Saturday, May 30, 2009
To explain…Spain, out of all the countries in the E.U, has the lowest approval rating of the U.S and to be fair, I can understand some of their reasoning. Study abroad students frequently come to Spain just to party. Really it’s just a bad combination in that the classes aren’t demanding and the majority of the students can’t drink in the U.S so they go absolutely wild in Spain. They break stuff, get sick at bars and generally do very little to improve the reputation of Americans as respectable people interested in Spanish culture. Of course, Spaniards are still getting over Bush (Spain’s leaders involved them in the Iraq war with a very high disapproval from its citizens) and love Obama (they sell little brown cookies in Cadiz that they call Obama cookies and they sell like hot cakes) so things are changing. Also, Americans support their economy more than any other country so they should show a little bit of appreciation. But overall, I just wish that there was something that could be done to improve the status of Americans in Spain. I guess I’m just hoping that I was working against the stereotype instead of enforcing it.
Either way though, it’s going to be hard to leave despite how much I want to see my family and friends. I’m almost positive I’m going to cry when leave because it’s like I’ve created my own little niche here and now I have to leave it behind. It’s totally different from leaving the U.S because I knew I was coming back. I’ll never be here again to discuss how worthless men are with my 60-year old senora or to hang out with all of my friends at the river near the Torre de Oro. It makes it even harder that the weather is absolutely perfect here and that classes have ended so my responsibilities include eating, sleeping, walking around the city and perhaps studying here and there for my final exams.
Lastly, I’m slightly nervous about readjusting to life back home. It’s going to be so weird to see my friends from back home who I haven’t seen for six months. They’ve probably changed and so have I. I have to catch up on the last six months of their lives. For that matter, I have to catch up on the last six months of American culture. I hope I still remember how to drive a car when I get back. Three days after I get back I start summer school at UNC. School in Spain is completely different from UNC. I hope that I haven’t become too laid-back to hack it for a 9:00 journalism class that lasts for three and half hours. Even going out will be different. In Spain, I eat at around ten and don’t even meet up with people until 11:30. Then we go hang out for a couple hours and then go to a club or bar until on average, three or four in the morning. This is very normal Spanish culture---little kids are out playing on playgrounds until 12:30 at night. I’m going to think its lame when everything closes at 3.
So I started off my semester discussing everything I missed from the U.S and now I’m ending discussing everything I’m going to miss from Spain. It’s all come full circle and I CANT BELIEVE I’VE SPENT FIVE MONTHS HERE AND I ONLY HAVE 14 DAYS LEFT.
When we first got there, there are tons of vendors outside, mostly selling cold water and padded seats (never a good sign) but we bypassed all of them to try and find our seats. Of course being students we bought the cheaper tickets so everyone just kept pointing to keep going, keep going....I was completely okay with this because I didn't know how close I wanted to be to the blood and gore. However, once we came out, our seats were SO CLOSE. Tickets are sold based on whether you are in the shade or not, as well as if it's a professional or amateur bullfight. We were in the sun at a amateur fight so we only paid about 13 euros but we were amazingly close. Then I started to flip out a little realizing I'm about to watch a living animal be killed in a public place as my two friends, Ricky and Olivia, continue to discuss how excited they are to see the blood and guts and hope that one of the fighters gets mauled by the bull (I think they were kidding...?)
They do not waste any time getting it all started. We hear a gunshot and out of a side door comes an enormous bull. This was so sad to me because he didn't know what he was doing there or why all these men are trying to provoke him. Every single time he falls right into the trap though. :( But not without a fight! In a bullfight, there are 3 matadors who perform twice. Therefore, six bulls in total are killed. The matadors go in order from worst to best and the bigger and more aggressive bulls are left for the better matadors. When the bull first comes out, there are several men who are trying to provoke him and run out with a pink cape, wave it around and then run for their life for safety behind a little barrack. The entrance to the barracks are very small and I really thought several times that they wouldn't make it. One man had to forget about the barracks and just jumped into the crowd.
After these men are out with the bull for a couple of minutes, a blind folded and metal armored horse is led into the ring by a picador. When the bull gets close to the horse, the picador stabs the bull to get him to lower his head, making him more tired and an easier target for the final round with the matador. This is by far the worst part. The bull frequently goes straight for the horse and it was very hard for me to believe that the horse didn't get hurt. There was one time when the horse had just barely made it into the ring and the bull headed straight for him, knocking him off his feet. However, the horse is fully armored and the blood that I saw on the horse's armor was actually from the bull. But needless to say, it seems a little unfair for the horse to have to go into all of it blindfolded.
Then came the most dangerous part. Bullfighters get all of the credit but before he comes out, there are three men who risk their lives putting colorful daggers into the bulls neck. THEY HAVE NO PROTECTION. THEY HAVE NO CAPE. The bull charges right at them and they have to put these daggers into his neck. When I think about being next to a huge bull, I remember how scared I was of the monkeys in Gibraltar. These guys are fighting a bull who wants to kill them in the middle of a crowd of hundreds. That is brave.
And finally, the bullfighter. The techniques and footwork they use really makes it a dance between the bull and the matador. He doesn't hurt the bull until the last moment and until then, he impresses everyone by getting as close to the bull as possible and turning with the bull just close enough that he's not stabbed by the bull's horns. And then finally the killing of the bull. You know its coming because he goes to the side of the ring to get his "sword." At this point, the bull is tired. Sometimes one of the bulls would trip but mostly you could tell by how slow they were going. The matador pull the sword back like you would a bow and arrow and then when the bull charges, stab it right between shoulders. They have to get it all the way in or the bull suffers. The second matador was amazing at it. The bull was dead within two minutes. The third matador, who was supposed to be the best, was the worst. With both bulls he had to restab him, another man had to jab him behind the neck after he fell down and the bull still didn't die for another ten minutes. That was pretty horrible because you don't want the bull to suffer.
As far as the blood and guts, the bull is black but you can still see a good amount on this back from the "colorful daggers" that are jabbing into him. And once the bull dies, a clean up crew comes up to shovel up any blood mixed with dirt. However, on the whole, it is a very artistic show. It's not an event I would like to see on a regular basis (some people go every week; its like the steeplechase for Spaniards every week) but I was very glad I went. Bullfights are not for the faint-hearted. If Andrea went, she would've left, been crying or throwing up. Scarred, for sure.
The argument for "los toros" is that it's historical, the bulls live a great life until they're killed, if bull fighting was abolished then the bulls wouldn't really have an option of a life in the wild and in the end, the entire bull is used for their meat, etc. On the other hand, the bulls are tortured and it makes the Spaniards seem very barbaric. My main problem was there are these perfectly healthy and strong bulls running into the ring and then 15 minutes later, they're dead and being carted out. Seems a little disrespectful to nature and the order of balance between man and animal. But then again, I'm not a vegetarian.
IF YOU COME TO SPAIN, YOU MUST GO TO A BULLFIGHT.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
So when we first arrive we´re walking down the street trying to find our HOSTELBOAT and I look like an idiot in a summer dress. The wind is blowing and I´m preoccupied with keeping my dress from flying up, Coop´s finger is bleeding from something breaking on his suitcase and we don´t know exactly where we´re going. Well we arrive at a beautiful hostelboat docked permanently near the train station in a large canal and it´s perfect. Best place we stayed. The bunk beds we slept in were in a room literally the size of a half bathroom but that was okay because we didn´t spend any time there. However there was a great place to hang out on top of the boat and a dining room for breakfast. I know I talk a lot about food but breakfast there was amazing. They had unlimited breakfast with anything you want which was very different from the Spanish breakfast of coffee and toast (which I actually will miss).
We headed out immediately after getting there to look for a jacket for me. Coop´s sweater sufficed. The first day we just wandered around the canals getting oriented to the city and went to bed pretty early. The next day we went to the Heineken museum which was a very good experience despite their propaganda on how its the best beer ever bla bla bla. I´m not a Heineken fan but it was interesting on how they brewed it, riding their ¨brew me¨ ride and seeing all the ads from the past years. I also managed to convince Coop to record a video in a booth they had set up to send back to the parents. Very entertaining. After Heineken we went to eat at Febo´s, a very cheap fast food place unique to Amsterdam and then went to the park. The rain and cold kept us on our toes most of the trip but I think we managed to make the best of it. After going back, took a short nap and went to the Van Gogh museum. I´m so done with art at this point but Coop really wanted to go. Turns out it was a special event Friday night and we ended up with all the sophisticated socialites of Amsterdam enjoying a live band, a special exhibit on night and day artwork and seeing a very abstract performance on who knows what. Luckily I took a video. See here.
