Gina in Granada

Conquering Europe One Step at a Time

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No es Adios

On January 5th I said goodbye to my friends, my family,my dog and my daily routine. I had decided that was all going to  have to be put on hold for four and a half months. I knew where I was going in the literal sense, but other than a destination and address for mail I knew nothing about where I was starting a new chapter of life. So many “what ifs” ran through my mind as I boarded to plane. What if I don’t learn Spanish? what if I don’t make friends? What if they don’t have sushi? What if I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life?

It is now May 24th, and my last day here in Granada, Spain, and I can say with certainty that none of my fears became a reality (well, except for the fact that I’m sushi deprived). My walls are bare and my suitcases are all packed because at 3 A.M. I set out for the Malaga airport. Kanye West once said “bittersweet, you’re gunna be the death of me.” And that’s the only song lyric that feasibly sums up how I’m feeling. I’ve grown accustom to going out at 2 am. I’ve grown accustom to not having to tip the waiters but receiving free food with any drink. I’ve grown accustom to being called “guapa” on a daily basis by men of all ages, and more than anything I’ve grown accustom to the people I’m surrounded by. With a group of 42 students, all of whom have different living arrangements, I would be lying to say I’ve gotten a chance to know them all on a personal level. Regardless, they’ve earned a place in either my heart or my head. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t learned something new about someone, or taught them something about myself (sorry if it’s more than you cared to know). We’ve been warned about reverse culture shock after returning home, and I don’t doubt it for a second. What do you mean I can’t see the Alhambra from my backyard? Are you telling me I actually have to drive somewhere?

Words cannot express how excited I am to reunite with my home and everyone I’ve missed this semester, but part of me can’t bare to stand the thought that the next time I wake up, it won’t be due to the drunken club goers outside my window, or the horrid sound of the hardware store owners opening and closing the metal shields that protect their stores from the plywood kleptos of the city. As much as I bitch about the shticks of everyday occurrences in Granada, this will always be a second home to me. It may have taken some time to adjust, but just as this place really starts to feel like home, it’s time to go. Everyone knows I’m an emotional person, so I’ll wrap this up before the lump that’s in my throat gets to the point of tears. Thank you Granada for a wonderful semester, and all that you’ve proven to me about not only Spanish culture, but about myself. No es adios, es hasta luego.

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A Month in the Life

You’re all probably  dying to know what my day to day life has been like over the past month, and so I’ve selected some pictures that capture my recent shenanigans. Take a gander at the slideshow of pictures that will take you through some of the past few weeks. Barcelona, Portugal and obviously, the wonderful city of Granada. Of course I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to caption anything or put them in order. In fact there may even be duplicates, but regardless, enjoy!

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A Small Pizza Italy

Leaving my initials on the walk of love in Cinque Terre does not even begin to scratch the surface of my love for that country. When I think back to spring break, the first thing that comes to mind is nearly a week in Italy eating the best pizza, pasta and gelato of my life, however I managed to do some actual sightseeing as well!

After the great train debacle, we settled into our sea side hostel in Cinque Terre, Italy. This hostel was unlike anything I’d ever stayed in. Instead of a building with multiple rooms, this hostel was divided into separate tiny villas nestled in the steep hills of the town. Considering we had already lost a day, we knew it was time to kick it up a notch and get our touristy adventures a’goin! For three euro we were able to buy a pass that allowed us to travel by foot in between villages for the rest of the day. Walking along the winding cliffs and listening to the waves hit the rocks could not have been any more perfect. Much of the villages was damaged after a mudslide last year, making it somewhat difficult to walk, and so we also used the train. The only problem with this was the lack of warning about which stop was next, which ultimately led us into places we had already seen or did not plan to go to. Even with all the confusion, we managed to get to 4 of the 5 villages before the sunset engulfed us. It was then time for the moment I’d been waiting for since my senior year of high school (the last time I was in Italy) a real Italian dinner. Mind you, one of my best friends is as Italian as they come, and I am by no means mal nourished while I’m at her house, but something about eating Italian food IN Italy makes it a bit more special. And so ravioli it was! There is no need to even ask how it was. Unless Riomaggiore, the village we stayed in, had some top-secret nightclub I was fairly positive there was no must-see nightlife. That being said, we decided to have a classy rooftop wine night, fully complete with an iTunes playlist and the melodies of a legitimate Italian opera from our friend Jaime (looks like all of her years of voice lessons paid off!) This was the life, people. Not a care in the world, overlooking the Mediterranean, with only the echoes of our own laughter and a bottle of blush wine. Did we really have to leave so soon? I mean, the answer is yes because we had made a legitimate itinerary weeks beforehand, but if not I would have been content spending a few more days, maybe weeks, THE REST OF MY LIFE THERE.

It was only Tuesday and I had become a professional at the train system, and so yet again we found ourselves all aboard for a few hour journey to the heart of the Renaissance: Florence! With only one train change, we arrived right on schedule as we moseyed our way through the tourist packed streets of the city. Not to brag, but my memory is quite impeccable and I was quickly overcome with nostalgia as I passed statues and gelato shops that I had seen years before. It was as if time had stood still, and I was back to see the city through more grown-up eyes. Wheeling our luggage over the Ponte Vecchio unscathed by the absurd amount of tourists, we found our hostel. The phrase “never judge a book by its cover” had never been so true. Except, the appearance of this place was not the problem. In fact, it was beautiful and I spent the next few days referring to it as the ho-stel (a hybrid of hotel and hostel) But little did we know the owner was a legitimate nutjob with a bad case of bi-polar disorder. I knew things were strange when she called her assistant stupid in front of her face, and even more embarrassing-in front of us. You see we had arrived a little before check in time and had it up to here (visualize where my hand is) with waiting in the hallway with automatic lights, which shut off every five minutes. And so, we knocked on the door until a girl, somewhere in her twenties, answered the door. For about five minutes we went in circles as she explained in Italian that we were early and we COULD wait outside. To which I responded “yes, we COULD but we could also wait inside.” Not once did she tell me it was literally against their policy, and before you knew it, pyscho Mcgee had come through the door. She greeted us with smiles, which quickly turned to angry shouting at her counterpart. Shit was getting weird and we had only been there a half an hour. Anyways, only videotape evidence would do this woman justice as her schizophrenia became more and more apparent. Paying was a fiasco (and I aint talkin’ Lupe) and don’t even get me started about the wifi. My inner weasel should have picked up on her sneaky ways as she insisted we pay for wifi right then and there, which we did, only to later find out there was no password necessary and she had just made an extra ten euro with the snap of her fingers. After listening to her chirp for twenty minutes we quickly fled the scene to do some exploring! My eyes grew wide with every step as we passed Pinocchio themed EVERYTHING. It took some real restraint not to buy everything in sight. I don’t know where this obsession started, all I know is that I love Pinocchio more than the average human.

Later that night I was on my own, seeing as I had made plans with some camp friends that were also in town visiting. After finding the virtually nonexistent street with their hostel thanks to some friendly locals and Google maps, we attempted to find a restaurant (or one of the many) that our friend had suggested to us. Unfortunately (but not really because our dinner was phenomenal) we could only find one of the suggested venues, but it was packed. However before leaving I had managed to run into a friend from school studying in Florence for the semester. I guess this place was popular! Like I said though, it was a blessing in disguise. Jordan and I had decided to go halfsies on two different types of gnocchi. And what a great decision that was. I think our salmon and asparagus gnocchi was hands down my favorite meal of the whole vacation. Additionally, we had the nicest waitress ever who gave us a large discount and even went out of her way to make us drinks that weren’t listed on their cocktail menu. It was a really nice night, and nice to have a bit of home thrown into the mix of study abroad. Feeling as though I’ve lived there all my life, I made my way back to the ho-stel where luckily some other guests arrived the same time as me with a key. That’s another thing I forgot to mention. Lunatic Lady had given the four of us ONE key, for the three nights, and could not care less about whether we were going out together or not. So, as any 1960’s teenager would, I made a promise to be back no later than midnight. In fact, my friends had agreed to start checking the front door for me starting at 11:30 every 15 minutes or so. Yes, this actually happened. No, they haven’t found a cure for her mental instability yet.

