Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Yesterday we were in Salamanca all day. This town is 3 hours north of Madrid, and is known for it’s university- Universidad de Salamanca- I want to say it’s the oldest university in Spain. Anyways, we boarded the bus early yesterday morning, and then slept until reaching our destination. With one stop- Avila. Yeah, pretty sure when we all woke up and saw the walled city in the distance we all wanted to cry a little. If you don’t remember Avila...well, let’s just say it isn’t really worth remembering. The day we were there it was windy, freezing, and felt like mid January. Yeah, let’s just say no one even wanted to get off the bus, and as we did, it was STILL FREEZING and we came to the conclusion it is never sunny there. As we spent the next fifteem minutes in the cold, we came to the consensus that Avila is the bane of Spain’s existence. Don’t go there.
Things got much better when we arrived in Salamanca, unloaded our things in our hotel room, and then went out to explore the city. Aside from it’s university, Salamanaca is known for it’s Plaza Mayor, which looks almost exactly like the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, only the buildings are made of a different material and it’s a little smaller. We walked around the town getting our bearings, and then it was free time. Which was great… aside from the fact that we always get free time right during siesta time, which means no stores are open except for the tourist shops. I could soapbox about for about another paragraph, but I will refain J We passed the time looking at different buildings, eating some lunch, and taking pictures.
After free time it was three hour tour time. Our guide took us around to various buildings, like the Universidad de Salamanca, the Cathedral, and El Palacio de Las Conchas, which now is a public library, but before was a palace with iron shells all over it.. Yeah, I think I missed something in the tour there. We also went to a Monastery, which was pretty cool, We sang “A Child’s Prayer” in the chapel for our tour guide too, which was really cool after I got over the fact that we were singing Mormon songs in a Catholic Monastery, people were taking our pictures, and it was WAY out of my singing range, so hitting the notes was a little hard. J “I like it a lot!” was our guide’s exclamation at the end. Haha I love Spaniards and their minimal English.
After 7 it was real free time, and we were free until 7:45 the next morning! Brittany and I did a little shopping in the stores which were finally open, and then when we got hungry we got three euro medium Telepizzas. (Like the equivalent of Little Caesars I guess?) We took them to the Plaza, sat on a bench, people watched, and ravenously put away our food in 10 minutes max. The square was hoppin- and it seems everyone else had the same idea about Telepizza because the streets were littered with Spaniards doing the same thing. Guess I’ve become to think like one of them! haha
Our guide told us the Plaza is beautiful at night, so when we finished eating we found some of our friends, and plopped down on the piedra, waiting for it to get dark. I think those are my favorite times in Spain- the moment we just get to sit and observe the culture that is the Europeans. PS: I’ve been religiously taking mental notes about how to be a better European. As we waited for something to happen, I joked that once the clock struck 22:00- 10 PM, Americanss, the Plaza would become illuminated. Bam. I couldn’t have been more right. As the clock struck 10 lights started going on, and a couple minutes later the plaza was glowing! Everyone was oohing and aahing and it was gorgeous. Wish I coulda brought a sleeping bag.
Another observation I have made here is that life doesn’t begin until about 8 PM. Spain takes nightlife to a new level. Everyone is in the streets at nights eating, playing, and watching the various street performers. It’s is THE life. Go to Salamanca.
When we got cold and a little tuckered out, we went back to the hotel and had a group bonding night filled with fun, laughter, and The Bachelorette. I mean seriously, is there a better way to bring people together ? I think not. ABC.com, thank you for working overseas.. I foresee many similar hotel room nights.
