About Me

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Columbia, Missouri
My traveling closet began halfway across the country three years ago when I left Las Vegas and started my freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Then it went halfway across the world for a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Now it's back to Mizzou for a final year. I began this blog to detail my European adventures. Though I'm back in the states, the adventures continue.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

O Valencia!

This past weekend I traveled with my entire study abroad program to Valencia on a "study journey." We departed at 8:45 a.m. (Well, we were supposed to but someone arrived late.) Much to your surprise, that someone was not me! Generally, I function on "Madison Time." How do you calculate "Madison Time" you may ask? It's quite simple: just tell me to arrive 15 minutes before you actually need me and then I will be perfectly on time. Tell me the exact time and you will find yourself waiting approximately 15 minutes. It's a fail-proof formula that my best friends have down perfectly. However, Spain has turned me into quite the punctual person, which is ironic because Spaniards are the opposite of punctual. It's about time though, right?

We boarded a coach bus that was not built to accommodate a 5'11'' girl. It was a lovely cramped 5-hour drive to Valencia. Luckily, we made plenty of stops along the way. Our first stop consisted of a tour and wine tasting at Torres Vineyard. 

Like the rest of the tours throughout the weekend, it was all in Spanish. This was both interesting and frustrating at the same time. I was amazed at how much information in Spanish I could actually decipher and understand. However, when a certain topic of history intrigued me, it was annoying only being able to comprehend 3/4 of the information. Thank goodness for Google to bridge the language gap and fill in all the blanks for me.

We arrived in Valencia at 5:30 p.m. and checked into the magnificent Holiday Inn. The DOUBLE bed was incredible and the HOT shower was glorious. When you're confined to a tiny twin bed and a miserably cold shower every morning, you really start to appreciate the little things.

Once we settled into our room, my roommate Akanksha and our other friend Jessica didn't waste any time to go exploring. Right outside our hotel stood a line of giant buildings called La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias --> The City of Arts and Sciences. These buildings consisted of an aquarium, an IMAX theatre, a science museum, an event hall, and a concert hall. The modern architecture was impressive to say the least.

Parallel to the buildings was a giant park with lots of fun findings including an outside work-out park and a slide-park designed using "Gulliver's Travels" as its theme.

After playing in the park, we returned to the hotel for dinner. Dinner was a giant buffet with the most delicious food and unlimited FREE water! Free water at restaurants is non-existent in Spain. At some restaurants, an alcoholic beverage is cheeper than buying water. Ridiculous, right? Needless to say, I ate myself into a food coma. It was amazing.

The next day we were dropped off at the largest aquarium in Europe: El Oceanografic. If I'm speaking honestly, Seaworld does it better. It was still a lot of fun though. Plus, I got to watch a dolphin show. I will never complain about an opportunity to see dolphins.

After El Oceanografic we walked back to our Hotel and admired all the architecture and crazy designs of La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias.

We then embarked on a tour of Old Valencia. I took an unreal amount of pictures. The buildings were beautiful and there was just so much to see! It was overwhelming.

Orange trees were on every corner. Valencia is famous for its oranges.

I even picked out my dream Spanish casa. 

We toured the Cathedral Llotja, which houses one of the many believed chalices used by Jesus in the Last Supper and the mummified hand of a saint who was killed and chopped into pieces. 

After our tour ended, we went on a hunt for the traditional Valencian drink: "Agua de Valencia" which consists of cava (Spanish champaign) and freshly squeezed oranges. We went to bar after bar and had no luck in finding this supposedly famous drink. Ironically, we found it on the menu in an Irish Pub. It was delicious.

The next day we we left Valencia bright and early and travelled to Tarragona - the  home of many ancient Roman ruins. My favorite was the colosseum located right next to the ocean. It was beautiful!

Lunch was an interesting experience. They crammed almost 200 students into the upstairs of a restaurant that specializes in serving authentic calcotadas. A calcotada is a grilled onion. You have to remove the charred outside of the onion and then dip it in a sauce made of different kinds of nuts. It was definitely messy, making the bibs entirely necessary. The lunch consisted of a traditional Spanish three-course meal that took over 3 hours to complete.