baby come back

Buongiorno! Our first full day in Florence! The afternoon before we had found our way over to the Uffizi to purchase tickets for their gallery as well as the Academia. Between these two museums, you could have a pretty hearty lesson on the Italian Renaissance, not to mention see some of the most famous pieces of art in history. Without a reservation, you could be waiting on line for hours, so buying in advance was absolutely the best decision. The weather was also a bit temperamental that day, so it was nice to be inside for the majority. After gawking at the Birth of Venus, the David, and other really important things, we were a little drained of energy. We needed some time to unwind before dinner and a real night out, and so back to the insane asylum we went. Here comes ordeal number three- The laptop charger incident. For the past three months I had been using an adapter on my laptop charger with no problem. The charger was supposed to work all over Europe. How do I know this? Because my best friend, you know the Italian one who feeds me well, had studied in Italy the semester before and lent it to me. Well, after being plugged into the wall for twenty minutes, it began to fall out. I thought it was strange and when I went to plug it in again, the plastic around the prongs had broken and the metal was warped! I immediately stormed to the office to tell this woman that her outlet had broken my charger, to which she replied “maybe you shouldn’t force it so hard.” How dare she. I forced nothing, and I was at the end of my rope. “This is an Italian charger, and your outlet must be faulty, this is not fair.” Her genius response? “Try and fix it.” “WOW. THAT’S A FANTASTIC IDEA, THANKS!” I shouted sarcastically as I stomped back into the room cursing her existence. Luckily we were on our way out, and I was able to escape before punching her in the ovaries. The night before, the rest of my travel companions had eaten at “Il Gato e La Volpe.” Ironically, the crowded restaurant that I never made it to. I almost forgot I was in Italy as I dined with what seemed to be every study abroad student in the entire city, but the food was really good! The clock was ticking and we had made plans to be at Gracie’s friend’s apartment by 10:30 before heading out for the night. It was really interesting to see how different our study abroad lifestyles were. I found myself in a giant apartment for six girls completely with a kitchen and common area and a bunch of rowdy girls ready to go out by 11:30. This was a whole new world and nothing like the low key residencia I’m used to. Not to mention, Spaniards don’t go out until close to 1. 11:30 was fair game for a nap in my option. The ten, or so of us filed out of the apartment and made our way to a club, or should I say the 8 year anniversary Bar Mitzvah party of the Jews of New York. My gut told me that I had to know at least one person in this sea of sweaty bodies, and sure enough, less than five minutes after arriving I found a group of girls I go to school with. Needless to say we were excited and shocked all at the same time. The amount of people jam packed into this place was enough to induce a stroke of some sort, so after a little while avoiding the weird kids on the outskirts of the dancing circle, I went outside for some fresh air/to peace the hell out. Waiting outside I yet again got the feeling that someone I knew was in the vicinity. Call it a knack, but there was another friend from high school right in front of me. At this point, my friends were confused as to whether we were on spring break or I had actually brought them to a reunion of every major event of my life. I began to wonder as well. Soon enough, the rest of our party joined us outside and we made a group decision that we were over being pushed against all those sweaty American bodies. Backtracking a bit: we were told earlier that scattered around Florence there are a few secret bakeries. What’s this you might ask? Well, between the hours of about 1 and 4, there are these sketchy unmarked buildings responsible for making fresh pastries for the next morning and selling them for a euro each. The trick to finding them is solely based on sniffing your way there (or hearing through the grapevine, I suppose) As more and more people show up outside, you’re urged to be quiet or the bakers won’t come to the door. This was apparently the case we thought as the man who had once been handing out fresh goodies put a large closed sign on the door after one of the girls in our group had gone inside. I was confused, but waited patiently. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later she emerged with about eight bags of piping hot, oily, gooey pastries free of charge. Talk about the perks of making friends with the right people! She’s become a regular at this place, and the guy did us a huge favor. I don’t think anything could top this moment 1) because it’s cool, don’t even try to deny it 2) because I really like dessert. A good night, for sure.

pretty little liars

The next afternoon we decided to take a day trip to good ole Pisa. We got there, walked around, got lunch and left. I’m kidding. What actually happened goes as follows: We got off the train, and thought we’d immediately see the tower and be blown away, however it took more than 30 minutes of hobbling around with my nauseating blisters to finally find it. That lean is no exaggeration, and I don’t be around when it finally gives out. But for the few hours we spent there it held up pretty nicely as we took some cliché pictures and picnicked on the grass nearby. The best part? We finally got some revenge on the lunatic. We used her white bed sheet to eat on. It was a shame we just happened to forget napkins and had to wipe our excess Nutella and raspberry juice on the sheet. When I imagine her making the bed and discovering the missing sheet, I envision something along the lines of putting two beta fish in the same bowl. Cue my mischievous hand rubbing paired with maniacal laughter.

Back to Florence for one last hoorah. We had our last meal at Gusta Pizza, suggested by everyone who’s ever studied in Florence. The wait for this place was a little bit ridiculous, but I understand why. I would trade a kidney to replace Spanish food with Italian food, especially if it was the pizza I had that night. After, we walked along the Ponte Vecchio, admiring it one last time and making our way up to the highest point in Florence to overlook the city. It was incredible and I knew I wasn’t ready to be leaving so soon. Thank you Florence for a wonderful time- I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again.

lean with it rock with it

Here we were at the tail end of our vacation. Last stop-Rome! Immediately after dropping our bags at our hostel, we jumped on the metro and took it to the Coliseum. Just as I remembered. There’s only so long you could stare at an ancient building, and so after a little while it was back to the hostel. Not only was Friday our first night in Rome, but it was also the start of Passover. Being in Italy on a holiday where it’s forbidden to eat bread-products is no easy task, however it makes for one great story. The four of us had made reservations weeks earlier at a Chabad of Rome. Knowing very little about what to expect, we put on some nice clothes and walked the wonderfully short distance to Chabad. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted and surrounded by other people who made us feel right at home. Passover is a holiday that I love to be home for. Though a bit lengthy, I love my family seders and if I could, I would have been there in a heartbeat. But if there was one place I had to be other than home, I’m glad this was it! Italians, Americans and Israelis piled in to the seder and Ruth, Gracie and myself got to teach our friend Jaime all about our own traditions. The majority of the night the room was loud, and many parts were half assed, but a loud seder is better than no seder, right?! Eventually, the room emptied out except for a table of Israelis and a few Americans that we had connected to through the wonderful game of Jewish Geography. We decided to stay and chat with them for about an hour. On our way out, the Israelis extended an offer to join them at a bar. This was an offer that could not be resisted, and so we spent the next few hours sitting outside becoming friends and discussing life over a few bottles of red wine. I couldn’t have been happier if I tried.

LITC?

Of course no good vacation is complete without something going terribly wrong. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Day 2 in Rome. The day’s agenda consisted of a walking tour/cooking class which I had found online and had really been looking forward to. This day wasn’t going to be cheap, but this was Italy and spring break. Cutting corners was a no-no. We had allowed ourselves plenty of time (or so we thought) to get to the meeting point, but little did we know the man at the hostel was an ignoramus and gave us terrible instructions. After telling him where we needed to go, he retorted with a bus number so quickly that we did not doubt for a second that he did not know where he was sending us. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was not getting off the bus the moment we had an inkling that something wasn’t right. Mistake number three was me crying in public on a bus, only to be approached by a priest that informed me that “G-d has plans of his own” or some shit. He was a lovely man and all, but I wasn’t feelin’ it. Instead, I continued to sob as the numbers on the clock got farther and farther past the scheduled meeting time. Finally, the bus driver dropped us “close” to where we needed to be. We ran like the wind, and prayed that the group had no left without us, even though we were close to 30 minutes late. With my asthma kicking in and my ass crack out for all of Rome to see, we made it to the location where by some miracle, the woman in charge informed us that the group we were joining was running late, and we hadn’t missed the tour after all. The priest was right! It was a Pass-Easter miracle! Now we could enjoy our day-which we absolutely did. Because I have the world’s smallest ear canals, I couldn’t wear the headset and instead got all buddy-buddy with the guide, walking less than a foot behind her at all times. She took us to the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain and other important sights before dropping us at a restaurant for our final part of day, the cooking class. When I signed up for the tour, I envisioned us in some big kitchen behind closed doors, but instead we were set up in the middle of this rather popular restaurant. Also, the rest of the people on the walking tour apparently hadn’t signed up for the cooking portion so it was just the four of us, which was wonderful. The owner of this place helped us make cavatelli, and spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli. Both of our pasta creations were then taken to the kitchen where a real chef assembled them and made them into the best pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten. Along with the pasta we got wine and desserts of our choice, and the staff was so incredibly friendly. The next few hours we spent riding the metro to various places of interest. First stop, the Vatican. There was no getting in there the day before Easter, but the outside was still cool, and crowded with thousands of people and chairs set up for the arrival of the Pope. Next stop, the Spanish Steps. They may not be the coolest attraction in Rome, but they’re definitely important (don’t ask me why). Plus, we’re studying in Spain, it’s gotta mean something! And you know I’m always up for taking a break and sitting somewhere for a while, so why not there? I mean, when in Rome. We recharged ourselves at the hostel for a little while and then ventured out for our last meal of our vacation. After wandering the deserted streets on the outskirt neighborhood we stayed in, we had an epiphany. What were we doing? Looking for something cheap and easy in our last night in Italy? Absolutely not. So, back on the metro we went, and took it to the Trevi fountain stop where the streets are lined with pizzeria after pizzeria.

