Archive for August, 2011

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Un día sin fotos…

August 31, 2011

Yesterday, I took 80 pictures. So, today, I was kind of wary to take any… it seemed a little unnecessary, especially since I went to a lot of the same places that I was yesterday. But I was glad to have had both: yesterday I had some time alone to explore, and today, I stayed with friends most of the day.

It’s crazy to me that I’ve only been here a bit more than a week. I’ve already done so much! Some of the friends I have are close, but we were strangers a week ago. A week ago, the streets I walk every day were so intimidating, and I got lost really easily, and now, I consider them my home. A week ago, it overwhelmed me to hear Spanish all the time, now I find it hard to speak English because my auto-pilot has switched over to Spanish. I just can’t even imagine what it’ll be like after four months.

Today, I wandered around the city with six of my friends… peeking in a couple shops, not buying much, and just enjoying each other’s company. We went to a pizzeria for lunch; I bought salad, but it wasn’t exactly salad in my opinion–no lettuce. It was tomato slices, covered in olive oil, mozzarella cheese, spices, basil, and pesto. It was delcious, just a bit overpriced for what it was. Then we wandered around more, partially in the area around the Arc de Triomf, and partially in the Barrio Gótico.

This picture is from a couple nights ago, but this is also the group I hung out with today.

In one of our ramblings around the city, we ended up in a random dollar store (or I guess it would be a euro store here?), and it was pretty awesome. I bought a biography of Antonio Banderas, for €1! Amazing! 🙂

Um... yes! 🙂

I’m so excited for the new Almodovar movie coming out this Friday (if I can find it somewhere around here)–it has Antonio Banderas, it’s a thriller, and it’s Almodovar: what more could I want? haha.

I mentioned this yesterday, but I will go into more detail now since I have less prisa. (see, I’m telling you, auto-pilot=Spanish) I think it’s really cool that, when I’m alone or with a small group of non-super-American-looking people with good accents, the automatic language that people speak with me is Castellano (Spanish). It bothers me and makes me feel like a stupid American tourist when a shopkeeper or waiter or something automatically speaks to me in English. I want to appear like I belong here, not that I’m another stupid tourist that can be ripped off. But yesterday, I had so many people speak to me in Castellano, and I even had people come up and ask me for directions in Spanish. Unfortunately, I’m not well-versed enough in the streets of the Barrio Gotico to have helped them, but it made me feel good anyway. There’s just something about being mistaken for a Spanish person that makes me SO excited. Perhaps I really could survive here for more than just 4 months. 🙂

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La Boquería y El Barrio Gótico

August 30, 2011

It’s late, and I’m tired, so just a quicky for tonight.

Here’s the rundown: Yesterday, I had a completely uneventful day, mostly because I had an awful stomach ache and I didn’t feel like doing anything. I stayed at the CIEE “casa” and talked with some fellow students after class for about 2 hours, and then I went home, ate leftover pizza, and slept. After that, I wrote some blog entries (the preceding ones), spent some time on facebook, and did homework. Then I had dinner, and tried to go to sleep afterwards, but, due to the 1 1/2 hour nap I’d taken, I found it impossible to sleep. So I stayed up until after 2 am, texting with my friends back home and trying to sleep.

So, today, I was pretty tired. But I decided I would NOT take a nap again. And my stomach was much better! So a couple of friends and I went to the Boquería, which is a really fun marketplace in Las Ramblas. I took about a million pictures, which you can see if you are facebook friends with me. Otherwise, you can see the couple I’ve put here, below.

The entrance to "La Boquería"

LOTS of raw fish

And raw meat, of course

Mmmm candy!

So much exotic fruit. I wish I could try it all!

Next, we went back to the CIEE “casa”, because some people in the group had to have their advising sessions for classes. Some of my friends wanted to use the internet there, so they did all their internetty things. After spending all day yesterday on the computer, I didn’t really feel like it, so I got bored, but it was okay. I tried to find info about the new Pedro Almodovar movie which is supposed to come out this friday, but that was a bust. Then I tried to decide which Barça game I want to go to this year, but it was too hard to decide. So then I just waited.

Finally, we left to go get some lunch (at 5 pm! So strange!). We walked to La Residencia (where people live if they don’t want to live in a homestay), passed the Arc de Triomf (pictured below), and ate at a yummy pizzeria on the way.

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

Then the three of us that don’t live in the residencia went back to our houses, but I was tired of taking public transport and I had over an hour and a half before I had to be back for dinner, so I decided to do some exploring on my own. Destination: Barrio Gotico (The Gothic Neighborhood). I took a ton of pictures of that too, although fewer than the boqueria because I hate looking like a tourist when I’m alone, because I can actually pull off not looking too touristy when I’m not with a group of Americans. Anyway, below are some pictures of that.

La Catedral

A guitar player in "El Barrio Gótico"

🙂 I think the narrow alleyways and the old stone buildings make this my favorite neighborhood of the city.

