Author Archives: Maeghan Crociata

Baloncesto

What’s “Baloncesto”, you may be wondering. Baloncesto, in Spanish, means “basketball”! Last night for our soccer class [yes I know, basketball game for soccer class..?] we went to a basketball game. Professional basketball in Spain is big here. No where close to the following of soccer, but the stadium was pretty full last night. We saw Real Madrid [who is owned by Real Madrid Football Club] play Lokomotiv Kuban, a Russian team whose uniforms were blinding red. The game was held at the Palacio de Deportes, a casual 4 minute stroll from where I live in Goya. The building is beautiful with big glass windows and painted teal with stars on it. The

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Real Madrid v. Lokomotiv during warmups

reason we got to go to the game is because one of my soccer professors, Pablo, used to play for Estudiantes, another professional Spanish basketball team when he was younger. After he retired, he went into business and him and Marco, my other professor, are partners. Right?! How cool is that?! The game was interesting for about 5 minutes but Real Madrid was running circles around Russia and ended up beating Russia by more than 25 points. It was a fun experience and really interesting to see Spaniards invested in another sport other than soccer.

 

As a sports marketing person, maybe Spain is the country for me to work in 🙂

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Reina Sofia

For class on Thursday, we went on a cultural field trip to the Reina Sofia museum. The museum is named after the current Queen, Sofia, and houses contemporary art. This museum holds pieces different from the Prado, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The Prado holds classic art, such as Baroque and Renaissance styles that are each associated with a specific century. But contemporary art has many styles so there isn’t one that stands out the most. The museum is HUGE so we only saw the highlights of the museum. We saw works by Goya and other artists but then we saw the most important piece in the whole museum: Picassos’s Guernica. This painting is  enormous and really weird, but the significance is awesome. As with all big masterpieces, there is controversy over it. The painting is located in Madrid, but the town of Guernica is located in the Basque country. So, obviously, the Basque want it back to put in the Guggenheim, but the Spanish government said no. Madrid 1 – Basque Country 0.

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Guernica

The Guernica is about the bombing of Guernica, where the fascists bombed the town of innocent civilians during the reign of Franco. Immediately, Picasso started working on the piece and 7 weeks later, the 30 foot masterpiece was completed. However, because Picasso is Picasso and was very creative and different with his work, the painting is not pretty or comprehensible. But, of course, each piece of the painting represents something. The two main animals in Spain are bulls and horses, so they’re included. The Spanish word for lightbulb is “bombillo”, representing the bomb that was dropped on the town. It was definitely a cool cultural excursion!

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Cuenca & Valencia

This past weekend travelled to the east coast of Spain and visited Cuenca and Valencia. In all honesty, this was my least favorite trip around Spain. It was still fun and I still took a million pictures, but there wasn’t a whole lot to like there was in Barcelona and Andalucía.

We spent most of the first day in Cuenca. Cuenca is about the size of my high school and there are only 2 things to see there. The first thing we saw was, of course, you guessed it: a cathedral. This cathedral was much than the ones we have seen before because this cathedral was the first to be built and was the prototype for the other cathedrals to be based off of. Inside, our professor explained that the Cathedral of Cuenca was a mixture of different artistic periods, with pieces of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic art adorning the interior. It was a very pretty church nonetheless and I answered all of the Sainthood questions correctly that Paco asked us.

Then we saw the hanging houses from this awesome bridge suspended over a massive gorge. They were very cool and the signature of Cuenca. We got to go inside one of them that had been converted into an art museum. A modern art museum. Now, as we all know, I’m not a big art person but Paco makes it interesting for me and I feel engaged in the art because he is such a good professor.

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Casa Colgada

I could not care less about modern art. Like at all. I have arts and crafts from kindergarten that look like some of this stuff. In my opinion, I just can’t put modern works and masterpieces from El Greco and Picasso on the same level. If you’re into that sort of stuff, go see it! You would love it — I just didn’t.

