Friday, April 26, 2013


2am and can't sleep because of all the thoughts running through my head. It's my last night in Santander and I keep reminiscing about things that have happened, and keep thinking about how much I don't want to leave this amazing place. I've truly been blessed to have had such a fantastic experience, I only wished that it lasted a little bit longer. 3 months seems like a long time when you're at home, nervous/scared/anxious to visit/live in a new place, but when you actually get to the place you're going to- 3 months flies by. I feel like in the short amount of time that I've been gone that I have learned so much about myself, and about people in general. Being outside of my comfort zone, and trying to communicate my feelings/personality with a language barrier has been difficult but has taught me a lot. I'm really sad to be leaving a place that has taught me so much, and continues to teach me something everyday. Everyone says that they will be back here- to Santander/Spain/Europe one day, but the truth is some of us never will, and I'm so scared that I won't ever be able to make it back here. I'm scared to forget the details of these wonderful 3 months of my life

I've been crying off and on all day. Packing up my suitcases made me emotional, giving my madre and abuela their gift made me cry again. And telling my abuela goodnight/goodbye for the last time really made me shed some tears. Tomorrow, when I have to tell my madre goodbye will be extremely difficult, as it will be for everyone in our group. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we're all pretty excited to go home and see our family and friends, but that we could just as easily stay here for another 3 months without any hesitations. I'm interested to see what life has in store for me during my last 2 years of college, and I truly hope that I'm given (or I give myself) the opportunity to return to Spain.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm just going to stop saying how late my posts are because they are all going to be a bit delayed.

So 2 weekends ago, the weekend after my trip to Morocco, some friends and I visited Paris. To be honest I wasn't extremely excited about traveling again then weekend after I had just finished an 11 day exploration of Spain/Morocco, but nonetheless our flights were booked and we were going to Paris! Our flight left Thursday afternoon for Paris Beauvais airport- which is about and hour and 15 minutes outside the city. Our flight landed around 6:30 and we caught the shuttle from the airport to the city. When we got dropped off we were a little disoriented and kind of waiting for someone to direct us where to go. This trip was a plan-as-we-go thing, so when we got off the bus we were like, "So what now?" We started walking toward what we thought was the center of the city, and happened to run into the famous Arc de Triumph! It was right at sunset so the view we saw with the Arc and the Eiffel Tower in the background was so gorgeous! Arc de Triumph is at one end of the famous street Champs-Elyees- which is where there is so much shopping, but once we saw the house of Louis Vuitton we quickly decided we needed to find somewhere much cheaper to do our shopping. What we didn't know at the time was that ALL of Paris- even the "cheap" district is expensive. Once we saw the Eiffel Tower aglow in the distance we instantly headed in it's direction. When we finally made it there (Paris is a gigantic city!) we all just immediately stopped where we were and like a song all said at once, "ohhh my god!" For me, it was one of those things that I saw in movies/photographs but never really thought I would ever see, and seeing it for the first time was a crazy moment in my mind. By this point, we had been walking for about an hour and a half and were getting really hungry, the problem was that every restaurant we passed was a little bit out of our price range- and we were also in search of a place with wifi, so that we could look up a hostel for the night, since we hadn't done that before we got there, hence the plan-as-we-go! We walked all around the streets near the Eiffel Tower searching for a hostel or a place to eat. Little did we know that Paris doesn't really believe in hostels, but we found a 2 star hotel and the nice receptionist pointed out some areas where we could find a place to stay! There was hope! Now, we just had to find somewhere to eat. We searched and searched for some "french food" but ended up at McDonald's of all places. I wasn't too disappointed with this decision because since I've been here I've started a thing that I eat McDonald's in each country that I visit. Aside from my happiness, we still had to find a hostel and since all McDonald's have wifi we were able to locate one in the north of the city! So we grabbed the metro and found our stop, only to walk out into the ghetto of Paris. At this point it was almost 1am, and we had been dragging our luggage around Paris the entire night, so one would expect us to be irritable/moody, but all we could do was laugh! I think that's why I enjoyed this trip so much, is because at any point when something went wrong all we did was just find the humor in the terrible moment and laugh about it. We eventually gave up the search for this hostel, and settled for a hotel. It was a little more expensive than we had wanted, but it would do for the night!

