Finally Admitting Defeat: Back to Dickinson

Well, I guess it is official. My semester abroad is over and there is nothing I can do about it. Technically it has been over for the past month and a half when I got back, but I have been trying to pretend this was all temporary. However, tomorrow I go back to Dickinson for my last field hockey preseason and year at college. WELP. I truly cannot believe it.

The last time I wrote, I was in my final days in Spain. I still was still packing up. I still had not been to Nerja, which was probably one of, if not my favorite place (outside of Malaga) in Spain. We spent the day lounging on a beach that was something out of a postcard. We swam to cliffs and walked around the quaintest little white-housed town. My last few days were spent around Malaga. I walked around by myself in the streets I had come to know and love, and spent my last night on the beach until the sun went down with all my new friends.

IMG_8990

Nerja Adventures (Not Pictured: Nerja Caves)

When I think back on all that I have seen these past few months I am absolutely amazed. It is NUTS. I am such a more independent person. I had been so nervous to go on a flight, a group flight with all kids from Dickinson, when I left for Spain. By the end of my time I was traveling alone to visit a friend in Copenhagen. I saw places like the Louvre, the Strait of Gibraltar, Pompeii–places people dream of one day seeing. No words can describe how grateful I am to everyone who accompanied me throughout this journey.

Now I just want to enjoy the last year I have left in another place I love (Dickinson) with old and new friends. This is the last post and I am finally admitting my defeat. Abroad is over but I guess it is like they say in the Sandlot “Heroes live forever, but legends never die”…and this legendary trip can never be taken away from me!
IMG_9017 IMG_8919 IMG_8917

DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE

Besos Siempre,

Tara

Hemingway’s Hideout: A Day Trip to Ronda!

Yesterday I went with my friends Emily and Lil, and the brother of a student in the 5 week program who is visiting and could not go on a planned excursion with her class, Max, to a small town a little under 2 hours away by train known as Ronda. Though I knew there was really not much to DO per say in this town, it is very famous. First off, it is absolutely beautiful and built into a mountain, but divided by a river, so there are these incredible bridges built between. These really are just feats of human engineering–the newest one though (Puente Nuevo–meaning New Bridge) was completed at the end of the 1700s, so it’s not that “new”. The town is also famous because acclaimed American author, Ernest Hemingway, used to live in Ronda and wrote some of his books there. He was very inspired and loved the Spanish culture. He was especially captivated by bullfighting, which actually began in Ronda. Ronda is the home of the oldest bullring and has the most famous Goyesca corrida every year, even still. I actually had the chance to go in and see the bullring, which was very neat. Though smaller than Málaga’s, it was still very cool to see and very Roman in its architecture, which is different from Málaga.

bridge

The Amazing Bridge of Ronda

To get to Ronda, we took a train from the Málaga station and it was actually so easy–cheaper and faster than taking the bus too which was awesome. We bought the tickets the night before and the next morning got there early since the station also doubles as the city’s mall. We got Dunkin Donuts, took our time, got right onto the train (which was so empty we all were able to sit next to each other) and then before we knew it, we were there. It was about a 10 minute walk from the station to the center of the town and Lil had already been to Ronda before so we did not have to do any searching—she was our guide. It was the absolute best because I did not even have to think about anything–it just sort of happened.

We started our day by going to a lookout and seeing the mountain and countryside, and then headed into the bull museum and ring. This was cool too because they still have a horse school here for riders that was going on and we got to sneak in and see a class happening. We then continued into town, caught site of the bridge and took some amazing pictures. We then stopped and got some tapas and drinks in town. I had a traditional Spanish meal of croquetas (basically mozzarella sticks with little pieces of ham inside) and some french fries with a side of tomatoes in olive oil. It is a weird combination, but it was delicious and I never get them at home so it was nice.

plaza

Pretty Plaza in the Town

After being refueled, we walked deeper through the pretty little town towards a pathway that leads you below so you can get these amazing pictures of the bridge and its accompanying waterfall. It was so incredible. We stood there and just kind of took it all in and took as many pictures as well could because it was so breathtaking. After a little hike up, we walked through the town and towards the other side so we could see the other bridge. We stumbled upon what was probably an old protective wall of the alcazaba or something. We got some more pictures from the tower of that and then walked to see the other bridge which was just as pretty as the first. Finally, we worked our way back to the more modern part of the city to grab some gelato. We sat right off a beautiful little plaza and then headed back towards the train.

view other side

Bridge From Other Side

It was the perfect day really. We easily found our way back and we all enjoyed a casual nap on the train back to Málaga. Ronda was somewhere I had never really heard of before coming to Málaga, but I am so happy I had the chance to see it because it was simply a beautiful town. It was so relaxed and I loved spending time with Lil, Emily and Max. Overall it was one of my favorite places I have visited so far, and I can see why Hemingway fell in love with the place and used it as inspiration for his novel The Sun Also Rises.

me and bridge

Our Amazing Views

Today, it is windy and cloudy and really not a beach day, so I slept in because the traveling has caught up with me a little bit I think. I am now catching up on blogs, but earlier this morning I walked across the street with my host mom since it is my last Sunday to visit the mercadillo, or open air market, that is right on the water every weekend. She and I then sat at the restaurant that is basically in the water on the beach called El Balenario, and I had a coffee and she had a dessert Málaga wine. It was nice, and even though I know she is buttering me up because she wants a student and isn’t getting one next semester–I’m just taking it all with a grain of salt.

Later I am going to meet up with some friends at another café that was one of our favorite spots in the beginning, Zapata, since we all want to get out of the house but have nowhere to really go. It will be nice to just spend some time together and I will probably do some reading.

Tomorrow I hope to go to the center and do some last minute shopping for souvenirs to bring home and maybe start packing a little because the weather again is a little iffy. Tuesday we plan on going to Nerja because it is supposed to be a beautiful day and Nerja is a beautiful beach town. Then the rest of my time will be trying to cram everything in and saying goodbye to this amazing place. The closer I am to leaving, the sadder I get. But I am just happy to have had this amazing opportunity.

Gracias y Besos!

Tara

Day Trippin to Granada

Hello Hello!

T-8 days until I am back in the states and I am a jumble of emotions. On one hand, I am so ready to return. Especially today after a little episode with my host mother finding out she wasn’t getting another student and borderline harassing me and trying to figure out what I said, etc. I actually had to leave the house and go to my friend Lil’s host home to escape her nagging it was becoming so incessant and stressful. Though there is a lot more to this story, basically my director contacted her to tell her she needed to relax and I had nothing to do with any of the decisions and she finally backed off. It has been a long semester in that sense and I will be very ready to return to my own home where there is no fear of offending people due to misunderstandings or cultural differences.

Despite these types of “struggles”, I will then go and sit on the beaches of Málaga with the new friends I have made here and I just never want to leave. Two nights ago I stayed on the beach ALL day. I got there mid-morning, had packed a lunch and then went to get food and picnic’ed on the beach. I did not leave until probably 10pm (when it finally gets dark here). The night before that I had also been on the beach until after dark because, as it was about 5 or so people’s last night, we got sandwiches from one of our favorite places called El Campero and posted up to soak up our last day together. It was sentimental and nice, and some tears were shed.

picnic

Beach Picnic & Sunset!

