Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Absolute Chaos

Nothing really can describe this week besides the title I've put above. The last week of programs are always hectic and stressful, but throw in the obligations of trying to pack under a certain weight-limit, trying to solidify plans for the next month, finals, a metro strike (will discuss this later), trying to visit all of the places I haven't yet, and socializing with all of my friends for one last time and we have a week that has been nothing short of intense. Ok so when I left off I was heading to watch the US game I believe. It was a bit sad honestly that we didn't get on...we had the chances but we just didn't have a striker that could finish. We scored 5 goals in this world cup...none of them were scored by a striker. But to make more sense of the chaos that is this blog entry I'll be labeling sections

The Weekend

Anyways following the game the plans were up in the air. The last two nights had been intense and some friends were going on a bar crawl but we instead decided to try and hit up a local club that supposedly overlooked all of Casa de Campo (a huge park right outside of Madrid). So taking it upon myself I look it up and after hanging out near a botellón (basically a customary tradition of Spanish youth to drink alcohol in public places in large groups) we went on our way. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened. We went down this road parallel to Parque del Oeste (the park right next to our school) and it began to rain a bit. For the past few nights Madrid turned into a lightning storm when it went dark. It was pretty crazy and so this was not unexpected. But on the ground...there were literally hundreds of cockroaches. all over. No joke. They weren't in big swarms or anything but every few feet a cockroach would be scuttling across the ground, sitting on a wall, or just chilling in random places. It was disgusting. strangely enough this was my first experience with real live cockroaches and I am not a fan. I don't even know what do with them... I don't want to step on them cause they are just too ugly and big and it's just disgusting. These things can survive nuclear bombs...I don't even want to begin to mess with that. Anyways it was quite the experience and when we get to where the club was supposed to be there wasn't anything...We asked around but noone knew where it was. We even brought up Google Maps and we were in the right place! ¿Qué pasa? Turns out thsi club was closed roughly a year ago and it no longer existed. All of those cockroaches braved for nothing :(!! Seriously? But despite this it was quite the fun hind sight

So that very same night before going out I locked myself out of my apt. It is a lot easier to do than one might think, my keys are small and the door automatically locks. So I was staying at Mike and Andrew's for that night. The next morning however I FINALLY WOKE UP in time to see El Rastro and go to it. Basically a section of the city on Sundays turns into a HUGE flea market. It was quite the experience an there were people and literally anything you could ever want. I bought my first items in Madrid such as a jersey etc. It was awesome but I'm glad I only went one week...any more and it would be dangerous for my wallet haha. But following this I went back and found out my RA was in Turkey and my Roommate was in Barcelona. So basically I was stuck at my friends until 10pm that night. I had so many plans for the day but the yall fell apart. So much for starting/finishing my essay early or going to this cool party that my friend invited me too at a pool club. Anyways so after a few world cup games in which I'm glad Germany won so I can see a game of theirs in Germany...and I also bought a German jersey so that was cool (sorry England I was rooting for you before I bought the jersey). Finally I get back into my apartment and end the weekend by catching up on all the stuff I was supposed to be doing during the day. This was also disappointing because I wanted to write a script for a potential movie, but no worries.

The Week

So Monday marked the first day that workers began to strike for the metro. The govt is in a crisis and their only option to cut down budget is to cut wages. Metro workers weren't happy...etc.. but basically EVERYONE gets around through the metro. Luckily I live close to school and also luckily the metro was only closed 50% but just the though of the metro stopping was scary. Especially in a week where I wanted to see the rest of the city I hadn't seen yet. After class I finally got to go to the Flamenco class that I signed up for! It was very cool and was taught by an award winning dancer. I love that Flamenco uses rhythm so much and beats and is very percussion-like...made me miss playing percussion a lot. But after that some of the Spanish girls from the club wanted to meet up with all of us and so we all went to the Parque del Retiro to ride on the boats in the lake. it took awhile to get used to rowing haha but after the hour I was definitely a pro. It was beautiful out too and if you ever go to Madrid you NEED To stop by the Parque del Retiro. It's a huge park that is gorgeous with so many things to do.

