Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leaving for London!!!!

Today's the day!!! We're coming home straight after class, shoving some food down our throats and driving to the bus station from which we will ride a bus for 5 hours until we reach Madrid tonight at 9:30pm.  Then we have to find our hotel for the few hours that we will be sleeping, eat our bocadillos that Filo is going to pack us and then be at the airport a couple hours before our plane leaves at 6am.  Then we reach London at 7:55am and the adventure starts...IN ENGLISH!!   We're flying RyanAir and that in itself has been a struggle because they only allow one carry on item and no personal items that has to fit into a 55cm X 40cm X 20cm box.  anyone that doesn't use the metric system, that's about 20 inches by 15 inches... so its pretty tiny.  Fingers crossed that it'll fit because we really prefer not to pay an extra 50E.  Also heres a few things that we're going to do while we're in London (I think because we don't really have any set plans yet except for a Harry Potter tour when we get there hahah ) are The London Eye (giant ferris wheel that takes you up for a view of the city- each bubble holds 25 people!), West Minister Abbey, Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, The British Museum (worlds greatest museum of history and culture),  Houses of Parliament (and BIG BEN!), and who knows what else!!

Just wanted to give you all a sneak preview ;)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

fotos de la alpujarra

Comida China y La Alpujarra

It felt so good to sleep in, and when we woke up we had the house to ourselves.  The British folk had gone back to England, Julie left early for a trip with her program, Pepe was working, and Filo was out getting her hair done or something. It was so wonderful to be able to relax and get our own breakfast. After we got ready for the day we went out to go shopping because its nearing the end of the country wide sales known as the "rebajas" which apparently only happen twice a year, so why not take advantage?  Its quite a miracle but I actually bought a couple shirts and cardigans (because anyone who has ever gone shopping with me knows I never buy anything). So that was a start to good day and then for lunch we had PASTA! Normal pasta, with normal tomato sauce and normal parmigiana cheese-- I never thought I would be so happy to eat lunch, and for desert we had fresh strawberries! To say the least, it was marvelous. Later we went for a run in the park (another miracle) and used the little outdoor workout machines for a while.  The park is only 3 minutes away from our house and it has a little dirt track and trees and exercise machines in the center.  I think its meant for old people because the machines are nothing fancy and they don't have any weights or anything but they're still  fun :)   At 9pm Paco and Susana picked us up to go eat Chinese food at their house.  La peque was there but she was pretty well behaved for the most part, minus the period of time when they fed her of course.  It's strange though that Chinese food should make me think of home, but it does and it was really good.  They seemed to think that it would be so different from Chinese food in the US but it was pretty much the same, except they had never heard of crab rangoon and they had something called "patas" which were like shrimp puffs.  They looked like styrofoam or packing peanuts but they didn't really taste like anything.  After some joking around about the type of meat we were eating Paco promised me that he went to a very well renowned Chinese restaurant and there was no possibility of my eating cat that evening (seriously Christopher, hes just like you!!).  After dinner we hung around their house and went through old photos of the family and played all our favorite songs on youtube. We had to keep telling him to bring us home though because we had to be up early in the morning and we finally pushed him out the door at 1am.  Lots of fun though :)

We got up early to leave for La Alpujarra today because its a two or so hour bus ride.  La Alpujarra is a historical region that contains the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  First we drove to a town on the outside of the mountains and walked around there a little to break up the ride.  Then our giant bus, climbed the side of these mountains on little tiny twisty roads at 50mph, that were meant for two cars--not possible.  The road that we were on is the highest "highway" in all of the European Union, except that we didn't ride it all the way up as it was closed because due to it being too dangerous.  We stopped at one "pueblo blanco" because the ride was making everyone nauseous and we needed some fresh air.  The town was adorable, really quiet with artisan shops hanging out their alpaca rugs :)  We only stayed a little while and then headed back onto the bus to climb a little further to the next pueblo blanco called Capileira.  Here we stayed for lunch and our tour guide/literature teacher talked to us about ham for half an hour.  Jamón is a very important thing in Spain, and it was actually rather interesting.  For lunch we had a soup that was famous in La Alpujarra that had safron (so it was yellow), eggs, ham, fried bread, and garlic.  It was pretty tasty, just a little too much broth for my liking.  Next we had a plate full of sliced potatoes, churizo (a kind of sausage), ham, a fried egg, and a giant pepper (which I removed from my plate).  Then desert is what they call "soplillo" which comes from the verb "soplar" which means to blow because its a meringue which is full of air! It also had almonds in it, which made it just that much better :D  After lunch we had two hours to go shopping or what have you.  We decided to go hiking, and the entire group followed.  Marco and Maricarmen led the way, but 10 minutes in Maricarmen said it was too dangerous because the rocks were not very stable and were known to fall.  She basically told us that she didn't want to be responsible for injury or death so the UNH group could go on with Marco if we wanted. So we did.   It was a little slippery because of some snow and ice, but other than that it was a lot of fun and absolutely gorgeous.  We were climbing down the side of a mountain, that was squished between several other mountains, down to a river between them.  Because we were having so much fun we decided to climb up the next mountain a little and lost track of time.  We made it back to the bus with 5 minutes to spare, so obviously our teacher bought everyone beers?  Its a strange theory they have about rehydrating, but I passed it up for some water.  The ride back was just as twisty and some people got a little sick, so it was a longer ride back home but I slept most of the way.  Back at the house tonight, we're just relaxing our sore bodies and maybe watching a movie after dinner.  These next couple of weeks are going to fly by, we're keeping pretty busy and are leaving for London on Thursday, CAN'T WAIT!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

