Monday, May 31, 2010

Day Thirty Four

Olé!
That's right, folks, the live bullfight can be checked off the bucket list because I went TODAY.
Our whole group didn't go, I didn't even know what to expect. All I know is that when I heard mention of being able to such a spectacle, I was all over it.
In fact, I didn't think anything of the fight until we told our parents we were headed out to see the "Corrida de Torros" at San Isidro today during our lunch. After we chatted about the bloodiness, the matadors, the bulls, I started getting a little... anxious? It wasn't a bad anxious, it wasn't a good anxious- I just got a little nervous! One girl in our group told us how her aunt had had nightmares for years after witnessing a fight, and I couldn't help but imagining myself having some out of character mental breakdown in the arena. Whew. Anyways, when 4 PM hit, Fernando handed us a pair of binoculars and we were out the door. No turning back!
Getting off the Metro, walking up the stairs, and seeing the stadium for the first time was kind of like the first day of school in a weirdish way. I was excited, scared, nervous, but at the same time just ready to get in there and witness some bloodshed! (heh heh...)Meeting up with the group we got our tickets, and then took some pictures around the place. One of the main reasons I wanted to hit up the bullfight was for the atmosphere... and what culture there was! Basically all that go to bullfights is really old people- old men smoking cigars and sporting Fedoras, especially. All over the sidewalk there were vendors selling "frutos secos" and other candies, yelling "COCA COLA FRIA AGUA FRIA AGUA AGUA FRIA!" as they tried to sell their goods along with an assortment of fans, posters, and childrens' matador costumes.
When 6 :30 hit, we headed into the arena to find our seats. Something peculiar about Spain I have realized is that I feel like no one in public ever trusts me. In stores the owners breathe down my back, on the metro they stare, and at the arena the workers literally took us to our individual seats and sat us down. ... heaven forbid we sit in the wrong place!! It was pretty funny. Our seats were in the "sol" section opposed to the "sombra" (shade) section, which was fine besides the fact that it was BOILING outside and the sun had not even begun to think about it's descent. Needless to say, we were all sweating. A lot. And I was everso thankful for Rick's sunscreen/aftershave. Thanks, buddy.
Now onto the actual Corrida. I don't know how much you know about bullfights.... heck, I don't know much myself besides what I can vaguely remember from my 9th grade Spanish class, so I will try to make this easy. Let's play follow the pictures.
1. The bull comes out, trotting along, happy as a clam. That is, until he sees the matador's assistants waving their pink and yellow capes.
2. After the bull runs around and gets a little moody, a picador comes out on his horse and stabs him with this big ol' spear thing in the back a couple times. It's really bloody
3. The assistants rile up the bull some more, until the matador (literally translated means killer) is able to get a feel for the bull's mood
4. (not pictured... oops) the assistants come out and jab 3 sets of spears into the bull's back called "banderillas". It definitely looked like the scariest part!
5. Dun duh duuuuuh the Matador removes his funny hat and comes out with his muleta (red cape) to demonstrate his artistry and skill in the faena.
6. You can see the banderillas here in this pic... more faena round.
7. BAM the matador stabs the bull in the back with his "espada". If the sword falls off, he has to do it again until he can get the sword to stick all the way into the bull, killing it instantly.
8. When the bull finally goes down, people either clap if they like the matador, or whistle if they think he's a waste of skin and took too long to kill the bull. The cut off the ears and tail as prizes, and the fight is over.
9. The bull is tied up and dragged out of the arena by a team of horses. Cleaners come to clean up the bull entrails, and the next bull is released!
I thought the bullfight was pretty interesting. Definitely wouldn't want to go every day, but it was a good experience. When we came home Pili told us she'd watched it on TV, and said it wasn't even a good fight and the matadors weren't that great. Meh, oh well we didn't know any difference.
All I know is that the story of Ferdinand the Bull kind of lied. None of the bulls I saw just wanted to sit in the middle of the arena and smell the flowers. None of them.
And here is a little video I put together of the spectacle. Enjoy!
video