But following this we went back to my apartment and hung out and played cards. I knew I had work to do but meh I would just work on it the next day. And the next day I did...until the metro screwed everything up. On Tuesday the metro closed down FOR GOOD. This ruined all of my plans for the day. Ideally it was class->paper->dinner with friends at a new plaza i hadn't been too-> then game at the stadium with spanish friends. BUt with no metro, noone could get anywhere. Most people couldn't get to class (normally a 20 minute trip became 3 hours) and buses were absolutely overflowing with people. It was horrible. So after the stress passed a group of us watched the huge game at a local bar. It was packed and David Villa (the man on my jersey) once again came through! I've learned a lot of chants to take to other countries when I support Spain such as: Villa Villa Villa, Villa MaraVilla. and Yo soy Espanol espanol espana haha that one isn't quite right but if I say that I at least can chant along and sound similar. So I made a pact to not go to sleep until I finished my paper and finally came through halfway through the night. It was completely refreshing to finally be done and ready for proofreading.

Wednesday was the last day of class. I really did enjoy both classes and teachers. Grammar was always fun and our teacher always created creative ways to learn things (such as having a situation on the back of someone and having others give that person advice...mine was that I was too sleepy in class haha I doubt that was chance). Our film professor is very intimidating but he inspires me to try to impress him and the Spanish movies for the most part were quite good. So following class I went back to work, and by work I mean I caught up on sleep by having a 5 hour siesta that was only supposed to be 2 hours. By the time I woke up I had to rush around and do all of things I needed to do (such as laundry and homework for the next day). A group of us were all going to meet at Tigre which I'm don't remember if I wrote about or not. Basically they give you large plates of tapas with every drink. And there was also a free Jason De Rulo concert! Turns out he never showed up, but only stopped by for a little bit anyways and Tigre was amazing as always.

Got back home studied for my final the next day. Woke up, took my final, worked out, and here I am today. The metro is finally back up (which would've sucked to get to the airport) and everything is shaping together. I look forward to making the most out of my last two days. Kind of regret booking such an early flight (which means I have to leave at 1 am cause of the metro closing etc. and get into Amsterdam way before everyone else) but not much I can do now. Congrats on sticking through this long essay update and you'll be hearing from me soon!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Fever

Since coming back from Valencia focus has turned completely onto the world cup. Within this last week (including today) we will have had 4 HUGE games.

1. Spain vs. Honduras (a blow-out, Villa Villa Villa!)
2. USA vs. Algeria (one of the best sporting events I've seen recently, was in an Irish bar with mostly Americans and Englanders were watching their game on the TV in the back and we all just went crazy!)
3. Spain vs. Chile (An intense game and it started to rain making it even more intense)
4. USA vs. Ghana (we'll see how this goes tonight!)

and that's to say these are the only ones I'll travel somewhere to experience, not the only ones I've watched. I will definitely miss the consistency and overall appeal of the world cup when it's over. It provides an unceasing amount of distractions for me which definitely is good for my workload here haha

But that's not the only thing that's been happening. As I said in the past, I'm taking each day as if it were my last here and have been filling them up with countless activities. Let me take you through them:

Monday was the big night of the Spain Honduras game. Me and my friend Mike and two girls from UNC (his school) who we met randomly on a train in Barca all went to the Real Madrid stadium: the Santiago Bernebeu to watch the game. It was insane! Wall to wall people and a sea of red. Before the game, cause we got there early, people were dancing all around and they had singers on stage and drummers and lots of similar things of that sort. didn't really know the songs they were playing, but I caught on eventually. Of course Spain won and the whole place was in a celebratory mood. But because it was a Monday night and I had school the next day (See? I am a good student) we only stayed out for a bit and then went to a tapas bar for food then went home and crashed.

Tuesday was a bit different. I signed up for a Flamenco class but couldn't find it so I ended up exploring the city (don't worry I'll be taking it this coming week). I love exploring and even though I walked more than my feet could handle it was definitely a cool journey. Then came the Intercambio and this time I got a few people from my program to go with me. I reunited with some of my friends from other weeks and met more new people. I met this one Kenyan who makes a living by trading currency, pretty interesting and he was incredibly nice. Funny thing with the Intercambio is that even though it ends at 11 we usually end up talking and hanging out till much later which is good and bad for my school work (good cause I practice Spanish, bad cause of the obvious). Funny thing I've found so far about this trip is how weird it is to meet people you'll probably never see again in your life. I try my best to keep contact info for Facebook but sometimes you just don't and when you say goodbye you can't really say "see you later". Usually in California and elsewhere there is a probability you will run into them later. Here, however, in a foreign country with only a few hours of talking between you it is not really likely that you'll be keeping in contact.

