jueves, 3 de mayo de 2012


Last weekend I went to Lagos, Portugal which is in the southwest part of the country.  I was totally expecting to be on the beach getting my tan on the whole time but that didn't end up happening.  We got stuck with rainy weather the whole time.  They say that Portugal gets over 3,000 hours of sun each year but that definitely wasn't the case for us!  We only got about 4 during our whole weekend there.

I started off the trip leaving Friday morning around 6 am from Granada.  This meant that I had to get up at 4:50 to take a shower and finish getting ready to get a taxi in time to our bus stop.  We then drove about 3 1/2 hours west to Sevilla to pick up more people.  I had gone with my two friends Becca and Emma and then we went with a program called Discover Granada which takes you on different trips near and around Spain.  We then went west another 3 1/2 hours to Lagos.  I was planning on passing out for the whole bus ride like I usually do but I was wide awake the whole time so I just read some books.  Once we got to Lagos it was really cold and windy.  We were going to go on a Sangria Sailboat ride but it was too cold outside for us.  So instead of doing that we went to a nearby supermarket and had a picnic in our room.  On Friday we just spent the day relaxing and being inside for a while since it was so cold out.  I had forgotten to bring jeans because I was expecting it to be a lot warmer the whole time.  Let me tell you, that was a bad idea!  That night we went out to an American Restaurant called  Rockafellas and I was able to eat some really good mac and cheese. 

                                              Becca and Emma with our picnic in our room

                                                             mac and cheese supper

On Saturday we started our day off by going to look at some cliffs right outside of Lagos.  They were so pretty by the way they were formed and I could have just sat there forever looking at them.  After that we went to the Meia Praia.  In Portugal they call the beach Praia so it's not too different than the Spanish version.  We were planning on staying on the beach for 5 hours but that didn't end up happening.  About 2 hours into our stay at the beach it started down pouring and got super windy so we ended up leaving.  So we went back to our room and warmed up for a bit.  Later that night we went to Cabo Sao Vicente which is also called "the end of the world".  It's a place where there's a bunch of cliffs and then there's a 100 foot drop to the ocean.  They call it the end of the world because that's what Europe thought it was before they knew about the Americas.  It was so pretty to see at night.  It would have been better if we could have seen the sunset but since the weather was crappy that didn't happen.  We ended up eating our leftovers from the night before and had another picnic in our room.

                                                                cliffs outside of Lagos

                                                                     Meia Praia

                                                       "the end of the world"

                                           you can see the rain falling into the ocean

Sunday was our last day in Portugal so we decided to look around Lagos instead of going surfing with some of the other people in our program.  We went to the most famous beach in Lagos called Dona Ana.  It's pretty much on all the postcards and I can see why people love it.  We spent some time there but only put our feet in the water for a couple seconds because it was so cold.  Becca and I had really wanted to go cliff jumping but again because the water was too cold that didn't happen.  Mom was sure happy about that though.  Then the weather decided it didn't want to cooperate at all and would switch between raining and sunshine every two seconds.  I swear it couldn't decide on one weather choice.  To burn some time until the others got back before we could go home we looked around the city center, bought some souvenirs, and ate at an Italian restaurant.  Then we found this cute little cafe and had some cake with whip cream and and fruit.  It was so good!  We left for Granada around 5:30 pm so we got to Sevilla at 9:30 pm and then Granada at 1:15 am with some stops along the way.  I ended up walking the whole way home from the bus stop to my house which is about 45 minutes away because I couldn't find a taxi.  I swear that as soon as you try to find a taxi they all disappear!  Overall though it was a pretty good trip and I was glad that I was at least able to visit.

