Spring Break 2k15

I got to travel to 9 different cities over my 2 week long spring break which is absolutely crazy to say. I had been looking forward to this trip since it was planned at the end of February but I knew once it came my time in Spain would be coming to an end. It went by super fast and flying back to Valencia I had a feeling of “ah I’m home.” Valencia does feel a little like home and I was excited to get back to my host family and share my adventures, have my bed and home cooked meals. I can’t believe that in 8 days I will be home in the United States and although I’m excited I am also kind of anxious. I love the US and am so excited to see everyone but I’m going to really miss Spain. I have met amazing friends, had an outstanding host family and have made memories to last a life time and I’m scared to leave. I think it’s more knowing that next May I graduate and enter the real world but I want to be able to travel so much still as I get older. I feel like I have matured a lot being here and there is so much of the world that I haven’t seen but I would love to! Heck there’s so much of the US that I haven’t got to see!

Anyway I could write so much about each city but I have a lot to write about and don’t want a giant blog post so the first stop on my spring break was Trieste, Italy! Although I basically just spent the night there and only walked around for a couple hours the next day, it was beautiful. I like the small town vibe and it seemed like everyone was so happy. I would have loved to spend 2 nights there but I think I still saw most of the important monuments in the city.

20150331_095330 DSC09730

               When I stepped off the train in Venice I was in awe. I couldn’t believe that in 2 hours it seemed like I had traveled to a new world. There were people everywhere along with stands selling food or clothing or souvenirs as well as people selling things like selfie sticks (I eventually bought and used it throughout the vacation). It’s hard to explain but Venice immediately felt different and I loved it. We had 2 nights there and for the most part we just explored the city and I was amazed by the little details like the bridges over the canals and all the tiny walk ways that made it feel so unique. At night we decided to walk around and “get lost” in Venice which we did but eventually found our way to the hostel but some of the side walks were flooded! Obviously it’s bound to happen but seeing it and seeing people take their shoes off and walk through it or get creative and climb on the cement walls next to the canals was crazy. It’s hard to pick one high light from Venice because everything was cool and different. I loved how there were no cars and we could easily walk everywhere and I love how everywhere I looked it felt like I was in a movie! It was definitely one of the coolest cities I have ever seen. 🙂

20150401_135503 DSC09794 DSC09815

          Next stop was Florence which yet again felt so different! Everything was much taller and there were tourists everywhere, so with the people who live there plus the tourists people were walking in the streets like it wasn’t a big deal even though there was traffic! A couple girls we met in our Venice hostel said everything in Florence is really close together so we should be able to see most of it and I think we did. One of the first things I saw after the train station was the Duomo which is an enormous cathedral that has green, white and red colors and I couldn’t stop staring because it looked so awesome. The first night we hiked up to see the statue of David by Michelangelo and the view was stunning. I could see all of Florence and watching the sun set was so beautiful I could have cried. It it would’ve been a little warmer I would have loved to have a picnic as the sun was setting but it was perfect nonetheless. There were a lot of plazas and churches in Florence and we got to see almost all! I’ll also remember all the naked statues I saw there and the little markets which are well known in the area!

20150402_191858 DSC09833 DSC09913

          Next was Naples, and unfortunately out of the gate, I wasn’t impressed. Kayla and I had missed our connecting train from Rome to Naples so we arrived 3 hours later as it was getting dark and was rainy and cloudy. The second I stepped outside the train station I noticed all the trash, graffiti, construction and car horns. I know it wasn’t the best neighborhood by any means but earlier cities I think we were spoiled by being so impressed the second we saw the city. The next day, Easter Sunday we decided to go to Pompeii which I absolutely loved! I really felt like I had traveled back in time because for being almost completely destroyed, there were so many ruins. It was a lot bigger than I expected and I know we didn’t get to see everything but we still saw a good amount. It was crazy to see petrified bodies and vases that were recovered. Unfortunately a storm rolled in and it started to pour so we decided the 3 hours was sufficient and we were going to take the metro back. Surprise! The metro stopped at 1 pm and now the only two options were a bus which was 20 euros per person or a taxi which luckily only ended up being 16 per person. Naples was also really rainy and crappy so we decided to make our Easter lunch which consisted of ramen noodles…haha. I think if the weather wouldn’t have been so bad it would’ve been much easier to enjoy Naples but I just didn’t feel safe there so at night we didn’t go out and the next morning we walked around a little bit of the historical quarter and saw the cathedral which we entered and was beautiful! I’m glad I saw Naples and although I wasn’t impressed I would definitely give it another chance if I returned to Rome because I have heard great things about it despite the mafias.

