Real (Actual) Madrid Weekend

Since we are all traveling so much throughout the semester, it’s important to remember to get to know your host city too. Special thanks to my friends who have sent me lists of things to do in Madrid. I’m working through them and making my own as well!

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Here’s a rundown of our real Madrid weekend:

Thursday

  • Saw “Place Beyond the Pines” in a Spanish movie theater. It was in English but with Spanish subtitles. Not exactly a jarring cultural experience, but rest assured, Ryan Gosling looks just as good in Spain.

Friday

  • Day trip through SU Madrid to Segovia where we saw an original Roman aqueduct, did a walking tour of the city, toured more towers and castles, and tried the famous Segovian dessert Ponche (marzipan cake). So many flavors. It took about a minute and a half to experience them all, but 100% delicious.

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  • At night we went to El Tigre, which has really cheap drinks and gives HUGE plates of FREE tapas. Definitely one of my favorite bars in Madrid. Then we went to the club Joy and I had a conversation with someone completely in Spanish! Anna and I took the bus home around 4 am cause it’s fo freeeee.

Saturday

  • Ate Chipotle-style burritos at Tierra with Scott, Rhiann, Miriam, Hannah and Anna.
  • Took a gondola ride over the city (Hi Hannah).

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  • Discovered Egyptian ruins with a super sketchy guy inside at a park.

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  • Saw (3 minutes of) rain for the first time in over a month. Too much for the umbrella apparently though…

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  • Explored more of our beautiful city!

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  • Siesta and tv catch-up time with Anna.
  • Dinner with Emi.
  • Watched the Real Madrid vs. Atlético de Madrid futbol game in a packed MARCA Sports Café.
  • Churros & chocolate at the famous Chocolatería San Gines (since 1894) to end the night.

Sunday

  • Spent the day at El Rastro, the giant weekly flea market at the La Latina metro stop. So much to see.
  • Bought my first pair of Spanish shoes! 8 Euro for a pair of little red sporty sneakers. I’m practically a local.
  • Tapas for lunch at the Mercado De San Miguel. This time I tried a homemade chocolate truffle, burrata (whipped mozzarella and cream), and pesto pizza with tomato. YUM.

Had to reload my monthly metro card today. I can’t believe it’s already been a month in Madrid. Time is flying by too fast!

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21 and Invincible

Not too many people can say they spent their 21st birthday in another country, but it’s pretty freaking sick alright I guess.

Not gonna lie, I was a little depressed the day before my birthday on Wednesday (I was also super sick and not really in the mood to rage). It’s not that I’m anywhere close to unhappy in Spain or about turning 21, but I really wished I could have talked to my parents and relatives on the phone (thanks for the Viber phone call Auntie Paula!). Being away from home-home and ‘Cuse-home also made me miss my siblings and friends who didn’t go abroad this semester more than ever. Before I knew I would be in Spain this fall, I pictured turning 21 surrounded by my closest ‘Cuse friends and doing the standard “I got into Chuck’s!” face in all my pictures that first legal night. However, I’m more aware than ever that you can’t be upset about the things you can’t change, and you have to live in the moment the best you can (“Be present!” is my internal abroad mantra).

So, with the enthusiasm of my friends (and a couple strangers wishing me happy birthday) to cheer me up, I got up, got dressed, and had one of the best birthdays ever. When you turn 21 at Cuse, it’s customary to enter Chuck’s, the only “exclusively” 21+ bar on campus that is famous for signatures all over the walls and cheap alcohol. For my birthday in Spain, we ended up at a small place near school Maloney’s. In the best, most serendipitous way, it was pretty similar to Chuck’s, complete with the sorority signatures on the wall and a Cuse shirt hanging next to the bar. It was definitely a sign and made me feel like I’m not skipping a beat.

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My friends Allison and Hannah generously made sure I was properly hydrated and the whole bar sang to me at midnight, which made me feel like a kid again in the best way! The bartender gave me a free flaming shot but the video is by request only. It wasn’t a late night, but it was exactly what I wanted and needed, with all my (sorority) sisters and friends right by my side.1377980_10200318184269725_547607650_n

During the day, pretty much everyone somehow figured out it was my birthday (Facebook, I’m on to you…) and we geared up for round 2. My host mom made us a delicious dinner and even gave us some vino! We blew out a candle in some flan and sang in English and Spanish. Later Anna gave me some double chocolate Magnum ice cream bars which is equivalent to gold. Muchas gracias Anna! Then we went to the “Cave Bar” Chapandaz and I got a free bottle of champagne, and the boys made sure I was well-hydrated again tonight, how sweet! Again, I’m so fortunate to have some of my best Cuse girlfriends in Spain with me, and we had a blast.

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The next day I Skyped my family in Massachusetts. Miss those guys.

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All around a great birthday. Here’s to new beginnings, no regrets, and another year of adventures! Salud.

Hostel Takeover: Barcelona

This weekend (some of) the old Imperium crew was back at it again- this time with Anna!

We went off to Bar-“thel”-ona, Spain for the weekend, and I couldn’t have been more excited, even though I don’t speak Catalan.

