Friday, January 30, 2009

Viva la Marcha!

I slept until 2:30 in the afternoon yesterday, it was absolutely wonderful. After 2 days of traveling, I really needed it! Reens was off taking her exams, so I bummed around the apartment with the girls e-mailing and reading and such until Rena came home. We bummed around some more (still in my pajamas, no less), ate dinner (fish, pasta, and sangria) and before we knew it, it was almost ten and we had to rush off to our movie! We took the metro to Sol (one of the main plazas of Madrid, pretty much the city center) and bought tickets for Revolutionary Road. Ania and Margarida came running up 10 minutes later, and we ducked in just as it was starting. A beautifully made movie, very sad too.

Afterwards, we split up and Rena and I headed out to one of the popular nightclubs, Joy (a lot of them have english names). We waited in line with some other Erasmus students, who shared their Coca Cola & wine (a surprisingly tasty mix) with us. The club was crazy! They play all this old american stuff, like Grease and pop from the late 90s. It's pretty funny. They went nuts for YMCA. The boys here are very forward, man oh man. Reens and I would be dancing and they would just eye you, and if you even so much as glanced at them they would be all over you trying to dance. We had to save each other a few times.. it was a very interesting night! After Joy we went to get Churros con Chocolate around the corner (YUM), then took a cab back to the apartment. My last night! Slept from about 5am-11am, then shleped alllll my stuff on the metro (what a circus, we must have looked crazy trying to haul all my crap up and down the stairs) to the hotel. I met Rocio, our program coordinator, who is super nice. She immediately told me what was up with the hotel and orientation meeting - all in Spanish! That would have made me so nervous a week ago, but I have really learned so much, and I can understand quite a bit more too. Yay, I speak Spanish.....kinda.....yeah ;) Also met my hotel roommate, nice girl from UCSB. The shindig tonight should be verra nice, I'm excited to meet everyone.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Escorial & Segovia

Two cities in two days! I am so exhausted, I think I will fall asleep before midnight (gasp). Here is the basic run-down: Yesterday, Tuesday, was Escorial and today was Segovia. Read on, friends

El Escorial

Ania and I woke up at 9 something, and took the metro to a stop called Moncloa, where there is also a bus station. After asking about a million workers and passersby where to buy tickets for the bus, some random person told us (well, Ania, who was in charge of the asking as she speaks much better Spanish) that we just buy them as we get on the bus. By some miracle we found the right platform, and then Léa showed up - she was going to meet up with us in Escorial later, after her class/shift at the hospital, but got off early. Ten minutes later, we were all on our way to Escorial. Léa told us all about her crazy morning at the hospital; she is studying to be a nurse, and is also studying abroad, through Erasmus (THE european study abroad program). Anyway, she had witnessed/helped with her first childbirth at the hospital that morning. She said it was very intense, and also very beautiful, at the same time. And apparently, the father was literally jumping for joy when the baby came out healthy and was boy ("Alejandro, Alejandro!" - he seems to have picked a name already lol). She was exhausted though, from such an emotional morning, and slept most the way to Escorial. I was watching out the window to see what there was to see. The freeway/highways here are very different. The lanes are skinnier, and there are gas stations and bus stops right on the freeway. It's really strange! You can just pull over and get gas. Convenient, though. That brings me to our sweet ride: for only 3,30 euro (about 5 bucks at home) we took a niiiiiice charter bus, very clean, to Escorial. Same thing today in Segovia! Public transportation here really is something else. Even the metro is clean!

Now, Escorial. It was a cloudy, wet sort of day. When we first saw El Escorial, the monastery/fortress/royal residence, it sat high in hills that were draped in thick mist. The grey exterior gave it a sort of eerie, yet also tranquil, feel. It was freezing the whole time, but we still had the best time. What a wonderful place it was inside! There was so much art inside, I couldn't get enough of it. This castle of sorts was built/lived in/etc by Carlos V and his son, Phillip II (whose wife, of course, was the infamous Juana la Loca, or Joan the Mad). We saw their royal quarters, the burial place of all the kings, queens, and relatives, and more. Sadly, the basilica was closed for remodeling (I always love to see the churches!) but the library WAS open - manuscripts, from as early as the 5th century, just open for you to see! I couldn't believe it. The proud, nerdy historian in me nearly had a spaz attack. The collection is actually quite famous, and amongst academics is said to rival the library of the Vatican (impressive, eh?). We didn't see too much of the city, as we dallied inside until about 7pm and then had to find the bus station, buy chocolate, go home, etc. I was absolutely exhaused and, after Reens and I ate a lovely American-esque dinner at Nebraska Burger (I wasn't thinking straight, I just wanted something cheap. And it was good!), I fell asleep at the absurdly early hour of 10pm.

