March 12, 2011 Saturday

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I really, really, really don't like flying, and I don't like airports.  They suck.  I was in a horrible mood this morning because I hadn't slept last night and I really didn't want to leave Spain.  I cried a lot in the airport because I didn't like it when I set off the metal detectors (I had forgotten to take off my cute metal braceletes I'd bought the night before in Madrid) and some lady had to pat me down.  I just kept shaking and crying, and I think that annoyed her.  I had a miserable time today and I'll be glad to get home. :(

March 11, 2011 Friday

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Last day in Spain. :( After breakfast, we got on the coach and toured around the city for a while, and once again, I found that I was very impressed with Madrid.  It's a wonderful city, and I wish we could have spent more time there.  I was super excited when we went on an amazing tour of the royal palace.  It was so impressive, I didn't think I'd enjoy anything else in Madrid as much as I enjoyed touring that royal palace...until we went to the Prado Museum.  It was spectacular.  However, I've decided that I'm never going back there ever again (or at least until I've gotten better at Spanish) after my unfortunate problem with security when we first got there.  But aside from that, the museum itself was phenomenal.  I'm not really all that interested in art, but this museum got me really excited.  The Prado is just one of those places you HAVE to go to when you go to Madrid.  I love it.  After that, me, Jess, Andrew, and Shanna decided to go shopping.  I really liked Mango a lot, and I know I'm definitely going shopping there again the next time I'm in Madrid.  I bought some new clothes and shoes, went back to the hotel and showered, and then got dressed up for dinner (which we were late for).  We took the metro and we had to walk quickly because of being so late, and my shoes were killing me.  They were adorable wedges, but they just hurt really bad.  They were also too big (I really don't understand European sizes), and I'm just not used to being in anything but sneakers).  I got so frustrated that I just took them off and ran barefoot through the streets of Madrid in the rain.  After dinner, me, Shanna, and Jess decided to go to a bar with Ali and some other people, and it was really fun because I got to talk to loads of different people in Spanish.  I was so happy.  I actually ended up giving Ali my shoes later that night when we got back to the hotel, because they fit her better than me and she loved them.  Even though they were adorable they were just too painful and I knew I'd never wear them again.  We nicknamed them "the shoes from hell" and I thanked her for taking them off of my hands (and feet lol) for me.  Even now I'm flinching just thinking about walking on those cobblestone streets wearing those wedges.  I don't know how Europeans do it; I'll just stick with my good ole sneakers.  At least Ali won't forget me now. :) I really miss Madrid, and had a lot of fun going out, and I wish I were there right now.

March 10, 2011 Thursday

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So, I can't really say that I enjoyed that incredibly long bus ride.  I didn't want to leave Seville, so I wasn't in a very good mood when I got up in the morning.  I was sad getting onto the coach, and I wanted to cry because I was so tired and miserable, but I held it in because I'm just mature like that. :) We drove for a really long time, although we did stop to eat and use the restroom.  When we were close to Madrid, we stopped to see where Don Quijote lived, and I really enjoyed that.  However, I didn't like it when I tried to ask the bartender there if he sold sandwiches, and he spoke to me very rudely and then made fun of me to some really ugly fat old ladies eating at a table.  He was speaking Spanish, but I could understand a little of what they were saying about me. :(  Jerks.  Then we got back on the bus and drove some more, and Ali pointed important things out to us when we were in Madrid.  When we FINALLY got to the hotel, I immediately claimed the shower.  Shanna wanted me to go out with her and some of the other girls that night, but I didn't want to because I wasn't feeling very well, so I went to bed early.   

