Archive for January, 2011

January 24, 2011

La Primera Semana

Not doing the blog in real-time is throwing me off, so I’m going to try to catch everyone up through the week!  Here we go:

On our first full day in Valencia we walked to La falcultat de filologia, traducció i comunicació for our orientation. The director of the program spoke and most of our teachers introduced themselves. I have very little trouble understanding but I feel trapped in my own head when it comes time to speak.  After the orientation, a small group of us trekked to El Corte Ingles for a little ir de compras (shopping).  I finally bought my cell phone!

On Tuesday we all had our first round of classes. I really love my Tuesday/Thursday schedugle.  I have Introduction to Literature, Cine, and Advanced Grammar and Composition.  The teachers here are so excited about their subjects and I feel like I’ve learned so much this week already, especially in Grammar.  The first day our profesora said that she never understood why we learned little bits of grammar at a time and I completely agree! Our book for that class contains absolutely everything I could ever need to know about Spanish grammar.  That might be my favorite class!

After class we took a trip to the Basilica and to climb the tower to see panoramic views of the city.  Walking around the Basilica took my breath away. The incredible level of intricacy all bathed in gold astounds me.  I understand the incredible power of the Catholic church in earlier centuries.  People both poor and rich worshiped in buildings of untold opulence.  We then climbed to the top of the tower, and that was a workout for sure! The stairs kept getting steeper and more and more narrow near the top. Once I came out on top of the bell tower, every step climbed was absolutely worth it for the magnificent view of the city.

Wednesday, I went to my first literature class. That might be my hardest class. The professor speaks quite quickly and the concepts will be a little bit harder, but I’m really excited about learning about Spanish literature. After class, David and I wanted to buy Universidat de Valencia gear.  Well, went to the wrong store and asked for directions to the one we needed. It took us maybe two hours to actually find the place and no one could tell us where it was.  I did finally buy a sweet sweatshirt though!

Thursday, I booked my first flight for a weekend away to Rome! I’m so thrilled about being able to fly to Rome, Italy in a couple of hours.  We also planned a trip to Granada for next weekend.  Because we don’t have Friday classes, a group decided to go out.  We started a Blau like we normally do, and then we went dancing at Bolseria.

Friday, for a cultural activity, we went to el Mercado Central. It reminded me a lot of the DC Eastern Market. The colors of the fruits and vegetables are so strong and bright.  I really love markets.  Everything is so fresh and the vendors take such pride in their products.  The most interesting part was probably the fish section. There were whole fish staring back at me and even some live eels swimming around. Being in markets like that makes me want to cook again and create beautiful meals.  After dinner a small group of us went to El Río to see the park. It was beautiful there are tons of fountains and green space and soccer fields and orange trees are everywhere.  We came across probably the best playground I have ever seen!  It was Gulliver when he was caught by the Lilliputians.  We climbed all over him and slid down big slides. I felt like a little kid again.  I also finally did laundry (well Agata did most of it). It was kind of an exciting challenge to figure out the washer and dryer deal.

Saturday I felt a bit like a hermit. I attempted to plan all of the trips I want to take, but in reality I might have planned one. It takes a lot of research to find easy and cheap means of transportation.  Sunday I went to mass at the Basilica, and it blew me away. I could feel the majesty of Christ in that place.  The music the priest sang was beautiful and I felt like maybe I was seeing the tinsiest glimmer of the splendor of heaven. Later that day, we went to the beach. Two silly boys jumped in the water while the rest of us stayed bundled in our coats and scarves.  The beach was beautiful, and I can’t wait to see it when it gets warmer.  Well now I need to go to class. Contemporary Spanish Literature here I come!

January 23, 2011

Vamos a Valencia

So after Toledo, we had one last night in Madrid.  Much of the group went out, but I was still exhausted and there was no way I could do another crazy noche. Entonces, I went to bed early and got up with Katherine and David to go to mass at the  cathedral behind the Palacio Real. Correction, we attempted to go to mass.

