Wednesday, February 24, 2010


So sorry it has taken so long to update this after Ireland! But, in a nut shell, Ireland was the best weekend of my life. I LOVED IT. Everyone there was so friendly, Irish accents are amazing, and the country is beautiful. 6 of us girls left on Thursday night and took a 3 hour bus ride to Madrid. Arriving around 11:30 pm, we had about 12 hours to kill before our plane. Needless to say, never plan on sleeping on the airport when your plane leaves at 11:30 in the morning. We decided to take the metro instead of a cab to the airport to save money. The metro, however, closes at 1:30 am, and we didn't make it to our last stop in time. So we had to catch a cab from there to the airport anyways. Basically, within 24 hours I had taken 4 different types of transportation (none of them being a normal car). That night we slept in the airport which was cold, loud, and pretty horrible in general, but I won't complain about that anymore. We arrived in Dublin, Ireland and took a bus from there to Galway. We arrived in Galway around 6 that evening tired and exhausted, but I was so excited to be there my adrenaline somehow kept me going without collapsing! HA.
In Galway we booked a hostel in the middle of the city, which was perfect because it is about a 5 minute walk from the downtown! Staying in a hostel, let me tell you, is a different experience. We booked an 8 person room, so there were 2 Australian girls already staying there when we arrived. They gave us some good suggestions on places to eat and go out, so we quickly put our stuff away and left the hostel to explore and eat because I was starving for a good meal after all that traveling! We ended up at this restaurant called "Monroe's" and I think I ate the best meal of my life there. It may have just been the fact that for the last 3 weeks I had been fed Spanish food, and this meal had red meat, and food cooked without olive oil. After dinner, we went to a couple Irish pubs. I found out quickly that in Ireland, Guinness is the cheapest beer because it originates there. The Irish pub was such a fun atmosphere, because there was a live Irish band and a lot of the people knew the songs. They even played the song from P.S. I Love You! That night we turned in around 12:30 because we were so tired.
The next morning was kind of funny. Tanya asked me to set the alarm for 7:30 am so she could get up and shower. I decided to get up around 8 to get ready before everyone else crowded the bathroom. We both got ready, ate breakfast, and the whole time were wondering why the whole hostel was dead, because 8:30 wasn't super early. After we were completely ready, I asked the front desk what time it was, and he responded with "its 7:45 am". I, being the smart one I am, totally forgot about the time change and basically got up at the crack of dawn. We wanted to explore, however, so we went and got coffee and walked around Galway. The whole town was filled with fog and the river was beautiful. When we got back, everyone else was finally awake, and we left for a bus tour of the country.
The Ireland countryside is GORGEOUS. I have never seen so many shades of blue and green in my life. On the way to our first stop, we passed rolling hills, pastures with sheep, castles, different church ruins, and a bay coastline. Our first stop was a walking tour, which took place at a cottage nestled in a valley between 2 mountains. The tour guide explained how his family had owned this piece of land for 600 years, along with the 2 mountains surrounding it. We hiked to the top of the hill/mountain, and saw a breathtaking view: mountains in the distance covered in fog, an ancient abbey, and miles of green land scattered with various houses or animals. After the tour, we warmed up inside with some fresh apple pie and coffee.
The next stop on our tour was a brief photostop with the coastline in the distance. After that we moved on to the Cliffs of Moher, which were AMAZING to say the least. It was miles of cliffs that dropped off into the sea. Looking into the horizon you were able to see so many different shades of blue (which I know I already said, but its hard to capture beauty in words). We climbed to the top of the tower for an even better view. I felt like I could have stayed there for hours just taking it all in.
After the cliffs, we went to a small town for lunch, then proceeded to another set of cliffs, which were beautiful also. We got out, walked around and took some pictures, then went to our final destination, an old castle. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside since it is winter still, but it was still worth the stop. We arrived around sunset, and since the castle set on the water, the view was amazing. It was cool looking at the castle and thinking that people actually lived there at some point in time. Exhausted from the many stops from the day, we finally arrived back at the hostel and went to grab some dinner. That night we met up with Tanya's cousins who were also in Ireland and all went out together, which was a fun time.
Here is an example of what I mentioned before about hostels being a new experience. When we arrived, there were 2 Australian girls staying in our room. On Sunday morning when I woke up, however, there was a guy sleeping in one of the beds, which weirded me out at first. I guess people just kind of come and go as they travel. On Sunday after mass (finally one in English) and some shopping, we took the bus back to Dublin. In Dublin, we went to the Guinness Brewery, which was awesome! It consisted of 7 floors. The top floor was a circular room surrounded by windows. We were able to enjoy a free pint of Guinness while looking out over the whole city of Dublin, which was quite the view.
That night, after a failed attempt at getting tickets to see Lady Gaga, who was performing that night, we walked around for what seemed like hours, ate dinner, then took a cab to the airport. After a long day of traveling on Monday, we finally arrived back in Salamanca. I never thought I would be sooooo happy to see my bed after sleeping in airports and hostel beds. Although Ireland was beyond amazing, it was good to be back at Basi's.
Well I have to get going, this post is getting miles long, and I have to go to class before heading to Rome today! I will post pictures soon! I will try to post some on here for those of you without facebook. Miss you and love you all!