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day Thirty Three

The majority of things are small in Spain.
The people, the doors, the cars, the clothes, the stores, the sidewalks, etc etc etc.
I've been surrounded by so many small things, that when I find things that don't conform to my pequenito ideals, they're always noteworthy. Today was one of those not worthy days-Fernando's birthday- and it was a BIG deal. The biggest thing at the party? The paella.
Let's just say Fernando was really proud of this thing. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish consisting of various things, but all containing rice, saffron, assorted vegetables, and different types of sea food/meat. Most of the time paella is made is small quantities... but I've found that that only applies to people who don't have this huge frying pan that feeds around 40 people.
The thing was the size of Rhode Island, and Fernando insisted that I take pictures of every step. It was so funny- he'd do another mix, add another ingredient, or turn down the temperature, and then order me to take another picture. I didn't mind at all!
Today's paella had red peppers, capers, artichoke, green beans, rabbit, mussels, shrimp, chicken, and these bad boys on top. Pili told us that they only buy these lobster looking things on special occasions becuase they run about 10 euros a piece. Yeah, this must have qualified for a really special occasion because she bought over 20 of the suckers. Another thing that isn't small in Spain: the party budget.
While the paella was cooking Pili was cooking and serving all kinds of appetizers to the thirty odd family and friends who came to the party. We had tons of food- all authentic Spanish, and all a little bit scary, but I just tried everything anyways.
We ate eggplant, deviled egg things with a tuna mix and caviar on top, grilled mushrooms, a tuna dip, cheese, bread, gazpacho.... the list goes on and on. I was full even before the paella was served! (yeah... it takes like 2 1/2 hours to cook.)
The paella was.... fishy. I figure you haven't really experienced Spain until you've eaten their paella, and Fernando did his best to sift out the big pieces of rabbit leg, so I ate it, and it wasn't even that bad. The party was a hit! When we were done eating, I expected a gigantic birthday cake or something, but instead the norms finally fell back into place and I was just handed a smallish piece of chocolately flan for postre. Don't worry though- Natalie and I both washed it down with a Magnum.
After the party, a good portion of the afternoon was dedicated to facebook pictures. Who knew sorting, captioning, and tagging could take so long?
Being around the house all day was making me a little restless, so later tonight Brittany, Alisha, Natalie, Rick, Mike, and I had some plaza time.
The plaza is amazing. There is a great view of historic building surrounded by rosebush after rosebush and lined with the most peculiar trees I've ever seen. It's picturesque. I've said it before and I will say it again- Spaniards are so cool. There were so many people out and about tonight, taking in the spring air while their adorable children ran around, jovenes (young people) congregated around the middle of the plaza drinking mystery liquids out of a unidentified bottle, and old people moseyed around, taking time to sit and relax, then passing on to tapas bars or the like. Everyone was in the Plaza, and one of my friends remarked that even the birds know it's the place to be! It was so refreshing to just be sitting around, talking to the little kids, Eurowatching, and marveling that it was 10 PM and the sun was just still fighting for air time. Early summer really is where it is at.
When I came home the fun just didn't stop. Pili stopped me at the door and let me to the backyard where we ate dinner on the patio, talked, and ate WAY too many patatas fritas. Life is good here. Really good.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day Thirty One and Two

What a weekend.

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

Day Thirty

Well look at that. Looks like today our program is over the hill.
What did I do to celebrate? I went to a magical place in the land of Madrid- The Hard Rock Cafe.
After class today, there was only one thing on my mind. American food. Last night we'd decided we were going to make a journey to a new part of Madrid, and eating would be our first stop. Hard Rock Cafe couldn't have been a better decision! As we walked up to the restaurant there was a clan of long haired and leather clad hard rockers, the toilets flushed normally, and the menu was in English. We felt so... so.... AMERICAN! Do you see that delicious looking veggie burger topped with zucchini, salsa, and other assorted vegetables along with delectable fries and lemon mayo sauce? It was worth every euro. (which was a lot) Mmmm just looking a it is making me want to go back!
When our tummies were full, we had Metallica stuck in our heads, and our wallets were all a bit lighter, we ventured into Madrid to see some of the less touristy sights. I am getting very good at navigating the Metro... and let's just say with all the traveling on it we did today, we are definitely getting our money's worth!
Our first stop was the leaning towers in Madrid. I think they have a special name, but it's escaping me. There are two buildings, one on either side of the road, and, well, they lean towards each other. It's cool, but my memory has been a bit tainted because the security guard wouldn't let us go up inside :/
Next, we hopped back on the Metro and went to see the stadium where Real Madrid plays. We followed some VERY excited 9 year olds up the stairs to see if we could stealthily sneak in for a little bit of a tour, but much to our dismay we didn't blend well, and tickets for a tour were 15 euros. Meh... as much as I wanted to see a little patch of grass, I would also like to eat. Guess the pictures outside will have to suffice?
America has France, Spain has... Egypt. Throughout our stay in Madrid, I've been seeing signs pointing towards El Templo de Debod, and today we finally went there. We didn't get a tour because they were shut down for the day, but what little info I did gather was that this monument was a gift from Egypt to Spain long ago. Guess it's their version of the Statue of Liberty? It was cool, we had a good time taking pictures, and the view behind the monument was incredible!
When 5 hit, it was time to head back to Alcalá because we had fútbol to attend to. Yes, yes here in Spain our only time commitments are with soccer matches. It's great. Our games were fun, but when a couple of drops of rain started falling around us, Natalie and I knew it was time to head home- we'd decided to run, and hadn't brought our bus pass. Well, much to our surprise, those little drops of rain quickly graduated to a steady shower... which quickly graduated to a torrential downpour. Of hail. Yep, we got caught in a Spanish hailstorm and it was cool. I was soaked to the very core, my shoes were so full of water that I didn't even think twice about running right through the small lakes the puddles had become. Oh, and when we finally reached home we realized we'd taken somebody else's key. Great. Fernando came to our rescue though, so all is good in the world.
Darn. We don't look as wet as we really are.
Anywho, another day in paradise has come to an end. Tomorrow we're headed out to Salamanca bright and early to take a little weekend trip! Guess I should pack some clothes now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day Twenty Nine

What a day, what a day!
After another class full of art history and architecture this morning, I came home and did all my laundry.
Yep. That's my underwear.
Not gonna lie... I really liked hanging it all on the clothesline. Too bad when you take your clothes off they are stiff as a board.
For lunch today, Pili put out the rest of the salad, (she aims to please) a spinach tortilla, and some spring rolls- rolitos de primavera con salsa dulce. It was a good little lunch.
After lunch, our group met at the station to go do baptisms at the Madrid Temple. I was so excited... until we got on the train and I realized I didn't have my temple recommend (the little piece of paper from your bishop stating that you can go into the temple). Luckily, we had just pulled out the station and were ahead of time, so I was able to hop off at the next stop, retrace my steps back to Alcalá, and find that pesky little slip of paper before our appointment at 6!
The temple was great- it's nothing grand or majestic from the outside, but instead blends in well to the surrounding buildings with it's red brick walls and simple form. The inside, however, is BEAUTIFUL, and I wouldn't mind at all getting married there... Mom, Dad? How about flying the wedding party out to Madrid algún día? hehe
We didn't finish our baptisms til around 9ish, so obviously everyone was starving. Since there was a churro shack right on the corner of the street, we all decided to stop there to get a little something. I got a churro covered in chocolate- basically just a big chocolate covered donut, and it was great- I probably downed that thing in 20 seconds. After eating we hopped back on the Renfe, and it was back to Alcalá again, where I showered, ate my own egg sandwich creation, and now am contemplating finishing homework. ...and maybe finding an 11:30 snack. Ciao

