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!