20150405_121404 DSC09968 DSC09994

          Finally we arrived in Rome and boy was I blown away! Of course I had heard amazing things about Rome but I never expected it to be how it was which was breath taking. I’m not kidding, everywhere you look there is something to be seen. The first night we were there we did the Spanish steps while the sun was starting to set which was just gorgeous, again I felt like a movie with the sun shining, people everywhere and music being played. We headed to the Trevi Fountain and ran into a huge monument which ended up being Piazza de Venecia then got to the fountain which was partially under construction with no water but I didn’t mind! I still threw a coin behind my back and made it into where water should have been. I definitely want to go back when it’s not being worked on. We ate at this restaurant got 2 free wine bottles and had amazing pasta, they treated us like royalty! Then we saw the Pantheon to end the night and the next day we went to the Roman Forum and Colosseum. The Forum was mind blowing, there were so much to see and it was beautiful! Of course I loved the Colosseum, it was all surreal…I can’t believe I was in there, never thought that would happen in my life, always hoped but yeah! After hours in the both of those we walked all the way to the Vatican and stood outside taking it all in for awhile then we got to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. It was absolutely incredible. I had no idea a church could be so beautiful but it was, I couldn’t stop staring at everything.

DSC00064 DSC00090 DSC00119

          After two nights in Rome we thought we would be heading to Ibiza on Wednesday morning but the night before we got an email saying the flight was cancelled. Surprisingly we were fairly calm and decided to just go to the airport tomorrow to figure everything out. We got there around 9 or 10 and were there until 1:30 and were put in a “hotel” in Rome, Ciampino which was very small and the nearest place to buy food was almost 2 miles away. We had pushed back our vacation one day so we could still have 3 nights in Ibiza but oh surprise surprise Wednesday night we got a email that our connecting flight from Holland to Ibiza was cancelled (we had a flight from Rome to Eindhoven and Eindhoven to Ibiza). We were at the airport for almost 12 hours and finally got a flight booked from Milan to Ibiza…Saturday morning. We were pretty much stranded in Rome since they refused to put us in a hotel (don’t worry we kept every receipt and already requested a lot of money back). Anyways we decided to get a night train to Milan so we could sleep but also be in the city where our flight was. We just showed up in Milan with no where to go so we found a McDonalds and figured out where to stay close to the airport. Surprise again, we didn’t realize Milan-Bergamo where Ryanair flies is about 1.5 hours by bus away from Milan. Long story short Milan was pretty for the 2 hours we saw of it, the bus rides were long and we were even on an Italian school bus as it was packed, I mean PACKED with middle schoolers. We learned to laugh it off and I’m lucky that I have these girls as my friends because we made a pretty crappy situation into something that was bearable and we’ll always remember. ❤ Also the pictures below are of me trying to politely refuse the food to feed the pigeons because I don’t like having money sucked from me and the beautiful cathedral in Milan!

20150410_074816 DSC00129

          When we finally got to Bergamo it was beautiful and I wish we had more time to explore it! Luckily the bed and breakfast we stayed in was pretty cheap and very nice. Eventually we got to Ibiza at 9 am and headed to the hotel and got ready then went out for lunch. We got some drinks for the beach and enjoyed what sun there was as well as the beautiful blue water. When we called it a day we returned to the hotel and did some stupid silly games like truth or dare and eventually just passed out because we were all exhausted. The next morning we woke up to a perfect view, got some coffee right on the boardwalk then got a cocktail and headed to the airport. It was an amazing break and I’m glad I got to spend it with such amazing people! At least we have a pretty funny story to tell and maybe we’ll even get some reimbursement from Ryanair!

20150411_154111

          This week we went to Javea on Monday and of course it was beautiful I would love to have a vacation home there if only it were closer to the US! On Thursday I got my first fish pedicure which was super cool! It didn’t tickle as bad as I would have thought but it was just so weird to think about, but I liked it! Last night was when I went to Mya, a club near the city of arts and sciences, and I was having a lot of fun until I realized my phone was gone! It’s unfortunate to say but I rely on my phone so much. Of course while I’ve been here I am not on it hardly at all unless I’m in my home because there is so much to absorb around me and it’s not necessary to be so worried about technology but there’s so many personal things on my phone that it would be such a pain to lose it! I don’t know who turned it in but I wish I could thank them because the amount of times people have told me that I was extremely lucky and that this seriously never happens has been a lot and I’m just so thankful. Some things have gone wrong while I’ve been here but that’s life and what that has taught me is priceless.