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day Twenty Eight

Interesting tag line... I've got nothing.
But today was quite the interesting day. This morning I woke up with just enough time to throw on some clothes, eat my favorite breakfast of greek yogurt+"cereales" and a Valencia orange, and then make my daily walk to Alcalingua... to the dreaded 321 Grammar class. It's real painful to sit through, but alas.... maybe I'll understand preterite and imperfect the 20th time around? haha
When class got out I did a very bad thing. I was feeling some alone time, so I hopped aboard the 2 bus, and rode out to the mall to walk around by myself awhile... and just my luck that the director's wife decided to hop aboard the same bus! Yep, I spent the whole ride trying to act invisible. It worked :) I think the hardest thing about this study abroad is never having any alone time. I really enjoy being by myself at least some of the time, so this "buddy system" thing we've got going on is kind of hard to deal with. I mean, I really like my roommate, the friends I've made, etc, but I've missed having a little solitude! Anyways, my alone time was fruitful, and in the process I didn't get mugged, stalked, or murdered! Success.
For lunch today I wanted to jump for joy. Why? We were eating asparagus, and not just any asparagus, but esparrago a la plancha! con aceite de oliva y sal grande! Last night when rummaging around in the fridge for something a. not seafood b. not a sausage and c. not mayonaise, I stumbled upon a bundle of asparagus. Pili was in the kitchen, and very excitedly I told her about the way I like to eat my asparagus- the way Aunt Teressa makes it (hi, Teressa) broiled with olive oil, sea salt, and pine nuts! Well, she didn't understand the pine nuts part, but much to my delight Pili said that she was actually planning on doing just that thing today for lunch. Brilliant. Oh, and it was delicious. Along with my vegetables, Pili also made a pasta alfredo dish with mushrooms. I've always been scared of mushrooms, but Spain is teaching me to love them. Thanks Spain. My mom will be proud.
We had to eat and run this afternoon because today was Museo del Prado day. You see, a couple weeks ago my Civilizations teacher cancelled class, so today we had to make it up. Not gonna lie, I was not that thrilled at the idea of going to an art museum and having Rebecca lecture us for a good hour and a half. She is a funny lady, our teacher, and just the thought of having to go to El Prado and listen to her kind of made everyone's skin crawl. To add to our dismay, we found that Antonio was coming to the museum with us too. Joy. Antonio is our "pseudo guide/travel agent" who accompanies us on our trips, talks during the whole bus ride while we're trying to sleep, and just kind of has that "tone". Anyways, we were feeling a little hopeless when we saw the both of them together, but actually the tour rocked. I loved it, even though my feet hurt and all I really wanted was to eat the apple out of my bag. We learned about El Renacimiento (renaissance) and saw various works by El Greco and followers of Las Tortugas Ninjas! Rafael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michaelangelo, of course :) I learned a lot, and hopefully I'll be able to remember it all for the scary test at the end of the trip! Favorite work today?
Santa Catalina by Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina
Short history? Don't mind if I do! Basically Catalina spoke out for Christianity when Paganism was the law of the land, the king tried to kill her with a wheel full of swords that would slowly mutilate her, but when the wheel got close God intervened and it broke, sending the swords out and killing lots of the bad guys. The king got mad, so Catalina went to jail. The king's wife ended up dying, he decided he wanted to marry Catalina, but she said no. The king got mad and had Catalina decapitated. The end.
Oh, and all was well with Antonio- he basically kept his mouth shut most of the tour. Thank goodness!
After the tour it was official FHE time. First stop? Ice cream in Retiro Park, of course. After ice cream? Rowboats. While my boat did not get stuck underneath a fountain this time, that doesn't mean the 45 minutes on the high seas was not eventful. All I can say is that boys will be boys, and today the boys decided they were pirates. What did they want to plunder from our little blue row boats? Oh, ya know just our OARS. To make a long story short, they managed to secure a couple oars, but not ours- we put up a fight! However, they did do a lot of splashing, got us very wet, ruined my cellphone, (don't worry, they WILL pay) and one girl in my group ended up jumping her stranded and oarless ship to swim over to the pirate boat to give them a piece of her mind. Never a dull moment here, I tell you what.
Tonight when we got home I ate the dinner of champions. Chocolate cereales (the Spaniards have a fixation with chocolatey cereal) and, SALAD. Yep, I asked, and Pili delivered. It was the best iceburg lettuce, red cabbage, and carrot mix I have ever tasted. Oh how I have missed salad! She even had dressing. This woman is a saint.
goodnight

