitress got confused and gave us both Caesar salads, that was fine too and we ate and played cards as usual.   We packed up our things and went to bed early again because our flight left at 7:30am the next morning.

Monday 5/14:
Not sure what was going on the night before, but people in the streets were rowdy and I got less than a couple hours of sleep.  Our flight was delayed again and we took off late, but it didn't matter as much because we're only going back to Granada.  Just barely made our bus from Malaga to Granada and arrived back "home" at around 3pm.

Shannon on the River Shannon :)

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Corcomroe Abbey
Rediscovering Grass <3

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

18 DAYS!!!!

Fun fact: I'll be back home in a little over two weeks!!!!  As you can tell I'm pretty excited about that fact :) Just so give an update of whats been going on here, I stayed here in Granada last weekend and have been working on all of my final papers and projects for school--after all this is "study" abroad.  Last Thursday was a holiday "dia de la cruz" which means day of the cross.  Its celebrated with everyone dressing up in flamenco dresses and suits and displaying crosses made of flowers all over the city.  There was a stage in the municipality plaza where professionals to little girls all danced Sevillana which looks a lot like flamenco but a little less angry and intense looking.  Julie and I went out with everyone in the family including the little girl and we were forced to wear a carnation in our hair because they said if we didn't it meant that men were allowed to kiss us, so we generously obliged to wearing red carnations in our hair for an evening. :) 

On another day this weekend there was a very big soccer game in Granada which I was unaware of until Filo and Pepe brought me out to "experience the atmosphere".  There were people everywhere! Every bar that had a TV was packed with people and even the bars without them everyone was asking about the score every five minutes and talking about the players and the season.  It was Granada vs. Real Madrid, so really we didn't stand a chance, but the opportunity to make a stand against such a famous team was very exciting for every "Granadino".   We walked to the stadium after tapas and stood around the outside with the crowds of people watching from the gates and Filo was the only one with a radio so we made lots of friends.  Sadly within the last minute Granada lost because Madrid scored two goals.  It was to be expected but nevertheless everyone was rather disappointed.

As for things that are going on now, tonight is our coordinators birthday so we are going to a Mexican restaurant for dinner to celebrate (because hes Mexican) him and cinco de mayo which was last weekend as well.   Also it seems to be the season for poplar trees because they are shedding these fluffy white puffs that look like dandelions and it is snowing from the skies.  Its rather odd and very inconvenient, pretty sure I've swallowed a few and so many girls from our group have headache from the allergies.  Luckily I'm not one of them and my allergies or whatever I had seems to be going away.
In upcoming news, Casey and I are leaving for Dublin on Thursday and staying there until Monday morning so that should definitely be a fun adventure.  I am desperately longing to see anything green and I know I won't be disappointed.  Other than that, I still have a lot of work to do for finals and a lot of presentations coming up next week that I need to prepare for.   :)  18 DAYS TIL HOME!!!

Cross in the "town hall" municipal building

traditional gitano (gypsy) dresses

red carnation

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gibraltar and Marbella

We went to Gibraltar and Marbella this weekend/ week.  To sum it up, it rained a lot, I went to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, played with some monkeys, went through the oldest military tunnel in the rock (there are 34 miles of tunnels and the whole town including the rock is only 3 miles by 1 mile), saw some caves, went bowling, and hung out in pubs and gardens while it rained and then went to Marbella.  In Marbella it rained even more, so we really didn't do all that much because its just a little beach town.  We went to a bonsai museum (which ironically was outdoors, played a lot of cards in restaurants and in our hostel, walked around in shops, hunted for sea life (crabs, sea anemones, and sea urchins, etc.), and finally on the last day it was sunny and we laid out on the beach.  Nice relaxing vacation.  Heres some monkey pictures, because I know that's all anyone really wants to see ;) 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lunch with Pepe

Somewhere in the madness yesterday, one of my professors and program coordinators, Pepe Ferrer (not to be confused with Pepe my host dad) called me and invited Casey and I to go to his house for lunch today.  Casey couldn't go because she had to go to the airport to pick up her boyfriend, but he still insisted that I find a friend to bring and come anyways.  So I did. :)

The reason he invited us in the first place is because we were telling him about the food in our house, and how we don't particularly care for Spanish food and that Filo isn't a very good cook (burnt paella and raw baked potatoes are a dead give away).  So I invited Victoria and we had a grand old time!