The next day we all slept in pretty late, but we really needed the sleep. I woke up a little earlier than everyone to investigate a new place to stay, in a nicer side of town and for a littler cheaper. I was a little worried that there wasn't anything to be found, but luckily I did find a nice hostel, in the south of the city. So when everyone got packed up we made our way to the hostel- making stops to see the Moulin Rouge, grab some Starbucks, and take pictures of course! We finally made it to the hostel, and I had never felt more accomplished! Turns out, the hostel is on the side of town that we were originally at the night before- how ironic. We left our bags with the hostel and headed out toward the Eiffel Tower once more. Right when we walked up and started taking pictures, the skies opened up and it started pouring! This could've been another moment when we all broke down and got mad, but all we did was laugh and have a photoshoot in the rain- it was hilarious! We only had a few places we were really interested in seeing, so we decided to wander the city and see what we could find. We ended up at the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, which turned out to be closing right when we walked up to the gate. From there we headed straight towards Notre Dam. That was definitely an important place to see on all of our lists. Battling the nasty weather, we finally made it to the incredible Notre Dam. This year is its 850 year anniversary- 850 YEARS! That's definitely one of the oldest places I've ever visited. We made it inside- and it was such a breathtaking view. There were stained glass windows everywhere and they were like works of art. While we were walking around there was a special service going on with a group called AED. I wasn't sure what it was at the time, but after researching it a little more I've learned that it's a religious organization in France, and that their service at Notre Dam was the 5th a final series of services called the Night of Witnesses. These services were held by 5 different "witnesses"(bishops, archbishops, sisters) of the catholic church, who had devoted their lives to God. Here is the link to their website which you will have to translate to English:

After spending time taking in the beauty of the Notre Dam our group had to split up. 3 of us were staying in Paris- Jeremy, Jordan and I, while the other 3- Meghan, Juliane, and Jamie were catching a bus for London. When we split up, Jeremy, Jordan and I went to see the Louvre- the museum that holds the Mona Lisa. We actually didn't end up going in, mainly because it was almost 9 and probably closing, but also because we had walked all day and were ready to find food! So we walked through the beautiful gardens in front of the museum and grabbed the metro back to the hostel. We ended up finding some really great, homemade chinese food and pigged out for 7,50 euros, which was almost as much as I paid for McDonalds the night before! Afterward, we were exhausted from the day and went back to the hostel and went to sleep.

Saturday our flight left Paris- Beauvais at 8, so we only had 1/2 a day to spend in the city. The night before we had decided that we were going to climb the Eiffel Tower. So we woke up early, got breakfast and set out on our 3 adventure at the Eiffel Tower. We stood in line for about 20 minutes, bought a ticket and started climbing! Unfortunately, we only made it the 2nd viewing level because once you climb to that point, you have to take the elevator to the very top- and we had not purchased tickets for the elevator. We were a little disappointed we couldnt' make it to the top, but we had climbed the tower and we were proud of ourselves, not to mention the view of Paris was gorgeous. From the view, we spotted a small market right below us and decided to check it out since we had not done any shopping. I'm so glad we ended up going because I found some great presents for my mom and grandma and a few things for myself as well. Afterward, we were bound and determined to find ourselves some french food, and that we did- CREPES! We all tried a savory crepe for our meal, and then had banana and nutella crepes for desert. They were delicious! After lunch our time had come to pack up and be on our way- so we walked back to our hostel (got a french baguette on the way!) packed our things, and headed toward the bus stop.

Even though Paris was not my favorite city, I'm glad that I had the experience to travel there. And I'm so happy that I traveled with people who truly know how to make the best out of the not-so-best situations. I have learned that that is what traveling is all about. Exploring new places can sometimes be overwhelming, hectic and a bit scary, but if you are with people who know how to enjoy themselves no  matter what the crazy circumstance may be- you will truly enjoy where ever you are.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Weekend in Marruecos

This is also a very late post, but I still have so much to catch up on.

The weekend after Semana Santa, the day my parents return home, I headed out with some friends to Morocco! We went with a tour group out of Sevilla, called Discover Excursions. Basically everyone on the trip was a college student studying somewhere in Europe- some in France, Italy, and a lot in Spain. On Friday afternoon, we left Sevilla and took a 3 hour bus ride to Tarifa, which is the southern most city of Spain. It was wild because from the shores of Tarifa you could see the coast line of Morocco. I had never realized just how close Spain and Africa were until then. Our fairy was supposed to leave at 9pm but ended up being almost 2 hours late due to bad weather. So when we finally made it to our hotel in Tetouan it was 1am Moroccan time, which is 2 hours behind Spain. We had dinner as soon as well got to the hotel- dinner at 3am Spain time! The hotel was very nice, and accommodating, and the beds were like heaven! 

