Gina in Granada

Conquering Europe One Step at a Time

Toledo, Madrid y Barfelona (Happy Birthday Drea!)

By some miracle, I’ve made it back from Madrid and Barcelona unscathed. Now, let me attempt to recap the most important and entertaining aspects of my travels.

Tuesday morning all of my program embarked on a three and a half hour bus ride to Toledo before arriving in our final destination, Madrid. Our awesome tour guide was named Carlos and had a great sense of humor as well as extensive knowledge of the sights we saw. Among those sites was the Cathedral of Toledo, founded by Ferdinand III in 1227 and has been the center of Spanish Catholicism ever since. It was an amazing Gothic style church that exemplified the belief of all religions living in unity. In certain areas of the cathedral had stars of david, Hebrew words, and Muslim stuff that I can’t remember to be honest. It was so colorful and just really pretty. Next we headed to Iglesia de Santo Tomé home to one of  El Greco’s many masterpieces, The Burial of the Court of Orgaz. After this part of the tour we were told we were going to Santa Maria la Blanca. Don’t let the name fool you, this building is actually the oldest standing synagogue in Europe today, and was erected (get your giggles out) in 1180. Of course by the 15th century it had already been converted to a church shortly after banishing the Jews if they did not convert to Christianity. I always find myself wondering which people I pass on the streets actually have Jewish ancestry. Of course our tour guide prompted some questions about Judaism and I figured this was my time to shine. He even asked if anyone knew which was the oldest synagogue in America. I shouted “The El Toro in Newport!” at the speed of light. He was impressed, I just know it! It was a bit odd to look around and see Jewish paintings on display right underneath the giant wooden cross and a nun issuing pamphlets, but I’ll take what I can get. I can now understand the expression “holy Toledo!”

Enough about Toledo, and onto Madrid. I think I took a liking to Madrid because it reminded me of New York. Upon waking up from my nap on the bus, the first words out of my mouth were “are we in Queens?” But as we got closer to the center, it felt a bit like Times Square. Our hotel was really nice and even provided us with breakfast. You might be saying “why is that exciting and worth incorporating in this blog post?” And I will tell you. Breakfast in Spain might as well not exist. I do not consider a piece of toast with jam, or a chocolate filled pastry to be a well balanced meal. Those are just wasted carbs. Plus the only balancing related to that meal is the way I can stand while sucking in my stomach to make my pants fit after three weeks of eating chocolate croissants.Well anyway, the hotel had a real American breakfast, and we took full advantage. The other guests at the hotel were probably frightened by how much food we consumed and I will even admit to smuggling things back to the room. We spent Wednesday seeing so much awesome artwork. Bare with me here. I know my seemingly normal personality and appearance suggest otherwise, but underneath it all I am still an art nerd. I loved every second of it, but even more important, I loved our tour guide. HER NAME WAS AMOR. that needed to be in caps lock, I apologize. We were legitimately forewarned not to make jokes because she’s sensitive. Amor was so unintentionally funny that I now quote her in every day conversations. Below you will find a dictionary with the English translations of Amor’s etiquette:

In your back (behind you) “The horse painting in your back dates back to the 16th century.”

Yes or not? (yes or no used at the end of statements)These paintings are magnificent displays of the Baroque era,yes or not?

Fattygirls (anyone over 110 pounds) In those days it was considered sexy and honorable to be a fattygirl.

Necked (naked) This painting was very controversial at the time because the woman was necked.

If you ever hear me speak about “mi Amor” just know I am referring to this woman.

After this marvelous hour of my life, we headed over to the Royal Palace. It is almost impossible to capture the glory of this place in a piece of writing. The Royal Palace is a must see; add it to your bucket list. The standard tour shows 20 (magnificent) rooms but the building itself has 2800 rooms. I still have trouble fathoming this. I encourage everyone to at least google it because then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

kings and queens and bishops too!

kings and queens and bishops too!

On our last day in Madrid we took a day trip to El Escorial and Segovia. The drive up there was surrounded by snowy grounds which did not look promising. If this was any indication as to what was ahead, I did not want to be a part of it. Unfortunately that was not an option, so I just whined a lot and it made me feel a little bit better. It actually was flurrying while we toured a monastery that was virtually outside. Segovia was also a cute town that I would enjoy much more in the spring time. There we saw the castle that supposedly inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which I haven’t even seen because I’m not a real person. Segovia is also home to a Roman aqueduct constructed in the 1st century and about 1115 ft high with 163 arches-woah. I apologize for the extent or lack-there-of about these historical landmarks, I’m just really excited to share meaningless bullshit with you. And on that note begins my extended vacation to the ever fabulous Barcelona…

aqueduct chillin'

aqueduct chillin'

Leaving New York- I mean Madrid, was sad but I knew soon enough I would be in Miami-I mean Barcelona. Me and a bunch of other friends on my program checked into the Be Mar hostel early Friday and could tell right away that it was a happenin’ place for poor traveling students. The swarm of sleeping 20 year olds in the lobby, receptionists with dreadlocks, and a guestbook filled with heartfelt messages such as “I like to smoke weed. Cool hostel.” were among my first impressions. I guess that’s what I should have expected only paying $26 for both nights.