Other days we also do things that we have not done before (or at least I haven’t) in Málaga to try to soak it all up. For example, earlier last week I went on an amazing hike with a few people from my program. One of the girls discovered this pathway at the beginning of the semester and I have always had something going on that I have not done it, but earlier in the week I had her take me up. It is about 8 miles total and realllllyy up hill–I was sore after doing it for sure–but the views were incredible. It was also nice to spend some time with different people. Mount San Anton, was definitely worth it!

san anton

Views from the Top of Mount San Anton

Anyways, it is so weird right now because only a little over half of us are left. The rest of our group is already back in the States sending us pictures and videos. We had a final dinner last weekend which was really nice. It was at El Pimpi, where we had initially had our first group dinner and we all had no idea who we were. It was so different, sentimental, bittersweet, but fun to come together one last time. We also celebrated one of the girl’s on our trip’s birthday all together for a final time on the port. And one night my friends Amy and Lil and I all went to this rooftop bar we found that has incredible views of the entire city. We went for sunset and it will definitely be a highlight and memory of my trip just because of how beautiful and bittersweet it was. Really that has been these last two weeks for me–trying to enjoy it all and quick smush everything together. I am just trying to enjoy my last week of what has been an amazing 6 months. I am also taking little trips throughout Spain to try and really soak up the culture I have been so immersed in this past semester. So, my first day trip was yesterday to Granada.

rooftop  me and amygroup port

Cathedral Views, Before Pimpi & The Group on the Port

If I am being honest, I was not expecting that much of the city itself because I had heard it was very “gitano” or gypsy, which is very much not my scene. However, I was really shocked because the plazas and streets were absolutely gorgeous and even reminded me a little bit of Málaga. ( Though there is a gypsy section of the city kind of built into these caves–we didn’t have time to make it there–which clearly did not upset me too much). Anyways, we took a bus there (getting in just time time for everyone to get a ticket) and then took a really cheap under 10 dollar cab to the center of the city. We had already bought our tickets to the main attraction–La Alhambra–so we got some tapas and drinks. In Granada, when you buy a drink you automatically get a free tapa which is really nice. However, since we were in a rush we got some sandwiches to go. It was a bit of a debacle in Plaza Nueva, but we got to the stop right in time to catch the C3 that takes you to the Alhambra. We then proceeded to eat our chicken sandwiches sitting on this tiny bus being stared at by everyone because that is not really protocol here in Spain. We are kind of over that though–everyone knows we are American, so whatever–we were hungry. After a 10 minute or so ride and a full belly, we had arrived.

The Alhambra is a Moorish city and palace that was constructed around the late 800s. It is built up into this hill and has a fortress, a palace, the amazing Generalife gardens–it is reallllyy big and you do not realize it until you are up there walking through what feels like a whole other city in addition to Granada, which it basically is. Anyways we had bought tickets before, but two of our friends messed theirs up which made life a little more challenging. After we got it all settled, we finally got through the entrance and walked around. We had a beautiful day and the views were so scenic and breathtaking.

me and granada

Me & Granada

4 of the 6 of us also had an earlier entrance to the Palacio Nazarí–the famous part–so we basically got right in there which was really neat. What was even cooler for me was that this entire semester I had taken an Islamic Art class and done a lot of specific lessons on the Alhambra itself and its mosaics and fountains and arches–you name it. I was seeing calligraphy that we talked about and understood the importance of certain pools and fountains in the garden. It made me feel like even though my class was a little bit more work than one of the others I could have taken, I really learned something about the place I was living in and was able to see its history and it experience it while I was here.

flowers! gals n pals cupula

Some of My Classmates & My Views

For example, in the one room Christopher Columbus first asked Ferdinand and Isabel to sponsor his trip to the Americas. And in that same room the Reconquista was ended. Granada was the last city to fall back to the Catholic monarchs when Bobadil (the Moorish leader) signed everything over and surrendered. That is why really Granada is so famous–because of its super long history that is really intwined with the famous Christian leaders, Ferdinand and Isabel.

alhambra main patio leones

Some More Views from the Alhambra

After spending probably about 3.5-4 hours wandering the baths, the Alcazaba, the gardens and the palace we finally hitched a bus back down to the main part of the city. From there, we went to the famed Cathedral which we all really wanted to see because it is where Ferdinand and Isabel are actually buried. It is so neat because you walk down this little drop they have in the center of the church and you can see their actual coffins, their crowns and swords, etc. It is absolutely amazing that it is all preserved there from the late 1400s. The King and Queen wanted to be buried In Granada because it is where their legacy (in Columbus and the fall of Granada) laid as well. Having learned about these leaders since high school, it was spooky and incredible to see where their finals remains actually are kept. It was such a weird feeling though. My friend Maddie described it best by saying it was just as if there was some presence there when you see whats underneath the big, decorated stone tombs to see two small coffins below. Anyways I was so happy to see that and happy we had time during our short stay to get in.

outside ferd and isabellaferdinand and isabella

You Can’t Take Pictures Inside At All, But This is What I Saw of the Catholic Monarchs!

To end our day we got a little bit of food and ice cream after walking around the city, and finally hitched a cab back to the bus station (we had purchased our return tickets once we got to the station in Granada earlier in the morning) and it was as simple as hopping on and getting back. Though I was exhausted by the time I got home around 10:30, the day was totally worth it for the views and time well spent with good people.

I really saw history come alive and it was just proof of how far I have come in learning about the Spanish culture, as well as the language. Today I really did not do much other than beach and hang out with my friend Lil. I am going to go get a few drinks at a bar on the beach tonight and then tomorrow morning I am taking a train for another day trip to Ronda. This small town is home to a famed Roman bridge and was a favorite city of one of my favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway, because it is the home of the first ever bull ring which he had great interest in.

So, I am sure I will be checking in soon after tomorrow’s excursion. I will be hanging in Malaga the rest of the weekend and then possibly another trip will be to the beach town of Nerja. Time continues to fly, but until next time….

xoxo Tara xoxo

before pimpi

A Final Goodbye to These Girls (Of Whom–Only Two of Us Remain!!)

The Last Hoorahs in Málaga & a Trip to Antequera

WELP. I cannot believe that it is JUNE. Although at times I really feel like WOW I have been in Spain since January and have been to so many places, everything just seems to have sped right on by at other times. Today I had my last class and I have one test before I have ten free days to just soak up and enjoy everything. Though I am sad to be leaving so soon (some of my friends leave in less than a week!) I think that I will also be ready to come back to the good old US of A. Having a home stay with someone can be a lot to handle and the convenience of America can simply not be beaten. Also it can just be tiring to be the foreigner all the time–getting the looks and stares and people trying to talk to you in horrible English, even though you understand and can speak their language. Home is just home I guess in the end. Plus it doesn’t hurt that I will be returning to friends and family at the beach, so I won’t be missing the Costa del Sol until our next brutal winter 🙂

sunset

How is this my home?

The past few weeks have really been a lot of trying to soak up Málaga while everyone is still here. I have been hitting up the downtown section of the city, the port, our favorite restaurants, lots of time has been spent on the beach, BUT also I have had a good deal of school work with the semester coming to a close. Currently I am working on my final paper for a class that actually counts towards my GPA, and then just that one test left that is pass/fail. But I have already handed in 2 essays, a 25 page paper and given 2 presentations. Of course none of this compares to Dickinson, but after a full semester of nearly no work, it was a bit of a wake up call. But I simply cannot complain because I live in paradise.

Other than my daily routine, I also took a fun trip to a place in the center of the Málaga province (not the city) called Antequera. The trip was actually with Dickinson because the 5-week summer immersion program just arrived this past week. It was nice because everything was totally included and it had been somewhere I had been wanting to go, plus we got to meet some of the new kids .

Our first stop was to a place called El Torcal, which is a nature reserve that has these amazing rock formations that are about 150 million years old. Basically they are limestone formations that are just incredible because the area at one time was an ocean and then with erosion, etc. these towering mountains are what was leftover. It was a really nice way to start the morning and so beautiful–not what you typically see on the beaches of Málaga. I got some amazing pictures and it was a nice way to meet the new kids in a relaxed setting.

me rock soft smile rocky

Fun @ Torcal

After Torcal, we got back on the bus and headed to the actual town of Antequera, which was beautiful and tiny with all these cute little white cottages with terracotta roofs. It actually kind of reminded me of Italy because of that. The town was so typical of Spain though with little old ladies in the street sweeping and doors all open. Once in the town center, we walked to the church and then through the Alcazaba which had some amazing views. From the lookout point of the church you could also see this mountain affectionately called “Peña de Los Enamorados”. The name comes from a legend that two young forbidden lovers threw themselves from the mountain as they were chased by their families and townspeople because the girl was a Muslim and the boy a Spanish Catholic. Some say the mountain now looks like them. Really, it just reminded me of the book/movie Holes and the Thumb Mountain in the middle of the desert, but it is always fun to hear those types of little stories.

town n me

The Town of Antequera from the Alcazaba Entrance

After the Alcazaba, we walked down to another beautiful church that was tucked away and then finally we had some free time for lunch. Most of us are all so sick of Spanish food at this point, so we opted for some cheap, crap pizza that really was not good, but was better than other options. We then made up for this by getting some delicious gelato across the street. It was fun just sitting outside in the town because it also happened to be their Feria (like what I went to in Seville) so there were horses and people all dressed up in old-timey getups and flamenco dresses.

town2

Quaint Little Antequera

After our free time, we then begrudgingly went to a museum about the history of Antequera. For us spring semester kids, it was a bit much not only because it was so hot out, but just about every place in Spain has a similar history with the Romans, Visigoths, the Al-Andalusí coming. We had heard it all before so it was not all that interesting. But we grinned and made it through and then we were off to our last stop for the day– Los Dolmenes. No one really knows what these were exactly, but basically they are these stone burial grounds built into the side of a hill that date back to the 3rd millennium. We had to watch this video that had horrifying music to start to learn about the structures, but really it is so neat that they are here. In the 19th century the site was excavated and hundreds of bodies/skeletons were found which is so unsettling knowing that I was walking around in there. Nevertheless, to me it still looked like the telly tubbies house, so it was not all that intimidating.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Picture I Did Not Take, But It Started to Rain–This Is What I Saw!

