A Travellerspoint blog

Ya es Primavera!

Spring is here!

It's currently in the mid-seventies and I am holed up in my room with some Haagen-Dazs (for lack of Cherry Garcia from Ben & Jerry's) pounding out a few MIS (Management Information Systems) Projects. There are literally three weeks of school left and then we have finals. I am shocked at how fast the semester has gone. I remember only a month ago I had just gotten back from Spring Break and couldn't wait for my sister to come and Easter couldn't get here fast enough. Well, those too have come and gone and it's April 16th, one more day of tax season and 48 days until I am back in Omaha for summer school.

Marissa visited at the end of March for her Spring Break and she literally brought one entire suitcase dedicated to me (and my roommates). We received plenty of the American novelties such as CHUNKY Peanut Butter, some good old-fashioned brownies, delicious lemon squares compliments of Gregster and the Snyders, Some Body Shop Body Butter (thanks for having the party Aunt Laurie), and of course, an Easter basket with my very own bunny (stuffed animal) who we affectionately named Coco. To say the least, I was ecstatic. Miss and I had fun just touring the city and indulging in a little shopping. Sadly Marissa's first shopping experience in Madrid was with the street vendors in Sol We saw the man selling sunglasses and picked out our favorite pairs. Less than a minute into the transaction he started saying, "Rapido, mas rapido por favor," and then we realized the Policia were coming. So we paid the man and then got out of the way as all of the street vendors ran down the street yelling "Po-po" with their rucksacks of pirated goods. We went to my favorite vegetarian chain called Maoz and got us some falafel filled pita with the buffet libre. I was 0 for 2 after Marissa took her first bite of delicious falafel. Whereas I will be a fan for the rest of my life, that was her last trip to Maoz. Our first day was filled with shopping, interesting food and people, and a little bit of sangria accompanied by chocolate con churros to finish the night off. I would recommend to anyone coming to Spain to get the chocolate con churros without hesitation. We toured the Palacio Real and it's gardens, watched some street dancing and still statues, and basked in the sun at the Sabatini Gardens. We got lots of sleep and enjoyed quality time with each other. One night I even made her share her tiny cot with me. We went to the Madrid Theater's interpretation of "The Red Shoes" as a ballet incorporating the invention of the radio. We had front row tickets and the dancing was wonderful. We enjoyed the paintings at the Museo del Prado and were able to see the exhibit on Tintoretto as it is here this season. Marissa disliked the French Renaissance art, and as for me, any and all religious art with blood; we steared clear of those areas. Ashlie and I took Marissa to her first Botellon in the park and we enjoyed watching several cars, over the course of a few hours, try to park in the same spot on the street, each with no luck at all. The best was when one driver tore off his bumper and dented the other car trying to parallel park. The VW bug is considered a large vehicle here... The day that we finally were able to make it to Retiro Park, we got hailed on and waited it out under the trees. We walked a lot, saw a lot, and had a fabulous time. My favorite parts of the trip were listening to Marissa speak French with my Senora, realizing that she speaks more Spanish than French. I enjoyed the three different languages being spoken at dinner. We had a great week together and I am sad that I will only be in Colorado this summer for a week as well.

