Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I can't believe our trip is finally coming to an end. In some ways I feel like it has flown by but in other ways I feel like I have been here forever. I am really excited to go home and eat American food and see my friends and family. After the program ends, I will be traveling to Barcelona for 3 days. I can't wait to see all of the great sights in Barcelona, especially after hearing the stories from the kids who went on the excursion last weekend.
Last weekend, three friends and I went on the excursion to Lisboa, Barcelona. I LOVED IT! The poeple in Portugal were so nice to us and very willing to help us. We mostly spoke English in Portugal (one cab driver even warned us not to speak Spanish). The city of Lisboa was very pretty because it is on the water and it is very hilly (although it was quite difficult to walk). I had a great time!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Four of my girlfriends and I just got back from a weekend in Portugal. I had no expectations when we planned the trip; however, the country blew me away. The culture is rich, the people are kind, and the scenery is breathtaking. We spent one day in the city of Lisbon, one on the beach in Caiscus, and made 2 stops in little old pueblos on our drive back. Our experience was filled with good times - we toured churches and monuments during the mornings and spent the afternoons and evenings shopping on the quaint streets and finding delicious restaurants. It was the perfect last weekend to my summer excursions in Europe. I truly cannot believe that I will be home in just one week, and although it is bitter-sweet, I am so excited to spend time with my family and friends before going back to U of M. Words cannot describe everything I have learned - not only about the world and different cultures, but about myself as an individual.
On Wednesday, I got to see a flamenco performance, and I’m very glad I went. After learning some flamenco technique on the guitar, it was great to hear it live, along with the singer and dancers. The energy and fast passages were very impressive.
This weekend we traveled to Segovia and La Granja. In Segovia, we saw the Roman Aqueduct, which was built around 50 BC without any mortar and spans 813 meters. When it was in use (up until 60 years ago), it could transport 30 liters of water per second to the Alcázar. Now, it is primarily a tourist attraction, but a great one to see. The Alcázar was also incredibly beautiful and very distinct, compared to the other castles we’ve seen here.
Finally, we visited La Granja de San Ildefonso. We toured the palace and then went out to the gardens to see the fountains go off, something that apparently only occurs two times per year! It was quite the experience to be surrounded by tons of people, following a man waving the Spanish flag to signal when the next fountain would go off. In fact, so many people were there that some cars were blocking both exits out of the parking lot. A professor recommended that we wait in the park, and so we joined other tourists there, sitting on boxes and feeling very San Fermin-esque.
I was happy to return to Salamanca, and on Sunday I walked with a friend to El Rastro, the flea market. It was quite a long walk, anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, but I had an espresso in the morning, so I was feeling good J. It was pretty similar to American flea markets; they sold a variety of things, including bootleg DVDs, fake designer purses, socks, jewelry, and scarves. I was able to find a few gifts for friends there.
This upcoming week, I have two final exams and one project. On Saturday, I will already be back in the United States!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I went to Andulacia this weekend as well and I absolutely loved it! The tapas in Granada were to die for and the Alhambra was soo cool. It includes an old Muslim palace, a castle and beautiful gardens. The castle was my favorite. You could climb all the way to the top and see a gorgeous view of Granada. However, overall Sevilla was my favorite. The color of the gardens and the buildings inside the Alcanzar was so bright and refreshing—possibly prettier than the buildings and gardens in the Alhambra.
My favorite part of Sevilla, though was definitely the flamenco. If you’re not familiar with flamenco, it’s a performance that always has a guitarist, singer and dancer. The performers use a special type of clapping, finger snapping and feet stomping to beat of the music. How all of the movements and sounds work together is ridiculously impressive. I have never seen flamenco before and it was one of the best performances I have ever seen. We were in a small venue, super close to the performers, and you could feel their passion and energy. If you ever get a chance to come to Spain, I would definitely recommend visiting Sevilla and checking out the flamenco! This show and my time in Sevilla have been some of my favorite memories in Spain!
Monday, July 20, 2009
And, I cannot forget the city´s many Flamenco shows, which my friends and I were able to see a professional one (called tablaos). Later that night, a few of us from the group went out to see the more orginal version of flamenco that is in certain bars in the city (called tabernas). I actually enjoyed the songs and dances in this bar a little bit more than the actual performence, even though the dancers were better and more professional, the small, intimate setting of the taberna showed the roots of flamenco more clearly than the professional version we saw earlier.
Overall, I would recommend anyone to visit this region of Spain, despite the heat (my host mom calls this region horroroso, or horrible, because of the heat, which was above 100 degrees while we were there). Sevilla was fantastic and everyone should visit it. Also, I hope to visit another city of Andalucia called Cordoba sometime in my life because I hear that it is equally as amazing as Sevilla.
Everything in Salamanca is going really well. My host family and roommates are very amiable, and we have a lot of fun conversing at meal times. This picture on the right was taken a little while back, when I cooked an "American" meal (i.e., hamburgers, chips, and salad) for my Spanish family as a class assignment. Classes are going well,and I'm absorbing some interesting information about the culture and history of Spain. I am even learning classical and flamenco guitar!