March 9, 2011 Wednesday

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I think Seville was my favorite place that we went to in Spain.  I loved all the trees with the oranges on them, and just how pretty everything looked.  To me, it seemed more like a children's book than a real place.  I don't think I could really see myself living there, but I really loved it and I know I'll go back within the next few years.  It was just so beautiful to me.  We had a lot of fun there, even though it was raining the day we spent there,  We went to the third largest Cathedral in the world, which was FANTASTIC.  It was so beaufiful and impressive, and just really enormous.  And there was so much in it, we didn't get to see everything.  That would have taken all day.  We climbed to the top of the tower, which was exhausting and took forever, but well worth it.  We could see practically EVERYTHING in Seville from the top of that tower.  However, as soon as we got up there the first thing I wanted to do was take a picture of the bullfighting ring, but, unfortunately, that didn't happen.  As soon as I reached the top of the tower, my camara ran out of memory.  Typical.  I didn't want to delete any of the pictures that I had, so I just told Shanna to take lots of pictures and tag me in them.  In all honesty, I was tired of taking pictures anyway, and I didn't want to spend my whole trip behind a camara, so it was actually a bit of a relief.  The view was even more beautiful when I didn't have to look at it through my camara lense.  Later that day, we took a group picture, which I didn't like doing all that much because I'm not a huge fan of having my picture taken.  I did buy one of the pictures though, because I knew that these would be important memories for me to reflect on when I got older, and it wasn't as though I'd ever be traveling with that same group of people ever again.  I don't really like how I look in that picture, but I'm glad I bought it. The tour of Seville was fun, even though it wore me out, and we didn't actually do all that much walking thanks to the weather.  The Bullfighting Museum was my favorite thing that I saw on the tour, because I really liked the bullring.  I want to see an actual bullfight the next time I go to Spain.  After that, we had free time for a while and then we went back to the hotel for the night.    

March 8, 2011 Tuesday

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Oh my goodness Granada is so beautiful.  My first sight of it was on the train in the morning, and everything was all country-ish and reminded me of the pictures of see of the country areas of China.  I kept joking that we were actually in China rather than Spain.  We had to hurry and get off the train and onto the coach bus, and then we went to visit the Alhambra, which was fantastic.  It reminded me of the palace from Aladdin.  The tour may may have been really long and tiring, but it was impressive and well worth it.  I absolutely loved it.  I can't believe that people actually lived in such a beautiful place.  My favorite part was standing on this porch-type thing where we could see EVERYTHING, and our tour guide, Paco, told us that that was supposed to be the most beautiful sunset in the world.  It's too bad we couldn't actually see it at sunset.  I was very taken aback with the beauty of the Alhambra, and I know I'll go back there in a heartbeat the next time I'm back in Granada.  Outside the Granada, there were some gypsies trying to scam some people into buying rosemary.  Ali had told us not to buy any from them, because they would grab your hand and try to read your palm, whether you wanted them to or not, and then they would charge you twenty euros for it.  We watched them rip off some blonde lady, and Senora Gomez said, "She looks like Kaitlyn," and then she laughed.  Gee, thanks Senora.  There were a really lot of gypsies in Granada.  After that, we left to go eat lunch, and I had the brilliant idea of trying snails.  Yuck.  They didn't taste all that bad, but when I took them out of the shell, they looked like worms, which I'm terrified of, so after one I just couldn't eat anymore.  They still had their little antenna-things.  :(  I got really frustrated with trying to eat lunch in Granada, because it seems like everyone on the entire trip ended up in the same restaurant, and everyone was asking me to read the menu for them, or speak to the waiter for them, when I was hungry and just wanted to eat.  I liked speaking Spanish, I really did, but I felt more like a babysitter or a parent than just a friend.  It was especially annoying when people KNEW  how to ask for something in Spanish but insisted that I get up from my meal and do it anyway for them.  I was really irritated by the end of the meal, and I wish I hadn't let that get me so down because Granada was a nice city and I think my frustration prevented me from enjoying it properly.  Andrew, Shanna, and I walked around exploring until we had to go back to the hotel, which was BEAUTIFUL.  I have to make sure that I stay there when I go back to Granada.  I loved that one so much. <3 After that, me and Shanna went with some others on an excursion to a flamenco show, and it was good, but I think it could have been better.  First of all, it was really rainy and depressing, and we had to walk for a really long time to get there.  The tour guide kept showing us things we had already seen there, and we were so tired and wet that we didn't really care to see them again.  We just wanted to get there.  I was impressed though, that our guide could speak Arabic, Chinese, English, and Spanish all very well, though it bothered me that he could do all that but didn't have a very good job.  My future's not looking too bright.  Then, they didn't even serve hot chocolate, which was a really big bummer to me.  I like hot chocolate. :)  The show was in on of the gypsy caves, and we could also tell that the flamenco dancers were only dancing to make money off of the tourists, not because they truly loved flamenco, and this was really disappointing for me.  The next time I go to Spain, I plan to see another flamenco show, and I'll be more careful about where I go.  I can't say that my experience in Granada was terrible, because I enjoyed it, but I liked the other places a lot more.      

