Monday, May 21, 2012

2 Day countdown


This weekend was my last weekend in Alicante.  Saturday I did some final souvenir shopping and had a long beach day before spending the night together with friends.  We tried one of the best local tapas restaurants Katagorri and it was delicious.  Sunday I had a ‘going away’ lunch with Paco, Pepa, their son Fran, and his girlfriend Sandra.  We ate at a very authentic Alicantian restaurant.  We had arroz negro which is a paella that is tinted black from the squid cooked in it.  I have to admit this wasn’t my favorite Spanish meal but I definitely enjoyed the company! Sunday night we said some good byes because my friend Colette left this morning.  It was sad seeing some of our friends already leave but we all plan to visit in the states so I know I will be seeing them again soon.

Today, on day 2 of my countdown, I took my final exam here in Spain!  I am all done with class and have one more full day before hopping on a plane early Wednesday morning.  I can say now after an AMAZING time abroad and a truly life-changing experience, I am ready to head home. 



Said in better words by Michael Buble… I’m coming back home : )








Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 5 Countdown- casual rock climbing


I’m on day 5 of my countdown and we all want to make the most of our remaining time in Spain.  Today a large group from our program went “hiking” up a mountain in a town called Calpe, about a 2 hour tram ride away.  Originally, we thought it was hiking- as in using a path and walking through nature.  However, less than 15 minutes on the path we realized this would be much more of a rock climbing/crawling on all 4’s adventure.  It was absolutely incredible and I have to say I have always wanted to go rock climbing and if this is as close as I ever get I will be happy.  Before we began climbing our two professors explained that there would be some narrow areas where we should ‘be careful’ to stay on the path.  These areas were the ones we scaled up rocks that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea!  Collin and I are planning to go indoor rock climbing at his gym this summer so this little adventure was great practice.  Maybe it should have been the other way around, like practice indoor first before going to the real thing haha.  


From the bottom looking up

From the top looking down


It was so much fun and I enjoyed the challenge and views the whole way up.  At the top we were around 1,000 feet above sea level and the overlook was incredible. Although the rock climbing didn't scare me, there were tons of seagulls that were nesting along the way up the mountain.  They were so aggressive because they thought we were going to hurt their babies and were intruding on their territory.  They would squawk at us and a few times swooped down over our heads a little too close for comfort.  The seagulls were definitely an unexpected obstacle along the way haha. 

1000 feet above sea level 

We did it! 


The day was a well-deserved adventure after exams... even though I will be sore tomorrow!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bittersweet


In one week I will be back home in Irmo, SC.  I don’t know where the time has gone because it feels like I just got here.  It is very bittersweet because I CAN NOT wait to see my family and friends but it will also be very hard to say by to my family and friends here and the city that I have come to love over the past 4 months.  Home and here are completely different worlds but I love each one in unique ways.  I have grown a lot this semester, being able to travel between countries with ease, adapt to new situations, and most importantly communicate in another language.  I decided to make a list of favorites about Spain and home.


Spain:
-TORTILLA de patatas haha (love those Wednesday bocadillos yall)
- paella
-beach a few strides away from home
-palm trees galore
-siestas
-precious Spanish puppies everywhere!
-speaking in Spanish
And most importantly my amazing friends that I have made throughout this semester and sweet Paco and Pepa.  I will miss them so much.   
It's potatoes... it's eggs. It's two things I love rolled up in one!



Home:
-chick-fil-a
-ranch dressing
-diet coke and diet dr. pepper 
-green grass everywhere
-3g (as in I don’t have to search for wifi to use my phone! What a groundbreaking concept)
- free water
-America (just in general! I love our country)
-sweet tea
-southern accents and kind manners

YUM! can't wait 
(and also can't decide if it's bad that half my list for each country consists of food..?)



And this list for America could go on and on!  

I can’t wait to see my family and friends and be reunited with my home and all the things I know and love.  I am so thankful for my experience abroad because it has taught me a lot and made me do things I wouldn’t normally have a chance to do.  However, I know I will return to Spain one day and see my friends I’ve made back home in the U.S. of A. (we already have road trips planned!)  So for me the bitter sweet is more sweet because I know I will enjoy the friends I’ve made here for  years to come and take the memories with me for a lifetime.  

