Tuesday, January 24, 2012

London already???

Only three days into school and I'm already leaving again!

I'm going to London for a Model UN competition--my first one ever. And I'm so underprepared. I was assigned the country of Seychelles, which is good because no one will know anything about it. But really, I've been looking up news in Seychelles lately and it's been hard finding newspapers for that country. For this, I was forced to check out CIA Worldfactbook.

Either way, now I have more information for this one minute speech I must make on friday. At least I have a six hour train ride to Geneva to write a rough draft.

I'm so glad I did speech and debate in high school or I would be so much more nerous about this right now...

I think I'm just excited to have a full free day in London this thursday. The British Museum is near my hostel so I think I'll go there first. Hmm, or maybe I'll just go eat some really spicy Indian food. Yeah....now that sounds like a plan. Too bad the pound is even worse to the dollar than the euro. I think I might starve this weekend. Chip chip cheer-e-o!

Monday, January 23, 2012

School again

Second semestre schedule:

Spanish (mon/thurs)
Public Speaking

The last four classes are all on the same day. I don't stop from 8:30 til 15:45. Who does that???

Well, at least there's only seven more weeks until Academic Travel. I'm going with Professor Schlein to former Yugoslavia--Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia....on a bus.

That's right. We're bussing from Switzerland to Yugoslavia.

summarization of "After Spain"...

Nothing on my vacation after Spain was quite as thrilling or "off the beaten track" I would say. Although my cousin, Kristen, from back east came out to visit me for two weeks. Here I begin the summarisation of Adventure Numbner Two.

I landed in the Milan (Bergamo) airport, waited for her flight to land two hours after mine, and wouldn't you know, she's not there. I had to buy 8 euros for wi-fi to contact my mom who contacted my aunt who contacted my cousin. Oh, it was just a mess. After nearly three hours, there goes my cousin, walking by like, Hey! What are you doing here? Turns out she was waiting in the baggage claim area where passengers aren't allowed in after they leave. What? She can't read Italian? haha--we had all the time in the world.

First stop: Milan. Ew. Really gross, yes the city and the food. The Duomo was fun but there was nothing exceptional about this place.

Second stop: Roma! Much better! The weather was beautiful (we didn't even need a jacket), everything was within walking distance, I improved my Italian. Unfortunately, the hostel in Milan still had our passports so after four spectacular days in Roma, we headed back to Milan.

Now after a semester here, I have no problem traveling on my own, by myself, sola. Maybe that's also because I'm an only child. Either way, I wanted to go to France. Kristen wanted Germany.

But doesn't Germany sound so dismal, cold, damp, and unless you eat Arabic, the food isn't terribly comforting. I can tell you from my experiences. I've been to Munich! It's a pretty country, but been there, done that, I didn't think she would have a problem going on her own and just experiencing  Europe that way.

Big mistake. She did not like this. Well, I had my mind made up on France. So I went to France; she ended up coming with me and liking it more than Italy. I know this because she told me.

The first day in France was in Nice. When I got off the train, I was incredibly disoriented by all the blue florescent lights and well, French. But after one year in Mr. Lapoujade's French One class, I can conquer any basic situation.

"Ou est le Hotel....", as I fumbled to find the name of the hotel I practiced saying on the bus to avoid this stammering.

"Would you like a hostel?" was the response. Crap. Inglish. Just what I was trying to avoid. (It will satisfy you to know that by the end of France and Italy, I can now understand directions and ask for them in both french and italian, oh and spanish. But hopefully that was a given....still working on rudimentary german.)

My one day in Nice was spent going to Marc Chagall and Matisse museums, a convent, ancient Roman baths, and who knows what else. I also ate really good Lebanese food.

The next day Kristen and I went to Monaco! Yes, we went through Monte Carlo, however briefly. Most of the day was spent at Jardins Exotiques, an anthropology exhibit (where they have paintings of Prince Albert, hehehe), and subterranean cave. The cave was so deep. We were dog tired walking, or should I say hiking back up.

We also did a lot of yatcht-watching. Because that's what you do when you don't own a yatcht in Monaco. You simply get to watch them and wonder how people can afford one of those babies when the real estate signs advertise for $7,500 per square foot.