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day Twenty Seven

I just did a double take on the title, there.
27 days?! What? Where is the time going? Slow down, Spain!
Today my goal of getting to the nature side of Alcalá was finally achieved! After class this morning, Jav and I suited up and prepared to swim across the rive. However, much to my delight, right as we were contemplating jumping into a very dirty looking body of water we saw a slew of half naked, fat, middle aged Spaniards walking right across the dam upstream a little. The Chacos did not fail me, and thanks to my Vibram rubber soles, I made it across pretty easily, and did not fall and get a concussion on the concrete below. Jav, however, was not so lucky. Right as we got to the other side, he definitely lost one of his shoes to the fast moving current below. Darn you, Rio de Hernares!
The hills of Alcalá are stunning. Some have rocky faces, some are covered with trees, and then others are painted with wildflowers that make me really jealous and wish the northwest was blessed with more flowers and less sagebrush. It's really a sight, let me tell you! During our exploration of the hills, we found some ruins, (only in Spain do you find ruins everywhere) and walked right to the edge of the cliff and had a breathtaking view of Alcalá. Because there aren't many mountains here, you can see for miles and miles, and I enjoyed playing the "hey look there's the ____!" game. It was so great- the only thing that would have made the trails better would have been a mountain bike. Or rock climbing gear :/
Because I didn't take any form of clock on our expedition, I walked in a little late for lunch today. Oops :/ Pili forgave me, though, and Fernando went right ahead and dished me up a big ol piece of Spanish tortilla. I decided that when in doubt, Spaniards just eat eggs and potatoes. A lot of the time they put them together. It's not a bad thing, just really.... dense? The food was good, though- Pili has lots of different variations of the tortilla, and so far, I've liked every one. But oh, how I am beginning to feel sorry for my cholesterol! :) To finish off the meal, we had actual green veggies for lunch, too! Peas, carrots, green beans, potatoes, and artichoke all together in some sort of rue. Pili told me she'll buy me some lettuce, so maybe I'm closer to salad than I thought!
After lunch it was Madrid time. I hadn't been to the city for almost a week, so it really great to get to go back! We went to El Jardin Botanico, which is a botanical garden, but not gonna lie, after seeing the gardens at the Alhambra we weren't very impressed with this city's variety. Still pretty, but less amazing. Sorry, Madrid.
After Jardin Botanico we went to McDonald's for helado. (pronounced MAC Donahld's... love the Spaniards and their accents!) Yeah, yeah I know what you're thinking- why go to such an American place in Spain when you're surrounded by amazing ice cream on every corner? First, we just love experiencing capitalism at it's finest! Second reason is that it tastes amazing. Cono Kit Kat is so good- the ice cream tastes so different here! And the third reason is that it's on the euro menu, and who can pass up only spending 1 euro for an ice cream cone?! Not me.
When all the ice cream was eaten, we caught the train back to Alcalá, then did a little shopping at the mall here- basically there are maybe 8 major stores here, and Alcalá Magna has most of them, so it's easier to shop there than in Madrid. Yep, laziness strikes again! It was a good day.
And this is my favorite picture of the day.
Even though most things in Spain I love, I've got a few "meh" moments- things that don't exactly bother me, but kind of unconsciously spike my blood pressure. For instance the toilet flushers on the top of the toilet, the door knobs in the middle of the doors, the strangely shaped pillows, and my favorite, the lack of nutrition facts on any kind of processed foods- well, that I can make heads or tails of, anyways. Anyways, this is McDonald's interpretation of "nutrition facts" on the back of a parfait. I understand the first line, but 7% of your daily squares? 4% of your rulers? 11% of your gas? Am I just crazy?! haha I guess it's all part of the lifestyle. Eat, drink, be merry, don't count calories.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day Twenty Six

Confession: I want AMERICAN FOOD.
I've been looking at my foodblog followings today and I just want to cook and find new recipes and drink real milk that isn't creepy! I want wheat bread. I want a Caesar salad. I want a smoothie. I WANT A BURRITO. I want to read trainermomma's blog without feeling shameful of all the dripping-with-olive-oil foods I consume on a daily basis.

Okay I'm done whining. Moving on!
Today was a Sunday and that translates into a lot of relaxation and not much "doing". This morning we went to church and FINALLY figured out the bus schedule. Well, when I say we figured it out, I mean we went to the right stop and waited and waited for the 6 bus to come. And it did. And we were late to church from all the waiting. We probably should have walked, but I just had to prove to myself that I am smarter than a bus schedule! Goal- achieved.
Church was funny. It's funny because I've always thought that Mormon churches looked the same and smelled the same, but I am learning that there is variation overseas! Here, there is no scratchy walls that snag your dresses, nor that "church font" outside every door telling you the room number, library, etc. And it doesn't smell like church. Strange.
After church it was lunch time, and like previously stated, everything dripped of olive oil. I'm getting a little bit tired of it :/ We had fried eggplant, (good, just greasy) champinones a la plancha, (seriously, I don't even know the translation... but its mushrooms fried in lots of olive oil) and then Pili made us spaghetti while the rest of them ate some scary pasta with seafood. No thanks :) For dessert we had a creepy cake made by the nuns of Alcala. It was weird and... wet. I think that is the last time I will trust nun cuisine. Oh, the family also got out some cheesecake ice cream to add to the nun cake. It was packaged in individual scoops, and that made me laugh a little. Oh, Spain.
After lunchtime it was naptime. After naptime it was playtime. Today was a group member's birthday so we went to the church, sat in the grass, and ate candy until it started to rain... which it continues to do right now. And that is the end of today's summary. Guess it's now time to do a little homework. And when I say a "little" I mean a one paragraph summary of my opinion of Cordoba. My, my. The workload here is almost too much to bear.
This week is 4 days of class and a weekend in Salamanca. Don't touch that dial!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day Twenty Five