So it’s not a good bye to Spain and friends, 
it’s hasta luego – because I will see y’all again soon!!! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A reunion and a communion


 This weekend is my next to last weekend in Alicante : (  I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by!  On Saturday I was able to finally meet my pen pal of more than 10 years, Kateryna!!! I know it sounds crazy, but the story starts when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  My church helped with the program “Operation Christmas Child” where we send off shoeboxes of gifts to various groups in other countries.  That year we were sending gifts to another church in Ukraine and my mom decided that my brother and I could decide who we wanted to send to.  I chose of course an ‘older girl’ because I had always wanted a big sister.  After receiving the gift, Kateryna graciously wrote back to me about how thankful she was and about how she was learning english.  Even though she was about 6 years older than I was, we continued writing back and forth through letters and sending small gifts and photos from our own countries.  As the years passed and we both became busier, we exchanged emails but slowly lost touch a little bit.  One day, around the time I was a junior or senior in high school, I received a “friend request” on Facebook from Kateryna!!! I was so excited and couldn’t believe that she had found me on Facebook.  We then were able to talk atleast a few times each year through facebook.  We had always talked about meeting one day, but I told her that I hoped I would be able to study abroad at some point while I was in college.  Now, here I am, finishing out my junior year and studying in Spain!  We talked all semester about meeting, but she is busy with a new job in Barcelona and I am busy traveling and with school here in Alicante.  This weekend she was able to come to Alicante, so we spent the whole day catching up and spending time at the beach together.  We had an amazing day and I am so thankful that we were finally able to meet!!

Kateryna and I near the beach in Alicante


Today, Sunday, I got to meet all of Paco’s extended family for the first communion of his nephew, Arturo. 
Sweet Arturo.  
I tried to get a photo with him but I think he was too shy/embarrassed haha.


We went to mass this morning and saw the children’s first communion then headed to the Melia Hotel to have lunch while overlooking the water.  I loved the views and loved being able to meet everyone, including Paco’s precious mother and his sister.  

And I thought I was short.... me and Paco's sweet mother!


We had a great time and I didn’t even notice that lunch lasted for more than 3 hours! 

Pepa, me, and Paco outside of the Melia Hotel 

I had a wonderful weekend and can’t believe it is my next to last weekend in Alicante!  I have truly come to love my family here, but I am also so excited to see my family and friends at home.  It is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and I am reminded every day how lucky I am to have such an amazing mother at home.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tabarca Tuesday


Now that Spring Break has come and gone, and final tests and papers are heavily upon us… what now??  I decided to organize a group trip to the Island of Tabarca, a very small island right off the coast of Alicante.  We didn’t have class on Tuesday, May 1st due to the Spanish Labor Day, so we thought that would be the perfect time to plan the excursion.   There is a company that organizes a trip to and from the island on the same day right from the Alicante port.  We all arrived at 11AM sharp to get on the boat and were so excited for the trip.  It will most likely be one of our last big group trips together, so we were all a little bit nostalgic. 

The group minus some on the boat 

After arriving we were surprised to find that the beach wasn’t actually a beach… well not in the traditional sense.  There was no sand, only small pebble rocks.  We were surprised at first but then realized the amazing weather made up for it.  The water was crystal clear and so beautiful.  After a few hours of soaking in the sun a few people found a spot that you can cliffdive off of.  They had seen other groups doing it, but we still tested the water from below first to make sure it was deep enough.  Then, one-by-one, we all jumped from the high cliff into the clear blue water.  It was such an exhilarating experience that I had to do it twice- the second time from a higher edge!  We all jumped again and swam back into the cove, which turned out to be quite a workout.  Tired and sun-kissed (or burnt) we all headed back into Alicante that evening to go back to facing projects and papers once again.  Our little day in paradise is now appropriately referred to as “Tabarca Tuesday”. 
Me jumping!