El Barrio

Our teacher bought us tickets to a concert last night because UNH will pay for "cultural experiences" (which really varies from Arabic spas, beers after hiking, and museum visits).  The band was called El Barrio which literally translates into "the neighborhood" but I don't see what that had to do with anything.  They were a mix of flamenco and pop music with lots of fast beats and guitar.  It was very crowded and we warned to be cautious of gypsies but if there were any they blended in very well and didn't bother us at all.  The four of us (Casey, Victoria, Casey and I) pushed our way in onto the floor because we figured it would be the most fun down there, dancing and engaging in all those concert festivities.  The lead singer of the band was known for wearing a black fedora, so of course the crowd was adorned in fedoras of all colors and sizes.  Even though we had a really hard time understanding the lyrics or the chants, the music was really great.  It was a lot of fun, but as they say in Granada "todo el mundo" was smoking so all of my clothes reek of cigarettes and I probably inhaled a packs worth of smoke.  Filo promised us she would wash our coats today though, so that shouldn't be a problem.  Theres also this really popular song here in Portuguese called "Ai se eu te pego" its really really catchy and it plays in all of the clubs here and every once and a while at the concert the guy would pretend to start singing it.  He also ran off stage mid song to put on a Granada jersey-- the crowd went WILD.  Never underestimate the power of soccer in Spain ;)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I tried to upload a little video I took there but it wouldn't let me :( I'll try again later!

The Most Wonderful Place On Earth :)


We took a train for 2 1/2 hours and we had our own little car because really, who rides the train on a Thursday afternoon?  When we arrived in Ronda, it had just become dark outside so we followed our little hand drawn map from the train station to our hostel.  The street our hostel was on had a giant hole in the road for construction (which is quite often for Spain) and there were only a few street lights.  The door to the street was open and completely dark so it was definitely a little frightening, but we all had our keys between our knuckles and were ready for any sketchy situations :) luckily however, we rang the bell, and Paul the 19 year old from Holland running our hostel answered and let us in.  The first thing we did was drop everything, including our mouths, when we saw the terrace. It was built right into the side of the cliff which overlooked the gorge and the famous "puente nueva" which was covered in dim lights.  Also something that I hadn't known I'd been missing until I saw them again was the stars.  Because Ronda is so small there is hardly any light pollution.  Our hostel was mainly occupied by us and Paul for most of the weekend which made it incredibly fun and very homey.  Thursday night we just stayed in and ate our bocadillos that our host families had packed us for the day, and decided on our plans for the following day.

Breakfast was included: cereal (which I have also been missing terribly), toast with all sorts of different jams and chocolate, and basically tea, coffee and whatever else you could find.  So we filled ourselves up and headed out for a morning hike.  We found a little path the ran along one of the outside edges of the main part of town and walked all the way down through old ruined Arabic doors, found unbeaten paths that ran near the waterfall and the bridge, and little caves or creepy old ruins (that my friends ran from, suspecting they were occupied by homeless people--highly unlikely).  The hike itself was probably only about 20 minutes to half an hour but we were there for at least 2 hours enjoying the view and creating our own little paths (oh the joy of traveling in small groups of people you actually like!). On our way walking back a man stopped us and told us to come look into his restaurant because the view was so great and apparently he had seen us waving to Paul on the bridge (I guess we stuck our a little bit) so we stopped in to take pictures.  The weather was gorgeous and we decided to find a place to picnic, so we went to a grocery store and paid about 3 euros each for a great feast. We ate on a giant square bench along one of the paths that bordered the city and enjoyed the view of the country and the sunshine that was streaming down.  After our picnic we went to find the gardens that were really close next to our hostel.  We got a little lost because the street we needed to take was actually a large row of stairs, but when we made it the gardens were basically a bunch of layered terraces that looked over the gorge and down into the water at the bottom. There was this teenage kid there too that was doing tricks on his bike and had a little group of 12 year olds videotaping him, and they seemed to be following us around the gardens.  After a while we gave up and just sat there and watched him try to do tricks.  Dinner that night was great, Paul made us two dishes of paella and while we were waiting for it to cook we were playing all sorts of games: pass the pigs, go fish, spoons, and we tried to play "sorry" but none of us could remember how which according to Paul meant "we didn't have childhoods".  For desert we had gone out and bought different types of chocolate bars to share, and then danced a little salsa in the kitchen.  It was a wonderful good old-fashioned family meal. :D

