Archive for June, 2007

The end of Spain and the Beginning of Atlanta

June 29, 2007

I am in the good old United States of America! And while I was sad to leave España, by the time we got through everything at the airport and such I was ready to be home.
Our last day in Barsalona was spent shopping. I spent more money on Wednesday than I had spent the whole trip, and I’m officially sick of tourist shopping. (Tourish shopping being where you’re looking for that perfect gift for everyone you know and never finding quite the right thing.) It was fun though, wandering around Las Ramblas, what basicly amounts to the downtown of Barsalona, without a teacher. We had to use our Spanish to survive and get what we wanted, and that was excelent practice.
Wednesday night we went to a buffet which served salad, pizza, spagheti, some sort of rice thing, and a cold tomato soup with onions and other vegetables in it, it might have been called churiso but I’m not sure. Wednesday night I stayed up late packing, amazingly enough everything fit in my suitcase, and we left the hotel at 10 Thursday morning. It took us an hour to get to the airport on the Explorica bus. Our tour guide Lola complained loudly over the mic in the bus about the driver taking the wrong route. She said some pretty unkind things about the guy and I kept expecting him to just decide to drive off a cliff or something because he was mad at her. Apparently he didn’t speak english though because we arrived at the airport in one piece.
The lines at the Barsalona airport were unbelievable! It took us an hour just to get our tickets, and another half hour to get through security. We had just enough time to grab a bocadillo for lunch and then we boarded our 10 hour flight. Of course we sat on the runway until 3:00, which meant we were an hour late getting into Atlanta. Then we had to go through customs, get our baggage, go through customs again, and they had to run to catch their next flight. I stayed behind and met up with Randi, after something like 2 hours of trying to figure out what was going on and finding out where to go. Poor Randi had been waiting there for 5 and a half hours! (My friends might forgive me some time in the next century.)
We took a cab back to our hotel which is where I am now. I’m sitting propped up on a mound of pillows after a fabulous American cheeseburger and a hot shower, which hurt surprisingly little considering my massave sunburn. It was lovely to take a shower here and have washcloths! Not to mention my own personal coffee maker and all the little free sample things. This room is huge, and its all mine tonight! The bed has at least 4 huge pillows on it and a down comforter, plus a nice soft blanket.
It has been nice to see Ronza again, and especially nice to see the Strunks though I wish Randi hadn’t had to wait so long for me. The Oliveros come in tomorrow afternoon, and it sounds like we have a busy day planned, so I think I’m going to enjoy this huge comfy bed.

The Beach

June 27, 2007

Today was our beach day. You can not imagine how beautiful it was, I imagine it beats Hawaii hands down. (Or at least that’s what I want to believe.) The sand in the water made it sparkle, and the sun was all warm and lovely. In the afternoon the wind kicked up which made the waves swell and we all got good at just riding them. We layed out on towels and napped or read or talked, and some girls got fake tatoos. (I was not among them simply because of convention.)
We left the beach around 4:00 and took the metro back to our hotel and cleaned up. Liz and I went to have cafe con leche with Karmen, which I loved, and then we all went to dinner and had paella. I was surprised that I enjoyed it, even the seafood.
And then we took a little walk and ended up back at the metro station to come back to the hotel. It wasn’t exactly an exciting day, but it was nice to just relax. But I got a sunburn the size of Miami, even though I lathered with strong sunscrean several times, and I’m in quite a bit of pain at the moment. I borrowed some lotion from another girl, and now I think I’m going to go lay down and read and probably fall asleep soon.