After a long day I passed out on the bus, ate dinner at home and then actually got ready to go out because my friend from Dickinson (and my managerial tutor) Cole and his friends had actually stopped in Málaga on their post-grad backpack tour through Europe. It was so fun to see him and catch up, and all his friends were so nice. Cole had done the summer immersion program so he was excited to see the places he had loved and it was just a really nice way for me to end a great day.

This week I have just been hanging out and enjoying myself, but I have planned a trip to Granada in the upcoming weeks, and hopefully will get a few more day trips around Spain in (at least that is the goal). I am so torn between being ready to go home and also not wanting such an amazing semester to end. I have met so many great people, seen so many amazing places and learned a lot about myself and grown up. I know this will be of the greatest experiences, if not the greatest experience, of my life and it is bittersweet to feel it coming to a close. Still I know I am leaving with a greater appreciation for my education at Dickinson after seeing the quality of Spain’s at the university here, and I am so excited to be reunited with my great friends and teammates.

I could not have asked for a better way to spend the semester and I will be doing my best to keep you all updated on all the fun things I try to cram in the next two weeks or so!

Hasta pronto,

Tara

amy's patio

This Second Home is Aight

48 Hours in the City of Lights!

WOAH. It has surely been a whirlwind since I wrote last. Though I had about a week after Copenhagen to hang in Málaga, I was pretty busy trying to get some work done because the end of the semester is quickly and scarily approaching. However, I still found plenty of time to go to the beach and hang between my classes, and even head out to the new Pomipdou Museum in Málaga– as well as the food festival they held for the week–where I was able to enjoy my first delicious pulled pork sandwich in months.

yum food

My Yummy Sandwich & Tinto de Verano

However, soon enough Thursday came around and after my morning class I came back to eat and get my things together and by 3pm I was on my way to the airport. We are getting pretty good at taking the metro and getting through security rather efficiently now that we have traveled so much, and in no time we were at our gate hanging out. Amazingly enough, even with Ryanair being notoriously horrible and slow–we actually boarded and took off ahead of schedule which was so nice.

After a quick little 2 hour plane ride, we landed at the airport which was actually about an hour and 15 minutes outside of the city. We then had to take a shuttle bus to the center of Paris. It really was not that bad and they dropped us off right outside the metro station so we were easily able to hop on and get to our AirBnB which we had rented. I went on the trip with 4 other girlfriends and one of them, Charlotte, actually has been to Paris multiple times because her mom is a French teacher at a private high school and also directs their exchange program. So it was amazing because she was somewhat familiar with the metro system and also had her mom send us endless amounts of recommendations and tips. It made our time so much easier and we we were able to utilize our time wisely during our short stay.

We also really lucked out because our AirBnB was about a block away from our metro stop at Le Republique. We found our place almost instantly and the woman renting to us, Fabienne, was SO nice and the place was absolutely beautiful. It was a quintessential old Parisian building and was just what we needed–small, but clean and did the trick. By the time we were settled it was approaching midnight and we were STARVING. However, we were hoping to still find a bar or some restaurant still serving french food for our first meal. We walked down to a few places and were told sorry—kitchen closed. So we gave up and went to the main road in search of McDonald’s. Upon finally seeing those golden arches and being so overjoyed to finally get my hands on some freedom fries, I aggressively went to open up the doors, only to find them locked. It was pretty hysterical. The Americans were locked out of McDonalds and we didn’t know where to turn next. Luckily, there was some fake McDonald’s joint next store called Quick, and despite the irony of that name, we finally got some food. Exhausted, we went back to the apartment and passed out.

The next morning we woke up EARLY. We were out the door around 8am and on the metro. Thanks to the good recommendations from our friends and Charlotte’s mom, we headed to the famous art museum and home of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre. We went at such an obscene hour because we knew without pre-paid tickets we were going to have to if we didn’t want to waste the whole day in line. We found it pretty easily and took our touristy pictures and were just in awe of the beautiful building. We then joined the line and waited 20 minutes or so for the doors to open. We walked right in, got in line for tickets and were so pumped because with our student visas we wound up getting in for free–which would happen in every other place we went too. It was awesome too because Paris can be pretty pricey, so we wound up saving a lot of money.

louvre point

A Little Fun at the Louvre

Once inside, we followed signs and got right to the Mona Lisa with almost zero people in there. It was bigger than I thought, but still kind of hard to see with the glass there. Nevertheless, it was such a neat experience. After seeing the main attraction, we kind of just wandered around. The size of the Louvre is really impressive, and the amount of artwork is just stunning. We walked through Renaissance art from Spain and Italy, a new wing on Islamic art which was actually really neat, and then headed to some Dutch landscape art. We also saw the famous Winged Victory statue. Overall it was just a neat place to visit and I am happy we got in there so early. After being on the inside of the building, we went and walked through the gardens of the Louvre, which were equally as magnificent. There, we yelped a place to eat nearby and walked to a little cafe. It was so good to sit (We would wind up walking about 14 miles that day according to my one friend’s Nike App) and the food was so good! I got a tomato and mozzarella quiche-like dish with a salad and some delicious ravioli (Italy will always be number 1 in my heart).

mona

Mona & Me

After lunch we hopped on the metro and headed for the emblem of Paris itself–the Eiffel Tower. Even on a somewhat cloudy day it was pretty spectacular. It was actually more copper colored than I had imagined–in my head I thought it would be silver, but it was also bigger than I had anticipated. We got some great pictures and really got the Parisian experience as we sat and ate crepes underneath the tower. I felt like I was in a movie and it was really such a great time. Although we didn’t climb up the tower because the lines were absolutely ridiculous–the view from below was just as nice. Afterwards we walked back towards our house and on the way stopped by Notre Dame since it was on the way. It was such an amazing building and brought me back to my Disney days loving watching Quasimodo and Esmerelda.

eiffel solo notre dame crepe

The Tower, The Church & Most Importantly the Crepe

After taking some pictures, we headed back home to take about an hour break and then we all got ready and went to go meet Charlotte’s cousins who actually live in an amazingly beautiful apartment right across the street from Notre Dame. Mr. and Mrs. Kelly were so kind and gracious and had all of us girls over to their house for some appetizers and drinks. We talked to them about our time abroad while taking in views of the most famous church probably in the world. It was surreal and incredible. After drinks, Mr. Kelly took us to a VERY nice brasserie for a meal while Mrs. Kelly stayed behind because they were hosting a party the following day and she was getting ready. At the restaurant, I had a full three-course meal with a starter of some type of avocado and crabmeat, followed by a steak and potatoes dish and finally ending with basically a molten-lava brownie cake and ice cream. Not to mention Mr. Kelly bought maybe the best tasting red wine I have ever had in my life to share for the table. It was SO incredibly nice of him to take us all out when he barely knows any of us, and it was definitely a very expensive meal, but one of my highlights abroad. It was so nice to have great conversation and food and be in PARIS.