  lost my life savings trying to get this picture

They say for every coin you throw into the fountain, you will return to Rome. Who could I talk to about making a deal? I would have given them all the money left in my wallet if I could have just stayed a few more nights. If you’ve made it through this post without falling asleep, or wishing you had never started reading, I thank you. It’s not easy to sum up an experience as wonderful as this one, but after a month of avoiding the task, I did it. I may have sacrificed my computer charger, a jeans size and a bit of my dignity, but that’s the price I pay.

French Riviera- Ever Been There-a?

Aaaand the slacker of the century award goes tooooo: me. Hold your applause.

I guess I semi apologize for the absurd delay in blogging, but hear me out. After 12 days of traveling, two different countries, and more forms of public transportation than I’ve ever wanted to use in my life, I guess you could say I was a little worn out and relying heavily on people’s facebook picture stalking skills to piece together my spring break. I still, however, do not have the motivation to assemble that lengthy of a post and, have decided to instead entertain you with snippets and pictures. Let’s start with France, shall we?

Marseille

Cue the awkward silence. Luckily we only spent a night here to let our bodies adjust to the copious amounts of traveling previously that day. I was willing to bet all of my limbs that the hostel we had found was in reality an underground slaughterhouse, and I was about to fall victim to this lunatic man’s wildest psychotic break. After a late night check in, I ventured out into the ghetto where I had a  French “kebab.” I suppose after being spoiled so long in Granada, nothing compares, but how dare you take 20 minutes to roll up chicken and lettuce in a flour tortilla and call it a kebab. Shame on you, Frenchmen. As we walked back to our hostel, I made sure not to allow anyone to stop for pictures in fear of an almost guaranteed molestation. Who knew I’d actually be  relieved to see our abandoned building again? If you’ve traveled to and/or live in Marseille and feel differently, you’re wrong and I ain’t sorry. Bye bye, Marseille, see you on the news I’m sure. There are no pictures. Step one to forgetting it happened.

Nice

Now this is France! I breathed quite the sigh of relief stepping off the train in Nice. The city was alive, clean, and most important-the place I was going to reunite with my best friends for the first time in over three months! Because I’ve waited so long to write this entry, my memory is a bit faulty, but I’m almost positive after our check in (to a much nicer hostel) we were right back out the door to wander about. After scoping out potential places to later visit, we were off to the train station to wait for Ally. When she finally came through the terminal with her luggage I could barely contain my excitement as I dropped my bag and virtually ran into her arms (and we all know how I feel about running). We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring until dinner and enjoyed “going halfsies” on some pizza and salad. I know what you’re thinking: how traditionally French of us.  After a bit more night time exploring, all were in agreement that an early bed time was a good plan. Besides, Cara was joining us the next day and us girlies needed to mentally prepare being reunited!

pretty nice

At a fairly reasonable hour the next morning, the bunch of us set out to really soak in Nice and more specifically the Old Town, which was as close as I could get to physically walking through a postcard. As we made our way to the water, we were attracted to a large winding set of stairs optimal for viewing the city and water at the same time. Panting, we reached the top and were finally graced with that “we’re on spring break and living the life” feeling. It wasn’t Paris, but it sure was nice! Ba-dum-cha! Upon descending, the Mediterranean was right at our fingertips and we couldn’t NOT dip our feet in. Although the beaches of Nice are rock beaches notorious for leaving a white residue on every square inch of clothing, it was certainly worth it. If it wasn’t for the pain of the rocks jabbing into my ass, I would have stayed all day. It then dawned on me: I’d been in France for almost two days and had not eaten a crepe. So as you can imagine, our next stop was a cafe for lunch. A-HA moment of the trip right here,folks. Who knew crepes weren’t just a dessert? Certainly not I. That was until I had the cheesiest, most vegetabley crepe in all the land. Noms to that. I liked the direction this day was headed, and the weather was so beautiful that it was only right to do my second favorite thing- kill time sitting in a plaza, people watching and waiting for our other partner in crime.

As soon as Cara arrived, we were back in action. Obviously we wanted her to experience authentic French cuisine as fast as possible, and figured what better way than with a dessert crepe?! That’s right, two crepes, one day. I’M CRAZY! I’d say we spent at least an hour and a half in the cafe just catching up, attempting to flag down a waitress for more water for twenty minutes, watching a beggar be kicked out, and more! If my memory serves correctly, the rest of the day entailed slothing in the hostel until dinner in a quaint French restaurant in the Old town. We made the mistake of scurrying back after dinner for a promised pub crawl organized by our hostel owner’s son. Brief background on him: he was a super awkward 24 year old Italian boy who had a hunchback when he walked, but was funny as hell. I named him Chow, and knew we’d be great friends. Well anyway, we all got ready for this pub crawl and hung out in the main waiting area (which happened to double as Chow’s apartment) chatting with the other hostel guests and enjoying some complimentary beer. Next thing you know, Chow and these three Australian girls excuse themselves because they’re going to dinner…at 10 p.m. Perplexed was an understatement, but we realized we did not need his mediocre social skills to point us in the right direction, and so we head out in search for a bar all by ourselves! Venturing into the old town we came across quite the array of choices and settled on a place with live music (playing way too loud to even have a conversation with the person next to you) and what do you know, had some Strongbow with caramel, just in case the “beer” wasn’t sweet enough.

Saturday morning, Cara, Ally and I stumbled across an amazing market on our way to the beach where it would have been nearly impossible to leave empty handed. Strolling up and down the street with our eyes bigger than our stomachs, we picked up the essentials: baguette, cheese, and strawberries. We brought our snack to the edge of the beach, sat down on the last bit of concrete before the rocks and sand, and became elated with our decision. The cheese I bought tasted like a less tangy version of sour cream in a more solid form. I have decided to name it “The Perfect Compliment for Strawberries.” Once we were bored, we began another round of aimless wandering which ultimately led us to another market full of art and jewelry. Note to self/everyone else: don’t buy jewelry at a market unless you like things that tarnish immediately. As the time flew by, I became increasingly more excited knowing that at 4 p.m. we were scheduled to make our way to the holiest of holy places: The Monte Carlo Casino. If I had an endless supply of money, you could bet your life that I would have lost it all at the casino. I’m somewhat embarrassed that I’m only 20 years old and addicted to slot machines, but that’s what you get when you spend a significant amount of your childhood at the arcade on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. The bus ride to Monaco, which is technically another country, was about 40 minutes and had some gorgeous views. As soon as we stepped off the bus, I felt my wallet becoming lighter. Between the Rolls Royce, Bentley and Maserati parked outside, I knew this place was going to be legit. There was a 10 euro entrance fee, but I like to think that because the bus was virtually free, that it evens out. I willing paid my portion and made my way in, telling myself that I wouldn’t spend more than 30 euro on slots. Surprisingly I stuck to it! Of course the one time I was up (which mind you couldn’t have been by more than 7 euros) I lost it. Still, it was a good time, and satisfied my craving to throw away money while simultaneously gaining a cool experience. After we had all lost a bit of money, we had a master plan to stop into a grocery store, pick up our own food and cook our dinner using our mini kitchen in the hostel. Well this turned out to be a sitcom. Here we had a package of chicken, a lemon sauce, and an industrial box of couscous. Pot-check. Oil-check. Utensils-check. Working stove-NO CHECK. I was either about to give my friends food poisoning from raw meat, or cave and ask Chow to use his stove. I chose the latter half solely because I had no idea where the nearest hospital was, and wasn’t about to take a chance. Chow welcomed us with open arms and even insisted that we stay to eat our food. As a sign of our appreciation we let him keep the remaining 60 servings of couscous. Chow bid us farewell for the evening by extending a small bouquet of flowers in our direction and telling us to pick one, well, except the pink one, that one was his favorite…(there’s always a catch). As tired as we were, there’s always room for dessert. That being said, the three of us got re-dressed and took a walk down to Pinocchio, a chain restaurant with the best ice cream sundaes this side of the Mediterranean  Sea. A perfect way to end a perfect weekend if you ask me!