Breakfast again was a success (my dearest cereal and I) and then we headed out to the other side of the gardens where there were old ruined Arab baths and the remains of the castle and wall that used to fortify the borders of the town. After we walked through the baths and learned all about how they worked, we climbed all along the wall to view the other side of Ronda and to look back and see the little white town built into the cliff.  From the wall we walked to "la casa del rey moro" which was an old broken down building with gardens and a mine that led down into the gorge.  The mine was exactly how you picture a cave to be: cold, wet, and dark. There were rooms for the armory, treasures, and a room called "la sala de los secretos" or in other words the room of secrets.  If you stood at opposite corners of the room and whispered into the wall the person opposite you could hear you as if you were standing right behind them (there was also a room like this in the palace of El Escorial).  280 stairs later-- the equivalent of 20 stories (or so says Rick Steve's our personal travel agent ;] ) we made it to the bottom where there was a metal platform right on the water at the bottom of the gorge.  If you looked up you could see the old bridge and the castle to the right, the gardens straight up in front, and to the left was the new bridge and our hostel.  The water was the most amazing aqua blue and the bottom was covered with a pure white covering that made it look like Caribbean sands, and looking up were immense rocks that shot out of the ground skyward covered in green vines and moss. After  spending some time down there, we climbed back up the mine and set out for another picnic on our favorite lunch spot. After another magnificent picnic we set off for the plaza de toros, a very famous bull fighting ring in Ronda.  The ring was an immense circle, that didn't seem too large until you tried to walk across and reached the other side 4 minutes later.  The ring itself was covered in a special sand (good for soaking up liquids :P yuck!) and surrounded by balconies and seats that held up to 4,000 people.  There were two little museums along the outside of the ring underneath the stands, that had artifacts from famous matadors and drawings and pieces from Goya from the fights.  It was a little too gruesome for my liking (which just proves the fact that I could never sit through the running of the bulls) but it was all very interesting and educational.  That night we went to a tapas bar called Lechuguita, which was literally 5 seconds away from our hostel.  Each set of tapas was .80 euros and there was a checklist with all of the options that you just put your name and little X's on what you wanted.  Among the many new things we tried we also ordered Lechuguita of course, which is basically romaine lettuce soaked in vinegar and some other mysterious flavors we couldn't pick out, but it tasted surprisingly delicious. Back in the hostel we packed up and played more cards games, spoons especially until we all got a little too into it and decided to stop before someone got injured haha.  We stayed up for a while in our room just talking, the four of us and Paul, except that Victoria and Casey were basically sleeping.

Check out time was at noon, but Paul told us we could leave our things there until we needed to leave.  Our train left at 5pm so we had a little time to kill.  We went to the palace of mondragon, which is also known as the museum of Ronda.  It was kind of like a childrens history museum but it had some pretty gardens and terraces that we sat in.  Lunch was at Don Miguel's cafe today because the supermarkets are closed on Sundays (just like everything else).  Don Miguels was our little coffee spot for the weekend because it was right on the side of the cliff next to the bridge and we could see into the gorge and our hostel from our seats. Afterwards we walked around for a while and went back to the gardens and our lunch spot to enjoy the view the beaming sun. It was very relaxing and we stayed outside all day in the warmth (which actually gave me a sunburn!) until it was time to go back and gather our things.  We said goodbye to our new friend and our amazing little hostel and headed for the train station.  It was sad to say goodbye to Ronda because I really do think it was the most beautiful place I've ever visited but that just means I'll have to go back and share it with everyone! :D

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Going to Ronda

Still sick but I'm dealing with it okay, and later today at 5:30pm two of our friends, Casey and I are taking a train West to a small town named Ronda for the weekend until Sunday.  Other than that I don't have a lot of news.  Classes are going well so far, nothing seems too difficult but we haven't had the class with our professor from UNH yet either so we'll see how that goes next week.  I'm sure I'll have more to tell after this weekend! Until then, chao!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vale, Estoy Enferma.

