Monthly Archives: December 2011
It’s almost time to go home and I am so thankful that I have another semester here in Spain. I have so many places I want to go still and I want to improve my spanish even more. Plus who can say they study abroad for a year? Not many people. Plus I like my Spanish life syle and my madre. Life is more relaxed and life is easier in ways.
But now that it’s Christmas time, I’m in the Christmas spirit. And that also means that I’M COMING HOME! Who would have thought this day would come? I thought it would be a lifetime away and here it is only a few days away. I’ve been to many places and done so many things that it’s weird to think of home. I mean I am excited off the wall to go home but will things really be the same? Everyone has also moved on in their lives and I don’t want things to be different but in reality they are different, I’m different. But I’m no matter what has changed my mom will still be the same and she will of course still love me and be proud of me! I can’t wait to see her and my cat too! Also, I can’t wait to see my friends and coworkers from over the summer! And I definitely can’t wait to see my best friend in the whole world Liasor Dima! He doesn’t read this blog I don’t think but it would make him smile to know that I said that. I am excited to have normal food like tacos and hamburgers and chinese and sushi, shout out to Jimmy my sushi partner and best friend.
I even have presents for everyone! I have gifts from Italy and the Vatican, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Spain of course. But my most creative gifts come from Walmart.com my best friend. And yes I have many best friends. I have this great idea for my grandpa. My grandpa growing up was like my dad and we have always been close. Unfortunately after I went to college that relationship wasn’t the same. And now that he broke his hip in 3 places this past March he and my grandma are in a nursing home. Anyway the point is I love my grandpa and my mom told me that he talks about me all the time to the nurses. This made realize how much my grandpa loves me and how much I miss him! So I wanted to give him and awesome gift. I decided that since walmart.com photo center is the best I would do something there. I decided to make him a scrapbook of photos of me traveling around Europe. I decided this because I know my grandpa wanted to travel and he was in the Philippines in WWII. Also my mom told me how proud of me he is. I knew that he would enjoy this present more than anything I could buy him. I sent about 60 photos to be printed and delivered to my house. I also was looking around walmart.com and found some cool things to make like ornaments and other christmas things. I made a christmas card with photos of me around the world and had them sent to my house! In the past I’ve made a puzzle with a photo of my and my ex and I made a blanket with photos on it for my mom when I went to college. So when I was looking around I found that you can make playing cards with a photo on it. So I decided that I would make that with a picture of my mom and I to give to my grandparents. I thought this was a cool idea. Then I told my madre about it and the things I was making and I told her I had a good idea for my spanish sister. Her husband recently went to Panama for 3 years and I thought that the blanket would be a good idea to give to her husband with photos on it of her and her kids. She was really excited for this because here in Spain they don’t have that sort of thing. And I’m excited to give her that as her present.
So in 2 days I’ll be on a plane back to the United States and arrive in Syracuse at 6:15pm on Tuesday. I can’t wait and I only have one final to take before my semester is over and I have 25 glorious days of no school! My christmas break will be filled with many memories and happy times. Then I get to come back to Spain for 5 months. My best friend Liasor will be in Granada for the semester and my other best friend Jimmy is coming to visit me. Plus I have almost the whole month of April off and my wonderful mother will be bringing me home at the end of the semester after we hopefully travel somewhere in Europe! Ta Ta for now!
On December 1st my friends Erica, Annie, Luke and I flew off to London. London was an amazing city. For one thing everything is in English oh how I missed English. You really don’t realize it till you can understand everything and just talk normal to people. The taxi’s are like old cars and the busses are the double decker busses like they should be in London. Our hostel was right next to Hyde Park and there was a big Christmas festival going on. It was nice to see all the Christmas things and for it to be chilly. It felt like home more than Spain ever did. We saw Big Ben which is amazing and we saw West Minster Abbey where there are the bodies of Locke and Dickens along with royalty of England. And of course where the royalty get married like Prince William and Kate. We saw Buckingham Palace of course and it was actually a let down. It is so small compared to what I thought it would be or even compared to Palace of Versailles. Then on our walking tour we saw the Palace of the Queens son Prince Charles and the actual address of the Queen- the Palace at St. James Street. That was even worse because literally was like a big house/ barn thing. We saw the Eye of London and the red phone booths. The London bridge and the Tower bridge were really cool. In Hyde park we saw a lot of wild life including ducks, pigeons, dogs, squirrels and horses. There are even horse trails in Hyde park cool huh? Yea. The night before our early morning flight we went to a hotel right next to the airport. It had good enough wifi that I got to skype my mom!