So I loved Amsterdam with all of my heart but it all had to come to an end. Woke up really early Sunday to send Coop back to the States. Took him to the airport and it was just too much thinking about three weeks without him and him getting to see all the people and things I miss and me being left here in Europe. Now that I think about it, I prob. have the better deal but it was very heartbreaking on the moment because I really just wanted to go as his carry-on. So in the end, yes I cried which I think surprised both of us because I´m usually not a crier. Went back on the train to spend a half day in Amsterdam solo. It was raining and I had to go to the public library there to study since I had an exam the next day. Really ended up sending emails to people saying I missed them....got on my plane back, found my window seat, sat next to a very large man who made me claustrophobic and smelt a little strange and endured for three hours. Got back, studied nonstop, got up for my 9 oclock class and took my exam at 10.
Thus began THE END OF SPAIN
Monday, May 25, 2009
Venice is beautiful, extremely clean and everything you imagine it to be when you hear it’s a city on the water because it really is. We stayed on the mainland to save money but once you start walking over the first bridge into the heart of Venice, it’s nothing but a labyrinth of bridges, canals and walkways along the water. Venice definitely isn’t a hotspot for young people or for going out. During the day in St. Mark’s Square, the main plaza, it was filled with school groups and old people. There was virtually no one close to our age. At night in St. Mark’s Square, there was no one, which was really a shame because there are at least three or four groups of live musicians playing classical music every night.
One interesting thing that we had read about in our travel packet was that people bring their liter bottles to restaurants and wine shops to be filled up with wine. Sure enough the last day we were in Venice, lost as usual, we saw a sign that said something similar to fill your bottle with wine in Spanish so we peeked inside and there was a little old lady with a big plastic bottle that looked like it had previously held oil or some cooking ingredient and had been washed out. She handed it over to the owner like it was the most natural thing and he just fills it up with the house wine. It was just the strangest thing to watch as she handed over some loose change for this huge bottle of wine and walked off.
Another oddity was that in this tiny little Venetian town, there were countless illegal “street vendors.” Between the men selling the purses and the men practically throwing flowers at us, we had quite a time trying to avoid them. However, even stranger than the persistent nature of the sellers were the signs trying to persuade you not to buy fake name brand bags. They were really intense—“Do you really think you can cross the borders with counterfeit products?” “The material of these products could contain dangerous or harmful substances.” I’m pretty sure that these were put up by the shop owners but I’m not positive. Venetian laws are pretty strict on everything. You can’t picnic anywhere, you can’t sit anywhere not specifically designated for sitting, you have to be properly dresses at all times (no shirtless men or bathing suits, I guess) and you can’t use any bikes, skateboards or pretty much any type of transportation other than public water transit.
Well Venice was awesome but we’re already off to our last destination: Amsterdam. We’re staying on a boat—I can’t wait!
Let me just mention that in the process of lugging all of his stuff from the past six months from the airport to the hostel, Coop got just a little frustrated. One fond memory of mine was watching him kick his bag on the corner of a busy street and then breaking the handle. Nice…
So we FINALLY arrive at our hostel, Salvador B& B, to be welcomed by a very stereotypical Italian man—overweight, dressed in a white tee and “low riding” blue jeans with a faint whiff of B.O—but extremely nice. He spoke no English. Yessss. So instead of trying to get along with hand motions, etc. he actually calls his friend who speaks little English and hands me the phone to talk to him. In bits and pieces, I collect that a) a man is coming for us in little time b) we’re not staying at that hostel and c) this man really doesn’t speak English. So Coop and I are sitting in a little hallways listening to 80s hits off his radio as he continually urges us to use the bathroom---FOR FREE!
About five minutes later, another man shows up to take us to wherever. As far as we knew, he could’ve been an ax murderer taking us down some alley. Luckily his only issue was that he also spoke no English and he smelt of B.O (and not so faintly). So we really have no idea what’s going on except that we’re following a smelly man down the alleys of Rome. He was carrying my bags so I really had no problem with it. Coop, being the strong man he is, got to carry his broken bag down the exact same roads we’d walked from the Metro to get to the first place.
In the end, we got an upgrade from our first place to a different B&B because the place we had paid for had been overbooked. The location was perfect. We were right next to the Vatican and the metro stop was one street over. The last night, the man who worked there—Gerardo—showed us the pope’s apartment building from his balcony.
So after a stressful morning, Coop and I made ourselves feel better the best way we could---with food. Rome is full of good deals on pizza and pasta. We picked a place where we got a drink, salad, a whole pizza and gelato for 10 euros. The pizza in Italy has less cheese and is pretty thin-crusted but on the whole, is very similar to pizza back home. The two pasta dishes I tried in the time we were in Rome didn’t impress me but we didn’t exactly go to the most refined places so feel free to disagree.
Top Sights of Rome and the Vatican City!!!
Absolutely breathtaking! It was my favorite thing in Rome. (Note: If anyone is wondering, Coop’s favorite part of Rome was watching funny cat and dog videos on the metro. Very refined taste.) Anyhow, it was huge and we learned a lot about all of the gladiators and the games that were held by the Roman emperors. They had some really spectacular presentations. Apparently, when a whale was beached in the south of Italy, the Romans decided to make a life-size whale and put it on stage and then have 50 live bears run out of it into the arena.
We went there twice, fighting off the hoards of Indian men who were forcing roses onto us by saying how sweet I was and telling me they wanted to give me free roses and then sneaking behind my back and asking Coop for money. Tricksy….In the end, I got a total of zero roses. Coop’s excuse was if you buy one from one, you have to buy one from all. He wanted to help them out but he realized he couldn’t help out everyone. That’s okay. I gladly settled for gelato.
All I can say is a wild goose chase. You walk forever in huge crowds thinking its coming right up and then you’re led down another long hallway of art. And another. And another. The Sistine Chapel was so different than I thought it would be, as well. I thought the painting of man and God touching fingers would be a little bigger but its dwarfed by the surrounding paintings. I liked the full wall portrait of The Final Judgment. Very impressive, yet forboding.
Little known fact: There are several museums in the Vatican museums including an Egyptian museum that has sarcophaguses with mummy bodies that you can actually see.
In an attempt to not be lame and turn in early, Coop and I decided to venture out to the Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain at around 11 o’clock on Sunday evening. We got gelato and aimlessly wandered the lit streets of Rome. Coop had already been pretty tired before going out so we were hoping just for an evening stroll to the Spanish steps and then to take the metro back. Problem 1: Neither one of us has a great sense of direction and we can’t find the Spanish steps. I’m set on finding them because my dad has raved about how cool they are at night because everyone hangs out there chatting into the wee hours of the morning. Well, we finally get there and the only people there are again the Indians with the roses and a couple very awkwardly making out. Problem 2: The metro has closed. We walked into the Metro station, not knowing it was closed, and stepped into the twilight zone. If anyone has seen the Stephen King movie, “The Lindoliers,” it was just like that. While walking up seemingly never-ending moving sidewalks, we see no one. When we finally see three people, they just stare at us in absolute silence. When we see the metal gates barring off the metro, we decide to walk to the other exit of the metro. The other side leads into a completely desolate mall and a parking lot. The exit to the mall is barred so we head out into the parking lot. The lot is halfway full of cars but there’s no one there except the silent security guard that walks past us looking at us as thought we shouldn’t be there. The only way out of the parking lot is if we walk out the curving entrance for the cars which I don’t want to do because if a car comes in while we’re walking out, we’d definitely be hit. We head back to the mall, starting to panic. We spot the security guard and I ask him how to get out. He responds, eerily of course, “Where do you want to go?” I just ask for the closest exit and he takes us to an exit out of the side of the mall. So we’ve finally escaped the metro station. We exit to the middle of a park. Keep in mind it’s 1:30 in the morning and we don’t know where we are. All we see are buses and cars occasionally passing by. To keep the story short, we made it home without being robbed or stabbed at around 2:30 and agreed that sleeping in was a good idea.