Then we got back on the bus and headed for Valencia. The first thing we saw in Valencia was my favorite part of the trip! We went to the Fallas museum. Fallas is a festival dedicated to the Patron Saint Day of St. Joseph, which was on March 19. This festival is a festival of lights and illuminations…and fire! The Valencian people spend an entire year making gigantic parade floats out of wood and paper mache. And on the night of Fallas, the floats are burned. All that hard work just to go up in flames — literally! But there is a special competition for the Ninot Indultat. [“Ninot” means “doll” in Valenciano]. This means that one doll/figurine from the best float will be saved and put on display in the Fallas museum. The museum had all of the Ninots since the beginning of the 2o century! Some of the Ninots are huge and overwhelming and others are small and preserved in glasses cases and others are entire scenes with multiple characters. But of all the Ninots are very

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Ninot from 2012!

detail orientated and life-like, even the ones from back in the day. The 2014 one wasn’t on display yet but the 2013 one was a little girl sitting with her father in a chair reading a book, with a bookshelf behind them and a rocking horse by the little girl’s feet. It was so realistic! But my favorite is the Ballerina from 2012! Other than the Ninots, there are also paintings of the Falleras. The Falleras are girls who dress up in traditional costumes and put their hair in Princess Lea buns and have a beauty pageant. For little American girls, the goal is to be Miss USA. For Valencian girls, the goal is to be Fallera Mayor. These girls are so pretty and they take a lot of pride in their regional culture and competition. For those of you who are up on your Iberian Peninsula

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Fallera [left]; Dama de Elche [right]

history, the area of Valencia was controlled by the Iberians and they created Dama de Elche. Look at the similarity. It’s just a theory but it could work. I know you all see it.

 

The next day we started off by going to the Aquarium. I love aquariums and this one reminded me of Sea World. There was a shark tunnel that we got to walk through and tons of different species of fish. There was also a beluga whale and walrus exhibit and they were awesome! Beluga whales were my favorite when I was a kid and would watch the same VHS about whales with my brother over and over again. So I was very happy to see the Belugas. But the best part of the aquarium was the dolphin show! There was an outside arena and the dolphins were wonderful! I want a pet dolphin that does backflips in my pool, don’t you?!

After the aquarium, we went to….the Cathedral. But this Cathedral was no ordinary Cathedral. This Cathedral was a religious experience that I haven’t had since I went to the Vatican in Rome. In the Cathedral of Valencia, in the most sacred chapel of all the chapels, is the Holy Grail. Not like the Jay-Z song, y’all. The Holy Grail is believed by Catholics to be the Chalice that Jesus drank

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Holy Grail

out of during the Last Supper. I didn’t experience the Miracle of Tears or anything like that but I was definitely moved that I could be so lucky to stand in front of one of the most important Catholic artifacts in the world. The Chalice was guarded by glass, a velvet rope and two security guards so no one was getting past that but it was still cool to see it.

 

On the last day of the trip, we went to La Albufera. La Albufera reminded me of Sunken Meadow Park on Long Island, where I used to go on nature field trips in elementary school. La Albufera is a National Park and has many species of ducks inhabiting the area. We even went to a museum about La Albufera that was in a garage. I’m not even kidding. We went on a riverboat cruise in the park and also visited the 4 ecosystems that make up La Albufera — forest, marsh, dunes and beach. It was rainy and cold so we didn’t get to spend time on the beach, which ended up being a good thing because we learned that the beach is actually a nude beach. And we definitely didn’t need that, like at all. La Albufera  is famous for its rice paddies. Valencian rice is the best for making paella and the type of rice harvested in La Albufera is specially marked to be sold only throughout Spain — it does not go outside of the country. How authentic! I had to buy a bag so that my parents can make paella for me when I get back to the states 🙂 Even though the town was a ghost town with only 500 residents, there were 3o restaurants, all dedicated to paella. And we ate some for lunch and it was so good!

