Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marbella, Andalucía

Jessica's flight got cancelled to Ireland once again because of the volcano, but she still wanted to take a weekend trip. Her mom told her about Marbella, so off we went! I couldn't say no to seeing Andalucía one last time before I leave. It is definately one of my favorite regions of Spain.

We took a 7-8 hour night bus to Marbella and arrived there earlier than our hostel opened. We didn't know this so we walked around Marbella waiting for our hostel to open. We sat in a café for awhile and made friends with the owners who said our Spanish was "fantástico!" :)

Eventually we got into our hostel and slept a really long time. We finally woke up and explored Old Town. It's very beautiful with tiny, winding streets and white-washed houses. Very similar to Greek island towns but still very Spanish. Our hostel had a great location. We went to the beach for a little bit too. Basically we spent our weekend exploring, laying on the beach, and SHOPPING! I haven't been shopping in a long time, but I definately got my fill here! They had so many cool shops, I couldn't resist!

Puerto Banús, where the "rich and famous" play

In a plaza, basking in the sun, wearing a dress I bought :)
Old Town, where we had dinner one night
more Old Town
Old Town, which is where our hostel was

We had a great time and made friends with two girls at our hostel studying in Sevilla. One is from Tennessee and one is from Florida. They are coming to Madrid in 3 weeks so we plan on meeting up again. The days go by fast when you're having fun, and next weekend I'm off to Austria with Jess to see her roommate who is studying there. It's always really fun to visit places where you know people studying because it makes your days easy. Also, Mia from my old club soccer team is studying in Italy and is coming to Madrid next week so we plan on meeting up!

Love you all!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Icelandic volcanic ash

So Lindsey and I have been having a great time and she didn't want to leave, so she made an Icelandic volcano explode and now she's stuck here for who knows how long. Luckily, Carmen is the bestest and said she can stay with us! So at least she's not alone in a hotel :)
Here's some imagery

Monday, April 12, 2010

País Vasco: Basque Country

Lindsey arrived on Thursday about 2:30pm and we immediately headed to the bus station to catch the 4pm bus to San Sebastian. It was about 6 hours, más o menos. We checked into our hostel, which was right on Playa Zurriola, and went to dinner, then crashed. The next day we did a bunch of sightseeing. We hiked Mount Urgull, which had amazing views of San Sebastian and Playa Concha and was very beautiful itself. Then we explored the Old Quarter and some of the famous cathedrals. I had a minor heart attack when my camara stopped working for the longest 10 minutes of my life, but luckily turned back on! We stopped in the Old Quarter for tapas. Apparently, San Sebastian is famous for its unique tapas. They consist of a lot of seafood, which I like, and they were very different than any tapas I've had before...except croquetas of course! They definately put a new spin on tapas and they were delicious!

Cathedral in the Old Quarter
There were about five pavos reales in one of the parks we explored
One view from Mount Urgull
Playa Concha/ San Sebastian Old Quarter skyline
Fresh fruit from a local market
The river and Old Quarter at night
That night we hung out with people from our hostel and we all went out together. Everyone was really nice and it was one of the best hostels I've been to. The next day we woke up pretty late and then went to the beach right by our hostel with some lunch. We stayed at the beach most of the day, then went souvenir shopping in the Old Quarter.
Playa Zurriola, the surfer's beach, down the block from our hostel
Old Quarter
We went out again that night, but came back "early" because of our 11am bus the next day. Sadly, and MUCH to our regret, we had to leave and head back to Madrid. That night we went to dinner at Café Principe where we ate seafood and chicken paella. I was stuffed, then waddled back to the metro to go home because I had homework. Today Lindsey is out and about sightseeing while I had class, but tomorrow I'm showing her around and then at night we are going to a flamenco performance with my culture class.
Love you all!

Monday, April 5, 2010

I only come out with the sun apparently...

Yesterday morning I woke up at 2pm to the sun shining brightly outside. I had stayed inside the day before because I had nothing to do and the weather wasn't inspiring. I had to get out yesterday though because it was sunny! Who knew how long that would last? I've been missing that SLO sunshine more than I imagined!

I went to Retiro since it's right around the corner and I could take pictures of newly blooming trees and plants. Here are some of the spring flowers :)

This is when I was laying down on the grass
Pretty in pink :)
Vibrant orange in the sun, but the picture doesn't do it justice
It was pleasantly calm, not too many people
It was Easter so some people were passing out these books, which I skimmed to practice my Spanish; Jesus Christ = Jesucristo
After Retiro I met up with my friend Michelle and we walked around the Palace; here we have the Beatles performing

Friday, April 2, 2010

Padres visit, Barcelona, and más!

