Monday, October 18, 2010

Rome, El Escorial, La Granja, Segovia, y Barcelona

This is all very delayed, somehow I just haven't gotten around to updating this..time is going by so fast!!

Rome: Jocelyn, Maggie, Ali, K-A, Gina and I all traveled to Rome in the beginning of October and it was unbelievable. After the traumatic plane ride we arrived at our guay hostel, changed, and headed out to meet up with some of the Loyola people studying there. The place we went to was called Coyote..Ali and I helped a few italians get in with us (they needed girls) so we kinda sorta made friends, but other than that the bar was kindof a dud in my opinion. We left early to rest up for the next day of sight seeing. First stop the next morning was the Collosseum, which we had driven by the night before in a cab. It was impresionante, just unbelievable being there in person. We took a bunch of pictures and then walked through the Forum. I'm a huge loser but it was incredible being around such ancient structures, so hard to believe. We also visited the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and St. Ignatious of Loyola's cathedral. Lotssss of walking, and the only downfall was the RIDICULOUS lunch where the waiter ripped us off (10 euro soda, speaks for itself). I absolutely loved the Trevi fountain, it was stunning and the whole 3 wishes tradition is adorable. Later that night we had a fabulous pasta dinner and hung out on the Spanish steps with some wine. While there we met some other Americans, and we all made our way back to the Trevi at night, which was all lit up and even more stunning. The next day was rainy, so we did a tour of the Vatican. The line was a pain and the tour guide wasn't the greatest, but it was definitely a good choice and the most educational part of the trip. Being in the Sistine chapel was another one of those awestruck moments. That night we went to a small bar by Erica and Ariana's homestay to hang out and have some drinks. The next day was relaxed, just went shopping, grabbed pizza, and departed for the airport. Unfortunately our flight was delayed 5 hours, so we didn't get home until 7 am :/ But all in all I had a fabulous time, definitely one of my favorite trips.

El Escorial/La Granja: School trip, nothing too exciting. Cool monastery and palace. Most interesting thing was that the American boys we met on the Spanish steps in Rome were there on a tour too..weird..

Segovia: Another school trip. This was a cooler city, with the Roman acueductos, cathedral, and palace. We climbed to the top for a great view, and wandered about the city shopping and admiring the winding roads.

Barcelona: Ohhh barca. Where to begin. Started out great...the Ave was great, really nice hotel, delicious first dinner (pizza of course), until we headed to the ice bar, and I lost my wallet on the metro (damn pickpockets). I was devastated, I hate losing things as it is but it was over 100 euro plus all my credit cards, student ID..everything. It sucked and I was upset the whole night and basically the whole weekend. The ice bar was sooo cool (they were playing Ice Age haha), I wish i could've enjoyed it more. The next day was an early wake up for a morning of Gaudí. His architecture is wild, and very interesting to see. The views of the city were guay, and Maria Jose carted us around to a bunch of important sites, including the Sagrada Familia which was incredible, so impressive and detailed. Free time in the afternoon called for a lunch at the Hard Rock cafe (paid for by Loyola, prob my favorite part of the trip). First real cheeseburger, I was in heaven. That night was Halloween...we all dressed up as Real Madrid players (yea, in Barcelona), drank together in the dorms (got yelled at by the concierge) and headed out to a bar called Opium. It was pretty fun, I didn't drink or stay out late, but it was definitely better than my first night. Our last day was some more sights, the Picasso Museum, quick lunch (pizza again haha) and then back to the station to catch the Ave. I definitely need to get back to Barcelona at some point, losing my wallet put a damper on my weekend and I didn't have as much fun as I could have.