His wife and one of his daughters, Esperanza who is 15, were there and they were so friendly.  She cooked couscous with vegetables, chicken cordon bleu, and fresh baby spinach salad with chicken, dried peppers, nuts and tomatoes with balsamic vinaigrette. SO DELICIOUS.  For desert she made banana bread!!!!! which absolutely does not exist in Spain but they lived in NH before and said that during the last week she would cook us a pumpkin pie too!  She served the banana bread with vanilla caramel ice cream, and whipped cream with drizzled dark honey over the top.  I literally died and went to heaven, or back to America, but either way, it was amazing. After lunch we sat in the living room and talked for awhile until it was time to go home.  They said that we should come over more often (which personally I think is a great idea) and at the very least we'll be at the end of classes fiesta before we leave.
Left with a happy stomach, a friendly experience, and a good feeling about my ability to speak Spanish. :D

PS. today is exactly one month until I come home!!!! Yippee!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

fotos de Barça

Park Guell, Gaudi

Famous lizard at Park Guell

Earth Day and the Arc de Triomf
Sagrada Familia, inside

Sagrada Familia, inside

Sagrada Familia

Magic Fountain show

Market Boqueria

Castle at Montjuic

Magic Fountain Show

Eating Pitahaya fruit

Roof Terrace at Casa Mila aka La Pedrera

Earth Day, making our pizza!


Casey and I spent last weekend in Barcelona just the two of us.  To start off, you should know that Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, located on the northern coast next to France.  Very important: they do not consider themselves part of Spain, they are Catalunya and they despise everything that groups them with Spain.  So basically, they have a wonderful work ethic, wake up in the mornings, and pick up after their dogs, however most stores sadly still close for siesta, but for a shorter time. wonderful! :) They also have their own language, Catalan, which sounds like a mixture of German, Spanish, English, and Russian... confusing right?

Thursday 4/19: 
Our plane left in the afternoon and we arrived at our hostel in Barcelona around 5pm.  We found the nearest grocery store and bought the usual necessities, ie: pb and jelly sandwich makings, cereal, yogurt and juice.  We wondered around the main street called Las Ramblas which is filled with souvenir stands, flowers, artists, restaurants, little pet stores, etc. We made the major places familiar to us by walking around on the harbor and being the usual tourist with the map so we could get it over with quick.  Theres was a floating city right at the end of Ramblas that we walked around and found the mall which had a Starbucks where we bought pasta salads for dinner and sat out on the balcony of the harbor.

Friday 4/20:
Our original plan was to find a bike tour that would last a couple of hours to have fun and familiarize ourselves with everything in the city but our map didn't have street names and the old Gothic neighborhood was just like a maze.  Needless to say we didn't end up finding the tour, but instead we took the metro straight to the Sagrada Familia.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it is a church built/designed by Antoni Gaudi, who died before it was finished (because its still not finished).  We saw a lot of his work in Barcelona and its like nothing you've ever seen.  He takes characteristics of nature, like caves, bones, trees, etc and uses them along with architectural forms that make the structures look like their moving, and lots of decoration and geometrical shapes...really hard to describe, but amazing to witness firsthand.  So the outside of the Sagrada Familia isn't done but they recently finished the inside which was beautiful! The most impressive part were the vibrant stain glass windows, the colors were so rich and they lit up the floors with bright patterns.
 After that, we had ourselves an Italian lunch, where the waiters were sooo nice and gave us lots of free bread and conversation. Next we took the metro to Park Guell, which was also designed by Gaudi.  The park was huge, covered in trees and flowers and all sorts of weird cave looking structures.  It was very hilly and we climbed for what seemed like forever until we had seen almost all of it.  When we were done there we walked to another one of Gaudi's buildings called Casa Batllo, just to look at the outside, and it was surrounded by a lot of other interesting architectural buildings.
Then we finally went back to our hostel to rest our feet a little bit and make pb and jelly sandwiches to bring with us for dinner.  Every Friday and Saturday the "Magic Fountains" next to the art museum and the plaza de toros (which they turned into a mall because bullfights are banned in Catalunya! Yippee!) have a show from 7-9pm.  We got there early to grab a seat in front of the steps to the art museum right in front of the fountain and we stayed for the whole two hours because it was so much fun.  The amount of water and pressure that is needed to do these shows is incredible because its a giant fountain that coordrinates itself with the music that they play.  There were 10 minute shows every 20 minutes, and it ranged from deep opera music, to american pop hits, Disney songs (in Spanish), the Barcelona song (which is oddly sung by Queen in English), and even the Star Wars theme song!  Once it finally got dark for the last couple of shows they even had lights that went with the shows!  On our way back we stopped on at a little vendor and bought a waffle with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and raspberry gelato.  Delicious way to end the night.