 

 

 

 

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Atleti v Granada

untitled (3)On Wednesday for our soccer class, we went to another Atletico de Madrid game! This season in La Liga could make history because Atletico is in first place and has not won the league since 1995. So the fans, like last game, were wild and crazy. I learned a lot of curse words from some of the insane fanatics. The game should have been an easy win for Atleti but somehow Granada kept them to only a 1 goal lead. In the second half, Atleti scored and the place went crazy!! But the referee made an asinine call and retracted the goal, saying that the goal was scored from the offside position. I really hope the ref’s car wasn’t missing any hubcaps or anything because these fans were pissed and wanted to do damage to this guy. But Atleti pulled through on a beautiful corner kick play and hit the back of the net. GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!! And Atleti won the game YAY!

But the real insanity was when the jumbo screen showed the score for the Real Madrid game which was being played simultaneously at their stadium. Sevilla scored a goal, making the score 1-0 and the Atleti fans were overjoyed! Any loss of Real means a greater point differential in Atleti’s favor for being champions. That was intense. Even though Atleti’s rivalry is with Sevilla, the fans would rather see Sevilla win than give Real Madrid any leeway of gaining on their lead. Even though I am a Real fan, I found myself cheering for Real’s loss because everyone likes a good underdog story.

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Sun 23 Mar

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El Rastro
[photo credit: Wikipedia page – El Rastro]

Yesterday was a local day where I spent all day outside doing Madrid things. First, I went with Jessica to El Rastro. El Rastro is a huge open flea market in La Latina every Sunday. At least 7 blocks are lined with kiosks selling everything from T-shirts to Pashmina scarves to old Spanish comics to religious statues. We trolled around the place, looking at everything and starting our very long list of souvenir shopping. This is one of the local attractions of Madrid and a great way to spend Sunday morning/afternoon. Cuidado: the place gets PACKED by noon so going early has less crowds!

After lunch at our favorite Durum Kebap place, I met up with Gabby and we travelled to the end of the green line to go to the Madrid Zoo/Aquarium. This zoo was unlike any zoo in the United States. The first thing we noticed was that there aren’t exactly high fences keeping in these animals, especially for animals that can jump and leap like antelope. There was no net or fence or anything, just a small ledge. And the antelope were everywhere, just casually. This zoo was also less organized than all other zoos. Stumbling upon the antelope, then we passed black bears, zebras and giraffes and emus. None of those are in the same family or found in the same area of the world! Another thing was that it is perfectly acceptable to throw peanuts at the animals — I only thought that was a thing in the movies! But the zoo was great and we saw so many animals, including a huge dolphin display that looked like SeaWorld. Each of the dolphins had scratches and scars on their skin and fins, which made us realize why the zoo had so many different types of animals from all over the world. This specific zoo is a rescuing zoo!

We had a great time and a lovely day in Madrid, just doing local things! It’s nice to spend time in my own city, ya know?

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London Bridge Is Falling Down, Falling Down

Just kidding, the bridge wasn’t collapsing. But, this past weekend I did go to London. I LOVED it! But college students, be warned: London is unreasonably expensive. The exchange rate to the dollar is even worse than the Euro. But it was still awesome. And our trip was theme songed by me singing Fergie’s London Bridge the entire time. Miso really loved me for that. This blog post features special guests, Megan and Sean. Megan and Sean are my Big and Mr. Big from home and it was so exciting to see faces I knew from home that weren’t also studying in Spain!

We stayed at Astor Hyde Park Hostel in South Kensington and it was a good location. Only a few blocks away from the metro station and connected to three of the lines on the tube. The tube is a pretty solid metro system, although nothing will ever beat the simplicity of Madrid, I have to say that this was a good one. And there was cushioned seats! Although, as I was warned almost immediately, people don’t talk to each other on the tube, so that was an interesting cultural difference.

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Me and Sean!