it feels good to be "home" again in Alcalá tonight, especially after a long day riding the bus through the Spanish countryside.
We loaded onto the bus around 9:30 this morning, and from there, the day was just full of a lot of driving and a couple pit stops. Our first stop was in Úbeda, Spain. This town is situated on the top of a hill surrounded by seas of olive trees as far as the eye can see- it's quite an amazing sight, actually, and I really liked just staring out the window at fields without number as we made our journey. These Spaniards love their olives.
We only spent about an hour in Úbeda, and that hour was spent searching out food for lunch. We got in around 12, so for us that is a pretty normal time to seek out a meal, right? Well, as far as Spain is concerned, 12 is probably the most awkward hour of the day, seeing as lunch isn't until later. Nothing was open! Finally after walking around aimlessly for a good half an hour, we found a pandería with some pizza looking things. I bought the first one I saw, but when it was handed to me I saw it was covered with nasty tuna. Yeah, I don't think I could eat that if it was the last thing in Úbeda- I kind of hate tuna. Anyways, I ended up buying another one and just giving the tuna one to a gypsy woman. It was too bad we didn't have much time to explore more of this quaint little city- one day I will return with more than an hour to explore.
When Úbeda ended, more driving began. I wish I had some good bus stories... but I don't :/ we had another stop in some middle of nowhere truck stop (they've got those in Europe, t00!!) and bought ice cream while our driver took his mandatory break. Oh, and we ran into this:
I guess it's more common than not to misplace your thong at the truck stop?
Ah I was happy to get back to Alcalá, eat a piece of fruit, and get some physical activity later tonight when we played a little fútbol before dinner. ...my once strict cardio/weights regimen is quite non-existent now, and that plus zero whole grains, and ample butter and oil, has definitely been taking it's toll on my poor body!
Okay I am falling asleep sitting up. Time to sign off and get some shut eye! Buenas noches

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day Twenty Four

Granada means pomegranate. Fun fact for the day.
So here I am, getting more internet in the hotel lobby of yet another cheap hotel in Andalucía. This place is so great, big, and hot. I could definitely stay here longer than 4 days!
Today we started off the day by getting out of Sevilla and driving to Granada. We got there around 1:30, and like all the rest of this community, Granada is big, hot, and full of white buildings and a surplus of gypsies.
First order of business when getting out of the bus and settling into our hotel rooms was to embark down the street to yet another Cathedral. Much to our dismay, it was closed for lunch (pity... ) so we ended up just having free time for a couple hours. What did we do for free time today? The same thing we do every day- go eat food! Today it was Granada Dominoes pizza. Yes, we are classy. May I please just tell you all about ho
w great it is to have familiar food once in a blue moon here, and that no matter where we go, it feels American sans the dryer sheet napkins that are so common to Europe. I still don't understand it... there is nothing worse than having nothing to sop up greasy foods with.
The rest of free time after a delicious meal of veg pizza was walking aimlessly around the streets and doing a little shopping. When 4 PM hit, though it was time to go back to the group, tour another capilla, and then head to the Alhambra. This capilla was like the others: big, old, and artsy, but the best thing about this one was the fact that there was a big life size sculpture of John the Baptist being beheaded. This picture is definitely not for the faint of heart :)
After capilla time, it was Alhambra time at 6:30 on the dot. All I have to say about the Alhambra is WOW. Professor Williams told us he had to reserve our tickets months ago because only 1000 people are allowed through a day, and if you are not there at your reserved time you just don't get it. haha a little harsh? Perhaps. Basically this site was once a palace and a fortress, a small community, constructed by the Moors in the 14th century. It was beautiful, basically, the weather was great, and the view was breathtaking. My favorite part was the palace- yesterday our guide told us that when comparing the two palaces we saw yesterday and today, the Alcazar from yesterday is called the ugly palace, and today's Alhambra is called the beautiful palace. It definitely lived up to the name!
After our visit we had a short food break. Since we were short on time, a bunch of us headed over to get kebabs from this shady little whole in the wall in downtown Granada. It was run by two Pakistani guys who were pretty excited to have customers, and a little unprepared as well. It took a good 45 minutes for only 12 or 13 of us to get our food, but as far as I am concerned, falafel pitas are worth a 45 minute wait any day of the week... even despite the sweltering heat and beads of sweat running down our server's faces.
We were short of eating time, so I scarfed down my pita, then got back on the bus. Final destination of the night?- seeing the Alhambra, along with the whole city of Granada, lit up. My oh my oh my oh my. They just don't make cities in the US like those in Europe. Maybe it's the little windy roads, the white plaster that covers the abrupt edges of the skinny little buildings, or the sheer amount of people who live for the night.. all I know is that I love every minute and these pics don't hold a candle to the real thing. Just go there- you won't be dissapointed.
Tomorrow it's looking like long naps in the bus on a VERY long ride back to Alcalá, and hopefully better food.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day Twenty Three