For Semana Santa (holy week) my roommate Ashlie and I went to Barcelona. We started out a little rough as the airline couldn't seem to find our reservation. Apparently the company we had booked it through had canceled the reservation without our knowledge. After a few almost tears, we resorted to the overnight bus. We had about 9 hours to kill and weren't even sure if we could get back into our house. Once we did, we waited until our Senora was gone and tried to make dinner. Apparently, we don't know how to light a stove and so we had microwaved noodles. We were on our way to Barcelona by midnight and had a very uncomfortable 8 hour ride. We arrived in Barcelona in the morning, took a taxi to our hostel, and crashed until noon. Once we were up and around, we discovered that we were probably in the best hostel ever owned by the best people, and therefore were doing a little bit better. We walked around Barcelona and enjoyed the beautiful weather on the coast. We met a mime, well sort of... This creepy man who chose not to speak, walked up to me and over the course of 5 minutes or so we figured out that he wanted both Ashlie and I to remove our flip flops, hold up a map, and stare into the camera looking dumbfounded. What a creepy creepy man. We ran after that and he had his picture. We went out on a sailboat for the evening and were the only two idiots in flip flops with no coats. We enjoyed it anyway and shopped a little on La Rambla (main street with street vendors) when we got back. We went to an awesome restaurant and met some great people from London who had been everywhere while standing in line for over and hour. We had heard it was a restaurant in popular demand. We got in line around 7:00, third or fourth people, and the doors didn't open until 8:30. It was delicious though. The next day we rented bikes for the day and biked around the city. We saw La Sagrada Familia, El Arc del triumf (Parisian inspired), and the beach. We made dinner in our hostel and had an all-out adventure-filled day. Our final day in Barcelona was gonna be a long one. Our bus wasn't leaving until midnight and we had to be out of our hostel by 11:00 am. We spent the morning in Gaudi's El Parque Guell admiring the wonderful mosaics and the Mesa Verde-esque hike. We just loved the sign on a rooftop near the park reading, "Why call it tourist season if we can't shoot them." A little scary given in was Easter, there was a giant cross on the hill, and there was weird tribal chanting. We just kept moving. We spent the rest of the day at the beach with the "free" beach chairs (actually 5 Euro) and the masses. For our Easter dinner we had Pakistani cuisine that was amazing, but not good enough to rival the Indian food we had in Edinburgh. We had a .60 centimo cone at McDonald's and almost started crying when we realized that all of the people packed into McDonald's were eating their Easter dinners. It was quite difficult for Ash and I, both from Colorado, used to tons of family and a huge gathering where the eating lasts all day. We managed to survive though and assure ourselves of a few things:
1.) We are not bus people.
2.) We are not good hostelers (our bags are too big, we go to bed too
early, and we dislike showering with shower shoes...)
3.) We will never book with Edreams again (luckily I have my money
back, after 2 emails and a phone call).
4.) Last but not least, we love CO Easters.

26 DAYS TILL I SEE THE MOMMA! (and long-lost friends from Hungary and Germany).

Posted by reby813 07:19 Archived in Spain Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Spring Break

Berlin, London, Edinburgh


View Unnamed Trip on reby813's travel map.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and I finally have some down time. Two weeks ago was midterms. I had six tests in a matter of 5 days. It's harder to study here because the school is a good half and hour away from my apartment and the library has strange hours. Back home it's easier to just go to Starbucks and read. Ashlie and I took over the dining room a few nights in a row in an attempt to study. We bought all of our books together to share so it wouldn't be so expensive so it just makes sense to study together. Later, we decided to be very American and we actually did plan a study session at the Starbucks down the street located near the Plaza de Colon. It's a different experience here all together. It's a chaotic coffee shop full of people chatting amongst loud music as opposed to the tranquil environment suitable for reading back home. Bu Friday we were so excited for the end of the week but also for our Spring Break. It was off to Berlin for a few days and then to London, and Edinburgh. Friday I came home from accounting class and packed my bag and we were off the the airport on the metro. It's about a 35 minute ride to the airport. Ashlie's bag was overweight but luckily the guy just gave her a wink and let her through. We experienced very little security in Madrid and were on our way to Berlin. We were staying with Ashlie's friend Carl who graduated from Creighton last year. At the airport in Berlin I saw a German girl from my accounting class and she offered us a ride to the city center but Carl was picking us up so we declined. In hindsight, we probably should have taken that ride because we ended up taking four modes of transportation with Carl as a few of the train lines were shut down. By the time we got off the train at Bellvue and got back to Carl's place it was about 2 am. We started off the next day with coffee and baguettes and began our tour of the city starting with Brandenburger Tor. We went to the Holocaust Museum which was finished just a few years ago. We had tea and chocolates with Carl's old German host dad. The city itself is beautiful and has a very modern feel to it. We had an authentic German dinner and Ashlie ordered a knuckle of ham and when it came to the table it looked like she had actually gotten the entire hip of the pig. The sauerkraut was great with the horseradish. We were in heaven because most of the time we are starving in Madrid. We actually got to eat dinner at a reasonable hour. The next day we ventured out into the city on our own and had a great day of walking and sightseeing. We went to Checkpoint Charlie where people once crossed from East Germany to West Germany. At dusk we went up into the radio tower for an audio tour of the city from above. We met Carl at a great Mexican restaurant where they spoke Spanish, in Germany. We felt like we were home. We were passing the bar and the bartender yelled out, "Senoritas." Ashlie and I both looked over and started asking him where the bathrooms were in Spanish. My German vocabulary is very small and I can't even form sentences. Somehow we managed though. Luckily they were on the Euro. We met up with some friends from Madrid the next day and went to Eastside Gallery. Artists from around the world were commissioned to create murals on pieces of the Berlin Wall still intact as a homage to democracy and a united Germany. It's quite incredible. By the end of the day our friends were almost willing to pay us for the tour of Berlin we had given them. Ashlie and I had walked the entire city in 3 days. We were off to London the next morning by 5 am. We got to our hostel, stored our stuff and then joined a free walking tour of the city. We spent 3 1/2 hours on the tour and by the end, I think we had seen the whole of London. We saw Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, the London Bridge, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Pudding Lane. After that we walked to Kensington and Hyde Park and then back into the city. We thought about catching a movie but found out that it costs 15 pounds ($30). So, we decided to throw in another 15 pounds and catch a show. We went to the musical Wicked and it was incredible. The wicked witch of the west's side of the story is quite interesting. After the show, we walked back to our hostel and realized that we are probably the world's worst hostelers. We forgot to bring a towel for the communal showers show we had to drip dry and then climb into our bunk beds. The next day we took it easy and went to the Tate Museum of Modern Art and walked around the city some more. We sat at a coffee shop and wrote post cards and then went to St. Paul's Cathedral to read at the park outside. That night we were entertained at the karaoke bar next to out hostel. The next morning we made a second trip to the Borough Market for a delicious brownie and then walked towards Waterloo. We found one of the first bookstores we had seen in London and I bought a book there. Our flight to Edinburgh was in a few hours so we headed to the London Bridge Underground. Arriving in the city was a bit of a shock because it was so windy there. We were freezing waiting at the bus stop for our friend Alberto. We stayed at Alberto's until Sunday morning. Scotland was the last leg of our journey and we wound down there. We had been going going going and we ready for a slower pace. We walked around the city and saw the castle but that was pretty much it for Scotland. We had a dinner party and an interesting excursion to Sainsbury's (the supermarket) trying to figure out the difference between mince and ground. We slept a lot and watched a few movies. I had the perfect Spring Break and enjoyed every minute of it. I am happy to be back in Madrid and definitely was a little homesick for the city. It's Spring here and Marissa visits in just under two weeks. I can't wait.