Monday, February 15, 2010

I can't believe I have been here for almost a month now...

Hola amigos! I am in such a good mood right now, because I just discovered a new cafe that has internet! Which, when you don't have WiFi at your house, that is kind of a big deal. HA. No, but I think I am becoming addicted to coffee because I have it everyday here. Basi always gives me some at breakfast, and then I usually go to a cafe at some point during the day and feel obligated to order one there. Anyways, I have officially been in Salamanca for 3 and a half weeks now, and have fallen into a daily routine and am adjusted to the daily life here. During the week I have a lot of free time, so I have taken to running. It's hilarious, because when I run around the city here, people stare at me as if I was streaking or something. I never see girls running, and rarely guys. I don't care that they think it is weird, though, because I have discovered new parts of Salamanca that I wouldn't have before while running. Today it is snowing, so I got even more weird looks than usual.
Last week on Thursday, was a huge festival called El Carnaval, which is celebrated throughout all of Spain. It is a lot like Halloween. Everyone got dressed up in costumes and went out that night. It was awesome going to the bars and walking through the streets that night and seeing everyone decked out. I had to explain to someone from Ireland what Halloween was because they don't celebrate it there, which I thought was weird!
On Friday morning, we took a bus to Seville. Our whole API group went, so it was about 38 students. After a 7 hour bus ride we finally arrived in Seville and had free time until the flamenco show that night. The flamenco show was amazing, minus the fact that it was freezing cold because we sat outside. There were 2 men playing the guitar, one man singing , and a woman and man that danced. It was unlike anything I had seen before, and their level of talent was amazing. After the show, some of us went to an ITALIAN restaurant for dinner, which tasted like the best meal I had ever had after eating Spanish food for the past 3 weeks. On Saturday morning we went to the Palace Alcazar and a Cathedral (I can't remember the name). I loved loved loved the gardens. Seville is full of orange trees and beautiful flowers. I climbed to the top of The Giralda Tower, which was cool because we have a Giralda Tower in Kansas City, making KC and Seville sister cities! This was my claim to fame for the trip, and I bragged about it as much as possible since I get numerous hick/ Wizard of Oz comments for being from Kansas. After the tour, we had free time for the rest of the day so some of us walked around and explored the city. Seville has such a different look from Salamanca, with its white houses, flowers on every balcony, and the river, and it is beautiful there! That night Tanya and I decided we didn't want to spend a lot of money on dinner, so we went to the mercado and bought cereal, yogurt, crackers and cheese, and oreos. A bunch of us had a picnic with the food we bought and wine in the hotel room, which was actually a lot more fun than going out to eat! We tried only speaking in Spanish for a while. If I did that more often, I feel like my language would improve much faster. After dinner, we went to a bar and 3 floor dance club. It was pretty cool because each floor played a different type of music and had a different atmosphere. The next day we headed home to Salamanca. As great as it was to get out of Salamanca for a weekend, it was so great going home! I love it here and am glad to be staying here this semester in a smaller city. In the first week or so I was kind of frustrated with Basi and not being able to understand or talk in Spanish very well, but now I love trying to talk with Basi. She is a funny lady, and I really want to work on improving my Spanish so I can talk to her more. I feel like I have so much to say but am very limited in what I can say to her.
On Thursday night a few of us girls are leaving for Madrid because on Friday morning we fly to Ireland! I am soooooo excited because I have only heard great things about it. So I will update this again as soon as I get back on Monday! Hasta luego, miss you all!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

First 2 weeks in Salamanca!