          Tomorrow the ISA group is heading to Montenejos, a small town in a mountain, and we get to go hiking, rafting, swimming and ziplining! I am so excited and it is our last hooray! It’s sad and crazy to think that I come back to the US in one week because the people I’ve met here are amazing and I will miss them so much. It’s insane that Valencia has become my home, I would’ve never expected that but I feel comfortable and anyone who knows me knows I love palm trees and not that I’m taking them for granted, but seeing palm trees doesn’t even cross my mind now because I am so used to them and it feels like home. The amount my Spanish has improved is amazing and I really hope I can utilize it this summer but I am excited to come home. I will keep the sweet memories I have made here forever and cherish everything as life is short and the fact that I got to live in another country for 3.5 months is something incredible! 🙂 ❤

Advertisements

Fallas and Paris!

I’ve been having the best time here in Spain. It has been awhile since my last blog but it’s hard to keep up with when there’s so much going on here and especially since Fallas just ended and I just got back from a weekend trip to Paris! Last Friday I finally made it to a Valencia soccer game which was very cool to experience. I’m glad I enjoy soccer because it is a huge part of the culture here and it was great to see a game atmosphere that is very similar to football games in the U.S. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay very long because earlier I got an email saying my wallet that was stolen from the gym I go to was returned (mainly) so I wanted to get it before the gym closed. Luckily I got my ID back and my credit cards…however I had already cancelled them so that wasn’t much help.

20150313_214039 IMG-20150315-WA0030

          Basically Fallas was amazing. I’m glad I keep a journal because there is so much that happened that I want to remember and it’s hard when everyday is filled with so many activities. Fallas celebrates Saint Joseph and is a week long of partying and good food. The people who build the enormous fallas (I posted pictures on Facebook) are in different fallas clubs from the Valencian area that do fundraisers throughout the year to make the biggest/best falla they can. It is normal for the price range of the finished project to be from 300,000-700,000 euros which is a hard fact for my brain to grasp. The falla clubs that know they won’t win sometimes spend more money on their parties which can be just as important! From Sunday to Wednesday the days and nights are filled with music, dancing and a verbena or discomovil is the party in the street where there is a tent, or not, and usually a DJ, bar and a ton of people enjoying the party. When I say a ton of people, I mean it. Around the popular areas it is pretty hard to walk so usually we just squeezed our way into a spot and stayed there! I think every night except Thursday night I came home past 4:00 at the earliest! It is totally normal especially during fallas and I have finally become accustomed to this although it’s exhausting.

IMG-20150318-WA0052

          During fallas petardos (firecrackers) are legal and I kid you not they are always being lit off. It’s kind of like 4th of July but for a week or more straight (I think they started at the beginning of March) and a lot louder. The amount of times I jumped and threw out a curse word is absolutely crazy. The mascletas were always amazing and extremely loud. During the actual week of fallas, downtown was packed and I think I only went to two or three mascletas because the town nearly doubles in size and before fallas we had went to quite a few. It’s awesome to see the people get so hyped over 5 minutes of loud bangs except it’s more than that. It’s tradition and each mascleta is unique with who creates it and how the rhythm of the firecrackers are. During fallas there were castillos (fireworks) every night and that was a sight! They lasted 15-20 minutes and were some of the most interesting fireworks I have ever seen. The fireworks were at 12, 1 and 1:30 and after that is when people went to verbenas to party all night long! Unfortunately the weather for Fallas wasn’t the best, it rained most nights but nevertheless we enjoyed it! Wednesday night which is the craziest night since Thursday the fallas get burned and there is no party in the street, it was pouring and the fireworks almost got cancelled but luckily they didn’t! We almost didn’t go but decided that was not an option since we need to live our lives here while we can and I’m so glad we did because we had an amazing night! Plus sometimes rain makes everything more fun. 🙂

20150314_135853 IMG-20150319-WA0009

          Thursday was definitely a recuperation day and I didn’t really do anything all day because I was so exhausted. It was also rainy and cloudy so I just wanted to lay in bed anyway! We left to go see Plaza Pilar which had the winning falla and got there around 11:30 and thought the burning would start at 12:00 but then found out it wouldn’t start until 12:30 and of course, it being Spanish time, the falla really didn’t start to burn until 12:50! My host parents warned us that the plaza would be tiny and there would be so many people that it wouldn’t be fun but I didn’t imagine it to be as small as it was. Luckily we had good timing because as we arrived people left and we were able to take their spot. We originally weren’t going to watch Pilar get burned but we decided since we were already there how cool it would be too see the winner get burned! There was a lot of preparation so the surrounding buildings wouldn’t catch fire and they wired the falla so the firecrackers that were lit to start the fire would get to the falla. It was such a site. I will have to add videos because I’ve never seen a fire like that in person. The firefighters had to constantly spray the fire so it wouldn’t get out of control!