After our amazing dinner, he was also nice enough to walk us to our metro stop while giving us a tour of the famed lock bridge, Notre Dame by night, as well as city hall and a bunch of other buildings. He was so gracious, kind and generous with his time and it really made my time in Paris special–and I learned quite a bit too. Though we were all pretty exhausted, we went to a bar called Le Favorite de Sam right by our house once we got home and got a drink to just finish up our night and chat about our amazing day. We then went home and all passed out after quite an eventful and jammed pack day.

notre dame night

Notre Dame by Night

The next day we were out of the house by around 9:30. We got chocolate croissants and coffee from a bakery across the street and then we went and actually walked inside of Notre Dame and saw the famed church. It was really amazing and I am so happy we got the chance to go in. Afterwards, we quickly headed to avoid lines and try to climb the Arc de Triomphe–Napoleon’s famed arch that is now in the middle of a traffic circle that opens to the largest and main street in Paris– the Champs-Elysees. We actually did climb up the tower and had amazing views of the entire city. There is a direct line of vision right to the Louvre and it is truly amazing to see. Below the arch is the tomb of the unknown solider, which was neat to see too. After numerous photo ops, we headed back down and did a little walking down the main drag. We stopped at a cafe and got some lunch and then continued on our way. We actually stopped in LongChamp because some of the girls wanted to get bags and then we continued our walk.

notre dame inside candle

Inside Notre Dame

Along the way we passed the Louvre gardens and right across the street we found a very famous bakery known for its rich hot chocolate and pastries called Angelina. We were all tempted and headed in. It was AMAZING-I got chocolate mousse that was absolutely out of this world. I would eat it everyday if it was acceptable. The place itself was also very neat because of its quintessential French decor. It was a great way to partially end the day (i.e. before getting back on the metro). We then rested up a little bit again before our planned dinner thanks to a reservation made with the help of Charlotte’s mom for a famous fondu place. We headed there for our 7:30 reservation and it was AMAZING. Basically it was bread and meat with a huge pot of melted cheese for us to dip it all in, and then for dessert there was fruit and chocolate fondu. It was an amazing way to end our trip together. I have been through a lot with these girls in our almost 5 months now, and it was such a good time knowing it was our last real big trip together–Paris was quite the magical place to kind of end our many journeys.

arc arc view angelina

VIews from the Top of the Arch & My Dessert!

Finally, to truly cap off the night we walked back by the Eiffel Tower so we could see it all lit up– and boy was it incredible. We were able to see one of its flashing light shows and we really just sat and took it all in. Truly it was a stunning view and a fabulous way to end our time. Afterwards, we tiredly walked back and then had to pack and really get to sleep because our flight out was at 6 am. We had called for a cab earlier in the day, so at 4:30am luckily it was waiting for us and all went well. We had also bought some bread and jam to eat in the morning so we were all set and not hangry or grumpy when we got to the airport.

day v nighteiffel night eiffel night1

By Day & By Night

The trip had basically no hiccups, everything went so smoothly it was kind of scary– so it was only fitting that our first really bad interaction with a French person was at the airport. Charlotte’s bag did not fit the requirements and had to be checked and we all had to put our purses into our carry-on bags because they counted them as a second bag. This was all fine, but the woman was SO RUDE, and obviously the French have a reputation for being that way towards Americans, so I was not afraid to let my true feelings be displayed. I was probably a little rude back–but taste of your own medicine Frenchies. ANYWAYS, we did not let that distasteful woman ruin our trip and we arrived back to Málaga around 10:30 on Sunday. I spent the rest of the day basically sleeping on the beach and doing some work—life really is hard here.

This week I am trying to enjoy the beach and also get work done since the end of the semester is really sneaking up on me here. I go back and forth between never wanting to leave to really missing certain aspects of the American culture (i.e. stores being open on Sundays and all the time and not having a host family to tiptoe around). I know when the time comes I will probably be ready to come home, but within a week want to go back. This has truly been such an amazing experience for me and I cannot believe how many countries I have visited and places I have seen in the last few months. I have become so much more independent and experienced so many different ways of life, no matter how little work I actually do on a daily basis I know I have learned and grown so much.

Now I plan on enjoying my last month or so and trying to soak it all up.

Until then…Besos! xoxox

eiffel amy

Au Revoir Paris!

Københven: A Weekend Trip to Denmark!

This weekend I was lucky enough to take just a casual weekend trip to visit my good friend and Dickinson roommate, Annie, in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has been studying there all semester and I had been wanting to go and visit her, but our schedules had just not been matching up. When she took a trip to the south of Spain, I was on a class trip, and prices for flights to either of our cities were just looking to be too much.

Then about 2 weeks ago I just happened to get an email advertising cheap flights to Copenhagen. I bit the bait and followed the link and sure enough there was a pretty good deal. I booked it and two weeks later I found myself in the land of the Danes (but of course I walked out of the terminal only to find a Burger King).

Nevertheless, I left VERY early Thursday morning because my flight was at 7am. So luckily my host mom had helped me to get a cab for 4:40 in the morning and it was waiting downstairs for me when I walked out. I had been kind of nervous about it, so I was just happy to have it there–especially since public transportation is really not all that reliable at that time in the morning. The flight was also actually pretty long–just under 4 hours, which I hadn’t really expected, but it is farther than anywhere else I have been in Europe. It was therefore nice that it was such an early flight because I just slept the whole time. Another interesting thing about Denmark is that they are actually not in the EU, so they have their own currency– the kroner. There are about 6 kroner for every US dollar, so obviously things are pretty expensive. That being said, Danish people do not pay taxes like us and they also get a free education, while college students even get a stipend while going to school–so it is really not a big deal to them.

reunited

Reunited!!!!

Anyways, I landed around 10:30 and went to get some money exchanged. After a little wait, I was able to find Annie and we were finally reunited!! It was so awesome to see her. But our reunion had to be moved along quickly since she was skipping class and had a test later in the day. Annie had already purchased me my metro ticket and brought me back to her place. She is living just 10 minutes away about by train (they come every few minutes and very promptly unlike Spain) in what the Danes call a Colegium. Basically it is a place for any student to stay. The way Annie’s is set up is she has her own room, kitchenette and bathroom and then a shared room outside of her own with a TV, couches and a bigger kitchen. We went and dropped off my stuff and settled a little, and then I was able to gather up my backpack and stuff and she took me back into the city.

Once there, Annie dropped me off at Paludun, a very famous cafe where I posted up for a few hours while Annie went to cram and then take a test. The cafe was really neat with rows and rows of books for people to read–it looked like I was sort of dining in a library. Also a wedding party came in and had a little after ceremony celebration which was cool. It was also neat to be in there because it was exactly how I had imagined Copenhagen–I was sitting by the window in a very old timey cafe looking out at the city’s beautiful old architecture while it started to rain. You cannot get more picturesque than that. I did some work and finished a book, and pretty soon the sun came out and Annie was back to get me!

chill

View from my Cafe

We walked around the city a little bit and I saw the Glass Markets there. The markets are a bunch of little shops but in a glass building. Basically it was an upscale and fancy Atarazanas in Málaga–a modern version. I also went to see what they call “The Lakes” which is really just part of the city that is on the water with a park along it as well that is really pretty. Essentially that afternoon I got a really good feel for the city center. We also took a detour to a part of the city called Christiana–basically this is where weed is somewhat legal and a huge hippie population inhabits the area. You are not allowed to take photos once inside because people fear being caught and the area has been under a lot of debate. It was really funny to walk through because of who Annie and I really are (not really into that kind of thing) and was definitely a Copenhagen experience. There were quite a few characters. Copenhagen is definitely pretty relaxed, especially considering they have no open container policy either, and there are some funny bums that definitely take advantage of this.

christiana view from brunch glass market

Christiana from the Outside, A View of the City and The Glass Markets

We also pit stopped at a food store that afternoon for some ingredients because later that night her friends (who were all awesome and from different schools in the States) would make us a chicken curry dinner that was delicious. We then headed back to rest and nap. I met Annie’s friends and ate and then a few of us went out for drinks in the city. It was so nice to catch up with Annie, hear about all her fun adventures with her new friends and just be together.

