El Fin. The end.

19 May

Well, the time has come, and I’m finally at the end of my trip. I’m sitting in my room packing my life up feeling quite weird. The past week has been incredible and a complete blur. I finished my finals on Tuesday, wrapped up all my souvenir shopping, and celebrated my friend Samantha’s birthday which was lots of fun. Yesterday was a pretty awesome day as well. I slept late, and then we all headed to the Arab baths for a few hours of relaxation: http://www.granada.hammamspain.com/
There was a hot bath, a cold bath, and a lukewarm bath, along with a steamroom, and we each got 15 minute massages. UConn sure treats us well ;). We then went for some yummy yummy ice cream, and went home to “ponernos guapos” for our goodbye dinner later. I really can’t believe we’re at this point, the dinner was good, a lot of yummy tapas, a lot of crying.
Today is just devoted to packing, and then later we’re going to Antonio’s where we’ll finish off the rest of our money by drinking champagne with cheese and fruit :). He’s really the most amazing director ever, I can’t even imagine what my abroad experience would have been like without him.

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¡Vamos a la playa!

15 May

Yesterday, Saturday was the last time I’ll leave Granada before I go home. Everything we do now is chronicled as “the last time we’ll do ____ before we go”. We spent the day in Nerja, a town on the Costa del Sol of Spain, to basically lounge on the beach all day. Thanks UConn. The day was absolutely perfect. Perfect weather, not too hot with not a cloud in the sky. The city is absolutely stunning.

Nerja!


The water was crystal clear, not too cold, and so refreshing.

Beautiful water


We ate lunch at a restaurant on the beach with unlimited paella and tinto de verano. Really, thanks UConn.
Unfortunately, despite my applying sunscreen 4 different times throughout the day, I still managed to get sunburnt. Nothing too bad, only some spots and it’s not too painful. After that perfect and stress free day however, I must spend all of today doing work for final projects and exams, although I really can’t complain because the workload is still a tiny fraction of what I’d get at UConn. And then, in about 5 days, I’ll be flying home!!!!

Last trip!

13 May

This past weekend concluded my last trip while I’m here abroad. We traveling throughout Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, Salamanca, and Toledo. It was definitely a really busy trip with lots of running around, and sad as well, as our time here abroad is quickly running out.

We left for Madrid on Thursday, wayyyy too early in the morning. Stopped in the city of Almagro on the way to appease Antonio’s love of ancient theater–there’s this really old “corral de comedias” there. It could have been cool, but frankly we all just wanted to sleep and no one was really interested. At least Antonio had fun. Once we got to Madrid we ate at this awesome cider place called Casa Mingo. Later, we headed to an amusement park! It was a nice change from the normal, although for being one of the best amusement parks in Europe, it’s pretty small–I think Adventureland on LI is bigger. We then headed back for some necessary naptime and went out to explore some of the bar scene.
Friday was a lot of walking around and touring with Antonio- Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, Templo de Debod, the Real Madrid stadium-Bernabeu, and Parque de Buen Retiro. Some I’d seen before, but it was nice just to explore around and get info from a real Madrileño! We took some rowboats around the park, and later split up to go to our museum of choice, mine being the Reina Sofia, the museum of modern art there.
Saturday started with a visit to El Escorial, the old palace where all of the kings are buried. I’d never been before but have learned a lot about it so it was cool to finally go see it. We then headed on our way to Segovia to wander around for the day. We first went for lunch at this place that features cochinillo, basically piglet. In order to prove that their particular cochinillo is the best, they selected one of the girls from our group to cut the pig into quarters with a plate!
She then had to smash the plate to prove that it all wasn’t a ruse. It was pretty cool to watch, although you can imagine my displeasure because of the poor piglet. I instead ate a yummy steak kebob:
After lunch we went on a walking tour of Segovia, saw the aqueduct and walked up a few towers-exhausting. That evening we were on our way to Ávila, which turned out to be a complete surprise. Frankly, before this trip I’d never even heard of it, but it really is a gem of a place. It’s absolutely beautiful, surrounded by castle walls.

So pretty!


We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning-lunch there. While there wasn’t a ton to do in the city, we just wandered around, found some cool lookouts for some pretty views, and ate a delicious lunch. I had the BEST steak I’ve ever eaten there, I really can’t get over how well Antonio’s fed us while we’re here. We did some more climbing (sometimes I feel like the essence of my study abroad experience is climbing towers and walls for better views) and then headed to Salamanca!
I was really excited for Salamanca, because I have a few friends that had studied abroad there and told me about some stuff. We had free time the whole time we were there, so we really just wandered and explored around, seeing all of the sights, grabbed some dinner and went to a local recommended bar. We left bright and early from Salamanca on Monday morning, when we headed to Toledo. We just spent the day there before we headed back to Granada for dinnertime. I’d been to Toledo before, but I didn’t really remember much of it. We saw a lot of the city, but didn’t really hit anywhere specific so we just got a sort of general overview of the place.
It’s really crazy that this was my last trip, and now as more time has passed, it’s officially one week until I’ll be flying home to the US!!

This little bugger

10 May

is the bane of my existence in this apartment.

He’s tiny, evil, and wants to take over the world. His first mission is apparently to murder me via allergies. He’s becoming successful.