We got up at 6:30 and Madrid was still rocking from the night before, and when I was ready to leave at 7, there was silence.  There is a very brief 30 minute period between the revelry from the night before and the commute the next morning.  It was beautiful to walk around the city while the sun rose and the city started to stir.  Of course, whilst admiring, we became quite lost.  We thought mass started at 8:30, and if that was the case, we would just have to be a little late.  En realidad, we got there at around 9, but mass did not start until noon.  Unfortunately, we had to leave Madrid at noon.  We also wanted to see Guernica at El Museo Renia Sofia and thought on our way maybe we could catch a mass.  One would think that in the most Catholic country in Europe, that would be possible on the Lord’s Day.  Well you would be wrong.  We did not make a mass, but we did get to marvel a Guernica (for free!) when the museum opened at 10:30.  It was marvelous to see the HUGE painting and also its progression from sketch to masterpiece.  I adore paintings that fill up a room. They possess this gravitas that few other forms of art rival.  I wish I had more time at Renia Sofia.  It has a little bit more modern art and I really love Picasso.  I also really enjoyed how they displayed the art work. Simple white walls and few pieces.  The painting felt like they had been picked out especially for this room next to this other painting, but the paintings never ran together. They each had their own space and story.

At noon, we all piled onto the (much smaller) bus, and made our way to Valencia! Mostly I slept, but occasionally I would wake up to see a beautiful olive grove or an incredible lagoon.  It baffles me that there is such natural beauty in the world just waiting calmly to be appreciated. After about 5 hours we rolled into Valencia to unload and get into the Rector Peset.  There was a welcoming committee (sort of) of Spanish students that were clapping as we walked through to get to the elevator.  It might have been welcoming, but frankly it was terrifying! Then I finally got unpacked.  It feels great to be settled somewhere, and to start becoming a part of a community.  Classes started Tuesday (18/1).  More on that later!

January 20, 2011


On our third day in Spain, we went to Toledo, a small city about an hour away. When we drove in, a blanket of fog covered the city in an almost spooky way. We arrived kind of early, so we got to see the city wake up. Most of the day we wandered. A big group went to the cathedral, but I decided not to. Wandering a city is really the best way to explore. On every corner, there are shops to buy knives and a particular type of jewelry. After shopping for a while we stopped to have lunch. It was my first true Spanish lunch where I could sit and enjoy the meal and the people I ate with.  That’s one of the great things about Spanish life: There is no rush to do anything.  People really enjoy life at every step.

The streets in Toledo are very narrow and made of cobble stone. I could never drive a car in them, but they manage to do it very well.  There is the always present hazard that one  must hold on to the walls of building to avoid being run over (As shown by Agata)

Toledo has so many winding streets and tall buildings that it’s very easy to get very disoriented. Well, on our way back to the bus, we got really lost! Luckily we ran into Dr. Baker and were able to follow him to the bus. On the way out, we stopped to take pictures of the whole city, and the view was breath-taking. I don’t think I’ve taken a better picture in my life than the one of the panoramic view of the city. Then we were on our way back to Madrid for the last night.

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January 18, 2011


The internet was not working well in Madrid, and I had almost no down time to blog. Now that I have a stable internet connection, get ready!

Old restaurant in the world!

After the airport, we hopped on a bus to the Hotel Tryp Gran Via.  The hotel was in a great position, and Gran Via is the Broadway of Madrid.  I loved how alive the city was! There were tons of people and cars and shops and plazas and tiny winding streets.  Four people from our group arrived a couple of days before the rest of the group, so they knew the lay of the land.  We ate little bitty sandwiches and drank tinto de verano at Cien Montaditos.

Plaza Mayor

I really love eating outside and people watching.  It’s truly incredible to realize the people all around me have their own personal story and hopes and dreams and thoughts all in English or Spanish or one of the hundreds of other languages in the world or a mix of many.  After walking around the city, we siesta-ed because we knew we wanted to experience the heartbeat of the city, its night life.