We became friends with the man who worked at the B&B we stayed at when we went across the street to try limoncello. Apparently, he works there too. We had a good time talking to him and he actually even bought Coop a beer (someone from the hostel had stolen his out of the refrigerator and Gerardo wanted to replace it). He pointed out the building that the Pope lives in from his balcony and showed us all the publicity websites for his many ventures—the B&B, a party boat and the snack bar across the street.
Well the next day we had to go to Ciampino airport, which is located about 45 minutes outside of Rome. Somehow we always fly into the farthest airport from the city. Gerardo offers to drive us and I’m thanking him thinking he’s being so nice to take his new friends to the airport. Mid-thanks he lets us know how much he’s charging us. I felt so betrayed that our friend was making money off of us. We still accepted but needless to say, Coop and I were both hurt.
Rome, on the whole, however, was great and I’m definitely glad that we got to spend nearly three and a half days there. There’s a lot to do: great sightseeing, great people-watching and very friendly people in general.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Feria literally means fair and for a week in Sevilla, a fair is set up complete with rides and casetas (private and public tents for eating, drinking and dancing). At first I was disappointed that I would only get to see Feria for two days since I didn’t get back to Sevilla until Saturday and the festival goes from Sunday to Sunday. However, its just like the fair in N.C. It can be exhausting. So after I wake up around 1:30 on Saturday and lounge around for a couple of hours—I’m so lazy here—I meet up with Coop and Andrea to the “fairgrounds.” The whole city transforms for this fair. Despite the fact that horses are prancing and using the bathroom all over the streets, the women and the men dress up—the women wear flamenco dresses and the men wear “church attire.” The horses wear ornate tassels and bells and cart people who want to show off their feriawear around the casetas. Speaking of casetas, there are rows of tents everywhere—mostly private—for people to relax and catch up with family and friends. If you live in Sevilla, you’re invited to casetas belonging to either your family, your company, your neighborhood or your friends. If you don’t live in Sevilla, you generally have to go the public casetas, which obviously are not as good because they’re filled with foreigners who don’t know Sevillana dances or traditions. Either way though, it’s a good chance to sit down and escape the Sevillana sun (it’s one of the warmest cities in Europe); unlike the fair in Raleigh, they don’t really jack up prices that much. And the foods are similarly fatty and fried. Instead of funnel cake, they have churros and chocolate. I’m still a big fan of the fried dough and confectionary sugar combo but it’s a tough competition.
The rides are also very similar. Feria has a “superraton” (the crazy mouse), a haunted house, a pirate ship and a Ferris wheel. However, the safety measures are a bit lacking. On the pirate ship, we saw riders simply put into a metal cage. No seat belt, no harness, no nothing. On a circular “spaceship,” there were kids just jumping in the middle on a gym mat while the carnie bounced the machine around. My personal favorite was El Tren de La Bruja, meaning the train of the witch. Kids and adults alike board a kiddie train and while they ride around on a circular track (pretty boring in my opinion), a very intimidating clown-like man hits them with a broom. He physically hits them with the broom and they not only pay to be hit by a broom, but they’re thrilled by it and try to grab the broom. Luckily, I caught most of these phenomenon on video.
After the train, we headed back for dinner and decided to come back that night. The night was very similar to the day except fewer kids and we went with more people. Oh and I dressed up in a flamenco dress. I must say it was a pretty bold move to wear the dress as none of my American friends dressed up but I loved wearing it and having my senora help me get my outfit together. It’s like prom but better because its cultural and you get to go to the fair. However, as my dress was not very conducive to riding the rides, I mostly watched but was nevertheless, very entertained by the people watching. Coop in particular was mesmerized by a little gypsy boy who seriously looked just like a little man. But then he got jipped by a gypsy at the bathrooms who told him he had to pay a euro to use it and then continued to curse the gypsies.
Arrived in Paris and the first thing that surprised us really was seeing houses! There’s really only apartment complexes in Spain (or at least in urban Spain) so when we saw houses from the airport to the city center, that was a big surprise. Another surprise was realizing how little I speak of other languages besides English and Spanish. I didn’t even know thank you, goodbye or please. Luckily, everyone at our hotel spoke English as well as most people we encountered there. Speaking of the hotel, one of my favorite parts of the trip was breakfast. We had an included breakfast with our stay and it was dreamlike. Surrounded by little French couples and families, our waiter asked for our preference: café au lait o chocolate. Then he would scurry off into the little kitchen to prepare our individual breakfast tray of one croissant and one French loaf each, as well as an array of jams and honeys. It worked as the best alarm clock for Coop and I—as soon as we got up, we got ready as soon as possible to go get breakfast.
As far as the main sites go, Paris is not overrated in the least. We purchased the Paris Museum Pass and really got our money out of it. We saw Versailles (palace outside of Paris), Orsay Museum (art with great Impressionist collection), Louvre (Mona Lisa), Saint Chapelle (church), Notre Dame, Conciergie (prison where Marie Antoinette was held), Napoleon’s Tomb, Arc de Triumf (arch at the end of the Champs de Elysees where you can see the whole city) and L’Orangerie (Monet art collection). I wish I could say I have a refined taste but I really don’t care to see any art for a while.
Personally, I think the best sites don’t require an entry fee. I have definitely learned that you can get burnt out on sightseeing if you’re not careful. Walking along the Seine River is relaxing and beautiful and gives great views of the city. Sitting and drinking coffee in one of the cafes is part of the culture. One of the best things Coop and I did was go to Pere LaChase (sp?) cemetery. Among the various creative minds buried there is Jim Morrison. The graves, or rather tombs, are actually very elaborate and strolling around the cemetery wasn’t morbid like I thought it would be when Coop suggested going. Also, Coop and I bought coffees in the Tuilleries Gardens outside the Louvre and sat in reclining chairs near a pond.
And, of course, the Eiffel Tower. I really thought that I would be disappointed because everyone talks about the Eiffel Tower and how great it is and usually when things are talked up too much, they never can live up to your expectations. The Eiffel Tower is breathtaking from faraway and up-close. I learned two things while I was climbing the tower. One, the Eiffel Tower sparkles at night for ten minutes every hour. Two, I have a fear of heights. We hadn’t even made it to the first viewpoint (there’s three) before I started to feel like I was going to pass out. However, in my defense, I’m usually never scared of heights and you can really imagine yourself falling when all you can see supporting you are the beams underneath you and you can feel the tower swaying in the wind. We made it to the second viewpoint before I had to call it quits. According to Rick Steves, it’s the best area for sights of the city in the first place.
Finally, as always, I have to give my review of the food. We ate a lot of paninis in the streets, we had Donor Kebap twice (not very good in Paris), we tried the one true Parisian cuisine item, French onion soup (tasted the same as Campbells to me) and also had CREPES. Crepes are the best thing to happen to me. Or the worst. Depends on how you look at it. A crepe, for those of you who aren’t sure, is a very thin pancake filled with your choice of sweet or salty foods. So it can be a dessert crepe or more of a snack crepe. When I ordered my first crepe of banana and nutella (chocolate) and took the first bite, I was immediately angry at myself for waiting until the last day to try them. They are absolutely delicious. So even if you’re not going to Paris and you haven’t had a crepe before, I highly recommend investigating where you can get one. I had one in Berlin as well and it was almost as good.
Berlin was my favorite and I’m not even sure why. There’s no Eiffel Tower, no spectacular art and no palaces. However, there is a certain relaxed and welcoming feeling there. The weather was beautiful; everyone we encountered seemed so happy and excited to be where they are.
The hostel we stayed at was incredible. There was a kitchen and a beautiful garden to eat in or stroll around in. There was a German beer happy hour from 8 to 10 every night (for Coop) and a coffee happy hour from 7 to 10 every morning (for me). The man at the front was so welcoming, telling us where everything was in the city, what was going on that weekend, etc. So we heard from him that there was going to be a free walking tour around the city so we jumped on that.