Looking forward to hanging out in Alcalá this weekend. To continue my bad luck streak, the Real Madrid ticket order almost got cancelled..nothing can be simple. But hopefully they will arrive tomorrow morning, and the game is sunday! Can't wait for that. Pictures to come!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

OKTOBERFEST and the beginning of October

My short but sweet trip to Munich, Germany this past weekend was one of the craziest and most exciting adventures of my life. It didn't go smoothly to say the least, but the fun and laughter smoothed over the bumps in the road we encountered. We left Friday morning, and after a brief panic when Kelly-Ann's flight hadn't been booked by the travel agent (luckily she ended up on our flight after all) we arrived in Munich at around 3pm. After getting lost a few times, we wound up on the metro en route to our hostel, when we got off a stop early and ended up at the entrance to Oktoberfest. We we thrilled with our mistake, and all began snapping pictures of the festival and the area around it. I wasn't expecting to love Germany so much, but the orange and yellow leaves decorating the ground around the quaint and statuesque buildings made me feel like I was in a storybook.
We dragged ourselves away from Oktoberfest, anxious for the next day, and continued looking for our hostel, which seemed to be tucked away in the most random corner of Munich. We entered what appeared to be a broken down carnival now filled with seedy looking bars, following signs for the Hostival Hangover, until we reached the dirt patch we would call home for the next two days. Instead of the building we expected, in front of us was a giant tent and a row of outdoor port-a-potty-esque bathrooms. Needless to say, we were taken aback and less than pleased with this living situation. After some complaining and failed attempts to relocate, we dropped our luggage in our sheeted-off quarters and headed out to dinner. One of the most amazing sights I saw that weekend in Germany was stepping off the metro in the city center on our way to dinner. Emerging before us was an incredible church of such antiquated and intricate architecture, I was blown away. The night turned around as we sat down at a steak house and were served the most delicious beer I have tasted in my life, followed by one of the best meals of the trip. Our moods elevated by food and drink, we headed to the Hofbrauhos, one of the most famous beer halls in Germany. I was exhausted, but I enjoyed my first liter of the trip and enjoyed watching the rowdiness of the crowded hall, excited to participate more the following day. We returned to our humble abode and attempted to sleep before the big day ahead of us.
After about an hour of sleep, it was time to get out and head to Oktoberfest. We arrived at 8:30AM and joined the throngs of people entering the festival. I was exhausted and a little cranky at that point, but as soon as we found a table and ordered our liters my mood quickly turned around. It's really hard to describe what exactly makes Oktoberfest so much fun. Merely saying it's a big room full of people drinking, chanting, and cheersing at the same time doesn't give it nearly enough credit. After getting kicked out of the reserved table we stole, we sat in the outside area surrounding the tent, and then met up with some other Loyola students who are abroad in other countries. It was so much fun to see familiar faces, and surreal being altogether at this 200 year old festival in Europe. I had a blast, as well as the best hot dog of my life (probably over a foot long, and I devoured it all). Four of us hit up a ride before leaving (a little dizzying, but gave a great view of the festival), and then we headed home for a quick nap before dinner. I was not one of the few troopers who made it out that night, instead snuggled into the bottom bunk I shared with Ali and passed out before our 11:30AM plane the next morning. It was a very quick trip, but I had more fun than I can describe, and I'm so glad I decided to spend the money on the experience.

So October is off to a great start...this week has been FULL of class, class, and more class. Tues-Thurs are now 9-5 days, and Mon and Fri until 2:45. It's definitely a lot of hours, but the minimal homework makes up for it..sort of. So I'm off to CanCan tonight and then ROME for the weekend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

ya un mes!!

Can't believe it's been a month already! Time is flying..if the rest of my life goes as fast as this semester I need to appreciated every moment. Just woke up from a 4 hours siesta..lots to blog about..