I got a little lost, but that’s the fun of exploring a big city! And I had a map so it was all good. I ended up arriving home about 5-10 minutes late for dinner, sweaty and tired, but definitely happy. Ah, I love this city.

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Unintentional cellphone handbook humor

August 29, 2011

I was getting out the charger for my Spanish cellphone, and I decided to look over the user manual, which caused… laughter? Who would have thought?

I circled some of my favorite “precauciones de seguridad” that I learned from my manual. They’re in Spanish, but don’t worry, I’ll translate for you.

Use the device with caution while you walk or move. Always pay attention to your surroundings to avoid physical harm to you or to those around you.” – Better translation: don’t be an American teenager.

Don’t put the device in outer pockets or around your belt. You could hurt yourself or damage the device if you fall.” – Because falling for no apparent reason doesn’t hurt at all if you don’t have a cell phone in your pocket.

When you use the device in public, try not to annoy the people around you.” – Yet again, don’t be an American teenager.

Don’t allow children to use the device. It is not a toy. Don’t allow kids to play with it, because they can hurt themselves and hurt others, damage the device or make calls that augment your paid charges.” – I guess they kind of have a point here, but it made me laugh. Besides, how many kids actually harm themselves or others by using a cellphone? What, are they gonna throw it at someone?

Don’t put the device in/on heaters, microwaves, kitchen appliances, or any high pressure container, nor close to them. The battery could leak. The device could overheat and catch on fire.” – Aww, dangit! I was just about to try microwaving my phone to see if it’d send a text message faster.

Turn off the device in potentially explosive environments.” – Enough said. haha.

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¡A Vilanova!

August 29, 2011

The group of us from CIEE that went to Vilanova

(I was about to start writing in Spanish…augh so strange!)

Vale. (Alright.) Yesterday, a group of us went to visit Silvia, one of the “Guardian Angels” from the University, in Vilanova, which is a small city to the South of Barcelona. (Guardian Angels are Spanish students that CIEE hired to sort of watch over a group of us Americans so we know what we’re getting ourselves into and so we can ask her anything and it’s more personal than talking to an adult staff member.) Anyway. A group of us met up at the train station at 2:30 PM and took Renfe (the Spanish train system) to Vilanova. It was a really nice ride, like 40 minutes long, and had a pretty view of the area south of Barcelona.

Silvia met us at the train station, and while we waited for the rest of the CIEE students that were taking the next train, the four of us in the early group waited at a bar. I wasn’t going to get anything, but peer pressure and the general fun-factor of getting a legal drink that would be otherwise illegal for me in the US, made me decide to get a Mojito. And I’m so glad I did… SO delicious!

Mojito riquísimo

Afterwards, the rest of the group came, and we chatted for a couple minutes while some people got drinks. Then, we walked around Vilanova a bit, and Sylvia explained to us a little about the city. According to legend (if I remember correctly), Vilanova (which means “new town”) was started because there used to be a king or some kind of very rich, very powerful man, who demanded that every woman who got married would have to sleep with him on her wedding night before she could go be with her new husband. The people accepted this for a long time, until one couple decided to run away and avoid this fate, and they started the new town. But don’t take my word for it… I tried to look it up online to check myself and couldn’t find it, so I may have heard her wrong. In any case, it’s a very pretty town, and there’s an old castle there that’s very rustic and nice.

Castle of Vilanova

Next, we went and got some gelato that was DELICIOUS! I got dark chocolate gelato, and oh my goodness. Best thing ever. The Split Banana (a small gelato shop from where I’m from in Virginia), although delicious in its own right, really doesn’t hold a candle to this place. From the gelato shop, we went to the beach!!

La Playa en Vilanova

The beach was, in a word, perfect. It was warm outside and cool in the water–not freezing, but not too hot either. The waves were large enough to enjoy, but not too big to pull you under or anything. The wind was refreshing for a warm day, but not so strong as to blow everything away. I know, I’m probably making all of you hate me out of jealousy right now–if I haven’t already from earlier posts–but, ah, it was good.

There’s a famous bull sculpture at the beach in Vilanova. I didn’t really hear Sylvia well when she was talking about it, and I won’t BS a story like I may have done about the origin of the town, but I know its something about fertility. Other than that, I’m not sure.

The Bull Statue in Vilanova

After the beach, we went to Sitges, which is the town next to Vilanova, famous for its beaches and its gay community (but, surprisingly, I didn’t see a single gay couple while I was there). In short, we walked around the city a bit, got really hungry, and then left. I don’t remember much and I didn’t feel like taking pictures there because I know we’re going back next weekend as an official CIEE trip, and I wasn’t really feeling well by the time we got there. There were some really cool sand sculptures there, which I hope I can take pictures of next week, and there is also a really pretty church that overlooks the water.

Then, we took the train back to Barcelona. I ate at a touristy/slightly overpriced restaurant with two friends because we had missed dinner with our families, but it ended up working out for the better, because I had a large portion that I saved for lunch today. I got back at 11 PM, and I went to sleep. So ended my first weekend in Cataluña. ¡Que guay!