Segovia

What a beautiful city! It was a bit rainy, and overcast, but even so it was one of the loveliest cities I have ever seen. Ania was so funny, she must have told Léa and I a hundred times how she was so enamored with Segovia. The town in its entirety is actually quite good sized (well, its very spread out), but the main part of the city is only about 1000 metres long, and 300 metres wide, and is surrounded by a wall. Within this wall are the absolutely beautiful castle of Alcázar (pronounced Al-ca-thh-ahr), an enormous gothic cathedral, several smaller cathedrals, some lovely plazas, many small windy cobblestone streets, bars a-plenty, and on the edge of the city - a roman aqueduct! The acueducto was one of the best parts, it was so big, and so well preserved! Apparently it was used into the 19th century, too. We had a field day taking pictures of it and ourselves in front of it. The castle was another highlight, of course. The interior museum was deathly boring, as there had been a fire that gutted the castle (so the museum/lower rooms were all touristy), but the view from the tower was breathtaking (as was the climb to get there, but well worth 250 winding steps!). We could see the countryside for miles, and the entire city - the cathedral dominating its presence with its impressive gothic architecture, and sheer size. Some canadian boys took our picture, it was fantastic. Some other men we encountered here at the castle: a middle-aged man from the area who, when he saw me, exclaimed in English, "where are you from?!" During the next 10 minutes, in which Lea joined me: he expressed real shock that I spoke Spanish, proceeded to dissect an entire Will Smith movie which neither I or Lea had seen, asked me if his castle, the Alcazar, was anything like the replication in Disneyland, AND inquired if I went to UCLA (ook-la, as they call it here. Seriously). Jose was quite a nice man, just very talkative. Ania had thought we went inside during this time, and so she was looking around for us when another segoviano began talking to her, and helped her find us. Later he found us inside the castle (locals seem to wander where they wish) to ask me, the one from Cal-ee-forn-yyya, if I had quarters from certain states on his list. Sadly, he already had Nebraska (my only quarter).

After all that walking about the beautiful city of Segovia, the girls and I decided it was high time to find a nice, authentic bar with a smashing view and order a drink! We found one up higher in the city, and our view was of the rooftops and tops of cathedrals - in the distance, the mossy green hills of the countryside. I got Sangria - what a wonderful wine! - Ania got hot chocolate (chocolate caliente here), and Lea a cafe con leche (absolutely delicious). I also got a "sangwich" which was soooo delicious and warm; a ham sandwich (the city is famous for its hams!) with bacon as well, and a fried egg. Perfect after a long, wet, cold day. My jeans were wet up to my knees, no joke. The hot food and lovely sangria were perfect before climbing on (after running after!) the clean, warm charter bus back to Madrid. That reminds me, we also went to a cafe by the bus station when we first got to Segovia - Ania and I had taken the noon bus, and found out that Lea was coming on the 12:30, so we just ducked into the cafe to study our map and wait for Lea. Ania's tea ("te" here) and my Cafe con Leche were perfect before braving the cold!

**

A fantastic couple of days, no? :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Turkish Burrito in Spain

Yes, I really did eat a turkish burrito here in Madrid. Rena, Margarida and I went to get kabap at this Turkish restaurant and we all got ours burrito-style. Then around 10 on our way back, stopped at a cafe "para tomar un cafe" (to have a coffee). Cafe con Leche, espresso with milk, is the most delicious and frequent drink here in Madrid. Always, people are going out to meet friends to have a coffee.