Trip to Valencia:
Over the weekend 6 of us girls went on a little trip to Valencia for two nights. It was the first trip we planned together including transportation and the hostel, and it worked out perfectly. The 4 hour bus ride was tolerable, even with my dead ipod, as the rolling hills and wind turbine farms were a great distraction. The first night we had a late dinner and ran through a downpour to the first club we saw. I was exhausted and still a little sick so I left early to rest at the hostel in preparation for the weekend. Saturday we all got up and ready by 10 for a day of sun, shopping, and ..shrimp. Since Valencia is on the Mediterranean we were all thrilled when we woke up to sun, and immediately headed to the beach. It was beautiful and relaxing, and even though we all got a pit red without sun tan lotion it was nice to soak up some rays and dunk our toes in the Mediterranean. We had lunch at a restaurant on the beach and all shared 2 different paellas, Valencia's most famous dish. No one went near the enormous shrimp but it was pretty good (not as good as Luisa's!) and headed back toward the hostel to walk around Valencia and shop.
The city was beautiful--modern and beachy with palm trees but just as historic and antiguo as Alcalá and other old and traditional Spanish cities. We saw the Plaza de los Toros when they hold bull fights and wandered through the city center's beautiful buildings and shops. We returned to the hostel, got ready for a night out, and had an amazing italian dinner at a restaurant nearby...we always tend to crave italian whenever we have the chance to eat out and pick our own foods. Saturday night we decided to go on the hostel's pub crawl (a wasted 15 euro), and we ended up in the middle of a British "stag" party (bachelor party) with a bunch of crazy and hilarious 30 year olds. After a really fun night we collapsed in bed at the hostel, reconvening bright and early once again at 10 am to check out and head to La Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). There we explored the largest aquarium in Europe, full of tiburones (sharks, our favorite), whales, seals, and so much more. Before heading to the bus statio we grabbed pizza for lunch (soo delicious) and made friends with the owner, who gave us all sombreros. We were quite the American spectacle running to the bus with our matching hats and big backpacks, but we made it to the station with time to spare. It was an awesome weekend and a very successful first independent trip.

Last full week of classes at Alcalingua, and the start of hell...
It's crazy that September is almost over! Our 2 courses at Alcalingua (grammar/conversation) and ending, and we have our finals at the beginning of next week. I'll be sad to say goodbye to these teachers, they're both super nice and fun and i've really enjoyed class with them. For the rest of our time here, along with Maria Jose's class we will have 4 new morning classes at Alcalingua (writing, culture, grammar II and conversation II) as well at a Literature course at the University..which means we will be in class from 9-5 with only a 30 minute break 3 days a week and 9-2:45 the other days..kill me now. After the first two Lit courses the group was in an uproar..the level is WAY too high for us and we can barely understand the teacher during the lesson. Our classmates include fluent european students, native spanish students and even spanish old men...aka people way out of our level. Many of the Loyola students are dropping the course, but as a major I feel like I should stick with it. Maria Jose assured us it won't be as bad as we think and the teacher will cut us slack, but I'm really not looking forward to the busy schedule ahead of me. Instead i'm looking forward to this weekend, and even more so next weekend's trip to OKTOBERFEST in Munich, Germany. It is the 200th anniversary of the festival, and it's sure to be an experience to remember.

Pictures to be added soon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First Full Week of Classes

We just finished our first full week of classes, and now I can see how these four months are going to FLY by...i can't believe how fast this week went. Classes here are much different than at Loyola, so it's a little hard to get used to (and not just because they're all taught in spanish). For September I have a Gramática course from 9-11 am and a Conversación course from 11:30-1:30, as well as twice a week a history/culture course with Maria José. Having 2 hour long classes is definitely an's super hard to focus (especially after a night out) and it gets really tedious sitting in the same room for so long. However the homework is minimal and the teachers are fabulous...Sonia and Alicia are sassy spanish pistols who are loud, enthusiastic, and all around really fun teachers. The atmosphere in class is super laid back, I don't think i've ever laughed so hard in any class as Loyola. With me in the B2 upper intermediate level are several other Loyola students, 3 boys from China, and 2 girls from Korea. The grammar review we've been working on is a little repetitive but definitely needed...I don't think i'll ever full mater the complex rules and exceptions to the spanish language. But for the most part the spanish lessons have been pretty easy to follow, and I really think all this contact time will help me improve my listening and speaking skills. Maria José's class will definitely be the most challenging but probably the most mentally stimulating. We will learn about the history and tradition of Spain as well as contemporary culture in literature, movies, etc. It'll be interesting to be experiencing first hand what I'm learning in class, and I really hope to take full advantage of being so close to the museums and galleries of Madrid.

