Archive for the ‘ESPAÑA’ Category

Larrabastera and 4th of July Celebrations

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

On the fourth of July we went to Larrabastera (a local beach…one of many) to play soccer and to celebrate together in our own way since obviously there wasn’t a celebration in Spain for an American Independence Day. It was again a really cloudy day and quite windy which made swimming not so much fun. Even laying out wasn’t extremely enjoyable because it was so chilly. Playing soccer on the beach was a lot of fun, but killer on the legs! My friend Sarah ended up getting terribly burnt because she didn’t think that she would get any sun since it wasn’t even in sight.

To continue the celebrations we went to an American Bar for dinner and drinks. A few of us sat at the bar and talked to the waiters while waiting for our food. Sarah and I split a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that was huge and no way that we could have eaten it alone. It was probably the best grilled ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever had and writing about it now is making me crave it so much. July fourth in Spain wasn’t anything too celebratory, but we did the best we could and ended having a great time bonding with our fellow CIDE students. I didn’t stay too long because Sarah, Colby, Tim and I decided to go back to the dorm and watch a movie. In our dorm we had a list of movies we could watch (of course they were typically in Spanish) and rent from the front desk. As long as we returned the movie, they gave us back our money. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s company and watching a few Spanish films. I missed seeing the fireworks and was disappointed when I found out that my family went to Niagra Falls (and I’ve never been), but I wouldn’t give up an experience like studying abroad when I can go to Niagra Falls anytime I want!

Guggenheim, German Bar and Concert

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

One Saturday morning we visited the Guggenheim museum in the center of Bilbao. This was such a cool museum with the beautiful and intricate architecture as well as the exhibits within! I got scolded by a security guard for touching one of the displays because I was interested in what it was made out of because it looked hard however it was a huge wax thing. Oops.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, built by Ferrovial[3] and located in BilbaoBasque Country, Spain. It is built alongside the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Atlantic Coast. The Guggenheim is one of several museums belonging to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The museum features permanent and visiting exhibits of works by Spanish and international artists.

One of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, the building has been hailed as a “single moment in the architectural culture” because it represents “one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.”[4] The museum was the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts.

After touring the museum, I explored the gift shop and enjoyed what they had to offer. However, I decided not to purchase anything because most things were overpriced. The rest of the day we had to occupy ourselves and then the evening promised all sorts of new adventures.

When we went to Plentzia, we were given free tickets to a concert hosted in a local club. One of the professors, John Franco provided them for us because he was in charge of providing entertainment for this particular club. We were told that we could all meet for dinner at a German bar a few blocks from the club to watch one of the World Cup games. My friends and I decided not to eat there because it was already packed when we arrived and we didn’t want to be the annoying Americans everyone was talking about. Our choice of restaurant ended up being pretty tasty and eventful. During dinner some random man came inside and asked if we wanted to purchase a newspaper. Politely we told him NO, but he ended up sitting down beside me and trying to coax me into purchasing one. Finally one of the girls with us who spoke Spanish more fluently asked him to please leave us alone. Luckily it worked, but it was really sketchy. The pictures is of my dinner and it was so tasty! The odd white thing is actually asparagus which I had never seen beforehand. Apparently asparagus is always white in Spain and I have no idea why.

Concert time! Directly after dinner, we went on a way to find the club. Not going to the German bar meant that we didn’t have anyone to follow and help us navigate the city. Great opportunity to practice our Spanish…but understanding the directions after asking for them is a different problem in itself. It took us probably 45 minutes to find it, but once we did it was a blast! Most of the music was similar to American rock and they even played a few songs in English. The atmosphere was great and enjoyable. It was so much fun dancing and enjoying a few drinks. I met one of the professors friends and talked with him in Spanish and he attempted to talk to me in English. He was so nice and ended up buying me a drink :) How sweet…especially because mixed drinks are SOOO expensive! Once the band was done playing, we followed a really nice local girl around who spoke English well. She took us to another bar and we danced there for a couple more hours before we ventured back to our dorm around 4 am. Long night, but totally worth it. One thing that’s really cool and a great advantage is that our dorms had these metal shade-like things on the outside of the windows and when you put them down, the room is pitch black even during the day. Such a great invention for late nights out because then you can sleep well into the day without realizing it. A lot of the people I traveled with to Spain went out almost every evening, but I certainly couldn’t do that everyday!