This morning we woke up, packed up, and headed out for breakfast, after being heckled in the hotel lobby by a slew of drunk Spaniards. "Nightlife" here means "still drunk at 8 AM". Love it. Breakfast was…. Spanish. Crossaint with mermalada and hot chocolate. After eating we got back on the bus and drove to Valladolid, which is the city our director’s wife, Mabel, grew up in. Our first stop in this city was an art museum with tons of religious statues and cathedral artwork. I wanna say that this building was a school at some point, too… forgive me for my lack of details, all the history is beginning to run together! All the art was neat though- it was very different from what we’ve seen thus far, and the sculptures all looked extremely real, down to the curls in their hair and the veins in their necks.
Oh, and you see the holes in these scultures, well, when Saints used to die, they would get a little bit of their bones or other entrails and keep them in these holes. Nice.
After this museum, we went next door to a government building, sat in some governmenty chairs, and took governmenty pictures because you can never have enough pictures.
When our tour finished, it was only noon. We were hungry, and our lunch appointment wasn’t until 3. Mabel and Professor Williams took pity on us, and bought us all pastries from a shop along the street. I love it when we bombard poor, innocent shops and clean out all their goods. I think groups like us are the single reason that Spain’s economy hasn’t been completely pulverized. (Yet)
For free time, Hannah, Kat, and I did NOTHING. And it was glorious. We found some church steps, and sat there for two hours laying in the sun and playing Euro-watch. When I imagined Spain, this is what I pictured doing.... and it was as great as I imagined it to be. As we sat outside we started seeing all these classy people dressed to a T walking in the same direction, so we turned around, and saw that a wedding was about to go down in the church right behind us. So what did we do? Creeped on the guests and bride, played paparazzi, and deciding women in the US should start wearing cooler hats.
When 2:30 hit, we met back up with everyone, boarded the bus, and went to a Bodega for lunch. A bodega is a wine cellar, BTW, so basically we ate in a cave. It was in a hill and everything. The food… well, pictures tell a better story. Let’s play the matching game.
Ham, cheese, lots of bread, sausage, tortilla, wild mushrooms, lamb cutlets, and salad soaked in olive oil and vinegar. Yeah, let’s just say today’s two pastries and a surplus of bread at lunch are going to do me in. I was feeling pretty grossed out about my selection of food until Mabel took pity on me, and suddenly placed in front of me was VEGETABLES! Zuchinni, eggplant, red pepper, and onion all sautéed and delicious. Thank you, Spain. We finished off the meal with these little treasures: Magnum moments. The US should hop to it in this department.
After the restaurant we took time to smell the flowers and take some pics with a random castle.
And now our entire bus is paying for it. I didn’t think I had allergies… but me and lots of other people are now suffereing from some seriously itchy eyes and runny nose syndrome. Good think Brittany has community eye drops J Well, now it is back to Alcala, where I hope to burn off some of the bountiful carbs I consumed today in a little match of futbol. Rain, please stay far far away.
Más Tarde: fútbol was great, and tonight we ate onion pizza outisde on the patio. Great day, great night. Tomorrow stay tuned for my adventures in Paella take two.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Class, as I’ve stated time and time again, was boring. 2 hours of ser vs. estar practice. I think you’d go crazy, too. After class however, it was time to party. I previously wrote that I would tell the story of the India pants when I got some. I believe it is now due time for a good story.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the fashion in Europe. It’s like looking into the future for us Americans basically, because what you see them wearing now is most likely what YOU will be wearing 6 months from now. The first week here, I noticed a trend in women’s pants. They all strangely baggy and well, better put, looked just like hammer pants. They had jeans, sweats, and everything in between. I made a mental note that somewhere along the lines of my travels through Spain that I had to pick myself up a pair. Then I found the India store. Maybe it’s wrong that I am in Spain and all I want to buy is stuff from the India store, maybe it’s just a good little foreshadow of my future travels, all I know is that it is great, and I found my pants. They’re blue, 100% silk, and kinda make me wanna yell HAMMER TIME, bollywood style. There are no pictures yet… but when you see them, you will know.