                                                               Dona Ana Praia

chocolate cake dessert with fruits and whip cream

jueves, 26 de abril de 2012

Spanish Way of Life

So the way the Spainards do things are very different than the way we do things.  The way they are slow paced about everything they do is one thing that I love.  We don't start class till 9 am because no class in Spain starts before 8:30 am.  We eat breakfast at 8 am, have lunch at 2:30 pm, and then have supper at 9:30 pm.  Sometimes I have to have a snack in between that because that's a long time to go without food.  The big meal of the day is lunch which consists of bread, salad or soup, and then a hot meal.  A traditional food here is tortillas de Espana which is potatoes in a tortilla shape held together by eggs.  It's one of my favorite meals here.  They think it's crazy though that we eat our meals so early.  They take 2-3 hours off in the afternoon for Siesta time which is right after lunch and it's a time to just relax.  The stores here are open from about 10-2 and then back to 5-8 pm.  So it seems like the shops are never open when i'm walking to and from school.  My teachers are always telling me to be tranquillo which means to be calm when i'm stressed about things.  They just have such a relaxed way about them.

Another thing that's different here is their night life.  They don't start up until 11 pm at night and then go until whenever they want to the next day.  Most people start off drinking at a bar or in a public park, then go to a disco techa (dance club), then go out to eat afterwards.  The longest I ever stayed out was until 7:30 am and I was leaving early.  The dance club that I was at was still completely packed and my Spanish friend was telling me it was still pretty early but I was wiped out.  I would never stay out that late back in the States.  Probably 3 am max.  But here it's so different because it's just a social gathering.  It's the same way with drinking.  I've noticed a lot of people don't drink to get drunk but to drink because it's a social thing.  Since it's legal for them to start drinking younger here then the states they don't go out and go crazy as much.

I love that the city is so big and has so  much to offer than we have back home.  There's always something to do like go bowling, paintballing, dancing, karoke, go to the mountains, or go to the beach.  We're about an hour away from the Sierra Nevada Mountains so I could go hiking if I wanted to.  (though I hate hiking so that won't be happening)  Or I could go to the beach an hour away and just lay in the sun all day.  I also  love being able to go dancing every week.  We don't have clubs anything like this at home expect for in really big cities like Chicago or something but they're found every where here.  That's one thing that i'm definitely going to miss but I do love the small town charms too.

domingo, 15 de abril de 2012

Traveling Europe

Alright I know I know I haven't written in about month but I have a pretty good reason.  I had to finish level two, had 1 1/2 weeks off for spring break, and then start up level 3.  I hadn't studied a lot for my level two test which I was pretty  nervous about but I ended up passing the class with a decent grade.  This time around though I'm going to make sure to study everyday.  My last level was 3 weeks and this level is 2 1/2 weeks so they shorten up a little each time.

 A month ago I went and visited the capitol Madrid with my program for a 3 day weekend.  On the way there we visited a neighboring town called Toledo for a couple hours and had a tour guide with us.  We pretty much saw all the  basics in Toledo but were rushed for time because we had to be in Madrid by 5 pm and it's already a 5 hour bus ride away from us.  The first night we were able to walk around and visit whatever we wanted so I saw the museo catedral and then a huge plaza called ayuntamiento.  The next day we visited the palace that the Spanish royal family uses for special ocassions.  We got to look inside but we couldn't take pictures which was kind of disappointing.  Some friends and I ate at Hard Rock Cafe and we got the typical american meal: chocolate milkshake, french fries, and a chesseburger.  It was so good to eat that I hadn't realized how much I missed American food.  That night we went to a play that was about 3 different women doing different skits the whole time.  It was a little hard for me to understand though since I don't know that much Spanish.  After that I went with some people to a discotecha and it ended up being a lot of fun because it was so big so we could be listening to spanish one minute, then english, then techno music.  The next day we went to an art museum and to the biggest park in Madrid which were both pretty cool to see.