Saturday 4/21:
In the morning we stopped by Market Boqueria, which is an outdoor covered market that is packed full of people and stands of fruit, meat, chocolates, candies, eggs, vegetables and everything fresh that you could think of.  Casey and I picked out some chocolates and a fruit that we had never heard of called Pitahaya.  It tasted like a watered down kiwi, but it was still pretty good, one half was bright pink and the other white and they both had little black seeds.
From there we took a cable car to Montjuic, which is a little mountain in the city.  At the top theres a castle which we were able to go into for free, not sure whose castle it was but it was definitely built for military purposes because it had several turrets and lots of look out towers.  On the way up in the cable car we spotted these two very long metal slides that you would find in a children's park. So we decided to look for them on our walk down.  We found them with ease and there were lots of young kids using them so I though it couldn't be that dangerous.  Silly me. I rocketed down the slide and flew right off the edge and skidded to a halt on my knee and my ankle, leaving me covered in dust a little scraped up.  It was still fun, and all of the locals laughed at me, but no harm done :)
We wandered down through the various parks full of flowers and fountains until we made it to the metro which would take us to Casa Mila, or La Pedrera, another of Gaudi's buildings.  We toured the attic, roof terrace and an apartment of this building and the most interesting part was definitely the roof.  There were chimney pieces and stairwell covers that looked like melting ice cream cones and other odd shapes.
Again we went back to the hostel and made packed ourselves pb&j's for that nights Magic Fountain spectacular, because it was just so entertaining the first time!
 On our walk back we ended up walking in the wrong direction down Ramblas and our feet were so tired that we stopped to sit down and get something to drink.  While we were sitting outside street performers came and were dancing for us and tried to get us to give them money, but when that failed asked us to join them the following night for a party, which of course we just played along with so they would leave but then he came back with a rose and his card to give us. It started pouring while we were sitting there but luckily there were umbrellas covering us from most of it, and a couple tables down from us there was a group of British men, all dressed exactly the same, blue button down shirt and jeans.  They looked like a little club, and it was obvious that they had been drinking except for one of them which was facing our direction.  Somehow we made friends with this one guy without ever actually talking to him, but we laughed at their jokes and how drunk his friends were and helped him find another of his friends who we had seen wander off.  It was fun and eventually it stopped raining so we went and found a Shawarma place to eat on the way home.

