Still catching up!

So after my weekend in Amsterdam, I took it pretty easy for a bit. My friend from high school, Marica, who is currently studying abroad in Seville came to Barcelona for a weekend (November 18th-20th) and that was a blast. We hadn’t seen each other in 5 years, so it was great to catch up and show her around the city! Plus, she and her friends wanted to go to the Picasso Museum and I hadn’t been yet, so it was a great excuse to go. It was also nice because I got to play tour guide and use all of the Barcelona knowledge I’ve accumulated over the semester. Surprisingly, I know a lot about the city!!

The following weekend consisted of Thanksgiving on Thursday plus a long weekend afterwards (both Friday and Monday off) due to an IES fieldtrip to Morocco (that I didn’t go on). My parents were supposed to visit, but unfortunately it didn’t work out due to some changes in the Continental flights from the U.S. to Barcelona. Boo. But it’s alright, because I ended up going to Rome with some amigos!

And Rome was quite simply wonderful. For the most part, anyway. To be honest, the city itself is a bit dirty, but the things you see in Rome are totally worth it. I think I’ve been spoiled though, because Barcelona–despite the horrendous smells–is a very very very clean city. They seriously wash the streets almost every day, there are trashcans (and recycle bins) everywhere, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone litter (in front of me, anyway).

Anyway! We got there early on Friday morning and checked into our hostel, which we soon found out was actually more like a hotel than a hostel (my dad would be happy to hear that). We woke up our other friends that had arrived the night before, had a quick little breakfast, and started adventuring out into the city. First stop? The Roman ruins! We walked for about 20 minutes and just waltzed right into a beautiful area of Rome where there are just ruins everywhere. It’s insane, how they just…exist! Just like that, all around the city. After taking lots of pictures, we decided to go see the big stuff, so we bought our tickets and made our way through the Coliseum, Palatino, and Foro.

I don’t know what to say, other than wow. The pictures certainly don’t do the ruins justice. Just seeing this stuff in person blows your mind! I still can’t wrap my head around how they could have possibly built any of this stuff. It’s just ridiculous to think about, but when you’re there, man, it’s a great feeling. Although it is a bit sad, because so the ruins look so worn down…and not that I have any knowledge about preserving ancient ruins, but it’s almost sad that rain and weathering are just slowly deteriorating all of these things and nothing is being doing to help prolong their life (that I know of). Regardless, they are still magnificent. Standing in the Coliseum and imagining myself back in those times was awesome. If only they still used it today!

That took a big chunk of our first day (there’s so much to see!) so by the time we made it back to the hostel, we were starving. We freshened up and asked for a nice local place to eat, and we were directed to a cute little Italian restaurant around the corner. AMAZING lasagna! I completely forgot that, being in Italy, the food was going to be delicious. And boy, it was. I didn’t want my plate to finish! We ended the night by exploring the night life around our hostel, but we soon found out it wasn’t too much of an exciting area. No worries, of course, because there were about 9 of us there…so we managed to entertain ourselves by just walking around!

The next morning, we slept in. It was glorious! Most of our trips are always so rushed, so each day is a struggle because we’re always so exhausted by the previous day. But since it was a long weekend, we had no rush! Once we woke up, we all got ready and had breakfast and then headed out to see the other sights to see in the city. I can’t even begin to list everything we saw. The Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon…all beautiful, all breathtaking. And of course, we all threw coins into the Trevi fountain! We’ll see what happens ūüôā

After exploring, we made the slow trek back to our hostel, stopping along the way to grab a slice of pizza. Delicious, of course. We also stopped here and there to look at souvenirs, trinkets, and all sorts of other things to buy. The rest of the day we just sort of explored the surrounding area of our hostel and kept it cool, because we didn’t want to do anything too crazy (except get some awesome gelato) since we had to wake up super early to go to the…

Vatican! Sunday morning, we woke up around 6:30am and got ready for the journey to see the Vatican City. Surprisingly, we all woke up on time! Haha. We took a metro over to the Vatican and, because we had gotten there so early, there was absolutely no line to get into¬†St. Peter’s Basilica. Again, no words to say. The church is just incredible, and there’s something to see in every single inch of it. I think what was super interesting was that there were little masses going on everywhere inside. Like, just off to the side but out in the open, priests were performing masses to a few people here and there.