Even with class this week has been just as fun as the others! Tuesday we went to La Media Pinta and Thursday we finally made it to CanCan (which was awesomeeee!). Going out on school nights is challenging since nights out go sooo much later here, but it's definitely worth the hangover/mental exhaustion the next there's always siesta to recuperate :) Last night was fun at La Media Pinta and Casco Antiguo, and there is talk of a pub crawl tonight, so the weekend is shaping up to be a fun one. Madrid tomorrow for El Rasco (flea market) to end another awesome week!

Monday, September 6, 2010


It was a successful second week in Alcalá, with visits to La Media Pinta and many stores on Calle Mayor. Friday was our first night out in Madrid! It was also our first day of classes, so a little on those first. After the placement test I scored into the Intermediate level at Alcalingua, and my two morning classes (Gramática y Conversación) are witha few other Loyola students as well as some from China and Korea. There are also a LOT of European Students studying business, so I definitely am looking forward to socializing with all of them (I met 3 French students at La Media Pinta during the week!) Anyway, our teachers are extremely nice and passionate, and relatively easy to understand. The hardest part is going to be the long days...I'm not used to sitting from 9-5 with only short breaks! Tomorrow we start Maria José's class, hope I can manage it all!!

Now to the fun was a Madrid-filled weekend! Friday night after our post-class siestas we ventured to Madrid to meet some visiting Loyola students (who came with their international friends) and experience infamous Madrid club life. The train was extremely easy to navigate, and we drank juice boxes of 1 euro sangria on the 30 minute ride. We arrived and sat down to a nice dinner near the train station where we drank wine and chatted over some delicious italian food (how I miss pasta!). After dinner we headed to a small bar nearby for some more drinking and socializing, before our final destination: El Kapital. Kapital is a 7 floor discoteca, a club like I had never experienced before. The first floor was house music with fog and flashing lights, and the top floor was a open air bar/lounge. I met a bunch of other Spanish students in Madrid...speaking with them has been really great practice. Needless to say we had an awesome time! The trains start running again at around 6AM, so I wasn't home until 7:30AM. I look forward to many more Madrid adventures this semester!!

After recouperating all day and night Saturday, we returned to Madrid for a day trip with Maria José on Sunday. At 11 AM we met by La Biblioteca Nacional and set off on foot to explore a bit of the city. Madrid was STUNNING, i'm so excited to be so close to such an amazing and historic city. We saw La Puerta de Alcalá, the gate which leads directly back to our new home, as well as El Catedral and El Palacio Nacional (Maria José told us about the underground tunnel that connects to two so the royal family can attend mass without going into the streets!) The 20 of us took one of those double decker sight seeing buses which I loved, and ended up in Plaza Mayor for lunch. With Loyola's money in hand, 8 of us found a small Italian restaurant for lunch, and then finished our day with some shopping. I have yet to make any big purchases which in Spain in an effort to maintain my bank account, but I'm itching to purchase some European clothes to wear out and bring home!!

It was a tiring day, my feet were sore and callused when I returned to my apartment, and I was happy to collapse into bed for an early night. This week is a full week of classes, but of course we will make time for La Media Pinta and perhaps even a local discoteca called CanCan. Looking forward to meeting more international students and the travelling that lies ahead this semester!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Asturias: Primer Viaje con el Grupo

On Day 4 of Spain we headed to Asturias in the north of Spain for the first trip all together as a group. We started the treacherous 6 hours bus ride at around 8AM and arrived in Oviedo, the capital of Asturia. While I was under the impression that Asturias was one city, it is actually a comunidad autónoma, similar to a state in the US. Maria José told a little bit of history as we gathered around the cathedral, and mentioned that the current Prince's wife was from this town. Then we split up for lunch and had our first experience of sidra. Que delicioso! Sidra es la bebida típica de Asturias, and we drank a lot of it over the 4 day trip. After a delicious and inexpensive lunch it was back on the bus to Gijón, where our hotel was. All 20 of us went out for tapas, más sidra, and a little night on the town, which ended on the beach basking in the freedom and excitment of living and traveling abroad.