So the first couple days of classes have started and I have 5 classes: art history, oral presentation and composition, culture of peace, literature, and language/culture (all of which are in Spanish of course). Since I've been back from Madrid and all those other fun places, I've actually been pretty sick.  Kind of awful to be sick away from home but my family has been nice about it, I just kind of wish they would stop trying to give me things to take and just let me rest.  I had an early class this morning in a little tiny classroom with almost 40 students and I thought I was going to suffocate from overheating and coughing too hard.  Casey's sick now too haha could be my fault but I still blame the cold ;)  Top it all off, we had weird seafood soup for lunch with little octopus in it and then fried fish, like whole fish just chilling on the table.  Not really all that appetizing but the fish was a lot better than the soup. So the two of us came back after lunch and classes and laid in bed watching Harry Potter.  Hopefully we'll be feeling better by this weekend because I think we're leaving on Thursday with two of our other friends to go to Ronda, Spain.  Its a little town and if you look it up online you'll see why we want to go, there's a beautiful bridge and its a quaint old town.  Crawling back into bed now until dinner, wish me luck that there's no more seafood tonight! :P

Monday, February 6, 2012

Madrid, etc. :)

Holy Toledo!
Jan 31
Our first stop of the trip was in Toledo.  Toledo is known for its swords because they have a lot of  iron, delicious marzapan candies, and the enormous cathedral in the center of everything. The cathedral was amazing, it was all marble and had really high ceilings and arches throughout the whole thing.  Spanish cathedrals are different than other cathedrals because instead of going to France or Italy when you walk in a church you see the whole thing, but in Spain you walk in and there's a big monument in the middle that blocks the view of everything else.  There were so many different parts to the cathedral it took us almost 2 hours to walk around the whole thing and it was very cold.  After touring the city we were waiting for our bus which did not show up earlier that day for our driving tour so we just walked the whole day instead.  Basically the bus that had all of our luggage and valuables on it disappeared all day.  We waited two hours that night for him to show up because our tour guide went off on her own and found him.  So we sat around and ate marzapan while we waited.  :)

Jan 31- Feb 2
Drove another two hours that night til we made it to our hotel in Madrid.  We went out to a buffet salad place but because we weren't very hungry we got a take out dish, which apparently meant we couldn't stay there to eat it so we ended up eating our salads on a street corner in Madrid (really classy I know).  We stayed in and hung out with all of the people in our group before going to bed.  We got up early to go take a tour of Madrid on bus and stopping at a bunch of important buildings.  Our first stop was at the train station because inside there was a giant botanical garden! It was so cool and they had turtles all over the place!  We had a two hour lunch break so we wondered around Plaza Mayor where all of the street performers are (Elvis impersonators, Jack Sparrow, Mickey mouse, living statues made of gold, mud or newspaper, some guy dressed as a tree, etc.) and then we went to the next plaza over Plaza del Sol and had lunch.  I had a calamari sandwich because apparently that's what they are known for and it was really good, then we stopped and had gelatto (italian ice cream) which was soooo delicious.  We met up with our group again and went to the Prado.  It was absolutely incredible.  All of the paintings and statues were all sooo old and they were in incredible condition.  There were paintings by Greco, Goya, Velasquez and a lot of other famous painters but most of them were portraits or religious pictures.  We had a free night to ourselves so Casey and I went to meet up with a friend she knew from high school studying in Madrid.  We made poached eggs in tomato sauce with all sorts of delicious spices and it was amazing! We hung out for a while and then went to a discoteca that she worked at and brought almost all of our UNH friends along.  The next day we had more free time so a bunch of us went to El Museo de Reina Sofia which was more contemporary and modern art.  There were whole sections on Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali and it was so amazing.  Some of them were so life like it was hard not to just walk up and touch them, but they definitely make sure you're doing no such thing.  Afterwards we figured out the metro and took it to Plaza de torros which is the giant bull fighting ring in Madrid.  They only do bull fights in September and I really don't want to see one anyways (not sure I could handle that) but we wanted to tour the inside.  Turned out though after going all the way across the city  that the only two days of the year that it was closed were the two days we would be in Madrid, really awesome timing hahaha It was pretty windy and cold so we went back to our room and took a nap til we had to leave for our play that night.  It was very confusing because they talked very fast and the plot was a little strange.  It was called "En la vida todo es verdad y todo mentira" by Calderon de la Barca.