Then that following week I had my final for level 2 and then left for a 5 day trip around Italy.  On this trip I went with my friend Becca who's in the program with me.  Italy was my dream vacation so I was so excited to finally be able to go here.  I was going to be very disappointed if I wouldn't have visited it while I was in Spain.  We left on a thursday and made our way to Venice.  There was a strike in Spain that day so we had to take a taxi to get to our plan which was an hour and a half away since there weren't any buses running.  So that was an unexpected 150 euros that we had to pay for.  Once we got to Venice that night we just settled into our hotel.  That next day we visited around the main island in Venice and saw the main plaza which was St. Mark's.  We saw the bascillica, campanile, clock tower, canals, and a bunch of designer shops.  We were going to take a gondola ride but it was 80 euros for two people for a half hour and we decided it wasn't worth it that much.   We made sure to eat a lot of gelato and see the stain glass work which is what they're famous for.  To get around Venice you have to take water taxi's everywhere which was really different.  Then we left at 3 to go to Florence and ended up getting there around 5.  That night we looked around for a while and then had a nice meal.  The next day we saw a bunch of gardens, ponte vecchio bridge, different plazas, and lots of artwork.  We also went to this amazing pizzeria where they had a special stove to cook it in.  It's seriously the best pizza I've ever had and Florence lives up to the reputation of having the best pizza in the world.  After we were done seeing everything we wanted to in Florence we took another train to Rome that lasted about 3 hours.  The next couple days we spent in Rome were the BEST days I could have imagined.  There was so much history there that it made it even better.  We saw the pantheon (where we took pictures with gladiators), a bunch of churches, old ruins, trevi fountain, tomb of the unknown soldier, Vatican city including St. Peter's Bascillica and the Sistene Chapel, and of course the grand daddy of them all the Colosseum.  The Colosseum was by far my favorite part of the whole trip.  I could have spent all day in there and was wondering what it would have been like to see the gladiators in action there.   We ended up traveling by every way possible: boat, car, train, plane, and bus.  So after this trip I was an experienced traveler to say the least.

We got back on a Tuesday night and had a day off before we were traveling to London on Thursday.  I was going to London with Becca (who I went with to Italy) and Tayler.  We were going to spend 2 1/2 days and we were pretty excited to hear English all the time but we were going to get spoiled with it.  While we were in London our days we were pretty packed but lots of fun.  We saw a musical called Wicked, London Eye, changing of the guards, buckingham palace, the original hard rock cafe, houses of parliament, big ben, westminster abbey, m&m world, St. James park, St. Paul's cathedral, John Wesley's house, and the Tower Bridge.  We didn't go into all of these places because it would have ended up costing a ton of money but we at least had to say that we had seen them.  It also didn't help that for every 2 american dollars it's 1 British pound so that made us do even less things.   It was really cool to see a musical because it's the first professional one that I have ever seen and the fact that it was in English was a plus too.  They had double decker buses every where which were pretty neat.  We wanted to see the royal dresses but we couldn't figure out where they had them so that was a little bit of a disappointment.  But overall the trip was a lot of fun and I'm glad I got to go.  Especially since they had reese's so we stocked up on those since we don't have them in Spain.

Then we had a day off after London before I started my level 3 class.  It seems alright so far but i'm making sure that i'm studying everyday so that way I can get a better grade this time around.  This weekend though I went to Barcelona and I wish I would have had more time to be there.  I went with 3 other girls from my program and we left friday afternoon and got back saturday afternoon so we had limited time.  We got really cheap tickets so that's why we didn't stay too long. We saw parque Guell, the Barcelona futbol stadium, and la Sagrada Familia.  Parque Guell had a bunch of houses in it that looked like gingerbread houses which were pretty cool.  The Sagrada Familia was a huge church that was antique looking on the outside and very modern on the inside.  It had some of the most beautiful stain glass work I have ever seen, especially when the light was coming through it.  Also a funny story was that we got the wrong directions to our hostel so we ended up on the opposite of the city that we needed to be.  We took about a hour hike up there and had a great view of the city.  Though we got a taxi ride to our hostel because at that point we were sick of hiking.  Ok I think that's pretty updated now.  I promise I'll write more soon!

martes, 20 de marzo de 2012

Gypsy Museum and Cordoba

I went to a gypsy museum on Saturday and it was pretty interesting to learn about.  First we had to take the  longest hike in the world to get up there though.  Once we were up we learned that gypsy's stayed in the mountains and they would carve their homes into them so it would make caves.  The rooms were very small and the ceilings were also very low.  For each different room you would have to walk outside and into a different cave that they had built.  They had a bedroom, kitchen, weaving room, sewing room, ceramic making room, and a room for the animals.  It was pretty interesting to learn about though I didn't catch about half of it since my Spanish isn't that great.