Over all, I'd say just go to Vegas. Much more fun even as an "underaged" person.

Cannes----ah. We didn't actually see much of the city. Instead, we took a ferry out to one of the islands. The lady gave us a discount because she liked us so it was only 12 euro round trip. There was a monestary on the island along with vineyards and a bunch of other medieval landmarks, like kilns, the old monestary, and other monuments. The water and rocks made this place so incredibly pictureesque. I can't even fully describe the scene. It's impossible unless you go there. I don't even want to describe it: experience only. Go to Saint Honorat. It's worth your while.  

Next stop was Lyon. I wouldn't say this was worth it. We walked around and it was pretty but there weren't too many museums that interested Kristen so we didn't go in. I did really want to go into the puppet museum! If anyone makes it there let me know how it was! There were some protests, some guy said some really gross things to me, so be careful.

Geneve! Everything was pretty much closed for the two days we were there. We did get a tour of the UN building. I was sick the other day.

Neuchatel: most beautiful lake on earth. Only one day there, but we should have sat by that lake all day.
I also should have bought this kids book (A is for Appenzell, B is for Banque, C is for Chocolat...all in french, of course...it was SO Swiss. )

Last stop: Zurich. We just walked, besides there weren't too many museums. It wouldn't be very Swiss. We did eat at my favorite cafe, though. I finally ordered the Birchermuesli, phenomenal. I totally should have ordered the Kurbiskremesuppe...my one regrete in life.

I went back to school on the 19th and slept. Yes, I slept and did nothing for four days.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Eve and Day 2011: Estilo Velenciano

New Year's Eve:

Subterranean River. Centro. The Beach. And that was just the afternoon. It was just the four of us--me, Jessenia, and her parents. Who knows what happened to Saul....

The beach was probably the most fun--I took off my boots and got as far in the water as I could without getting drenched. It wasn't even cold! It was warmer than the Atlantic in summer. And to top it off, the sun was out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

Later that night, we had this huge dinner at this man's house. He was a family friend. This was where we celebrated!! SO much better than being alone in some club in Madrid. jaja...

The man we were with was elderly and kept on asking me why I wasn't eating any of the Serrano meat or snacking before the meal. I thought I was being polite by not snacking. I gave in though, to the mounds of Spanish cheeses, green olives, walnuts, and dates.

We drank Sangria and champagne and right when the clock striked 12.00, we ate a grape for every year starting with 2000. Explanation--Senora served each person a saucer with 12 grapes on it. We ate a grape for every second starting at 12.00. I hope I explained that all the way.....this was something fresh compared to the typical banging of pots and pans I'm used to.

New Years Day!!:

With my new favorite people!! From everyone there, I only knew Rafa y Limber (the two that were over Saul's house everyday for a week).  But it was perfect. I danced with all of them. Bachata, salsa, mambo, raeggaton (spelling?), choque (jejejejeje), merengue, y tango! Since all the guys are from different countries, there were some debates on how to properly dance each style. I was the guinea pig. =)

Yeah, I really can't remember doing anything else besides dancing and socialising from when we got there around 1.30 til 7.45. I did hit a point around 5.30 when I just wanted to go to bed, but then Saul started playing the good music again and. I continued dancing. Oh, and I this was my first REAL experience with merengue and choque.

Almost everyone was from south america, except me. There was Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, y Ecuador...only one guy, Vicente, was full Spaniard.

What would I have done if I was in Wyoming or Vegas? Nothing nearly as rad as this.


Spent one day here but it was all I needed.

I saw the Christian palace, then the Mosque. The Sinagogue wasn't open at that point. The gardens for the Christian palace were my favorite place: very spacious, ancient monuments and statues of people I didn't know, and lots of sun. I think I was there for an hour just standing in the sun. The Mosque was another beauty, but unfortunately made of marble and absolutely freezing. And I found it easy to get lost, even though it was only one floor and one room.

Don't laugh. Once you visit you will understand....it's that dang geometry that they HAD to perfect. =) loved it, but La Alhambra wins.

That evening I went to the Arabic Baths. One of the most memorable experiences of my time in Spain!!! It was a calm setting, very dim and sparcely filled with people. Even though I hated going into the cold water, it made the warm water feel so much better.

