“De Madrid al cielo y un agujerito para verlo”

“De Madrid al cielo y un agujerito para verlo.” 

Translation: “From Madrid to heaven, with a little hole to still see it.” Meaning that once you have seen Madrid, the next best thing is heaven. This is a popular saying used to describe Madrid.

Originally, I wanted to study abroad in Madrid. When I decided to study in Alicante, one of the top things on my “must do” list was visit Madrid for a weekend. The weekend after traveling to Barcelona, my friend and I went to Madrid! We took a high speed train, so it only took about 2 and a half hours to get there. We arrived around 5pm on Friday, so we had plenty of time to start sight seeing. Madrid is the capital of Spain; as a result, there are TONS of things to see and do. For only having 3 days in this city, I’d say we did a pretty good job of making the most of our time there. Here’s a summary of what we did/saw:

Friday:

  • Templo de Debod
  • Puerta del Sol
  • Plaza de Oriente
  • shopped on Gran Via
  • Plaza de Espana
  • quickly walked through Parque de la Montana (right next to the temple)
  • Calle de la Princesa (we thought it would be something special because of the name…we were wrong)
  • Plaza de la Cibeles
  • Casa de America
  • Banco de Espana
  • Palacio de Cibeles
  • ate dinner at Plaza Mayor

Saturday:

  • Parque del Buen Retiro (there we saw: Monumento a Alfonso XII, La Rosaleda, Palacio Velazquez, and Palacio de Cristal)
  • Reina Sofia (art musuem)
  • lunch at a tapas place
  • Prado musuem
  • dinner at Mercado de San Anton (located in Chueca-the gay neighborhood of Madrid)
  • el Tigre bar (where we got 2 free tapas because the waiter said I was pretty haha)
  • el Kapital (7 story night club)

Sunday:

  • breakfast on the go at Plaza Mayor
  • Palacio Real (my favorite!)
  • Catedral de la Almudena
  • souvenir shopping
  • went to a giant flea market that happens every Sunday
  • Puerta de Toledo
  • ice cream in Plaza Mayor
  • Mercado de San Miguel
  • relaxed in the gardens next to the park before heading to the train station

As you can see, we had a jam packed weekend! Madrid was my favorite city I visited, so I’m glad I saved it for my final weekend trip!

Sunday's flea market

Sunday’s flea market

Plaza Mayor (back in the day, people were hanged here)

Plaza Mayor (back in the day, people were hanged here)

Plaza de Oriente (in front of Palace)

Plaza de Oriente (in front of Palace)

gardens outside of palace

gardens outside of palace

Inside the Palace

Inside the Palace

view of Cathedral from inside the Palace gates

view of Cathedral from inside the Palace gates

Palacio Real

Palacio Real

Saturday night!

Saturday night!

Our free tapas :)

Our free tapas 🙂

Tapas at Mercado de San Anton

Tapas at Mercado de San Anton

Reina Sofia!

Reina Sofia!

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal

La Rosaleda (prettiest part of the park)

La Rosaleda (prettiest part of the park)

The bear and strawberry tree (aka Madrid's symbol)

The bear and strawberry tree (aka Madrid’s symbol)

Dinner Friday Night

Dinner Friday Night

Gran VIa

Gran VIa

'Merica!!

‘Merica!!

Palacio de Cibeles

Palacio de Cibeles

Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod

Monumento a Alfonso XII

Monumento a Alfonso XII

Parque del Buen Retiro

Parque del Buen Retiro

Advertisements

Weekend in Barcelona

Myself and three other friends from the program spent the second weekend in July in Barcelona! We met up with two friends (twin sisters) that were part of the June program, but were now traveling throughout Spain. We took a train from Alicante, which was five hours long. We arrived at our hostel around 10:00 at night. This was my very first hostel experience, and let me tell you, it was one to remember. I was staying in a co-ed room with a friend of mine, while the other two girls where staying in an all girls room. My room was filled with guys from India and a girl from Germany. We bought locks so we could lock the trunk where we put our luggage. Staying in a hostel really showed me that I can be very paranoid. The first night, I slept on top of my towel (because I thought it would protect me from bed bugs? lol), had my Toms at the end of the bed, and hugged my purse (and all important items) against my chest while I slept. I was not able to fall asleep until about 5:00 am, and when I was sleeping, I woke up every 30 minutes to double check that I had all my belongings and that my lock was still intake. Also, one of the guys snored extremely loud! I decided that hostels are not for me. (For those of you wondering, nothing bad happened to me during the hostel stay, and the people in my room ended up being really friendly)