The next morning, Saturday, we left the hotel around 9 for a town called Chefchaouen, which was about an hour and a half from our hotel. When we got there we had a walking tour of the city. Some people call it the blue city, and it's obvious why once you visit. Everything is blue! It's said that the people of Chefchaouen think that blue helps to keep away the flies and mosquitos. It was such a beautiful and ugly place all at the same time. It was such a strange thing to take in because the town was situated on the side of this beautiful mountain, and all the blue and white made the city look like something from a painting, but at the same time you could see the poverty in the faces and dress( or lack of) in the people. Also, there was lots of trash and old, used goods just laying around the streets. After our tour, we had a delicious lunch on the rooftop terrace of a restaurant named Aladdin! After lunch we had free time to explore and shop, so I took full advantage of that time! Carly, Jordan and I found this huge shop that had everything moroccan you could ever imagine- pants, sandals, shoes, purses, clay dishes, lanterns, the list goes on and on. I'm happy to say that I made some good purchases for myself and got some great presents for friends and family. After about 2 hours of shopping we all met back up in the center of the city, where we found a lady doing henna and all got henna tattoos on our hands. We got back to the hotel around 6:30ish, had another delicious dinner, and afterward the tour group leaders threw a small party for the whole group for a few hours. 

Sunday morning we woke up early and left the hotel around 8:30ish for the beach town of Assilah. As soon as we got there we had a very short tour of the small town which had the most unique doors that I've ever seen, and then had more free time for more shopping! I found some great moroccan sandals, and more presents for friends and family! After our very short visit in Assilah we had lunch at a restaurant 10 minutes outside of the town where we ate a delicious salad of tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, beets, rice, egg, and cabbage. We had salads similar to this one each day we were in Morocco, so I assume it is the typical way that Moroccans make salad. After our lunch, we headed out back toward Tangiers to catch the ferry back to Spain, but before we could leave we had one more important thing to do- RIDE CAMELS! It definitely was not how I had pictured my ideal camel riding, but it was amazing nonetheless. There was a pretty large group of us, and only 5 people could go at a time, and they lead us around their land which took about 3 minutes. One of the cutest things about the whole experience was that we got to see a baby camel. It was only 1 week old, and every time it's mother would come back around the two would nuzzle together. The camel riding experience was definitely my favorite part of the trip- but it was partially why I signed up for the trip in the first place. After the camel rides we had a little bit of time to kill so we got to explore the Cuevas de Hercules (caves of hercules). They were very interesting because they opened up right to the ocean. They get their name from an old legend that says that the god Hercules used to live there. Unfortunately, we only had about 15 minutes to explore the caves because we had to make it back to Tangiers to catch our ferry. 

This trip was definitely unexpected, but I'm so glad that I got to visit Morocco! It is definitely a beautiful place, despite it's rough edges. I hope to go back one day- without the hustle and bustle of being herded around in a tour group and really experience Morocco more. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Semana Santa!

If there is one thing I have learned about myself during this blog writing process, it's that not only are my posts not very good but also, that I'm extremely slow at posting new events. But, bear with me on this post because it will be longer than usual.

2 weeks ago we had our spring break, which is called Semana Santa, or Holy Week, here in Spain. My parents, Karin and Taylor came to visit me and we traveled from the very north of Spain to the very south all in a matter of 10 days!