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Un Dia de Puta Madre en Barcelona!

August 27, 2011

Yesterday was, as they say in Spain, “de puta madre” = “freaking awesome”. It was long and full and fun! I crammed enough stuff into it to make it feel like a lot more than just one day.

First, of course, I had class. 9-12:30, every day. Then my friend Lauren and I walked over to my house because I was gonna get my bathing suit in case we wanted to go to the beach (but that didn’t end up happening). Then we took a bus/walked to her house for her to drop off some stuff, and then we went out to lunch. On the way, we walked Paseo de Gracia–quite the tourist street–and we passed two of the famous Gaudi houses. I’m so jealous–she lives a couple blocks from them!

Casa Batllo by Gaudi

Casa Mila, aka La Pedrera (The Quarry)

It took us a while to find a place to eat. We wanted someplace to sit down inside, but we didn’t want to pay a ton or be surrounded by tourists. We passed a couple good places, but we hated the fact that the people who worked there greeted us in English. No! We don’t want to be freaking American tourists! But finally we found a great place. We ordered a liter of Sangria between us, and I got a Barbeque Pizza–of which I only ate half, even though the waitress assured me it was for a single person. All the better b/c now I have free lunch today! 🙂

Sangria

My friend and I drank this by ourselves--so delicious!! 🙂

Yum. 🙂

After lunch, I walked all the way home–probably like 45 minutes away. I thought it was better that way because I wanted to see the city better and I didn’t really have any special commitments. It started raining which was so much fun. I got so wet but it was so refreshing! When I got home, I talked with my host mom, and she took me out to buy a “movil” because everyone else in my group had one and the kept pestering me. Plus, I really did need a way to communicate other than email and facebook. I ended up getting “happy movil”, because it was the cheapest. I spent like $35 total, in US currency, and I got a free phone.

After we bought my phone, my host mom showed me around and took me to this cool market: The Market of St. Anthony. I bought some cool catalan-style sandals. Then I went back to the house and got ready to go out for Tapas. I met with my group for tapas, and we ate delicious food and drank delicious sangria, and we also each got a shot of “crema catalana” which was really sweet but good. Then we went to this bar and ordered huge towers of cerveza, which we split with a ton of people, so it really didn’t end up being all that much per person. It was fun, though.

And then, Razzmatazz, one of the most famous clubs in Barcelona. Partying it up, all night long. From about 1:30 until 5:45. It was pretty intense. And I’m still really tired, even now.

So this post took me a lot longer than I was expecting it to take me, but I finally got it all out there. In sum, yesterday (which in Barcelona time is now the day before yesterday) was one of the best days ever. And there are many more to come. 🙂

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Mi primera cerveza legal!

August 25, 2011

La Cerveza "BitBurger"

I’m 20, which means it’s illegal for me to drink in the US. However, in Spain, with a 18-year-old drinking age, I can drink! A couple of friends and I went get tapas and drinks after our bus tour of the city that we did with CIEE. It was a pretty touristy section of the city so it was high prices for comparatively crappy food/drinks, but it was fun, and we had a great time getting to know each other better. I’m excited for many more moments like these, and many more cervezas more authentically Spanish and less touristy than Bitburger (although I actually liked how it tasted… better than some other beers I’ve tried).

Readers (if I have any), what was your first legal beer like?

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The World Outside my Window

August 24, 2011

First of all: I did get my luggage back! Yay!

Short resumen de mi día: (Sorry… I’m having problems stopping my usage of Spanish.) I had class from 9:00-12:30, and then we had a session about academics. Next, we had lunch, and then we were free to do whatever. I walked a couple blocks to get some school supplies and then I came back and got my luggage. Then, I got a bit lost because I got off on the wrong bus stop and I had no idea which direction I needed to go, and I kept wandering around looking for my street, all the while rolling my luggage around. I ended up swallowing my pride and asking a nice-looking Spanish woman for directions, and I was only one street away. But then I had problems opening the door… the keys in europe are so different from American keys. (see picture of my three keys in Spain) I finally got in and then I took an accidental 30-minute nap or so. Then my host family got home–not sure from where exactly–and we went on a quick walk around the neighborhood. We went to the Plaza España and looked out over this former bull-fighting arena that is now a mall, and when you go to the top, you end up on a roof where you can see the whole city. It’s pretty cool. I didn’t feel like taking pictures of that today, but believe me, I will be putting up pictures of that soon! We returned and had dinner (delicious!). That’s pretty much all I did, apart from take some pictures, which you can peruse through below. (You can click any of the pictures for a bigger version.)

Mis llaves--que bonitas, ¿no? (my keys--so pretty, aren't they?)

The view from my window--I'm not really sure what it is

This is a much better view--the view from the living room.

I haven’t taken many pictures yet, but more are definitely coming soon!

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