On Friday, I met up with Sean at Gloucester Road and he took me around all day, as he had been there for the week visiting Megan on his spring break. Sean does not like tourist attractions at all so we did not go near them. Instead, he took me to a bunch of local things. First, we went to the Victoria and Albert Musem to have tea and scones. How British of us! But the tea was so good and we got our own teapots. I was a happy camper because I love tea! Then we went to the Borough Market, which has everything under the sun. Sean took me for my first cider, which is also very popular to drink in London and we bought a chorizo sandwich so I could show him a little bit of Spain. Right across the street from the Cider place was the Exotic Meat market. I was kind of panicking at the idea but Sean said the camel was so good. Right. Camel. From this moment on, we did not stop eating. We wandered the market some more, pausing for samples of cheeses, stuffed macaroni [which was AMAZING] and cookies the size of our faces. We then found this grilled cheese place which was so good and it’s big in London. The cheese was literally dripping off, it was so perfectly melted. Then we went to the Thames River and saw the London Bridge. What a let down! It looks like a regular bridge that I drive over when I’m travelling from New York to DC. But the Thames was nice and we just took time to sit there and relax. After that, we went to have another iconic meal: fish and chips. For those of you who are thinking Lays, those are crisps. Chips are french fries! It was delicious. Then we went to Sean’s favorite place in London: Covent Garden. Covent Garden has a lot of high-end shopping but we were there for the street performers. These performers aren’t just dancers but some are also magicians. And they’re so funny with their dry, British humor. The tricks are extensive but we had a great time watching them! Then we got more cider at a bar with a balcony that overlooked the main square and watched more performances below.

Afterwards, Sean took me to the train station where we going to meet Megan after her internship but before she left for Dublin. I was looking for her by the exit she told us she would be at but she came from the side and attack hugged me! I was so excited to see her! We got cookies and then all sat down and talked. She and I caught up on a bunch of stuff and we all laughed and it was like we were back at home, except, you know, in Europe. We said goodbye and then her and Sean said goodbye and it was sad because Sean was leaving for America the next day and he wouldn’t see Megan [and me!] for another few months but he toughed it out. Even though I like giving the two of them a hard time just because I can, they’re actually really cute together.

Day 2! Miso and I headed out on an excursion to see all of the touristy things in one day…and we did! Like champs! We 10003153_10152330935019314_1089096941_nstarted off by going to the Buckingham Palace and it was so pretty. The whole plaza with its statues of lions and fountains was just so peaceful. And to think that only a few years ago, Kate Middleton got married to Prince William. She’s perfect; Miso and I girl crush on her like all the time. Then we went around the area and saw the creek and cherry blossoms and reminded of us of the DC Cherry Blossom festival — it was like we were there! After the palace, we walked to Westminster and saw St. Margaret’s Church, Big Ben and an iconic telephone booth! And nearby was the London Eye!

After that, Miso and I took the tube to King’s Cross station. Who knows what famous series was filmed at King’s Cross? If you said “Harry Potter”, you would be correct!!! We got to take a picture with the luggage trolley as if we were going to Platform 9 3/4. Such a great experience for a fan! We even got to pick what house scarf we wanted. I, of course, chose my own house and wore Slytherin. Gryffindors are overrated, tbh. And yes, of course, I bought this picture. Then we went into the official Harry Potter store where I could’ve easily spent my entire life’s savings on Slytherin apparel and Harry Potter memorabilia. They even had the Bertie Bott’s beans that my brothers and I used to get as kids and squirm when we had to eat the gross flavors like earwax, vomit or sardines.

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My Little Paddington Bear!

Then we got back on the train and went to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is the bridge everyone thinks of when they think of London and what a sight it is! And the tower was beautiful too! There was just casually a castle in the middle of the lawn. I wish we could’ve gone in and seen it from the inside but there just wasn’t enough time. After the bridge, we travelled to Paddington to see the Paddington Bear store. I bought a little Paddington bear and the original chapter book of Paddington’s adventures and will one day pass those on to my first born. Deep, right?

