Monday, March 23, 2009

Las Fallas in Pictures

There is an entry below detailing my wonderful day in Valencia - and now, some pictures for your viewing pleasure! :)














Saturday, March 21, 2009

Valencia Valencia!

We had Thursday and Friday off of school this week, and I went with some other people on my program on a day trip to Valencia for Las Fallas. We met up at the Hard Rock Cafe near the Colon metro, and there were probably 12 or so people from Carlos III. I met (or possibly re-met) two people who also live in Getafe! They were both really cool, I ended up spending the day with them after we split from the larger group. I'm excited to hang out with them and the rest of the Getafe crowd soon :)

So! We got on a bus with a whole gaggle of Americans and other European students and our "guide" (he really just gave us a pamphlet and insurance info) put in a movie. It took over 4 hours to get there, and we ended up watching all of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the better part of Gladiator. I also spent a lot of time looking out my window and admiring the beauty of the countryside. It was a really lovely day to be spending on a bus, but the view made up for it. Rolling hills, greenery, blue skies and sunshine. Perfect day for Valencia!

Valencia is beautiful. We were in the main part of the city, characterized by wide parisian boulevards, palm trees, orange trees, and charming architecture. I would love to go back for a weekend later in the spring - Daniel and Joanna, my traveling companions and new friends, agreed with me wholeheartedly. The festival of Las Fallas really brought the city alive. Allow me to explain Las Fallas: the celebration is of the patron saint of Valencia, and the fallas themselves are like floats, and are worked on all year long before the festival. In every plaza, there was a huge work of art that rivaled (no, beat) the works of Disney and Pixar. Towering animated figures with themes that ranged from folklore to modern politics and art. One that I saw had all of the major Academy Award winners with their little golden oscars. Many others spoke volumes of the current economic crisis in Spain. The big catch? The fallas are not only to look at... they are 100% flammable and set to burn at midnight!

Here is our chain of events (my 2 amigos and I):

* Started with large group, but after a while the 3 of us drifted away to have our own fun.

* Walked around and looked at all the fallas, large and small. Took tons of pictures!

* Bought cream-filled churros dipped in chocolate. Mmmm

* Watched part of the parade (great music and beautiful folkloric dress)

* Ate dinner in a small, authentic cafe: bottle of merlot, salami, bread, and patatas bravas. YUM

* Watched a small falla (kid's falla) burn at 10! Coolest thing ever. The firemen poured alcohol all over the float, then lit fireworks to start the madness. Once it caught, it went down quickly! The kids loved it too :)

* Ducked into a small cerveceria to buy e1,50 Budweiser - cold beer tasted fantastic in the midst of the smoky city

* Daniel and Joanna buy Aqua de Valencia: amazing Valencian orange juice & cava (Spain's own special champagne). I tried some and it was delicious!

* The finale: the burning of the large Fallas! They were seriously as tall as the apartment buildings. The small ones cost 6 thousand euro to build, and the first place large on cost over 1 million euro! It's intense. The fires were really beautiful. We snagged a spot in front of a huge one featuring a viking woman and other characters (one giving the bird, lol) and got munchies to pass the time. Finally, it began: they set off tons of fireworks above the falla to start, and then set off the firecrackers they had tied around the floats which started the fire. The fire was crazy! It smoked a ton and then finally engulfed the whole float. It was incredibly hot and we all moved backward. Good thing too, because as it burned, things like Viking Woman's Arm started to fall off and roll around in their fiery state. It was incredible, I took tons of pictures and video. Daniel has an excellent camera and I can't wait to steal his pictures on Facebook!

* Back to bus for an uncomfortable ride home. Daniel, Joanna and I wearily took the metro then Cercanias Renfe back to Getafe. I am so glad we hung out in Valencia, they are both really friendly and interesting people and the 3 of us had quite the groovy time exploring the city. Valencia bellisima, amistad nueva. Que FANTASTICA!


Viva las Fallas! Viva Valencia! :)

St. Patty's Day

San Patricio! Although the holiday isn't officially celebrated in Spain, there are enough Irish pubs in Madrid for there to be a marked celebration of the Irish saint. I headed out to an Irish pub called O'Neills with Diana, Sandra & Javi, and we met up with a bunch of other people there. The streets were packed with English-speaking lunatics in preposterous green hats, it was fantastic. The pub was so full I am surprised we maneuvered our way through! Somehow we found everyone else - some girls that Diana works with at the Irish study abroad office, their friends and roommates and so on. I tried my first Guinness and absolutely loved it! It is the color of chocolate and has a very unique flavor that I very much like. Definitely won't be my last ;)

Feliz Dia de San Patricio!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Prado, studying, TEST....etc,

On Friday, my art class again went to the Prado. Since we don't have class next Friday, our profesora decided we would spend a whole 4 hours perusing the giant museum. We studied the works of Murillo, Velazquez, and Goya - magnificent! The artwork was beautiful, and once again I got to spend hours inside one of Spain's top-notch museums...... but get this! A fun little twist to our day: we noticed when buying tickets that the place was crawling with policia, young guys with huge guns. When we entered the museum, we began to walk towards a certain salon when we were told to stop. We soon saw why: Prince Felipe and Princess Leticia were there to visit, followed a huge parade of official-looking people. How cool is that! Yes yes, I have seen the royalty. Quite royal, they are! The Mohinos were very excited when I told them. The royal family seems to be very well loved, from what I can tell.