Then we jetted of to Amsterdam the well known city of legal prostitution and legalized weed. Well the city is actually much smaller than I though ti would be. I’m not kidding when I say we walked the whole city it one day. We saw the old Palace of the royalty and all the little streets and river ways. It was also interesting to see Anne Frank’s house which was actually only the hiding spot during the war but very informative and well kept. There wasn’t really anything in there but all the history and stories were shared with the public. It was a sad part of the day knowing what they went through and how bad WWII was. There was one of the Occupy groups in Amsterdam when we were there. It was really cold too. In fact I bought a hat and scarf to stay warm. Coming from Upstate NY one would think I would be accustomed to the cold but nope! This cold was different like bone chilling cold and I had layers on too. I don’t know what it is about Northern Europe but winter is a bad time to visit if you hate the cold. Our hotel was right next to the Red Light District. It was interesting to see that it literally is a part of the city with red lights above the doors with girl in them. Also, another thing is that the streets in this part of the city smell like straight up weed. No joke the cafes just have the doors open and there are people smoking away. We did learn though that only 5% of people from Amsterdam or Holland in general smoke weed. So people, its the tourist that make it so popular for weed. Amsterdam is a very relaxed city that had Christmas markets and the Heineken Factory and the I amsterdam sign. I saw the mini one and it was cool. And this is also the city where our friend Maggie joined us!
Next stop Berlin. Berlin was colder than Amsterdam believe it or not. Our hostel was in East Berlin near the East Side Gallery. That is one of things we saw too. It is a part of the Berlin wall that is still up and people have made art on it for whatever purpose they like. It was really cool to see what people had created. We also saw the square where all the embassies are. Before arriving at this plaza I found DUNKIN DONUTS! And you better believe I had a Carmel Latte. Yumm it was so amazing! Anyway back to Berlin. We also saw the block where there is a momument to the Jews who died in WWII. It takes up a good square block and it is a lot of different sized rectangular blocks in rows. We saw Check Point Charlie and looked at West Berlin then continued the other direction. In all the cities we go to there are free tours that we go on and they are actually really good. So we never actually saw anything in West Berlin but when we were at the East Side Gallery we crossed the line just to say we made it. Berlin is such a big city that I bet some people never see West Berlin and it kind of reminds me of when the wall was up and they said you can’t go over there. Obviously it’s not the same but even today it’s possible not to cross that line. There is a lot of history in East Berlin and maybe West Berlin doesn’t have that much history I don’t know. It was a good time with more Christmas markets that had homemade German food. There was Mulled wine-hot wine that was amazing- and potato pancakes. And Erica got a German boyfriend that gave us free donut hole things and wrote her a note. We saw the outside of all the cool museums in Berlinon Museum Island as it is so properly named. And one museum named the Pergamon Museum has the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gates of Babylon. This museum is basically stolen things from other countries in the past. The next day we went to a comcentration camp about an hour outside Berlin. It was a sad day. Although this wasn’t a major camp it still was a place where people died and were murdered. I learned things I probably never really wanted to know but that is the history of WWII and unfortunately Germany as well. Later that night we got lost on the subway and were finally on the right train and being students and knowing that no one checks the tickets we never bought one. It isn’t like London or NYC where you need a ticket to get it, there simply isn’t a place to check tickets. Well we were on the wrong train at the wrong time and got caught without tickets. It was a 40 Euro fine for each of us. That was a horrible time right there people yelling at you in German and being like what? I don’t understand you. But we paid it and bought a ticket to get to our hostel and life was good. Well we were our 40 Euro but what can you do?