Prague/Praga/Praha, my weekend in Bohemia

3 May

Prague. My final personal and flight-requiring excursion of my study abroad experience. Weird.
Thankfully also my last experience of unnecessarily traveling the 5 hours to Madrid, just to sleep uncomfortably in the airport. The bus was actually the nicest bus I’ve taken so far, but I got zero sleep while we were in the airport, can’t win ’em all. We got into Madrid at around 1am, had our flight out to Frankfurt at 6am, a short layover, and landed in Prague at around noon on Friday. I discovered that the Czech language is damn near impossible to pronounce, since they’re not exactly firm believers in putting a ton of vowels in between their consonants. Taking out crowns was an interesting experience…the inflation there is absurd. It’s around 17 crowns to the USD, and 24 to the Euro. We were all packing thousand dollar bills all weekend, and it never stopped feeling weird.

Ridiculous.

Just a causal 2,000...

We had quite the adventure in trying to find out hostel when we first got there (it was just Alicia and I at this point, but there were going to be 9 of us in total once everyone got there) and it ended up taking us around 2 hours to get to it. Afterwards, we went wandering and met up with Sam and Steph for lunch at this cute italian restaurant on the water.

The view from our window at the restaurant


The frightening bill


Then, Mama will love this, we went to explore the Jewish Quarter! It’s where the old Jewish ghetto used to be, and now there’s a bunch of synagogues there along with the Old Jewish cemetery. The first synagogue had rooms upon rooms of names, it was a Holocaust memorial where all the names were Jews from the Prague area who had perished. It was really heavy and emotional, but had to be seen. The other part of this synagogue was a collection of children’s drawings from the concentration camp that was near there. There was an art therapist in the concentration camp who wanted to keep the children’s spirits up and decided to have them draw, mostly happy memories or hopes of the future, as a release and to try and prevent depression as much as possible. It was really interesting and very moving, I’m definitely glad I got to see it.
Another synagogue was full of information and artifacts of Jewish customs- a nice change from all of the Catholic material we’re constantly exposed to. The final synagogue we saw was really cool, the Spanish synagogue. It has a very interesting look to it (sadly, no pics) because it’s a tribute to Moorish architecture because of the help the Muslims gave to the Jews in Andalucia. It looked a lot like the architecture in the Alhambra with its doorways/windows, and is a cool concept, considering how unexpected that whole concept would be today. The cemetery was a little unnerving. It’s from the 14th century onward, in this tiny little space literally littered with gravestones. They’re piled on top of each other, because there are layers upon layers of bodies underneath since it was the only place the Jews could bury their dead. As necessary as it was to see, I can’t say I was upset when we were done with that part.
After that we went back to the hostel to meet up with everyone who had finally gotten there and met up with Misha’s friend to go to a few bars and clubs.
Saturday we decided to sleep in a tiny bit, and then headed to the Old town square with the ever-famous astronomical clock which I found rather overrated. There was also this AWESOME market going on because of easter with tons of food stands. I ate a scrumptious chicken kebab, potato pancakes, and this weird grilled cheese thing, which is literally a grilled piece of cheese, not a sandwich:

thanks, googleimages


As yummy as everything was, Czech food is really heavy and I’m glad I could only enjoy it for the few days I was there. We then climbed a tower for a nice view of the city, saw a few weddings-actually a lot of weddings, and then met up with Joey’s friend who lives in the Czech Republic. Saw the Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle, and then wandered around for some beer and goulash! We then headed back for a nap and a fun night out at a dubstep club near our hostel.
Sunday, we woke up early for a free tour that ended up being really good! It was super informative and we got to see parts of the city that we probably wouldn’t have seen on our own. Also, I got to eat a BAGEL with veggie cream cheese, and then a sandwich with chicken and avocado, thus, my life was made food-wise. Wandered around some more, hiked up this park for another awesome view of the city and placed on the playgroud that was at the top like the typical 5 year olds we are. We were all running short on more at this point, so we just headed back down to the city, found a beer garden (really just a patio with benches at a bar…) and went back to the hostel. All was lovely, minus the MAJOR inconvenience of being wildly overcharged for our cab ride back to the hostel…980 crown which equated to 42 euros! At least there were 3 of us, but I was NOT pleased. Oh well, hopefully my last tourist mistake!

While I was away…

2 May

So, word on the street is that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Actually, German news verified it for me this morning so I can no longer call it speculation. (I was in Prague over the weekend, saw the news in the Frankfurt airport) I didn’t think it would be he kind of event that years from now everyone asks “where were you when it happened?” but judging from the amount of international media coverage and the sheer number of facebook statuses relating to it, I feel it may be one of those events. As for my “where was I” story, well, I was consuming Czech beer and scarfing down a fried cheese in the middle of Prague whilst remaining blissfully ignorant of the world outside of Bohemia. after seeing facebook this morning I said to Alicia “dude, I think Osama Bin laden is dead!” to which she replied “say whaaaat?!” not our most patriotic moments. Oh well, what’s a study abroad student to do when traveling for the weekend without a source of proper worldnews

Reasons why I love Spain…

28 Apr

I wore my Barcelona jersey today, in honor of their fabulous victory over Madrid in the football with the feet game last night. As a direct result, all day I had small children scream BARÇAAA at me with joy, and a few even ran up and hugged me.