Sorry, I haven't updated lately! After Paris I was just living life in Madrid! Nothing overly exciting. It's beautiful today in Madrid. Nice and sunny! I have been on Spring Break and just got back from the Canary Islands with my amigas. I'm tan, FINALLY. Break ends Monday and then the next weekend Lindsey arrives!

*We went to the island of Tenerife. It looks a lot like Hawaii, but less pristine, like if Mexico had a resort island maybe. It was really nice every day, with a steady breeze. I didn't really take pictures because we spent our days at the beach, which were pretty standard in appearance, but exactly what we were looking for. It was a much needed relaxing trip. The islands are pretty cheap as well, so it was nice to save a lot of money over break.*

Now to when mama y papa visited! They arrived late Friday (March 19) so we just went out for a paella dinner that night at Café Principe. They loved it, and personally I think it's the best paella I've had in Spain. Then Saturday and Sunday I exhausted them by taking them all over Madrid by foot and metro :) We went to Plaza de España, where the Royal Palace is; Plaza Mayor, the oldest plaza in Madrid; El Rastro, one of the largest flea markets in Europe; and Retiro Park among the random places we walked through on our way to everywhere. We also had delicious dinners and lunches! One of my favorite was a restaurant built into Plaza Mayor called Las Cuevas (The Caves). We sat and watched all the tourists that seemed to have came out of no where all week! Saturday night we went to Real Madrid vs Sporting Gijon. Another good game! Real won of course, even though they had a slow start.

Dad and Mom in Retiro Park
Las Cuevas in Plaza Mayor
Real vs Sporting
The flowers are blooming everywhere!
In Plaza de España
Monday I had class all day, but I met them for dinner. They went on the Madrid open-top bus tour that day and apparently I had already shown them everything it drove to so they just rode it around since the weather was perfect.

Tuesday we took a day trip to Segovia after my morning class because it is only 30 minutes away by train. The castle there is supposedly what the Sleeping Beauty castle was designed after. The streets were small and winding and retained an old village feel. A Roman Aqueduct greets you at Segovia's center. It's a really amazing sight to see.

Roman Aqueduct
Mom in the castle windows
Gothic cathedral of Segovia
the Plaza Mayor of Segovia
Wednesday I didn't get to see them all day because I had class then a flamenco performance to go to for my class. They went on another day trip to Toledo, the old capital of Spain.

Thursday we went to the Museo del Prado, one of the most famous museums in the world. It was pretty cool, but like Mom mentioned, I wish it had more than just art. The Louvre in Paris was really cool because it had artifacts and sculptures and a variety of art rather than just paintings. I had to go home and take a nap because I was so tired, but we met for dinner later.

Friday we took the train to Barcelona. We took the hop-on hop-off bus and got off to walk around Park Guell designed by Gaudi. It was like nothing I've ever seen before! The houses looked like gingerbread houses and colorful tiles covered the walls. It was really pretty and I loved all the color. On the bus, we got to see all the amazing architecture Barcelona has. I never realized how rich it was in that aspect. We saw lots of buildings by Gaudi and lots of gothic inspired buildings as well. It's a really beautiful place and the weather was really nice!

Tiles lining the walls of Park Guell
Mom and Dad in Park Guell
One view of Barcelona from Park Guell + Gaudi's old house on the left

"Gingerbread" houses of Park Guell
Barcelona architecture

One of Gaudi's designs. The roof of this place is amazing

Saturday we went to La Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas. Once again Gaudi's architecture blew me away! I have never seen such a cathedral. Gaudi is all about combining color and nature with architecture and I really liked how everything in the cathedral was inspired by something from nature. Then we went to Las Ramblas, a street filled with shops and kiosks and street vendors. I love street vendors so I liked it a lot. There were also a ton a street performers just like Madrid, but even more over-the-top! That afternoon we went back to Madrid.

Inside La Sagrada Familia
Explanations of Gaudi incorporating nature
Resembles a forest

Gaudi loved all things Barcelona & Mediterranean; Mediterranean amphibeans on La Sagrada
La Sagrada Familia has been in construction since the 1800s and is scheduled to be finished in 2020...

Old and new on La Sagrada
Dad outside La Sagrada
Plaza in Barcelona
Florists on Las Ramblas selling palms for Easter

Since their flight was delayed until Monday, we spent Sunday walking around. We went to El Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world. It was really delicious!!!! Later that day, I introduced Mom to chocolate con churros and we ate the whole plate! Nothing new for me and my friends when it comes to churros ;) Then we had our last dinner before I had to go to my friends place so we could split a cab to the airport at 4 am since our flight to the Canaries the next day was so early in the morning. It was a great week and lots of fun! Love and miss you all!
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