Last stop Brussels. It literally was just like a long layover in Brussels. We were there for not even 24 hours but boy did we see and do a lot. We saw the famous peeing boy which really was just stupid. Again went to again Christmas market in the morning. Ate delicious Belgium waffles that were like heaven on your tongue. We saw the old Palace of Belgium…damnnnnn is all I have to say. They knew how to build a Palace. BEST PALACE I’VE SEEN YET! It was huge like almost triple the size of the Palace of Versailles. IT had views of the city that were just beautiful at sunset. It is now used as the Hall of Justice and Court System and is also being re-furnished, or re-built or re-structured I don’t know the right word. It’s funny how when you don’t use English that much you forget words or sometimes even how to talk. Anyway after that we saw some more gardens. Like I said Europeans love their gardens and they are all beautiful. Then we saw yet another PALACE. It too was incredible. To be honest most buildings in Brussels could be Palaces compared to other Palaces I’ve seen. Brussels is also the home to the head of the EU and it also speaks French and Finnish, neither of which I know. That night we saw a light show and went to another Christmas market. There are a lot of churches in Brussels that are all amazing, big and decorative. Did you know that french fries come from Belgium? Yea I didn’t either. We tried the french fries and they were really good too! Then we hung out a 2 bars for the night. Our flight was at 6 am and there was no point in getting a hostel since our bus for the airport left at 4am and the fact that we had one but there was a mix up and we are students so cheap is always the way to go. We cherry beer and I don’t like beer but this was one of the best drinks I’ve had in Europe, besides that mulled wine I tell you. We finally get going back to Alicante and pass out on the plane as to the point where we don’t remember take off. Then we got home about 10am and I slept straight on through till 6pm at night. I was exhausted.
That ended one of the best trips I’ve taken and believe it or not all my flights were less than 30 Euro! Yupp 30 Euro! I travelled with a good group of friends and there wasn’t a problem in the world. We left our Spanish life for 10 days and had an amazing, cold but amazing trip. But it was still nice to be in the warmth again.
Every trip our group takes it always rains… go figure the place that has 330 days of sunshine we end up with like all 35 days of rain. Sevilla is a very old city and looks very Mediterranean with its very charmy feel. We saw the Palace that has a Muslim influence and is very beautiful. Again the gardens were beautiful, the Europeans and their gardens. It had such pretty colors on the inside. There was some amazing stained glass and fountains. The one big fountain had these huge catfish looking fish.
I found Starbucks everywhere! Thank the Lord! I love my coffee and the Spanish don’t know how to have regular sized coffee I swear it’s all expresso cups where you can drink it all in one sip. Anyway best part and worst part. I had the Peppermint Mocha and it was amazing but then I spilled it everywhere..what do you think I did next??? Any guesses??? That’s right I went and got another one! Come on that was easy. I love my coffee…don’t mess with me when I need coffee.
We also saw the Cathedral which is the 3rd or 4th largest Cathedral in the World. It had the bodies of Christopher Columbus and his son along with a few Kings and royalty. We then climbed to the top of the tower that it has. It has amazing views of the city. I love when you can go to a city and climb up a tower or a hill or mountain or even up to a church and it has the most beautiful views you will ever see in your life. Inside the Cathedral there was a huge golden gated area where they have mass. Also attached to the Cathedral was an area where they have all the documents of the New World and the conquest of Central America. Also a crazy thing about the Cathedral is that there used to be a Mosque literally right next to it or attached to it in history, not sure which but Mosque and Church don’t go together well.
Saw the Plaza de Torros or where the bullfighting takes place and it was along side of a river. It just so happened to be sunset when we were there and the sun setting is so beautiful! We went out that night had some drinks and most people went back early because we had an 8 hour drive back to our home Alicante. We even ate Mexican that night that was sooooo delicious for it being Spain and all. It was a fun trip and it was nice that it was paid for by CIEE since they pay for the 2 weekend trips we take within Spain. So much history in Spain that most people never really get to see the country they stay in… good thing I have next semester.
So my friend Jason from the Paris trip got me addicted to watching the tv series The Vampire Diaries. This shouldn’t be surprising since I love the Twilight Series, read all the books and have seen all the movies up to today. Yes I watched Breaking Dawn or better known here as Amanecer and yes I watched it Spanish. But anyway back to my addiction. I watched 2 episodes with Jason in the airport but they were in the 3rd season of course so I started from the beginning. There are only 3 seasons thank God. I watched 52 episode in in 6 days. This is sad and I am admitting I had a problem, thats the first step right? Well anyway after not really doing anything besides watching Vampire Diaries I decided to spend a little more time on my school work, well kind of. There’s only so much work I could do for hw and readings I had. A few weeks later came presentations and final papers.
But that is un-interesting and kind of boring, what’s better is my madre. My madre and I had some very nice bonding time over movie night and eating pizza. yummm I LOVED IT! For anyone who knows me I love movies and I could literally watch them all day (fyi I have a movie marathon planned for my 20 days home.. feel free to join) My madre is scarily similar to my real mom. They are both clean freaks (sorry mom) and love reading. They both take care of me and love long walks on the beach! haha no seriously though my madre wants to meet my mom and my mom likewise. They have met once via skype but neither of my mothers knows the other language so that was a challenge.
