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"I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." --Antoine de St-Exupery

Monday, February 28, 2011

Barcelona: Words Cannot Describe.

If you are ever in Spain, Barcelona is a must. I knew this coming into the trip because that is one of the places we went in high school, but after this trip, I can say for certain that it is in my top 5 cities in the world.

We, my friends Jessica and Emily and I, left on Thursday night after class, so our flight got in around 8. Our hostal was right off of Las Ramblas, a pedestrian path that leads from the Columbus Monument near the Mediterranean Sea to Plaza Catalonia. It is lined with cafes, trees, human statues, little kiosks set up selling different things depending on which area you're in: flowers, animals, art, etc. Needless to say, we were in a great location. That night, we just got settled and had dinner of tapas so we would be able to wake up early-ish the next day.

Friday we went first to La Catedral de Canta Cruz y Santa Eulalia de Barcelona which means the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. This saint was 13 when she died, and there is a courtyard in the church where there are 13 white ducks to remind visitors of her age. Her crypt is also underneath the altar. It was a beautiful gothic church that had a great view from the top.

The Cathedral (under construction)

Saint Eulalia's Crypt
A few of the ducks in the courtyard
One of the views from the top

After that, we went to the Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat, or the Muesum of the History of the City. This museum held the archeological remains of the ancient city Barcino, where Barcelona came from. The remains go back to the first century AD. We saw where people used to do laundry, the fish factory, and the winemaking facilities. It was crazy to think of all the history there and how people were there however many years ago, dyeing clothes, making wine. Boggles my mind.

Tinted blue from the dye that was used

The wine facilities. Really interesting to hear how they made it.

We stopped to get lunch, which was very good (paella) and then took the metro to the Arc de Trimof. It lead into a really pretty sitting area, which was the start of the Parc de la Ciutadella. In a more central area, there was the Casacada Mounumental fountain which was designed in part by Antoni Gaudi. There were also many random art piece such as the elephant!

Arc de Triomf

Cascada Monumental fountain

Random huge elephant

Another area in the park.
Then, since it was a nice day (about 65 so still a little cool to swim), we went by the port and hung out near the water. The Columbus Monument was right there too so we got to snap some pictures there. After that, we walked down Las Ramblas back to our hotel to take a quick break before our next outing. That next outing was maybe the best part of the trip (tied with La Sagrada Familia).

We took the metro up to where the Olympic Stadium was in 1992 and saw the tailend of the sunset. It is on higher ground than the rest of the city, so there was a pretty awesome view. After that, we were heading back to another metro station when we stumbled across La Font Magica, which was pretty much magic. There was an amazing fountain light show. The first song was, of course, My Heart Will Go On. It went on for about ten minutes with different songs and then there was a second part which had a lot of American music. It was amazing. I took videos so if anyone is interested, let me know.

View. The big thing in the middle is La Sagrada Familia

Sunset! The tower on the left is the Montjuic Telecommunications Tower

Just one of manyyy of the fountain pictures.
On Saturday, we went to La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. But we'll start with La Sagrada Familia, tied for number one with La Font Magica. I knew coming into this trip that La Sagrada Familia would be the main attraction for me since I've been there before. It is a church that has been in construction in 1882 and is expected to be finished in 2026 and is designed by Gaudi. The stain glass and architecture in the church, as cliché as it sounds, literally takes my breath away. I was a major nerd this time and got one of the audio guides, but it was well worth the €3.50. It explained everything in the church and let me tell you, everything possible has meaning and most of it relates back to nature. There are going to be three facades. The Passion façade is done which represents the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s been done since 1986. The Nativity façade is all about the birth of Jesus and the main events in the lives of the Holy Family. The final one, the Glory façade is still to be built. It will be the main façade of the church. We took the lift up to the top and got another amazing view. Then we took this spiral staircase down the tower which had no railing. Even I was feeling a bit uneasy. My mom and friend Natalie would not have done it for about anything.

Nativity Facade
Passion Facade, artistically the opposite of the Nativity Facade

Love it.
Seriously, so many pictures of stain glass


View of the Montjuic Tower

Can't really tell, but the sea is there behind all the buildings.

To end the day, we went to Parc Guell which was completely designed by, you guessed it, Gaudi. This is another place that I've been to, but in high school we went through the park pretty quick if I remember. There is a lot of neat, different architecture and at the highest point, el Turo de Les Tres Creus, we had another pretty view. Would have been a very nice place to watch the sunset had it not been so overcast.
Pretty sure I'm sitting in a similar spot in our class picture
Jessica and I in a random area.

Hall of On Hundred Columns
Placa de la Nautralesa

Part of the bench. The entrance to the part is where the tower is.
On el Turo de Les Tres Creus
As if we hadn't seen enough, on Sunday we went back to the Olympic Stadium so we could actually go inside it. We also went to the National Art Museum of Catalonia where we saw a lot of neat art, mostly by artists I had never heard of. The building itself was gorgeous.

Inside the stadium!

Emily and I right outside of it.

The Art Museum. Gorgeous
To end our trip, we spent the afternoon walking on Las Ramblas some more, checking out the jewelry fair that was going on, and giving our feet a rest. My feet definitely hated me by the end of the weekend, but it was well worth it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A un euro

Huevos redondos
This weekend was pretty uneventful, although I thought it was going to be a weekend that was too full. On Wednesday I, along with eight other people in my program, went to someone's house (Ana) for a cooking class. We learned how to make lentejas (lentils, so I've made those before or at least ate them before via my roommate Calli) and huevos redondos, which are hardboiled egg whites filled with a tuna, tomato sauce, and yolk mix and then top it off with some mayo and a sprinkle of the extra yolk. It was all pretty good, but I'm not sure it will be something I make in the future (we all know how much I love yolk haha).