Plentzia For a Day

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Spending a day in Plentzia is always fun! We arrived early in the afternoon after an information session at the Universidad de Deusto. Unfortunately it was a rainy day, but it was still a pleasure to explore the city and then afterward we met up with the whole group to eat at a local restaurant and enjoy the rest of the evening at the beach. During our tour we learned a little history of the town and enjoyed the architecture. Here is some of the history of Plentzia:

Plentzia is a resort town with a large beach beside the Plentzia River estuary, in the round, shell-shaped Bay of Plentzia, shared with neighbouringGorliz and Barrika. The beach is very popular as it is clean and the sea is calm due to the shelter of the bay and the town has a lot of amenities for visitors.

Plentzia and its neighbouring municipalities are popular locations for better-off families from Bilbao to buy weekend–holiday homes and during the summer months the town’s beach and bars and restaurants become much busier thanks to these residents and other visitors from Bilbao.

As in most Basque towns, Plentzia has a number of restaurants and bars ranging from small bars offering Pintxos to restaurants with formal dining. There is also a small Council-runmuseum telling the town’s history and in particular dealing with its history as a fishing port. The town also has an indoor municipal Fronton where the traditional Basque sport of pelota is played and competitive matches can often be seen.

Upon finishing the tour we explored the local stores on our own and were told to meet back up around 2 pm to get some lunch. Since it was pretty rainy, a few of us just decided to enjoy the plaza and watch the local children play. We witnessed Spanish jump rope songs and child interactions. Not that children interact differently in Spain than they do in America, but I think it’s just more the thought that they are Spanish and not American. I do have to say though that they listen very well to their guardians and seem to be more well-behaved than what I’m used to seeing back home. The picture is of children playing “ring around the rosies” in Spanish, which has the same tune as the American version. Once we headed to the restaurant, the rain finally let up. We enjoyed a delicious meal, although the dessert wasn’t very appealing. Water in Spain is always brought out in large glass bottles and you can’t go anywhere without paying for it. I really missed being able to ask for water and getting it for free. Any place you go to eat in Spain and you ask for water, you’ll receive a glass bottle full of fresh water (often small and not cheap). After eating, we all changed into our swimsuits and headed down to the beach for the rest of the time. The buses that had brought us to Plentzia had left and we were told that we could return back into the main city of Bilbao whenever we desired by taking the metro. It wasn’t a terribly sunny day and I’m not a huge fan of swimming in the ocean, but I was talked into going in for a bit. The water was a little chilly and it was kind of a breezy day as well which made being wet an uncomfortable situation. Also, the sand stuck to everything and I forgot to pack a beach towel in my luggage. Boo! On the way back we ventured to the metro and about halfway there the skies opened up and let out a torrential downpour and I was soaked all over again! Riding a metro soaking wet and freezing isn’t the most fun thing in the world, especially when it was the very last stop. Plentzia is such a gorgeous little town and we went back several times throughout the month to enjoy the beach and sunny weather.

Universidad de Deusto

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Thursday was officially the first day in Bilbao. We spent the day touring the city and had a scheduled dinner at a hotel restaurant along the river that run (part of the Bay of Biscay). So much food! The food was delicious and I met some new people who were in the Culture program. One of them became one of my closest friends and we still schedule regular skype dates. Anyway, Spanish desserts aren’t always my favorite but this particular one was really yummy: bottom layer was a chocolate mousse with chocolate syrup and then a layer of vanilla mousse with a cake portion on top covered with raspberry sauce (pretty sure that says it all). Afterwards, we were given a tour of Casco Viejo (the older part of the town) and a brief tour of the newer part. From here we were told that we had the rest of the evening (until dinner @ 9:30) to explore. *As a side note, late meals are a cultural difference. Breakfast is served beginning at 7 am and then lunch isn’t served until 1:30 and then dinner at 9:30, however I’m not sure as to why meals are so much later.* If I could compare Bilbao to another city, I would say it was as big as New York city, BUT I’ve never been there so there may be no comparison. All I can say is that it’s a pretty big place and from the city back to the dorm it can take between 45 minutes to an hour and a half walking. I’m from the country and the closest thing to my house is our dog’s house. We can’t see anyone from our house which is set about 1,000 feet from the road and I love it like that way. This did leave to sleeping issues because living in a city means absolutely no silence at night. I didn’t sleep a full, straight night until the very last week I was there.