After the purchasing, it was time for my other favorite thing in all of Spain- the pastry that goes by the name of “La Neopolitana”. Just writing that makes me salivate a little. These pastries are ambrosia, and I thought they couldn’t get any better until Jenessa took me to a new pasteleria where the pastries are served hot, are only 1 euro, and it is maybe 100 yards from my house. Score. Scratch that post about losing weight in Spain.
Lunch was great, but another little observation about Spaniards. They like their food right off the stove, piping hot. Seriously, I burn my tongue every time we eat. I would love to let it cool down a little, but the only issue there is the fact that Pili puts the food on the table, and just watches until we have tried it, waiting for feedback
I might just return to the US with no taste buds. The culprit of the burning yesterday was potato, onion, carrot soup with a name that is escaping me but was delicious, plus fried cauliflower that I managed to choke down.
After lunch we went into Madrid to take a tour of El Palacio Real because it was Free Museum Day here in Spain. The palace was pretty. In every room the curtains matched the walls matched the ceilings matched the pillows. I don’t really have much else to offer about it though… my partner had the audioguide, and I had no desire to listen to a monotone voice tell me all about each room. No thanks, I will make up my own stories about the murals on the ceilings!
I had been waiting all trip for the perfect day to go row boating in Retiro… and between the weather and the desire to paddle, we ended up on the metro and down to the park later that afternoon.
4 people, 45 minutes, 4.55 euros. Not too shabby. Things went well on our boat for the first couple minutes. No one fell in, we finally figured out how to stop going in circles, (Diana, it reminded me of our time down the Boise Riv solo when we lacked rowing skills) and we even had some rowing tunes thanks to Rick’s ipod. About halfway into our journey we switched drivers, and Brittany became captain. Her first order of business? Row us right into the fountain. In retrospect, I should have known this fountain business was bound to happen even before Rick said, “Hey Brittany! Get Alisha wet!”. Not only did Alisha get wet, but for a good solid minute, we were the dumb Americans serving as comic relief to the whole park as we got SOAKED in the little cherub fountain, our boat got an uncomfortable amount of water in the bottom, and Rick managed to drop, and then recover, his iphone into our little pool at the bottom of the boat.
I wish I could have seen it go down, but our other friends took some precious pictures, so once I get my hands on those, you and I too can laugh at our stupidity. My dress was soaked from the waist down, my “stain your feet when soaked” Rainbows did their job, and we managed to get back to shore safely at the end of our 45. PS you just can't tell how extremely wet I am here. Just trust me.
I am just getting all sorts of good stories to add to the Memory Bank.
Well, that’s about it for now… we’re almost to Cordoba, home of the Muslims. Til then!
Monday, May 17, 2010
Last night in mid skype session with Jill, the internet pooped out on me, and we haven’t been able to get on since. I am currently writing this in word, and will post it tomorrow during class…. Well, actually just kidding! Fernando just fixed it! Whoa…. I was expecting a tragedy right there… life can continue.
Today moved at rapid fire speed. Seriously, it is 10 PM here, and it feels like my alarm was just going off at 8 AM this morning. Slow down, Spain!
Today was an Alcalá day. We had class in the morning.... super painful, by the way. While I think learning about mosque architecture is pretty interesting, the way our teacher talks about it about kills me. After class, Jav and I went exploring in the wilderness of Alcalá! Okay, maybe not exactly wilderness, but a wildlife area. The first week I got here I saw these crazy hills in the distance, and really wanted to go explore them. I didn't think it would be possible until I found someone in my group who wanted to go exploring too! Today, Jav and I were exploring buddies. To get to our wilderness spot we walked through a neighborhood, and then came to this random door in the wall, opened it, and bam. There you were- no more buildings, houses, or billboards, just open field, el Rio Hernares, and lots and lots of wildflowers. It was like walking into our very own secret garden. I loved it!Much to our dismay, we couldn't get to the hills because there was a whole lotta river and a whole lack of bridge. We've come to the conclusion that the only way we are gonna get to those hills is to swim/walk across the dam sometime. Stay tuned. It's happening.