After spending a good chunk of time inside, we decided to head out to the¬†Apostolic Palace. Unfortunately, there was a huge line by the time we got there…and as we were leaving St. Peter’s, there was also a huge line to get into St. Peter’s. So, we lucked out on getting into the church, but we spent too much time inside! Haha. But the line wasn’t that bad. We waited for probably about 45 minutes and finally made our way in. The best part, of course, was that it was all free because it was the last Sunday of the month!

Once inside, we started going through all of the rooms. It was certainly an experience. There was all kinds of different art and sculptures in each room…now, I’m no artist so I can’t say anything about what kind or from what time period, but it was just really cool to see the progression of different styles throughout time. My favorite painting was most definitely Raphael’s The School of Athens.¬†But there were definitely a lot of other awesome things to see.

Finally, at the end, we reached the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. The room was really dark, they (the guards) were corralling us all into the room, we weren’t allowed to speak or take pictures in the room, and…I dunno. It just kind of dulled the experience. Now don’t get me wrong, of COURSE it was amazing to be inside the Sistine Chapel and to see¬†The Creation of Adam…but the way we were forced to view the room was not pleasant. Also, as a side note, it wasn’t as big as I always imagined it to be (the room). But still. Amazing!

Starving, we grabbed lunch (I had some amazing ravioli). We were kinda far away from our hostel, but instead of taking the metro back (and since it was such a nice day out), we decided to walk back. It was nice! We got to see the city life, as well as a few cool buildings here and there. We made it back to the hostel and crashed–all that walking and waking up early had killed our energy. But since it was our last night in Rome, we didn’t want to waste it, so we went to a really nice restaurant (we decided to splurge, since it was our last night) and had a fantastic meal. I had more lasagna…of course. Afterwards, we met up with some other friends who were also in Rome at a karaoke bar, and sang the night away!

The next morning was finally Monday, but since we had seen most of the sights, everyone just did their own thing. I went souvenir shopping with some other friends, and grabbed lunch at a pizzeria. Mmm,¬†margherita pizza, how I miss it already. But since our flight was at 5pm, and we had quite a bit of travel time to the airport, we didn’t do much else. So we got back to the hostel, packed up our things, and headed off back to Barcelona.

It was a wonderful last trip to take, and it was a great way to segue into the end of the semester. Now if only I could just get some more of that pizza…or lasagna…


So after the Britney concert, I got back into Barcelona on Thursday morning and went to class as usual. The next day, on Friday, I went to my Spanish class with my packed bag as we were heading to Amsterdam right after class. Talk about a jetsetter! Dublin, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, all in one week.

The arrival to Amsterdam was really nice, mostly because the airport was already decked out in Christmas decorations (mind you, this was only mid-November). The biggest problem though was…none of us spoke Dutch! And unlike Portuguese, we had no idea what anything was saying. Luckily, it soon became apparent that almost everyone spoke English, so it really wasn’t that bad. We made our way to the train station, and after having some difficulty with trying to purchase train tickets (our cards weren’t working, but only because we apparently kept pressing the wrong button–thankfully, a nice guy behind us helped us out) we were finally on our way to the main part of Amsterdam.

When we got off the train, it was FREEZING! We all quickly wrapped ourselves up in sweaters, jackets, scarves, and gloves, and started walking through the city. We arrived at around 6:30 pm, but it was already almost pitch black in the city–but all of the lights were on, so it was beautiful. We were starving, though, so we grabbed food and then spent the rest of the night exploring the city and going to bars (because it was so late and there really wasn’t much else to do).

The next morning, we woke up pretty early and made our way to the I AMSTERDAM¬†sign. The public transportation system was so different, because they use trams, so it was an interesting change of pace. After having a photoshoot there, we explored that part of the city as well as a huge park that was nearby, while deciding what to do next. Although lots of ideas were thrown around, from visiting the Anne Frank House to the van Gogh Museum, we ended up going to the Heineken Experience museum. Definitely not my first choice, but it was still pretty cool to go visit. It was a massive place inside, and we got quite a bit of free beer throughout the museum, so it wasn’t too bad.

We made our way back to our hostel and rested for a while, because we were exhausted (mostly from being freezing all day long). After a nap, we woke up and went to look for somewhere to eat (and also to head over to the Hard Rock Cafe!), which took some time because we got a little lost. We stopped to ask someone for directions inside of a restaurant, but the restaurant owner quickly shooed us away and told us he didn’t have time to give us directions. Rude. But luckily, that was pretty much the only instance of rudeness throughout the trip…everyone in Amsterdam was generally nice! And as I said, it helped that we could speak in English. We tried to go on a walking tour of the city, but the tour was completely full by the time we got there so we ended up just walking around the city ourselves, stopping at a few cool places that our hostel had pointed out to us.