Aside from my hostel experience, I loved Barcelona! Friday night, we walked along La Rambla and explored the night life. On Saturday, we went to Starbucks for breakfast (so American), walked through the Gothic neighborhood, shopped in the souvenir stores, ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant in the Born neighborhood (where I ordered tortellini-haha), checked out some plazas, walked La Rambla during the day, went to Parque Guell and Gaudi’s House, ate crepes for an appetizer at a place near our hostel, had dinner at a paella restaurant, and then called it a night. On Sunday, we got up early and had breakfast at a very cute and girly cafe. Then we explored the Cathedral of Barcelona (Gothic architecture–so awesome!), walked through Parque Ciutadella, and then went to the one and only Sagrada Familia (!!). As soon as I saw it, I got goosebumps. It is truly one of a kind. We were told that the inspiration for Sagrada Familia was that Gaudi wanted to make a Bible out of stone. Therefore, the entrance of Sagrada Familia is the Nativity Scene, each of the towers represents a different Gospel, and the exit represents Jesus dying on the cross. The inside is very modern and colorful! It took me by surprise actually. It was my favorite part of Barcelona (which I expected). After our visit, we had lunch at a pizza place before treating ourselves to ice cream. On the way back to our hostel, we stopped to see one of the houses Gaudi designed in Barcelona. There are only two, and they are very easy to spot because the architecture is so different and over the top. We headed back to Alicante that evening. It was a long, but fun weekend in Barcelona! I was very happy to be back home in Alicante though.

Plaza de Catalunya

Plaza de Catalunya

Didn't know Abbie sounded like Adif...

Didn’t know Abbie sounded like Adif…

IMG_4182

Cathedral of Barcelona

Cathedral of Barcelona

Parque Guell

Parque Guell

IMG_4360

It was extremely difficult to get a full pic of the Sagrada Familia b/c it’s so tall!

modern stained glass windows inside the Sagrada Familia

modern stained glass windows inside the Sagrada Familia

Exit of Sagrada Familia

Exit of Sagrada Familia

Parque Ciutadella

Parque Ciutadella

Parque Ciutadella

Parque Ciutadella

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

Paella

Paella

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Parque Guell

Parque Guell

Museum of Gaudi's House

Museum of Gaudi’s House

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Granada: “The Moorish Jewel”

At the end of June, I spent the weekend in Granada. The trip was through the University of Alicante, so it was basically everyone from my program plus about five students from a different study abroad program. It was an awful five hour bus ride! Not to mention the emergency door alarm went off for that entire time (good thing I can sleep through anything).

Here’s a summary of what we did:

Friday:

  • Super quick tapas mean (they only gave us 30 minutes to eat- which is impossible to do in Spain because the service is SO SLOW)
  • Flamenco show
  • Half hour walking tour of the part of Granada close to the Flamenco show (lots of Moorish influence and Gypsies)

Saturday:

  • Walking tour of part of the city
  • Visited San Nicolas De Bari
  • Two hour free time for eating/shopping
  • Visited Granada’s Cathedral
  • Visited Cripta y Museo de los Reyes Catolicos (saw the tombs of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand
  • Free time to explore the city, eat dinner, shop, etc.
  • Explored the night life

Sunday:

  • Shopped at the local stores
  • Ate tapas
  • Visited the Alhambra and Generalife (my favorite part of Granada)

We didn’t get back to Alicante until 1:00am! This was the first time I felt like Alicante was home. As soon as the bus finally arrived at Plaza de Los Luceros, I was so unbelievably happy to be “home.”

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

San Nicolas de Bari

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Grilled Veggies

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Gazpacho

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cathedral was so big, I couldn’t get the whole thing in one picture

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cathedral

IMG_3722

Flamenco Show

IMG_3724

Flamenco Show

IMG_3754

Cute & Quaint Shops

IMG_3859

At the Alhambra

IMG_3757

Croquettes

IMG_3780

One of the many stunning gardens at the Alhambra

IMG_3858

Famous fountain at the Alhambra, our tour guide told us the legend behind it

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cathedral

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cathedral

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Alhambra featured in the background

Until next time

Las Hogueras

I have been behind in my blog posts because I have been preoccupied with the beach, class, and exploring Spain.