Posted by reby813 12.03.2007 08:01 Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Salamanca

sunny 10 °C
View Unnamed Trip on reby813's travel map.

This week went by fast and already today, Monday, I have had my first exam of the semester, Spanish! Ashlie and I decided that we would head to Salamanca for the weekend. Renfe (the train company) gets you there in 2 1/2 hours. My accounting class was cancelled on Friday so we planned to catch the 11:00 train. We were sadly mistaken though and when we got up to the window we were informed that there were no tickets available for ANY departures to Salamanca all day. What a bummer! We had our bags packed and everything. We decided to not lose face and bought tickets for the following day at 8:45. We went home and planned to be productive, but ended up reading into the afternoon. Around 3:00 we went on a walk around the city. We try to find a different route everywhere we go. We went to Retiro Park and had a picnic and found a part of the park we had never seen before. There is a strange building made solely of glass filled with "art" erected in the middle of the park. I refer to it as "art" because Ashlie and I weren´t really sure what everything was and I don´t really consider wooden walls in a square to be artsy. We found a beautiful cave with a waterfull and took several pictures in the water. The policia were everywhere in the park and it was rather odd that they kept appearing wherever we were. After the park we found a great little market and I bought a few Goya replicas and a new shawl. Around the corner we found a park with a swing set and decided to stop there for a good half an hour of fun. We were off to Salamanca in the morning. The train was 30 minutes late and all of our rushing was for nothing. The train ride was beautiful and we passed El Escorial (a giant castle-like monastery) and then passed through the city of Avila where the carmelites lived. Once in Salamanca we sought out tiny little hostel, more like an inn, where we could drop our bags and continue sightseeing. Salamanca is the home of one of the first universities in Europe and back in the day was among other prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. We went to the Cathedral and the Art Deco museum. We walked around the entire city and it was a perfect day. For dinner we found a vegetrian italian restaurant called "Stravaganza." The polenta was delicious and they had ravioli stuffed with squash. Ashlie and I have already planned to try and replicate the meal when we get back to the states. The following day was a rainy one and after breakfast we made the trek back to the train station. We were soaked by the time we got there but we able to find a nice cafe with hot chocolate (not like the hot chocolate here, this is actually melted chocolate, hmmm...). Back in Madrid, it was time to study for Spanish and get ready for next weekend when we are off to Cadiz (South-western Spain on the coast) for Carnival celebrations. The first week of Midterms starts next week. I can´t wait...

Posted by reby813 12.02.2007 02:32 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Watch your purse!