The last stop on our list was Bond Street, which has all of the best shopping and eateries. We got Ben’s Cookies, which are super famous in London and it was the first time I had tasted peanut butter since I left the USA. Note: Europeans do not have peanut butter. And when they do, it is so expensive. So treasure peanut butter where you are. Then we went to the London Disney store and I was falling in love. Mickey was dressed as a guard — SO CUTE! We had a great time in there just trolling around and playing with the toys. They had a little cavern that was playing Frozen’s “Let it Go” in 25 languages. For those of you who know me, I was having a blast! [As I do whenever I enter a Disney store!]

London was definitely one of my favorite places we’ve travelled so far and I can’t wait for my next European adventure. It isn’t until May but stay tuned for when I head to….Germany!

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Palacio Real

This past Tuesday for class we went on a field trip! You may be wondering if I actually go to school. The answer is yes: I suffer on Thursdays through a 4 hour block class. So the field trip helps counter act the torture. So we went to the Royal Palace of Madrid, because every princess should see their royal home in every city.

The Royal Palace is huge and is very ornate. Of course, we were warned numerous times to not take pictures but I managed to snap a few, but not as many as I would’ve liked. The huge corridor in the front showcases a statue of Felipe II, the great-grandson of the Catholic Kings, Fernando and Isabel. He is the one who ordered the construction of the palace and is commemorated for doing so. Up the extensive marble staircase is the coat of arms and the many grand ballrooms, dining rooms and sitting rooms. Each room has a theme or specific reason to it, similar to the Blue Room in the White House. [There is a Yellow Room in the Palace]. Fun Fact: when Franco died, his body was put on display in the royal palace when Juan Carlos I took over again as a sign of thanks for choosing him to be the newest King. Apparently the line to see Franco’s body was more than a mile long! There is also a huge collection of clocks in the Royal Palace and at least 3 in every room. These clocks were collected by King Felipe II and are grandiose and very old — in fact, these clocks are so old and so important that the Palace has its own team of clock cleaners and repairers. Felipe II was a bit of a strange king because he ordered some interesting features to be added to the palace. For example, during the time of the construction, Asian fashion and designs resembled social status and how up to date you were. So there is an entire room that is overwhelming with depictions of trees, Asian faces and designs and is filled with zen. It was very calming. He also had 3 eating rooms, one for each meal of the day. And he always ate alone without his family. Very weird, but still interesting.

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Felipe IV

Outside the palace, there is an entire plaza just to itself with gardens and statues representing saints and other noble people. In the center is a statue of Felipe IV, the grandson of Felipe II who constructed the Palace. This statue is very unique because it is made of bronze, which was uncommon for the time. It is also unique because in order to construct it, the statue took 4 masters in the world to help create. One of which was Velazquéz, who painted a portrait for Felipe IV on horseback and his painting was the model for the statue. [The painting is currently hanging in the Prado museum].  Interestingly, one of the other masters to help with this scultpure was Galileo Galilei, whose mathematics and calculations allowed for the horse to be able to stand on its hind legs without falling over. Stay tuned for more field trips! Love, Meg

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Barcelona!

Last weekend we travelled to the northeast of Spain to BARCELONA! I loved it! But let me be clear: I loved the city, not the soccer team. I really hate the soccer team, like a lot. BUT the city was wonderful! We were in Barcelona for 3 days and each day was dedicated to a famous Catalán artist.