At the end of June, Alicante had their Festival of Juan (aka Las Hogueras). This festival celebrates the coming of the summer solstice. It started on June 19th and went until the 24th; however, it actually started a couple days early this year because Alicante is trying to compete with Valencia’s festival, which is the week before Las Hogueras.
There was a giant fireworks show a couple days before the 19th in Plaza de Los Luceros, which is the center of Alicante. Holy cow! Spain knows how to put on a fireworks show. There were people everywhere! At one point, the fireworks were so loud/strong that it practically knocked me off my feet and I had to watch in a crouched position.

Basically everyday for a week, there was a giant parade. The majority of the parades consisted of volunteers wearing the traditional Alicante clothing. Each neighborhood picks the “most beautiful” woman and little girl. Then each queen and princess has their own court of about two or three other girls. My favorite parade one where are the different neighborhoods wore different costumes. Some were dressed like Native Americans, flowers, Chinese people, and many other things. People had shopping carts filled with ice, beer, and wine. While they marched, they drank and had a good, ole time. I had a front row seat! It was hard to get good pictures because of all the motion and movement of the people.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Greek Gods

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Shopping cart filled with ice and drinks-ha!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Part of the Native American group

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Getting ready to march

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Most beautiful” girl of her neighborhood

On June 19th, every day at exactly 2:00pm there were mascletas in the center of the city. Mascletas are fireworks that only make the boom noises. Again, crowds and crowds of people everywhere watching the mascletas (in reality, there’s not much to watch–I was able to hear them from my apartment).

The next day at midnight, there was a lights and fireworks show in a different plaza close to my apartment. Basically they shot fireworks, choreographed to music, off the top of a seven story store. I was so close that the firework ashes fell on my hands and hair (I actually got burned!). A little too close for comfort for my liking. I was super tense while watching the show because I was too busy dodging the firework debris! After the firework show, I walked around and locked at all the ninots (giant doll-like statues that they burn at the end of the festival). There was over 180, so I obviously did not see them all.

See how close the fireworks were!?

See how close the fireworks were!?

beginning of the light and firework show

beginning of the light and firework show

IMG_3345

My favorite Ninot

IMG_3332

Up close picture of the 1st place Ninot

On the 21st, there was another parade called “Desfile de la Ofrenda de Flores.” In this parade, people wearing the traditional clothing marched to the cathedral to place their flower in front of it.

Finished product

Finished product (yes, that is all made out of flowers)

On Monday of the festival, I still had school. But the next two days, we did not have school because those were the most important days of the festival. Most of the festivities take place really late at night, so it was nice to be able to sleep in. However, I barely got any sleep during the festival because my neighborhood would begin partying and playing music at 10:00am. It was rather annoying!

After staying out till the wee hours of the morning Monday night, I took a long siesta on Tuesday. Tuesday night, there was another parade. I only caught a glance at this parade because I went to the bull fight instead. During Las Hogueras, the best matadors in all of Spain come to Alicante’s arena. I’m here to experience Spain’s culture right? So in my opinion, it was necessary to go to a bull fight, even if I do not agree with it. It was definitely a horrifying experience, but I was able to stay for the whole thing. Afterwards, I was barely able to eat my dinner because I lost my appetite…

Tuesday night I stayed up ill 5:00am! Every night during Hogueras, each neighborhood has an outside party called barracas. You don’t have to be part of the neighborhood to go to one. The barracas have DJs, strobe lights, drinks, food, and of course, LOTS of people. So much fun!