Our tour guide was a British guy who had been living in Berlin for five years giving tours around the city. They do a free tour (of course, accepting tips) in order to persuade you to go on their other non-free tours. I always like stuff like this because if you have a good product or service, you should be able to prove it and then gain people’s trust to come back. Anyhow, it was fabulous. We learned so much about the city while simultaneously being entertained by his humorous anecdotes in his British accent (that always seems to make things funnier).
A few interesting stories/facts we learned:
• Outside the city museum where Hitler used to give speeches, etc, a movie producer was trying to reproduce a Nazi rally. He hired extras, put up Nazi flags, everything. As soon as they got everything set up, a snowstorm blew in and they were only able to grab the movie production things and clear the extras. So after the snow calmed down, all people saw were Nazi flags all over their government buildings.
• Berlin Wall escape stories:
o One man zip lined his family to the other side by hiding his family in the bathroom at his work that was located next to the wall and then used his pants to zipline to the other side with his two kids hanging on to his legs. His wife used her skirt.
o One man borrowed a forklift and rammed through the first wall and then lifted up on the forklift on the other side.
o A young man’s girlfriend was on the East Berlin side and in order to get her to the West side, he told her to do some extreme dieting. Once she got to be little more than skin and bones, he took the stuffing out of his passenger seat chair and put her in it. They never found her.
o Similarly, another young man’s girlfriend was on the East Berlin side and he was trying to smuggle her past the borders. He dated a girl who lived on the West Berlin side that looked very similar to her for two years and then took her to the East Berlin side for a weekend trip. One day while they were at lunch, she went to the bathroom. When she came back, her passport and papers were missing. The man had switched her out for his true love and left her stranded. True documented story.
o One man catapulted himself to the other side.
o One of the biggest Catholic churches in Berlin has Coca-Cola endorsements posted outside. When parishioners complained, they replaced them with Mercedes Benz endorsements.
o The soldier posted outside Checkpoint Charlie isn’t real. He works for an exotic dancing company and is just there to make money off of taking pictures with him.
o It was a fad for a while to graffiti David Hasselhoff Save the World onto buildings.
o Berlin has numbered all of their trees.
o Hitler’s bunker and “suicide spot” is located outside a random apartment building in a parking lot. The German government didn’t want anyone to make a memorial or a display about it so no one really knows about it. We were there on the anniversary of Hitler’s death.
o Berlin created a memorial for the Jews that died in the Holocaust that are blocks of granite coated in a chemical that makes it easy to wipe off graffiti. The same company that produces this chemical produced the gases that killed the Jews. Therefore, they profited from the death of the Jews and are now profiting off their memorial.
o Gobles (sp?), the man who devised the plan to exterminate the Jews, had Jewish family.
We also met three people our age on the tour—Megan, Sam and Ross. Megan and Sam’s dad told them when they graduated that he wasn’t going to pay for college but would pay for them to travel until they didn’t want to or until they wanted to settle down. They’ve basically been travelling for the past three and a half years across Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. Ross was a bartender from Washington state who was staying with a friend in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was interesting to meet people who were actively avoiding the 9-5.
The one night that Coop and I went out for a nice meal, we had one of the traditional German drinks—something Weiss. It’s flavored beer. Mine was cranberry and Coop was herbal or something. Coop ordered schnitzel (fried veal) and throughout the next couple of days, we had a couple of currywursts (hot dogs/sausages covered in curry and ketchup). I loved it. I loved Berlin and hope to go back one day to see more of Germany because they are really great people!
As far as traveling goes, however, I’ve learned several things.
-Don’t overdo the sightseeing. If you’re too worried about seeing everything, you won’t enjoy your time at the places you do get to see.
-Half the fun of traveling to other countries is getting to know the people and their culture. And their coffee.
-It’s worth it to pay the extra money to avoid long bus rides/to go the most direct route. The 7 hour bus ride from Sevilla to Madrid is pretty bad….
Coop and I have started our way to Paris. So I have learned my lesson hard. I thought we would save money by bussing it to Madrid and flying from a major airport. But after paying for a hotel and going out last night in Madrid, I think the plan was a bust. Oh well. We had a great time in Madrid last night. So far, probably my favorite city in Spain.
So we head out on a 6 hour bus ride from Seville to Madrid. What I would like to consider some quality bonding time. Before the trip I see a Brady Bunchesque family and am praying they’re not sitting near us. They’re not but instead we have two Jamaican guys who are drunk sitting right behind us and who occasionally sit up and just hover over us. They were sharing some philosophical thoughts however. Such as, “Moneh mon. It jus papa, ya know.” We had the lunches our senoras packed for us and I brought the American 100 calorie pack snacks my mom brought me. I feel like such a soccer mom bringing snacks with me. That or a fat kid.
Anyhow, after eternity, we arrive in Madrid and make it to the hostel. I borrowed a rolly bag from my senora but because its canvas and it’s full, it drags on the ground. Coop has had the pleasure of lugging it around. Drop our stuff off and beeline to the calamari sandwich shop. Love the place—we get the same seats at the bar, the same bartender, same sandwiches, same beers. I’ve always wanted to be a regular at a place and walk in and say the regular. If I lived in Madrid, this could’ve been my place. So after that, we pretty much hit up all the good places we went to before in Madrid. The Bar Andaluz that has all the pictures of bullfighting and the Sevilla soccer teams (I struck up conversation with the bartender about how Real Betis is the better of the two) and then we went to get the amazing mushrooms at Meson Championes or Mushroom Bar with some red wine. If you go to Madrid, you should definitely go to the place. Whenever I’ve had a few drinks, I like to pretend I know the bartender and we talked about the signs on the wall that said “A pretty woman is dangerous. A ugly woman is dangerous but also disgraceful,” and “A good mother-in-law keeps her mouth shut and her purse open.” Personally, I don’t know why I laughed at these as they’re vaguely condescending to women. After we paid and were heading out the door, we kept looking back to say goodbye and Debbie Downer Coop suggested that probably after we’ve paid, they just don’t care about us. I think they were just busy.
We headed towards home but not before stopping at a Mexican bar to pay 3.75 euros for a Corona. But it’s okay because….they had swings for seats at the bar. To me, this was the coolest thing ever. Needless to say, Coop was embarrassed but either way, it was a good experience. I suggest the innovation to all restaurant entrepreneurs.
Decided to sleep in this morning. Prob a bad idea. I’m yelling at Coop because I’m freaking out that Ryanair, the cheapest airline that’s notorious for charging exorbitant amounts of money to people who bring bags weighing too much and he’s freaking out that we’re not going to leave the hotel on time. On top of this, the line to the two bathroom is 6 people long and we have to leave in 40 minutes. Everything works out fine after a) we repacked the bags to more evenly distribute the weight b) I washed my hair in the sink.
My favorite moment of the morning is Coop telling me I don’t even know what I’ve packed and pulling out a Burger King happy meal toy out of the backpack. No comment.
Off to Paris….CAN NOT WAIT.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Bomba (the dog) is sick. I generally end up walking him at night to help the family out some and it seriously took the dog 15 minutes to attempt to pee. When we were in Mijas, we saw a bulldog puppy that cost 1100 euros. I never realized how much people were willing to pay for a dog….there’s plenty at the animal shelter
I have found out that my exams end June 3rdish and I can either go home, stay in Sevilla or go travel. Problem is that I’m not sure how many people will be staying in Sevilla and I’m not sure where I’d travel to. Andrea wants to go to London and Meagan is going to Greece but I’m not sure if the dates will work out. Travel plans can be stressful.
So I tried to use the Sevici card today and check out a bike. After using a card that's supposed to last six months for one day, it has apparently expired. I'm not sure if that's a testament to things not working properly in Spain or my bad luck.
Went to what seemed like hours of class today and realized that I'm going on a week of vacation to Italy and getting back the day before my history exam. Hopefully what the professor says is true and 80% of our grade is attendance...TIS (also known as This Is Spain, meaning only this could happen in Spain.)
Finished a very good book today---The Glass Castle. All should read it.