a step below disneyworld

Saying goodbye to my friends was not easy the next morning, but I tried my best to put on my big girl panties and suck it up. Dragging my 25 pound suitcase to the train station at 7 am was a pretty awful feeling, but we were heading to Italy, so I couldn’t complain! Or could I? I’d managed to avoid the stereotypes of rude French people all weekend, until now. The five of us approached the window and asked for our ticket to Ventimiglia, Italy, where we would then catch our next train to Genoa. However, we were very bluntly told there were “no trains” to Italy. “That’s impossible” I retorted. I had done the research for this over and over, and now I was embarrassed and panicked in the train station. Again, the woman behind the counter repeated “there are no trains to Italy,” as we became increasingly confused. Were we at the wrong station? Was this woman an idiot? I needed to find out. Less than five minutes later, we were informed by another worker that there was a strike on Italian transportation that day. GO FIGURE. At this point, not only was I livid with the woman who made me believe I had made a horrible mistake as opposed to informing us the trains weren’t running that day only, and aggravated that yet again Europe decided to fuck with my travel plans. Disheartened and not anticipating lugging my suitcase around anymore, we trudged back to our hostel and begged Chow to make room for us for one more night. That little hunchback complied, and there we were in Nice for one last hoorah. With one more day and nothing better to do, we hopped on a bus and took a ride over to Cannes. No, there was no film festival going on, but there was a pretty beach and yet ANOTHER market. I’m finding a theme in this country. Ideally at this point I would have been indulging in pizza up to my eyeballs, but if there was one place I had to be stranded for a day, I suppose the south of France wasn’t too shabby.

Stay tuned for part II…

Moroccan and Rollin’ in Northern Africa

Hey study abroad students! Are you sick and tired of your European country being far less technologically savvy than America? Don’t you just wish for once you could give your señora a pair of jeans and get them back the next day? Are you sick of eating french fries with a fork? If the answer to previous questions is “yes!” then you should go to Morocco! Morocco is the perfect second world country to make you realize that wherever you are is not so bad. All jokes aside, Morocco was quite the experience! Sure we weren’t allowed to drink the water or eat their salad, but hey, who wants water and salad anyway? Am I right?

I should have anticipated that the weather would suck just because that always happens when our group goes on a cool excursion in which I hope to take a lot of pictures outside, but we soon realized that everybody was destined to look like crap and it was surely acceptable (especially there). Forty days of rain per year and we were there for two. What are the chances?! See, if I was good at math, I would follow this up with a legitimate answer, but instead you’ll have to envision my blank stare.

Our first stop was at a restaurant where I could spend the rest of my life and be perfectly content. It was there that I officially became one of those people. You know which ones I’m talking about–the ones that photograph their food. I couldn’t help it though! This was the first time I had seen couscous in three months and had food that was flavored with someone other than salt. I was in all my [ever-so-cultured] glory. Our tour guide informed us (eight times nonetheless) that we would get to try the mint tea of Morocco. He was right! Sure it was delicious, and I bet he was really excited, but the entire weekend he repeated his sentences in various sentence structures, and interchanging adjectives after everything that he said. I don’t know if he was just really excited to show off his English skills, or he has some type of disorder, but regardless I became easily frustrated with him. Immediately after we went into a walking tour around Tangier, however it wasn’t long before we made our first diversion at a Moroccan “pharmacy.” Up the stairs we went to a room filled with long benches set up for what looked to be a camp talent show, though the man that emerged next was far better than any act I’ve seen before.  His display table was filled with bags of spices, herbs, and creams promising the removal of any unwanted blemishes or fat on the human body. “Hello, Please!” eventually became his tag line as he would preach the miracles of orange oil and test our knowledge of saffron. It took me about 15 minutes before I realized just who he reminded me of. Willy fuckin’ Wonka. This guy wore a lab coat and had something so condescending about him, yet everyone wanted more. He even had his own version of oompa loompas come out between each product and rapidly, one by one, give each of us a sample without saying a word. Everyone thought they were so clever by taking him up on his “buy two get one free” offers and splitting it with their friends to save money, but let’s be honest, we all just paid 5 euros for Johnson and Johnson’s baby lotion in a container the size of a silver dollar and packaged in arabic. Jokes on us.

can i have your autograph?

I want to suck your blood 

After this sitcom we weaved in and out of the streets of Tangier, occasionally stopping for novelty items and every so often getting a tidbit of information from our tour guide. At the end of our walk, the man who had latched onto us at the beginning (whom I believed was another tour guide) stood with his hands out, expecting tips. Was he not actually with us? Is he insane? Literally what was going on? This was only the beginning of the series of ridiculous men who would later follow us around like groupies. I should say we were given fair warnings that this country was accustom to frequent tipping, however I did not know that local pedestrians with nothing better to do but lurk, were included in this. And so we were off to Hotel Chellah, finally able to unpack, unwind and spend the rest of the night soaking in the fact that we were in officially in Africa!

Early the next day, and by early I mean earlier than everyone else thanks to slight confusion about daylight savings, we had breakfast at the hotel. Special shout out to the Arab woman who made me a delicious pita-esque bread with her bare hands while sitting over a small grill. You rock, don’t ever change. After loading the bus, we were headed to Chefchaouen, which in my opinion was the best city we saw. About an hour and a half from Tangier, tucked away in the mountains is this pretty little village where all the houses and buildings were painted the same beautiful blue color. The narrow uphill streets were a little bit frightening seeing as they had been freshly coated with rain, and I was sure to link arms with those around me, if by some chance I were to go rolling down the hill. At least then I would not be the only one embarrassed. We were led through Chefchaouen by an old man wearing a traditional long man dress called a Djellaba, and a fez (the hat, not the character from That 70’s Show) (Common mistake no worries). Yet again I was able to pinpoint his animated look alike, and so he became “the little old man from 8 Crazy Nights.” He was such a nugget and spoke such good English in cute old man fashion! Although we were told that taking pictures of people in Morocco was somewhat forbidden, this man was all for it. He even threw in the peace sign for a full effect. Of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without a tourist trap, so naturally we stopped in a rug shop? Sorry for the question mark, I just have no idea what to call this place. It was full of tapestries, and carpets claimed only to be authentic and available from Chefchaouen. They were so pretty, I just couldnt resist. I figured that if I was a legitimate person who collected post cards and shot glasses from each city I traveled to, then by this point I would have spent the same amount on those as I spent on my new blanket. I haven’t decided where exactly it will wind up, but if you get a silky, cream colored tapestry from me as a birthday present, just know it’s legit.

bffaeaeaetddup

Later that night we were taken to a dinner show in a large tent which featured performers such as “The Man Who Walks on Glass,” “The Man Who Spins with Candles Glued to the Tray on His Head,” and the ” Thank G-d She’s a Belly  Dancer because Her Face is an Atrocity Lady.” Not sure if those were their actual titles but they’ll just have to do. This reminded me of an upscale Bedouin tent, if you will. It was humorous, moderately entertaining and the food was good so what’s there to complain about? Being one of the last people to get seated, I found myself at a table with only three of my friends. We we’re perfectly fine with this, that was, until the random older couple from Ireland joined us. I’m not good at sharing and I really wanted them to leave, but as it turns out they were quite lovely! The two of them shared stories about when their son was abroad, which made us all a bit emotional especially when she tried to express how much he loves the friends he made and how quickly everything is going to be over. Eeeeek. Must. Not. Digress. And write. Depressing. Blog entry.

a true shining star

As far as night life goes in Morocco, there is none. Literally it does not exist to my knowledge, and therefore we were banished back to the hotel for the evening. I’m sure you can guess this did not upset me tremendous amounts. Plus, I needed a good night’s sleep because I had a hot date with a camel the next day. Any Nice Jewish Girl (that is a title, it required capitalization) has ridden a camel once or twice before, so while I was definitely excited, I was not expecting anything too crazy. Our last day in Morocco was spent in Asilah, but the camel ride was a pit stop along the way. Perched on the African coast of the Atlantic Ocean, four camels, and a bratty little baby one awaited us. They smelled like shit and made a lot of weird noises, but so do a lot of people and that’s even more unacceptable. The ride only lasted about two minutes, but I’m pretty excited to say I’ve now done this on two different continents. Asilah was a pretty town along the water full of walls covered in artwork and authentic little shops. We were given free time to wander around, and make some purchases. This was my time to shine-the hour of haggling. Now you know I love handmade pottery as much as the next aspiring house wife, but there there’s only so much I’m willing to spend. Most of the girls on my trip decided to get a henna tattoo, but I was ultra reluctant considering I will be doing my signature betch pose in many upcoming spring break pictures.

get in the van

get in the van

I realize this post is a bit shorter than the rest, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because we barely did any historical sightseeing. While all of Morocco is history in itself, we stayed clear of mosques, and other important buildings. I suppose not being allowed in to places unless you are Muslim makes it a tad difficult to go on a tour. That’s okay though, the culture and the locals were the true stars of this trip, and it was nice to turn the intensity level down a few notches. Salaam Aleikum, Morocco, and thank you for rockin’.