So Wednesday was THE DAY. After class I hung around for awhile and went home for a bit then we all went to this local Guiness-sponsored pub to watch the US game. The reason I say Guiness-sponsored is because when you buy drinks you get tickets that you can use to get free shirts! I ended up getting 3 free shirts, but not because of the amount of drinks, but because I unwittingly took advantage of a busy bartender's bad short-term memory. He put a shirt on the table and i pocketed. Then he came back with another cause he thought he hadn't given it to me yet. They give away the shirts like candy though and the bar gets them for free from Guinness so it's all good. My favorite one was a picture of all of the countries and France is saying "Why isn't Ireland with us?". Pretty funny. Then on Wednesday as well I had three more friends randomly show up in the city. The story behind this is entertaining because I knew they were coming but they didn't have a way to contact me. When one of my friends, Patrick was walking by my apt. randomly they saw him and asked if they could use his phone for a call. He said sure and he typed the number they needed to call. Turns out my name came up and both of their minds were blown. Haha so my friends came in and we went to a place called Cien Montaditos (which I might've already talked about) where everything on the menu is 1 euro. Then we got ready and went to a club called Orange which is known for housing foreign exchange students. I met a few people from UCSB here and it was def a fun night.

Then Thursday, after working out and going swimming to cool off, a large siesta wiped out my day and I basically just hung around till Joy (which is a club that is free on Thursdays and it plays awesome music). Funny thing is through Alex I keep getting the names of important people to drop and so I told all of my friends going to say they were under Ryan + 15 on Johnny Madrid's list. I'm definitely going to need to transfer this VIP status back to the states somehow. Anyways so Joy was awesome and funnily enough when me and Pat were going to get a drink at the bar we ended up meeting a large group of Spanish girls who were excited to be done with school. Turns out being from California already makes me cooler than the average person and we ended up making friends and hanging out the whole night. Literally the whole night though cause we went to Churros afterwards (not Mexican churros with sugar on them but Spanish churros that you dip in chocolate...delicious).

Friday I was woken up by my friends and we all went to walk around a few parts of the city and I showed them around. Then when they left I watched a movie for class (Mar Adentro, starring Javier Bardem, which is the story of a tetra-paledgic (i know this isn't spelled right) who no longer wants to live: good movie. Then we went back to the stadium for the Chile-Spain game. When we got there it was pouring! About 10 minutes of waiting and the rain kind of subsided for kick off and we got a spot on the second screen (not the main one but still cool). The game was crazy and Villa's first goal: a 40 yard chip over the goalie was crazy too. Then at halftime it started to POUR again. All of the fans were dancin in the streets with their flags with the face paint dripping down. We were under umbrellas trying to stay dry. After Spain won (obviously) the Rain started again! It was like the rain waited for the game to begin before stopping and then just turned on during the breaks. Most people gave up and went home but three of us went to a tapas bar and got dry. Later that night we went to Kapital again (this time on a happening night, 7 floors packed with people). Oh and I almost forgot. strangely enough at the game 6 different Spanish people at different points in the night told me I looked like Fernando torres. I've never gotten this before and I'd tell them I don't think so...but many of them wouldn't take no for an answer. One Spaniard told me she loved me haha but I really don't know.

This picture is the closest to looking like me I could find:

what do you think?

and now Saturday. I slept in LATE and it was great. About to watch my final movie and then go to the US game and then see where the night takes me.

I am really debating what I'm going to be doing the last week (besides finals and my paper of course) cause I've already turned down a few things such as going surfing in Northern Spain as a result of budgetary concerns. There is a cool theme park, but that is expensive, it'd be cool to take advantage of the late daylight and go night golfing, there is a huge graduation party-esque thing downtown tomorrow, I want to go to a Flamenco show, but it's all pricey and i gotta keep in mind the future. We'll see which I decide and how that effects me later. but as you can see I have been making the most of my days here. Tune in next week.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


So much to tell! It's sad to think that after this trip I won't be seeing the beach for a long while, but I made sure to take full advantage of it when I could. Valencia is somewhere between Madrid and Barcelona. Definitely a smaller city overall but with the limited time and planned activities I only got a taste of what the city had to offer.