We went out to The Sweet Party at Caramelo's tonight. Sure they had free beer. But they also had waiters walking around with free candy, which was way better. Except for the fact that the marshmallows kept getting squished onto my boots. I can deal with that if I'm getting free sour patch. Just about everyone from our group was there tonight dancing. I think everyone is starting to get the feeling that we're running out of time. Especially the LSCS students who are here one month less than us. I can't decide if I'm ready to go back or not. While I am very comfortable and accustomed here, I still yearn for American culture. I'm forever going to be stuck in between wanting to be in Spain or traveling and wanting to be with my family and friends in the U.S. Anyhow, I have Paris, Berlin and Italy still to go....no more complaining from me. I'm going to travel in more countries in two weeks than I have the rest of my life.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Highlights of the week:
-UNC WINNING THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
-Coop learning how to play cards with my family….ending with a rather violent game of spoons
-me being terrified and simultaneously fascinated by monkeys at Gibraltar
-Coop being chased and surrounded by monkeys at Gibraltar
-watching my mom speak English to my Spanish senora like she’s speaking to someone mentally handicapped
-watching my dad take caramel shots with my senora’s friend after she insisted
-Philip refusing suntan lotion and getting a very awkward and intense burn on his back
-Coop and I swimming in the Mediterranean and then not being able to feel my body afterwards I’m so cold
-receiving much needed supplies from America including DVDS, books, easy mac and Dr. Scholl’s gel foot pads
-Dad going mute after a very stressful drive to and from Gibraltar….
-Chelsea beating Liverpool
-escaping Granada just in time to beat the crowds of the parade
-eating a meal of donor kebap on more than one occasion with my family
-riding a cybersport bike with the whole family and Coop…disappointment of a lifetime was not being able to reach the pedals
-playing charades with the family. Dad goes up to act his out and forgets the third word in the name of the movie halfway through…..Aliens vs. Predator. The performance was needless to say, unforgettable.
-my mom getting claustrophobic in her hotel room….
-supermarkets in general….first my dad confuses the word mercadona (market) with Madonna then we discover that tortillas are not really carried at Spanish grocery stores after getting everything for Mexican. And finally all grocery stores close at around 9 and are completely closed Sunday, Maundy Thursday but not Good Friday.
Food: Food here has been interesting to say the least. Since this is such an important subject to me, I will note a few of the phenomena.
1) I have the exact same breakfast of toast with garlic and oil every morning. Bread is also present at EVERY meal of the day. I’ve never had a single meal here without bread.
2) I have some sort of bean soup two or three days a week for lunch. Spaniards must have the strongest digestion systems ever.
3) Lamburgers. No explanation needed.
4) Dessert=fruit or yogurt
5) You always drink water with the meal, which is good because I think I’ve broken my addiction to diet pepsi.
6) Mexican food is rationed. The portions are TINY compared to the U.S. Also, no free chips and salsa.
7) Burger King and McDonald’s are always very crowded. While they don’t have the breakfast menu because they don’t open until oneish, both BK and McDonald’s serve beer. So I guess they kinda counter each other.
8) Donor Kebap is the greatest thing to happen to Coop and I. So far the city with the best DK has been Madrid…Although we did find one on the other side of town that was pretty good…
9) I am not a fan of fish here. But my Spanish family tries to get me to eat it because it’s good for me, which of course is very nice. However, their last attempt of frying fish and saying it was chicken was unsuccessful.
10) The best sandwich to get is a Spanish tortilla (potato omelet) on bread. But it does need ketchup.
11) If you go out for breakfast, the best thing to get is either churros con chocolate for obvious reasons or bread spread with oil and tomato juice. Sounds gross but it’s very good.
12) TGIF is alive and happening in Sevilla. Our group frequents happy hour but unfortunately only drinks are half off so we just sit there salivating over all the American foods we wish we could order.
13) Drinks here are MUCH stronger than in the U.S. A mixed drink is about half alcohol. On the flip side, the coffees are MUCH smaller. But of course, Starbucks is ever present for anyone’s caffeine fix.
Off the food subject…
• So everyone is getting ready for Semana Santa—except the large majority of UNC-Sevilla students are traveling to Morocco. The Moore family, however, is coming to reconquer Spain. We’re hoping to make it to Morocco for a day at some point, but on the whole we’ll be spending our time in the tourist hotspot, Costa del Sol. I’ve very interested to see how they will like Spain…..the only disappointment about the upcoming trip is that Cosmo couldn’t come. Similar to his twin Baxter, he can speak Spanish.
• I read For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s a good book, especially to read in Spain. Spain has an interesting history…
• Spaniards are obsessed with game shows. Everything that is on television: game shows, reruns of Smallville, a few reality shows, CSI and the news. And then the other fifteen channels are dedicated to palm reading/fortune telling.
• I went on a class trip to see the churches that have pasos leave from them. Pasos are like foundations with the Virgen or Christ on them that are made of gold or silver and are carried through the streets by 40 or 50 strong men on a specific day of Semana Santa. Then they are surrounded by men who wear costumes similar to the KKK except sometimes in different colors: black, purple, etc. Everyone in Spain is Catholic so this is a very respected ceremony and the whole city pretty much shuts down for it. They even turn the stoplights off at night to avoid any distractions.
Monday, March 16, 2009
We left at 5:30 a.m. on Friday to go to the Sevilla airport. The flight was quick, about an hour and half, and went smoothly. Only problem was that the woman at the security checkpoint confiscated my lotion and conditioner. I think she had it out for me. Although I must say, I’ve been stopped at almost every security checkpoint for every flight I’ve taken….at my 5”1 stature, I’m quite the threat apparently. It was kinda funny though because they took the conditioner while staring right at my razor. ????
Took the metro into the city and called the apartment place for the key. For Barcelona, I chose a place called Casa Diagonal (located in the richer section of town called L-Eixample) in which travelers share an apartment with a kitchen, a living room, etc. It was very nice! A little hard to find though—I called the man on his phone and he’s spelling out Catalon street names (they speak Catalon in Barcelona—about as different from Spanish as French or Italian; however, everyone there also speaks Castellano, the normal Spanish we know so it wasn’t really a problem) on a bad cell phone. Anyhow, it was worth the trouble. Not too expensive and we were able to do a lot of eating in the house instead of spending money to go out to eat. Barcelona may be the culinary capital of the world right now but not for starving college students. On the note of expenses, Barcelona is supposed to be much more expensive than any other city in Spain but I didn’t find it to be that different. Perhaps because we didn’t really go out to eat. ????
After we dropped our stuff off and ate our bocadillo sandwiches that our senoras packed for us and Coop made some terrible coffee, we headed out for Gaudi’s Parc Guell. Gaudi is my hero. I’m not very artsy like the majority of my friends (now thinking about it, most of my friends are either musicians or artists of some type), I really appreciated Gaudi’s melting ice cream designs. He was an absolute genius.
Side note: I have to brag that my sense of direction is improving immensely in the cities of Spain and that out of the two of us, I’m definitely the navigator. NEVER saw that coming.
We finally make it up to Parc Guell in the heat of the day trekking up a very steep incline. Parc Guell was supposed to be a 60-acre gated community in the early 1900s. However, Gaudi was way ahead of his time and it was a major flop. Instead the government bought it and now it’s a public park—full of screaming kids on field trips on Fridays. Also full of talented artists. Coop almost peed his pants when he saw a man playing the sitar. I recorded a woman playing Asian music on some instrument…Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
After we strolled through Parc Guell, we made it down to near where we lived to find Casa Mila, another work by Gaudi. We debated on whether to go in because it was a bit pricey, about 10 euros, but I’m so glad we followed Rick’s advice to go in. It’s a modernista flat that Gaudi designed for a rich couple . I would hire Gaudi too. Not only does he make everything look cool, but he was so innovative in using architecture to solve problems like ventilation, etc. I wasn’t aware but Coop was bored. Oh well. We saw a lot of the models that Gaudi made for his buildings, learned about his life, the rooms in the apartment and then….headed out to the amazinggggg rooftop. Quite impressive—just look at these pictures!!!!