Also during this time my mom has sent me like a million packages, well like 3 but still. They had food- one package for Thanksgiving food, one with peanut butter, granola bars, candy, carmel for my coffee of course, clothes for winter and so on. Damn I didn’t know that it got so cold at night. Although admittedly I should have know that they dont have heat over here, or if they do they dont use it. Until last week we didnt have anything and now we have like a space heater in the living room. I sleep with 4 blankets at night and sometimes I’m still cold but then during the day it hits 70 most days. Weirdest thing ever. I also had Paella for the first time! It is really good and for those of you who don’t know what that is (like all of you probably) its rice with seafood and chicken and some flavoring, if you really want to know google it, I couldn’t translate that if I tried.
One week in November was Semana Cultural or Cultural Week and we had Flamenco Dancing lessons, went to a spice factory, did a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt and didn’t have classes. (best part right there) We also made videos for the cinema class. My group played in a parking lot literally and I did a rain dance…too bad I don’t have that video, anyway and one girl cut her finger on a piece of glass after we went and smashed a bunch of bottles. Fun times right there. We also went to a Turron Factory which is world famous candies during Christmas time, let me tell you they are damn good!
I also had lunch with my long lost friend from Mexico. She was an exchange student in my senior year of high school. Oddly enough we both studied in Alicante this semester…too bad she won’t be here next semester. I didn’t get a chance to see her enough. We had a good time though. It was nice to catch up and just talk about things. I really like her, she’s so nice and we have good times together. We have plans to see each other again before I leave but I don’t know if it’ll happen.
Last week we went to a bar and had Karaoke night. That was probably one of the best nights in Alicante. We were stupid and retarded singing songs in Spanish that we didn’t know and then brought out backstreet boys. Oh yeaa, you know it! Everyone sang and had a good time including our teachers. I realized that night that this group of people is my family and now that there’s only a few days left with them I can’t believe I won’t be seeing them really ever again or at least not soon. It’s a sad thing to become so close to people and then have them leave but I know that we will be friends for a long time because the bond of studying abroad is something that never goes away.
So on the night of October 27th I started my journey to Paris. I went with a friend from my program whose name is Jason another girl Lori. Lori had some mishap with her flight to Madrid so she isn’t in the beginning of this story. Our first flight got delayed from 10pm to almost 12am and so we arrived in Madrid at 1am and slept in the airport until our flight at 6am. This was an experience that under no circumstances do I want to repeat. It is the cheap student way to go and it was only like 5 hours anyway. But it was cold and there was no one there but me and Jason and it was so hard to sleep on the airport benches. None the less it passed by slowly and we eventually got to Paris and decided to walk around the whole day and see the Eiffel Tower which was amazing and one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life. My camera had a few mishaps and deleted some of my pics but it ended up fine.We saw the Arch de Triumph and Notre Dame. So here we are in Paris on almost no sleep in like 35 hours and we decide to buy .70 cent Sangria. Let me tell ya thats not a very good mix and under no circumstances should be repeated. First mistake was having no sleep. Second mistake was drinking the cheapest alcohol on the planet and third mistake was drinking the whole bottle( we each had a bottle) haha needless to say bad things happened like Jason slept in a bathtub and also ended up cutting his forehead open on a desk after jumping from bed to bed. The next day we took it easy and slept in till about 12pm. We went to the Palace of Versailles and it was so beautiful. We ended up getting in for free since we are students in the EU and it was a beautiful thing! The gardens are so extensive and there are statues everywhere. These statues are actually fountains and they had the water going. It was amazing and we spent about 3 hours alone in the gardens. Then inside, while you can’t see all of it, was very impressive. The Hall of Mirrors was really cool and literally is what it sounds like. Overall the Palace of Versailles was the best choice we made for the second day. That night we went to Sacre Coeur, a huge church in Paris by Moulin Rouge. Our hotel was in Moulin Rouge and we saw some on the theaters and such there. We even had dinner at this cool little restaurant down the street from our hotel. I had lamb and potatoes and green beans while Jason and Lori were boring and had pasta. It was the cheapest biggest best meal of all my trips. And even though I didn’t make it to the Louvre my time in Paris was a trip I won’t forget and most of that is due to the craziness and Jason of course, never a dull moment! After leaving Paris, Jason and I had the unfortunate pleasure of having an 8 hour layover in Bologna Italy where we sat in the airport and literally did nothing. Paris was a great trip and was on my list of places I had to see in Europe. I don’t know if I’d go back but it definitely is a must see.