Monday, February 25, 2013

Madrid

¡Hola Chicos!
I spent this past weekend in Madrid. It was absolutely incredible; such a great trip. We caught a flight bright and early on Thursday morning and flew to Toledo. There we spent the day touring the city of Toledo which is very famous for its swords. It also has a lot of Jewish history. In fact, there are small tiles every couple of yards throughout the streets with various Jewish symbols to remind people of their history.
   Our tour guide was fantastic! His name was Javier and he was a Spanish native. In the beginning we thought that his English sounded very strange, almost comical. Later on we found out that he was taught English by an Irishman so he had an Irish accent! We toured an important synagogue, a catholic cathedral and the small meandering streets of Toledo. Unfortunately it started raining the second we stepped off the bus so we were wet, cold and pretty miserable the whole time. Still, Toledo was a very beautiful city with a lot of history. It also had incredible views.



So thats where my hat went!


A picture can't capture the beauty of this view
After Toledo we took an hour long bus ride to Madrid where we were set free for the night. We spent the night bar-hopping in the neighborhood where all of the young people prefer to hang out. We ate dinner at this restaurant where you would get 1 large beer and 3 plates of tapas for 4 euro. Mistakenly, the waiter forgot to give us silverware so we just assumed that it wasn't necessary for these types of tapas -including the fried eggs with rice... Needless to say we provided the entertainment for the group of locals seated across from us who thought we were very amusing. Eventually they ordered forks for us.
I've seen similar pictures of this online; I love this! ( It says: Before I die I want to _____)

The following day we began with a tour of Puerta del Sol which is the city center of Madrid. In fact, it is geographically the exact center of Spain. Appropriate that it is called The Sun. Here, we had Javier again show us around Madrid. We even got to tour the palace where the kings and queens of Spain lived. The King and Queen of Spain still stay here but not all the time. For those of you who are unaware, Spain has a King and Queen and a president (many Spaniards do not like either of the two). 
The exact center of Spain
 
I found baby Ginny!
Our tour group
This bridge is called the Suicide Bridge. Several people have committed suicide here, and a stuntman died here because his rope was 95 feet and the bridge is 90 feet... Now, there is a 7 foot tall glass fence to prevent people from jumping. 

The Royal Palace
That night, many of the kids ended up going to El Capital which is a very famous 7-floor club -very popular amongst the tourists. It was very expensive to get in my good friend Lyndsay and I explored the area and went to a few bars.

On our last day, we took a tour of El Prado -A very famous art museum. I actually was really interested in the art in this museum, many of the pieces are very famous such as Las Meninas. After the museum we were set free. We spent the rest of our time in Parque del Retiro which is this beautiful giant park -almost like the Central Park of Madrid. Here we looked around at the street vendors and enjoyed the beauty of the park. It was miserably cold though!





Found a great dane -Can you tell that I really miss my puppies yet??


The beautiful artwork this man in the park painted with the palm of his hands in 5 minutes SO CRAZY!

So overall, Madrid was awesome! I'm so glad I got to go. It was also a lot different than Barcelona in many aspects. It had a lot less color than Barcelona does, and the metro system was a little less convenient in terms of time and size. I've already found that I am biased when it comes to Madrid vs. Barcelona. Barcelona is my home, and I am so head over heels in love with Barcelona already. Needless to say I was smiling as we were landing back home

P.S. Tomorrow is the Real Madrid v. Barça game - there is a HUGE rivalry between the two because essentially they're the two best teams in the world. Think Red Sox vs. Yankees times 10! GO BARÇA!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Barcelona is my playground

¡Hola!
This past week was so great and not to mention productive! I've conquered many more places that are on my "To See" list which makes me feel better since I don't have another weekend in Barcelona for a couple weeks due to trips.

On Friday I spent the day with Lyndsay exploring. I'd been wanting to go to Poblenou Park which I've read is absolutely gorgeous. Being 55 degrees, we forgot that it was winter here and quickly realized we'd come during the wrong season. It was kind of amusing in a way.
This is what it is supposed to look like
This is what is actually looked like...
Afterward, we checked out one of the famous Gaudí houses -La Pedrera. Its 15 Euro to get in so we just enjoyed it from the outside.

We then had the most amazing meal at an authentic Mexican restaurant complete with a Mariachi band and everything. We finished the night by going out to a few bars and clubs.

On saturday I met up with my intercambio partner Raquel. Basically, I meet up with her every week and we go somewhere (like to a cafe, or to a movie) and I practice my Spanish with her. Raquel is so so awesome too I love to hang out with her. Her roommate is partners with one of my friends here so we all got together and went on a little hike to Bunkers Parc del Guinardó which is an old war bunker from the 19th century that has the most amazing view. Its also awesome because the tourists don't know about this spot so its not touristy at all.

The amazing view you can see The Sagrada Familia out there

On a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean 

Raquel and I



That night I went to a weekend long festival called Les Festes de Santa Eulàlia. Santa Eulàlia is a co-patron saint of Barcelona. This festival celebrates her short life -she was subject to 13 brutal tortures by the Romans. We watched the light show where they project lights onto an important Catalan government building and synch it to music. It was SO cool and so beautiful!!







video
Heres a clip of what it was like!

Today we went to another portion of the festival. We caught some of the parade in which these gigantic people come down the street. I'm assuming that they each represent an important person. Then we finally got to see the famous Castellers!!


The towers of 3 all moved from one end of the plaza to the other

They shake like crazy!

I didn't realize how many people they have supporting them underneath and on the sides. Theres a huge group of about 50 surrounding them. They have a very organized system.
Here are some a my favorite pics from the week:
I absolutely love looking at all of the local artwork
My favorite doughnut at Dunkin' Coffee, not Dunkin' Doughnuts, Dunkin' Coffee.
The animals are our friends, don't mistreat them.
The most beautiful and peaceful walk I took on Valentines Day
Just a clown getting ready for the day