Our first night we had to be ultra touristy, and made reservations at Icebarcelona, which is a bar that requires you to wear gloves and a spacesuit looking thing so you do not completely freeze to death in it’s arctic temperature. But like any other adventure on my blog, you know there’s something even better preceding it, so let’s get to it.

Upon entering the metro, I was extremely alert because that’s what I was advised to do. My friend Allie had a pass with multiple rides and was doing the good ole pass back method to avoid us having to purchase separate tickets. The next part happened so fast that it’s almost a blur and somewhat difficult to recreate but I will try. Allie handed me her metrocard and I wasted no time inserting it into the machine assuming the two plastic doors would separate and I would proceed to my train. WRONG. As the machine beeped at me for an unknown reason, a man who spoke english approached and told me that it happens all the time and I just have to push on the doors. At first I believed him and put one hand on the plastic,  but nothing happened. My other friends were still waiting and everyone was saying “just push.” Then the man got a little bit too close for comfort and was practically on top of me. Yet again he said “push!” but this time he encouraged me to use both hands and that’s when my brain said “fuck no sketchy man” and I grabbed onto my purse. Well, right as I was making sure I had a grasp on my bag, I felt his hands make his way to my side. Without hesitation, and while clasping my bag with both hands, I used my right shoulder to pummel into his chest, causing him to back away as the doors finally opened and I scurried through. Not wanting to believe what happened I told my friend that I think that guy tried to mug me. No sooner than I finished my sentence, I heard my friend Krissy yell to my roommate “watch out!” as the other man had inserted his hand into the outer pocket of my roommate Gracie’s bag. Krissy’s first reaction was to grab for Gracie but instead wound up punching the doors that separated her and the scumbag. My friend Allie also tried to ward off the man but instead wound up with a bleeding finger. Needless to say we ran far away into the depths of the station and got on the next train. From that point on anyone that even so much as looked at me was automatically a mugger or rapist in my book. I miss the NYC subways. At least the creepers there speak English.

After all the metro chaos, we finally made it (huffing and puffing) to the icebar and had a great time.  The website says an average visit is 45 minutes and luckily I was kicked out at around the 42 minute mark. Yes, that’s right- I was kicked out after thinking it was okay to take pictures pretending to pour drinks behind the unattended bar area. I still laugh thinking about the man who yelled “YOU! OUT! NOW!” and Allie, my accomplice, who had the audacity to ask why. I guess I can finally say I’ve been kicked out of a bar, right?!

seemed like a good idea at the time

seemed like a good idea at the time

Bright and early the next morning we were given a gratuitous walking tour of Barcelona courtesy of our Hostel. Granted our tour guide was a 26 year old American who was hired while drunk seven months prior and had to check his notecards that he kept in his shirt. Regardless we were taken around to see Anotni Guadi’s most famous works. Gaudi was an architecht with a rather distinct style, and overwhelming love of nature. Although we did not tour the inside of Casa Mia, or the Sagrada Familia, we got to learn some history from outside. Later that night the same tour guide and two of his “co-workers” took us on a pubcrawl. We went to three bars and ended at a club not far from our hostel. Each bar gave us free drinks and the club seemed cool from the 25 minutes I wound up staying (sorry for being a grandma) so it was definitely worth the 12 euros.

It’s just our luck that this weekend was the coldest weather Barcelona has seen in years, and it was almost unbearable to be outside, but when I was-I liked what I saw. I can say that I even got to walk on the beach! Even if it was 1 am and 20 degrees outside. As far as the hostel goes, let’s just say I’m happy to be back in Granada on fresh bedding and a room with a heater. Lastly, I will not miss the language of Catalan, a hybrid of Spanish and French spoken in Catalunya, where Barcelona is located. I was finally adjusting to Spanish when Barcelona decided to switch the game up. Word such as “rebajas” which means sales were spelled “rebaixes.” And words like “billetes” meaning tickets, were simply “tiquets.” I agree, it’s stupid and will eventually die out.

This past week has been a blast but with the first sight of Granada after nearly a week, I fell back in love with my new home away from home in the heart of good ole Andalusia. Perhaps we’ll meet again some day Madrid and Barcelona, but for now I need my beauty rest.

Thanks for making it through this post. See you next week!

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