Sunday 4/22:
The forecast said rain so we brought our rain gear and headed out for the day.  We were on our way to a museum through one of the parks when they were setting up all sorts of stands for Earth Day! We stopped and wandered through them and decided we would come back later when things were really opening up.  And then we stumbled into a 10k marathon, "NikeRunning", just as the first person was finishing the race and we stayed to watch the hoards of people cross the finish line. We finally made it to our destination, the chocolate museum and it was so much more interesting than we had hoped for!  It was cheap and our ticket was a bar of chocolate which is a good way to start out!  It was very informative and told all about the history of chocolate and how it effected Spanish society.  There were sculptures scattered throughout the museum like the Sagrada Familia, works from Picasso, Minnie Mouse, Up!, Don Quijote and many more!
We went back to the fair for lunch, which was the best idea we could have ever had.  All of the stands were ecological things, like organic foods, fresh made right in front of you, recycled products like clothes, purses, jewelry, and lots of awareness stands like wind power and animal rights activists.  We stopped at a stand and had fresh made burritos filled with health foods and it was so delicious!  We wandered around the fair for a while until around 3pm when we headed over to the Picasso museum for free entrance.  The line was crazy long, but it moved fairly quickly.  It wasn't a huge museum, which was more wonderful than you could know, because our feet were soooo tired, but it was still very interesting.
After the museum we headed to the harbor to go see a movie in the imax theater next to the aquarium.  Luckily the movies they had were in Spanish and Catalan so we had the opportunity to actually understand what we were watching.  It was called Wild Ocean 3d!  Pretty interesting, but mostly about sardines and all of the animals that rely on them along the wild coast of South Africa.  I swear its cooler than it sounds haha.  When the movie was finished we headed back to the fair because it was on the way to our hostel and we stopped for a fresh made pizza that was cooked right in front of us in a stone oven.  It was pear, raisin, nuts, a couple different kinds of cheese, and oregano, and I cannot express to you how good that pizza was.  We carried it back to our hostel and ate it down in the kitchen.
We packed up our things and made the last of our pb&j sandwiches to eat in the morning for breakfast.  We ended up sitting down there finished the jars of pb and jelly, like two homesick Americans would, until it was time for bed.  OH! and it never rained either :) we had a pretty lucky day stumbling into everything, yay traveling!!

Monday 4/23:
Plane left early morning from Barcelona and we made it back in time to Granada to shower and head off to class.  Back to work for us until next weekend!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

5 Popcorns!

Tuesday is the day we cook ourselves dinner and eliminate another popcorn watching a movie, so now we're down to 5 more til I come home!!!!  Today class dragged on terribly and we've been assigned hopefully all of our final projects and essays, which is a bit overwhelming but it just means the end of the semester is nearing!  We also went to lunch at our usual Wednesday spot called Restaurante Hicuri, which is kind of like a healthy, organic cafe with really good lunch deals and fresh juices, so that was a good pick me up hahah.  Tomorrow Casey and I are leaving for Barcelona for the weekend, we don't have a super specific plan yet, but we're going to see the Sagrada Familia and maybe some other Gaudi works, visit some pretty cool parks, and a market that we've heard a lot about.  I'll tell you all about it when I get back :)  Also I think we're trying to plan a trip to Germany the second week in May, but the flights and scheduling is getting complicated.  We're pretty devoted to going though so I'm sure we'll work something out!  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 100!

So today is day 100, and it's pouring outside so we are spending the afternoon doing nothing but homework and random nonsense inside. We thought about doing random middle school activities that have to do with the number 100, like 100 pennies or candies, or something like that.. but we really don't have enough of anything except days, so Happy 100th Day to us!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

6 Popcorns til home!

Being back from our Semana Santa vacation has made Casey and I realize that we need to do things to keep us sane for the last stretch of being in Spain.  Yesterday we made our own dinner, Easter shapes pasta with broccoli, tomatoes and eggs and we plan to cook for ourselves at least once a week.  Also every Wednesday we are going to eat lunch at this little dinner right near our school, I don't come home for lunches on those days anyways because I have class so that works out.  And we decided that every week we would pick a night to watch a movie and have popcorn, and I decided that time will fly by if we think of the rest of our stay here in the amount of popcorn I have left.  Last night we watched a movie so now we only have 6 more popcorns until we go home!!  How short does that feel? Only 6 popcorns!  Pretty ingenius  I know :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

fotos de Semana Santa

Procesion de los Gitanos- climbing the hill in the Albaicin

Morrocan deliciousness- Granada

El Generalife - Granada

lost in the mountains- Monachil

raining and cave exploring- Ronda

Easter procession- Torremolinos

Semana Santa! -abridged version

There are far too many events and things to write a week long post, so I'll try and sum it up fairly shortly.