Friday we had an opening assembly and took a tour of the school. The school first opened in 1886 and as far as I know only has two dorms. It’s a prestigious school and is well-known for it’s significant amount of exchange/international students. Here’s a student testimony about the university and directly following are some photos I took during the tour:

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

5 hours…on a bus…not so much fun. As mentioned in my previous post, the Business Program was small which was a perk for our long bus trip to Bilbao (where the university is located).  Well it was a perk for a while anyway (we each had our own set of seats), but I’ll get to that. The country side was gorgeous and I enjoyed the scenery for about 30 minutes; after which I passed out in a deep sleep as did most everyone else. A nice nap was cut short with an announcement that one of the other buses had broken down. Scattered seat occupancy was  changed to not an empty seat insight. This occured after only an hour and a half, leaving 3 1/2 hours of cramped space and uncomfortable sleeping positions. 2 1/2 hours in we took a pit stop at a small restaurant/hotel/fueling station for snacks and bathroom breaks. Thank goodness! I’m pretty sure I have the smallest bladder possible because I certainly utilized this opportunity. We boarded the bus again and I ended up chatting with the guy beside me for a bit. We practiced our Spanish a little, but he was more advanced than I by coming from a family with a Spanish background. Then back to sleep again. I’m not a big fan of long trips especially when it means being packed into a bus. The buses were Spanish versions of our charter buses minus the bathroom and less foot room. Once we arrived in Bilbao, we went our separate ways based upon our living choices we made back in the states. Everyone in the Business program either stayed with host families or in Colegio Mayor (the closest dorm to the campus- 5 minute walk). Well everyone except me that is. I ended up in Unamuno with the Culture program.

                                    *I originally chose to go to Spain because I wanted to be an Econ and International Affairs double major and so I was signed up for the Culture Program. It turns out that they forgot to change that when they did the housing placement.
The bus was unloaded and our luggage was placed in the lobby of the large dormatory and we were scurried off to dinner. I would be soon discover that bread and oil were to often become my main course and side dishes. I don’t remember exactly what we had at this meal, but I was anticipating finding my room and getting settled in so that I could talk with my family. Rules and regulations were spoken at us and we were finally given our room keys. Every room had two keys and most of us started out with a roommate because summer school was still in session (for the rest of the week-arrived on Wednesday). Each key was attached to this obnoxious plastic piece with the room number on it; and when I say obnoxious I mean it was about the size of a checkbook in length and as wide as your hand. Upon leaving the dorm, we were told to drop our key off at the reception desk in the lobby and to retrieve it again when we returned. Roommates were assigned based on which school you attended. I ended up meeting several stuents from Mary Washington this way, however I ended up making more friends with students from other schools. Most of the Mary Washington kids came together and a few of us decided on our own to study in Spain. My roommate had already completed her language requirement, but wanted the chance to study abroad and made arrangements with around 7 friends to go together. Once in our room, I eagerly unpacked and organized my things for the upcoming month. Lynette and I roomed together until the following Monday and then she relocated to a different floor. I was on the sixth floor and luckily they had elevators! Overall the Unamuno was a really nice dorm and both dorms had a cafeteria where all of our meals were served, the only downfall was the 25 minute walk to the university each morning and my first class was at 8:35 meaning I had to be out the door no later than 8:10. Needless to say, I am not a morning person and the way my schedule was laid out meant that I wouldn’t have time to come back to the dorm to get lunch and make it back to the university for class. This also meant that I had to get up even earlier so that I could at least get breakfast! Dinner wasn’t served until 9:30 pm, so a good chunk of my spare change went to purchasing snacks in order to make it through the day. A late dinner was really weird because after dinner it was almost bedtime and was definitely an adjustment.