20150319_235508 20150320_010110 Snapchat-4256841929173382562

          Friday morning I headed to Paris! First I had to stop at a grocery store to get some travel sized bottles and the weather was horrible. It was so windy and rainy so I guess that’s what I get for procrastinating. Anyways, after I bought it some lady stopped me asking for me to buy potatoes but I said no because I had about 30 minutes until I needed to meet with Erin and get to the metro. Then she asked if I could at least give her money and then I said no because I didn’t have much on me and still needed to buy a bag. She was persistent and said well if you give me money you will have good luck, so I asked how much she needed and she said one euro so I gave it to her because I can be a little superstitious and really what’s a euro? Skipping a day ahead, we found out Paris had free public transportation this last weekend to combat pollution since part of Wednesday Paris had the dirtiest air in the world! Although it sucks Paris is polluted I think it was the “good luck” that lady said I’d get that we had free transportation which we used soooo much! Friday night we got into Paris around 6 then by the time we got to our hostel we were pretty tired so we just went to a local market to buy some dinner.

          Saturday I saw the Eiffle Tower for the first time ever! My eyes were watering just because it was incredibly surreal that I was actually seeing it in person and that I have this amazing opportunity to travel. We took many, many pictures and I couldn’t stop staring at it. I know some people don’t think it’s a big deal but I definitely did and still do! We went for a boat ride on the Seine and although it was pretty chilly, I loved it! The rest of our day was filled with a visit to Notre Dame, Love Lock Bridge, Arc de Triumphe and Moulin Rouge. Needless to say, we really got to know the metro and I really loved everything. All the locks on the bridge was incredible and I can see why they have boarded off main part of the bridge because I can only imagine how much weight the locks have added!

20150321_115602 20150321_171942 20150321_182951 20150321_215050 20150321_221825

           Sunday we went to the Louvre which is gigantic! I like art, I just don’t know that much about it but the paintings and sculptures were amazing and I saw the Mona Lisa! Definitely had to take some selfies. Also we got in for free with our student id’s from the University of Valencia so that was a huge plus. We also saw the Gardens of Luxembourg then went to the Eiffle Tower again at night which was breathtaking. It twinkled for 5ish minutes every hour which was so pretty. I loved it so much and really all in all I loved Paris. I would love to go back and spend a whole week there and be able to climb the Tower and the Arc and actually go into Notre Dame and see so much more that I didn’t get the chance to!

       20150322_133737 20150322_200127

          I have this week of school then I leave for Italy on Monday and will be traveling for 13 days! This seriously feels like a dream because I never thought I would be able to do all this and I am so grateful and am absorbing everything like a sponge! I know after this I will want to see even more of the world and although I will be excited to see everyone at home in the U.S. I will always look back on this part in my life and remember all the amazing times I had and best friends I met! Now that I only have a month until I return I’m getting all sentimental and am trying to do everything I can! Like tonight I spent time with my host mom and learned how to make croquettes! 🙂 I’m really happy right now and I appreciate everyone who reads this long blog, it means a lot!

Fallas!

I have been pretty busy over here in Spain, there is so much I could write about! Let’s see…on Friday ISA had an excursion to Tarragona which I absolutely loved. It has the oldest Roman ruins on the Iberian peninsula and beautiful beaches. I think I loved the city so much because it was gorgeous and also had a ton of history. We got to see la Muralla de Tarragona which is a huge wall that protected Tarragona in ancient times. The wall is the old ruins we were told about and I believe it was constructed in the 2nd century. Our tour guide told us the story about Romulo and Remo the twin brothers who were abandoned near the Tiber river and were raised by a wolf. I thought I heard about it before but couldn’t recall exactly and was pretty impressed when I heard it! We also got to go into a museum and climb many stairs which led to an incredible panoramic view of the city. After that we got to see the amphitheater which I believe is the first time I’ve ever been in one. I remember learning that there were not always slaves fighting to the death in these amphitheaters because eventually athletes would play games in front of an audience and there would be a winner and the loser would not die. After all the history, Morgan, Erin, Kayla and I went to the beach to eat our lunch but holy cow did it take us some time to get to the beach. We didn’t really know where to go but luckily some friendly Spaniards directed us. After we were done eating I wanted to feed my left over bread to the seagulls/pigeons that were ready for attack nearly 20 feet away. I had to climb down some small boulders since we weren’t directly on the sand but I slipped and some of my bread dropped and the birds started going crazy. I panicked and threw the rest and ran up the rocks. Meanwhile Morgan and Kayla are absolutely freaking out, screaming their heads off because they are scared of birds and Erin and I are in hysterics. Our lunch was filled with tons of laughter and excitement. 🙂