Business in Barselona

June 26, 2007

Today was, leisurely in a way. We got to sleep in until 8:30, and we didn’t have to leave the hotel until 10. Breakfast was, for once, tolerable. They had pineapple yogurt and cereal and these amazing pastries that were flaky with chocolate sauce in the middle, and they were hot! I’m trying to figure out how to get some of those back to the states, though I know its not possible.
When we left we took the metro down to Las Ramblas, one of the main areas in Barsalona where there is a ton of shopping. First we had a guided walking tour where we learned almost nothing important, and then we had 2 hours to shop on our own. Moria and the Zs and Jennifer and I went together, and first we went to this absolutely enormous fresh food market. You have never seen this much fresh food in your life! We got fresh pineapple and watermellon and ate it right there and I’ve never had such flavorful fruit! There were tons of meats and cheeses, fish, anything and everything. The whole market was out doors with just a cover over it, and its a permonant market not just a farmer’s market. I wish I could bring something back from there, some sort of fruit or something.
After the market we went into a couple of clothes shops and I broke down and bought a couple of shirts. (They were really good deals.) Then we went to lunch at another outdoor cafe and had tapas and more chocolate con churros. The tapas were fabulous, I may have a new favorite food which would be Tortilla Espanol. I’ve got to learn to make that so everyone can try it back home though since I’m going to bring everyone to Spain when I’m rich and famous I guess it won’t matter. The churros were much better than the last ones we had, too. These were warm, and the chocolate was so thick you could rest your spoon on top without it sinking in, and that’s how they’re supposed to be. For the first time in Spain I was served a can of Coke rather than one of the glass bottles.
Then we met up with everyone else and went on a guided tour of the city. We saw Gaudi’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, which is this unfinished church that kind of looks like a crown a king would wear. It’s built in a circle, and there are currently 8 towers built. (There will eventually be 10 more.) On one side there is a depiction of the nativity, on the other the passion of the Christ.
After that we drove up to The Spanish Village which is this little tiny village that represents the whole country of Spain. Its really neat, with architecture from all 17 provinces and things from all 17 in the shops. No one lives there, it is simply a tourist attraction that was built for some exposition or other.
After that we went up Mount Juic where there was a beautiful view of the city, and then we went back to the Olympic area and had an hour of free time and then had a tapas dinner. The tapas I had for lunch were better and more authentic, though the Patatas Bravas were better at dinner. Those are chunks of potato that are fried like french fries with a sort of spicy garlic sauce. They’re amazingly good if they’re cooked right.
After dinner we came back to the hotel and just sort of hung out. Nothing really note worthy, we played truth or dare with some people. It wasn’t entirely a typicle night in Spain.
Tomorrow is a free day, our teachers get to pick what we do. I think we’re going back down to the beach and those who want to lay out and stay on the beach can and those who want to go shopping can. I still have some souviners to get for people so I’m hoping I can do a little of both. I’m a little darker than I was when I left, though its extremely uneven. Maybe I can fix that tomorrow or Wednesday.
I’m getting excited about Atlanta, but I really don’t want to leave Spain. Its hotter here in Barsalona, or maybe its just more humid, but its beautiful here none the less.
Well, its past 1:40 in the morning here, and we have company in our room, so I’d better close this up. Besides, I’ve written about everything there possibly is to write.