Our adventure began last Wednesday, here in Santander. My parents flew into Madrid around 8am Wednesday morning, then took a train up here where I met them very tired, but excited in the train station here in Santander. We immediately went to check them in at their hotel, and after getting settled in I took them to one of my favorite places for dinner, Cruz Blanca. They got to meet the owner, and enjoy the people and food of Spain. The next day, we meet up pretty early so that I could give them a tour of the beautiful city that I call home. Although the weather was dreary and rainy, they still enjoyed seeing the beautiful buildings/sites of Santander. That afternoon we all came to my piso(apartment) to have lunch with my madre and abuela. My parents absolutely loved them, and they loved my parents as well. It was really fun being their translator, and I was so happy that my two families got to meet each other. Friday, we had a flight at 12ish to Barcelona, so the morning was spent packing up and getting to the airport. We got into Barcelona a little before 2, and went to our hotel to drop off our luggage. This was my second time in the beautiful city of Barcelona (the weekend before our NC group took a trip there). We immediately set out to explore the city. Our hotel was very close to Passeig de Gracia, which is a main road that holds a few famous works of Antoni Gaudi. We made our way past Plaza Catalunya to the most famous road in Barça, Las Ramblas where we saw many interesting people, processions, and a few cool historic buildings. We found our way to a restaurant off a side street and I ate some of the best curry chicken that I had had in a very long time!

Saturday morning everyone woke up pretty tired so we got a late start to the day. We did find a cute café named Habluc where we indulged in a few cups of coffee and some pastries. My dad absolutely adored the coffee here, as do I! After getting caffeinated, we set off to explore Barcelona some more. We ended up back on Las Ramblas in route to the Mediterranean Sea! We made a stop on at the huge fresh market where we walked around and tasted all the delicious fresh food. The market had everything- fresh fruits, juices, nuts, spices, breads, meat, fish, candies, eggs, you name it. Walking down Las Ramblas we stumbled across some artisan markets as well. One of the many things that I love about Barcelona is all the markets that fill the streets! We finally made to the beach, and I took my parents to a restaurant that I had eaten at the weekend before, called Xup Xup. The patio for the restaurant sits directly on the beach, and it was a beautiful day, so we enjoyed the afternoon sampling spanish appetizers of stuffed olives, mussels, and clams, paella (the typical dish of Barcelona), jamon iberico (spanish ham), and a delicious burger with a fried egg. Needless to say it was a delicious meal! We ended up staying there until the sun went down, and the city lit up!

Sunday, Easter Sunday, we woke up early because we had bought tickets to enter the Sagrada Familia, one of the most famous, largest, and most eccentric cathedrals in Spain- it was also designed by Antoni Gauid. The construction of the church is not yet complete, but as of right now there are 4 towers and 2 of those are open to the public. We took the elevator to the top of one of the towers and enjoyed the beautiful view of Barcelona, afterward we walked around the immense interior of the church. The main level has the most eccentric architecture, and the most beautiful stained glass windows. The bottom level, which is open to the public for mass, is a more simple-typical church setting. After taking in the beauty of the Sagrada Familia, we took the metro a little outside the city to Parque Güel, the park designed by Antoni Gaudi. There were so, so many people but my parents enjoyed seeing the view from the top of the park and listening to the unique music that is played throughout the park as well. We made our way back into the center, where we crashed at a restaurant on Passeig de Gracia called QuQu. Here I ate one of the best burgers of my life- it was on beer bread buns, with goat cheese, and grilled asparagus- so good! The next day we had our flight at 6:15AM to Sevilla, so when we made it back to the hotel we relaxed at a tea café that was right next door, and packed up our suitcases.

Early Monday morning (4:30AM) we woke up to catch our flight to Sevilla. The flight was quick, and we made it into Sevilla around 8ish, got settled in at the hotel and went out to explore Sevilla! Sadly, we chose a pretty gross restaurant to eat breakfast in, so afterward when we stumbled across Starbucks we stopped in for breakfast round 2. First, we went into the cathedral of Sevilla but there was a special service going on so we couldn't see the entire church. Right next to the cathedral is the Alcazar, which is the old Islamic palace that remains in Sevilla. We spent the rest of the morning walking around, seeing the beautiful muslim architecture and the gorgeous, green gardens. By the time we were finished at the Alcazar, the cathedral had opened up all of it's doors to the public. Taylor and I really wanted to the climb the Giralda tower, so we re-entered and did just that. Afterward, we walked around in search of food and stumbled across a small restaurant in a very narrow back street, where we ate lots and lots of delicious tapas (appetizers)- stuffed zucchini, spinach and garbanzos, goat cheese, spanish ham, and lots more. By this point we were all extremely tired so we went back to the hotel and took about a 3 hour nap, woke up with just enough time to grab some dinner, and then came back to the hotel to go back to sleep.

