Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goodbye, Sevilla! Hello Madrid!

During the summer of 2010, an exchange student from Granada lived with my family for a month. Her name is Isabel, and we were truly lucky to host her! She is a sweetheart, and I didn’t want to leave Spain without seeing her. As Isabel is currently studying in Madrid, I opted to spend a few nights with her before catching my flight back to the States. I’m so glad I did! She and her aunt and uncle hosted me, and I could not have asked for anything better. They drove me around, fed me, housed me, and showed me around the city. I even got to write down some recipes (I tried to do that with Carmen, but she makes way too many assumptions. For example, I’d ask, “Wait, Carmen, doesn’t this recipe also have garlic?” Response: “Well of course it does!” Me: “So does it have olive oil?” Carmen: “Everything I make has olive oil.”)

Anyways, I saw Plaza de España (in Madrid), Plaza del Sol (site of many of the recent protests that were a prototype for the Occupy campaign in the States), the main Cathedral, the palace, and a few other sites. Most importantly, Isabel treated me to my last dinner in Spain: jamón ibérico (ham cured in salt), a plate of absolutely incredible cheeses, and ox. Yes, I ate ox. For anyone who knows me well, that will come as a shock!

Today was goodbye Spain, hello USofA! I hope the reverse culture shock isn’t too bad ☺

besitos a todos,

Hasta Luego, Sevilla!

First off, I’m so glad I stayed for a few extra days in Sevilla. Most people peaced out Friday or Saturday morning, but I stayed through lunch on Sunday. I managed to see/do all my favorite things.

As Friday was my housemate’s (Alix's) last lunch in Sevilla, it was a day for pictures. Luckily I managed to print a few of them before leaving so I could some to Carmen! Anyways, here’s some background: Lunch in Spain is a big deal. I spent about 2 hours at lunch every day this semester—maybe an hour or so eating and then an hour or so talking to Carmen and her nephew Felipe while she cleaned the kitchen, washed the stove, and mopped the floor. Honestly, this was probably the thing that most helped my language skills and most expanded my cultural knowledge of Spain. Alix’s last lunch was particularly special for me. There were 5 of us: me, Alix, Carmen, Felipe, and Paula (Carmen’s niece). It was almost like a family holiday for me—many of the people that most shaped my experiences in Sevilla were there. (Side note: Paula and I spent an afternoon a week practicing our language skills together. We spoke half the time in Spanish and half the time in English. She is an absolute sweetheart—I am so lucky to have been around the first day her family visited Carmen this semester!) Anyways, here are the best photos from lunch:

Later that day, I went out for coffee and dessert with Carmen, Alix, Paula, and Adriana (my best friend from the semester). I had originally invited Carmen to grab something with Adriana and me a week before, and her face had literally lit up with excitement. Then the group just kept growing!

After our café snack with Carmen, Adriana and I headed to our friend Audrey’s house for dinner and crepes. Highlights included goulash made by our friend Lucie from the Czech Republic and crepes made by Audrey, who’s French! AND, you’re never going to believe this, but there was peanut butter!!! Yes, this means that my first peanut butter in Spain was two nights before leaving Sevilla.

On Saturday, I got up to start thinking about packing. I also ran around like a mad woman trying to find a store that would print photos that day so I could frame one for Carmen and make a few thank-you cards. I don’t know how many stores I attempted to go to before succeeding. Quintessential Spain! Felipe and Carmen loved their cards and the framed picture, so I’d say it was a success.

Anyways, that night was a perfect last night. Adriana and I met up, went shopping, grabbed tea with Lucie and her boyfriend (recall my tea obsession that began in Granada), went out for tapas, got gelato, drank wine by the river, and—don’t judge—put a lover’s lock on the bridge. What do I mean by that? Well…couples often buy a lock, write their name and the date on it, and then lock it to the bridge. It’s supposed to bring good luck. Yah, we’re cheesy. I know. But really, my friendship with Adriana was easily one of the best parts of Spain. Anyways, my night ended with Carmen, the two of us watching the end of her favorite TV show until 2:30 am. Absolutely perfect.