DSC09479 DSC09523 DSC09511

           On Saturday I volunteered at La Albufera which is the natural lake outside of Valencia. We got there and about 20 of us divided into 3 boats that were fairly small but easily held 7 of us. We started going through the lake and would stop at several spots where our “guide” knew there would be trash and oh boy was there trash. In the cat tails (or some type of  plant very similar) there were a lot plastic bottles and other odd containers. It was kind of hard to get the trash out as we were confined in our boat and had to use some type of claw to rake the trash out but we ended up with 3 big bags of trash! It is pretty sad because in relative terms, we hardly touched the lake. It is huge and in the 3 hours we had, we couldn’t get very far but were still able to get so much and nearly everything was recyclable. I’ve always been fond of nature, how could you not, but I really realized that we need to take care of the planet we’re living on. There are so many beautiful places around the world and we have the power to keep them beautiful or destroy them with our trash. Although it was tiring I actually enjoyed doing it and in the end we had 14 bags!

Snapchat-234419434561874826 Snapchat--381613549933473097

          After La Albufera we went to the Mega Mascleta which was a first for even people in Valencia! There was about 700,000 pounds of the mortar powder or whatever they used and it lasted 15 minutes! Marta, Morgan, Erin, Marta’s friend Marta and I went to the roof of a friend who lives really close to where the mega mascleta took place. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen and definitely the loudest. I’ll have to upload a video but it sounded like a war zone and the finale was so loud you could feel it everywhere, your body, the ground, the walls! Mascletas are mainly important for the loud noise and the rhythm and each day a different company does the mascleta. There was the first one on Feb. 22nd, then the mega mascleta then there is one everyday from March 1st until the 19th at 2:00 pm in the city center. IN ADDITION…some nights there are actual fireworks that you watch for display and during the week of Fallas which is March 15th through the 19th there are castillos (fireworks) every night at midnight or later! Now that Valencia is officially in Fallas and the weather has gotten warmer the town seems to have woken up and I love it! The atmosphere during mascletas is amazing and I love being in the city center. Today we ate out for lunch and went to a little restaurant called El Gallo de Oro (the golden rooster or something like that) and had paella and sangria! It was amazing and if I had a lot more money I would love to do that everyday! I am having the time of my life here and love experiencing the culture. I have been having a lot of fun going out to discotecas until 4 in the morning and have really let my taste buds experience a plethora of new food. I also love having the beach so close and have gone a couple times this week which is super relaxing. I’m still working on my Spanish but I have noticed that there are several times where I don’t need to think and just speak which is such a strange but awesome feeling! I only have 7 more weeks here and am starting to freak out a little bit because I know it is going to fly by so incredibly fast. Especially traveling to Paris, Italy and Ibiza. I am extremely excited for my travels and for the beautiful clear water of Ibiza since I have never been to an island! I have made incredible friends here and can’t believe my stay is half way complete. I am so ready for the following weeks and to have the best time ever! 🙂

20150228_175739 20150228_180219 IMG-20150301-WA0005

Snapchat-7138381627136020081

Jávea stole the show!

Last Saturday on Valentine’s Day, the ISA group headed to Barcelona which I was so excited about since I had never been there and heard amazing things about! We only stayed for one night which was not enough time in my opinion. It was go, go, go and I feel like I didn’t get to see enough of Barcelona so if you ever plan to go, spend at least two nights there. The Sagrada Familia was awesome to see and was enormous! We watched a video on the bus which showed how it will look when it’s completed in 2026 and it is going to be even bigger which is hard to imagine.

20150215_110203

          We also got to see the Gothic quarter which I loved because I think the Gothic architecture is stunning and some of Gaudi’s work like his house and La Pedrera which are both fun to look at since he used curves and so much color in his architecture. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that impressed with Barcelona. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t have enough time to see everything and/or there was just so much information on the tours or that I was just tired, but I just didn’t really get what I was expecting I guess. However, some girls and I went to a discoteca and I probably had the best night of my life. It was on the beach and there’s only a tiny building so I was thinking umm where’s the club? Sure enough it was underground and incredible! Opium was huge and the atmosphere was what I’ve seen in movies. We danced for 3 hours and I was exhausted but I would most definitely go back to Barcelona for the night life. I love history and love Toledo and Granada which are cities filled with history as well as Barcelona but I just wasn’t digging it I guess, besides the discoteca, like I said it was just amazing. Oh another thing is that I think I heard more English than Spanish in Barcelona so maybe that also had a part in it.