Zaragoza and Barcelona

June 25, 2007

You would think that with an 8 hour bus ride I would have found time to write before 12 in the morning. Well, I would have had time if I’d wanted to, but reading and sleeping seemed like a more appealing option.
Today really wasn’t all that exciting. We left Madrid around 8:30 and stopped in Zaragoza around 1 for lunch and to see the Basilica. I was surprised to feel a connection to the Basilica, its been a while since I felt connected to any religious place. La Basilica Del Pilar is where Vergin Mary supposedly brought a pillar when she came to hear St. James teach. The pillar is still there, and there is a little statue of Mary on top. People go there to pray for their loved ones and it is said that the pillar has healing powers. We didn’t have enough time to stand in the line, unfortunately, so I prayed a decade of a rosary and lit a candle. The tredition is to light your new candle with one that has been burning for a while so that the flame keeps on and the prayers along with it.
Then we went to lunch at some little sidewalk cafe. Liz and I both got hambergers, and it wasn’t all that pleasant. It was on a bocadillo role, which I loved! But the hamburger wasn’t all that great, and the cheese was, well, interesting. I liked Mrs. Chuda’s bocadillo de tortilla, which was basicly the Tortilla Espanol I told you about earlier this week on bocadillo bread.
We got to Barsalona around 6 and we walked to Parque Guel. It was beautiful, but the walk there was long! There were so many steps that were so uneven, Mrs. Z about had a heart attack worrying that I was going to fall or something. In the park there was this mosaic lizard with water coming out of its mouth. I absolutely loved it, it had curved claws and teeth and everything! I found a moddle in the gift shop and had to buy it, one of my favorite suvineeres so far.
Then we walked back to the hotel, another long long walk up hill! We ate dinner in the hotel and came up to our rooms. We have wireless here, but I can’t figure out how to get on.
I’m sunburned more than I ever have been before, and my legs have muscles that I didn’t know were there. (I know about them now because they hurt.) But this country gets more amazing every day! I’m anxious to see what Barsalona is like, whether it has a different feel than Madrid . They don’t speak as much Spanish here, they speak Catelan, which is a mix between Spanish and French and a lot of stuff that seems made up to me. I found out that Spanish Braille really is what I’ve been learning all these years, the accents and such, but there’s no way I could read Catelan. I’ve also learned that in Europe the toilets aren’t flushed like they are at home. Most of them have a sort of chain you pull on the top of the tank, a couple of the public ones have levers that you push in or pull. Its very strange, and not exactly clean. We have another boudray in this hotel, so I guess that really is a European thing
I suppose I should get some sleep. We get to sleep until 8 tomorrow morning, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself and all that extra sleep, but I’m sure I can figure it out. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to stay awake through dinner tomorrow.

Day trips from Madrid

June 24, 2007

I thought that, once I got used to the time difference, things would be easier. To some extent that’s been true, I’m more mentally awake and starting to become my night owl self again.. But physicly I am utterly exhausted, still! .I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that we get up at 7 and don’t even get back to the hotel until 11. And trust me, we’re not sitting all day either. A lot of these streets are narrow, too narrow for busses. (One street we’ve crossed is only 4 steps wide.)
Today we got up on time, so I actually got to eat a real breakfast. Meat here is not like meat at home, or at least the bacon isn’t. It doesn’t have as much flavor, and it definitely isn’t crispy. I don’t know though, its kind of growing on me. The sausage is a little different, too, though I can’t explain how. I tried cafe con leche, coffee with milk, and wasn’t impressed. But then again, neither were Mrs. Z or Moria so maybe there is better stuff around.
Our first stop was Escorial, a little town about 40 minutes outside Madrid. King Philip II built a monistary there, I don’t remember the name, and now it is atatched to a school too. We went all over it, up and down and around and through. There was a wedding there today, so we didn’t get to spend much time in the church, but the front of the pews, where your legs go, was carved beautifully. There was also tons of marble, and beautiful glass windows. There were cripts, some of which were more ornate than others. One had a lady laying on it with her hands folded, one had Don Juan on it. I got to touch that one, and for the rest of the afternoon Mrs. Z was teasing me about feeling Don Juan.
After the monistary we went to Valley of the Fallen, a monument that Franco had built for the soldiers in the Spanish civil war. Whether they fought for him or against him they had the right to be buried there as long as they were Catholic. (Which makes sense, because if they weren’t Catholic I doubt they would have wanted to spend eternity in a Catholic church.) We didn’t get much chance to look around, but Franco is buried there along with his head hancho, who’s name neither of my roomates nor I remember.
We traveled to Segovia, which was about a 45 minute drive from Valley of the fallen. We ate lunch at a place called Pans and Company, I got a bocadillo (Which is a Spanish sandwitch on hard bread,) with chicken and lettus and tomato, Coke, and fries.
Then we got to go see the roman aquaduct. It is amazing! All these stones have been standing for hundreds of years without any support except the architecture, no morder or anything. I got to feel the stones, they were about three hand lengths tall and 10 or so wide.
Then we went and saw the Alcasar, the castle where Queen Izabel lived. That was neat, I got to touch the tiles on the walls and the tapestries, very lightly. The tiles had designs in them, and the tapestries were absolutely beautiful even though they are so old the colors have faded. There was a prince who died there by falling off the balcony, and his wife was so afraid of what would happen to her as a single woman that she just decided to go after him.
We walked back to the bus and drove back to Madrid where we had some more free time in the same spot we’ve been having free time for the last three days, so Jen and I spent the time in an internet cafe. Unfortunately I couldn’t use the computers because they didn’t have speakers or a headphone jack for System Access.
We went to dinner at some Spanish restaurant and had salad and steak, really fatty steak, and fries. Yes, fries, again! I think we’ve had fries with every meal, I’ve eaten more fries in Spain than I do in America!
And then we took el metro back to the hotel. I called my family, and now here I am. This is the last time I’ll be writing from Madrid, we leave tomorrow for Barsalona. We’re going to make as stop inZaragoza, pronounced Tharagotha with soft “th” sounds in Spain Spanish. (Its complicated.) I’m a little sad to leave, I’ve loved Madrid! The whole atmosphere is amazing, and the weather has been perfect! All the Spanish I’m hearing is really helping me become more fluent, too. I can’t believe I’ve been here for three days already, it seems like maybe three hours.