For lunch today we had rice with green olives and other... things? I seriously don't even know what was in the rice, but they dished me up roughly 3 cups of the stuff, and I ate. I'd just woken up and was feeling a little groggy. Oh, the food here. Not gonna lie, I just want some rice and beans. And a real pizza.
After lunch it was laundry time... speaking of which, I should probably go get my stuff off the clothesline... and then I did some homework. For FHE tonight we "learned" flamenco, if that's what you could call it. Basically in a nutshell, we all sucked at dancing, and our instructor told us the moves we were butchering were as basic as she could make them. Haha oh well, the ice cream at the end made all the stomping and wrist twisting worth it! I got some delicious Dulce de Leche. Seriously, it's the best kind.
Tonight was spent at McDonald's, stealing their wireless internet with some friends. We got some homework done, talked, and before we knew it, it was 9:30. We came home, and that's about where we are now.... for dinner I requested Pili make us her version of "stir fry" and it was the BEST THING EVER. Seriously, I love vegetables. ... or maybe I just like it when they're bathing in butter and olive oil. Yum
Bedtime. Hasta ahora
Sunday treated me well today.
This morning we woke up, got ready, and had a pleasantly sunny walk to church. It was fantastic to be able to wear sunglasses and actually feel some warmth. Let me just say that Spain is much more enjoyable when the sun shines.
The walk to church was long, but we’ve basically given up on the buses, seeing as they are unpredictable and the schedules lie. Nope, not bitter.
Spaniards are infamous for being late, so even though we were 5 minutes past 10:30 to our meeting, really we were actually early. When we walked in, the parking lot was still a ghost town, and church didn’t really start for another 10 minutes or so. I love how chill everyone is here… even at school our teacher is always the last one to walk in the door!
After church we went home to lunch. I am always scared for Sunday lunch, because the last two weeks its been something creepy. However, today was actually one of the best meals ever. I don’t know if it was just good because I hadn’t eaten since 9 AM, or if I really did love our “bomba de espinacas”, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Basically this meal was egg with tomato sauce, spinach, cheese, and other vegetables all cooked and lasagna like. Oh it was delicious and I am definitely going to get the recipe. We ate it with potatoes bathing in vinegar and olive oil, and topped it off with our Magnum bars. So good. I am really growing accustomed to eating eggs and potatoes at every meal… good thing I like them. Pili told me today that I am changing the way she cooks- now she eats more vegetables, and is learning how to make different dishes I will like that are “all natural”. I think Fernando is missing his carne, but eh, he’ll thank me when he doesn’t get cardiovascular disease. (the emphysema will probably get him first… this guy smokes like a chimney)
After lunch it was time to enjoy the sunshine. Alisha, Brittany, Natalie, Rick, and I found a park in Alcalá, and sat there for a good three hours until the sun was completely gone. It felt good to have my hair warmed by the sun, sitting in a nice patch of grass, and having nothing to think about but the flies buzzing around from time to time.
It was great, life is great, Spain is great. 2 days until it’s off to Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada for the rest of the week!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
When we first got off the bus in Segovia, we all thought our extremities might fall off. And I am sad to say it didn't get any better all day long. The wind was merciless, the sun wouldn't come out, and it rained a little every half an hour or so. Thank youuuuu, Segovia. However, maybe I'm just a little bitter because I forgot to charge my camera, so I didn't even get to hardly take any pictures :( Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with it. Despite my complaining though, Segovia was a pretty cool city. Some of the highlights were:
This aqueduct (don't let the blue sky fool you.. it was FREEZING) was built by the Romans thousands of years ago as a means to transport water from one side of the valley to another. I was pretty much giddy to see this place, and right as 10 minutes of free time started, I made Jav go climb up to the top with me. II find it fascinating to think that somehow the Romans managed to put this thing together with no mortar or modern machinery, and it still stands today.