The next morning we slept in a little bit and then we had a delicious brunch with all of her friends that we made. Then I got quite a cultural experience because it was actually what the Danes refer to as May Day–their Independence Day. We went to this huge park where they have a festival with music and food. Ultimately people just drink to excess, which is apparently the Danish way I learned pretty quickly. Nevertheless, the weather was beautiful and I even got one of their famous hot dogs which was DELICIOUS. I don’t know if it would compete with a good, old-fashion American dog, but considering I am always pretty hungry here in Spain due to my lack of interest in meat or eggs, it was amazing.

park hotdog

A Little May Day Fun

That night, after a quick siesta, Annie and her friends took me to one of their favorite dance clubs called Night Fever. It is hilariously funny because they basically just play Oldie But Goodies–everything from the Spice Girls to Michael Jackson to even Grease. It was a total blast and a nice change of pace since I have been pretty much restricted to Spanish music while out dancing in Spain.

clubs

The Infamous Night Fever

The next morning we were up and at ’em early to do lots of touristy things. As luck would have it, it wound up being the nicest day we had too. First we went out for a little brunch–PANCAKES that were delicious. Then we walked to the famous port area called Nyhavn. It was absolutely stunning and there were so many people out and about. It really is quintessential Copenhagen–the different and bright colored old buildings with old sailing ships in the harbor. It was so neat to see! We then continued to walk after a little photo op to where there are these sidewalk trampolines–a new type of innovative city playground. I had always seen pictures of people who go abroad to Copenhagen from Dickinson on them, so I was excited to try them out and they were just as fun as I thought they would be!

pancake  portselfie port

Pancakes and the Port

After that we headed to the Royal Palace–and also passed the old palace along the way. It was neat to see the guards in full gear walking around these beautiful old buildings still inhabited by the Danish Royal Family. People were also allowed to just walk wherever which is so different from the US, but I guess the Danes are a little more relaxed about stuff like that. After snapping a quick selfie with the guard, we were on our way. We walked around a little more and made our way over to the infamous mermaid statue. Though not that big, the statue is to commemorate the fairytale by Denmark’s own Hans Christian Anderson and has been there since 1913. However, it always seems to be a site for political activists and in recent years has had everything possible thrown at it and it once even had its head cut off! It was quite packed when we got there, but it was fun to see and was also in this very beautiful park by the port that is also home to this almost fake-looking church. It really looked like a fairytale.

palace

After this whirlwind tour, I really had seen the main spots of Copenhagen. To celebrate, Annie and I headed back to the main section of Nyhavn to find an ice cream spot we had spied earlier. We then sat, feet hanging over the edge of the water, delicious (seriously some of the best I have ever had in my life) ice cream cones in hand, looking out across to the Opera House and taking in the beautiful day after A LOT of walking. It was the perfect way to just end our time in the city.

guard merman popher home

Selfies with the Royal Guards, The Mermaid & Annie’s Royal Home

We then called it quits, but pit stopped on the way home to get some pasta and supplies to make dinner since Annie’s friends had been SO nice to me the whole time cooking for us all, etc. I figured we could pay ’em back a little bit! After that, Annie and I passed out for about an hour, woke up and prepped for dinner. We then had a casual night eating and talking again. In the morning, we woke up a little earlier again, I packed and then we headed out to a big brunch. It was a buffet style and SO good. They had crispy bacon and pastries, so I was content. (Side note they have 7-11’s on just about every corner in Copenhagen which is so funny, but they are actually nice and I got the best chocolate chip scone there :). Anyways after a beautiful brunch outside in the sun, we unfortunately had to go back and get all my things and make our way to the airport. I said goodbye to Annie which was sad, but she leaves in just under 2 weeks to head back to the States–and I will be following her shortly–so we both knew we will see each other really soon which made it easier.

jump 1 jump2 jump3

The Process of Trampolining

It seems crazy that my time is running so short here and I go back and forth between being ready and not. There are certainly things I am so ready to not deal with–like being able to shower whenever I want and not tiptoe-ing around really because I am basically a guest who has to be polite. But the people I have met and the city of Málaga in general I know I am not going to be ready to say goodbye to! It is going to be a whirlwind of emotions especially when some people leave 10 days early to start internships–they really only have a few weeks left which is nuts– I am trying not to think about it!

sell idk

Just a Pretty Church in the Park

Now as for me, I still have some time to really crack down on my Spanish–traveling around I have definitely lost touch with some of it–but I still have one more trip in 2 weekends to Paris. I am so excited to see the City of Lights because it is just so famous and I think it will be a really good time.

This week I am going to try to get ahead on a lot since everything is going to start piling up soon and I do not want to be stressed. But also the beach can call my name pretty easily when I hear the waves across the street–so we will see how that goes!

Until then,

Xoxox Besos, Tara Xoxoxo

feet port againice cream annie

Perfect Way to End a Perfect Trip!

FERIA 2K15!

Holaaaa!

Well, yesterday was one of my favorite days of my whole time in Spain by far! My tour guide from my trips at Dickinson, Manolo, actually offered my class an opportunity to go with him (for a pretty good deal!) on a bus to Sevilla for their biggest festival of the entire year: La Feria de abril de Sevilla. This basically is a celebration of bullfighting and horses and flamenco in Sevilla–all of which are extremely important to the city’s history and culture. I really did not know what to expect, but whatever expectations I had were definitely blown out of the water by how fabulous of a day I had.

So, to start the day I met up with Manolo and the rest of my program at 7:30 in the morning, and then we were on the bus (and after a quick pit stop picking up kids from another school) we were off to Sevilla. We arrived around 11am and because the city was packed, we took a little walking tour all around  before heading into our cathedral tour. The Barrio de Santa Cruz was the Jewish Ghetto and is really neat and old with what they call the “kissing walls”, because the alleys are so close together that it is as if they were kissing. This was done to allow the wind to come through off the river and to create shade during the extremely hot summers that Sevilla experiences. There is tons of history here with old mosques that were knocked down and churches built on top and the architecture, like most of Andalusia and Spain in general, was really cool to see.

town does feria

Santa Cruz Barrio Is Ready for Feria!

The plazas were all beautiful, and we also walked through some old gardens of a palace with these beautiful tiled benches. It was a great spot for a rest and some good photos. Though the weather was a bit cloudy, it was still warm and only rained for a few minutes during the early morning. By the end of the day too, the sun had come out and it was the most perfect weather you could ask for!

em and i and bench

Our Fave Place to Rest

After our little walking tour of the area, we actually got entrance into the Cathedral of Sevilla. This gothic church is the third largest cathedral in the world and the second largest Catholic cathedral, only behind St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is amazing and beautiful on the outside and stands right across from the famed Alcazar or Palace, which is a UNESCO world site. Though we did not get to see the inside renowned for its mudejár tiles and style, it was pretty amazing from the outside too. Also, the cathedral was really quite an experience. We saw some of Sevilla’s most famous painter’s works, Murillo, and also one of the biggest altarpieces in the world made of gold. What really was neat about the cathedral though, and probably what it is most famous for, is the fact that it is home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It is this huge centerpiece and really quite amazing because no matter what your opinion of Columbus is, he played a major role in the development and progression of the modern world.

cathedral full colombus tomb cathedral

The Cathedral and Tower & Selfies with Columbus

After exploring the church, we also were granted entrance to its bell tower known as the Giralda Bell Tower. This was really neat to climb up because it was actually a ramp all the way up about 30 flights. This is because the church was built on what was once a mosque and this bell tower was actually once a minaret used to sound the call to prayer. To get up the tower 5x a day, the person in charge would ride a horse or donkey up the ramp. We, however, climbed up and down it. But the views, even though it began to drizzle a little, were still worth it to see. Sevilla truly was a beautiful old city with a very authentic and traditional vibe.

view from below

View From Atop the Bell Tower

After the cathedral, we all headed down and met Manolo who walked us over to the actual fairgrounds on the outskirts of the city. This is where things started to get PACKED. It was neat to walk past the river with beautiful palm trees and restaurants all along the way. The crowds were also fun to experience because everyone from Sevilla basically dressed in traditional garb. Women were dressed in flamenco dresses and often their daughters were dressed in matching outfits. Whole families coordinated, as the boys were dressed in old, horsemen outfits. It felt like you were walking back in time. Of course there were people not dressed like this, but if they were not, they were still dressed to the nines in crisp suits and jackets. It all made my group feel extremely underdressed to say the least. However, it was beautiful. The fairground had this amazing portada, or entrance way, that lights up at night and is beautiful. There were over 1000 casetas, which are these tents set up all along the streets that either belong to prominent families, associations, clubs or political parties. It was interesting because you could totally see social classes throughout the day. The few public tents they had were noticeably different–it is like belonging to the public pool vs. a country club I would say. There are horse and carriages that take the richer people (clearly seen through their attire) all through the area too. The streets are sand and there are lanterns lining every street as men (and some women) ride horses. Often there were women riding in flamenco dresses, so they would ride side saddle beside the men.

dancersss me n em n portadaferia lantern

Struttin’ in the Streets, The Entrance Way and the Casetas & Streets in the Fairground

It was amazing to see and experience. The sights, sounds and views were just simply incredible. Though we did not have entrance to these private casetas, the few public ones spread throughout the area were open to us and we went to a few, getting the real feel for the day. We even tried some of the traditional rebujito drink. It basically is this special apple wine (manzanilla) and sprite. My friends Amy, Emily and I were not the biggest fans because it is really sweet wine, but we stuck to our tinto de verano and had a great time. Inside the tents, everyone from little kids to grandmas was dancing around. It was so fun, but unfortunately for me, everyone is born basically knowing the steps to the Flamenco dances. Little kids dance better than I ever will. It was so fun to watch though.

la guita inside tentme n feria

“La Guita”-A nickname for the famous wine, our Caseta, & Me and Some Horses!