Madrid and Toledo

June 23, 2007

Spain really is an undescribable experience. Seriously, if any of you get a chance to visit here do it, its well worth your time and money.
In typicle fassion we arrived late to breakfast this morning, which meant all I had time for was a bacon and cheese sandwitch on some kind of oatmeal bread and a couple links of sausage. Nothing to write home about, so why I’m writing about it I don’t know.
After breakfast we got on a bus and took a driving tour of Madrid with a tour guide named Rosanna. I took 7 or so little notebook pages of notes about random things which I’ll put in at the bottom here since they really don’t fit with anything else.
Our driving tour ended at the Royal Palace, which is now a museum obviously. We toured that and I got to touch a couple of curtains and the walls and floor. The floor was surprisingly interesting, the wood was parque with crosses going through it, and the marble had designs in it, too. Then we had lunch. The Zs, Moria, Season and I went to a tapas bar and shared stuff. I got a tortilla espanol, which isn’t a tortilla like we think of. It was a potato and onion almlet, and it was fabulous! Moria got ham croquetas, and Season got seafood croquetas. There was also complementary bread with some kind of tomato sauce, and I got a Coke which came in a glass bottle.
Then we got back on the bus and took the hour drive to toledo. Before going into the actual city we saw the factory where some of spain’s hand-crafted things are made, things like jewelry and swords and such. Then we entered the town proper where we saw one of the oldest cathedrals in Spain. It was pretty but honestly not that exciting. We did hear a legend about St. Christopher. The spanish believed that if you looked upon a likeness of St. Christopher on the day you died that you went automaticly to heaven, so huge statues were put in almost every church. (St. Christopher is the patron St. of lost children I think, as well as of lost items.) Then we went to see a masterpiece by el Greco which was also kind of unexciting. The sinagogue, which is named Santa Maria La Blanca (Saint Mary the White,) was more interesting. During the 15th and 16th century, when the Jews were being persicuted in Spain, the sinagogue was used as a Catholic church, and in the 13th century when it was being built Muslims and Jews and Christians worked together on it. Consiquently you see lots of Islamic influence in the architecture. There are even 8 pointed stars inside. In fact, there is only one star of David, the 6-pointed star that is the Jewish symbol, in the whole building.
Toledo itself is truely beautiful. There used to be several more churches, which is supposedly where the expression “Holy toledo,” came from in English. The view is supposed to be breathtaking, and you can’t build houses there that aren’t in line with the historic code (which basicly means you can’t build houses there.) The streets are narrow and made of stone which made them rather interesting to walk on, and there are very few sidewalks.
After Toledo we came back to Madrid, had half anh hour to shop,and then at dinner at the Ham Museum. They served us little plates with four or so different coldcut meats and swiss cheese, and then brought out chicken and fries. I don’t know what’s with this place and fries. We then went to a bar and saw some flamenco dancers. That was okay, but the music was recorded. It wasn’t the traditional music you would expect either, it was more like something you would hear on 97.7 in Omaha, moddern music. Hey, at least this stuff was in Spanish.
Then we went for churros y Chocolate, which were fabulous! Picture a dough that tastes a little bit like funnel cake dough without the sugar that is roled into a role with ridges on the sides. You dip them in a coffee cup full of really thick chocolate sauce. They’re amazing!
And now we’re back at the hotel, and once again I’m exhausted. 20 hour days are harder than I remembered, and its only beginning. But I don’t feel very jetlagged, and I’m starting to think in spanish which is a good sign.