After traveling to Portugal and San Fermin the past two weekends, I was happy to spend this weekend in Salamanca. Laura and I attended "Jazz en la Calle", a festival of open-air jazz performances in Salamanca. We heard Blue Harlem, a group from the UK. They had a very eclectic style; we even heard some Elvis Presley that night!
On Sunday, we traveled by bus to El Escorial. My favorite parts were the library and pantheon. We also visited Ávila and saw some of the architecture we discussed in our art history class. It was overall a good, relaxing weekend. Only two more weeks in Spain!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Yesterday, we were in Granada and toured the Alhambra. Despite a slight ticket mixup, it was a great visit. I had learned about the Alhambra in my Spanish 232 class, but it was really cool to see the actual site and tour the grounds. The view of the city was unreal and I cannot imagine how pretty it would be at night all lit up. For anyone debating visiting Andalucia, definitely go! We are having a great time :)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As for Salamanca, I feel like we are definitely getting into a routine here. I love my host family - my senora Maria Jose is amazing and always willing to talk or give us our space - whichever we prefer that day. I do feel like I am slowly turning into a piece of jamon, though. I really eat ham or eggs with every meal. I love ham so it's not a problem but after this trip I don't think I would be sad if I never ate another egg again!
Here is a little video of our San Fermin adventure.. enjoy!
Monday, July 13, 2009
I’m finally getting to post something new! The Internet is hard to come by over here…my house had it the first couple of days, then it just disappeared, the university is in and out, and the cafes with Internet aren’t too reliable. But, anyway... Life has been good. Spain is a whole different world – lots of things I’m enjoying and of course those few things I miss about home. Last weekend, two girlfriends and I went to Valencia and spent a gorgeous weekend on the beach. Sunday went to a fabulous aquarium and watched the best dolphin show I have ever seen – I decided I am changing careers and becoming a dolphin trainer. This past weekend was insane! Three of us spent Thursday and Friday nights in Pamplona for San Fermin – definitely one of the best and most unique experiences of my life. We watched the running of the bulls the day the man was gored and died – there was nothing actually said at the festival, just whispers about a possible death, I found that very interesting. We watched in the end arena, where all 8 bulls enter after they run through the streets. It was crazy – a young bull is let out after the other 8 are closed behind a door. This young bull then proceeds to run after and buck everyone that is on the arena floor. Not only was Pamplona just one big party, I also got to see a close girlfriend from home! Spending some time with her was great and it made the experience even more memorable. I loved that San Fermin was a mix of wild party and long standing tradition – everyone dressed in their red and white, chanted the same cheers, and knew specific dances. Saturday we headed to San Sebastian and spent a beautiful day on the beach, using our dirty, Sangria covered Pamplona clothes as towels. We arrived back in Salamanca at 5 am Sunday. These experiences are truly once in a lifetime, and I am grateful for everything I am able to do. After being in Europe since May, it is hard to believe these are my last 3 weeks over here. I am enjoying every minute and trying to learn and grow as I go along.
This past weekend a few friends and I made the trek to Pamplona for the annual San Fermin festivities. As we arrived late, we got a late start on what was already a booming party. Thousands of people crowded the streets in search of a place to sit and a moment to relax. We walked around for a while and just took in everything that was happening, it was quite a sight. We stayed up to see el encierro which took place at 8 a.m. on Saturday, as it does everyday during the festival. It was a sight, hundreds of people running from a pack of bulls, something one must see in their life.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
So I’ve been in Salamanca for a little over a week now, and I really like it here. It’s a really cool town, and it’s big enough to get the city feel, but not quite as big as Madrid so I feel more like I actually live here. I also know it’s not too big because I’ll see people I know or have met just walking around a lot. I like how there are parks all over and everything is pretty much in walking distance. Also, there are a lot more young people here it seems like, probably due to the University.
We’ve done a lot so far here, from taking classes at the University, to going to the pool on really hot days, to shopping and seeing the night life here. I love walking around the Plaza Mayor area at night, because it is lit up so well and there are always people eating, chatting, walking around, or just hanging out. I wish there was some type of plaza in my town, because it’s an easy place to meet and hang out with friends.
I have also gotten a little experience with the transportation here. Last weekend, two of my girlfriends and I went to Valencia and we took the train. It was pretty easy to do, and now I know my way around the station for future travels. Valencia was beautiful too! We went to the beach all day Saturday, and the water was so warm it felt like a bath! We also rented lounge chairs with cushions for the day, so we could totally relax and not worry about getting all sandy (which I hate!).
Overall, I’ve had a great time so far. I think living with a family has helped me to use my Spanish even if it’s just during our meals or during passing. We also have another exchange student living in the house, and she is 16 and from New York. I think it will be nice to have another student here because we can relate to each other, and also help each other with our Spanish.