There were four pools that you were suppose to switch between. Most people skipped the cold water, but I'm more noble than that. So people looked at me weird when put my head under. (most didn't leave the steps). hahahahaha but the best part was the sauna. ah, the sauna. I cant tell you how long I was in that little place for. Well, I was there until a lady pulled me out to give me my massage. Yeah, it's a good life. After drifting off for 15 minutes I went back into the salt water pool, had my tea, and left.

I was there for over two hours and was one of the last ones to leave.

The next day was a 10 hour bus trip back to Valencia. I decided I didn't want to go to Sevilla because I wanted more time in Madrid and I want to save it if my mom ever comes out this way.

Granada pt 2

...Lost Sierra Nevada!!

Not exactly where I wanted to go, but it worked out. I hiked in the mountains and that was my goal. It was a nice trip, even though I was alone and I forgot my gloves and hat. Not nearly as impressive as Appenzell. Coming here really made me miss my couchsurfing experience in Sankt Gallen.

I actually really miss Schweiz right now, especially the northern part. Yes, I miss Ticino, but mostly because I need access to laundry machine and my shower.....


How do I begin with Granada??

We got to this beautiful town early and had a three hour tour at La Alhambra, possibly the best arquitectural achievement in the Arabic world (or so they say). I believe it though. The whole palace was pure art. Every tile and geometrical design was hand sculpted. I've posted pictures on fb but they just don't do it justice...

My tour guide was also something to speak of. Talk about beautiful Spanish genetics. He had this smooth caramel skin and this hair that just....wow. Hands down, best tour of my life....I highly recommend. hehehe

I parted from my adpoted family that afternoon in seach of a hostel. It took me a lot longer than I anticipated, but I ended up trying a Spanish tortilla at a restaurant designed with Arabic motifs but decorated with very Spaniard art. (paintings of flamenco dancer's everywhere.)

My mom always makes these Spanish tortillas but I never believed her when she called them a "Spanish tortilla". I always thought that was her own invention. haha I would always wonder "where did she come up with that name?"

This was my first time staying in a hostel. It was quiet and out of the way.....so out of the way that I got lost trying to get back home the first night (after coming back from a flamenco show!). The show was good but it was tough to see. The small room just did not work.

But the second night, I went to a different show on  the other side of town. And this was was such an improvement. I ordered REAL paella, sangria, and the best creme bruelee (sorry, spelling?) of. my. life. And the view was perfect!! I saw all the dancers and musicians.

This dinner was actually really nice because I was invited by another couple from Japan to eat with them. It was hilarous because they were taking so many photos --I loved it! The husband actually got some really nice shots of the performers (and of me eating...) We exchanged emails so I'm sure I'll be getting those soon...We ended up riding the bus home together because our accomodations were in the same area.

The rhythems hooked me. Even just watching the guitarrists' fingers move over the fingerboard was amazing--he had some serious dexterity. The dancers were incredibly skilled as well. They wore the traditional red garb and could just move in ways I didn't understand. They would make some sounds that I just couldn't figure out where they came from! I don't think it was their shoes and it definitely wasn't their hands...it's a mystery I'm still trying to solve.

Not a bad night I'd say.

After Murcia.....

The next morning, after this wonderful meal, I was given the traditional Murcian breakfast. Ricissimo! =)

My friends picked me up and next stop: Almeria. Ah, yes. The old coastal port with a seemingly out-of-place Moorish castle. The castle was locked but we hiked to the top and listened to the obnoxiously loud music the gypsies were playing.

You think people playing loud music in their car in the States is annoying? Just listen to some of the stuff gitanos play. Okay well, not all of it's bad, but it just doesn't stop. It's constant and I just could not handle living in a town with constant techno beats.

We continued driving to the town "Montril", even smaller than Almeria and still on the coast. A feria was taking place so we made a quick stop through there. We even stumbled upon a really cool church and a Chinese restaurant, where I tried Shark Soup and Ancas de Rana (frog legs, more or less). The Soup was just not for me. It wasn't bad, but now I know I never need to eat shark again. Eh, same with frog. I just like my vegetables way too much to be eating things like that....

The next day: GRANADA!