Later that night, we made our way to the Red Light District. Insane. It’s just crazy. Definitely a sort-of culture shock or something, just because it’s so odd to see these women just hanging out and dancing in these glass boxes on the street, in display. It was definitely an interesting experience.¬†Then we explored the city at night some more and let me just say, Amsterdam is beautiful! I really loved the architecture and layout of the city, and of course the canals. It’s so completely different from how Barcelona is set up. Not to mention, Amsterdam has kept its cultural look, while Barcelona has modernized itself so much. We spent the night again out at bars, keeping to Heineken (we figured we couldn’t betray it after spending the day at the museum!).

We woke up the next morning and unfortunately had to head out to the airport (because the airport is pretty far from the city). But not before getting some waffles! We didn’t have time to sit down and eat real waffles, but we got some smaller snack waffles that were full of…well, I’m not really sure, I think it was a mix of Nutella and caramel? Regardless, they were delicious! ¬†Then we came back to Barcelona, but not before doing some last-minute souvenir shopping at the airport. It was interesting, because Amsterdam was the first place I’ve been here that I didn’t see lots of tourist/souvenir shops everywhere we went–and so that’s why we just ended up grabbing things at the airport. Thankfully it wasn’t too expensive!

Although I didn’t get to see much of the cultural side of Amsterdam, it was still a really beautiful place to visit. I just wish we had more time there, because the trip literally flew by since we got there too late on Friday and left so early on Sunday.

It’s been almost a month since my last update…oops. I’m sorry!¬†Let’s see. Where did we leave off? Ah, yes. A trip to Lisboa, Portugal to see the¬†legendary¬†Ms. Britney Spears!

Now as you all know, this was a very short trip. In fact, the only purpose of the trip was to go see Britney. As much as I wanted to explore the city, I simply had no time because the concert was on a Wednesday and I unfortunately couldn’t afford to miss a lot of class!

I arrived into Lisbon on a Tuesday night, around 8 pm. Much like the last time I was in Portugal, I was quite confused upon landing because of the language difference. Luckily, most of the signs also include English on them, so it wasn’t too hard to navigate through the airport. But since I was on this trip alone, it was a little¬†nerve -wracking…

I finally made my way to the airport bus shuttle and took it to my hostel. My hostel was beautiful! It was situated in one of Portugal’s oldest train stations…and the train station is still in service! So it was a really cool and historic building, and surprisingly, you couldn’t even hear the trains (although the hostel was right¬†next to the platforms). The people in the hostel were super nice, as usual, and the food was amazing! I got to the hostel a little after 9 pm, and even though the hostel’s dinner had already passed (it was at 8), they still cooked me up a meal. I even met a really nice couple from Panama but who live in Valencia. The lady gave me her e-mail and told me if I ever made my way to Valencia, to shoot her an e-mail! Unfortunately, that never happened…alas…another time…

That night, I was exhausted (I had school all day before taking my flight) so I just went up to my room and read. My roommate in the hostel was a really nice girl from California, who had just finished her degree and was taking some time off to travel. After introducing ourselves and such and why we were in Lisboa, she told me to not worry about not having much time to see the city–she said it was not one of her favorite places to visit (just because there were only a few things to really see in the city), and that she loved Porto much more. So that was nice to hear!

The next morning, I had to wake up early because, even though I was travelling to the concert by myself, a group of Britney fans from all across Spain were meeting at the concert. So after grabbing some breakfast and figuring out the metro map, I made the journey to the stadium. Unfortunately, it was raining and it was a bit chilly, but that certainly didn’t dampen my spirits! It took me some time to find the other Britney fans, but when I did…well, they were only sort-of nice. Hahaha. Typical Spaniards…although many of them were from Catalonia. Figures, right?

Anyway, eventually I made my way to the line that was forming and so I left those Britney fans to find some more. Luckily, when I got in line, behind me were some super friendly Britney fans from Sevilla! I was so glad, because they were extremely nice and we quickly formed a nice little group of about 7 or 8 of us. From then on out (mind you, this is at about 10 am), we would take turns to use the restroom, grab food, get coffee, etc… So it was great to have some other people there. We spent the day talking about Britney, singing songs, dancing, and just overall being crazy in the rain/cold while waiting for the show to start.