And the plazas truly pulse with life at night.  Madrid takes on a completely different personality.  It’s filled with club promoters, tourists, street performers, and locals all chasing la noche, and the night lasts until the wee hours of the morning. We started out at O’Reilly’s for sangria (ironic I know, an “Irish pub” for a traditional Spanish drink).  Of course not used to the time schedule we started much too early. Nothing really gets going in Madrid until midnight, and then if you want the discotecas to be busy you have to wait until 3 AM. After the sangria, we walked next door to a salsa club with a name I can’t remember (something like El Sol de…) I danced merengue with a Spaniard and then danced with some guys from the group we came with. About 2 AM we decided we could neither salsa nor merengue any more, and left looking for a discoteca. At this point our group had dwindled to five. Along the way, we ran into a club promoter from Joy with a good deal and decided to go there. It was student night, so the club was packed with young people and mostly tourists at that. The music was very similar to the popular music in the States, and we all danced until the club shut down at 6 AM.

Look at that beautiful Spanish sun!

The next morning, I slightly regretted the decision to stay out and survive on two hours of sleep because we walked EVERYWHERE! We walked to Palacio Real (the Royal Palace, but every time I look at it I think real palace).  It was truly incredible to think about the level of craftsmanship and dedication that went in to making a palace that large and ornate.  I couldn’t take pictures, but just so you know in the throne room, there is a wall covered in velvet with intricate gold embroidery.  After that we had lunch and then trekked a Del Prado.  This is the time I really wish I knew a lot more about Spanish art because then I could really enjoy the whole museum.  I loved getting to see Las Meninas though because we studied it in Señor’s class.  To stand in front of the painting and just soak it in made me feel much more connected to art. Then there was dinner and an early night!

Palacio Real

I have no idea what this is, but I like the picture!

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January 12, 2011


Hello blogland! I have been remiss, I know.  I had posts stacked up waiting for all of you.  Then for a while I had a D in Macroeconomics, so everything else kinda slipped away…  Regardless, I’m back for a new semester in a new place to boot!

This picture is deceptive. It was taken on Day 3 of the snowpocalypse. Earlier the streets were sheets of ice.

Since the first levantense from Señor I was enthralled; not only by the dashing teacher that stood before me, but by a whole new language.  A new world that was mysterious, fast-pasted, and (if I may) sexy.  It was then I decided I would speak another language, fluently. I want to be travel journalist (and a little bit I want to work for a fashion magazine or really any magazine that will hire me!) What better way to get an edge on my competition than to say, “Yes I can coordinate with the fashion houses in France because I speak fluent French” or “Don’t worry, I can cover South America without a translator”  The best way to travel is to seek out the locals and act like them.  It’s a lot easier to do when you can speak to them instead of stalking them! So I decided to major in Romance Languages and Journalism. I chose French and Spanish. The French part isn’t working out so well as of yet, but I have faith! The thing is I really want it. I really, really want to be fluent, and from what I’ve found, that will take me farther than proficiency. I can alphabetized really well, but does that mean I want to be a secretary for the rest of my life. No. I have this desire and if I keep plugging away, it’s bound to happen some day. For me, fluency takes immersion.  What better place than Spain and what better time than now?  I will be living in Valencia, Spain for the next four months, and when I come back I will be fluent.  For the next four months, this will be a travel blog. I can’t promise daily updates, but there should be more posts compared to the last semester. You can come along with me as I trek through Spain and the rest of Europe. Well, you can come along with me as soon as I actually go…

Our plane was supposed to take off January 10 at 6:55pm but because of this whole weather system (49 out of 50 states has snow. I’m lookin’ at you Florida!)  We moved our flight to today, January 12.  Just for the record I hate snow, I’m a summer girl through and through. The sun thrills my soul. The rays make my heart pitter patter. Warm weather makes me happy. The snow does not, and now I have another complaint: It’s keeping me from the 60 degree weather that awaits me in Valencia. That and actual Valencia. So I’m off, and you’ll see me in another continent soon!