Posts Tagged With: Olympics

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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Chocolate, Cheese and Cows, Oh My!

Can you guess where I was last weekend? If you said Switzerland, you’d be correct! I know this post is a week behind but I’m trying to catch you all up on my adventures. But the adventuring really does get in the way! And the school…but no one likes that part.

Switzerland is GORGEOUS! But, as we found out the hard way, beauty is expensive. Switzerland, is the land of the banks, so the quality of life is higher and for poor, college students like us, that’s not helpful. The only way to get around Switzerland is through the trains. And we paid a lot for a four day, all-inclusive train pass. Which was well worth it, it turned out, but it definitely threw us off guard. Therefore, we learned two valuable lessons that I would like to share with you all: 1) when travelling to a foreign country, do your research! Not just on the attractions, but on the transportation system. 2) When you are studying abroad, plan for one country/thing/occasion that you will splurge for and plan all of your other trips accordingly!

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“The Magnificent 7” Leotard
1996 Olympics — Atlanta, GA

On our first day there, we hit the ground running. We immediately got off the plane, took the shuttle train one stop to Geneva and got lunch. After lunch, we went to our hostel, which unfortunately was a real hostel. Our other trips spoiled us into thinking that all hostels were clean and came with free breakfast. Not this one. This one was disgusting. DO NOT STAY IN GENEVA HOUSING. After we checked in to our room and got settled, we were off. We bought our train tickets [with heavy hearts and shortly thereafter, empty wallets] and travelled to Laussane. When we got to Laussane, we went to one of the coolest interactive museums ever, the Olympic Museum. And it was very appropriate as Sochi 2014 was occurring. I have never been prouder to be an American than when I walked into that museum. The museum started with the history and virtual story boards to explore the Greek society and continued with present day. Then there was the spirit and games section and we were all shocked when we saw the Olympic torches. It was unreal. There are no words to describe how amazing it was and feeling that surge of national pride but also worldly pride to see the torches of the Olympics that unites the world in competition. Also in that section were signed uniforms of former Olympic champions from different years, events and nationalities. I had a bit of a homesickness moment when I saw the signed leotard of the Magnificent 7 from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. This is not because I am a gymnast but because for my entire life, my parents have joked “You Can Do It, Keri” in the Russian accent whenever my brothers and I were competing in a sport or just needed encouragement. And also, but less importantly, because my favorite summer Olympic event is gymnastics. I could have spent hours in there, soaking up the glory and exhaustion and pride because I love the Olympics and I wish that they were more readily available to watch in Spain. After the museum, we trolled around Lausanne and went to the harbor at dusk and eventually got back to the hostel.

Saturday we spent a lot of time on the trains but it was so worth it! We left Geneva and travelled to the Callier Chocolate Factory. And it was AWESOME! Switzerland is on point for interactive and engaging museums. The tour of the factory was very much like interactive attractions at Disney World, where you experience whatever is in that room and then a door opens and you pass through to the next one. It started off with the history of chocolate and cocoa beans and introduced the birth of the Callier-Nestle partnership. As awesome as it was, NOTHING can compare to what happened next. At the end of the interactive tour, you are brought around to see the machines of how they actually process and blend the chocolate. Once we turned the corner, we entered most people’s interpretation of Heaven: a room full of Callier SAMPLES. Every callier instagramtype of chocolate that Callier sells was out on the table for the tour group to try. Well, without even a second thought, Audrey and I sampled everything. We were moving too quick in the line to even consider breathing — we literally inhaled the chocolate. And it was all so rich. And so amazing. And after sampling all of the chocolate, we ended up in the gift shop with a wall full of all the chocolate we just sampled. What a GREAT marketing strategy! I was thoroughly impressed with their attention to innovation and customer preference. And it resulted in me buying so much chocolate! [Some of it is for my family and friends, don’t worry. But a lot of it is for me!]

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Day In The Mountains!

Day 3 was a day spent in the Swiss Alps. I know, my life is so hard. Warning: we did not get to go skiing. It just wasn’t in the cards or budget. But we travelled from Geneva to Interlaken and took the local train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen. This was a long trip for sure — a little more than 3 hours, but SO WORTH IT. When we got to Lauterbrunnen, we rode a cable car up the mountain and arrived in a ski town called Mürren. The ride in the cable car reminded me of the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island and it was like an adventure! I loved it! When we got to Mürren, we arrived in a little Winter Wonderland! The mountains were breathtaking and the houses and shops were all wooden, like the village was taken out of a snow globe and tucked away into the mountains. We found a restaurant and ordered traditional Swiss food with authentic Swiss cheese! I ordered the Rösti and it was delicious and we watched the Women’s Curling Match versus Japan. After lunch, we trolled around and played in the snow. And I even got to practice my German [which came back to me in bits and pieces when I needed it to].

Switzerland was a great adventure and we loved everything about it. Monday morning at O Dark Thirty rolled around and we got up to travel to the airport back to Madrid. We cleared security and were waiting for our flight when over the intercom, a lady said that the airport had been closed due to an emergency landing and flights were going to be delayed. And they were by almost 2 hours. Fun times. What ended up happening was the co-pilot from a flight on Ethopian Air travelling to Rome hijacked the plane and needed to emergency land in Switzerland where he sought asylum. Absolutely crazy! You can read more about the hijacking here.

But overall, Switzerland was beautiful! There are two more posts coming soon so be on the look out for those! You know you love me — xoxo Meg

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