Madrid: Week 4

sunny 15 °C
View Unnamed Trip on reby813's travel map.

Another week has gone by and the calendar seems to be getting smaller. We are still trying to plan a few more trips. We have a friend in Edinburgh and are hoping to visit there for a few days. Lisbon, Portugal was our plan for Easter but I think 450 € is a little steep for La Semana Santa. I think the train is more than the airfare. I have decided I need to learn French, Italian, and Portugese. These Europeans are ahead of the game; I haven´t met one yet that doesn´t know at least 3 languages. This week was fun and a few friends and I found a place that pays 12 € an hour for babysitting/tutoring so I am just waiting for a call now for my days and hours. My roommate gets to watch two little Spanish boys, 2 and 4. How cute! It will be a nice way to earn a little extra spending money. My metro pass still hasn´t come and it has been 2 weeks. I hate buying these 10 passes. By the time I get my abono, it will be nice enough to walk everywhere. Oh well. Ashlie and I are going to try and walk to school one of these days. I had to tape my map up because it was so torn from all the use it gets walking around the city. Last weekend my roommates, Ashlie and Whitney, and I went out to Chueca with Whitney´s boyfriend, Guillermo, and her visiting cousin, Nicole. We had a blast and met the funniest Spanish guys who kept asking us if we liked "Saved by the Bell" and "90210." It was hilarious. I went home at 6:30 am when the metro opened back up because I was beat, but they stayed out another 3 hours. Whitney´s purse got stolen which was such a bummer because it had her keys, phone, and credit cards. You have to be so careful here. We have explored more of Madrid and usually take a walk every night after dinner. It has been fun having Nicole here because she is from Colorado and lives in Indiana. I always hear about Indiana from my two roommates back home and now I live with another one (Whitney) and now her cousin. I think of all the people I have met here from the states, the most popular states are Colorado and Indiana. Who would have thought that? We went out again on Wednesday night around La Latina and found a cute little place with funky furniture. We met this Spaniard named Javier who looked excatly like John Cusack. Ashlie and I took a cab home but Whitney and Nicole stayed out. Come to find out the next morning, they were held up and Nicole´s pruse was taken. I am so glad we decided to go home. Not only did Nicole lose here camera, but credit cards and her I.D. I am glad that mom bought me my pepper spray. I guess you just have to gauge where you are and be careful. Don´t worry though, I never take a purse with me. On a lighter note, we are off to the Reina Sofia museum today and the Museo del Prado on Sunday. The Super Bowl is on at 1:00 am here on Monday morning, so we´ll see if I catch any of that! Until next time.

Posted by reby813 02.02.2007 01:53 Archived in Spain Tagged photography Comments (0)

Time Flies!

Exploring Madrid...

overcast -2 °C

Three weeks have passed since I left the states and it seems as though time flies. Another week of school and lots of exploring, I think I finally know the city well enough to take the metro without using a map. The beginning of the week sent me to the doctor with an infection from all the smoking here in Madrid, apparently I am an allergic. After about a week of antibiotics I am finally feeling much better. My senora got me a great space heater before I came so I can open the window and turn the space heater on. I think Ashlie is pretty jealous because her room is freezing. We have had some interesting meals this week and finally we broken in to mostly Spanish. She tries not to clarify as much in English so that we can practice. We got out the atlas the other night and she showed us which cities were where and what their main attraction was. A bunch of us from school are going to Cadiz (8 hours south of Madrid) for Carnival. We have yet to come up with costumes, but have about a month to decide. Madrid has been lucky as it is in the "V" that hasn't been getting massive amounts of snowfall. We had planned to go to Toledo yesterday but it was going to be 20 degrees F with rain all day. So, we are hoping the weather coperates in the coming weeks. When the Canary Islands get this much snow, you know something isn't right. The school has organized trips so I think next weekend I will go to Segovia to check out the aqueducts. We went to the travel agent to plan our trips to Elba and Lisbon; I can't wait for those. I gave my first presentation in International Accounting on Friday. It was less nerve-racking as I am the only native English speaker in the class and all presentations are in English. A little odd though that I was the only one who had actually prepared the presentation. I am really enjoying all of my classes. I think this semester is going to fly by. Hopefully Marissa will come and visit for her Spring Break at the end of March. We will see. Our roommate's cousin is here this week so we will gauge how that goes over with the senora and then book it... I can't wait. I am having a blast and just taking it all in one day at a time.

Posted by reby813 14:04 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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