After sleeping till noon on Wednesday, my host mom made me churros con chocolate for breakfast since it was the last day of the festival. Then I went and watched the last mascleta. It was the best (and loudest) one I had seen! I took my siesta at the beach. At midnight is when all craziness happens. It begins with a “monumental palmera” at the Castle. This is a giant firework that looks like a palm tree. After that, the burning of the ninots begins! They don’t all burn at once (that would be craziness). I think they burn like four or five at a time. The first one I saw was on the Explanada by the beach.They shoot more fireworks right before each ninot burns. I was practically at the front of the crowd for the first ninot, so the fire was extremely hot. While it is burning, firemen spray the palm trees and nearby buildings with water so they don’t catch on fire. You are supposed to yell derogatory comments or bad hand signals at the firemen so that they spray you with water. I was drenched! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Thank god I wore my bathing suit underneath my clothes because I was soaked and freezing! I also watched the first place ninot burn too, but I was toward the back of the crowd (this way I was able to take pictures).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Palmera Firework (can’t see the castle in the pic)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

First Hoguera

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Second Hoguera

I went to bed at 3:00am…needless to say class the next morning was a struggle…

Los Estados Unidos vs. Espana

I never really felt like I experienced culture shock, but I am definitely experiencing a new way of living.

Differences between USA and Spain:

  • Wedding rings are worn on the right hand because you put your right hand up to your heart. The left hand is used to salute.
  • They wear shoes at all times! Even in the house! This was hard to get used to.
  • Meal times are extremely different here, but it was very easy to adapt too. I eat breakfast at 7:30, coffee break during class at 11ish, a big lunch at 2:30, ice cream or tapas in the late afternoon, and dinner between 9:00-9:30. Meals also last for a long time because you take your time eating while enjoying one another’s company.
  • They also have both hands (sometimes elbows) on the table. It is thought to be “poorly educated” if you keep one hand in your lap while the other hand uses the silverware to eat. Pretty much the exact opposite in the US.
  • People walk SO slow! When I walk, I walk with a purpose. I still haven’t been able to adjust to their slowly paced walk.
  • No one seems to work here! A full time job is considered to be 9-2, and if you feel like coming in after siesta, you will work for another two hours or so. Spaniards work to live, while Americans live to work.
  • Topless is not considered nude! I really don’t enjoying seeing old, flappy ladies’ boobs hanging out when I’m trying to enjoy my siesta at the beach. I mean, would you wanna see your grandma topless at the beach??
  • You can walk around with alcohol at all times of the day.
  • People don’t understand the concept of personal space.
  • Spain has the best fireworks I’ve ever seen (blows 4th of July out of the water)
  • They are geniuses for having a scheduled nap every day (siesta).
  • The fruit and vegetables here are actually fresh and taste like candy. My favorite fruits here are strawberries and papayas.

Spanish life is stress free, tranquil, and relaxing. They don’t worry about every little thing like Americans. Also, they make time for their friends and family everyday. Living in Spain has made me realize that there is more to life than getting the highest grades, working, worrying/stressing, etc. Every time I walk past a physical therapy clinic, I can’t help but think about applying for a job here after college. Spaniards know how to live!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Viva la Espana!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Love this city

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Happy Spanish women wearing traditional Alicante clothing for Las Hogueras

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cafe con leche

Cheers! (sorry Mom and Dad, I'm legal here ;) )

Cheers! (sorry Mom and Dad, I’m legal here 😉 )

Until next time…

Vamos a Valencia!

Last Saturday, we visited the city of Valencia, which is the capital of the region Alicante is in. This visit to Valencia was included in the Spanish Studies Abroad program. We left bright and early because the bus ride was about two hours. I never realized how many mountains Spain has until we were on the open rode. Alicante is surrounded by beautiful mountains!

IMG_2949[1]

Beautiful scenary

When we first arrived in Valencia, we walked around the City of Arts and Sciences, which is the modern and newest part of the city. We were told by our tour guide that the country of Spain ended up spending three times more than the original budget. It was equivalent to about 100 billion US dollars. This part of the city also has the largest aquarium in all of Spain. We did not get to go to the aquarium, but the building itself was spectacular looking. The architecture was very modern and different compared to the architecture I have seen thus far in Spain.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

IMG_3177

Next stop was the historical part of the city. We took a quick bus tour of this part of the city before getting off the bus to see the Central Market and the Lonja. For those Ohioans, the Central Market reminded me of the West Side Market in Cleveland (except it was a lot bigger and had ham hanging from the vendors’ stands). Unfortunately, we did not have much time to look around and explore the market (sorry Dad). The Lonja is a Gothic style civil building built between the late 1400s and mid 1500s. It was used for trading purposes (especially oil) and for housing prisoners. The columns around the Lonja were built to resemble ropes.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Lonja (notice the columns)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Valencia is known for their oranges (used in perfumes-not for eating)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

One of the city squares

IMG_3109[1]

Jamon

Central Market

Central Market

After seeing those sights, we have a couple hours to explore on our own and eat lunch. We went to a few shops to buy souvenirs and ate lunch underneath a tree in one of the city squares by the very large Cathedral. Before meeting back up with the group, I had to try some of Valencia’s ice cream (I had trufla and croissant with chocolate flavors).