Sevilla is a peculiar place.
After a not so satisfying breakfast of a hard roll the size of a dinosaur egg, warm orange juice, and Cocolacao (nesquick Spain style... it is impossible to mix into cold milk, though BTW) we were off to see the city- the 4th largest in Spain.
Our first stop was Alcazar- a muslim style palace near the Sevillan cathedral. It was so pretty! Wow I could hardly believe all the details in the plaster, stucco, and every single piece of tile that lined the doors, walls, and ceilings. It was truly remarkable.
Our next stops were in a really pretty Sevillan garden, and then it was off to the Cathedral. The coolest things about this cathedral were that it has a HUGE tower you can climb up, (back in the day when it was a mosque someone had to ride a horse to the top 5 times daily to sound the prayer bells) it is the 4th largest in the world, and a portion of Christopher Colombus is buried there. (yes, only a portion haha)
When the touring was over, it was free time, and we were oh SO thankful. Its still kind of hard to eat at 8 AM and then not eat again until 2 PM, so when our tour was over at 2, we all raced to find a restaurant. Thank heavens there were restaurants close by, and the food wasn't half bad either. Me and one of my friends split Spanish tortilla and Spinach alfredo (meh, about as good as Spanish Italian food can get) and then finished it off with a little ice cream because you can never have enough ice cream.
We finished eating with a little free time left, so we spent the rest of it walking around Sevilla, stopping by the river and the Plaza de Toros, which is where they have the bullfights. It was so hot- I am getting a nice farmer's tan, and all I really want to do all day is jump into one of the many fountains! So far, I am doing well at restraining myself.
Later we went to the Flamenco Dance Museum here in Sevilla. I was not that excited to go at first, but it ended up being on the the COOLEST THINGS EVER. Seriously, in my next life I could consider being a gypsy. Here is what I've learned about flamenco:
-there's three parts: the dancer, the guitar/musician, and the singer. All parts are equally mindblowing
- it's a gypsy dance, and to demonstrate the somber feelings, dancers scowl the whole time.
- Flamenco originated in Andalucia, and the gypsies migrated here from northern India many moons ago.
Anyways, after learning a little, we had a rhythm demo with a gypsy man, which basically consisted of us sitting on hollow boxes and tapping them to a beat while he did his cool gyspy singing. Talent. After our "beat boxing" (haha funny) we went to see the flamenco museum, and then got to see actual live flamenco dancing. If you have never seen flamenco, had the dancers seriously 2 feet away, and felt their sweat a couple times, you won't really get it. But flamenco is awesome. They musicians are so talented, the dancers so nimble, and everything is so intense, and when I say intense, I mean that I don't think I breathed over 5 times during the hour performance, it was just that captivating. When we got out we all felt like we had a flamenco hangover... and we wanted more.
Our last stop of the day was at Plaza de España, which is basically just this amazing building that isn't even used, but is great to look at... sort of the Eiffel Tower of Spain? Anways, it was great and we got some good pics.
The end of the day brought a lot of hunger, and that hunger made us take a 10 PM pizza run to telepizza, and then it was all polished off with a McDonalds 1 euro ice cream cone. It was delicious... or maybe that was the "7 hours without food" feeling talking?
tomorrow= Granada in the morning. Ciao

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day Twenty Two

Here I sit in the "Zona WiFi".
I am so full and tired. Let me recount to you the day.
This morning bright and early it was to the bus station to head on down to Andalucia. NOTE: Andalucia is a community of Spain, like Madrid or Castilla La Mancha. This is the equivalent of a US "state". The cities inside of Andalucia we're going to this weekend are Cordoba, Sevilla, and Granada, FYI.
The bus ride was a little lengthy, but nothing too impossible because I spent a fair amount of time sleeping, writing, etc. Is it wrong to say I kind of like bus rides? Oh, and might I add that Andalucia is so HOT right now and I love it. It's southern Spain, so that means warmness and sunburns. Not complaining one little bit.
Our first stop today was Cordoba. This city is beautiful- mostly the buildings are white, have beautiful flowers all around, and there are palm trees and warm weather in abundance. It is definitely turning into one of my top 5 favorite places of Spain.


is also known for it's Muslim influence, with the coolest Mosque/Cathedral ever. You may think that previous statement is a little ironic, but I must use both those words because first the place was a mosque, and then the Catholics came around and conquered Cordoba, changing the mosque into a cathedral and adding their own little zest (or a lot). This place was amazing. There are lots of pillars because Muslims thought worship should be done in secret, so there are more places to be alone. There are no pictures in their artwork, but that does not mean I wasn't just as impressed with their handiwork as all the ceiling murals I've seen.
highlights of the day in Cordoba:
-lots of gypsies
-lots of naked people magnets and postcards
-drinking the water worshippers use to wash themselves in before entering the cathedral... oops. Hopefully Montezuma's revenge did NOT originate here.
-loving to hate the guided tours by our travel agent who thinks he's a tour guide, Alfonso... or --Alonzo... or Alejandro. Who knows. All I know is that I am beginning to feel less and less bad when I turn up the volume on my ipod when he starts talking on the bus.
-hazelnut gelato

After a long and hot day in Cordoba, we got back on the bus and drove to our final destination for the day: Sevilla. We didn't pull into Sevilla until around 9ish tonight, so no exploring was done. We checked into our hotel, a quaint little place called, "Resitur", and then headed over to a neighboring restaurant for a little bit of Sevillan dinner. What an experience that was.
Course 1- Tuna salad with tomatoes, carrots, onions, and eggs drenched in olive oil and vinegar. (boo) More tuna with larger chunks of tomato, I'm sure backstroking through more EVOO and vinegar. Didn't really try this one.
Course 2- Berenjena Frita. Fried eggplant... or freggplant, as we donned it. Not gonna lie... this stuff was out of this world. Pick yourself up some, you will love it.
Course 3- This is where you could order scary things like swordfish or baby squid... I got scrambled eggs with artichoke. It was alright, a little wet and uncooked eggy for me, but edible.
Course 4- Dessert platter. It was just a sampler, but the tiramisu, flan, and cheesecake with lots of whipped cream were definite winners.
After eating a ton and rolling out of the restuarant, it was back to the hotel, and that is where you could find me. Great day all around, I am getting a nice farmer tan/sunburn. Not complaining one bit.
Tomorrow it's Sevilla day. Love from the front lobby of Resitur!