Hola a mi familia y mis amigos! Wow, I cannot believe that I have only been in Salamanca for 2 weeks because it seems like I have been here forever! I am finally in full swing of Spanish life since classes have started.
As I mentioned before, Basi is my host mom who is a 66 year old divorced woman with 5 children. They are all older and married, but her daughter, Ana, comes home a lot to eat lunch. Her 17 year old granddaughter comes over a lot also. I love it when they eat with us because it gives me a chance to improve my Spanish. The language has been pretty frustrating at times because sometimes I feel like I am just getting dumber instead of learning more. Talking with them helps, though, because they are patient and help me with my grammar and teach me words. I am getting much better at understanding what Basi says. She is very nice, but it took us a couple weeks to warm up to each other. She is very clean and likes everything tidy and in a certain way. Tanya and I got scolded a few times for leaving trash in our room, using the water too late, or little things like that. Yesterday Basi and I totally bonded because I showed her pictures of my family and friends...she kept saying how beautiful you all are! Haha. Basi is a good cook, and most of the meals consist of chicken or fish, a salad or tomatoes in olive oil, and a soup or pasta or something. The food is good, it might get a little old after 4 months though! Yesterday I tried churros dipped in chocolate at a cafe, they were soooo delicioso!
Here I have so much free time because on Mondays and Wednesdays I only have 1 class at 5:30, and Tuesdays and Thursdays I have class from 10-2:30. I have been trying to explore Salamanca, shop, or use the internet at a cafe during those times. There is a shoe store about every other store, so it has taken a lot of self control on the shopping part and I keep reminding myself I am here for a long time. Nightlife here is super fun. It is crazy because no one here goes out until late, and bars don't get hoppin until 1 or so. Some discotecas are even open until 7 am! Some of my friends live in a dorm, so we usually meet there before going out. My group is awesome. I have become good friends with all of them and we have already planned so many trips to go on! Next weekend we are going to Sevilla, the next weekend we are going to Galway and Dublin, Ireland, and the next weekend we are going to Rome. It is going to be crazzzyyy and I am excited to get out of Salamanca for the weekend to explore more of Spain and the rest of Europe!
Today we went on a cultural tour of Salamanca which was amazing. I will put up pictures because the city is so gorgeous! We went to the top of the Basilica and had a view of the entire city. Universidad de Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain, opening in the 13th century. The whole university is so ancient and gorgeous. My building for classes is actually not on the main campus, they keep us international students quarantined from the locals. I also discovered this park by my house which is so pretty so I have enjoyed going on runs there!
Anywho, that is life in Spain for now. I miss you all and love you!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Welcome to Espana!

Hola a todos! I know I have been lame on starting this blog thing because I have already been here for a week, but I promise from now on to start writing on this more! Wow, so much to tell from this past week! I feel like I am in a completely different world right now, and it is hard to believe I have only been here for 7 days.
Last Thursday, after a ten hour flight, I finally arrived in Madrid, Spain. I met my director Maria at the airport and right off she sent me and this other girl in my group in a taxi to the hotel by ourselves! Somehow, we were able to carry a short conversation with the driver. Since we were one of the first people to arrive in my group, we walked around the city to explore. Right away, I knew I was in for a crazy adventure. Madrid is huge, and there were people everywhere. Our hotel was right by the Puerta del Sol, which is a big plaza surrounded by shops, restaurants, hotels, bars, etc. It is beautiful there, because the buildings are so old and the architecture is beautiful. The first day, we went to the Royal Palace and got a tour. It was awesome, and once again (I'm sure I will say this a lot) I was astounded by the history and beauty of the palace. In the afternoon we went to the Museo del Prado, which holds some of the world's most renowned paintings. I thought it would be boring, but I actually enjoyed it more than the palace! We left Madrid on Sunday to go to Salamanca, and on our way we stopped at El Escorial. El Escorial is a palace and monastery. This was my favorite tour. We saw where many famous kings and queens of Spain are buried, and the basilica was gorgeous. So much to explain, so I'll just put pictures up instead.
Upon arriving in Salamanca, we met our host mom, Basi. Her and her son took me and my roommate Tanya to her apartment. It was a little embarrassing because they had to call her daughter to come help because we had too many suitcases....oops. When we got to her house we sat around and chatted with her son, his wife, and her daughter and her husband. I say we chatted, but the conversation was a little rough because my Spanish is not quite up to par. Tanya and I listened a lot haha.
Since we moved into Basi's I have gotten more used to living in her small apartment and gotten into sort of a routine. It is so different here, because breakfast is coffee and pastries in the morning, lunch is around 2:30, and dinner is around 9. Although Basi cooks every meal for us, she never eats with us. She does, however, come out and talk to us. Classes have started. I don't really understand everything since they are in Spanish, but I don't think they will be too bad. It's awesome because I don't have classes on Fridays! wooo! One of the hardest parts of being here is not having WIFI at my house. It kills me! But I am getting used to it.
Ok this is a really long post, and there is really too much to put into writing. I will update more so I don't just jump all over the place what's been going on here in Espana. But I miss everyone!! By the way, happy belated birthday Natalie, I love you!