Random facts:
The Royal Palace in Spain has 2800 rooms. (no, we did not see them all, thank god.)
Madrid was originally named for the quantity of water that used to run through the city. Now there is only one small stream.
Miguel servantes and Shakespeare died on the same day.
Grandia Ave. was built by King Alfanso and is the Spanish equivalent of Broadway.
Antonio Venderas is the voice of the cat in the spanish translation of Shreck.
The main post office in Madrid looks like a church, so it is nicknamed “Our lady of comunication.”
The national library has over 5 million books.
There is a hard Rock cafe in Colomb Square.
Serano Street is where all the designer shops are located.
King Charles III was nicknamed “The best mayor of Madrid,” because he contributed so much to the development of the city.
The Prado Prominade is where ladies go to look for husbands, or where they just go to show off.
The Prado museum was originally meant to be a Science museum, which is why the garden is so close.
Atocha is the oldest train station in Madrid. It is no longer used as a train station, part of it is a metro station and part of it is a garden.
There were 4 royal palaces in Spain, one for each season.

Sleepless in Madrid

June 22, 2007

I’m sitting in my hotel room with Jennifer Klopping and Liz. I keep thinking how European this all seems (we have one of those toilet things in the bathroom that cleans you) and then I realize that there’s a good reason for that, I’m actually in Madrid, Spain.
The flight last night was pretty uneventful. The pasta was very so-so, and the breakfast, which consisted of a cresant with butter and jelly, was just plain bad. But I got a lot of reading done. Unfortunately I didn’t get much sleeping done.
We got to Spain and filled out our forms, then waited while people exchanged their money for Euros. Finally, finally, we got on the bus that took us to our hotel. Of course the rooms weren’t ready yet, so we dropped off our luggage and went on our way. you should have heard the complaints about having to wear yesterday’s clothes.
We went to a little supermarcado across the street from our hotel and bought bottles of water and such, then took the subway to Plaza de Isabel II and had lunch at a sandwitch place called Rodia. The ham and cheese cresant was a far cry from the airline’s attempt at feeding us.
After lunch we walked to La Plaza Mayor to get maps, and then we went onto The Prado museum. I have to say that was not the most exciting place I’ve ever been, but now at least I can say I’ve been to The Prado.
After we got everyone out of the Prado Mr. and Mrs. Zywiec, Season, Scott, Jake, and I all walked around one of the parks with Eva Garcia who used to teach at Burke. We tried a thing called, um I’ll insert the name here when my mind isn’t fried though I think it was called Horchata, at one of the outdoor cafes. It was a really unusual taste, and I think an aquired one though it wasn’t half bad. It really was your cliche picture of Europe, sitting at an outdoor cafe talking in another language and listening to the saxaphonist and violinist play down the street.
That’s another thing about Madrid, you see a lot of street performers. We saw a saxaphone player, a string quintet (who were playing my favorite Brandonberg,) and believe it or not several accordion players. (Maybe Stan is in business in the wrong part of the world.)
Our dinner was late, some kind of rice in tomato sauce, pork with onions and peppers, and home made fries. Dessert was a chocolate moose cake and icecream. Not a bad meal, but I hope they improve.
We ended up walking back to our hotel, which took a good hour at least. At this point I am exhausted and I ache all over, especially my feet. But its worth it, it is so worth it!