Overall, the weekend excursion was wonderful. It made me incredibly excited for my other travels coming up.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fresh Air Loving

Don't get me wrong, the city of Barcelona is beautiful...but sometimes even a city girl such as myself needs to venture out to the mountains for some fresh air.

La calle de Las Ramblas at dusk. 

Some friends and I hopped on a train and traveled an hour outside of the city to La Montserrat Monastery, located on top of a beautiful mountainside. 

To my Mizzou friends, yes I am standing next to a student from KU. Two actually! Blasphemy, I know. ;p

 We rode in a cable car all the way to the top of the mountain! 

 What a view it was once we reached the top! 

 I had to take advantage of an opportunity to be adventurous! 

 My fear of heights kept me from going ALL the way to the top, but hey, I got pretty close!

 There were plenty of monk statues. 

 The church itself was beautiful.

 Even the outside was impressive.

 Jesus and his twelve disciples. 

Just enjoying the scenery! 

It was the perfect day-trip getaway. However, now it is back to reality. Even though I am in Barcelona...I have this thing called...homework??? What a horrible thing to have to do when there are so many other WONDERFUL things to be doing here. Tarea = muy triste. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Week Abroad: ✔

That's right. I survived my first week abroad. I'm shocked a week has already passed because it certainly doesn't seem like it. Barcelona is a beautiful city: the culture, the architecture, the language(s)...I love it all.

I think my favorite moment this week occurred at a small, street corner cafe. The sunny, 50-degree weather made for perfect patio-sitting conditions. I ordered my very first café con leche and soaked in my newfound independence. Though I am used to living far away from home at Mizzou, living in a faraway country offers an entirely different form of independence. As I sipped my café con leche, a feeling of content swept through me. I survived packing, an 18-hour travel day, moving in with complete strangers, jet lag, starting a new school, and being forced out of my comfort zone to speak a foreign language: I can do this. I can become a Spaniard for the next four months. It was a wonderful feeling.

Of course, then my waitress brought me the cruji coque I ordered - the Spanish version of a pizza. Oof! It was probably the worst thing I've ever tasted. It smelt of horribly burnt crust and death. I managed to take all of five bites before giving up. I couldn't force myself to struggle through it. My host madre makes the best food for dinner but finding some descent Spanish food for lunch has been a challenge for me. I attempted the Spanish burger the next day; it was just as bad as the cruji coque. My father gave me this piece of cliché advice: "When in Barcelona, do as the Barcelonians do." Alright, so I'm not a complete Spaniard yet because all I want more than anything is a juicy, greasy American cheeseburger with a side of french fries and ranch. I might have to splurge for a 14-euro burger at the Hard Rock Cafe pretty soon.

While I'm on the topic of food, one staple food that breaks my heart: the milk. It is the third worst thing I've tried here. They buy and drink it warm. I repeat, WARM. It tastes utterly rotten. Therefore, I have adapted my morning breakfast to consist of a bowl of dry cereal. It's just not the same... RIP milk...

My body clock is finally starting to adapt to Spain's VERY different schedule.

9 am: Wake up, eat breakfast
1 pm: Lunch
4-9:55 pm: Oh the napping possibilities! (My favorite time of the day :D)
10 pm: Dinner
12 pm: Party! (I mean, not on school nights of course...(My parents read this blog) Haha...)
4 - 6 am: Bedtime

...and then do it all over again.

After only a week, it is already getting easier to speak Spanish with my host familia. They have been great so far and I'm definitely getting more comfortable with them. I'm excited to see what new adventures this next week will bring. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Secret Behind the Siesta

It's really quite simple: Spaniards don't sleep. They stay up till the wee hours of the morning and still manage to rise and shine around 7 or sometimes even earlier. Thus, a siesta in the mid-afternoon is necessary to catch up on the needed amount of sleep most people obtain during the night.