Fast forward to the concert–well, before it started, it was mayhem. Throughout the day, a HUGE line formed behind us, but really it was for nothing. When they finally opened up the doors into the stadium, all hell broke loose. Seriously. It became a stampede to enter the stadium, and everyone was running. Of course, we had to run as well, or else we would’ve gotten trampled. It was scary, for sure, but it was also a little exciting just because of the insanity. Luckily, I made it out okay, but unfortunately a Britney scarf that I had bought while we were waiting fell off and I had to leave it behind…sad.

As for the concert, I don’t have to say much. It was amazing! I definitely liked her last tour more, just because of the concept and the set-up of the stage, but she was much more animated on this tour so it was still a great show. Plus, it was amazing to be seeing her in a different country! And with complete strangers! I think that was the coolest part. Here I was, at a concert with all these strangers, and yet I still had an amazing time, just because we would all sing and dance and get excited together throughout the entire show. Definitely an awesome experience.

After the concert, my legs were DEAD. Although I had planned to maybe checkout the Lisboa nightlife after the show, I was so¬†exhausted¬†that all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and sleep. So that’s what I did; I made my way back to the hostel, took a quick shower, and got into bed and passed out.

I woke up early the next morning, and after a small freak out while waiting for the airport bus shuttle (it was taking forever!), I finally made it to the airport and got back to Barcelona safe and sound. Although it was a super short trip, the experience was definitely something I’ll never forget. Plus, it was kind of exciting to travel by myself and do my own thing, and see how well I could manage in a different culture, a different country, and a different language that I didn’t speak.

And, I mean, I got to see Britney Spears

So this past weekend was my trip to Dublin, Ireland. Now to be honest, I didn’t have much knowledge about Ireland or Dublin…I knew the weather was going to be cold and probably rainy, but that was pretty much it. Oh, and that they drink a lot of beer. A lot.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Dublin, and Ireland in general, is AMAZING. Really, though. I think it has been by far my favorite trip as of yet, which is saying a lot, especially since we had such little time there. We arrived into Dublin on Friday morning, and it was extremely chilly (for me, anyway)–about 50 degrees¬†Fahrenheit. But it felt great to be in the cold! We made our way to our hostel and checked in, and decided to just hit the city and explore for a bit to see what we would find. We grabbed some free maps from the hostel and made our way to the city center.

Since we hadn’t eaten breakfast, we stopped at a nice looking bar/cafe and were immediately taken aback by the friendliness of the people. Having lived in Barcelona for two months, I am so used to getting crappy service from restaurants that eating at this Irish restaurant was such a wonderful experience. I mean, the waiter was constantly talking to us, telling us what was what on the menu, and just really friendly. Plus, there was…FREE WATER! Imagine that!! We all freaked out over that and then proceeded to drink lots of water, haha. I ordered a typical Irish breakfast, which consisted of sausage, bacon (“rashers,” slices of bacon, so not what we’re used to), eggs, black pudding (blood sausage…which was surprisingly really tasty, as gross as it sounds) and white pudding (pork meat), topped off with some coffee as well. A great start to the trip indeed.

After that, we walked off into the city and just went to some nearby monuments and buildings that we found as we walked around. The city is so nice! It’s like a wonderful combination of the great things from a big city like Barcelona with the great things of a small city like Granada. It was a modern city and definitely a moderate size, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as Barcelona can be sometimes. And again, the people! The people were so nice everywhere we went. People smiled, they said hello, they didn’t seem angry all the time…haha. After getting ourselves lost for a good while, we made our way back to our hostel to take some much needed naps and freshen up before heading to the Guinness Storehouse.

After a good 30 minute walk, we arrived at the Guinness Storehouse which is basically a mock-brewery right next to the real Guinness brewery, but it doubles as a really cool museum of Guinness’ history. The best part was the free beer with the tour! …not that I drank any, of course, I only had water because I’m a good boy!! We ended up staying there for a good few hours (the place was huge!), and at the top of the museum was a sky bar where we got an awesome view of the entire city. Plus, it was nighttime, so we got to see the city with all of its lights…it was definitely a sight to see.