Did you know?
Spain has over 260 million olive trees.
Poplar and pine are two of the most common types of tree in Spain, and all of the trees we’ve seen so far have been planted in neat little rows and trimmed into neat little trees. (That includes the trees we saw from the plane.)
When you want to buy stamps in Spain you go to a tobacco store. Stamps cost 0.74 Euros, roughly a dollar.

In the Omaha airport

June 20, 2007

Wow, not even 2 hours into my trip and I’m already writing. I’m not sure what that says about anything.
I’m sitting here with the coolest person ever, or so she claims. Liz Lassiter, who’s one of my roomates, and realizing that I have absolutely nothing to say. I got up this morning, got things together, ate breakfast with Dad at Burger King, came to the airport and checked in, and called Ronza to wish her a happy birthday. We got through security by 9:45 or so, and our flight doesn’t leave until 11:15. I’m getting tired of that announcement, “The National Security Administration has adjusted the items that can be taken on a cary-on bag. Please check with your flight provider for details.” I think its a little late considering we’re already here and packed.
We fly from Omaha to Sinsonatti, from Sinsonatti to New York (JFK airport,) andfrom New York to Madrid. Lots of time to read.
Speaking of reading, I think I’m going to stop blabbering on about nothing and go do some of that. (See Ryan, I told you I’d read on my trip.)

On the Plane to spain

June 20, 2007

We just took off from JFK airport, after sitting on the runway for litterally an hour. I can’t complain though, things have run smoothely all things considered. Being in the airport in new York was fasinating, all kinds of other languages and accents everywhere we turned.
The plane we’re on now is huge, 7 seats across in the coach section and 6 across in First Class. If my math is even close to correct there are upwards of 340 people on here. Its a nice enough ride, especially compared to our first flight which had room for maybe 54 people.
They are giving us dinner tonight, either chicken breast with mashed sweet potatoes or some kind of pasta. I’m going with the pasta, it sounds less scary. They also gave us blankets that are about as thick as sheets and pillows. I’m sure all of this stuff will stop being so interesting after a couple of hours, but for the minute I just want to take it all in. I’ve already taken a couple of rediculous pictures, me eating a piece of pizza that was almost as big as my head in the cincinatti airport, and then me on this plane.
I’m making friends, too. Liz and i are going to get along well, and my seat mate Erica Alverez and I seem to have a lot in common. She’s been great about describing the scenery, like how pretty the New York skyline was with the setting sun behind it. Her mom knows the mom of one of my friends too, which is highly amusing.
Okay, I’m exhausted and I’ve hardly read anything so far. Plus this isn’t exactly a smoothe flight, and I don’t even want to think how many mistakes I’m making in my typing. So I think I’ll go enjoy one of those new books I downloaded last night, eat my dinner, and nap.
Oh my god I’m going to Spain!

Almost ready

June 19, 2007

Well, here we go. In 48 hours I will be on a plane heading tward Madrid, la capital de España. My suitcase is almost packed, I have copies of my passport and state ID just in case. All the forms are filled out. Believe it or not its really happening.

So here’s the deal with me keeping in touch with everyone. I have no idea how it will be over there in terms of internet access. I did figure out that I don’t seem to be able to post directly from my PACMate. If I can I will email entries to someone and have them post them for me. If not I’ll write and everyone will have to wait in suspense until I get home.

I found out what the weather is supposed to be for the next week.

The weather for Barcelona for the next 8 days is……
Wednesday High of 83 Low 68
Thursday High 77 Low 66 with 40% chance of showers
Friday High 74 Low 66 with 40% chance of scattered Thunder Storms
Saturday High 77 Low 66
Sunday High 78 Low 67
Monday High 82 Low 67
Tuesday High 80 Low 67
Wednesday High 78 Low 66 with 30% chance scattered showers

Yes, I think I can handle that.