After the Prado, I called Rena and we met for lunch (4 hrs in the Prado = starving). We walked around forever and ended up in a posh shopping district, where there was naturally no food to be found. Must be skeleton-like to wear tip-top fashions, or some shizz like that. But then! Out of nowhere appeared the coolest outdoor market. The vendors were cleaning up for Siesta, but we were in time to get Jamon y Queso on baguettes from a deli in the market. They had everything at this place! Fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, hundreds of cheeses and meats, flowers, you name it. There was a really groovy (and packed!) tapas bar next to it too. So we got our bocadillos wrapped up and went walking. We encountered a sweet old abuela, who cheerfully told us to enjoy our sandwiches. She said she was out walking because she too had just eaten, and her doctor told her to walk so she wouldn't get fat. Gotta love the random conversations. Gotta love the Spaniards ;) (how could you not??)

The rest of the weekend was spent studying for my PoliSci exam and reading for my Lit class. The Pol exam went pretty well, although multiple choice exams get me in a tizzy... I'm easily fooled by the "next best" answer. Who said tests were a great way to measure knowledge?! Some complete fool who should receive a swift kick to the balls, I tell you!

Literature really threw my head for a spin. I slaved away reading San Manuel Bueno, Martyr, which is really a great novella. It's only 30 pages... and accompanied by my handy dictionary, it only took me about a million years to read it. I was frustrated because it was so good and I hated having to stop so often to look up words, yet it was also a fun experience. I thought to myself, here I am in the Spanish sunshine (yes, sunshine!), reading Spanish literature and surviving all on my own here. The language barrier is a-coming down!

Having a low-key evening en casa after today. I hardly slept last night, was drained of all my ganas by the exam, and Mondays are my longest on campus. It's nice to just bum around in your PJs and watch Grey's Anatomy (in English, for my sanity). Until next time! Que tengas un buen dia :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cuanto tiempo sin verte!

It has been over a week since I last wrote, can't let that happen again! There is much too much going on over here for such forgetful nonsense. Here are some lovely bullet points for us to catch up:

* I am going to Paris for spring break! Or part of it anyway. I am going with a friend from my program, Melanie, and we are meeting up with some of her friends who are studying in Italy. After that, they are all going back to Italy and I.....get this..... I am meeting up with Stacey! It turns out she is coming to Paris for a couple days right the same day Melanie leaves, how perfect is that? I am so excited, and in the process of planning and booking.

* Last week for our Wednesday adventure, Reens and I went shopping :) It was great fun. First we went to Maoz, pretty much the only vegetarian food in Madrid, to get some filafel and such. Then we went to this pasteleria in Plaza del Sol, the most famous pasteleria in Madrid, to get chocolate napolitanas...Mmm! They are so good. They have a flakey, buttery outside like a croissant, and thick, dark chocolate paste inside. All around greatness. After fueling up, we browsed the trendy, chic european shops. I found a really pretty orange blouse and a thin black dress to wear with my black boots, and a lovely cocktail-type ring :) The weather was crazy... the clouds were moving so fast, one minute it would be clear and sunny, the next dark and raining cats 'n dogs. At one point we ducked into a cafeteria to have cafe con leche (yay!). Another fabulous Wednesday!

* After having a sore throat all day last Saturday due to breathing too much cigarette smoke Friday night, I have decided to temporarily retire from the discoteca scene. Only temporarily... for maybe two weeks. We will see if I can make it that long - it's so much fun to dance the night away!

* Today, Rena came to Getafe for the first time for our Wednesday adventure. I hadn't explored Getafe too much, so we ambled about the streets and found some really great parts of the city! But first, I took Rena to the famous sandwich shop. She agrees, of course, that the ladies there are super sweet and that the food is unbelievably good :) Yay for extremadura bocadillas! Afterwards, we found some cool parts of the city. There is a donor kebap right near the school on Calle de Madrid, and we found that if you keep going down the street away from Carlos III, there is a really neat downtown area, with cool little shops and cafeterias, and a huge plaza with a fountain, benches, churro vendors, etc. So many people were out in the early evening! Old couples hobbling along, kids running in circles, students hanging around in groups. The plaza was alive and hopping! We also found a beautiful church that I didn't know about, I shall have to take some pictures of it. At the end of it all, I showed Reens how to use Cercanias Renfe, the commuter train. There is a station close to El Bercial and it only takes 20 mins to get to the middle of Madrid (Atocha) - way better than an hour on the metro on lines 12 and 10!! :)

* St. Patty's Day is soon! Although it's not really celebrated here, I will sure be celebrating :) My host sisters and I have been talking about going to a pub for a bit of fun on the day. I will have to wear something green... even though G'ma Joan is all the way in California, she may find some way to pinch me! ;)


Goodnight all! I send you lots of love from beautiful Spain <3

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Pictures!

Some of my favorites so far:









:)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Bullet Points

My random thought for the day:

* Never again shall I go out Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday night. Makes for a rough Monday morning.

* Tapas may be the most fantastic culinary invention, especially the croquettes :)

* Every time I remember I need to buy stamps, it is between 2-5 when nothing is open.

* Margarida has gone back to Portugal and, although we have only just met, I'm going to miss that girl!

* I must must make travel plans for Spring Break/Semana Santa. Hmm... Cantabria? Paris? Italy?

* Irish pubs are a fun place to be in the middle of the night.

* Looking forward to my Wednesday hangout with Reens!

* Spanish Lit is kicking my arse .... ayyy carrumba


The end. Time to get back on the homework! :)