The first day we went on a tour of the city and the first place we stopped was the Olympic Stadium and Village from the 1992 Games. There is a massive sculpture outside of the stadium that held the Olympic flame during the time of the games and it can be seen everywhere in the city because it’s so tall. And the view from the stadium overlooking the city is pretty cool but the city itself is a little congested.Then we got back on the bus and drove to Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a long street lined with kiosks and buildings with cool architecture. It is very significant to the people of Barcelona because it is a very famous landmark and is big for tourism, but it also has a fountain and the legend is that if you drink the water from this fountain, you will bring Barcelona FC luck. Or something like that. For Barca fans it’s a huge deal. Then we went to the market on Las Ramblas called Mercado de la Boquería and it was the biggest farmers market I have ever seen! They had everything from fresh fruit to cheeses to chocolates to full legs of meat hanging. And fish. You IMG_20140307_132422_448would’ve thought we were at a fish market with how many fish stands there were. And all of the fish had eyes, like full heads, not cut and cleaned yet just looking at me. I don’t really love when my food looks at me but all the fish eyes were watching me as I passed the stands. Everything looked so good I just wanted to sample, and like Brussels, that is exactly what I did. I went in and out of stands sampling hams, chorizos, fruits, salsas and, of course, chocolates! After the market, we kept walking down Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas leads from the Plaza de Catalunya [Catalán spelling] all the way to the port. The Barcelona port is one of the most important in Spain and also in Europe! We went down to the port [and therefore the beach] and it was beautiful. The water was clear blue and the sun was shining. It was so picturesque! After the port, we went to the Barrio Gótico, The Gothic Neighborhood. This is a really cool feature that I would never have really appreciated but after learning a lot about architecture in class, the Gothic arches and flying buttresses I can now notice. The Neighborhood is a preserved time warp from the Gothic age with streets, churches, houses and other structures all in Gothic style, much different from the surrounding areas built in modern and contemporary styles.

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Fideua!

Afterwards, we went to the beach! We ate a very typical Catalán meal: fideua, a special type of paella known to the Catalánes, and cava, a bubbly type of champagne-wine. And then we laid on the beach and I was working on my tan! I’m so sick of this pale white look. After lunch, we went to the Picasso Museum. The museum was really interesting because everyone, including myself, associates Picasso with abstract paintings and cubism only. And although, yes, that is what made him famous, he painted normal paintings too! At the age of 13, he was better than his father who was a fine arts professor. Way to go, Picasso!

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Sala de Mae West
Weird, right?

Day 2 was my favorite day of this trip. We got on the bus and drove an hour outside of the city of Barcelona and visited the Dalí museum. This museum is by far the coolest and my favorite museum I have ever seen. Dalí’s works are in the style of surrealism. And his museum is created in the working of his mind so it’s a little crazy to get around but it’s altogether awesome. One of the most famous pieces, la Sala de Mae West, is really an amazing work. It is a life sized living room with the different pieces of furniture resembling the different parts of her face. The couch is her lips and the fireplace is her nose! Such a strange concept but so interesting up close. Dali’s other works include the usage of dimensions and imagination but also have deeper meanings, such as the adoration he had for his wife or lessons about society. In my opinion, the museum could also double as a haunted mansion for a scary movie and all the pieces could come to life and come after the protagonist. Patent pending, my idea. None of you can steal it!

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Cadaquéz

After the museum, we drove to Cadaquéz, a small town on the beach where Dali’s family had their summer house. What an adorable town! It was right on the water too and the weather was unbeatable. We had free time to just roam around and explore the town and quaint little shops and eat seafood like kings. We wandered higher up on the mountainside and got a view of the whole town with the blue water beneath. The scene was unreal. Look how blue the water is!

Day 3 was dedicated to Gaudí. We first went to see Sagrada Familia, an enormous church that has been under construction for more than 100 years! It is projected to be finished by 2025. Right, I could have a job and a family by then…weird. Anyway, the church was awesome because the stained glass windows weren’t like any other church with biblical stories in the windows. Just colors with the names of saints engraved in them and when the sun shone through, the walls and main alter were covered in a rainbow of light! Sagrada Familia, or Sacred Family, in Catalán, will have 18 towers upon completion. The tallest one, which will hold the cross, represents Jesus and the next tallest one for la Virgen María. The other 16 are for the 12 apostles and 4 evangelists. The outside of the church is very detailed with stories about the birth of Jesus and Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt after the message from the Angel. And the coolest part is that for every ticket bought, which normally we don’t love, goes to the construction of the building. So when our group paid for the tickets, we contributed to the future of Sagrada Familia!