Segovia, Avila, Salamanca
February 3rd, The Coldest Day of My Life.
We left Madrid really early in the morning and the bus didn't have any heat so we started the day off being cold.  When we made it to Segovia it started snowing and the wind was absolutely unbelievable.  Segovia is known for the ancient stone aqueducts and more cathedrals of course.  The cathedral was really pretty especially on the outside it looked really impressive.  A lot of what our guide was saying though went straight over our heads because we were huddling together all day trying to stay warm and out of the freezing wind.  After walking around for almost two hours in the cold, all of us hurt from the cold and from shivering too much but we made it to the Castle of Segovia, also known as Alcazar.  It was breathtaking but sadly most of the castle was open on the inside and there still was no heat so we had to cut our tour short because it was so ridiculous.  However before leaving we climbed a thin tower full of spiral stairs and open windows because we were told the top was an unbelievable view.  So we ran up the stairs to try and fight the cold but instead just got really dizzy and claustrophobic but when we made it to the top the view was outstanding.  The wind was pretty unbelievable too though which made it a little hard to enjoy.  From there we walked to the restaurant where we would be served Cochinillo... or in English a baby suckling pig!  Basically I was handed a  little rib cage to eat, but it was actually very good, and really tender, not just like chicken as everyone seems to keep saying.  Then we took the bus to a town called Avila.  The last place with a remaining wall around the city.  Still incredibly windy and unbearable so we kind of just blew through the tour and enjoyed the sites from our penguin huddle.  Saw more cathedrals and churches of course, which all started to blend together.  From Avila we drove to Salamanca, where we would be staying for the night.  We arrived late and couldnt find our hotel so again we had to stand in the cold.  Finally we found it and realized we needed to keep our keys in the room in order to turn the heat on so we left for dinner while it warmed up.  We went with a group and split a bunch of different pizzas which were all very good.  Back in the room it was finally nice and warm and we slept so well.

Feb 4th
We walked around and went to a beautiful plaza which Casey and I had visited all lit up the night before. We went to the cathedral of Salamanca and again it was just so impressive.  Salamanca is a very small town and it took us like 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other by ourselves.  But by far I think it was my favorite because it was just so little and quaint like you think Spain should look like.  We also visited the University there and on the outside theres a small little frog on a skull that's engraved in the wall, kind of hard to find, but its a legend that says whoever can find the frog will have good luck with their studies and pass college successfully, good news for me :)  In our free time we went and walked across this  really pretty Roman bridge and back across to find these little caves.  we walked through them and it brought us to a little tower that overlooked the city.  I also found this garden that overlooked the rest of the city right behind the Cathedral and there was this well in a small part of the garden covered in padlocks.  Each padlock had two names and a date, and sometimes a little heart or "para siempre" and we figured out that they were wedding dates! It was the cutest thing ever.  That night we just hung out again with a lot of people from the group which is good because now we're actually friends with most of them!

San Lorenzo and coming home!
Feb 5th
Left early and drove two hours to San Lorenzo, the home of El Escorial, which is the palace where Felipe II and Carlos V had lived.  we couldn't take pictures but the library we went into was amazing. There was a giant painting on the ceiling that on one end was about philosophy with Socrates, Plato, and other famous people and as it stretched on to the other side of the room it became theology, with the Virgin and Jesus.  It was incredible. All of the books had gold pages, and they were so beautifully written, some of them in araibic, spanish, or hebrew, like the Koran.  There was also a book written by Saint Teresa, its amazing that I've been able to witness things that are so old and historic.  The other really cool part of El Escorial was the pantheon, where all the kings and queens are buried.  It was down a very long marble hallway that led downstairs to the burial chamber.  The room was dark green marble and so were the boxes that they kings and queens were in, and they were 4 or 5 high, with gold lace and giant golden paws at the bottom of each one.  When we were done in San Lorenzo we drove another 2 hours until we stopped for a really late lunch.  We had Paella, which is usually very good, but this one was awful! There were whole shrimps, calamari, some type of meat, and mine had a legit vertebrae in it, like picture a spinal cord, and that was just sitting in the middle of my plate.  Not so good.  The worst part though was that you couldn't take a bite without having pieces of shrimp in it, like inedible pieces: shells, antennae, legs, really hard and just gross.  Luckily I had eaten a sandwich before we left and wasn't very hungry anyways.  Another 5 hours home on the bus and we finally made it back to Granada!!