          On Thursday I booked a trip to Paris with three of my girl friends and am so excited! I’m still in shock that when I get back to the states I can say that I’ve been to 4 different countries, U.S., Spain, France and Italy! Since I’m traveling for a decent amount of my stay here, I’m trying to make up for the Spanish I will miss while I’m gone so I’m going to go to more intercambios, go to the reader’s club and now I’m doing a prep class for the DELE test which is a Spanish fluency test that is recognized world-wide.

          Today was absolutely amazing. Paloma’s mom has a house in Jávea which is about an hour and a half south of Valencia on the coast so that’s where we went today to see some of the town and have lunch there. I took far too many photos but it was so beautiful! There are mountains around the town and we drove up one and got to see a panorama view of the town. Across the water we could see Valencia and on super clear days Marta said you can see Ibiza which is an island that is off the East coast of Spain! I have never seen clear blue water (not in a pool which they have at the house) and even with the clouds I was so impressed I wanted to cry! Every time I looked at the water I wanted to take a picture, and pretty much did but I have no shame. Jávea is definitely one of my top places in Spain so far, I can’t get over how precioso it was. I think we are going to go back the weekend before we leave so it will hopefully be even warmer and sunny so we can take a dip in the sea! I think I want to have a beach house there, I can’t stop obsessing over this gorgeous place. ❤

20150221_124343 DSC09440 DSC09448 DSC09459 20150221_155930

I can’t think of a creative title…

The past two weeks have been great here if only the weather was warmer! I can’t really complain being from Nebraska since 50 degree days feel like summer there right now but it has been pretty cloudy and chilly. Luckily the wind has let up because it was getting kind of ridiculous! There is so much I could write since I’ve slacked off on my blog but I’ll just write about the way of life here and some highlights over the past few days!

So first thing first, the housing here is a lot different then I’m used to. Almost everyone lives in an apartment and it is common for 20 something year old’s to live at home while they go to school. People in the U.S. do too but it’s less common to go to a school in a different city unless it is for studying abroad here. The apartment I live in is pretty big. There is the room Mo and I share, the room where Marta and Eduardo sleep and another where Paloma and Sandro sleep. The kitchen is very narrow and small probably compared to some of the standards in America but it is obviously very functional and fun when all of us are in there helping out. The living room has two couches, a tv and the table where we eat at for lunch and dinner. There’s a smaller table in the kitchen that we eat at for breakfast since usually Mo, Marta and I are the only one’s sitting down at the same time. People are a lot more conscious about the environment and recycle everything they can and turn off the lights whenever they leave the room. I do that at home but sometimes if I’m coming back in a few minutes I leave it on but here we don’t. I mean that’s nothing crazy, it’s common sense to save electricity and the environment, something I should do more in the states. It is very common to see clothes hanging out from windows pinned to a clothesline as many people don’t have dryers. Oooh another thing that is different is that when hanging out with friends, it is usually outside the house. Friends get together in cafes or bars to drink and get caught up. I love how the food is so fresh here and it is not uncommon to go to the supermarket every other day to get what you need for the upcoming meals. Many walk to the store with a sort of cart where they put all their groceries in because plastic bags cost money at the supermarkets. I have done so much walking here. Just last night we walked for 25 minutes to get to the city center and have a drink at a pub.

I have gone on a few runs or just bike rides to look around and explore and one of the coldest and windiest days I decided to go to the beach. Kind of stupid but the waves were the biggest I’ve seen here and the beach was empty so it was really nice to just watch the water and sunset.

20150205_182200

          Once it warms up I’m sure I’ll go out exploring even more and supposedly February is the coldest month so it’s good to know it will go up from here! I went to another intercambio at Max Max and met a really cool girl named Maite which Paloma told me is a combination of Mary and Theresa. She said I knew a lot of verbs and that my conjugations were good which is exciting to hear because sometimes it feels like I haven’t improved very much which I know isn’t really possible since I probably have spoken more spanish in this last month than I have in the past 3 years of college, maybe even more!

          On Saturday we had over the host family Marta lived with in Germany for 6 weeks this last summer. It was so crazy to me that while we were together at any given time English, Spanish, German and Italian could’ve been spoken and at least 3 people were able to understand! We had a huge meal then went to a park right outside Valencia that is called La Albufera which is a natural fresh water lake. It was so pretty and I think next weekend I’m going to do a volunteering activity to clean up litter. After that we walked around the central area and had some buñelos which are like donuts and they were being fried right in the front of the store.