Christmas Lights:

Our lock:

On Sunday, I managed to dar mi último paseo, which took me to Plaza de España. I already wrote about this place back in September, and it is still one of my favorite parts of Sevilla. I was also going to go to the Cathedral, but I ended up packing instead, since Adriana and I had gone to a traditional dance there on Wednesday dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The dance is specific to Sevilla and consists of a bunch of little girls singing while little boys do a traditional dance. I’m glad we went, but let’s just say it was a good thing it didn’t last more than half an hour!

After a quick lunch, I said my final goodbye to Carmen and Felipe and walked myself and all my bags to the bus station. Destination: Madrid. Time: 6 hours. Travel buddy: Adriana.

Spanish word of the day: despedirse = to say goodbye

un besito a todos,

Gelato: The Ice Cream that's Better than Ice Cream.

As I mentioned in my last post about Italy, I love gelato. But really. I think I ate it every day in September, every day in Italy, and even braved the cold to eat it one of my last nights in Sevilla! Thus, it certainly deserves it’s own post.

Note: mint-flavored ice cream is just plain better anywhere you go in Europe.

To anyone planning on going to Sevilla, here’s the final list of best ice cream places:
1. Fiorentina—especially tiramisu!

2. Mama Goye—especially Ferrero Rocher, which is to die for.

3. Rayas—very good and super creamy.

4. If you’re in a crunch or need wifi, don’t forget about the trusty Mascarpone.

Spanish word of the day: batido = frappe, or for all you non-Boston-area-people, milkshake (because Mama Goye also has some pretty incredible batidos.)

gonna miss the gelato,

Rome and Florence: A Trip for the Girls

December 6th (Tuesday) and 8th (Thursday) were Spanish national holidays. For those of you who don’t know, Spaniards are fans of taking long weekends. When a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, they’ll often take the Monday or Friday off too. Thus, I had a total of one class—on Wednesday—during the first week of December. To be fair, most Spaniards at the University did not have the week off, but the office for international programs canceled all classes for Americans. I took the opportunity to meet up with my mom in Italy!

Mom and I ended up spending 4 nights each in Rome and Florence. Here are the highlights:

1. Gelato. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t get any better than in Italy.

2. The Trevi Fountain. This was probably my favorite part of Rome. Our hotel was easily walking distance, and we spent time at the Trevi almost every night. We people watched, ate gelato, and enjoyed the fountain. Luckily it was warm enough to be outside even though it was nighttime in December.

3. The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. This was literally an entire day. After much debate, we ended up getting the audio tour and trying to make it through the museum on our own. It was incredibly overwhelming but definitely worth it. We were there for hours, and we didn’t even see all of it! We also got to the Basilica too late to do anything but look around, but we were so tired that I don’t think we could have done more anyways.

4. The Colosseum and the Roman Forum. This excursion produced my favorite photo of Mom and me from the trip!

5. Midnight in Paris. One day, utterly lost, Mom and I happened upon a movie theatre that was playing Midnight in Paris in English! We hopped in line, bought tickets, and went in. It was utterly perfect, as we had wanted to see this movie in the States before I left but never made it happen.

6. The Duomo. Our hostel in Florence was within site of the Duomo. We finally made it to the top of the dome on our last full day there—yes, that’s 400-and-something stairs!

In front of the Duomo:

From the top of the Duomo:

7. The museum that houses Michelangelo’s “David.” While Mom was most excited to see David, the best part of this museum for me was the collection of musical instruments it houses. We just happened across it, but we ended up spending a bunch of time looking at the Medici family’s collection of instruments. There were also extensive and very informative interactive video stations—I learned a lot just from listening to the historical explanations. Unfortunately, the Stradivarius violin was not on display the day we visited, but all in all I really appreciated the exhibit.

8. Shopping in the open markets in Florence. What an overwhelming experience! It definitely did pay off, though.

9. The food. I have to say that a lot of my assumptions about Italian food were just plain wrong. Meatballs, for example, don’t seem to be the norm, nor did we find as many pastry shops as I expected. Nevertheless, it was good to get a nice big dose of pizza and pasta (and wine, of course)!

