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 :)