Because dinner isn't served until 9 or 10, las discotecas (night clubs) don't even open until midnight. I experienced my first discoteca last night. Sutton hosted a welcome party for all the new study abroad students. One of the girls I went out with knew someone who knew someone important and we managed to get wristbands for the VIP section of the club. Upon entering the VIP section, "All I Do is Win" started playing...how fitting! We didn't leave Sutton until 5:30 am. The club was STILL packed when we left. It was crazy.

On a random note: I booked my flight to Dublin for St. Patty's day! 177 euros...Oof!

On an even random(er) note: Guess who this belongs too?

Answer: My sorority sister Carolyn Guffey

She studied in Barcelona last Spring and I am currently staying with her same host familia! What are the chances! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mi dormitorio

Here in Barcelona I am participating in a home-stay and living with a familia. Señora Ana has a daughter who is 21 and a son who is 17. She has the cutest Maltese puppy named Pongo who reminds me a lot of my own puppy back home. Despite taking five semesters of Spanish in college, communicating is still difficult. A language barrier definitely exists. Luckily, I don't have to struggle through it alone. My roomie, Sonja, is from Minnesota and we've been able to help each other out.

Señora Ana's cooking is muy delicioso but she tries to feed us WAY too much. Even when Sonja and I say "no gracias" she still puts more food on our plates. In Spain, it is rude to leave uneaten food on your plate. I'm going to get fat.

Sonja and I share a room. The room is smaller than the dorms at MU but it works just fine.

Mi cama:

Mi escritorio:

Alphie the lion (ADPi's mascot) was waiting for me on my shelves! I also discovered my favorite book series of all time...Harry Potter (Duhhh)...in Spanish! I'm going to try and read them all while I'm here.

On Tuesday Sonja and I decided to explore the streets of Barcelona. From our house, we are a 10 minute walk to Las Ramblas - the shopping district of Barcelona. (Uh oh...sorry in advance to my bank account,)

We had to stop by H&M because they were having a rebaje! Por supuesto! (Rebaje = sale) Surprisingly, I walked out of the store empty-handed but the five-story H&M was definitely impressive.

Sonja and I walked all the way to the ocean. It was beautiful!

Meet Sonja!

This is a famous statue of Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus):

After exploring the pier, Sonja and I went on a hunt for some comida. We found a tapas restaurant on our walk home. Tapas are perfect because they are cheap and delicious! Our camarero (waiter) asked us if we preferred "Inglés o español?" We opted for español and managed to order our food and drinks without any problemas. I think our camarero appreciated our effort to speak español because he brought us two shots for free.

Once we finally made it home it was siesta time! Oh how I love siestas! We didn't wake up until dinner time...which was at 10 p.m.!

Overall, it was a wonderful first day in Barcelona. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

¡Finalmente en Barcelona!

It only took 18 hours! I travelled from 10:30 a.m. on January 8th to 2:45 p.m. on January 9th. The longest stretch was my 12 hour flight from Salt Lake City to Paris. The woman in front of me reclined her chair into my lap and the man behind me jabbed my back with his knees, disabling my ability to recline my own chair. Therefore, sleeping wasn't really an option. But I can't complain much. They played Moneyball, Crazy Stupid Love and GLEE! Needless to say, I stayed entertained throughout the flight and I certainly didn't go hungry! They fed me lunch, dinner and breakfast. What a deal! Plus, how can you complain when you get to watch the sunrise from above the clouds? This picture doesn't do it justice but it was BEAUTIFUL! 

Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I grew extremely envious of my cousin Kayla who is currently studying abroad there and can speak French. It truly is a beautiful language. I found myself staring at French people conversing. I had no idea what they were saying but it was incredibly entrancing. 

After taking two buses and managing to NOT get lost, I arrived at the correct terminal and boarded my Air France flight to Barcelona. I decided to reward myself for not getting lost for a change and took advantage of the fact I am now "legal." 

Before I knew it, I spotted España out my plane window!

!Bienvenidos a Barcelona!