Day Twenty One

And the story of my spotty internet connection continues.
Right now I am writing from a bus headed to Córdoba, and I am hoping I’ll get some service this weekend sometime so I can post. I’ll just keep on keeping on with the days in the meantime. Yesterday the warm weather continued. Day three of good weather…. I am seeing a pattern here. Yep, spring is here to stay.

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

Day Twenty

You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

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.

Oh, we saw a momma goose with it's little babies too. It's huge. Each of those little babies is the size or bigger of a regular duck. You just can't tell.
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

Day Nineteen

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

Day Eighteen

Note to self: During the Festival of San Isidro, avoid ANYTHING to do with San Isidro.
When we woke up today there was only one thing on my mind: fútbol. At 10, members of our ward and group met at the church to play, and despite all the extremely fancy footwork, ball hogging, and lack of confidence in the female variety of players, it was a pretty fun time. Oh, and funny story, the world is small when you're Mormon, and it turns out one of the elders we played with was in my freshman ward first semester. Too bad I don't even remember his name! Anyways,what made it even better was the fact that the SUN decided to make it's debut, so I was very happy with that.
After fútbol we went home for a little and ate lunch. Today it was "pudding", but not exactly the chocolate kind. Pili made this green bean, onion, potato (maybe?), carrot, leek, egg concoction in a breadpan for lunch, along with some type of fish, which I ate as best as I could. Meh, it was alright. One little cultural observation I have is that Spaniards only like 4 things on their food: olive oil, vinegar, salt, and mayonnaise. I can handle all of them but the mayo. The way my family eats it with everything and then licks the spoon makes me feel a little queasy! How I long for some bbq sauce or just a huge slab of peanut butter on everything!
After lunch it was off to Madrid to navigate San Isidro, which is a huge festival in Madrid celebrated on May 15th every year honoring the city's patron saint. We didn't go on any group trips this weekend because our professor wanted us to stay and experience this holiday I liked to compare to Spain's version of Pioneer Day, but with much more booze, smoke, and people.
Oh the people.
As the night progressed, the streets got PACKED. I've never seen so many people at one time... and this picture accurately captures my emotions as we were packed in like sardines.
Just imagine they were a 360 pan across the street of Gran Via, which is closed off for the holiday, and covered with blue carpet.
I had never seen so many people trying to move through those streets in my life. Seas of people slowly meandered through the streets as we unpatiently tried to find our way through the crowds and find other members of our group. To make a long story short on this one, we gave up on looking, took refuge in a metrostation for about 45 minutes waiting for them to find us, they never did, and we gave up.
San Isidro is crazy and I never want to be there on May 15th again! This would have been the perfect weekend to go lay on the beaches of Valencia, but alas, we had to stay and take part in Madrid culture. In fact, our parents even offered to take us there one weekend because they have family with a house pretty close to the coast. Too bad we've got trips already planned for every weekend with the group! When looking at the schedule, Fransisco informed us that we'd just be seeing a lot of "piedra"... which basically means lots of our visits will be full of history and rocks, and not much beach. :( Anyways, I digress. After waiting and waiting for the group that never came, we decided to get on the metro back to Sol to find food, and things got much better.
Finally, I got my vegetarian food.
For dinner, Natalie, Janessa, and I went to Maoz (pronounced mouth I think) to get pitas stuffed with falafel, lettuce, chickpeas, onions, salsa, califlower, and topped with tahini and olive oil. They were delicous. Ahhh I have missed my vegetarian food!! I will definitely be returning, and even my nonvegetarian friends liked the food!
After eating we met up with some friends and headed down to El Parque De Retiro, figuring that if there were THAT many people in downtown Madrid, there should be less in the park. We were so right! It was so nice to just be able to walk and talk without having a trillion people right up next to you. I thorougly enjoyed our time in Retiro. On this pond you can rent boats to sail around in during the week... I will definitely be returning for that!
After wandering around the park, we stumbled upon a "Fiesta Del Fútbol", and to tell yo the truth, I don't really know what it was all about, but we found the trophy they give to the winners of the fútbol championship every year, and we got to take a sweet picture with it.
Random? Yes.
After all this fun we headed to get a little food, and then it was back to the train for us! We had quite the enjoyable trainr ide home talking to various drunken, glasssey eyed Spaniards, and I am beginning to learn why we aren't supposed to be alone at night... It was a funny experience!
Well, tomorrow it is off to church, then maybe back to the park to get homework done. Buenas noches

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day Seventeen

I wore two jackets to Segovia and Ávila today.
At 7:30 when we left the house to catch the bus, I knew it was not going to be the 70 degree weather we've been hoping for the last 2 weeks. As we got ready this morning, Roberto and Pili made sure to warn us about the coldness that we were going to experience... and yeah, they were right.
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 castle in Segovia.
It is said that the Disney Castle was modeled after it, and while I don't really see it, the place was still pretty spectacular, both inside and out. I've never seen such intricate gold plated ceilings or such a deep moat in my life! Again, sorry about the lack of pictures... guess I will learn to charge the batteries.
The best part about Segovia? I finally got to see THE AQUEDUCT.
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.
Lets just say Iberian Civilizations is much more interesting when you can actually go visit what you're learning.
After the aqueduct we went to a cathedral and did more walking around Segovia. Freezing. It was even worse when we went into the cathedrals or other buildings, because they were about 10 degrees colder inside than outside!
Ávila was next. This city is known for it's walls that surround it, and the fact that it is one of the coldest cities in Spain. Oh, let me tell you how excited we were to wake up from our naps and jump out of the warm bus and into the biting winds of Ávila! Again, in this city we did a lot of looking at cathedrals, and then we had the chance to walk on top of the city walls. This was a cool place, but in the words of my fellow group member, Cade, "I think the weather might have to do with the fact that I really don't care about any of this stuff right now". Well said, my friend. We resorted to huddling around like penguins to keep warm many a time. What bonding experience.
It's pretty sad, but I don't think we'd ever been so happy to get back on a tour bus as we were today upon returning to Álcala. The most exciting things that happened on the bus were that we tried Ávilan yemas, and upon tasting one bite of the bright yellow balls covered in sugar, I remembered reading a little bit about this egg yolk delicacy, and upon realizing what it was, I couldn't eat any more of it, and when I told the rest of the bus.... well, they couldn't finish it either.
Seriously, Spain. Just give me some chocolate.
On the bus ride I finished The Land Song, too. Okay obviously I either have no feelings or something because I didn't like it at all, and everyone I know who has read it loves the dang book. I am an enigma. Anyways, time to make a stop at Amazon.com for a new book. That's all for now. Tomorrow= El Festival De San Isidro. Don't know what that is? Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