What language are they speaking?? Vienna and Prague


Tuesday, April 17th I took an early train out of Siena and to Milan.  From Milan I flew right into Vienna, Austria to meet Caroline.  We reunited in our hostel that evening when I arrived and walked around through the main part of town.  We got dinner and caught each other up on all of our travel adventures.  Our hostel was honestly the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in… it was a nice, clean actually cute room with only 3 sets of bunk beds.  At the bottom of the hostel was a bar?  Haha we thought the concept was odd as well but you couldn’t hear the noise at all so it never bothered us.  On Wednesday we headed out for a full day of sight-seeing!  We went to Schronbrunn Palace and saw the gardens as well.  We walked from there up to Gloriette, a sort of lookout point to the rest of the city.  From there we went back to the center of town and grabbed lunch and of course a sweet treat after.  We finished our day at the Sisi museum, which is a museum of a collection of the royal family’s old silverware and china, as well as information on the life they lived.  We had beautiful weather in Vienna and it was perfect to see everything in just about two days!

Caroline and I at Schronbrunn Palace - Vienna 

Gardens at Schronbrunn- Vienna 


Near the University - Vienna 

Thursday morning we took the train over to Prague, Czech Republic.  Prague was probably one of my favorite cities in Europe (outside of Italy obviously).  We met our friend Shelbey in Prague and she stayed Thursday night and all day Friday.  Friday we took a city tour to see a lot of the sights in the city.  We walked over the Charles Bridge, saw the Astronomical Church, the Jewish Quarter, and a cathedral as well. 
Astronomical Clock- Old Town Prague 

Me, Shelbey, and Caroline - overlook of the river 

Jewish Cemetary in the Jewish Quarter 

After we had to say goodbye to Shelbey, Caroline and I met another friend from Wofford who was visiting Prague the same weekend as us, Peter.   We met some of his friends that evening and they showed us around town too.  Saturday we all hiked up to the Prague Palace to see the Cathedral and the Palace at the top, not to mention an AMAZING view of the whole city.  
Beautiful views of Prague 

On Saturday night Caroline and I went to a ballet because the artistic scene is supposed to be great in the city.  We enjoyed the ballet; however, I think somehow it was more of a “children’s” ballet because it was Goldilocks.  I would have maybe enjoyed a Swan Lake or something more traditional better.  However, the theatre was the Estates Theatre, which was gorgeous and also the last theatre Mozart conducted one of his own symphonies in. 
In the Estates Theatre 

Sunday we made a quick stop by the famous Lennon Wall before we had to catch our plane back to Alicante that evening. 

Lennon Wall 

My spring break was the best 3 weeks I’ve ever had.  I am so lucky to be able to see so many wonderful cities in such a short time.  I also have amazing friends and family- Chuck, Mr. Moore and my mom came to see me half way across the world, and I got to spend time with more friends the second half of spring break.  Obviously I have many other friends and family I love and care about that weren’t able to come, but I really felt truly blessed to have such an amazing vacation.  It was busy with activities and absolutely flew by.  We hopped train, plane, bus, car, metro, and everything else in between.  I had an unforgettable experience and learned so much!  I was also excited to return back to Alicante, which has slowly felt like more and more of a home.  Paco picked up Caroline and I from the airport and it was great to see my host family after 3 weeks.  Now begins my final month in Alicante- I can’t believe it, it has FLOWN BY! 

"I'm going to see Florence, the person not the city!"


 And now begins my final/3rd week of Spring Break travels!  After my mom left Rome on Friday, April 13th (yes, she flew on Friday the 13th), I headed to Siena to see one of my best friends, Florence.  I took the bus from Rome and it was a neat ride to see a little bit of the Tuscan countryside.  I arrived in Siena Friday morning and Florence was waiting for me at the bus stop.  We were finally reunited together in Europe and I couldn’t wait to see the lovely city she had been studying in for the semester.  We went to her apartment where I got to meet her sweet roommates and then we went to check-in at my bed-and-breakfast.  The owner of my bed-and-breakfast was really helpful and nice, but it was an interesting experience eating breakfast with everyone at a small, 6 person table.  The whole weekend we walked around town and shopped in the neat stores.  I got a few souvenirs from Siena because I just fell in love with the small town… and a few souvenirs for myself! 
Reunited and it feels so good!  

On Saturday evening Florence, I, and a lot of her friends went to a cooking class.  It was for sure one of my highlights of spring break!  We had about 3 hours of cooking and the best part… we got to eat the food too!  We learned how to make noodles by hand, make the sauce for the pasta, a delicious bruschetta, as well as chicken and dessert.  All of us girls had a wonderful time and it was so cool taking a class from an authentic Italian chef (we had a translator to help!)  When we weren’t in cooking classes we were cooking at their apartment, which I didn’t realized how much I missed until I was here.  It definitely makes me excited to have my own apartment at Wofford in the fall. 
Rolling out our noodles in class 

The whole group!