                                                             part of the bedroom

the size of the whole room

some random art pieces

ceramic making room

On Sunday I went to a nearby city called Cordoba.  It's about a 2 and a half hour ride by bus but I was asleep pretty much the whole time so it seemed to go by pretty fast.  I went with my friend Tayler because she had been saying how she wanted to see it too.  Once we got there we took a city bus close to the downtown area and just looked around for awhile.  We decided we were going to walk until we found something that looked interesting.  So the first place we stopped out was this little plaza and ate our bocadillos outside.  It was about 80 that day so we had really nice weather.  We then walked all the way to the other side of town to see the Roman Bridge and the Mezquita.  The Mezquita is a really famous mosque in Spain.  It's the biggest in all of Spain and the third biggest in the world.  Inside the Mezquita the columns were red and white and there were gold objects everywhere.  They even had a room with all gold plates which was pretty cool.  We spent about an hour in there but we were pretty much done seeing everything that we had wanted to we walked around for awhile.  We found these really pretty gardens but then saw a couple having way too much PDA (public display of affection), so we decided it was time to get out of there.  After that we were back near the Mezquita and found an ice cream shop with Ben and Jerry's ice cream so we treated ourselves to that.  Then we walked back to the bus station and on our way we realized our tickets said that we were to leave at 7:30 instead of 5:30 pm and we didn't want to wait that long so we hurried up to get back there.  We got there and changed our tickets for the 5 pm bus because that's the only other time that was offered.  Good thing we got there when we did because we had 5 minutes to spare before the bus left.  Then we just headed back for the night and I did homework because I needed to catch up on that.

                                                                downtown Cordoba

the roman bridge

the inside of the Mezquita

room with golden plates

me and tayler

the garden

Ben and Jerry's ice cream!

lunes, 12 de marzo de 2012


So the Alhambra is this famous castle in Granada where the king and queen used to live before the moved to the capitol city of Madrid.  People come from all over just to see it.  It takes about a couple hours to walk through and if you visit the Albacin, you have the best view of the Alhambra.  It is made out of cast, ceramic, and tile.    There is a huge pool in the middle of the Alhambra but it's now filled with fish.  They also have this beautiful garden that you can visit and there are just flowers everywhere.  It's kind of hard to explain without actually being there but I hope you like the pictures!

                                                                 the entry

me, becca, and emma inside

the view of the Albazin

a part of the Alhambra

inside courtyard with a huge pool

a smaller inside courtyard

the garden

another part of the Alhambra

domingo, 11 de marzo de 2012

Paris aka The City of Lights

We had about a 5 day break after our classes ended so me and some friends decided that we were going to Paris.  We didn't want to pay for a hotel and let me tell you that was an experience.  My host brother lives in Madrid  and was going back home that day so he gave my friends and I ride to the airport which was really nice and saved us money for a bus ticket.  We got to the airport at 8 at night but still had to wait for one other person before we could check in.  By the time they got there the check in was closed so we were going to have to wait until morning.  So we tried sleeping on the floor but couldn't because it was too hard and cold for us to get comfortable so we didn't get any sleep.  Plus it was too bright and noisy for us too.  We were finally able to check in at 4 am and then just relaxed until our 6 am flight.