Then we went back to our hostel for dinner–BBQ burgers! I know, it’s not very Irish, but it was just too great to pass up. And they were amazing. I regret nothing! After we hung out eating dinner and chatting, a few of us decided to go on a ghost tour of Dublin. We headed over to the city center and got on a bus, which was wonderfully decorated in ghostly decorations. Then we started our two hour journey into the night. It was actually really cool to learn about all of Dublin’s haunted stories, and we even visited many of the sites. And for the first time, I went to a graveyard at night…which was definitely an experience. A spooky experience. We had a great time, but by the end of the night, it was so cold that we were all afraid we’d die and turn into ghosts…so we grabbed some hot cocoa and headed back to the hostel to sleep.

Saturday morning, we woke up at 6:30 AM so that we could catch another tour that left at 7:00 AM. We left Dublin and headed to the west coast of Ireland, visiting the countryside cities of Burren and Galway. Wow. Just wow. If you’ve seen the photos I posted on Facebook, you can tell how amazingly and breathtakingly beautiful this country is. I was in awe. First we visited a family farm, and hiked through the hills/mountains that make up their backyard. At the top, we got an amazing view of the countryside and even some of the seaside. What’s also cool are the tons of castles that are all around the countryside…mostly abandoned, but the ruins are still pretty amazing. After hiking around for a good while, we went back to the farmhouse where we ate lots of pastries (I had delicious carrot cake) and Irish coffee. It definitely hit the spot after all of that exercise.

After that, we headed over to the cliffs of Moher. I don’t even know what to say! ¬†Just standing there looking out into the sea was so calming, I could have stayed there forever. There’s not much else to say about the cliffs, other than just look at the pictures. It is just something you have to see in person. I will say that the weather was absolutely perfectly; it was perfectly chilly, but with a bright shining sun and blue skies. Our tour guide told us that this weather was super rare, and we were extremely lucky!

Then we went to an Irish restaurant for lunch, where I ate some amazing leg of lamb, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. A good hearty meal, which was wonderful since we had been up since the wee hours of the morning. We got back onto our bus and headed towards the city of Galway, but beforehand we stopped several times on the surrounding cliffs/shores to take more photos and watch the sunset. A beautiful sight to see. We finally reached Galway, where we hit up a pub and just hung out for a while before catching our transferring bus that took us back to Dublin. We grabbed some dinner and headed out into the Dublin nightlife, going to a few different pubs/bars and trying the different beers that Dublin had to offer. Unfortunately, we were all exhausted and we had an early flight to catch, so we ended the night early and got some well-deserved sleep.

We woke up early on Sunday, ate breakfast at the hostel, sleepily made our way to the airport, and we all proceeded to fall asleep on the plane as we flew back home. And it certainly doesn’t stop there–when I got back into Barcelona, I slept some more! It was an amazing weekend indeed, with wonderful people and a wonderful city. I love Ireland! I definitely want to go back. Who knows, maybe I’ll study abroad again in grad school and go to Dublin…

Now, this week begins a wonderful week of travel. Straight of the heels of my Dublin trip, tomorrow (Tuesday) I’ll go to class and at night I’ll head to Lisbon, Portugal. I’ll stay the night there, and then on Wednesday night I’ll be seeing Britney Spears on her Femme Fatale tour! Then I’ll return back to Barcelona on Thursday morning, go to class, and on Friday, I’ll go to my class in the morning and in the early afternoon I’ll catch a flight to Amsterdam, where I’ll spend the weekend and return on Sunday.

Good thing I like flying on planes!!

Alright, so life in general! Everything has been great here, except for the occasional stress from school and such. Applying for grad school has also been hectic, mostly because I’m rushing to get all sorts of things done…but it seems for the most part that everything is going pretty smoothly. I hope so, anyway!

I can’t believe that it is already November. I don’t know how that happened. I knew this semester would fly by, and I know I’ve said that before, but it is still shocking. I’ve been here for two months! And even though I know I’ve accomplished a lot already, I feel like I want to do so much more and there’s not enough time. But, that’s just life! It just means I’ll have to visit Europe again!

Halloween in Barcelona was surprisingly fun. It’s apparently sort of a big deal here; not in any way like it is in the U.S., but there are Halloween stores, Halloween parties, Halloween decorations…kinda crazy. Over the weekend, we went to a few bars/clubs where there were already some themed parties, but on Halloween we actually dressed up and went out. I ended up going as a pirate, haha. It was cheap and easy because I had some pirate-looking clothes and I found a really cheap pirate hat at a costume store. What was really¬†nice was that November 1st is a holiday in Spain (All Saints Day, where the locals go to the graves of the deceased and lay flowers on them/pay their respects), so that was great.