Madrid Shananigans

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Together my hotel roommate Ashley and I discovered that in order to work the lighting system and electricity you must put your room card in a slot on the side of the wall. Who knew? After chatting a bit, we decided to explore the city. A foreign city…just the two of us. Before arriving in Spain, we we were told that we needed to be careful and always aware especially when visiting Madrid. Pickpockets are pretty sneaky and can easily snatch something without your immediate knowledge. I definitely made myself aware of everything and often found myself looking around a lot (other than simply enjoying the scenery). We navigated our way to the bus system and luckily for me she was a Spanish major and had a better concept and larger vocabulary of the language than I did. We ended up talking with a local bus station worker in a mix of Spanish and English about the area and what we were doing. It was really interesting to hear what she said and how enthusiastic she was that she could practice her English. This tended to be a trend especially with the younger people that we were to meet in the future.

We took the bus to downtown Madrid and ended up getting off before we were supposed to. It worked out alright because we ended up stopping at a mall and I was able to purchase the SIM card for my phone. Unfortunately it only worked long enough to tell my mom I was alive and safe and then it cut off and wouldn’t connect again even when I tried using my calling card that was supposed to contain around 400 minutes…Go figure. After our purchases, we decided to search for a place to grab lunch and ended up at a small bar/restaurant inside the mall. We each ordered and enjoyed our choices, except that Ashley was vegetarian and most Spaniards don’t understand that concept so she had to explain the best she could that she didn’t eat meat and find out which options of the menu she could eat. Once we finished our meal, we sat for 20 minutes waiting for our waitress to pick up our payments. Finally, Ashley decided that we should just take our tabs and money and give them to her. After a short debate, we also included a tip; in which we later found out was quite offensive. OOPS!

Ashley and I continued to explore the city until around 6 p.m. and in Virginia time that would equivalate to 12 p.m. It took many stops and asking locals to navigate our way back to our hotel. This took probably an hour and we walked the entire way this time. Asking locals proved to be unsuccessful because for some reason they couldn’t seem to locate where we were on the map in order to point us in the right direction. Oh well, we made it back and in enough time to take a nap before dinner. In Spain, dinner times are typically after 8 and ours wasn’t supposed to begin until 9.

I took a short nap and decided to figure out how to get the internet. I ended up purchasing a code that cost 10 euros to cover my stay for internet access. It was definitely worth it because I was able to call my family and boyfriend and afterwards I felt so much better about being so far away. Our dinner was covered and was a delicious buffet at the hotel. We finally met with other CIDE students and discovered who was in our program. Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos because I was unable to charge my camera battery when I originally arrived. However, I made sure it was fully charged for the following days adventures.

Day 2 meant getting up early to meet our group and have our luggage waiting in the lobby around 8. We were visiting an art museum and then we were off on the what we would call as “charter buses” for a 5 hour trip to our residences for the rest of July. I met students from my group; I was in the Business program and our group had around 25 people compared with the Spanish Culture and Language group which had between 100 and 125.

The museum we visited was called El Prado del Museo. It held all sorts of art from paintings to gigantic, intricate carpets and sculptures. Everything was gorgeous and interesting to look at. I think I would have appreciated it that much more had I been the type of person interested in classic paintings, but overall it was worth it. We were scheduled to be there significantly longer than I deemed necessary so many of us just relaxed in the lobby until departure time. Obviously we were unable to take pictures, but here is a video than can give you a glimpse of some of the things we saw.

First Experiences Upon Arrival

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Upon arrival in the Madrid, I found the best method to retrieving my luggage was simply to follow the crowd. Madrid’s airport was probably the most confusing airport I have ever been in. I was very glad to be flying out of a different one on my way home! The most exciting part of my arrival was receiving my first stamp in my passport.

After collecting my things, I noticed that there was a booth to purchase a phone. I decided to go this route (might I add that I DO NOT SUGGEST IT!) and purchase a temporary phone so that I could contact my family since I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do so for close to a week. I knew they would be a wreck if they didn’t hear from me for that long. I spent way more than I should have and didn’t receive the amount of minutes I was told that I purchased. The man I purchased the phone from even spoke English very well. After making my way through the airport, I flagged down a taxi and successfully asked him to take me to my hotel (all in Spanish). Once I arrived at the hotel, I checked in and went directly to my room to contact my family. EPIC FAIL!!! My phone didn’t work, nor did my calling card and apparently I had not received a SIM card necessary to complete calls. Totally ripped off in as many ways as possible. Secondly, I couldn’t figure out how to use the lights because every switch I turned on resulted in continued darkness. Needless to say, I was ready to cry…I couldn’t talk to a comforting voice from home, nor could I relax with the television as a distraction. No one from the program was around until late that evening (as I arrived around 8 in the morning, a day late). Shortly thereafter, my roommate walked in. She, like me, had flight issues and was arriving late too.