Life as a Granadian

I’ve debated writing this blog post for quite some time. I feel as though I haven’t done anything exceptionally “blog worthy” in a few weeks. However after much deliberation I realized that many of you are probably wondering what I’ve been doing in between my travels and classes! And that is why I’ve decided to give you a sneak peak into my Andalusian adventure.

I can’t believe-no,scratch that. everyone else can’t believe that it’s taken me until March to make my way to the local hotspots, but regardless, I finally know the true meaning of being an abroad student in Granada. Better late than never, I suppose. Shock is the only way to describe how I feel that my program is officially more than halfway over. I keep toggling between the ideas that I feel like I’ve been here forever, and the fact that although I’m having a wonderful time I often find myself craving my friends, my dog, and bagels (duh). Being in the single digits for the number of weeks I have left is odd to say the least, so it dawned on me that I better start “living it up!” The past two weekends I mustered up the strength to test out the ever popular El Camborio discoteca and Hannigans Irish pub. I was skeptical, but rest assure they are all they’re cracked up to be! El Camborio is a club nestled in the Albaicín with a picture perfect view of the Alhambra. If you don’t have a stroke on your walk up, it’s definitely worth a picture before you are bombarded with the drink specials of the night. “Special” is a nice way of saying concoction at Camborio. If you are a diabetic, perhaps you should skip out on the sugary mixture of juice posing as an alcoholic beverage, and just cough up the 3 euro for a real one. Just a personal opinion. The Spaniards laugh as we recap our night at El Camborio because it is so stereotypically touristy, but it’s nice to not be in the minority for a change.The cave-like atmosphere and outdoor patio area are nice changes from the same ole club setting you’re used to. As for Hannigans, I would not typically consider myself an irish pub goer, but I forgot how amazing it is to hear English. As much as I would love to be a frat bro, I just cannot enjoy consuming beer, which is another reason why I’m a fan of Hannigans. They serve Strongbow,the hard cider-type drink that I tried in Switzerland, but it looks like beer makes me feel like I’m one of the other kids. That just sounded like a commercial for prosthetic legs or a heart transplant, but it’s true. Also, they played the Beegees, which undoubtedly won my heart.

Remember my internship at the school?  Well it’s already been 5 weeks there! I feel as if I’ve known some of these kids forever and already find myself way more attached than I thought possible. When I first started, my heart belonged to the six-year-olds. It truly is impossible not to find them adorable and contemplate smuggling them out in my purse, however I’ve realized that the work I do with them most likely will not have a substantial influence in their lives. That’s alright though, because I’m seeing big changes in the other classrooms. Opening the door to my 6th grade classroom, I have to brace myself for the standing ovation; I kid you not. The once timid 12 year olds now start an uproar before I even have time to take off my jacket. They chant my name and bombard me with hugs as they stumble over their thoughts attempting to tell me about their weekends. Though their rowdiness should bother me, it does the complete opposite, and I become almost as excited to hear their stories as they are to share them. It takes a solid fifteen minutes for an actual teacher to arrive to the classroom and give an assignment, so in the meantime, we chat, and I try my best to give all of them a bit of individual attention. I cannot speak highly enough about them, and about how much I appreciate their enthusiasm. I’m being too cheesy for my liking right now, but I can’t stop. I have to speak about the seniors, who I recently found out, are 18 years old. Only two years separates us, yet it feels like ten. They’re certainly immature, which I attribute to the fact that the educational system is Spain is subpar, and also, in America they would already be in college. Our routine goes as follow: I plan an activity, and take six or so students into another room to make a more conducive setting for learning. For example, last week we worked on homophones. Sadly, half of you reading this probably don’t know what those are. Homophones are words that sound identical but are spelled differently. I would put an example such as “pear/pair” on the blackboard and wait for someone to attempt figuring it out. As I imagined, there weren’t many words these kids were familiar with so I would try my best to explain it in spanish or draw it on the board.  When we finished in English I felt a bit bad for my challenging game, so I threw myself under the bus and let them do the teaching. Soon it was six against one, and I was getting a Spanish lesson. The week before that, I constructed a crossword puzzle with American fun facts. They were SO into it and it humored me to see them struggle with clues like “name the breakfast food made with eggs, flour, sugar and milk.” The answer is pancakes for all you not-so-suzy homemakers out there.

Botellón. There aren’t even words to describe this Spanish phenomenon translating into “big bottle.” Each weekend, people gather in various locations for some outdoor partying. I’m not talking a party on the lawn of a frat house, or your cousin’s 4th of July barbecue. We’re in the major leagues now. Though it is not technically legal, it’s a tradition that has been 100% accepted here, and there are way more drunkards than there are policemen, so what can you do?  The Botellón happens all the time, however this past weekend was the largest one of the year: La Fiesta de la Primavera. My pictures do not do it justice, because it’s impossible to get all 20,000+ attendees in one picture. This all day affair takes place outside of a large department store, and the streets are completely covered in bottles, bags, remnants of costumes, and a lot of mud. Who cleans it up? I have no idea, but my heart goes out to them. I only spent an hour in the craziness, but that was enough. I told myself I wouldn’t go home without a prize, so I began scoping out which locals I could coax into letting me take their hat. Don’t ask me why; I have no idea. Anyway, I found the hat I wanted and approached a guy, probably around my age with a few of his friends. Out of nowhere Spanish began to spew out of my mouth as I explained that I needed a hat from the Botellón to bring to my class on Monday because of a competition we were having. He wasn’t buyin’ it, and after a few minutes of begging and giving puppy dog eyes I finally called it quits. I could say “there’s always next time” but this was one of those “once in a lifetime” kind of experiences, I’d say.

now imagine that times 8

now imagine that times 8

Well everyone, I’ve now spent over an hour of my time yet again avoiding the ample amount of work I have to do. It’s midterm week here and so far I’ve only taken my Spanish exam. To be honest, the only test I’m worried about is history. My teacher reassures us not to be nervous, then follows up with “so yeah, just know…everything.” Nothing like a few thousand years of Spanish history crammed into one night of studying! But don’t worry, once I’m done here, I shall begin writing sample essays. I am the little engine that could. Besides, there are too many good things to look forward to to bring down my mood. This friday is my much anticipated trip to Morocco, and shortly after that is spring break! THAT MEANS I’M IN THE SINGLE DIGIT COUNTDOWN UNTIL I SEE TWO OF MY BEST FRIENDS! Cannot. Contain. Excitement. Not surprisingly, another Spanish airline strike and I went head to head when they came dangerously close to sabotaging my reunification with my girlies, but I proved victorious yet again.  I say you can take my money, but you can’t take my spirit, stupid airport.

Gibraltar Rocked! (Sevilla & Cordoba too)

No worries if you don’t get my title. Allow me to explain my witty pun. This past weekend, all of AIFS loaded the coach bus yet again for another excursion. I have to be honest and say I was partially dreading this trip solely because I had just returned from Switzerland and had less than two full days to catch up on life. However it didn’t take long to do a complete 180, and now I can easily say this was one of my favorite weekends yet!