Monday I went to the Duomo, or the cathedral, in Siena which is incredible.  There was an overlook of the whole town and it was breathtaking.  The entire cathedral was great and I loved touring around it.
Outside the Duomo earlier in the weekend 

Duomo- View from the top 

The whole weekend was so much fun and just what I needed- time with a close friend, relaxation, and delicious food and cooking!  We had a great time and it was a much needed break from sightseeing and being so busy.  We got to catch up and I got to try a little taste of Tuscany all at the same time.  I have to say I will DEFINITELY be back to Tuscany at some point in my life.  

Mother Daughter Adventures


My wonderful mother flew in on Saturday, April 7th.  It was great timing because I said bye to Chuck and his dad right when she arrived.  We had a long day in the airport Saturday before heading to PARIS that evening!!!! Paris was so nice and we had a blast.  Saturday we were so tired and starving so wandered right up to the street to the first restaurant we could find.  It was an Italian restaurant and actually really good.  We enjoyed our free glass of champagne from our hotel and hit the sack! 
View from our hotel room! 

Sunday was a busy day… we managed to somehow walk to all over town in one short day.  We walked up to the Arch de Triumph from our hotel, then headed down Champs D’elysees to window shop.  At the end of the road we stopped to try a crepe!  They were delicious.  We wandered around the end of Champs D’elysees and even managed to bump into an English-speaking tour guide group and eavesdropped on the information.  We walked to the Louvre Museum and down by the main river.  We went inside Notre Dame Cathedral.  It was Mom’s first European cathedral and she absolutely loved it.  We soon realized how badly our feet hurt from walking so much so we headed to a restaurant on Champs D’elysees which soon became our favorite…pizza and salad!  We were just preparing our stomachs for what was to come in Rome!
In front of the Arch de Triumph 

Monday we had a more relaxing day and walked through another part of town near the Opera House.  We went shopping in Galleries of LaFayette- a 7 STORY SHOPPING MALL!!  We enjoyed browsing through all of the stores.  After getting back from shopping we headed of course to the Eiffel Tower!  We loved seeing it at night because we arrived right at the top of the hour while it sparkled. 
It really does sparkle!

Tuesday we headed early to the Palace of Versailles.  There was a long line but luckily we made it in without having to wait too long.  We toured through the entire palace and loved seeing the historic rooms as well as gardens.  After coming back from the Palace we grabbed an early dinner and stopped by Laduree to get the famous macaroons.  We took them back to our room as we packed and may or may not have eaten them all haha…
Mom in front of the Palace of Versailles 

SO EXCITED for our macaroons! 


We had quite an early flight to Rome on Wednesday but when we landed we were so glad we did because there was so much to see!  From our hotel we got our first Italian lunch of lasagna and it definitely lived up to the expectations.  Our first stop was the Colosseum... which we eventually found after getting lost for a little while.  We toured through the Coloseeum and then walked around the Roman Forum.  We headed back to the Trevi Fountain where we of course tossed a coin into the fountain.  Throwing a coin in the fountain is supposed to signify that you will somehow return back to Rome later in life.  And of course when Mom throws hers… it lands on the only rock in the whole fountain!!  We had a good laugh about that. 
Us in front of the Colosseum

The Trevi Fountain 

We spent the whole day on Thursday in the Vatican City.  W absolutely loved the Vatican and especially St. Peter’s Basilica.  It was honestly my favorite Basilica or Cathedral I have been in during my time in Europe.  We also toured the Vatican Museum.  The ceiling paintings took our breath away with the ornate detail.  But at the end of the museum we saw the Sistine Chapel which was incredible. 
Ready to go inside St. Peter's

Mom left early early early Friday morning to head back home to the states.  It was really hard to see her go because at that point in time all I wanted to do was hop on the plane with her.  We had such a wonderful time together.  We always run errands together and get our nails done in town together, so it was really just a continued girl’s weekend in Europe.  I can’t wait to spend more time together this summer with my mom… too bad it won’t be under the Eiffel tower anymore though!    

CHUCK IS HERE!!!