Arrival in Spain

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Monday afternoon…Time to try again. My dad and brother took me to BWI to try once again to make my departure to Spain. I arrived about 2 hours early and checked my baggage and received my new tickets. Since I had already exchanged my  money the day before, I’ll I had to do was wait. We sat in the lobby for a while chatting until it was time to tackle the security line again. The line on this day was nice and short, so I said my goodbyes and gave my hugs. Off through security once again. This time I made my life a little easier by wearing flip-flops and having my laptop out of my carry one prior to entering the line. Security was a breeze and I was off to wait in the terminal. I ended up recognizing the government worker who was supposed to be on my flight the day before. We ended up conversing and she told me about her job and family. It was really interesting to hear what she had to say and have something to occupy the time. Of course, without fail we ended up being delayed because of lightning and anxiety set in. Eventually we were able to board the plane and begin our journey to Philedelphia. The entire flight from take-off to landing was 19 minutes; the hottest 19 minutes of my life. The airconditioner wasn’t working very well and it felt like a sauna which is comical because our previous flight had been canceled for a broken airconditioner.

After arriving in Philedelphia we made our way to our connecting flight terminal to Madrid, Spain. This flight was delayed by an hour as well, but this gave me time to search out some dinner and relax before my 8 1/2 hour trip across the atlantic. I scarfed down some Chinese food and took turns watching our carry-ons with the lady I met earlier. We discussed our seat changes due to our flight cancelation and I told her that I was disappointed because I had an isle seat instead of a window seat. She had the exact opposite and preferred the isle seat so she offered to trade. This worked out in my favor because it turned out that I didn’t have anyone sitting beside me and had two seats to curl up and sleep.

Once on the plane, we were given pillows and blankets as well as the option to purchase headphones for the movies. I brought my own, so fortunately I didn’t have to spend money to purchase new ones. After being in the air for a while, the movie screen on the back of the seat in front of mine turned on. We able to choose from a list of about 15 movies as well as music options. I watched Couple’s Retreat and then decided to sleep for a while since I would be arriving in Madrid between 7 and 8 in the morning. It was really nice to be able to stretch out a little while sleeping and when I woke, the flight attendants were handing out our meals. Surprisingly the food was quite tasty and once I was full, I fell right back to sleep. The next time I woke, I was being surved breakfast and we were about 30 minutes from arriving in Madrid.

Spanish Summer

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

In July of 2010 (this summer) I studied abroad in Northern Spain. Throughout my semester in Digital Storytelling, I thought I’d gradually blog about my adventures and experiences in another land.

I began my journey on June 27th to arrive in Spain on June 28th. As I ventured Sunday afternoon to the airport, I was nervous, excited and sad all at once. I’ve never been outside of the United States, let alone being on my own. Navigating U.S. airports on my own was a feat in itself and then to top it off I had to figure it out in another language as well. A language that I could manage, but by no means at the confidence of a solo mission. My family and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to kill before I had to venture into security. After checking my luggage, we waited in the main section of the airport. As the time for my departure grew closer, I felt the tears begin to well up. I wasn’t really sad, but mostly the idea of being away from my family and boyfriend for 5 weeks was overwhelming. Successfully gaining my composure, I entered the security check area and proceeded on my way.

More than an hour into my wait to board, our plane finally arrives. Excitement began to rise, only to find out that our connecting flight in Philadelphia had been canceled due to air-conditioning problems. Why on earth had they not told us this before we waited so long? Had the given us the word an hour before, everyone could have been bused up to Philadelphia to catch their flights. A hustle back to the front desk proved to be unsuccessful in getting another flight the same day. Luckily for me, a government worker was in front of me in line and raised hell (along with asking all the necessary question); so when I arrived at the counter, my task was a breeze. I ended up receiving a flight for the following day. Unfortunately this meant that I would have to miss the first full day with the rest of the CIDE (study abroad) group. It also meant that I would have to find my own taxi and check into the hotel alone…in Spanish. Not to mention the future traveling hassles I’d encounter.