Next, we toured the very famous Cathedral in Valencia. Wow, it was gorgeous! My pictures do not do it justice. This Cathedral has the Holy Grail in it, and I lit a candle for my family back in the USA.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I lit the  last (lit) candle in the third row 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Holy Grail

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

There was a wedding right before our tour

IMG_3107[1]

Panorama of the Central Market

To end the trip, we visited the Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia. It was not a extremely large art museum like the ones in Madrid. It housed many pieces created by Spanish artists, especially ones from Valencia. A lot of the paintings I saw were very pretty and huge! It must have taken years to complete just one painting. Also, the majority of the paintings had a religious meaning.

After a very long day of walking around the city, we returned to Alicante! After having a late dinner with my host mom, I went out to the discotecas with a group of students from the program. I am having the time of my life!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Survived my first week abroad!

The first week has come to an end! It was filled with lots of activities, experiences, and adventures. I will summarize what I did this week…

Monday: First day of class! I was extremely nervous for my classes. I made it to my bus in time, found my classes pretty quickly, and was actually early for class! (even though my professor was 15 minutes late…). I ended up getting moved up to the high intermediate level (equivalent to Advanced 2 Spanish in the USA) in both my conversation and grammar courses. The campus is HUGE compared to my one at home, but very pretty. After classes, I explored some of the shops and got lost trying to find my way back to my apartment (oops). After lunch and siesta, I went to the beach (of course!).

IMG_2787

University of Alicante

Tuesday: I started my new classes at the higher level, and I liked them much better. My grammar teacher is wonderful! She kind of resembles Shakira–haha. Today we visited the Castillo de Santa Barbara, which is very famous in Alicante. We learned about the history/importance of the castle. The view from the top was absolutely incredible. We took a bus up the mountain to the castle, but had to walk down it. It was so very hot. So of course that means we needed ice cream after the long walk down. 🙂 After eating a late dinner with my casa madre, a few friends and I went to the beach for a late night swim. Even in the pitch black, I could still see my hands and feet under the water. The sea is so clear!

IMG_2638IMG_2633IMG_2644IMG_2662IMG_2667IMG_2692IMG_2719IMG_2689

Wednesday: After class, we had a meeting about the various events that the university offers for international students. Examples of the events/activities offered are: snorkeling, cooking classes, windsurfing, and even a trip to Granada. I went to the beach during siesta time, and stayed there pretty much all day.

Thursday: It actually rained here! My casa madre said today will probably be the only time it rains the entire time you are here. Today we met our intercambios (language exchange partners)! There are two Spanish students for every four American students. My intercambios are named Eric and Carlos. They are extremely nice! Eric speaks 6 languages (Spanish, English, Japanese, Dutch, French, and Valenciano). This will probably be the first and only time I meet a half Spanish, half Dutch person who speaks Japanese. We met them at a local tapas restaurant. I had cafe con leche and a mini dessert. Later that night, I went out and experienced Spanish night/party life for the first time. WOW- Spanish people sure know who to party…

Friday: Class dragged on today because I only got 4 hours of sleep! Right after lunch, I went to the beach to take a nap and get some sun. It was a relaxing afternoon spent laying in the sand and playing some sand volleyball. On my way home from the beach, I saw that there was a parade going on in the streets. The festivities in Alicante have begun! June is the best month to spend in Alicante because of the Festival of San Juan (Los Hogueras). The festival does not actually start until the 19th, but that does not stop the Spaniards from celebrating something. In the parade, people wore the traditional Alicante clothing. There was also a few bands marching in the parade.

IMG_2837

La Explanada

IMG_2846

Port of Alicante

IMG_2862

Panorama of the Playa de Postiguet

IMG_2873

Stracciatella and Galletas gelato

IMG_2876

Parade

IMG_2897

Parade