The first leg of my spring break was much anticipated and definitely worth the wait! Chuck came to visit Spain with his dad over his spring break.  He arrived on Saturday, March 31st and I sat around the entire day waiting for them to arrive.  First, the flight was delayed.  Then they had a few issues navigating out of the Madrid airport and driving to Alicante in the car they rented.  After becoming anxious I decided to go ahead and walk over to the hotel they were staying at, the Melia, to wait for them.  I sat in the lobby and the moment I saw them walk in was unforgettable.  I jumped out of my seat and ran to give Chuck the biggest hug.  It was so great to see them both!! 
HE'S HERE!!!

We wasted no time Saturday and walked all around the city before eating dinner with my host family Paco and Pepa.  We had an amazing time and I got a lot of practice translating back and forth between the four of them.  After dinner Chuck and I got to spend some time with my friends here as well. 
Chuck and I with Paco and Pepa


Sunday we walked to the beach and bumped into a Semana Santa procession in the middle of Alicante.  We also climbed to the top of the castle… which was a lot higher than I remembered it being!  After a long day of walking we got dinner at a good local Italian restaurant, Sale y Pepe. 

Chuck and I on the pier in Alicante


Monday after my class we headed off to Granada.  We stayed in Granada until Wednesday morning and really enjoyed it.  Chuck loved his discovery of ‘tapas’ so we went around and tried lots of new different tapas each afternoon and evening.  Mr. Moore enjoyed how many places served tea so we got to get more than our fare share of warm teas.  We toured inside the Cathedral in Granada and it was so beautiful.  We also waited for a Semana Santa procession Tuesday night but right before it began it started pouring rain!  Although the weather wasn’t the best in Granada we definitely enjoyed the city.
Mr. Moore and I in the Cathedral of Granada 

Rain or Shine! 


On Wednesday we headed off to Sevilla.  We decided to pit stop in Cordoba along the way and walked around there.  We didn’t find anything too interesting in Cordoba but after I’ve gotten back from my trip I read that one of the top 100 places to see before you die was either a cathedral or mosque in Cordoba.  We somehow missed it!!  I was excited to visit Sevilla again because it was one of my favorite cities I’ve been to in Spain.  On Wednesday we walked around the city.  Chuck and I went inside the Cathedral and saw another procession inside.  We weren’t able to go inside Alhambra because tickets were sold out but we climbed up to a look-out spot to see it from there.  It was beautiful even the second time around!  Wednesday night was unbelievable the number of people that were in the city!  It was the most crowded place I’ve ever seen.  I felt nearly claustrophobic but Mr. Moore helped me get through the crowd.  Once we escaped the chaos, we sought refuge inside Burger King and got to eat a little taste of America. 

Chuck about to enter the Cathedral of Sevilla 

Thursday was probably my favorite day of the whole trip because we got to tour the Plaza de Toros and Real Alcazar.  We all took the tour of the Plaza de Toros and loved learning the history of bullfighting.  After the tour Chuck bought a poster advertising a bullfight, which we quickly referred to as 'Mona Lisa' because he protected it with his life.  Real Alcazar has a lot of Arabic influence like Alhambra but also has great gardens.  We walked around for hours.  Later in the day we went to Plaza Espana before heading back to the hotel. 
Us in front of the Plaza de Toros 

Peacocks in the gardens of Real Alcazar!!! 

In front of Plaza Espana 

Friday we headed to Madrid and stayed near the hotel since it was beside the airport.  In the mall right near us we decided to try a ‘rib restaurant’ for a try for authentic American food.  It wasn’t a bad taste just different and definitely not the portions we were used to at home.  They played country music but we spoke to the waiter in Spanish… quite an interesting combo!!Saturday we went to the airport early so I could see the boys off and await my mom’s arrival!  Luckily she arrived right before they left so we managed to all make it back through security before we had to say bye. I had an amazing trip with Chuck and Mr. Moore and I’m so thankful that they were able to come see me.  We enjoyed having a good laugh as we watched Mr. Moore try to communicate with the Spanairds… and by communicate I mean speak in English and use large hand signals.  Throughout the week we made quite a team, Mr. Moore driving the European car, Chuck navigating the map, and me always asking for directions.  I think driving around Spain was definitely one of the highlights of my time abroad.