yeah.... my hair is still drying.

talk about perspective

Day Sixteen

Dear Weather,
Please start cooperating.

Those are my thoughts tonight as I sit here, eating oranges and trail mix, and waiting for my hair to semi-dry so I can go to bed. (It's so fun to not own a blow dryer.) I am sick of this freezing weather here and having people stare at my Rainbows as I pass boot clad women everyday. However, I know that the day I buy more socks, an umbrella, or a pair of jeans that don't have a hole in the crotch, the weather will all of a sudden be really nice. On second thought, maybe I'll be doing that.

Today was another Madrid day. After class, Alcalá shopping, fantastic pastries, and lunch, (nothing too interesting today... my Valencian potato dish, leftovers, spring rolls... basically I think Pili was just cleaning out the fridge) we rode into the city to go hit a movie on this dreary, raining, cloudy day. We intended on seeing Ironman 2, but instead went to see Robin Hood in English, but with Spanish subtitles. It came out a day earlier in Europe than the US, so that was kinda cool. It was pretty good, despite the fact that I don't really enjoy action movies.
After the movie we went to get food, found pizza, and devoured it. Mmmmm food that we know. I loved it, even if it tasted a little off.

Okay, honestly I am too tired to write anything else. Early day tomorrow- we're going to Segovia and Ávila and must be on the train at 7:45. Yay. Hope life is swell!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day Fifteen

Welcome back to the daily adventures of me.
Today was quite the.... interesting day. It started off by going to Alcalingua to do some homework this morning with friends, pastries, and looking for the perfect India pants... more to come on those when I actually find some. Went home afterwards to prep for lunch. It wasn't scary today, in fact it was delish. We had pasta and some sort of saucy, creamy, fattening stuff with mushrooms and I loved every little bite. However, there was weird fish on tomatoes, Bacalao, and to humor my family, I tried some. Ew. We have some very interesting lunch discussions after eating, and they almost always involve my host dad staring at me the whole meal, talking with a lot of force causing him to spit all over me, and him often leaving the table to find some sort of book to show us a picture of a place, food, or other event where words are just not sufficient. Today's discussion was fish. They were floored that we didn't know any types of fish besides tuna and salmon, (I don't know how to say tilapia or rainbow trout in Spanish, you see) and went on a long rant about how healthy it is, and today Fernando got out the book titled "Pescado", which probably weighed more than an infant, to show us all the ways to cook fish. They are so funny.
After lunch some of us headed into Madrid, and not gonna lie... I was feeling quite under the weather. My voice has started sounding like a man's, I am nice and congested all the time, and my throat... well, it's felt better before. However, I wasn't about to let all this get in my way of a Madrid trip, so I got it together and we went. It was cold. It was rainy. It was not that great of a Madrid run.
However, it was memorable.
You know how sometimes in ice breaker conversations people will ask your most embarrassing moment, and you can't ever think of anything? Well, trust me. I will never get the "embarrassing moment amnesia" ever again. In fact, I think this calls for a Wisdom Wednesday
WW60- Save the Marilyn Monroe impressions for another day, kids.
Considering the weather today, I should have known better than to wear a skirt.
I also should have known better than to walk across the large grate in the middle of the street.
However, it was cold, the grate was blowing hot air, and I didn't see any problems with warming up my freezing legs for a minute. That was, however, until the air suddenly started to come up through the ground and my skirt followed.
Yep, I flashed a large chunk of Madrid, today, and many of my friends as well. I did my best to run off the grate, but it was definitely too late. I've always had dreams of this sort, you know, the dreams where you don't go to school in any pants, and let me just say that it happened just the way it always does in dreams. Slowly. When I finally was able to get off the grate neither I nor my friends could control ourselves as I, wheezing and laughing, tried to figure out what exactly had just happened. (and Casey, if you're reading this... sorry about that, buddy.)

After this "memorable" moment in Madrid, we headed back to Alcalá to feast on some goodness from Metrópoli, the churrería where Roberto works. I got this:
Bizcocho & chocolate for dinner? Yes, please. After eating there, we ended up spending the rest of the night at Tony Roma's, of all places, because some of our friends were still hungry and they were feeling American. A little tidbit about Europe. There are NO public facilities (ie drinking fountains or benches) so to be able to sit and talk means paying some dinero at a restaurant. However, we didn't really mind, and it was actually refreshing to walk in, hear country music, smell BBQ, and watch Mike and Rick devour ribs, fries, and burgers. It felt a little like home!
Oh, and in Madrid today, we stumbled upon a parade. Take a looky
Love from Spain