Tuesday, we woke up bright and early to catch our train to Cadiz. Cadiz is one of the most southern cities and has beautiful beaches because it's a port city on a peninsula that sticks out from the rest of the country. It is also one of the oldest functioning cities in Spain. It's a city that we had talked about a lot in our history class, so it was really interesting to visit. It was a beautiful day, with lots of sun and a light breeze so we spent the majority of the day on the beach enjoying the weather. While we were enjoying the beach, there was a warning going out throughout all the loud speakers on the beach. It was warning us about a rare type of portuguese jellyfish that was washing up on the shores and injuring (possibly killing) the people in Cadiz. Taylor and I decided to walk the beach to look for seashells, and we ended up seeing almost 6 of the jellyfish that had washed up- a few alive, a few dead. They were actually really pretty jellyfish, and very small too. After exploring the beach, and laying out for a while we decided to find some lunch. We ended up stumbling across a fish place that specialized in lots of fried seafood. We decided to buy a little bit of everything and taste it all- calamari, fried shrimp, croquets, and a shrimp/crab salad. Lunch left me happy and full, and ready for a nap. Taylor and I ended up passing out on the beach, for a little longer than we should've and we got very sunburnt. We took a night train back to Sevilla, and passed out as soon as we got back to the hotel.

Wednesday, was our official last full day in Sevilla, so we all wanted to walk around and explore the town a little bit more. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate with us very well and it rained most of the day. But Taylor and I made the best of it, mainly because we really wanted to shop. We found lots of cute/eccentric stores, but most of our money was spent on sweets- chocolate croissants, some sort of almond cookie, and dark chocolate covered oranges! We met up with our parents at the Plaza de Toros (Bull ring) and took a tour of the ring and the museum. I learned that the bull ring in Sevilla is one of the oldest in Spain. After our tour, Taylor and I found this really good italian restaurant and split some delicious alfredo. We went shopping a little bit more after we ate, but we had to make it back to the hotel because that night we were going to a flamenco show! Flamenco is a typical type of music/song/dance of the south of Spain-Andalucia. There was a guitarist who could play so fluently- it was like a work of art. A singer, whose voice was very different but it went really well with the guitar, and lastly a dancer whose feet moved so rapidly- the dance was comparable to tap dancing, mainly because of the beats she made with her feel, but the rest of her body moved in a completely different way. It was one of the most intriguing shows I'd ever been to. After the flamenco show, we all ate italian again, for dinner. We actually ate at a place where the Grandee (duchess) of Spain had eaten, nonetheless the food was delicious! We all had different dishes and just passed them around the table the entire time, trying out each one.

Thursday we had another early morning because we had a train to Granada that left at 6:50am! The train ride was 2 and half hours so we got a little nap in before we made it there. Granada was not my favorite city, however the Alhambra (a very famous Muslim palace turned catholic palace) was absolutely beautiful, and the view of the city from the top of the towers was gorgeous as well. The streets in the old jewish town of Granada were also very interesting- super narrow, and filled with lots of little shops. We ate lunch at a kebab place, which my parents picked, I thought it was hilarious they picked kebab of all things because that's our go-to food here in Santander. After lunch we headed up the hill to the Alhambra. Granada is a city full of hills- but that's something that makes it unique and beautiful. We got into the Alhambra around 3ish and walked around the General Life gardens for a while, until it started raining! We found a souvenir shop and stayed inside until it stopped. When it finally stopped, we entered the palace of Carlos V. I had also learned about his palace in my classes so it was really interesting to actually be there. We then went into the old muslim palace and climbed all the towers that they used as "lookout towers" to watch for intruders. I decided that I really wanted a pic standing on the ledge of the tower, so I stood on the ledge and my mom had a heart attack- all the while my dad and I were just laughing. We were finally able to enter the new, "famous" part of the Alhambra at 6. The architecture was breath-taking! The entire time I was trying to picture how it would've been when it was actually in use- how different it would've looked. After touring the rest of the palace we headed back down the hill to get some dinner. I'm a little ashamed to say that we settled for Subway, but it was right across the street and we were pressed for time to catch our train back to Sevilla. We got back around 12:30ish and went back to the hotel so that my parents could pack their bags because the next day was their flight back home.

Overall, I had a wonderful time traveling with my family(and second family). We had lot's of laughs, especially at my dad- who tried to speak in Spanish, bless his heart. I especially loved showing them around where I live, and I was SO glad they got to meet my host mom- who is now part of my family as well.