March 7, 2011 Monday

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Feeling super refreshed from finally taking a shower and sleeping in an actual bed...amazing!!!After a quick breakfast, we grabbed our luggage and things, and then went off into the city.  We had a tour of the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.  It was incredible.  I found that if you sit on the ground and look up at all the buildings, they are somehow even more impressive.  I was just so amazed.  After finding out that I was going to Spain, one of my old high school teachers had told me that Barcelona is a great city and that I'd really like it.  I kind of assumed that it was really all a bunch of American hype, so I didn't really believe that.  But after that tour, I really understood what she was talking about.  I just couldn't get over how beautiful Barcelona truly was.  You can't truly take in the beauty of Spain by reading National Geographic.  It's just something you have to see for yourself.  After the tour, me, Shanna, and Andrew went with some professors to the the Miro.  On the way there, I was in a taxi with Shanna and Andrew (there were too many of us to all take one), and the driver was really friendly.  He asked us about school, and what we were majoring in, and he spoke Spanish to me.  He also thought we were all one family (LOL!), and I told him now, although I do think that Andrew bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Hamilton.  Just kidding.  It was a really nice museum, and I loved it because it had so many funky look abstract paintings and sculptures and things like that.  Basically it was my mind on canvas.  We had lunch there, in some little yard area thing in the building.  I had my first tuna sandwich with a hardboiled egg inside of it, which I guess wasn't exactly Spanish, but it was new to me. =]  Even though we didn't get to go on some really high thing that would take us over the water and give us a spectacular view of Barcelona, I'm still really glad that we got to see the Miro.  It was great.  On the way back to La Rambla, we had a different taxi driver, and ours got a little loco.  He got angry with another driver and started driving ridiculously fast.   Me and Shanna were with Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Sillman.  Shanna got scared, but I thought it was really cool.  I looked over at Dr. Sillman, and she was smiling, so I didn't really think there was anything to worry about.  That night, we went to a train station to get on an overnight train and go to Granada.  When we got to the train station, I needed money so I had Senora help me use the ATM machine there.  A few minutes later, after she was gone and me and Shanna were just standing around talking, I got really upset because some girl told me and Shanna that she needed money because a lot of bad things happened to her.  She said her boyfriend got in an accident, and his legs didn't work anymore, and she was two months pregnant with his baby, and that she wanted to go home (to France), and be with her parents, but someone stole all of her stuff, like her passport and money, so she was stranded in the train station and had to sleep there the night before.  She cried when she told us all of this, and it made me want to.  I felt awful and then I asked Dr. Gomez how to know if she was lying or not, and he didn't want me to give her any money, so I cried.  Hard.  I turned away from her when I was crying though, because I know you're not supposed to let people who ask you for money see you upset or they'll target you.  Senora Gomez talked to me for a few minutes about it, and then I realized that Dr. Gomez was right.  But I still felt bad on the train, which, by the way, was extremely cramped.  My friends were kind of angry with the arrangements, but I thought it was kind of fun.  A tad claustrophobic, but fun.  Whenever I got too uncomfortable with the crowded conditions, I just went to the bar, ordered food, and chatted casually with the bartender in Spanish.  Even though my Spanish wasn't all that good, it made me feel really good and pretty grown-up that I could speak to that man rather than just point or say things in Spanglish.  One problem I DID run into, though, was trying to say "pepperoni" in Spanish when I tried ordering a pizza.  I didn't know how, and I'm not even sure what animal a pepperoni is from, so I couldn't really explain what it was.  However, he was really friendly towards me, and I think I did a pretty good job conversing with him aside from not being able to tell him I wanted pepperoni on my pizza.  I had a difficult time with my ears popping, but that's always been an issue for me.  I'm from a state with almost no elevation, and even going to Pennsylvania was an awful experience for me, so I had a hard time going through the mountaints of Spain.  0_o  Also, I found it pretty difficult to pee on such a bumpy train and kept getting a leg, and there was a dirth (I love that word =]) of toilet paper in our bathroom.  However, I told Ashley how to ask for toilet paper (she was so proud of herself when she came back with some! :D), and the problem was solved.  So, aside from those very minor setbacks, I think the overnight train was one of the most enjoyable things we did in Spain.  I got to speak to people in Spanish and have fun with my friends.     