10. Christmas lights. It was like out of a movie! Christmas in Rome.

11. Being with my Momma. It was just good to have some girl time.

Spanish word of the day: vestidos de moda = fashion dresses (because one of the statue museums we went to randomly had contemporary fashion dresses displayed along statues from 100 B.C. We still haven’t figured that one out.)

un besito,

El Día de Acción de Gracias (Thanksgiving)

While the American tradition of Halloween has indeed managed to make it all the way to Spain, I cannot say the same for Thanksgiving. Honestly, these people must be crazy; I’d take Thanksgiving over Halloween any day! As it turns out, I actually really missed seeing all my family this year. And Black Friday (my wardrobe is going to be sorely lacking). Carmen did offer to make me turkey for dinner Thanksgiving night, but what that meant was frying a hunk of turkey breast in olive oil and salt, which is not quite the same…I didn’t take her up on the offer. Thankfully, I should be making up for the lack of family time by having dinner with my grandmother and all my cousins over winter break!

Despite a rather sad Thanksgiving day, I managed to salvage the weekend. Josiah, Adriana’s friend who is studying in Granada, came to Sevilla with his program, and we showed him around a bit. After tapas in Barrio Santa Cruz (the old Jewish neighborhood) and an attempt to see *free* flamenco at La Carbonería, we ended up at Long Island Bar (near Calle Betis, a street of bars along the river). Long Island must make literally all of their money off of Americans—and old Spanish guys who want to check them out. They have a different type of shot for each of the 50 states, a map of the US where you can mark where you’re from, and a bunch of US college flags on the ceiling. Plus free sangria for the ladies on Thursday nights. Josiah managed to find his college flag—and he’s from a tiny school in the middle of nowhere! Sadly (or really not so sadly), they don’t have one for Haverford.

Trying to see free flamenco:

College Flags in Long Island Bar:

Josiah, Adriana, and me:

Spanish word of the day: el nuevo testamento = the new testament (because there were several mornings when, upon arriving at the university, I was met with men trying to give me free half-Bibles in Spanish!)

un abrazo,

48 Hours in Barcelona

I will admit, there is almost nothing I could possibly add to Matthew’s blog post on this trip. Thus, I defer you to what he wrote. Be warned--it's kind of long. But there are lots of pictures too! Click here.

I will, however, note that:
A. I had the MOST incredible raviolis on this trip (better than Italy) and
B. I was rather surprised by how different the tapas in Barcelona were from those in Sevilla. I wanted Matthew to try some of my favorites, but I didn’t find a single one! I was missing the south…but actually. I may be a northern girl in the states, but southern Spain is by far my favorite part of the country.

Spanish word of the day: ser un lío = to be very complicated (because this trip could have been un lío—I mean really, mixing Morocco and Ryan Air is a dangerous gamble—but we absolutely lucked out!)

un besito,

After a Not-So-Brief Hiatus

So…I recognize that in the past month and a bit, I have completely failed at keeping up my blog. Let me explain a bit. The last time I wrote was before heading off to Barcelona to see Matthew. Once I got home from that, my lack of working over the course of the semester caught up to me! (Note: pretty much all my work was due the last week in Sevilla.) I spent the next few weeks doing as much homework as possible. I then headed off to Italy for 8 days with my Mom, came back, took 3 finals, turned in the 18-page-1.5-spaced-legal-size-paper final essay I wrote with Adriana, packed up, did all my favorite things in Sevilla one last time, got on a bus to Madrid, saw my exchange student Isabel for two days…and now I’m on an 8 ½ hour plane ride to New York!

If you wanted the short and sweet version of my last month in Sevilla, well, there you go. If not, keep reading the posts to follow! I know everyone needs some excuse to escape the family for a bit during the holidays...

Spanish word of the day: flojo = lazy (because we all know that not keeping up my blog was, well, lazy.)

un abrazo,