At the end of the fairground there was also an amusement park set up and even a circus. We walked around here and finally sat down for a little because we had not been able to find a seat for about 5 hours. We finally just gave up and sat down on the side of a bumper car attraction. Oddly enough, this part of the day really brought me back to the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore and had me reminiscing about my many trips for FunLand and Wonderland back in the day. Here we also stopped at a choclatería and bought some churros rellenos. These basically are chocolate filled churros that are then dipped in chocolate. Maybe I was just tired and hungry, but it was the best thing I have probably had in Spain. Anyways, we took in the sights a little more and then decided to head out of the fairgrounds and back towards the city.

rideschurrooooo

Amusing Ourselves at the Amusement Park

We found an Italian food place called Divina Comedia right on the river and as the sun went down we feasted on some pizza and salad and drank a bottle of wine. It was the best way to end the best possible day in Sevilla. I was really not expecting much of the city, but I can tell why it is so popular now. The plaza, churches and palaces are absolutely spectacular and I thought this even on their cloudiest of days. Also, the culture is still so alive. The city is living and breathing “old-school” Spain, which was just such a special thing to experience. I am so thankful to have been there for Feria and maybe one day I will be luckily enough to head back during this time!

This past week was kind of just a week of catch up and the beach again, so I can’t complain. Also, I got to experience a bit of the film fest in Málaga which was really neat. This is the only one in Spain, and things have been packed and busy in the city center. Apparently there are a lot of famous people around, but there are about 5 famous actors from Spain that make it in the US, so if I bumped into them on the street I would not be able to tell. Nevertheless, the main streets are all covered in red carpets and there are ticket offices all over the city that have popped up where you can buy entrances to screenings. Since I could get credit for class doing this, my friend Lil and I bought tickets and headed out to one.

We bought tickets to a series of what was described as animated shorts. We had selected this option because it fit into both of our schedules and also because we figured that it would be more designed for little kids. We thought that we would be able to better understand what was going on if the language was not as adult. WELL. We were to be sorely mistaken. We bought our popcorn and took some pictures in the empty theatre and then were greeted with a fun, silent short film called “Zepo” in which a little girl witnesses a murder, and is then drowned by a soldier essentially.

me n ticket tickets

Before Things Got Weird

We quickly realized that these were shorts meant for adults and that the Spanish can be VERY, VERY dark. There were lots of shorts dealing in artistic ways with the Spanish Civil War and violence in general. It was really pretty bad, so we snuck out a little early and then got a drink at the bar across the street because it was honestly a little stressful. I cannot even put into words how weird these films were. Anyways, it was a good experience and I got to use it for my essay. And I can say I went to the Málaga Film Festival.

Now I am just getting things together again and catching up on some sleep since I got back from Sevilla last night at around 2am. Luckily for me too the bus dropped me off right outside my house while we passed it–I talked Manolo into it because I was so tired 🙂 BUT this week I am going to COPENHAGEN very early Thursday morning! I am so excited and really pumped to see Annie, and the city that I have only heard amazing things about! I can’t wait to fill everyone in on my experience, but until then….Besos!!

Un Finde Relajado

Finally after weeks of traveling with basically no stopping, this week was a relaxing one. I was able to really settle down and get caught up on work and just relax and walk around Málaga. This weekend was also awesome because we finally had some really great weather! Friday through Sunday I would wake up, go for a run, come back to eat breakfast and shower, and then I would spend all day everyday on the beach with a few kids from my program. It was absolutely incredible.

lifesabeachmalgs beach crew beach

Life’s A Beach & I’m Just Playin’ in the Sand

We would get lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach, or some days we just brought lunch, and we were able to just hang out and take in all of the beautiful weather and scenery Málaga has to offer. On Friday and Saturday night, we also went into Centro and just went shopping and to a bar or two. It was amazing to just be back “home” and speak in Spanish and enjoy the place we have called home for the past few months. I also did some damage at H&M (sorry Mom and Dad) and even went to McDonald’s to enjoy myself a little bit. I considered it a treat after learning I did well in my intensive class for the semester.

barshot

Lil and I at A Favorite Spot: Siglo XXI

Also great news this week is that I actually booked a flight to go to COPENHAGEN! I found the cheapest flight I have seen EVER  to go see my roommate from Dickinson, Annie, who is studying there this semester. We have been trying to meet up, but everything has just been too expensive for us both because Málaga is a smaller city and therefore expensive to fly into or out of. So,when this opportunity came up I really wanted to take it, and my parents were luckily extremely supportive. SO this weekend I am going to the Sevilla Feria, which should be really fun and exciting. And then the next Thursday, I am off to Denmark where I will stay with Annie for 3 nights and just explore. I am beyond excited to see her finally, and also to see a place I did not think or imagine I would ever be able to see. It will definitely be a different culture and I simply cannot wait.

Everything else here is pretty much the same. I actually had a quiz and presentation in class today and I still have about 3 hours of class to go this afternoon. So, I am doing some schoolwork (WEIRD). This week I am also going to try my best to really get ahead on things because I do not want to have all my final papers at the end piling up when I am going to want to enjoy my final days in Spain.

So, my next few posts I am sure I will have a lot more to say, but until next time….Besos!

xo Tara xo

run

Málaga’s Aight: Views From My Run

¡¡¡LOS PADRES!!!!

SO, after nearly two weeks away from my home stay, I finally returned and just in time for my parents arrival the following day and the start of Semana Santa, which I would come to learn is a HUGE celebration in Malaga. But the important part is that my parents were finally able to make the trip across the pond for a visit.

I woke up earlier Friday morning and got myself situated and semi packed to be able to stay with them. They stayed in an AirBnb in what is known as “El Centro”, which is really just the downtown of Malaga. Then around 12ish I headed out and took the bus and metro to go and meet them at the airport. I was so excited/anxious about the arrival of their flight, etc. that I could not sleep the night before and was all jittery on the way to the airport.

Once there I saw the flight info and soon enough I could see the luggage belt where they were supposed to come– and there was my mom in bright yellow Underarmour. I started to bang on the glass, though it was thick and she clearly could not hear me, but my dad saw me. My mom ran over and we talked through the glass and finally after what seemed like an eternity we were reunited! It was awesome to see them in the flesh and not just their faces over FaceTime.

To speed this along, we got to our AirBnB with our host Julian who was very prompt and waiting for us (another anxiety relieved because I had some friends who used this apartment renting site and did not have such great luck). The apartment was awesome and had a great view of the city from its beautiful terrace. After resting up for a little, we went out to get some food and walk around the port of Malaga. My parents were obviously impressed. Along the way we also were lucky enough to witness the festivities going on for Semana Santa. Basically there are all these “brotherhoods” that are associated with each neighborhood church. People (traditionally just men, but now men and women) pay a minimal fee to belong. I actually was very lucky because with my class I got to tour one before heading into Barcelona. But during this week the brotherhoods celebrate Easter in a very special way. They carry these huge thrones with lit candles and statues on top. Each group has one of Mary and then another of Jesus, and they use different ones on different days. For hours and hours  hundreds of men carry them through the streets dressed in basically what looks like the KKK uniforms. At first it was kind of freaky, but I learned from my visit that it actually has a nice meaning. The idea behind the mask is that anyone can be in the brotherhood and by putting on the mask and accepting the honor to carry the throne, it is a way to be humble and show we are all equal in the eyes of God. Though a nice gesture, it is still a bit unsettling for any American in the streets.

semana

Throne!