After an 8 hour bus ride- with prettier countryside to the east- we arrived in Barcelona around 4:30 pm on Friday and checked into Kabul Hostel. Huge thanks to my cousin Anthony (who studied in Florence last semester) for the recommendation!

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Since our hostel was in Plaça Reial right off Las Ramblas, we spent the first afternoon strolling up and down through the flea markets and stopped into La Boqueria for some fruit smoothies and croquetas (my favorite Spanish food). Everything was SO FRESH. And much cheaper than the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid…

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While dinner is included at this particular hostel, “the chef was drunk all day” so dinner wasn’t up to par. Instead, we opted for some authentic American cuisine at the nearby McDonald’s. However, we did get a free pitcher of sangria from our generous waiter at a local place, which really set the tone for the entire trip.

photo cred: Rachel Dobbs

photo cred: Rachel Dobbs

After walking up and down the boardwalk and exploring the city by foot, we took advantage of the free cover from the hostel to a Barcelona club and danced the night away with some lovely Italian boys.

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The next morning, we had breakfast at the hostel and rode the metro the La Sagrada Familia, a giant basilica designed by the famous Antonio Gaudí that has been under construction since 1882, and is scheduled to be finished by 2026. No joke. The building was beautiful, with every inch of it dedicated to art. We spent a lot of time there and were amazed that in Europe, religion has motivated so much art and war, creation and destruction, in a way that wasn’t carried over into U.S. culture.

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Later, we took the metro across town and then hiked up to Park Güell to get a great view of the east coast of Spain and see the tile masterpieces also constructed by Gaudí. We had perfect weather, and I swear nowhere has a bluer sky than Spain.

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Later that night, we had dinner at the hostel again (better this time!) and hung out in our 24-person room. There were Italians, Australians, Germans and French (I think?) and some Americans studying in Segovia (where I’m going on Friday!). It was really cool sharing stories about our travels, and the others were impressed at how much of Spain and Portugal we have covered in such a short time. The hostel life is definitely an interesting one, and I’m really glad I get to add it to my list of experiences.

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This week/month in Barcelona, there are festivals and free concerts in every square and plaza across the city, so Hailee, Rachel aka Voldemort (she lost her voice), Rhiann, Anna and I bought some cheap wine and enjoyed the concert from our balcony, people watching and comparing it to Cuse’s Castle Court. We ventured into the crowd and met some interesting people, but decided to walk down the boardwalk again to enjoy the scenery there. We laughed and talked and genuinely enjoyed our too-short time in the city. I’m already making plans to come back someday.

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The next morning, we checked out of the hostel, said, “Ciao!” to our Italian friends, and went off to the beach. It was my first time in the Mediterranean Sea, and we collected sea glass, swam in the crystal clear water, tanned like Barcelonians do, and soaked up the sun. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tan in my life.

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The bus ride home wasn’t bad, and we made it back in time to catch the metro. All around a great mix of art, culture, beach, fun, and history. I love Barcelona, but I was happy to be home in Madrid and I’m glad I’m studying here instead.

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Stay Classy

Ok, fun’s over adjusted. Classes are in full swing!

Here’s a breakdown of the studying that comes with “study” abroad:

Imperium Seminar- 3 credits

Aside from galavanting around Córdoba, Granada, Sevilla and Lisbon, I was also learning! Shocking, I know. We had class sections and readings with questions to complete during the 11-day traveling seminar culminating in a final exam we took last Wednesday. I think I did well. Best & easiest three credits I’ve earned yet. I made friends with some cool new people, had some entertaining guides (José works at school!!) and got to tour the country I am now calling home.

Spanish 102- 4 credits

Confession: I didn’t try as hard as I could have on the Spanish placement exam last April… I took Spanish for 4 1/2 years in middle and high school and only didn’t take AP so I could march in Disney World with the band. Definitely a better life decision, but still. I had some really great Spanish teachers back then, and when I got here I remembered MUCH more than I expected, but it’s still great (and necessary) to review. I’m really happy to be learning and practicing Spanish again, and it makes communicating with my host mom Emi significantly easier. Also the fact that this class starts at 10:30 am as opposed to 9 am isn’t a bad tradeoff either…

Managing in a Global Setting- 3 credits

Not all business majors are able to take this class abroad, so I definitely got lucky that I’ll still be on track when I go back to ‘Cuse. My teacher has a really heavy accent and an hour and a half lecture is pretty tough to get through, but I’m surviving. Talk about globalization and international business strategies is much more interesting from an actual abroad perspective, and there isn’t much work, so for now I’ll say it’s going well.

Marketing in Spain & U.S. – 3 credits

Since I’m a marketing major, I’m also staying on track (Yay me) by taking one of my required marketing electives abroad. So far I’m enjoying this class, and I think my name is the only one the teacher knows how to pronounce because he will randomly ask my opinion in class, and then looks surprised when I raise my hand when he calls it during attendance… Oh well. The upside is that I am really enjoying the content, and I don’t mind sharing my opinion or asking questions. Marketing is a lot of critical thinking at its core, and  taking more classes is making me even more excited to join the business world someday!