But don’t worry, I didn’t spend the entire day after Halloween being lazy! Since we had the day off, a few of us grabbed some lunch together and headed to El Parc del Laberint d’Horta, or the¬†Labyrinth Park, which is a bit outside of main Barcelona. It’s a really big park full of gardens, with a maze right in the middle of the park. We explored the gardens for a while before deciding to get lost in the maze. As small as it seemed from the outside, it was actually really confusing and we got pretty lost! Eventually, and since not many people were there, we decided to play hide and go seek in the maze. Which turned out to be a great time! I hadn’t played in forever, so it was nice to revisit my childhood for a few hours. Plus, we all got some great exercise.

Other than that, life is as usual! I am still having a great time here in Barcelona, although I do miss home sometimes. But I am definitely enjoying my time here, and I wish I had more time to spend here!

I know, I know…I haven’t posted in almost three weeks!! Lo siento! It’s been getting even more hectic, but all is well. Let’s backtrack a little, shall we?

The trip to Granada was fantastic! Well, except for getting sick on the last day, that is… But other than that, I had a great time.

We arrived into Granada around 9 AM and after dropping our things off at the hotel, we had a quick breakfast and then headed over to the IES Granada center. We met up with the Granada students and checked out their school building; it was completely different from ours! Although both centers are located in downtown, ours is a much more modern building and looks like a downtown building. The Granada IES building is an older building, much more rustic, but beautiful. As I said, it is also located downtown, but Granada is such an older city still that it’s such a different experience altogether. From our building, you get a view of the surrounding downtown area; their view is of the city, the mountains, the hills…it’s beautiful!

After that, we walked around Granada for a bit, taking in the city. We stopped at the Royal Chapel of Granada (La Capilla Real de Granada), which held a surprise none of us were expecting: the remains of King Fernando and Queen Isabel! During the middle of our tour of the chapel, we went down a case of stairs where we found two tombs which held their remains. It was completely unexpected, but so cool to be so close to a huge part of history.

Then we headed to the Arab baths. Man. Talk about an amazing experience. It was basically a building full of different pools with different temperatures, from very very hot to super freezing cold. The point was to switch from pool to pool every now and then to keep your heart rate going. There was also a sauna, hot rocks to lay on, free mint tea (which was SO delicious, but more on that later), and…massages!! Yes, we got massages. It was like being at a spa. We didn’t want to leave…but unfortunately there was so much more to see.

We went to a teahouse called La Kasbah where we ate tons of typical Granada/Arab food while drinking tea. Let me just say, I’m not a huge tea person, but the tea was so good!! There were two types: Pakistani, which is similar to a chai tea, and Moroccan, which is a mint tea. I fell in love with the Moroccan tea, and kept ordering more. It tasted like spearmint, but much more delicious. After we got full on the food, we headed to the Cathedral of Granada which was…breathtaking. It was massive! It felt like being inside of a dream. The walls, columns, ceilings, etc. were all white, with adornments of different colors (but mostly gold) throughout the cathedral. Again, it was huge, and it felt like the cathedral went on forever. Needless to say, it was flawless and beautiful.

Then we had some free time, but most of us were exhausted so we headed back to the hotel and took naps before dinner. We ate dinner (nothing special, just a typical buffet at the hotel) and then got ready for the night. We just explored the city and went to a few bars, but didn’t find much to do. Definitely seems like Granada is much more of a day city than a night city

On Saturday, we woke up early and had breakfast and then headed to¬†La Alhambra, which is basically an old palace/fortress complex in Granada. I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful this place is (can you see a¬†reoccurring¬†theme here? Granada is beautiful!!). The gardens were so pretty and green and intricate, and the buildings were just stunning. There was so much detail in them, and the stories behind them were so interesting. The main running theme through La Alhambra is that the building knows she is beautiful, which is written on the walls in Arabic throughout the buildings. It’s an interesting concept, because it’s not egotistical, but more so that the building knows she is beautiful and wants to be beautiful for everyone to see. Or something like that, if I recall correctly…it was hard paying attention to the tour guide while taking in all there was to see!