March 6, 2011 Sunday

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Didn't get a wink of sleep on the airplane, but I still feel great. :) I was really happy when everyone finally woke up, because I knew we'd be getting off soon.  I couldn't even eat anything for breakfast.  When we started to land and I first caught sight of Barcelona, I was so pumped I almost cried.  I'd never been in another country, so I just couldn't believe we were actually in Spain.  When we got off of the airplane, we met our tour manager, Ali, who was really nice, and then we had some free time to eat lunch and stuff.  Shanna, Andrew and I walked into a really nice-looking clothing store called Custo Barcelona.  The clothes were kind of pretty but also really strange-looking, and they were really expensive.  I'd thought I'd buy something there, but then I left when I saw that the place was full of mirrors (which I have a phobia of).  It scared the crap out of me when I almost walked into one.  Never going back there ever again.  After that, we got on a bus and went to different places in Barcelona to look around, but by this time the exhaustion from not sleeping on the plane was beginning to set in.  I was also desperate for a shower, so I was more focused on how bad I smelled and trying not to fall asleep to really take enough in.  However, I WAS pretty impressed with the statue of Christopher Columbus, which was ENORMOUS.  After we drove around and took pictures for a while, we had some free time, which I spent with Shanna and Andrew.  We went to a lot of those little tourist shop things, where some creepy guy flirted with me and Shanna, and then ripped us off.  Creepy and cheap.  Glad there's no men like THAT back in the United States.  Jk lol. xD I think Andrew had finally found his calling.  He is going to be one of those "statue people" that hang out on la Rambla, getting tourists to put their money into their bowls, and then forcing even more money out of them by grabbing their wrists.  Yeah, I guess I could definitely see Andrew doing something weird like that as his career. :)  We met a very interesting woman dressed as a monkey on la Rambla that jumped Shanna.  Me, Shanna, and Andrew were all talking to each other, and Shanna had her back to a tree, which this very short woman dressed as a monkey just randomly appeared from behind.  She put her finger to her lips, indicating to me and Andrew that we had to be quiet, and I wanted to tell Shanna, but we were so scared and it all happened so fast that we just didn't know what to say.  Then she scared Shanna, and took pictures with all of us, and then showed us her "family," a little red wagon full of stuffed monkeys.  She referred to them as her children, and she spoke perfect English.  Strangely enough, all she wanted was to take pictures with us (and apparently make some kissing noises at us), but she didn't even bother trying to rob us.  She was really nice, but when we walked back Shanna was scared and did everything she could to avoid her.  We ate lunch at a restaurant that looked really nice, since we hadn't eaten at the airport, and Andrew and I had our first experience with Spanish food, and it wasn't a good one.  We ordered smoked salmon, which was pretty much raw (and tasted like ham, which I hate).  The waitress assured us that it wouldn't make us sick, but I lost my appetite after that.  I'm a very picky eater, but I did try some, because I figured I should eat Spanish food while in Spain, and I didn't really like it.  Oh, well, at least I tried eating it.  We shopped around, and I came to the conclusion that I really like Barcelona.  However, I don't like how most people there speak Catalan rather than Castillan Spanish, so I don't think I could ever live there like Andrew says he wants to. Before we went back to the hotel, we went to see the Sagrada Familia, which I instantly fell in love with.  It was amazing.  We only saw the outside, but I still adored it.  It was an incredible building.  I was so excited when we finally got to the hotel that night for dinner, because I wanted to shower so badly.  My hair was all nasty and greasy and nasty and I KNEW not that my body was definitely emitting some funky odors.  The hotel was alright, and dinner was too, but I think that just taking a shower was the highlight of my night.  Before it was time for dinner, Shanna and I took a walk to a really beautiful park, where there were dogs everywhere.  I saw some really cute puppy walking with a girl who looked to be about our age, and I yelled "Me gusta tu perro" at her when me and Shanna were walking down some steps, and then proceeded to trip on the last one.  >:-(  There was also some random blue guy.  I really wanted to ask him why he was blue, but I didn't think that would be very ladylike or polite.  We later hypothesized that he was probably one of those statue people when we were talking to Dr. Gomez.  He told us to stay away from those people, which made me sad because they seemed pretty cool, but I knew that he was right.  :(  I wanted him and the other grown-ups to come back to the park with us after dinner, and he said maybe, but then it got dark so we never went back there again.  I was crushed. D':  Later on, after dinner was over, me, Shanna, and Andrew went looking for a grocery store, and then we found some of the grown-ups who were on the trip with us and walked around with them.  I got really excited when someone from our group tried to ask a woman if she knew where we could buy water, and then I got to ask her in Spanish where we could find a store, and she understood me and told me.  It was really exciting. 