Other than that, it was a very laid back day. Slept in quite late (tee he he) and after a few hours of Rena studying (while I was re-organizing my stuff, and also studying my Spanish) the two of us went for a long walk down Calle Alcala. This street, which Rena lives on, is the longest in Madrid and runs throughout the entire city. We saw the Plaza del Toros, where the bullfighting arena is (I will NOT be going to a bullfight, thank you), and continued walking around, seeing the sights. We bought chocolate covered churros which were delicious, a lovely treat for strolling about the streets of Madrid. The clouds left us for a day and, although it was quite nippy out, the sun was shining and the sky was blue.

I hope I can say the same for tomorrow's weather - I am off to Escorial with Lea and Ania for the day!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fiestas & Siestas

Last night, a few of us in Rena's apartment prepared a little feast, and had a dinner party. Rena and I went shopping and got stuff to make spinach lasagna, and I helped her make it in the kitchen. Also in the kitchen were Ania and Margarida, who were making "Arroz Dulce," one of Margarida's favorite postres from her home in Portugal. It was seriously the best dessert I have ever had.... it rivals gelato, which many of you know I have been enamored with since first having it at age 8.

Arroz Dulce: Margarida cooked rice and milk together in a pan for a loooooooooong time, and after a big added several slices of lemon peel to flavor the dessert (which she took out before serving). Over time a bunch of sugar was added, and at the very end (maybe after an hour of cooking it), egg yolk. This cooked into the arroz dulce and gave it the yellow coloring that makes it famous (Margarida says that the Portuguese like it very, very yellow). When she brought it out after dinner, it was in four small glasses with cinnamon sprinkled in cute designs over the top. Just a little bit, un poquito, warm, it was FANTASTIC. Especially with that hint of lemon :)

The lasagna delicious as well. We all had two helpings - Rena used spinach flavored lasagna sheets, and for the in-between layers, lots of spinach, different kinds of white cheese, sauteed mushrooms (cooked with a bit of garlic and oil). We also had red pasta sauce between all the layers, and on top, that we added liquid white cheese to. This was actually a recipe Rena got off foodnetwork.com, courtesey of Giada de Laurentiis (one of my favorite Italian chefs). And to drink with dinner? Margarida shared some of her San Miguel cerveza with me. I had one glass - it was very delicious! And it turns out she also loves Corona - then tried my very first Sangria. Absolutely delicious - one of my new favorite drinks. They had the kind that comes in a box, like zuma (juice), and only costs 1 euro. I loved the orange, apple, and cinnamon flavors. The girls told me that sometimes, they cut up apples and oranges to put in their glasses when they have their sangria.

***

Today, Sunday, we went to the flea market, El Rastro, off of the La Latina metro stop. It was raining and hard to manuever, but a lot of fun for me! I was on a mission to buy a scarf, since Rena had told me they sold them for only 2 euro, and after a while found the perfect one - a pashmina with orange, pink, purple, green - and silver threading through it all. Rena got one too, a dark pink pashmina with a silver paisley design. There were a lot of foreigners at the market from all over, I heard many different languages. Apparently it is nicer, and also more crowded, on nice sunny days (it was raining and windy today). Rena, Ania and I were freezing and soaked after an hour, and headed back to the apartment. After lunch, I took a lovely nap while the girls studied. The word siesta here is actually used as a verb, which is pretty funny. People will say, for instance, "voy a siestar!" I'm going to take a nap! And boy, do I LOVE a good nap :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Frases

Today I have been studying colloquial Spanish words and phrases used here in Madrid. Here are some of the G-rates ones (tee he he):

no pasa nada - "no biggie"
dar la lata - to annoy/bug
la marcha - spanish nightlife
pijo - snooty rich person/"daddy's money"
que guay - "cool"
vale - very good, OK
venga, hombre! - dude, seriously?
chinos - cheap shops on every corner, run by Chinese people
que maja - how nice!
locutorio - internet/phone cafe
que fuerte! - Wow!
ser de leche - to be amazing
intercambio - meeting up with someone to swap languages

There are also many words that are just shortened:

boli - boligrafo (pen)
peli - pelicula (movie)
bici - bicicleta (bike)


Friday, January 23, 2009

Fashion

Hola mi familia y mis amigos.  Today has been fantastic - we slept til noon (definitely needed that), then met up with a girl from Berkeley for lunch, at a vegetarian place.  Filafel, salad, and Coke Light yummm.  The next few hours after that we went shopping!  I got the boot/shoes I wanted and some dark green leggings - I have seen so many girls wearing skirts and leggings instead of pants!  