20150207_173241 20150207_184146

          On Sunday Mo, Marta, Erin and I went to the Miguelete which is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Valencia. We climbed 207 steps to watch the sun set over the nearby mountains and the city. We even stayed until the hour to hear the bell ring which was pretty awesome. I would definitely climb those stairs again because the view was so perfect.

20150208_181404

          School is good and actually pretty easy. I have several papers over the next few months and maybe a few quizzes but other than that it’s a lot of lecturing/discussion. My phonetics class is really helping me with pronunciation and my grammar class is refreshing my memory on the basics while also reviewing the more difficult verb tenses. My cinema class can be boring at times but I’ve liked the first two movies we have seen so far. One about the era during Franco and one about the terrorist group ETA. My Latin America Culture class is almost all new to me because I actually don’t know very much about all the different cultures and countries in this region. I’m really starting to feel like I’m actually living here which is good since I still have 2.5 months left! Oh also I planned my spring break which will be in Trieste, Venice, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Rome and Ibiza! I am so excited but once that rolls around my time here will be almost up which makes me sad 😦 so I’m going to go now and live it up! ❤

Busy, busy bumblebee

          This week has been so crazy and it isn’t even over! I did many different activities though and wanted to write about it now instead of waiting until Sunday and having an even longer post than this one so enjoy!

   20150127_234257

          Tuesday was exactly what I needed. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. I love my phonetics class because it is really interesting so it’s a perfect way to start off my Tuesdays and Thursdays. After lunch I got to go shopping for shoes for Marta with her and Paloma which was a really nice break to just get to drive around and shop. The sunset, like always, was gorgeous and after we found Marta’s shoes, Paloma left and we walked around for a bit and took the bus back home. I can’t reiterate enough how lucky I am to have such a great family! Marta tells me a lot about what’s going on in Valencia and is always up for taking us around whether it be for a walk, to get groceries or to do a little shopping. Later a group of us which included me and my friends and some of Marta’s friends went to an intercambio at a Pub which was really fun! I think I will go every Tuesday so I can meet more people and practice my Spanish. An intercambio is where students meet up and practice different languages so I was speaking some Spanish or spanglish and some of the Spaniards were speaking English. It was funny because if I was speaking Spanish but couldn’t really explain what I wanted I would cheat a bit and speak English and vice versa!

          Wednesday called for a little trip to the beach but we explored more of the area by the port. It was so beautiful that I ended up wanting to stay longer than planned so I had to ride my valenbisi to class as fast as I could and it still took me 25 minutes! At least I’m getting to know the city better and am really getting good use out of the bisi. It is so easy to travel here by bike so my legs are definitely feeling it this week. Later Marta, Mo and I took Sam for a walk and he loved it.

20150128_162956

          For lunch on Thursday we had probably one of my favorite dishes! It is rice and a veggie/tomato spicy sauce and cut up chicken with peppers. I mix all three together for a glorious mouth-watering concoction. I am definitely getting that recipe! I got an opportunity to go on a graffiti tour in the center of town with AVAPACE which is a Valencian association that helps people affected by cerebral palsy. It was really fun to see their excitement to get out an about and to see the city. Some of the graffiti was really impressive. My favorite is the picture below and is a person who is holding a tiny person which is actually him looking at himself. It really caught my attention with the colors and the many meanings it could have behind it. I love all the buildings in Spain because the architecture is so different and our tour was in barrio Carmen which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Valencia. Unfortunately some of the older buildings are vacant and are falling apart and due to the economic crisis in Spain there isn’t money to fix them.

20150129_172002

          Later Thursday night we went out with some of Marta’s friends who are basically awesome! They are so sweet and friendly and I cannot get over how much I love the greetings with the kisses on the cheek. I feel so happy and a part of the culture when I get to greet people in this way and I want to do it in America. 🙂 We were going to go to a discoteca (dancing club) but there were probably 500 people in line and after an hour of getting pushed around we decided to leave although I was having a great time! I think it was more of an experience to stand in that line then to have gone inside because it was just crazy. To add to the craziness it was so incredibly windy. Wind that I’m pretty sure I’ve only felt in an intense thunderstorm in Nebraska! There were plenty of laughs as we were getting pelted by leaves and whatever else was flying through the air.