We went through Ryanair which has really cheap flights but you pick your own seats so if you want a good seat you have to be the first in line.  We didn't know this so we were in the back of the line but we got lucky and got seated towards the front.  Since I had been going on about 23 hours without sleep I passed out as soon as I sat down on the plane and woke back up when we landed on the tarmac.  Let's just say I got a nice cat nap in.  So once we had landed we realized we were at a shady airport and was a little bigger than Grinell's.  We had to take a bus an hour into Paris and then got a taxi ride to our hostel.  Once we were at our hostel we got settled for the day and at our lunch.  After that we explored Paris for a little bit and then went to Versailles which is a famous castle where Queen Marie Antoinette used to live.  It was crazy big and we spent about 5 hours there.  Inside the castle there were lots of gold, a huge ballroom, a chapel, and many bedrooms.  We saw the king and queen's bedroom plus many other rooms.  We had pasteries in the Tea Room but I was disappointed with what I got.  I ordered a vanilla francier and thought it would be nice and fancy.  Nope it was just a dense muffin that tasted a little bit like lemon and was so small so it definitely was not worth what I paid for.  They could have just said muffin for the name instead of francier but I think they say something fancy so that you'll buy it.  After the castle we went to the courtyard which was an hour walk to get to the other side so as you can imagine it was HUGE.  We also visited the Grand Trianon which was the queen's second house which is smaller but it's where she carried on her affairs.  Since we were pretty worn out for the day we stopped at a street vender and ordered cheap food so that way we could get back home.  We were all passed out by 7:30 that night.

The next day we all woke up at 8 am so we were all caught up on our sleep after sleeping for 12 hours.  We were doing a hop on- hop off bus tour the next two days which hit all the major points of Paris and was fairly cheap.  We also ended up finding out that since we were studying in Spain we got into all the museums for free and got lots of discounts everywhere else.  The first stop of the day was the Musee de Louvre which is a huge art museum.  I got to see the Mona Lisa, crown jewels from previous kings, Ramses II statue, and Aphrodite the Goddess of Love statue.  I had a talk with Aphrodite and told her that she's not doing her job very well and that she needs to pick up the pace.  After the Louvre we saw the Catedrale de Notre Dam which was pretty cool.  They were having mass when we were there so it was neat to watch.  Next was the Opera House where the famous opera Phantom of the Opera was preformed.  It's now used for ballets and they built a bigger opera house for actual operas.  The inside was  closed due to practice so we were going to have to go back the next day.  Since we were free on time we saw the Arc de Triumphe.  Two other people and I climbed to the top and it had a great view.  It was 284 so once I got to the top I was about ready to die because I was so out of breath.  That street that the Arc de Triumphe is located on is the most popular street in Paris because they have all the high end stores there.  We saw a Louis Vuitton but you had to be in line to get in and there's no way we could be able to afford anything so we just stared in from outside.  We also saw the Gran Palais which is a museum.  After that we were hungry and stopped at an Italian restaurant and they had the best pizza that I had ever had.  I also overloaded a bit on the bread with olive oil and salt so I was stuffed for the night.  That's one thing i'll be eating a lot when I get home.  That night we took a boat ride around the city and saw some great views and architecture.   We learned that Paris used to just be on this tiny island but then they expanded because they wanted people to stay in the city and not have to leave to go shopping or do things that they needed to do.