Arts in Spain – 3 credits

This is the class I was most excited to take! Being a business student and dual major means that between finance, accounting, supply, chain and media/journalism classes, I never get to take fun classes. I’m only human, so some classes tend to run longer than my attention span, but overall I am certainly enjoying analyzing art and sculpture over time. Analyzing art also comes with a critical thinking element, and it’s refreshing to jump back into a creative mindset. We even get to have class in the Prado, which is one of the most famous art museums in the world! My teacher is super enthusiastic and sweet, and I’m really enjoying this cultural experience. I even started reading The Da Vinci Code the same day we started our DaVinci unit, so here’s to more learning outside the classroom.

 

Overall, this is the lightest course load I’ve even taken and probably will ever take in college. I like all of my classes, and love reminding myself that learning happens every day, everywhere you go. 

#YouOnlyLagosOnce

For those of you (like my dad) who are reading this blog and are wondering if I am actually studying during my study abroad adventure, the answer is: it’s Syllabus Week, so, um, like, no.

Syllabus Week, for those of you no longer in heaven college, is the week (or two) at the beginning of each semester where you can show up late to class (“I got lost”), not bring your textbook (“they’re still being shipped”), and then party every night because all you do in class is… read the syllabus. That being said, some of my girl friends and I decided to spend our lovely Syllabus Weekend enjoying a little paradise away from heaven, in Lagos, Portugal.

Lagos, not to be confused with Lisbon, is a small city along the southwestern coast of Portugal on the Atlantic Ocean. While it is mainly a summer destination, there are lucky bastards people who live there all year round. Lagos is not only a summer getaway, but also one of the most visited cities in Portugal, center of the Age of Discover, home of Henry the Navigator, historical shipyard, and once a center of the European slave trade. Also, in 2012, Lagos was voted #1 on TripAdvisor’s list of “15 Destinations on the Rise” worldwide. Keep reading, and you’ll see why.

Last year, some of my best guy friends Josh and Joe studied abroad in Madrid, and raved about their trip to Lagos. I’d stalked seen their pictures from the trip, and ever since then, Lagos has been on my radar of places to visit. Like the guys, a bunch of girls on my trip were booking it through Discover Excursions, and in a wave of spontaneity, I booked my ticket as well about 24 hours before departure. Thursday night, after a bike tour of Madrid via Casa Del Campo (SO FUN) with some friends, we set off on a bus to Sevilla at 1 am. We drove all night and arrived early in the morning, catching some Zzz’s on the floor of the Portuguese consulate in Sevilla where the DE bus would meet to take us to Lagos. Once on the bus (I’m starting to recognize rest stops now…), our guides Toba (think Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Benni, Luis and Nito got us pumped up for the trip with some throwback jamz and I finally began to relax.

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We pulled up to the Marina Club Hotel, and checked in with me, Bria, Rhiann and Anna sharing a suite (throwback to freshman roommates). Only drawback was we had to sit in the sun by the bar next to the pool to use the wifi. #firstworldproblems. We changed quickly then walked towards the marina to board the boat for the “Sangria Boat Cruise“. Basically, we toured the coast of Portugal for a couple hours blasting music with unlimited sangria, took breaks to jump into the ocean, and explored the coastal caves via a smaller boat. I still can’t get over how blue the water was.

photo cred: Bria Jones

photo cred: Bria Jones

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photo cred: Bria Jones

photo cred: Bria Jones

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photo cred: Bria Jones

photo cred: Bria Jones

photo cred: Bria Jones

photo cred: Bria Jones

That afternoon, we napped by the pool then had dinner at Nah Nah Bah, which was recently voted in the Top 50 Burgers in the World, and for good reason. We then enjoyed some complimentary beverages at Shaker’s Bar, and ended the night pretty early (around 3 am) at a club called Grand Café.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then went to the praia, or “beach” in Portuguese. I have been in Portugal so much I am feeling trilingual at this point, but also I’m really glad *mostly* everyone speaks English here. The beach was one of the most BEAUTIFUL beaches I’ve ever seen. I collected sea glass with Bria, lounged with my friends, jumped off a cliff with Rhiann, and enjoyed some more sangria. I also got a little homesick and missed my family… Not that I wish I was home, but I definitely wish they could have enjoyed the beach with me or at least it was easier to call them.

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526879_10151890976488894_256741922_n IMG_2899Later that day, we hopped on a bus to the “End of the World” to watch the sunset. The southwestern most point of Portugal, and Europe for that matter, was incredibly windy, and unfortunately we didn’t get much of a sunset because of the clouds (I have yet to see rain here) but it was still very fun.

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Rhiann, Glaura, and Deanna with our trip leader Toba!

The last day in paradise Portugal, we hung out at yet another beautiful beach Meia Praia, then walked around downtown before heading back to Madrid in the late afternoon. All around a GREAT weekend to kick off the new semester. I definitely want to come back here someday. Who’s coming with me?

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