Around 1 pm on Friday afternoon, the bus dropped us off in Gibraltar under a sky that was seconds from opening up. It did in fact rain a good portion of the time we were there, but none of us let the weather affect our moods. Turns out Gibraltar is actually owned by the U.K. therefore we needed to show our passports at border control upon walking into the city. Once we ventured over the runway (not kidding, you literally walk through the exterior of Gibraltar’s airport) everything was in English-SUCCESS!  Also, everything was in pounds-FAIL. Luckily we had brought a lunch from home and didn’t really need to buy anything. Or so we thought. A few of us found a milkshake kiosk that could not be resisted, however the women who owned it were extremely friendly and accepted our euro, which we later found out that most places would. I’ll never forget you, Toblerone milkshake. Over two hours of free time is a dangerous thing. It allows enough time to wander far, far away, or to get extremely frustrated attempting to find cover from the rain. I obviously did the latter for quite some time until we stumbled upon a glass blowing exhibit/showroom. Everything was so pretty and I even took mental note of all the pieces I want as wedding gifts! (a girl can dream,right?) (I mean the wedding, not the gifts). What the hell were we supposed to do now? It seemed like the only thing in Gibraltar was the plaza we were stranded in, and we still had an hour to kill. After venturing to the opposite side of the plaza, we realized there was indeed an exit which lead to an abundance of cobblestone streets and places to windowshop. I suppose it would have been nice if we had realized this earlier but so be it, at least I got a milkshake. We met back up with the group and were divided into two groups while boarding a hybrid of a minivan and a bus; finally time to do something cool.

Our tour guide/minivanbus driver, whose name is long gone from my memory was about to take us to the rock of Gibraltar, AKA, the reason we were there in the first place. The rock is about 14,000 feet high, and consists of the most amazing caves I’ve ever seen. Granted I haven’t been to a surplus of caves, but these were legitimately awesome. The drive up the rock was about 3 miles but we made a slight pitstop at the halfway mark for a photo op.  Believe me when I say I’m a sucker for geography, so when it was made clear that we were at the southwestern most point in Europe I nearly freaked. We could legitimately see Africa from where we were standing at “Europa Point.” Only ten minutes to look around didn’t seem long enough, but time was a wastin’ and there were monkeys to be seen.

rock and roll gibraltar

DID I SAY MONKEYS?! YES, YES I DID. 300 Wild monkeys, living in the caves of the rock of Gibraltar and entertaining thousands of daily visitors including myself. Before the van even stopped to let us encounter the monkeys firsthand, one had hoisted its way into the open window on the driver’s side. You can bet your last dollar that I was the first one out of the van the second it came to a full stop. And there they were in all their glory-running around like….well,monkeys. Because the monkeys travel in packs, there were only about 10 in our immediate vicinity. We were warned that they are known to jump and to just keep an eye out. Clearly I was not fully aware of their capabilities, and crouching three feet in front of one to take a picture was all it took for one to grab hold of my hood, and maneuver its way up my back and head. I think I pulled my neck with my initial reaction to jerk my head around to fling it off, but that lil fella had quite the grip, and decided to work all the way up my head by clawing at my scalp. Yum, hepatitis and herpes B! This all happened so fast, but I vaguely remember and was told later on that I managed to yell “it’s killing me!” which then cued our tour guide to pry the monkey off me. Highlight of my life right there.

headed straight for the jugular

That ordeal will go down as one of my fondest memories ever, and I wasn’t sure if the weekend could get any better at this point, but alas, Seville was incredible. If I hadn’t chosen Granada for study abroad, I would have gone to Seville. Not to mention it was finally starting to feel like springtime here in Spain, and everything is that much better when there is no need for a winter jacket. At 7:30 p.m. we arrived to our wonderful hotel, and got ready for dinner. So.Many.Vegetables. I literally went buckwild piling on the veggies as if I had never seen/nor will I see them again. When I say I had vegetables at my dinner at the residencia, I hope you know I mean french fries or potatoes, so please understand how exciting this was. A small group of us decided to go to a bar for the evening. Finally got a much anticipated (and overpriced) mojito. The bar felt very Barcleona-esque, and of course I got to see every bit of it because of the lack of people. I will never adjust to the time in which people go out in this country. Grandma just can’t handle the European lifestyle at all. Plus, I didn’t mind having a good night’s sleep before a three hour walking tour the next morning.

The tour took us to Plaza de España which is a plaza located in Parque de María Luisa and now used as government buildings. The grey skies did not make for ideal photos but it was still gorgeous and a bit overwhelming in regards to the size. The buildings are lined with tiled alcoves of each province of Spain and decorated to the specific characteristics of the region. The park also extends beyond the walls of the buildings to incorporate plenty of orange trees, flowers, park benches and fountains. Muy bonita! After, it was off to the Alcázar, an old Moorish palace that was similar, yet not as breathtaking as the Alhambra. We learned that many of the materials were recycled from the Romans, which was a good explanation as to why the pillars were made of different marbles, and were different sizes. The palace also focused on the acceptance of all religions, and Christian and Jewish symbols could be seen in many of the rooms. And lastly, a view of the Cathedral of Sevilla. You know what they say, “if you’ve seen one gothic church, you’ve seen ’em all.” Or maybe that’s just what I say. I’ll give it credit for being magnificent, plus the Gothic period is one of my favorites, but If I see one more church I will throw a tantrum. Also, If you are reading my blog to gain accurate historical information, I apologize in advance because that’s as much as you’re gunna get out of me. I’m not here to teach, I’m here to entertain!

Of course no tour is complete without nearly sending me into cardiac arrest, so to go out with a bang we climbed up 33 flights of stairs ramp (still difficult) to make it to the bell tower of the Cathedral and get a view of the city. I stayed up there about 10 minutes to soak it all in, and to allow my heartbeat to return to a normal pace before descending and anticipating the buckling of my knees. Free at last, free at last! Time to explore the city at my own pace and enjoy the sun that finally decided to peek its head out. Soon it was 75 degrees as me, Allie and Ruth perused Seville. We got lost, got yelled at for sampling ice cream without making a purchase, made up an incredible rap song and returned to Plaza de España. Once we finally found our way, we were dead set on renting a paddle boat which allowed us to row around the interior of the buildings for only 5 euro. It didn’t take long for me to cross professional rower off my list. I was 100% incapable of moving the boat in the right direction and was sick and tired of strangers yelling at me in Spanish, so I handed the oars and my pride over to Allie who had clearly had some practice. For 35 minutes we (semi) circled around the moat-like thingamajig with the sun beating down. A perfect way to end the day if you ask me.

Tired and achey we walked back to the hotel, only to immediately venture back out for a well known gelato shop. My feet may have been in agony, but I make sacrifices for things and people I love and this was no exception. It was as delicious as the reviews said, and these people (unlike the evil lip-linered troll from before) allowed us to try as many of their 40+ flavors as we wanted. And thus concludes a marvelous afternoon. I swear my intention to go out later that night was there. I was dressed and everything, but then..someone turned on the T.V. Slowly, our group of party-goes was morphing into the “I’m gunna stay in and watch some National Geographic” crowd. It didn’t take much convincing before I was one of those people, in pajamas, watching a special on heroin addiction.

Before I knew it I was back on the bus, wishing I had a few more days in Seville. Our last stop of the weekend was Cordóba, settled on the Guadalquivir river. Yet another city where the Jews and Muslims once were thriving communities only to be kicked out. Surprise? Cordóba which at one time was the most populated city in the world, is also the birthplace of Socrates and Maimonides. That’s a pretty big deal! Almost immediately we were taken on a tour through the “Juderia” or Jewish quarter, that today holds one of only two synagogues preserved in Spain. The difference between this synagogue and the one seen in Toledo was that this one actually resembled a synagogue, you know, sans crucifix and patrolling nuns. Our tour guide really knew her stuff and it was nice to finally see some Jewish signs of life. These were some of the narrowest streets I had ever walked through. Seeing as this city was one the capital of the Islamic caliphate in Al Andalus (Andalusia) it seemed pertinent to visit the Cathedral that was once the mosque of the city. This mosque was ginormous I tell you, literally never ending. Similar to the Alcázar, the mosque incorporated many leftover materials. The red and white arches repeated for what felt like miles. Although when first built in the year 600 it was a Visigoth church, it was quickly changed into a mosque before ultimately winding up as a Roman Catholic church post-reconquista. Soon after, our journey back to Granada was in effect, and I was beyond satisfied with my weekend.

rambam himself

Planning a visit to Spain? These cities are a must see. Want to go but don’t want to travel alone? Take me with you! I promise these places won’t disappoint. And now that I’ve made you jealous, my work here is done! Until next time.