On our last day in Paris we had quite a bit of free time since the day before we had packed a lot of things in.  We were planning on going to Musee d'Orsay which is a smaller version of the Louvre but it was closed so we went ahead to the Opera House.  We were able to get inside the Opera House this time and it was amazing inside.  They had this huge golden ballroom which would be amazing to dance in.  Then they had this library which had so many books and I decided that I want a library like that in my house someday.  We then went inside to the theater and it was all red seats with gold accents and a huge chandelier in the middle. After that we walked to Moulin Rouge which is this famous burlesque show that they even made a movie after.  We just got pictures outside because to view a show was going to cost 150 euros and we weren't going to pay that.  Since it's a burlesque show there were a lot of sex shops and erotic massage places on that street.  To say the least we speed walked our butts out of there.  We walked to the Sacre Coure which is a huge church close to Moulin Rouge.  We were all really tired of walking though so we just got pictures from the bottom of it and didn't go inside.  Since we had been walking a lot we thought we deserved some pastries so we stopped to get some.  The most popular pastry in France is the macaroon which is like a little sugar cookie.  It was pretty good and I got a minty flavor.  One of our friends that was on the trip with us is engaged so we went wedding dress shopping.  We thought it was so cool that we were wedding dress shopping in Paris of all places.  She didn't find the one but got some good ideas that she liked.  After shopping for dress we visited the Trocadero which is another museum and then the grand daddy of them all the Eiffel Tower.  It was so awesome to see the Eiffel Tower in person.  Me and a friend had been joking around that it would be dumb to have a street sign pointing to the Eiffel Tower because we were 100 feet away from it and you could clearly see it.  While what do you know we turn the corner and see a street sign.  We thought that was too funny because you had to be really oblivious not to see the Eiffel Tower.  We decided to climb up to the 1st and 2nd floors because the top was closed off.  Once I got to the first floor though I thought I was going to die.  I had done some much walking up steps that once I started to walk on a straight surface my legs were killing me.  This had nothing on the Arc de Triumphe.  Then we climbed up to the second floor and it was just as bad as the first.  It was a little scary walking up because even though you were covered by a metal screen you were still up really high.  Once we got up though the view was amazing and we even got to see the light show from inside the tower.  After that we made the hour walk home to our hostel and since no food place was open we stopped to eat in McDonalds.  Now I know you're thinking that I couldn't have gone anymore American than that but fast food restaurants are so much classier in Europe.  They have two seperate food sections, one for hot food and then one for just desserts.  The floor is tiled and it is a couple stories high.  It's also a place where you take someone on a date.  Now you would never do that at home.  That night I treated myself to a huge chocolate chip cookie after my supper for doing so much walking that day.

The next day it was time to head home so we had to get up at 5 am to catch the 6 am bus to the airport.  Once on the bus I passed out the whole time and then when we were in the plane I passed out the whole time again.  We ended up getting to Madrid around 11:30 am but had to wait for the 1 pm bus so we ate our lunch and relaxed for a while.  Then we had a 5 hour bus ride back to Granada and I ended up falling asleep at 9 that night and woke up at 9 the next morning.  I was so happy I could just relax that day and not have to worry about class.  In Paris I bought a shot glass, a coffee mug with a little spoon, and then a mini Eiffel Tower.  I had such an amazing time there but once is good enough for me especially with it being so expensive.

viernes, 2 de marzo de 2012


So futbol in English means soccer.  It's a very popular sport here and is like our American football.  I went to watch a game one time and everyone was screaming and freaking out when somewhere scored a goal.  I was watching the first Madrid vs. Barcelona game and Madrid ended up losing that game.  I swear when I was walking home I could hear the whole town screaming in pain as Barcelona scored a second goal.  In Granada pretty much everyone loves Madrid and hates Barcelona.  It's like our Iowa/Iowa state rivalry except for a whole lot bigger.  Granada has their own professional team here but they're not very good.  We went to the game this past weekend to watch them play Real Soliedad.  It was a great experience because I was watching the game with Spainards and I was getting a real experience.  Granada won 4-1.  We were higher up in the stands but you could still see the game pretty well.  There were lots of people screaming their heads off the whole time.  For about 5 minutes the whole stadium was doing the wave which was pretty cool to see and be apart of.  Also anytime the refs would call something that people didn't like they would start cussing at the in Spanish which was pretty funny to hear.  I got hungry during the game so decided to go to the concession stands.  I found out that there is only one open after half time and all the have is chips.  So for lunch that day I had a coke and potato chips which were pretty salty.  The game started at noon so it was done around two.  Once I got home though I took a 4 hour siesta since I had gotten barely any sleep that weekend.