Anyways so where did I leave off? Thursday night was fun because I got to meet up with Eric (a writer/producer in Madrid) and we got to talk film and get to know each other. After that IES took over Kapital. To summarize más o menos the whole group of IES met up and went to the most famous club in Madrid: Kapital. This club has seven floors, one being karaoke (where I lost my voice and am still recovering from Backstreet Boys and N'Sync songs) and another of them being a promotional floor for a whiskey where they handed out free t-shirts, hats, and sunglasses. a very fun night overall and early the next morning we were on a bus on the way to Valencia. We stopped on the way for breakfast at some place (I had no idea where we were as a result of sleeping the whole bus-ride) where they had the typical Spanish food: tortillas espanolas, chorizo, etc. and the very special local dish of Breadcrumbs. haha seriously I mean it was built up and all but really they served us fried bread crumbs with some chorizo mixed in. That was the main course and it wasn't very satisfying for me to say the least.

So we arrived at Valencia that day and our hotel was legit. It was 4 stars and even had an internet café. The breakfast the next day was probably the best I've had since arriving in Europe (with fresh fruit, bread, eggs, meats, cheeses, you name it). It was also fairly centrally located. The first priority for us was to find a place to watch the USA-England game. After asking around we were led to a very nice bar with a big screen TV. I ordered my first Gazpacho which for those of you who don't know is a chilled tomato soup and it was the best I've had. The game was super exciting, especially since we should have won and all of the people in the bar agreed. But that's for another day.

We then proceeded to explore the city a bit. In the midst of our exploration it began to rain and that kind of put a halt on things. We only got as far as this cathedral that overlooks the whole city before we couldn't stay out any longer. The night didn't end, however, as we decided to play some cards in the hotel. I learned/got really good at Spades and a few other games I don't know the name of but it's been awhile since I've had a guys card night and it was definitely good times.

What's weird about this trip is EVERYONE was on it so I got to see people that I normally wouldn't see. I ended up hanging out with more or less the same people but it was cool having the whole group together.

the next day we went to the amazing Arts and Sciences museum. If you've seen my pictures on Facebook you'll know how good this architect is. Fun fact, a guy at the intercambio told me that the person who designed that is designing the building that will be in place of the Twin Towers. Pretty exciting stuff if that's true cause those buildings were amazing. We started off going to an Imax show which was about mummys. Nothing too special here besides the crazy headsets they made us wear to hear the voiceovers. Seemed a little bit overkill cause they looked like the thing cyclops wears over his eyes. Next up was the aquarium. The aquarium there was supposed to be the best in Europe, but it definitely couldn't hold a candle to Monterey or really most American aquariums in my opinion. It had some cool stuff but we really got to see the whole thing in around an hour.

For lunch we got to eat at another nice restaurant treated by IES. On the platter was chicken paella which was served in a monstrous pan. Paella isn't my favorite I realized, even without the shrimp that stare at you, but the lunch as a whole was multiple courses and I always love that.

A group of us then headed off to the beach for the first time. It was either between that and a ceramics museum and as much as I like ceramics, nothing can beat hanging out next to water on sand. What's awesome about Europe is how late it stays light. We were at the beach until literally 8pm and it was still fully sunny. Maybe that has something to do with the late nightlife here. I often find myself losing track of time. I also forgot to mention that Ainara (my friend from school) who is from Valencia gave me a list of recommended activities. For night we went to her recommended club which was an open air VIP-esque place. Most of us were pretty tired but we arrived at 1 and it was empty, but 3:30 when we left it was completely packed and people were trying hard to get in. A sample of how late things start here in Spain.

The next day was beach only. I got to play a lot of beach soccer and that was a blast if not a bit tiring. The sand/beach in general was a lot better than Barcelona's man-made one but just a different more laid back scene. I also went into the Mediterranean for the first time all trip! Don't know why I just didn't go in before, probably to do with the cold, but it was incredibly refreshing and we attempted to body surf on the little surf it offered. The funny thing was that were supposed to leave at 1pm but it turns out our bus got stuck in a ditch and we had another 2 hours to kill. Most of us had gotten enough sun for awhile though so we just relaxed in the shade and got icecream from Burger King.