So we decided we were done with art for the day and went off to Las Ramblas, the main social spot off of Plaza Catalunya. There’s everything on Las Ramblas from tourist shops to exotic pet shop stands to hookers (only at night) to fresh markets. Coop and I actually saw several men purchasing hookers at night. It was shocking to say the least. Also, speaking of exotic pet shops, we saw so many ferrets on walks with their owners. Coop has decided he’s getting one. It’s funny because we’ve both noticed that once he gets stuck on something, he gets really into it. Like this past weekend, it was ferrets and coke in a bottle. In Sevilla, the ham legs hanging from the walls. In his defense though, the ferrets were awesome. Side note: there was a dog wandering away from its owner towards the street and I seriously screaming because I thought it was about to get hit about a car. And then I realized it was a parked car…..
For lunch, we went to La Boqueria, a fresh market with fish, meats, cheeses and best of all, FRUITS! Coop and I spent 5 euros on a loaf of bread, some cheese and some fruit and went for a picnic. Lovely Barcelona actually turned out to be a pretty romantic city with the sea and the fountains at night, etc. At the end of Las Ramblas, we saw the Mediterranean Sea and the pier with tons of beautiful sailboats and yachts. $$$$ We headed back towards the apartment but stopped on the way back to pick up 2 mini frozen pizzas, strawberries and some 1 euros Don Simon red wine (impressive cardboard carton of wine) Somehow, this minimal amount of food lasted us for like 3 meals.
After grocery shopping, we thought we would “swing by” the magic fountains before heading home. This turned out to be an adventure. I don’t know how far we walked but after walking the city all day on 4 hours of sleep with two grocery bags in tote, it was miserable. However, the fountains were worth the trouble. See this video! I hope you can hear the Mariah Carey music that the fountains are “choreographed” with in the background. Good part about bringing the groceries is that we got to eat some of the strawberries in front of the fountains. I like to think that Coop schemed all of this. It was really perfect.
Headed home on the Metro—absolutely exhausted. We ate and knew that there was no way we were leaving the apartment that night. But we did get to meet some of the other people living/staying there which was nice.
Started the day at a very nice breakfast place in which I discovered a new Spanish breakfast item I love. Pan tostado con queso manchego. It reminds me of the tomato sandwiches my Grandma used to make. Minus the oregano and instead of the whole tomato, just tomato spread (not ketchup, sorta the juice from the tomato). Again, Coop and I thought we had found a perfect little UNIQUE breakfast spot but then we realized 10 minutes after leaving that it’s a chain. Oh well. We can’t escape globalization.
Off to Sagrada Familia. I think it speaks for itself. Our friends told us it wasn’t worth going in because it’s under construction. I kept thinking how nervous I would be if I was handling one of the cranes because everyone would hate you if you knocked something over. Interesting fact: Gaudi worked on La Sagrada Familia from 1883 to 1926. The church is still not expected to be completed for another 50 years. Gaudi’s famous quote, “My client (God) is in no hurry.” Coop said this to me and I was very impressed until I realized it was in Rick Steve’s description.
From far away we saw a big dome building and decided to walk towards it. Turns out its called Torre Agbar and has no historic significance whatsoever. But it was cool. Looks like a big metal finger. Saturday we seriously walked through every neighborhood in Barcelona. Found Park Ciutadel (biggest, greenest park in Barcelona), the chocolate museum (only regret from Barcelona was not going in the choc. Museum), the arc de triumf, the Cathedral (I’m so done with cathedrals though), Barri Gotica,…..
Barceloneta -the beach all of the young people go to.
We got some Calamari sandwiches at a local place and then laid in the sand eavesdropping some Americans and some Frenchies. Pretty much the Frenchies making fun of the Americans (football? You don’t even use your foot in American football…) The Americans were pretty cool except that they aren’t even taking their classes in Spanish in Barcelona. To me, it’s kinda like what’s the point? Anyhow, we’re listening to the Americans when one of the many Asian women who are offering beach massages agrees to give one of the guys a massage for 3 euros. Now I know this sounds creepy but I actually think it’s a good idea. And when she was done giving him a 25 minute massage for 3 euros, I decided, what the heck and bargained for the same deal. best massage ever. It was so long and I smelled like cinnamon afterwards and felt so relaxed. I highly recommend it……
Started the day off badly with an expensive and not that great breakfast. Improved the day greatly with a GOFRE! A waffle with chocolate and whipped cream. We went to Park Ciutadel, which was my favorite part of the whole trip. It was jam-packed full of happy picnickers, families and SWING DANCERS. There was a gazebo full of very talented swing dancers and then we continued on to find ROWBOATS! I loved this little charming park. It reminded me of Mary Poppins. Video of the rowboats!!!
Those are most of the highlights from the trip!
Monday, March 9, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
On the bus, we sat next to some really interesting people with variations of dredlocks, shaved heads and long hair. Really weird. They weren't speaking Spanish so we think they were from the Basque region or Portugal. Anyhow, for all the Harry Potter lovers, one of them was reading HP and the cover was different and way cooler. FYI.
Once we arrived, we took the metro to our hostel which was very easy to find but once we walked in, it seriously looked like a construction site. We cautiously climbed the collapsing steps to see what kind of place I had booked. Turns out it was pretty nice after you get over the entrance. The room was tinyyyyyy but it had a sink and a closet and the communal bathroom was pretty nice as well. I'm interested to see how it compares with the other hostels.
Anyhow, dropped our stuff off and headed off for food because I refused to eat any more of the chorizo or ham sandwiches my senora packs for me every trip. I know I'm a snob but I never feel well afterwards. Anyhow, I ordered a hamburger and other than the shortage of ketchup and Coop's disapproving eyes of my lack of appreciation of a new culture, it was AWESOME.
We walked through the city through Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor and settled on a little place and ordered a mojito and a beer. Unfortunate that we didn't look at the prices beforehand but oh well. It was Coop's birthday wknd! We did some more bar hopping and people watching but decided around 1 to head back so we could get up early for Saturday....
Early Saturday we headed out for churros, chocolate and coffee. We sat outside and dipped our churros in the chocolate. Amazing. I think Madrid chocolate is better than in Sevilla but that's just my opinion. Then we took a short walk to the Prado!! The Prado, needless to say, is breathtaking. Obviously Europe's art museums are more impressive than in the U.S...My favorites were Goya, Dali and Rubens. I'm not really a big art person but they gave us a list of all the masterpieces and I was being pretty obsessive about seeing them all. But after Coop couldn't take anymore, we headed out and towards Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is a huge square lined with restaurants and bars and full of people milling around watching the various entertainers including several winnie the poohs, an extremely overweight spiderman, magicians, dancers, etc. My person favorite was a person who had covered their body completely with sand. See pictures. We ate a so-so lunch and be proud, when they tried to rip off us *guerries (spanish word for foreigners)* I asked them to correct the bill. Needless to say, I was very proud. Afterwards, we made the long trek from Plaza Mayor to Plaza de Espana (where Coops bff Don Quixote has a statue). Before we came, I read about a nunnery that sold sweets and I was sooo excited about it. And of course after we looked for it forever and Coop almost peed his pants, we find it and the nuns say they have no cookies until Monday. We continued the stroll past the cathedral, the royal palace and the gardens. All of which were impressive. Of course I made Coop pose at pretty much every stop until he got fed up and clearly stated, "I'm not a monkey, I can't do this anymore. You do it." This is after I told him to climb up next to a statue and do the same pose. On the whole though, he was a good sport about taking touristy pics. So we finallly reach Plaza de Espana which I think was a highlight for Coop: 1)he had a cold beer and posed with his beloved Don Quijote. 2)we found Coop's role model. a man who we saw repeatedly on the streets drinking a 40 and carrying around a boombox. nice. we chilled there people watching for a long time until i could not longer feel my feet (its much colder in madrid than sevilla) and took the metro back to change for the night. Well a quick break turned into a 2 hour nap and Coop nearly flipped out when he realized that it was 10:00 and his birthday was almost over. Well I rebelled against my nature to continue napping and listened to the wise words of philly tilly: "go out like it's your last day in spain because pretty soon it will be." and then it was a great day.
mesones-bars that stay up very late filled with spaniards who sometimes break into song and/or dance. The list of mesones we hit up and the tapa we ate
Bar Valle de Tietar- the most amazing calamare sandwich ever. seriously. so good. and beer.