The next morning (Friday, August 27th) we woke up early and headed to las playas de Ribadesella, one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen. We strolled the beach and put our feet in the waves before being dragged away to Llanes for a conferencia and tour of the battle fields. It was a long and tiring rest of the day in Llanes before we were able to go back to Gijón and collapse into our beds.

Saturday was my favorite day of the trip. We started the morning by heading to Covadonga, en los picos de europa where we were surrounded by some of the most luscious and awe-inspiring scenery I have ever experienced. The Basilica at Covadonga was spectacular, set against the foggy mountains and greenery. We abandoned the now-detested large group bus for a few smaller ones to brave the steep height of the mountains to reach the glacier lakes on top. After passing muchas vacas we found our way to the lakes, which were eerily beautiful and an amazing sight to behold. After trekking down the slopes we made our way to a beautiful beach, a far cry from the chilly peaks of the mountains. That night we all went out to celebrate our last night in Asturias, and came across a courtyard full of bars and people, where we met boys from Gijón as well as the Netherlands. It was crazy and fun and a great way to end the trip.

Sunday, the last day, we awoke exhausted but fulfilled, ready for some kayaking on Río Sella, one of the cleanest rivers in the world. Along the way we stopped to have lunch and swim, as well as do some cliff jumping with others along the edge of the river. I was scared but it was exhilerating jumping from the 20 ft. rocks into the clean river below, and everyone was having the time of their lives (except maybe Amanda, who belly flopped and scared us all half to death). The strenuous activity felt good but was a strain on our weak bodies, and I slept most of the long ride back to Alcalá.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Days in Alcalá

El principio de mi semestre! We arrived in Madrid on Monday, August 24, after an exhausting flight and made our way to Alcalá, our home for the next four months. When we arrived, the home stay kids scuttled off the bus to meet our host families. I am living with Luisa, una abuela, and a Chines graduate student named Lilly (who is leaving at the end of September). Spanish slowly started creeping back into my mind as I tried to communicate with Luisa over lunch of slightly intimidating paella. After running a few errands with the group I returned to my little room, got a little organized, swallowed the feeling of home sickness, and went to sleep.
(Plaza de Cervantes)

The next day (Tuesday) I met with the group in the Plaza for a tour and more errands. We had a delicious lunch together, I bought my cell phone, and I found my way back to my house for the first time by myself (about a 20 minute walk). That night we all went out together as a group, meeting in the Plaza de Cervantes for some sangria. This week was the fiestas in Alcalá, so there were tons of people in the plaza and the streets celebrating the end of las vacaciones. We all headed to a bar called La Media Pinta, which reminded us of home, all high on the excitement of being together in Spain. Walking home I realized that everything looked different at night and got lost for over 2 hours, finally navigating the way to my house at around 5:50 AM. After that the walk home is definitely seared in my memory..I won't be getting lost again any time soon.

(I saw the saying "Vive Ahora!" on this sangria glass and named my blog after it)

Wednesday was a free day. I had lunch on Calle Mayor with Amanda, and met with a few others in the group (Ali, Kelly-Ann, Gina, Sean, Maggie, and Jocelyn) at La Media Pinta to use their Wifi to book a flight to Germany for Oktoberfest. After charging a scary amount to my dwindling bank account, I returned home to shower and pack for the weekend before another night out. The 8 of us met up to to Las Ferias (the fairs) in Alcalá as a finale to the week of fiestas. The fair was huge and lit up in a glowing rainbow of colors against the dark sky. I bought a little bag for 10 euros and we all rode the ferris wheel high above the bustling crowds. We came home early in anticipation of our 7AM wake up for our first group trip to Asturias the next morning. All in all an exciting start to my journey!