          Today we got to go see the Arts and Sciences Museum but it was still extremely windy and for some odd reason we decided to take our valenbisis. Sure enough as we pull into a station to park the bikes there are only 2 spots so Erin and Morgan took those so Mo and I had to keep riding and find another spot. We were frantically searching for a station with wind against us and of course we had to go up several hills to get out of the river bed because we thought it would be a shortcut instead of going all the way around. I was completely exhausted I thought I was about to puke because I’ve never had such a difficult bike ride! After 30 minutes we found a station that only had 1 spot so we both switched our bikes so the time would start over and continued searching until we found a station that was about 15 minutes from where we were supposed to originally meet at 11. We ended up talking to 3 or 4 different people to try to find where the rest of our group was at and finally met them in time to see the short movie in the imax theatre which was about sight and things in the world we can’t see. I was in awe the whole time because I love watching those types of movies and because I have only been in an imax theatre one other time so it was awesome. After the movie we had lunch that our mom packed us then got to explore the aquarium on our own which is one of the best in Europe! I really enjoyed the walruses, seals, penguins, sharks and whales, they are just majestic! On the way back we were getting blown over on our bisis so we just decided to walk which took about another 30 minutes so needless to say I am pooped!

DSC09352

DSC09357

          I’m really glad I stayed so busy this week. It gives me more time to enjoy what’s happening around and really experience my time here. I want to absorb everything about the culture and this city like a sponge! Tonight we are having Sandro’s famous pizza because it’s Friday and Marta, Mo and I are gonna have a girl’s night and watch another movie or two! 🙂 ❤

Granada…breathtaking.

 20150123_135741

          Friday morning we boarded the bus at 8 and arrived in Granada around 2:30 pm. It really wasn’t too bad of a drive considering the scenery was outstanding. Mountains and beaches have a way of making me speechless and I love it. My first steps into Granada were not on my feet but on my actual butt. Somehow while getting of the bus with my hands full I noticed my shoe was untied but didn’t stop to fix it. Like something that happens in movies, I tripped on my lace and fell down the four steep steps of the bus. Classic. My right but cheek has a bruise the size of a large eggplant with basically the same color lol. Once I figured out how to walk like a normal person, we got settled into the hotel and went out for tapas before dinner which was really nice because the restaurants were close to the hotel and Granada is one of the only cities where you can order a drink and the tapas come with it. It’s pretty awesome considering you order a 2 euro drink and get free snacks! After us girls were done, we got ready to hike up to an old gypsy cave to watch a Flamenco show! First we went up and up and up the tiny streets of Granada for probably 15 minutes to see this amazing view of the Alhambra at night. Like always, the picture just doesn’t do it justice.

20150123_192309

I love Flamenco and although it is very different, it is filled with passion and tradition that is just inspiring. The women looked older, probably 50s or 60s but their moves were fantastic. I hope I will be able to move like that when I reach that age!

20150123_193810

          After the show, Mo, Erin and I decided to buy some wine (only 1,50 euro a bottle) and stay in our pjs and just act like silly girls. The next morning we had a delicious breakfast and hopped in the bus to ride up to the Alhambra which is an old Moorish fortress/palace that was built in the 11th century and was then made into a Royal palace in the 14th century. There was so much to see and everything was so beautiful. I can’t believe how advanced the people were to build something so massive so many years ago. In the 1200s, the Moors had a full functioning, complex water system which was a sign of prosperity and power. The picture below is one taken in the Generalife part of the Alhambra which is the garden. After touring the garden we saw the actual Alhambra and I will just let you Google them or you can look on my Facebook page! 🙂 All I can say is Granada is beautiful, fun, and just picture perfect.

DSC09336

          When we got back to our house from the trip my family was so happy and excited to see us! I was really tired but once I saw them and got hugs and kisses upon my return, it was really easy to tell them all about Granada. Sandro asked if pizza was okay for dinner and Mo and I looked at each other like ummm YES! We’ve had his homemade pizza three times so far and I think that time was either the best or I was just incredibly hungry because I had 3 pretty big pieces and definitely wanted more but was so full!

          Today I have really been missing Ryan. This is the time period where they told us we would feel homesick, if we ever did, and it’s not really like I am completely but it’s just weird to not be around the people who have been in my life for so long! Nevertheless I am totally enjoying it here and will definitely live up these next 3 months and I know by the end of it I will not want to leave. It really helps that I have such a great host family. They make me feel like I belong here and are so funny. Since Marta finally finished her exams she will be able to hang out and go out with us more! Tonight we watched Pitch Perfect with Marta and Paloma and ate popcorn…typical. There were plenty of laughs and at the end of the movie, Paloma jumped off the couch and started dancing like a cute crazy lady! She is seriously adorable and loved the movie and had us 3 girls in hysterics!

*palomitas = popcorn *Granada = pomegranate (there are so many pomegranate trees in Granada and it is pretty cool that it is the Spanish word for the fruit) *molar = to be cool (used in terms of thinking something is cool like… me mola hablar inglés is like saying you like or think that speaking English is cool) *canalla = stinker (it was so funny when Paloma was saying stinker because it sounded like stinkaaa)