Mom and Dad were here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We stayed in a cave house in Granada in the old moorish section of town for the first half of the week.  My host family had Casey's family and us over for Paella one day, and it was a very long but enjoyable visit.  Went to an interestingly intense faced flamenco show in one of the caves in Sacromonte.  Visited the Alhambra, which is spectacular (and I'm going to see again tomorrow with class) very old, and full of history.  Enjoyed the Arab baths, old underground baths, hot, cold, warm pools, a steam room, relaxing tea, and a massage section for maximum relaxation.  We did a little hiking and a lot of getting lost and a little bit injured--love you mom-- and of course because it was Semana Santa we watched some of the processions.  They were very impressive, giant sculptures centuries old being carried by penitents under the floats.  They moved ever so slowly and stopped every several hundred feet or so to switch out the people underneath.   The second half of the week we stayed in an apartment in Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol.   A little beach town on the coast with a lot of really really really good food (you guessed it, NON-Spanish food!) of course I ate enough for me to not have to eat Spanish food for the rest of my stay here, but it was totally worth it ;)  We walked the coastline, marina and spent a day in Ronda.  Unfortunately as they say in Spain- it always rains during holy week.  The weather was a little gloomy for the majority of their stay in Spain, whereas today, they left at 10am and it hit 75 without a cloud in the sky.  But I guess you can't have everything :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mom and Dad are almost here!!

We had dinner at Paco and Susana's last night and it was so much fun.  He made us Gnocchi because we begged for italian food instead of more Spanish food, and he made us all sorts of appetizers and strawberries and cream "Paco style" for desert.  It was so good.  They're a lot more fun when Peque has toys and things to keep her occupied and Filo and Pepe aren't around, its a much quieter atmosphere.  We hung out for a while and talked about movies and music and whatnot until we discovered Paco had never seen Inception.  Turns out he had it downloaded but had never watched it so we demanded that he watch it.  He thought we meant right then and there so we watched half of Inception before we left to go back home.

My parents are flying in today, right now actually they are on a plane from Madrid to Granada so they're technically already in Spain.  I'm so excited that I woke up early today and got ready so fast that I have nothing to do right now but wait for time to pass (which is why I'm updating my blog haha).  SO don't be alarmed if  you don't hear from me for a little over a week because I'm going to be off enjoying the wonderful company of my lovely parents!!! SO EXCITED FOR THEM TO GET HERE.  I even went out this morning and bought dad a cake because I missed his birthday ;) but shhhh its a surprise!  Oh and this week is also Semana Santa, holy week, so the whole country is on holiday for this week and there are a ton of processions going on in Granada and all over Spain, so that should be interesting.  It celebrates or commemorates the crucifiction and resurrection of Christ. Fun fun fun!
I'm sure I'll have a whole lot of updating to do when I get back, but until then... Hasta luego!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hell Week.

So we didn't pick the best weekend to go away to relax... Nerja was perfect though and I wouldn't change it.  But this week is insane.  I have two midterm exams, two midterm papers (a research paper, and a play analysis), three smaller papers, a creative poem, and miscellaneous homework that they still give us :P  On top of all that, this Thursday there is a general strike, so basically the entire country is closed for a day... rather inconvenient.  Luckily Mom and Dad are flying in on Friday or we'd really be having problems right now. It's all nonsense, but the good news is that I'm halfway through the week!! more bad news though, I'm sick as a dog, again.  Its a little worse this time, but hopefully it won't last as long. My goal is to be better by Friday so that I'll be 100% to pick up my parents at the airport :D We promised Paco and Susana that we would go to their house for dinner on Thursday because we don't really have classes, but we were kind of forced into ti.  Hopefully the child behaves, but if all else fails at least we'll have gotten a good meal out of it, we made him promise to make us an Italian dinner hahah Gnochi! We have next week off because its semana santa or Holy Week, so the whole country is on vacation, well pretty much all of Europe really.  This week we also have a lot of students staying here, 3 British girls in the room next to us and 4 French teachers upstairs, but the British girls are rather entertaining, very young and they talk A LOT.  Can't wait until this week is over!!