I loved the trip and it's sad to think how soon everything is ending here (next week is finals). That night I got to visit another friend from UCSB, Cassy, and turns out we were basically neighbors the whole time I was here! Crazy! But that's it for now, sorry for the late update. Tomorrow is the next US game! USA all the way!! That reminds me, last night I watched the Spain game in front of the Santiago Bernebeu (the real madrid stadium) and it was insane! So happy we won, but the crowd was so lively and each goal was like a party! haha I love the world cup.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Midterms and Schoolwork


So since last Thursday despite the amazing trip to Paris I had to legitimately do school work for the first time since last January. Let me tell you, this was no easy feat. For Thursday it was studying vocab etc. which was no biggie but then for Tuesday I had to have read 100 Spanish...and then answer questions about it from the professor. So ended up taking FOREVER to read just one page (had to translate it to English then when I'm done translate it back to Spanish) and it was a looonnng day. But now I'm free! I went to the Intercambio again tonight and saw some old friends and met lots of new ones like a film producer from Spain who runs the whole thing. She gave me a flier for a thing called VaughanTown ( which is basically a place in Spain where Spanish speakers pay big bucks to just talk to native English speakers. the English speakers get to meet lots of people and get free lodging for the whole week! If i hadn't planned out my whole trip I totally would have done this right after Madrid! But I guess when I come back to Europe (I'm definitely coming back when my bank account recovers) I'll know that no matter what I'll have a week completely paid for! You also stay in super nice hotels!!

But enough of that this weekend is Valencia and before that there is A LOT to do. Now I'm beginning to realize how many things I want to do in such a short time. I'm going to be making the most of every day I have left and my only comfort in leaving Madrid in July will be that I will have a month more of adventures before returning home! Not that I don't miss home, I do, but right now I am legitimately experiencing the most amazing trip of my life and I just don't want it to end...

The apartment feels empty now that my housemate Alex has gone, but now it's up to me to plan the events and map out the nights for all of our friends like he used to do. And so far so good! I just met a club promoter who is getting us in free to two different clubs. I know I know studies first, but I'm pretty sure I did good on both so no worries right?

Anyways another big news is my professor/friend Chris Jenkins whom I met with in SB gave me a contact in Madrid and this Thursday I will be meeting him for dinner/a drink to discuss film and just to get another great contact. I'm really excited for this and it should be amazing! So much to do so little time and with the World Cup going on (Spain game tomorrow!) at actually decent times: 1:30, 4, and 8:30 it's been hectic to say the least. But not to fear, I've got my itinerary planned out for good and I will be NOT going to Munich and instead am staying the night in a hostel in Berlin and then will be going to Italy on Sunday. That means I will be in Italy for the World Cup final, not sure how I feel about that cause I don't really like the Italian national team and don't think they'll make the final, but beggars can't be choosers! I'm excited either way! That means my full trip is solidified to the fullest extent. It's like living my ideal life and my friend from the Intercambio and I will hopefully be making a simple little short while I'm in Madrid as well!

Anyways it's way too late. Gotta get some sleep for the days ahead!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A la France!

Ah Paris, the land of great food, great wine, and basically expensive everything. Out of the trip so far Paris is the city I believe I could return to the soonest. There simply is so much to see. I was telling a friend there: "Take a random building in Paris, and put it into any average US city, and it would be a huge tourist attraction". This held true as everywhere we walked there was some sort of historic landmark or some random thing plated in gold. Also important to point out that I really can't speak French so it was a lot of asking if people speak English. On that same note don't answer gypsy ladies if they ask if you speak english cause they'll hand you a paper asking for money. Anyways, the trip was amazing and I really do love that city. Despite being warned about Parisians and their snooty ways I only came in contact with one or two really obnoxious America-haters (the ticket checker at the Arc de Triomphe saying, "Don't you Americans have anything to see in your own country? Why do you have to come here?") and the rest were quite friendly. We even made friends with a taxi driver who played some B.I.G. on the way over.

I think it's also important to point out that when writing blog entries from places I've been I do it to a soundtrack. With Barcelona I was listening to this song and the resulting songs in the related video section. Right now I'm listening to some Ratatouille In order to get the full experience of my blog, therefore, I would highly suggest you listen to these songs as you read. Actually, here's a link to the playlist. Enjoy. It starts playing weird songs after like the 10th or something but just replay it from the beginning.

Now, without further ado, to the story of my journey!