A Lot of Swiss Chocolate and a Oui Bit of France

A wise, anonymous friend of mine once said: “The only way to cure a chocolate hangover is with more chocolate.” Trust me, she is so right. And that is why I have returned to Spain with seven different varieties of Swiss chocolate and a higher BMI in exchange for leaving my dignity and sense of judgement in Geneva.

I’m kidding. But if you are an avid reader of this blog you know there’s always a somewhat ridiculous story to accompany my adventures.

At 2 A.M. on Friday morning me and the rest of my travel gang headed to the bus station to catch our five hour bus ride to Madrid, where we would then catch our two hour plane to Geneva. I would have been perfectly content staying on board for some extra pizza and swiss chocolate, but apparently that is strictly prohibited under the Swiss Air code of conduct. Upon arrival at the hotel, we had quite a bit of brainstorming to do. These next few moments would determine the rest of our trip and possibly whether or not I would end up in a Swiss jail cell. To sum things up, we had legitimately purchased two hotel rooms suitable for two people each, with a total of six people. Now I’m no mathematician but I was pretty positive that meant four people could stay in Hotel Moderne legally. I decided to take one for the team and volunteer to be the stowaway for the weekend along with my roommate’s friend from home who is also abroad and joined us on our travels. For the next five days we interchangeably exercised pretending to not know each other, returning strategically before and after the others (six minutes. every time) and pretending to be foreign. By foreign I mean that if the receptionist spoke to us in English, we were Dutch. If he spoke Dutch, we were American. If he spoke Chinese, I would be thoroughly impressed and ultimately blow our cover. Upon arriving at our room, my two hotel-mates and I noticed how tiny our bed was in comparison to our other friend’s. Without hesitation my friend Krissy marched down to the front desk and gave the “why is our bed so much smaller if we’re paying the same amount of money?” shpiel, which worked flawlessly. We then picked up our luggage and trudged up one more floor to our new temporary home. As we opened the door, a few angels harmonized and welcomed us with open arms (at least that’s how I recall it). Not one, not two, but three beds! We couldn’t help but hug each other and make awkward sounds expressing our excitement. This was our “IT’S A GIRL!” hospital room moment.

No post would be complete without a traumatizing situation in which you can laugh at my expense. And so, the following story is the real reason I brought you all here today. It is what I will refer to as “555: The Incident” for as long as I am on this earth, and you’ll see why in just a minute. I don’t care who you are, how many tattoos you have, how many bar brawls you’ve been a part of, you do not know fear until you are about to be homeless (okay, hotel-less), in the streets of a foreign city.

One fine morning, Em (my sneaky companion) and I decided to be daring and go down to breakfast. Our sneaky stunt had been flawlessly executed and we felt we were deserving of a 1,000 calorie reward. Of course we knew better than to speak to our other friends, but we figured at this point it would be safe for us to enjoy a croissant or four. Then, out of nowhere, a disgruntled French woman appeared from the kitchen and demanded our number. I had a split second to decide if I wanted to fake a heart attack or surrender. I even thought maybe I could get away with a “this isn’t where I parked my car” moment, and make a mad dash for the door (my sprint is still slower than the average walking pace), but instead I simply decided to stare at her until she melted. Angrily, with her spit flying onto my butter knife, she repeated: “which.room.are.you.in?!” This back and forth occurred approximately three more times, and every time our answer, in unison, was “I don’t remember.” Finally, we caved. “551, I think?” Close to vomiting on the table, I crossed my fingers that this would be the end of her interrogation. Room 551 was actually the room number of our other friends who were ye close ( )<— [that is drawn to scale] to entering the room when they saw us struggling and ran back upstairs. From then on we decided the best method would be the sneaking food back to the room via napkin.

All debacles aside, Geneva is beautiful! I strongly recommend a trip to anyone looking for somewhere touristy that doesn’t necessarily scream “mug me, I’m not from around here!” or “make sexual advances from the stoop of your convenience store!” We  were just steps from the bus and train stations, the tourism office, and the lake. Each day we decided to do one main attraction and then just go with the flow. Day number one was designated for aimless walking and getting situated. Our first stop was the tourism office to make sure we had all the information for our tentative plans. We then strolled along the lake where I took an uncanny amount of pictures of birds, and got my first glimpse of the Jet d’eau, a 459 ft fountain that is more or less the most famous landmark of Geneva. I swear for 10 minutes I was in some weird sci-fi film because out of nowhere appeared a man stripped down to a speedo and strutting his stuff down the snowy/icy dock in the middle of Lake Geneva. Not caring who was watching he hopped right in for his early evening dip. The water must have been 30 degrees, if that, and this dude’s in there playing with swans. At this point I was certain we were in for a great vacation. Next we found a cafe and enjoyed our first bites of Swiss chocolate. The chocolatiers were outrageously priced (to match everything else in Geneva) so we opted for supermarket chocolate which is definitely just as amazing. However soon our tiredness caught up to us and we all agreed that an early bedtime wasn’t such an awful idea.

what a powerful bidet!

what a powerful bidet!

Early the next morning we met in front of the tourism office for an actual professionally guided tour of the old city. Our guide was an American who moved to Geneva with her family some 40 years before but never went into detail. After ending at the site of John Jack Russeau’s house, we  took advantage of the beautiful weather, bought some paninis from a truck and ate lunch outside. Hey, remember that time a bird attacked another bird mid-air and threw it’s mangled carcass just inches from where we were eating? Yep, me too. Well, after losing our appetites from that, we got on the local bus headed to the outskirts of Geneva to ride the cable car up the Saleve mountain. The bus only cost us $3.50, but we soon learned this was a rookie mistake because the bus drivers never even checks tickets. I need to backtrack for a second and explain how complicated of a process finding this destination was. Not because of the bus system, but because the woman in the bus station the day before had convinced us that the only way to get up to the mountains without actually skiing was to go to France, which would cost at least 40 Swiss Francs. Confused and tired of exploring any more options, we almost left the station with no plans for the next day. Miraculously, the lightbulb in my head went off and I remembered the name of what I had looked up online weeks before. The moment uttered “Saleve,” her face lit up. I’m still boggled as to how she didn’t realize what I had asked her about in the first place. She understood me, and clearly this is a popular tourist destination, so thanks but no thanks for suggesting I go to another country and spend four times the amount of money. Anyway, the cable car went virtually straight up the mountain and let us off for as long as we wanted to take pictures of the Alps and play in the little bit of snow that was there. Word to the wise: strangers do not think it’s funny when you joke about “getting some air” while simultaneously reaching for the door in a cable car. I learned that one the hard way. Little did I know my ears were going to seal themselves shut as the air pressure increased and I thought knew I was going to die.  Some have ‘nam flashbacks; I have Disney flashbacks. There I was, six year old me, unable to be excited because of the tremendous amount of pressure and pain in my ears caused by the airplane. I was scared to yawn, scared to swallow, scared to blow my nose, and scared to do anything that didn’t involve eating chocolate, really. Instead I bitched about the pain until it took me by surprise 10 minutes later walking back down to the bus. It sounded exactly like a fog horn when it finally happened. I honestly may have blacked out. I thought my hearing was back to normal after the first explosion but over the next 15 minutes, it happened two more times. Those who know me personally know that I have an extremely low tolerance for pain and this was not pleasant. Not pleasant for me, and certainly not pleasant for those around me. Later that night our group of nine decided to split up. I wound up at a bar with three of my friends and tried a Strongbow “beer.” I put that in quotes because I literally had to ask the bartender if there was an alcohol content in what seemed to be sparkling apple juice. I also should mention that for $8.50 you better believe I split that bad boy with Ruth (my partner in crime.)

pre-departure prayers for the cables not to snap did occur

pre-departure prayers for the cables not to snap did occur

It was only the third day and I had felt as if I’d been in Geneva for weeks. We had plans for a bout tour at 3 pm, but time is precious on a five day vacation so yet again wakey wakey eggs and bacy by 9. Onto the bus we loaded and rode for a few minutes to the United Nations building of Europe. The building was closed so the only pictures we took were from the outside, but that was good enough for me. I do realize there is a UN building in New York, but obviously everything is just cooler to do in Europe, so I got my artsy wind-blown flags pictures and called it a day. Just up the road there was a glass and pottery museum which was  empty besides us. Clearly not a popular place to visit, but still worth the visit. Plus you know I love me some good ole fashion china and cutlery that I can visualize at parties I’ll be throwing in my future house. After we had killed enough time and eaten lunch it was off to the lake for our hour-long boat tour. There’s only so much detail I can go into about a boat sailing on a lake, but believe me it was  gorgeous and a lot of fun.