Meson tapa tapa- croquetas mixtas and beers. fried something. they were okay. we watched the bartender make "real sangria" and decided it was just a mixture of fruit juice, red wine and sugar.
Meson de Championes- the best place of the night by far. the best mushrooms ever. the bartender was so nice and explained how we were supposed to eat them and where he was from. and really great rioja red wine. i wish we had gone back the next day :(
Cervezas y Tapa de Belgica- Coop finally got to try Duff beer. the beer that Homer drinks on the Simpsons. i didn't like it but coop looked pleased. It's a pretty dark beer.
some other place- two glasses of wine that were okay...but i really enjoyed watching the bartender pour shots into edible shot glasses. they were made out of ice cream cone and covered in chocolate. yum!
irish bar: so we walked out and started talking about how much we've always wanted to try irish coffee. and then the next place we pass advertises, "real irish coffee." obviously it was a sign so we went in and it really was the best drink everrr. it was sort of coop's bday dessert because it was so sweet and topped with real whipped cream.
we finally started to head back because unfortunately, the bars were beginning to close. we hit up one more bar and i think that was plenty for Coop's 21st bday as a)we still had the next day to visit madrid and b) he was done for the night.
the next day was cool but i'm sick of blogging so i'll make it quick.
Museo de Reina Sofia
-modern art is not impressive
-Guernica is unreal and awesome
-i was hungry so we left early and I don't think Coop will ever forgive me. Him and his nature.
-pics with the famous Madrid bulls (art, not real bulls)
-catman and the angel ARE friends. They are ridiculous.
Museo de Jamon
-this is not a real museum as we found out. its just a bunch of ham. still exciting though for Coop. He bought a bag lunch.
We finished the day up with tourist shopping. I got a plate and Coop got a wineskin. I'm still trying to figure out what to collect. Coop has informed me that snowglobes are tacky. Anyhow we took the metro to Lavapies which was supposed to be a good place to eat ethnic food. But we found a gyro place too soon with a great deal and ate even though we weren't really hungry. Found our way to the bus station at 10. got on the bus at 11. got to sevilla at 5:30. worst. bus. ride. ever. but i survived. and now i'm going to lisbon this weekend by what means of transportation? BUS! :)
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Highlights of the week
Monday- went to see Slumdog Millionaire!!!
Wednesday-joined my fellow Americans in climbing a rope jungle gym while simultaneously drinking wine. From a carton.
Thursday- found a place that serves mojitos. Unfortunately, this bar has decided to use some very interesting cartoon drawings for its wallpaper that made me a little uncomfortable. Went out to Buddha again and saw everyone from the group. Had a great time dancing with Coop until a guy 5 feet away from us threw up. We left the club at about 3 and grabbed some churros before walking home. Perfect ending to a memorable night.
I left for Granada and slept the entire way there. Surprise surprise. As soon as we got there, Andrea, Elle and I all showered and then proceeded to nap for 2 hours. Although this may seem like a waste, after having 6 minutes *if that* of hot water to shower for a month and half, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. After we woke up we headed off to see my FAVORITE city in Andalusia, Granada! I love Granada for its Arabic feel and more importantly its shops. There’s a large Muslim population there and they have very cool shops filled with pillows, blankets, wall coverings, jewelry, hookahs, lamps…everything is so beautiful and exotic! So after our nap time, we tried to meet up with Derek and the boys for a drink because a glass of beer or wine here comes with a free tapa. Tapas are an important part of Spanish culture. They’re little appetizers or snacks that range from mini-sandwiches to a plate of cheese to meatballs….it’s a great addition to the social life. Anyhow, we call the guys and try to give them an idea of where we are in the city. Elle informs them that we are next to a large fountain. Very clear description as there is a large fountain at just about every intersection. Anyhow, I was starving at this point because I had decided earlier that I was too good for my bag lunch. Bad idea. We finally arrived at the teteria (Moroccan tea place) called Kasbah. Coop let me know that it is highly recommended by Rick Steve’s travel book (I’m pretty sure he has memorized the book). Anyhow, great atmosphere but my order got lost in translation. I specifically pointed to the Moroccan/Indian bread for one euro. I was only looking for something quick and cheap to hold me over until dinner. I got exactly that. Apparently, Moroccan bread is a tortilla. A cold tortilla elegantly folded on a plate. It was disgusting—but I still ate it. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for a 3 course dinner. Salad with tuna, pork with French fries and yogurt with fruit. No one was a really big fan but it was free so I guess we can’t really complain. That night we all went back to Kasbah to smoke hookah for Kali and Katie´s bday....I was terrible at smoking hookah compared to everyone else. I guess I have small lungs. Anyhow, it was fun and we had a good time just laughing although our friend Zach snapped a lot of double chin pics of me. oh well. haha. We had such a great time (although Elle aka Dragon was feeling light headed afterwards :( ...) but I was ready to go to bed at 2 when we realized we had to be up the next day at 8:30.
8:30 bright and early the next day we were off to the capilla and the cathedral. Outside the cathedral are a large amount of gypsies. Beware of the gypsies. 1) they are not magical beautiful women dancing in long skirts. they are old unattractive women trying to steal your money. 2) they hand you these little plants as a "gift" and then demand that you give them money for it. this is how they get you. do not fall for their tricks. our friend john lost money to a gypsy last time we were here because he was being too nice. don´t let them take advantage of american friendliness. 3) some gypsies do play music or perform in some sort of way. some are cool, like this one little band we saw and some are a little lame. one lady painted herself gray (i guess to be a statue) and then had a hat for money. I guess if i could have the job of just being painted gray, i would do it but i think its kinda a lame talent.
anyhow, la capilla--inside are the remains of ferdinand and isabel. interesting fact: their tombs have statues of them sleeping and isabel´s head is imprinted further into the pillow because she was more important and had more influence. Their daughter and her husband are buried next to them and they are facing opposite directions because the husband was unfaithful and they had lots of problems in their marriage.
The cathedral, beautiful but freezing. We saw a reproduction of John the Baptist...but just his head cut off. Our tour guide Rafa started telling the story and I was thinking ¨this sounds a lot like john the baptist" and then i stopped being blonde and realized he was talking about john the baptist....
break time: 1) andrea and i bought indian pillowcases which we are psyched about. 2)i bought donor kebap (gyro) and wasn´t able to eat it because my stomach was upset. disappointment of a lifetime. luckily i found one sunday night in seville and ate it in 30 seconds.
la alhambra: i would talk about how amazing this was but after spending 3.5 hours there, im still a little scarred. i might comment later but with the attention span of a 5year-old, i really thought i was going to die.
After la alhambra: we were sneaky and watched pineapple express on derrick´s computer. about halfway through the movie, zach says "i really can´t see the screen." then everyone in the room minus derrick admits that they really haven´t been able to see the movie because of the glare. nice.
dinner: white soup. not good. fried chicken and fries. delicious. dessert: something very similar to the box cake veanetta if anyone remembers it. my gma used to always have it but it went out of business or something. someone informed me at the table though that its coming back....i can´t wait.
going out: Andrea convinced me to go out despite my exhaustion because Philly Tilly demanded her to force me to. So I went and had a great time. Andrea and I danced around and were stupid at this really awesome club with metallic gold couches. Sass and I really do know how to have a good time. Unfortunately, everyone else felt they needed to go to a bar before dancing so Andrea and I stayed until about 3 and then headed home. But I had such a good time with my date DREA!!!
Granada is my favorite city so far. I wish I could go back now. Unfortunately I have noticed that even only one month in, our wknds are running short. On Sunday Coop and I are booked trips to go to Paris and Berlin the last week in April and Barcelona the second weekend in March. I CANT WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
What happened this week:
-two end of course exams Friday (i.e. the end of my month long class from 5-9 yayyy)
-I got a roommate for two days but for complicated reasons, she is gone now so I'm back to being pensive in the room.
-The two soccer teams of Sevilla played (Betis vs. Sevilla) and Betis won!!!!! My Spanish family cheers for them as well as Coop and I. Betis is the underdog in the rivalry and when we watched it in a local pub, we definitely high fived and celebrated with some really cute old men who sang the olay, olay, olay, olay song...