After that we went to Park Güell which is a literal park designed by Gaudí. There are these awesome benches that are curved so as to mold to the curve of a person’s back. They were so comfortable that most of us fell asleep sitting there all in a row. Once we all awake from our trance, we went to see the houses that look like they’re straight out of Hansel and Gretel. It reminded me of my younger brother because our Parc_Güell_Dragon_Restorednicknames growing up were Hansel and Gretel. And of course we saw the icon of Park Güell and one of the most famous icons in all of Spain: the colored dragon. I have no idea what it represents or why it was important to Gaudí but it was and it’s really cool looking!

Barcelona was such an awesome trip and I loved every second of it. Obviously, I love the beach and the sun so keep on the lookout for more sunny days as the days get warmer in Spain!

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Brussels

At the end of February, Audrey and I took a relaxing vacation to Brussels, Belgium right before midterm week began. We once again ended up in a country that speaks French — third time is the charm!

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Manneken Pis

We finally got to our hostel after almost an hour of travelling there from the airport and immediately hit the ground running….by getting Belgian beer and waffles! The beer in Belgium is really good and a lot better than the cheap stuff they sell in Madrid. For the rest of the day, we explored the city center and stumbled upon one of the most prized symbols of Brussels. Personally, I think this statue is the dumbest thing ever and I have no idea why the Belgians pride themselves on it. His name is Manneken Pis and he is approximately 2 feet tall. You may be thinking to yourself, that’s a statue of a baby peeing. Yes, yes it is. Mannekan Pis is so popular for some unknown reason in Brussels that for holidays and special occasions, he gets dressed up. He has over 800 outfits! Let’s just talk about that — the statue of the peeing baby has outfits.

Moving right along….in the city center there are a bunch of boutique chocolate shops! So we went in every single one and trolled around until someone offered us free samples. And they all did! Belgian chocolate is on point. But the first night ends really anti-climatically because we had to go back to the hostel and study for midterms. What good students we are, right?

On day 2, we became real tourists. Like REAL TOURISTS. We got on the big red City Sightseeing double decker bus and rode around all of Brussels. Our first stop we hopped off at was the Atomium. The AtomiumIMG_20140301_124610_958 is a huge statue of an iron atom blown up like a zillion times. It’s weird but it’s another symbol of Brussels. The cool thing about it is that you can go inside it and learn about science stuff and famous Belgians that helped contribute to this project and other discoveries in science, architecture etc. It was pretty cool. And there’s an elevator that takes you to the top…but it was obviously bad weather and the elevator was shut down.

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EU!

We got back on the bus and rode around but nothing else was interesting on that line. When we got back to the starting point, we got on the second bus and did another tour of Brussels but different districts. This time, when we hopped off, we were at the European Union headquarters. What an awesome place! The actual EU was closed because it was Saturday but we trolled around the premise and took pictures. But you know what was open? The Parliamentarium! What’s a Parliamentarium? It’s a museum about the European Parliament! It was totally free and totally awesome. When we got there, we got iPhones. Just straight iPhones with headpieces. By scanning the information screens on the exhibits, the iPhones would start speaking and showing a picture or video slideshow of the information about the particular exhibit. Super interactive and very cool. I was really impressed with the museum. At one point, I looked at Audrey and said “I keep forgetting there is no USA exhibit” and she was thinking the same thing! I mean it’s logical that the USA wouldn’t be involved in the European government. ..Right. That was a lot.

Brussels proved to be a much different experience — we didn’t know a lot of what was there and there was no set itinerary so we just walked around and relaxed. And studied, which proved to be very worthwhile during midterm week!

I know this post wasn’t as exciting, but I promise the next one will be! What does that mean? Stay tuned 😉 you know you love me xoxo

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Andalucia – Sevilla

Our third stop on our journey around southern Spain was Sevilla. Sevilla was by far my favorite city. When I first started taking Spanish in sixth grade, I was graced with learning from a teacher who would become one of my all-time favorites. She studied at the University of Sevilla so finally being there made me think of her and her belief in my Spanish skills, even when I was just a little middle schooler.