Unfortunately, it started pouring horribly midway through the tour, so we had to cut it a bit short because we were not prepared for that. So we headed back to the hotel, and when it finally cleared up, we had some free time to explore the city again. I went souvenir shopping with some friends and grabbed lunch at a typical restaurant, eating a kebab. Delicioso! And of course, we had more tea. Later on, we headed over to a gym where we played the IES Granada team in a game of soccer. I didn’t play because I had rolled my ankle a few days earlier and when I tried to kick the ball, it still hurt a bit, so I figured I shouldn’t hurt myself further. But we won! We beat them 6-5. It was fun getting a chance to interact with some other study abroad students for a while, even though half of the time was spent cheering and booing the other team (all in fun, of course).

Afterwards, we had dinner at the hotel again and then went out for another night in Granada…except I didn’t end up going out because my stomach started hurting miserably. I’m still not sure what it was, perhaps food poisoning or something, but my stomach just was not being a happy camper. So I curled up in my hotel room and watched TV as I fell asleep…which turned out to be a great time anyway, because I got a lot of sleep that night!

The next morning, we woke up early again but midway through breakfast, it started pouring rain once again. Apparently, we had some bad luck because it hadn’t rained in Granada for almost four months prior to our visit. We ended up just flipping our schedule around, so instead of starting the day off with a tour, we started with free time–which was great, because a few other friends also felt a bit sick so we went to a teahouse and had manzanilla tea. That definitely helped settle my stomach.

Eventually, we explored the city once more and ended up at a flamenco show. It was super intense, but really cool to watch. The dancers must have some serious legs because of the way they stomp with such control. I loved it. Then, at the same place, we ate lunch, which consisted of typical Granada foods like duck. Even though my stomach was still hurting a bit, I managed to get a few bites in…delicious, just like everything else.

We then hiked up to a hill/neighborhood called Sacromonte which overlooked the entire city of Granada. There was also a really neat plaza up there, full of gypsies, vendors, musicians…basically a huge cultural meeting point for people of the city. We spent a good while there, walking around and looking at Granada from all different views. It really is a wonderful city.

We finally headed back to the hotel and then to the airport, getting back Sunday night around midnight. It was a super long trip, but definitely worth it! I loved every minute of it, except of course for getting sick. It made me a little sad that I didn’t chose to study abroad in a smaller town like Granada, but at the same time, studying abroad in a big city has it’s perks too. You can’t have it all! At least I got to visit Granada though, and see what it’s like. It definitely surpassed all of my expectations!

It has been a very long stressful week…I’m so glad it’s finally over!!

This week was midterm week, so I had assignments due in each class. Some were essays, some were exams, all were exhausting! But I’m finally done! I think I did pretty well on all of them, so that’s good. I’m just glad it’s done…except for the fact that it means my time here is halfway over!! I officially have less than 2 months left. I don’t wanna talk about that!

Just a quick update: things are improving with our host mom. Yesterday, Chris and I called her into the dining room and we updated her on our lives. I told her I’m going to Granada this weekend, Chris told her about how he has a date this weekend…she seemed really happy and stayed there, telling me where I should go in Granada and telling Chris how excited she was for him. Progress! She also stayed with us a while to watch the Barcelona futbol game that was going on. So, that’s good news!

So yes, Granada this weekend!! I’m really excited, except for the fact that we have to be at the airport at 5:30 AM! But the itinerary is full of fun and cool things to do and see.¬†We’re meeting up with the IES Granada students and playing a futbol game against them, which should be fun (even if I’m no good at futbol…haha!). We’re also going to the Arab baths, where we will be getting MASSAGES! Talk about living the dream! Other things on the itinerary include visiting a tea house to eat Arab pastries/drink tea, visiting the Alhambra & the Generalife, and of course exploring the city and its neighborhoods. We’ll be getting back around 11 or so on Sunday night, so it’s going to be a long weekend, but I have no doubt that I’ll have a great time.

Everything else is still fantastic. The other day, Chris & I went exploring for lunch and found a cool hamburger place. It was wonderful to finally eat a real hamburger, not just McDonald’s! Later that day, I went with my friend Shaelom to go get some ice cream during a break between exams, and she took me to this really awesome place where they give you ice cream in a cone, but they shape the ice cream so it looks like you’re eating a rose. It was beautiful…and delicious! I didn’t have my camera on me, but next time I go I’ll be sure to take a picture.

Well, I’m going to pack and take care of a few e-mails that need to be sent out…and then I’ll probably sleep for a few hours before I have to get up and go to the airport! Granada, here I come!