-I have realized that a large majority of the bars and clubs do not enjoy the presence of American college students in their city. A very mean bouncer has rejected us on more than one occasion from entering. Although he was a huge jerk, I can't blame him for not wanting us to enter. While watching the Betis/Sevilla game, one person from our group got sick in the bathroom and another broke a glass. And the large majority did not buy anything. Yes, we represent the very broke and unclassy social status of American college students.
-MY SPANISH MADRE GAVE ME A FLAMENCO DRESS!!! So one day after dinner, my madre just starts pulling clothes out of a bag that she wants me to have. Not all of them were gems...but she did give me a flamenco dress that fits perfectly. Her daughter wore it one year to Feria and then didn't want it. Paloma told me it cost 300 euros. I'm seriously feel so lucky to be here.
So I went to Ronda today--VERY FUN, cheap and simple day trip. I met up with Coop at 9 and we strolled to the bus station. Bought tickets to Ronda and realized that besides Coop, Elle, Andrea and I, 9 other people were going to Ronda that day.
Classmates + bag lunches + bus rides = field trip
Speaking of bag lunches, whenever we go on a trip all of our spanish madres pack us bag lunches. For me, it consists of two sub sandwiches (one with pepperoni, one with ham and cheese) and a fruit. Within 15 minutes of being on the bus, I already had started eating my lunch. The rest of the sandwich as well as Coop's tuna and tomato sandwich were gone by the time we got there despite the 5 signs in the bus that say no eating for higienic reasons (since when did Spaniards start worrying about sanitation--milk and meat are not refrigerated in the grocery stores). And then I found 5 euros on the bus...
After the scenic trip of mountains and sheep, we finally arrived in Ronda.
-mountain village. the guadalevin river runs through it and has created a huge and beautiful gorge.
-Ernest Hemingway used to spend time here and the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is based loosely on Ronda. Of course, Coop is reading it right now. How intellectual...
-the oldest bullfighting ring is located in Ronda.
Walked there, took about a million pictures at an overlook spot, randomly ran into an old man, who seemed a bit racist. He definitely asked Derrek, a friend of ours who happens to be black, if he was related to President Obama. I’ve learned here that Spaniards are not very sensitive. My Spanish family continually calls a family friend fat in front of her face and she thinks its funny. Also because there’s so few black people here and there’s no historical tension like in the U.S, Spaniards make note of black people in odd ways (i.e. they have the best tan, are obviously related to Obama, etc.) But it’s definitely not in a racist way. Spaniards LOVE Obama. My senora had a party for him winning.
Anyhow…after that, Elle had a great idea to hike down the gorge area and eat our lunches down there. Even though the hike back up was pretty rough, it was really awesome. You will understand if I ever get the pictures up. I didn’t even bring my camera because everyone else gets so camera happy and Coop takes really good scenic pictures. But seriously, at the end of the day, I was refusing to get in any more pictures. FB will be ridiculous.
Three more extreme highlights of the days:
-a kitkat bar (I’m really starting to miss American food. Huge Mexican food craving today)
-we hiked down a water mine of La Casa Del Rey Moro. It was a big zigzagging staircase carved in rock that led down to the Guadalevin river.
-Coop and I finally found him a hat. Pictures to follow….it’s amazing.
After a long day of hiking, I slept the whole way home on the bus. Surprise Surprise. Rice and Spanish omelet tonight YESSS. Classes at the university tomorrow….
Monday, February 2, 2009
*It is monsoon season here in Sevilla. Rain predicted for the next week and it has rained on and off for the next three days. With no dryer, this could become a problem as two pairs of my jeans already are soaking wet.
*Last Wednesday night my family took us out to see Flamenco music (at a bar called Louisiana haha). I love how women just get up and start dancing Sevillana. I also love how my family always invites Coop and I to everything. We're their nice but mute friends. Actually I'd have to say that understanding Spanish here has become easier. Or they're using easier phrases because they've realized how bad my Spanish is. I think I'm more comfortable just talking and not worrying about whether its the right tense. Anyhow, my family (which basically includes Paloma and her best friend Luisi) always know where to go to get free drinks or just buy us our drinks. It's kinda awesome. But I mostly just feel cool because I'm not standing in a crowd of 50 Americans and calling it a cultural experience/study abroad.
*On more than one occassion, I've punked out on going out. Andrea has thus corrected my ways and in the future, I will be making better use of my time here.
*I went running a few days last week and I think that the free techno music that I get on my cell phone has improved my endurance. Unfortunately, I was so out of shape I could hardly walk the next day. Also, I see Spanish men running here but no women.
*Saturday night we went out and walked miles in the rain. Boo. But it was worth it because we saw a ridiculously dressed band very drunk serenading Andrea, Angela and Elle. It was hilarious. We then proceeded to dance at a Irish bar to Shania Twain and the Grease Soundtrack. WOOWWW...
On Sunday night we somehow ended up at another Irish bar ONEILLS which is very close to our house, very expensive and the owner is very nice to us Americans. So as a gimmick to get us all to come, the owner promised free hotdogs. I don´t know why I expected a legit hotdog but I definitely fought for a room temperature hotdog. And then I bit into something hard in the middle of it. And then the Steelers won. booo...
Andrea and Elle planned a group trip to Ronda this weekend which will be perfect. The end of our intense three hour class every day is Friday as well. Ronda is one of the white towns (pueblos blancos). Hopefully I will get my computer and computer cord so I can post pictures! :)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Saturday I woke up at 7:00 to go to Cordoba. Arrived at the meeting spot at 8:00 and freaked out cause no one else was there and called one of the program directors to find out where we were supposed to be. Too bad we were meeting at 8:30 so I missed out on 30 minutes of extra sleep and woke a program director at 8:00 on a Saturday morning who wasn´t even going on the trip. Luckily, true to my nature, I slept the entire way to Cordoba and the way back. La Mezquita was amazing. A nice mix of cultures and architectural styles. And I got pizza and beer for lunch so I was very pleased.
Saturday night I went out with Andrea, Angela, Andy and Elle. Botelloned first, or rather carried Coop´s six beers around in my purse for him, and went to Big Ben. My new favorite hobby is dancing with Coop (I´ve given up on this David business) to songs that were popular 5 years ago and techno music. (I think) he feels the same way? We went home rather early because we had the trip to Rocio the next day...
Will write on the trip to El Rocio soon.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Side note: There are orange trees everywhere here. But you aren´t supposed to eat them supposedly because they´re so sour. Instead Spain sends them to London to make marmalade. However Coop, being malnourished and a fruit aficionado, decided to go against all odds and try one on the way home after the discoteca (Club Catedral!). First he cut his hand trying to get one off the tree. Then he took one bite and made the most horrified look. Then he got citrus juice in his cut. Being his loving mujer, I laughed until I almost peed and took pictures. And then I wrote about it on my blog. :)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
5) Ireland for St. Pats
2) Jerez...sherry and horses!!!
I already have plans to go to Granada, Cordoba and Rocio. The last two are both this weekend! I really can´t wait. My friend Elle has also found some pretty cheap airfare to Irelandia and I think that would be so fun. So far no Spanish friends outside my family really but I have met a sweet girl named Louise from England. I am going to try to go over and watch Sex and the City with her and some other people at her house tonight...It´s difficult to meet up with people any earlier than 10:30 because I have class until 9 and dinner immediately afterwards. And meals aren´t like in the U.S where you eat and go. It´s more of a chat and eat time for about an hour at least. I feel rude eating and leaving immediately. Last night, I wish I had been able to go out to celebrate Obama but I had already told my family I would celebrate with them. Which turned out to be another game of dados. Haha. Oh well I won once and lost twice. So I´m down two euros...Dados by the way are dice...We also went to the grocery store with Luisi and let me tell you what an experience that was....First of all, they have pig legs just hanging everywhere (these are also in the bars) that David is pretty much obsessed with. It´s very odd to see these meat legs hanging everywhere unrefridgerated. My madre has one of these pig legs in our kitchen. You can buy fancy holders for them so you can just carve off a slice of pig leg anytime you want. I´m not the biggest fan of this ham but again, David is obsessed....