Sorry I've been a bit slow with posting, I know some of you have been complaining (cough cough christopher) I've been insanely busy but I guess I'll update you a little bit :)

Thursday 3/22:
Immediately after class Casey and I ran home, ate lunch really fast and begged Pepe to drive us to the bus station.  We made it just in time and took the bus to Nerja which is right on the southern coast of Spain.  We rented an apartment for the weekend for just the two of us because we needed a break from real Spain life, aka the food, siesta, and the little devil that visits us everyday.  Nerja is known for two things, the balcony of Europe and caves.  So we walked to the balcony of Europe which was 5 minutes from our little apartment and then we went straight to the grocery store to buy all of the american things we could find. We bought: whole wheat pasta, cereal, peanut butter, celery, humus, chips and salsa, strawberries, bananas, yogurt, and wheat bread.  We forgot to buy anything to put on our pasta but we had celery with peanut butter and chips and salsa and whole wheat pasta for dinner while we watched harry potter and had popcorn and mike and ikes :D it was heaven.

Friday 3/23:
We had cereal and peanut butter banana toast for breakfast, soooo good and then headed to the beach.  It was already really sunny out even though it was still early in the day and we literally laid on the beach until 3pm. The beach we were on wasn't really sand, it was little tiny rocks which was perfect because it didn't stick to you but they were small enough that it was still really comfortable.  And it was right next to the Balcony of Europe too.  If you were standing on the balcony (which is basically like a little lookout point that you can see the coastline from) and looked to your left, we were laying on that beach right there.  We had packed ourselves lunch (pb and jelly sandwiches never tasted so good) and our friends came to visit us for the day.  We even packed paddle ball and played in the waves for a little while, not too far though because the waves were enormous and there were rocks everywhere. We went back to the apartment and had dinner at a normal US time, like 6:30 instead of our usual time 3 hours later :P  Again we watched harry potter (almost done the series!) and this time we bought pasta sauce for dinner and bought little cups of tiramisu  for desert.

Saturday 3/24:
A little cloudy all day but it never rained because I carried my umbrella with me everywhere ;) that's right, I know how to trick the skies.  So we laid around in bed for a while until we decided it was time for a haircut.  We had both been avoiding it because we were afraid they wouldn't understand but a lot of people in Nerja spoke English so we decided to take our chances.  They didn't speak English but they were very nice and understood what we wanted, just a trim nothing special, but after two and a half months, a trim feels pretty good.  We went back for lunch and caught a bus a little afterwards to the caves 10 minutes up the road.  It was incredible on the inside, first you walk through this little path that doesn't look so impressive and its very crowded so I was ready to be disappointed when it opens up into this giant underground room.  There were even seats for the concerts that they sometimes hold there (doesn't seem too safe to me, I wouldn't want to attend a concert where there are stalactites hanging above my head...but whatever suits your fancy I guess).  There was a little path to follow and the room opened up even bigger until we made it to the massive column in the center.  The worlds biggest stalagmite, its even the in the Guiness Book of world records!
We had perfect timing and caught the bus back as soon as we were finished there and headed back for another amazingly american early dinner :D  and of course the last harry potter movie was to follow heheh finally complete the series!

Sunday 3/25
The morning started out pretty cloudy so we decided to stay in bed awhile since we never get the chance to sleep undisturbed at home.  We ended up watching the only English channel on television, pretty much all weekend when we were in the apartment and it was called "Tiny Pop" basically a British children's channel.  Sounds lame but it was quite entertaining really :) We went out a little later and the sun started to come out too and we climbed over all the rocks and closed pathways that had been eaten away by erosion and plants to get from beach to beach at low tide.  It was fun little adventure and the water and the beaches were beautiful.  We walked a different way back and stumbled upon a hoard of cats (of course) but its strange, because in Spain you either never see any cats, or you see 30 of them grouped together in random places.  Nerja is one of those places that has cats everywhere grouped together. One of them followed me around for half an hour and I played with him until we had to leave.  They let us leave our things at the apartment until we had to leave at 5pm which was very convenient so we grabbed a late lunch at an Italian restaurant, because thats another one of those things we miss.  It was so good and we even got gelato after because there were so many italian ice cream places around the balcony.  We even made it back to Granada just in time for dinner and to finish up our homework!  A much needed relaxing weekend :)
rock climbing :)

cats at the balcony of Europe!

grocery shopping!

our beach from the balcony

worlds biggest stalagmite

Nerja Beaches-rock climbing!