Nevertheless, it was such an experience to be a part of and my parents were definitely happy to see it all too. We all found it really interesting. It was a cultural experience to the MAX. I have never seen El Centro so packed. The main street was shut down and you could not move the crowds were so big! The bands that accompanied each brotherhood played sad marching tunes and made it hard to hear as well. There were also lots of little kids dressed up which was so cute. The kids that were not involved, also have this tradition where they collect from the kids carrying candles leading the thrones down the street, candle wax and create these balls of wax. The older the kid, the bigger the ball of wax they had. I guess being from a nation that is not so universally Catholic this whole week seemed a little strange to me, but it was also so interesting to see how everyone came together whether they were religious or not. TV stations basically only had coverage on the processions and it just took over the entire city. Luckily later in the week my parents would also be able to experience a more normal Malaga too, so they got the best of both worlds.

That next day we actually had ourselves a little beach day since my weather app was telling me it would be the nicest day (which it was). I took my mom and dad to meet my host mom, see my house and then we went to the beach and had lunch in Pedregalejo where I live. It was so nice and relaxing and actually good for them because it helped with the jet lag just sitting on the beach and sleeping.

That night my parents also were able to experience another Spanish cultural event that even I had yet to experience: a bull fight. My mom had done her research and knew that the first one in Malaga was Saturday, so I had gone before leaving for Italy to get tickets where I stood in line with only 15 other old Spanish men. But day of the fight– it was actually awesome. When we got in line there were protestors of course covered in blood chanting about the horrors of the sport, but after going I guess I could see a little more why. Our seats were not the best, only because the stadium is from the 1800s and is basically just benches so there was NO ROOM. What’s more some kids were sitting where we should have been, but this was only figured out later. Also Europeans are just smaller.

bulllll

Bullz

Anyways, the fight started and it was nuts. They play music and the bull comes out and the men with the flags start getting him all riled up. Then the picador comes out on the horse and the bull just starts attacking the horse while the man atop of the horse jabs at him with a spear. Then there are these men called banderillas. They take these mini spears and with no protection line up with the bull head on. It comes toward them and they stick it in the back of the neck. It is pretty grueling to watch because the bull by this point is bleeding pretty badly and starting to slow a little bit. However, when they go for the horse and really try to get at it, it also didn’t make me feel that bad for it. Not saying that it makes it better, but I guess it surprised me and made me a little angry oddly enough.

two bulls ma bull

Mother the Matadora

Then the matador comes out and the true show begins. It was honestly amazing to watch him let the bull come at him without flinching in the least bit. He simply moved the flag around and let it come so close. Since there were 8 bulls to be killed at this one fight, I started to see what was good and what was bad for a matador to do by the crowd’s reaction. I also actually could see how people here in Spain compare it to ballet or something more technical. It truly is an art form. Though we left after the 6th one because it was just too much in those little seats, my favorite matador went by the name of El Juli. He was dramatic and flamboyant and just very impressive to watch. He has apparently been doing this since he was 12 in Mexico, since that is illegal in Spain (you have to be 16), but he is considered one of the best in the world. When I went with my class to the bullfighting museum the other day, there was actually a huge painting of him on the wall. This was really quite an experience and I am so glad I got to share it with my parents.

The next day we woke up and did Gibralfaro Castle, which is a little hike because it was still nice out. It was beautiful and my parents really enjoyed seeing the historical site and the amazing views. Then we walked down and saw the famous Malagueta sign and sat on the beach for an hour or so before heading to get some lunch at the port. Since Spanish food really was not our thing during this trip, we went to a burger place that was actually very good. We would go back to the Italian place Mamma Mia’s 2x while my parents were here, which was just funny. Though my mom DID like the tinto de verano, a type of summer, bubbly red wine here in Malaga—the rest was really not to our liking so I lucked out, getting the food I really enjoy.

selfs

Gibralfaro!

The next day we went and visited Picasso’s House which my mom had been looking forward to and really enjoyed. The next day we would do the Picasso museum (much to my Dad’s dismay-he only has limited time for that type of thing as do I). Afterwards, we went and got sandwiches and ate on the steps of the Roman Theatre. It was sunny, and though a little windy, it was a nice time to relax in a place that goes back centuries. Once we finished eating we actually decided to do the Alcazaba as well –the beautiful Muslim ruins you can climb and look around. I think my parents really liked that.

two yahoosselfs2

My Faves at the Alcazaba

On Wednesday, I had class (first time in over 2 weeks!) so I left my parents to walk around and see the Cathedral since it had been Easter and the schedule had been a little off. Then after I was done class in the afternoon, we went and saw the Carmen Thyssen museum, which houses all artwork from Southern Spain. It had beautiful paintings of Malaga and also a neat visiting exhibit called “Days of Summer” that actually had pictures of Malaga from the 1920s, etc. and showed the beach right across from my house, which I thought was really cool.

Really, that was our last night in Malaga because the next morning we got up and headed out to the airport to catch a flight to Barcelona. Luckily for us, the France strike did not really affect us per se, but lines were long and it was a bit stressful. Nevertheless, by late afternoon we had arrived in beautiful Barcelona and were in our LUXURY hotel. Since we were only there for 2 nights, my mom had truly outdone herself. Hotel Yurbaan Trafalgar was BEAUTIFUL. Our room was pretty and modern and we had access to a rooftop pool, which my mom and I would put to use on Friday afternoon. Once settled, we walked around for a bit and then looked for a place to eat before our 7:15 reservation at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. I was being a bit of pain at that point because I was STARVING and then my Dad’s shoe broke so he was not the happiest of campers (sorry mom and dad). However, despite some bickering we soon found a Burger King where I could be placated. We hurried back to the hotel to change shoes for my Dad and then we were back in time for the Picasso museum. Though I had seen it before, it was nice to actually take my time and not be totally over it like I was with my class. I also was able to see more so it wound up being really nice. Afterwards we all went back to the hotel and passed out since we had to be up for a 9am appointment to the Sagrada Familia. I had done my research and booked ahead so we could see as much as possible in our few day stint which was a good call.

faves B pic

Picasso Museum in Barca!

The Sagrada Familia was just as amazing the second time around. I was able to see Gaudi’s (the architect of the church) crypt in the back of the church and even see the museum underneath which I had not done before. I also, after writing a paper on it, knew a bit more about its purpose and was able to truly appreciate it. My Mom and Dad were definitely impressed, although of course my mom still likes the Duomo in Florence better–she “likes the renaissance”–so I guess I will be the modernist and she can be the renaissance woman. Either way it was an amazing sight to see and I know they appreciated it.

windowz me n ma n sagrada tall sag

Sagrada!

Afterwards, we went to La Boqueria market and got some lunch that was very good (although I was definitely ripped off I think on prices) and then we got juices too. Mine was not nearly as good as last time. Note to others: don’t mix pineapple and coconut in a drink–tastes like vomit. Anyways, they really liked seeing the Spanish market because when I had pit-stopped by the market in Malaga, it was Easter Monday and barely anything was open. This was their first true experience and I know they thought it was cool and different.

save water

Fave Sign at the Market!

After the market we took a little walk past some of Gaudi’s other houses that I had seen before like La Pedrera and then we caught a taxi to Parque Güell. I had gotten us tickets beforehand so we walked around and within 15 minutes had access to the Monumental part of the park. We got our pictures and got to walk around. It truly was really pretty and I know my mom was happy to see it after having seen my sister and me both go there and being on the “up and up” with everything art related.

dad n me gaudi

Park Güell

After that, we were kind of done our plans for the day. We went back and sat by the pool and siesta’ed and then walked around the Gothic/ Roman neighborhood before heading to dinner at –what else– but an Italian restaurant right near where the Irish bar I went with my friends was. It was a great way to end the day–as we also went to the store and got ice cream 🙂 . We went to bed and then in the morning we were up early because we were all headed to the airport. Me to head back to Malaga and them to the States.