March 5, 2011 Saturday

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So, I've come to the conclusion that traveling from Pittsburgh to Barcelona is NOT my cup of tea.  I can't say that I completely hated it or anything, I just didn't enjoy it all that much.  It just took so long, and I wanted to be in Spain soooo badly that I couldn't relax on the plane.  I was excited on the plane to New Jersey, though, because it was my first ever plane ride.  I was also a little scared too. The layover was incredibly boring, but I was so excited that I didn't care all that much.  It made me laugh when these two people started randomly dancing on the conveyor belt-type thing that you can go on with your luggage if you don't feel like walking.  It was really funny.  I liked how quick the first plane ride was, but the second one was waaaay too long.  The man and his wife who sat next to mean on the plane were really nice, but it was such a long trip and I was going nuts.  It was about as long as it takes to drive from Pennsylvania to Connecticut.  -_- I hated sitting for so long.

Madrid

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The drive to Madrid was not quite what I was expecting it to be. We left Seville in the morning and arrived in Madrid in the late afternoon. I was expecting the large amounts of Olive trees but I was not ready for how many there actually where. Everywhere there were Olives! In between roads, in burned out houses. In large and small orchards. If you saw a tree you could assume it was an olive. We stopped at this service stop. Nicest one ive ever been to, it was huge, it had a cafe that actually made real food as well as a bunch of quick sandwich and dessert options. I wish the US had stops like this instead of a Mcdonalds and maybe a Starbucks if your lucky. Something different from home is they had two stores completey devoted to the Iberian ham and olive oil. An entire store! Well after a 6 plus hour drive we came to Madrid, the City was very large, and alot cleaner than I expected. All of the cities were cleaner than I expected. It had a very calm air to it, unlike Barcelona, even though it was the capital. We had a quick orientation tour and arrived at our hotel. Once in or room we had to open the windows, because it was so hot. Something that I noticed, all the windows in hotels actually open like a normal residential window. Unlike hotels in the states you could easily fall out of them. Well after getting settled in we went out and hit the town. The Madrid Metro really made the Barcelona one look small. Barcelona was more advanced however. We got off at the main plaza del sol, so named for how the sun used to enter the old gates in the morning. It was like the times square of Spain. Busy all through the night. We went with Alli and found her favorite Hot chocolate place. Let me tell you not what I was expecting. It was like a melted chocolate bar. You dip these long doughnuts into it, because there is no way you drink it. Alot different than ours, but good. After that we tour the Plaza Mayor and stopped in a turkish restaurant for dinner. Then we met back up with everyone and went out to go tapas hopping. Which is going from restaurant to restaurant sampling each of their foods. The next day we went to the royal palace. Sadly we were not allowed to take photos because it was breath taking. Each room had its own design and was covered in frescos and gilded statues and clocks. Though it was beautiful im glad i dont live in it. It would be too much pomp for me. It is still used for royal state visits. Then we went to the Prodo It was awesome, but I did like the Chicago and DC art museums better. Now this museum did have more famous art pieces. The Goya pieces were awesome, and I liked Velazquez too. I bought two prints as gifts. After having lunch there We got lost while trying to find the metro. We toured the town for a couple of hours. Got in some culture of the towns. Then we went back out on the town again after our farewell dinner. Thus ending our time in Spain.    

seville

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The next day we boarded the bus for Seville. This was one of the places where we saw the never ending olive trees. It rained all day in Seville I think I would have enjoyed the city more otherwise. We saw the Santa cruz district which was very similar to the moorish quarter in Granada. and the 3rd largest cahtedral in the world, which housed the tomb of Christopher Colombus. The inside of the Cathedral was amazing, it was honestly two big, you could have held 30 services in the place at the same to and not have noticed. The art and amount of detail in the architecture was amazing. While looking at it all I could not even imagine the amount of effort it must have taken to build it. I found the tomb of Christopher Colombus within this church. Apparently only about 20 percent of his body is actually within it, most was lost during the invasion of Napolean. Also We climbed the bell tower Giralda. Which used to be a Muslim mineret from the previous mosque that was on the site. They convereted it over the years into a bell tower.

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