The weather in Sevilla was beautiful and warm and I loved everything about it from the get-go. Sevilla is how I imagined all of Spain to look: vibrant colored buildings, beautiful weather, traditions and history etc. Sevilla is what the rest of the world sees as Spain and as I’ve seen more and more of the country, not everywhere is the stereotypical look. The first place we visited was La Maestranza. La Maestranza is the bull fighting arena in Sevilla and is the second most important in all of Spain. [The first is Las Ventas, located in Madrid. It’s really close to my house here!] We took a tour of the ring and learned about the traditions of IMG_20140222_134424_290 bullfighting and how the bulls are killed. Spoiler alert: the bulls die in bull fights. If you’re looking at my shirt and panicking a little bit because I wore red in a bull fighting ring, have no fear; there were no bulls there. It’s not toreo season yet.

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GAZPACHO!!!

Then for lunch we trolled around the city center and ate some traditional food of southern Spain. We had Gazpacho. It was at this moment when I re-fell in love with Sevilla. I had never had Gazpacho before but I LOVED it. It was one of the greatest foods I’ve ever had and I’ve already roped my dad into making some for me over the summer. Gazpacho is a cold tomato based soup, traditionally eaten in the summer, but the weather was so nice that it worked. I downed mine and didn’t even flinch. Get at me, bro. Anyway, the weird thing about gazpacho is that you’re not supposed to eat with a spoon. You dunk crackers or bread in it but for the most part, you drink it. It was served to me in a wine glass so that was an interesting cultural experience for me. But really, if you have the opportunity to have gazpacho, I highly recommend it.

After lunch, we saw another Cathedral. For those of you who actually read my blog, I hope you see the pattern of sites we go see. This cathedral was cool because it is the biggest Gothic church in the world. And it has the Giralda. The Giralda is currently the cathedral’s bell tower but it used to be the minaret of the mosque but was transformed into a cathedral and bell tower once Sevilla was reconquered. We got to climb to the top of the tower, like we did in Segovia. The difference between this tower is that there weren’t steps, but ramps instead. So we hiked more than 30 ramps up to the top to overlook all of Sevilla. Fun Fact: the Giralda had ramps instead of stairs because when the Muslims would announce prayer time from the top of the tower, they rode horses.

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Reales Alcázares

The last part of Sevilla was actually the next morning when we visited the Reales Alcázares. This castle and garden was beautiful and is still in use today! When the royal family comes to Sevilla, they stay in this castle and then tours are shut down. There was a gigantic hedge maze that we walked through that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. The architecture was once again beautiful and the whole palace looked like it had been taken out of a completely different era and dropped into the 21st century. My favorite part was the little lake with a flume shooting water near the front of the royal building. There were carp in the lake and when we started to feed them bread, schools of them came to the surface. Codfish are single handedly the ugliest fish on the planet and they eat by sucking the bread into their mouths…ew. But our group just had a blast hanging out there and looking at the beautiful surroundings.

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Plaza de España is also Naboo!

The last thing we saw in Sevilla was the Plaza de España. This plaza had a huge fountain and was just generally awesome. We walked around and took our pictures and then all of us laid out on the steps, basking in the sun and enjoying the relaxation of the plaza. There was music playing and people going for a casual Sunday stroll and I was working on my tan. Listen, anything to get rid of this winter white, you know what I mean? Something that’s really cool about this plaza is there is a scene from Star Wars II: Clone Wars there as the set of Naboo.  Look at the picture and then click on the hyperlink and you’ll realize they are one and the same!

After we saw the Alcázares and Plaza, myself and a few other girls loaded up our stuff and were on a bus home headed to Madrid. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay with the other kids as they travelled on to Lisbon, Portual because we had our business class on Monday morning.  But all in all, the trip to Andalucia was wonderful! Though I won’t get to revisit these provinces again while I’m here this semester, I am going to Malaga, another Andalucia province, in May. Stay tuned for that!

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