We thought we would be able to sit in the airport together, but since Barca is much bigger than Malaga, we found out in the taxi we were in different terminals and we could not. So, I had to say goodbye in the street. I really have not been homesick minus one or two days. Thanks to Skype and FaceTime communication is pretty much the same as it would be at school. Nevertheless seeing my parents definitely made me miss them and we all got a little emotional saying goodbye. I knew I was going back to the beach and I still have so much to look forward to and experience here, but its never easy saying goodbye–especially when I had such a great time with them. But everyone made it home safe and sound and without problems and it was an amazing trip. I am so thankful that my parents have provided me with this opportunity to study abroad and that they were able to experience part of it with me. I know this is something I will treasure for the rest of my life and I would not be here without them. You the Real MVP’s Lisa and Craig —BESOS!

Spring Break 2k15: Italia!

SO…to continue my weeks of travel, I returned home from Barcelona and the next afternoon was on a plane with about 8 other kids from my program headed to Venice. I had really wanted to make sure I got back to Italy after having been there while my sister Caitlin studied abroad to see a few places we just did not get to because of time constraints. Everywhere that I went was on my list, and though there are always places I would enjoy returning to, I am so happy I got to these places I am about to describe.

Venice was absolutely beautiful. We were only there for one night, we got in around 9/10 and it was actually only 3 euro more to take a private water taxi which was hysterical and fun. However, we were dropped off to the MOST DISGUSTING HOTEL. It was a great location, but old and gross and I was fearing bed bugs. Of course I had found the place so I felt responsible and horrible, but it was only a few hours of our life and we were on our way and at least they kept our luggage for the day. That night we all went out to eat at a restaurant right down the street which was delicious and then we bought a few bottles of wine and sat on a bridge taking in the beauty of the city by night. It felt fake and like I was living someone else’s life, but was so fun.

marco bedbg boats

Night Taxis, Bed Beg Fears & Venice by Day

The next morning we got up a little earlier, got breakfast and walked the city streets just wandering. It was absolutely beautiful and tranquil with the water. We then went and actually got into a gondola! It was such an odd experience because I feel like I have seen it in the movies, but it was surreal knowing I was legitimately living this experience. Our guy could not have been less charismatic, but it didn’t take away from it because I was with all my friends having the best day ever. We then hung out in Plaza San Marco–the very famous one–and saw the cathedral and buildings like the Doge. We definitely did not do the touristy route here. We didn’t go to the other islands like where they blow the famous glass in Murano or really “tour”, but I felt that we got the feel of the city and it was an awesome way to start break. How can you beat sitting on the edge of the Adriatic Sea with friends eating delicious gelato on a gorgeous, sunny day in Italy? You just can’t.

me gond gond self MEALS

Gondolas & Pasta 🙂

That afternoon we collected our luggage and actually took it and walked to where we needed to get a bus to get to the Marco Polo airport. We were such tourists rolling our bags through the street, but it was the best way to see even more of the city with the time we had and it was such a memorable little excursion. We stopped along the way for   panini and food and then finally arrived. Yet again, we actually wound up taking this huge taxi because it was cheaper with how many of us there were which was awesome. Our driver looked like Jack Black and drove like a lunatic, but it was hysterical and fun.

At the airport our flight to Naples was delayed an hour, but we stuck it out together and just messed around. We got in late, but my two friends and I actually had paid for a private transfer with our hostel because we did not want to stay in Naples for the night like some of the group did. Instead, we got directly to Sorrento so that we could have the next day to do and see things on the Amalfi Coast. The transfer was awesome. There was an Italian man waiting with a sign with our names and he took us to a nice silver little Mercedes and took us directly to the hostel. He also was hysterical and was telling us his dream of living in Miami with a Lambo and 2-3 girls. I was cracking up, but told him to go for it because America is awesome.

Our hostel in Sorrento was AMAZING. It was seriously like a luxury resort with mosaic tiled floors, a huge expensive-looking bar and a beautiful roof terrace overlooking the mountains and a lemon tree farm. Incredible. The first night we stayed in a mixed-female dorm and I had not brought a lock, so I was a little apprehensive. However, the next day when our friends arrived it actually worked out because they had 3 empty beds in their room. We talked to the guys at the front desk and were actually able to move in and we were just in a huge room with 4 bunk beds and everyone was together. It could not have been more perfect.

That first morning when it was just Emily, Madi and me, we got up and had the included breakfast, got directions from the front desk and headed to the train station. In 30 minutes or so we were in Pompeii. It was a little bit of a wait with the line, but SO worth it. I guess I was not expecting the city of ruins to be so gigantic, but it truly was. There was the Forum. There were rows and rows of what used to be storefronts. The roads were all still in place. There were houses converted so that you could see all the pottery and artifacts leftover, including human bodies plastered on display. The bath houses with marble remain. And the residential areas just spread out for miles. There is even an amphitheater on the edge of the city. After learning about Pompeii so much in Latin class in highs school, it was incredible to finally see it. We walked for an hour or so, hit a dead end and wound up eating our croissants and nutella that we had all brought with us from the hostel. We then found the Garden of the Fugitives, which is where there is a line of bodies on the outskirts of town where they were trying to escape the lava of Vesuvius. It was breathtaking to see and is in what was a vineyard and today has been reconverted into a working one as well. I am so happy I made it to Pompeii. It was so worth the half day trip and was somewhere I know not a lot of people can say they have been.

selfie ves vesuvius selfie pomp

POMPEII Selfies with the Streets and Vesuvius

After our self-guided tour, we got some lunch across the street–we split a pizza, a fruit plate and a liter of Coke :)– and hopped back on the train and wound up being on the same one as our friends coming in from Naples. We then took them back to the hostel, switched our rooms and then we napped a  little before heading out to town in Sorrento. We ate a place that was recommended by someone’s friend and then walked around the port. We also jumped into a little bar for a few seconds where they had karaoke. We basically brought the place down and the Italians there were loving us which was hysterical, but we left pretty quickly and all walked home along the water together. It was awesome.

The next morning we also all got up at a decent time and walked into town where we got a bus to Positano. It was a rough ride up one mountain side to go down the other and it was packed and hot. By the end I thought I was gonna vomit, but I made it. It was also SO worth it. This town was built into the rock. Literally. We had to climb down all these windy steps to get to the bottom and when you look up you wonder how it was ever constructed. It was truly gorgeous. I have no other way to describe how absolutely stunning the place was. We finally got down to the bottom and there was a little panini place called Vini & Panini where I got to create my own sandwich. The place has been there since the 1800s for a reason. It was DELICIOUS and we all took ours to the beach to eat.

view from top posit me n mt paneeen

Positano’s Views & Eats

Afterwards, some people took a boat to the actual town of Amalfi, but feeling that I had not really explored Positano, my friend Amy and I stayed. We wandered the little cobbled streets watching men make real leather sandals and going into these little boutiques. We then went into the beautiful cathedral (where the Pope has been multiple times–a fact they are very proud of) and it was beautiful. Its cupola is this tiled blue, green and gold that is fabulous. Afterwards, the tourist office told us about this separate little beach where there are towers built into the mountain side that were once used as a defense lookout. We walked up and around and found it and had our own private beach. The sun really came out and we took pictures and sat on this rocky little beach that was all ours. It was perfect. We then walked back and got gelato to fuel ourselves for the trek back up the mountain, where we caught the next bus. The ride back was not nearly as bad and we actually got off a stop earlier than we thought we would have to and were so close to our hostel.

posit private beach

Our Own Personal Beach

That night a few of us went and got food at a local restaurant down the street recommended by one of the hostel employees. I got a whole little pizza to myself that I had watched the man throw in the air–the whole 9 yards. It was amazing and fun and there were Popeye character drawings on the wall. The next morning we were up SUPER early to go and get our local train from Sorrento to Naples and then from Naples to Rome. The rest of the crew was staying there for 3 days, but once in Rome, I caught another train to the airport. I had to wait a few hours for my flight, but I was glad I had given myself time to get there and was not rushed. I then flew home because my parents were coming the next day! It was Semana Santa in Málaga which is a HUGE deal and so it was crowded and man literally pulled me into the metro so I could fit on the ride back, but it would be worth it to see with my parents in a few days!

Italy was an amazing experience. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to go back and honestly I love that country so much I wish I could go back again. Truthfully, I wish they just spoke Spanish, but Málaga ain’t half bad either and I am sure my waistline is thanking me too with how much delicious food I ate. But, hopefully one day I can go back again because there are still places I would love to see!

view from top posit