However, other food that my family has made this week has been awesome. Pepe, my host dad, made chicken wings the other night which were almost better than BW's. No sauce, but if there had been, it may have just won that contest. We also had a lot of eggs this week of different kinds which have all been very good. And last night, I had one of the best hamburgers ever. There were eggs on it also, so it reminded me of the Old Fashioned House burger. Yumm. We always have soup before our main part of dinner, and it's always so so good. Might be my favorite thing here.

On Friday, a few of us had planned on going to city about 75 minutes away called Jerez, but due to us not getting everything sorted out, we decided to go Saturday. However, Saturday came around and we went to the bus station a little after 10:30 thinking the bus left at 10:45am (as it had said on the website), but really the bus had left 2 minutes before AT 10:30. That was a major bummer seeing as though we had had reservations for a 2pm tour and the next bus didn't leave until 1, so we wouldn't have made it. 

On Friday, though instead of Jerez, I went to the Torre del Oro. This was a watchtower way back in the day that was built in the 13th century. They restored it and made it into a naval museum with lots of replicas of ships and other historic artifacts and documents. It has some very pretty views from the top as well. It was such a nice day and after all the rain we've had, it was exactly what we needed to brighten our moods.

Torre del Oro

Catedral from the top


This would be a jawbone of a whale that was in the museum.
Saturday I hung out with Pili my host mom and Paula the 10 year old. Watching Paula just hang out, finding things to do that don't always include the computer or a television made me realize how much imagination kids have and how I would love to go back to being 10 again for a day, concocting science experiments, making up plays to put on, things like that. Technology may be good, but it sucks up so much time and does start to limit our imagination I feel.

Today I went to a market with Pili and her mom. It was crazy. Anything you could have wanted besides furniture was there. I really mean everything. I could probably buy everything I needed for my future home besides furniture and be set to go. That includes clothes for anyone of any age and dishes and fabric and fresh fruits and veggies. Everything. After going, I will have the phrase "A un euro" sounding through my dreams. It means that whatever that person was selling cost one euro. And many things were only one euro.

After the market, we helped one of Pili's friends move, a mom that I've met multiple times before since her kids are friends with Paula. When we were done with the load, we went and had a cervesa outside since it was a pretty warm day.

Now, I just have to get a bit of homework done and the new week will start up again. Classes are still going fine. I have a feeling this is going to be a decently easy semester but also maybe a bit boring (the business classes will be that is). That is a good thing since I'm going to be traveling a lot. This Thursday night I leave for Barcelona for the weekend, and since we have our tickets and hostal set, nothing will change with those plans. I'm ready for a full, fun weekend!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away!

Well, I had quite the busy weekend. It's good to be busy though, and everything we did was well worth it. On Friday we went to las Ruinas Romanas de Italica. It was a roman city founded in 206 B.C. by soldiers who used it as a place to take their wounded during the Second Punic War (Spanish 223 really kicking in). It's where the Roman emperor Trajano (or Trajan in English) was born so there is a statue of him among all the ruins. We saw where residential buildings were, saw how they got their water from the Guadalquivir River (which was decently far away), and saw the amphitheater where gladiators fought. And the mosaics found throughout the ruins were beautiful.

Mosaic to honor Hercules


That afternoon, Maria (my 21 year old host sister) and I met Pili (my host mom) at the park where she goes every Friday with other moms. All the kids were running around while they talked, and I could keep up pretty well with the conversation. One thing they talked about for a while was the smoking ban in public places which began in January. Everyone here that I've met smokes, so it was interesting to see what they all thought of it (there were some who thought it was a good thing, but definitely not the majority). I also found out that it costs 800 euros to get a driver's license! That's $1,075!! Maria was shocked that it cost practically nothing in the States to get one.

On Saturday we went to Cadiz which is a city more southern and is basically a peninsula. It is right where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, or so we were told. It is also the oldest city in Andalucia and possibly in all of Southwestern Europe. The city is split in two sections: the new and the old. La Puerta Tierra, a huge wall, separates the two and is the reason why Cadiz was able to survive during many wars. Now you drive underneath it to enter the Old City. We spent our whole day there.

Our tour included seeing many historic sites including:
Plaza de Espana. This is the Monument to the Constitution of 1812, where Spain's constitution was originally signed.
Plaza de San Antonio where the Constitution was actually signed. This church was built in 1669.

The Cathedral. Beautiful.

We got to walk up one of the towers and see an amazing view of the city.


After the tour, we had about 2 hours of free time. So, naturally, we went to the beach. It was probably about 75 degrees. Too bad we didn't have our swimsuits.

Love love love.
Oh just a bunch of cats. There were many gangs of about 12 cats all over the rocks, just enjoying the sun.

Wishing I had my swimsuit!
There wasn't a lot of sand on the beach, but tiny tiny rocks and shells that were actually really comfortable.

All in all, it was a very good weekend. Had all of Sunday to relax and do some homework. The past two days, however, it has been raining and should continue to for a few more days, so we'll see if I end up going to Chipionas with my family where they have a beach house. It's very close to Cadiz. Oh, I also booked flights to Paris and Prague this past week and solidified my plans for Barcelona and Portugal. Almost all booked up for the whole semester!

Hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day. My mom sent me a package with sugar cookies (which my family has never had and is now obsessed with) and conversation hearts, so I was not without. Also, Grandma and Grandpa, I got your card and although you had no idea what the Spanish said, you were right in that it was very nice!