The real highlight of this day was dinner. We figured when in Switzerland, do as the Swiss-get fondue.  I prowled the internet to find out the best spot for authentic fondue and we made a reservation for 8 pm. We got there right on time, and were quickly disappointed when the owner told us we did not have a table because the reservations go to her e-mail which she only checks every 24 hours. Was this bitch surrious? What if she checked her email at 2pm and I e-mailed her at 2:30. How is that fair? I don’t take no for an answer, however, in this jam packed establishment I couldn’t even get close enough to her to argue as I normally would. Luckily after seeing our disappointment and realizing we probably didn’t fully understand the website’s French directions, she promised us a table 20 minutes later. Success. I had spent an ample amount of time on google earlier that day making sure it was safe to take two lactaid pills at once (you can all thank me for that one), and sure enough-it was. I was excited, and rightfully so.

smile and say cheese

On our last full day in Switzerland, we went to France. Funny, right? Don’t you just love when countries are all molded together all pangea-esque and what not? The bus to Annecy, though more than I would have liked to pay wound up being well worth it once we caught our first glimpse of the fairytale setting. Mind you this was over an hour and a half after we got there because eating lunch and getting lost took a bit lot longer than expected. It felt like the setting of a princess movie, and so stereotypically French, at least in my mind. Annecy had a lake as well, with more views of the mountains, lots of swans, some sailboats, and cute surrounding gift shops and cafes. Right in the middle of the river was a really old castle, that was…old. I don’t know anything about this stuff and really don’t feel like trolling the internet so just bear with me. I wish we had been able to spend more time there. Luckily, I’ll be seeing France again later this month!

how does one get in or out?!

Our night winded down in true peasant-like fashion, eating yogurts and fruits purchased from the grocery store and listening to music in the hotel room while recapping our trip and obviously preplanning Facebook album titles. I can’t really capture how much I loved this vacation, nor is there much I would change. But what I can do is ponder the following: Why isn’t everything in life made out of Swiss chocolate? If your reservations for fondue are illegitimate is it called fondon’t? And lastly, how do the owners of the clock stores not go cuckoo?

Weekly Whereabouts

Hello, and welcome back! Sorry for my weeklong hiatus, I’ve been pretty busy putting the “study” back into study abroad. I got a little too used to bumming around for a week after my intensive Spanish class ended, but now with a full schedule, a volunteering job, and upcoming travel plans, I haven’t had a minute to breathe.

Where to begin? I suppose I’ll bore you all with some background information on my classes. I’m currently enrolled in The Civilization and Culture of Spain, the History of Spain, Spanish Art History, and level 3 (yeah, that’s right I got bumped up a level) Spanish. The Spanish class is technically two different courses, however they’re back to back for three hours so I’ll just consider it one for the purposes of blogging. I haven’t been having too much difficulty, however there are a few words here and there that I might know better had I stayed in level 2, but, I’m better than that, and I love languages so I decided “why not!” and switched my schedule around. My history class is taught by the world’s funniest man. I have yet to figure out if he’s 28 and looks like he’s 40, or he’s 40 and looks like he’s 28, but regardless I still love him. He loves introducing each topic followed by “well,what the hell is this?” or “oh shit.” His English is really great, with the exception of a few words that I LOVE hearing him say. My absolute favorite would have to be exam, pronounced “eggsum.”

My art history teacher is already on my shit-list. I can’t tell if she’s stupid, or condescending, or both but I’m leaning towards both. If my school knew just how ridiculous this art class was, I would not be getting a 300-level credit. I guess I shouldn’t complain, but I hardly have the patience for her teaching style and the way she smiles as she tells someone their answer is incorrect. Oh, and her tacky sweaters.

Easily my favorite class is Civilization and Culture, taught by the one, the only– Maria Jose! (my level 1 Spanish teacher). She’s just so full of energy and makes everyone feel so comfortable. This class is also the most useful (aside from Spanish itself) in regards to life here in Spain. We really get inside the brains of the Spaniards, which makes their foreign ways of life a bit less foreign. I could tell you the history behind the symbol of the bull, manners regarding smoking, and why PDA here is so overwhelming. I won’t actually tell you because then I wouldn’t feel as special, but if you’re curious, feel free to ask!

So for everyone who thinks classes do not exist during study abroad-I hope this has proved you wrong. Indeed, the courses are easier, but I’m in school just as long, if not longer than back in the states. But we can move on to more exciting things! For example, my wonderful Monday night at the Arabic baths courtesy of my program. The baths were located on a really sketchy streets, and were totally unappealing from the outside, but once we got inside we were sold. For about an hour and half a small group of us alternated between seven different pools with varying temperatures. Only one of the pools was cold, and needless to say no one lasted more than five minutes. There was also a tea room, but the most important aspect of the night were our 15 minute massages. We actually had to pay for these but they were only 7 euros, and I knew I’d never find that deal again. Now, I should say that I was a bit leery of this considering I don’t even enjoy the chair massagers while getting a pedicure, but I put on my big girl panties and sucked it up. Excellent choice Gina, excellent choice.

Then it was Valentine’s day. Cool.

This past Thursday was my first day volunteering at El Colgeio Virgen de Gracia- a semi-private Catholic (duh) elementary school. I walked there concocting every possibility of what could go wrong, and left wondering why my 2 hours was up so quickly. I loveloveloved it, and already made a tentative list of which children I’m going to kidnap. I started in a classroom of six-year-olds all dressed up in their school uniforms, trying to speak English. Ugh, they were the cuuuutest! They called me “teacher” and “Cheena” and it was adorable. I spent 30 minutes pacing around the room and making sure their workbooks were correct. They’re in the middle of practicing clothing and colors and were super eager to show me their progress. I would ask the occasional “what color is your shirt?” and “can you show me your socks,” just to make sure they were on top of the ball (and as an excuse to talk to them, those little nuggets.) I even got a few hugs! Next, it was off to the 11 year olds who spent the entire time playing a game of 21 questions. They wanted to know my favorite animal, my favorite food, if I liked Granada, where else I’ve traveled, and perhaps the best question of the day: “Do you see sex in New York?” which translates into “do you watch Sex and the City?” That one took me a while to process. I had to cut them off, not only because we would have nothing to talk about in the upcoming weeks, but also because it was time for my last stop of the day-the seniors. Being in a classroom of rambunctious high school seniors is actually rather intimdating. I realized we weren’t that far apart in age, and they are old enough to form opinions of me. Eek. *crawls back into shell.* That day, they were giving presentations in English on various topics such as pollution, family vacations, and public smoking. I was the “judge” and I would give them constructive criticism on their pronunciation and overall presentation. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (stop it, I’m not always a bitch) but the teacher told me perfect 10’s do not exist, and to tell the truth. Carlos, the teacher would ask them how they thought they did on a scale from 1-10 and then told me “I ask them what they think they deserve, but I don’t actually care.” Don’t worry- he was kidding, he has a great sense of humor.

Almost there, kiddies. Keep reading! Saturday afternoon was busy. First a tour around the Cathedral of Granda, followed by exploring Parque de las Ciencias. What is there to say about the Cathedral?  It was pretty, as are all of the churches in Europe. Sorry for my lack on enthusiasm, I’m just beginning to lose track of what I’ve seen, who’s buried there, when it was built, and why it’s famous. It’s Greek to me (or should I say Spanish? BA-DUM-CHA!) But, yeah, it was probably the 10th church I’ve seen thus far and I know there are many more to come. Parque de las Ciencas is a huge science museum in Granada that only costs 6 euro, and has room after room of artifacts and cool scientific things ( sorry in advance for my sub-par scientific language.) We saw an outdoor birds show featuring some eagles, a dinosaur exhibit fully equipped with large, moving [fake] dinosaurs, and a human bodies exhibit. However my favorite part was their M.C. Escher exhibit. Escher was a Dutch printmaker known for his mathematical ingenuity in relation to his artwork. You know those prints where the negative space is actually just another figure? Yep, that’s Escher. I was in all my glory as I frolicked around checking out each print on the ceiling, walls and floor of the building. The museum wasn’t really “hands-on” and kid friendly, but it definitely gives the New York Hall of Science a run for it’s money.

Aside from that, my life has been normal. Actually it’s been far from what you might think to be normal- but it’s starting to feel like it to me! This next month is going to be chockfull of traveling, so make sure to add this to your bookmarks bar if you haven’t done so already, and keep your eyes peeled!

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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