It has been fascinating studying the fashions of Madrid.  Here is the basic run down:  skinny jeans!  Or at least snug, no floppy boot cut jeans here.  Boots - ankle boots and knee high boots - and the european style sporty walking shoe.  Skirts and leggings.  Everyone has a good coat - the older women seem to wear longer coats, while cute, shorter variations are worn by people my age.  Motorcycle jackets!!  So many boys are wearing them.  Scarves, also - the burbury plaid is very popular for the over 30 crowd!  Men, women, kids - everyone wears them.

Those are my observations so far.  All these things are worn at home, but the style is very distinctly european (of course).

Getting dressed and going to a dinner party, then a discoteca!  Should be quite the experience.

Also, my spanish is not nearly as horrible as I thought.  And I am getting lots of practice!  Thanks for stickin with me, Rena ;)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tapas & Wine

Well actually, it was tapas and beer.  A delicious dinner after a long and fun day!  Rena met me at the Madrid airport and we came back to her apartment (which reminds me of the apartment from  the French movie The Spanish Apartment, with Audrey Tatou).  Her place really is fabulous!  Her roommates are super nice and welcoming, it's been fun to spend time with all of them and practice my Spanish!  

So, Rena and I went out after I showered and changed and got Cafe con Leche at the local cafeteria (on every corner), then walked around her barrio of Madrid before traveling to her afternoon class - a full metro ride and bus ride on the freeway away!  It was the final meeting of her psychology of sexuality class, and we sat with another Compultense girl from US Santa Cruz.  The professor got all pissy at us every time we quietly whispered to each other, yet suspiciously seemed unruffled by the constant conversations of the Spanish students....  can we say favoritism, anyone?

Came back to the apartment, took a deliciously long and much needed nap, got groceries (some snacky stuff to keep here for the week, as well as shampoo and face wash), and headed out for tapas with one of Rena's roommates from Poland.  Four plates of tapas and a beer later, we hoofed it home and here I am.  I don't think I am every going to have such a good night's sleep as I am tonight!  Time to go put my nappies on and watch Thumbelina with the girls :)

Philadelphia

The first leg of the journey was pretty painless..... after the Big Goodbye, that is. My parents, Grandma Joan, and Sean all came to LAX with me this morning. We began our journey at 4am, when we wandered deliriously into our nappies and headed towards LA in the Expedition. After a good breakfast (we actually got to LA early, who knew?), we went to the airport and the teary goodbyes began. I really despise saying goodbye, but it must be done.

And ah yes, the painless flight. I fell asleep and 5 hours went by in 5 minutes. Hopefully this next 7 hour leg of the journey will be just as convenient - and hopefully I can sleep again! I'm definitely deprived enough of sleep - it's like finals week at Davis, but worse (those of you who have witness my good self during finals week will understand just how tired that makes me... ;)

Above all, I am excited and lucky to be going where I am - Madrid! - and can't wait to experience life in Spain, and spend time with mi amiga buena, Reens (Rena Khandelwal) and my lovely Chi O sisters Sarah & Sarah <3

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Last 48 hrs in California

It is quite the circus getting to Spain. I have all the big stuff done (consulate, check. suitcase packed, check) and now am down to allllllll the little things that have to get done. We finally installed our webcams - yay! So now I can talk to my parents, boyfriend, and whoever else I find out has one of these nifty things.

Tomorrow will be filled with other crazy last minute things. Spending time with Sean, visiting Radio Shack, getting a gift for my host family, and the list goes on and on and on. It's finally here! I'm almost there! The only thing left after I leave Temecula? 16 hours of travel........ I'm armed with magazines ;)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Packing Up

More than a year after beginning my journey to Spain, I am finally packing! The suitcase is almost filled, and Madrid is almost a reality. I have 3 full days left in Temecula, to spend with the fam, dogs, amigos, and of course Sean <3

As for today, after I finish packing we are going out for fondue with Grandma and Uncle Stewie. After that... who knows? I tend to stay up late ;)