We arrived in Paris promptly four hours late. Surprisingly after over a month in Europe I had yet to experience any delays with flights. Specifically, Spanish flights are known for being late because Spaniards in general have a reputation of being late. So we (meaning Erika, Kelsey, and I who were all traveling together) hung out in the airport for a bit. Crazy enough I ran into a few people I knew either from Madrid or from UCSB and the time passed by a little bit faster. I wanted to get a magazine but the magazines were 8 euro which was ridiculous. We were afraid we wouldn't be able to check into our hotel and Kelsey had a friend studying abroad that we were planning on meeting up with but despite all this we got to the airport and bused into Paris. This is where we first met Sami, the French cab driver who had a taste for East-Coast rap. He drove us to our hotel which amazingly enough was only a 5-10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower! We were all pretty much stoked for the weekend. But after getting ready we headed off in a taxi to meet Kelsey's friend Brendan. He was with a bunch of other students from the Paris program and they ended up being one of the major groups we all hung out with for the journey. We went to a bar and then a club, and that club had the best music I've heard in a club so far in Europe. I know I know that's saying a lot cause I've definitely seen my fair share of clubs, but the throw-back music and the hits they played made everyone scream with excitement at each new song. Needless to say we had a great night and randomly got into Sami's cab on the way back! What are the chances? Well a little later you'll hear my rant about Paris cabs.

So we woke up early with plans for the next day and headed to one of the many outdoor restaurants next to our hotel to have a little Petit Dejeuner. It was delicious. Oh! I almost forgot! The weather. So turns out it was supposed to rain all weekend in Madrid and it was likely to rain in Paris too so we were all a bit worried. FriDAY though was absolutely gorgeous with blue skies and sun! It was crazy and we were crazy lucky too but we made the most of it. First things first we headed to the Arc de Triomphe. This gives an incredible view of the whole city. Along the way we saw basically every designer store imaginable. I'm not one on fashion but Kelsey and Erika knew each one and supposedly they're good at making clothes or something. So we walk down the main street to the Arc and, after the rude ticket man, walk up a gazillion stairs and get to see a breathtaking view of the city. 360 degrees of unobstructed views of France; it was amazing. From there we could almost pick out where we wanted to go. I wish I took a full 360 degrees panoramic but no worries another time.

So from the Arc (which was built to welcome back Napoleon's troops) we went to the Eiffel Tower. We grabbed a baguette (Turkey too! Turkey is NOWHERE in Spain) and ate out on the lawn in front of the tower. It was so relaxing and fun to watch all of the activity all around. At 3 pm they were starting the bike tour we wanted to do and they met in front of the tower. When the tour leader arrived (a man who's transferring to UC Berkeley this year) we walked to the Fat Tire home and got ready to go. I'm really glad we did this tour cause it not only got us around the city in record time but we got to learn the history too! I tried to incorporate a bit in the captions of my pictures but we learned a lot of really interesting info. Also cool about the bike trip was we got to meet other tourists. This is where we met Shawn, an Australian traveler. During the tour we did something the guide called "dominating" basically meaning taking up a whole lane or sometimes two lanes of the road. This was pretty intense when we went through some main streets and as he said "the honking cars are just telling you to enjoy your tour!" We went as far as the Louvre before we turned around and headed back around 4 hours total for the tour. It was the perfect day for a bike tour and I definitely want to do one in Berlin as well.

Next on the list was to meet up and watch the France-Uruguay world cup game! I was really excited to see this in the home country and even though the game itself sucked it was made better by the fans. France is not going far in this tournament if they keep playing that way, but for dinner I had this delicious HUGE crepe. In Cannes I really didn't get many crepes (usually only paninis and baguettes) but the two foods I'll miss most from Paris are the crepes and quiche! Aw I want one right now....Okay back on topic so following the game we went and had some wine on the river Sienne right next to the Notre Dame and across the way there was some sort of concert. A lot of people were packing the stairs and the musicians were playing American cover songs. After the wine (which is ridiculously cheap and delicious) we went to another bar/club and spent the rest of the night there. The nightlife in Paris can't really compare with Madrid...but it was still really fun with the whole group from the other study abroad in Paris. When we left we tried to hail a cab (this is the story I was talking about) and guess what? All of the cabs passing were FULL. We stood at a taxi stand for literally 30 minutes and not one cab stopped. We weren't the only ones, and people were trying to go further up to get a cab but to no avail. There were literally NO cabs for anyone. the only chance was to stand at a place where people got off and then try and get the cab driver to give you a ride. We really didn't know what to do. To make matters worse, it started to rain! So we were wandering around in the rain trying to find a cab when a million were passing but none were empty. Really disheartened we went to get hot chocolate and some warmth back and ended up passing out for an hour at the cafe. when we tried again luckily Erica begged a taxi driver to take us and we got back home. Absolutely ridiculous. I can't believe they have such a bad taxi system in Paris!

The next way we all went separate ways. Erica and Kelsey went to a museum and I hit up this Russian Festival they were having in front of the Eiffel Tower and the open market festival a little distance away. Erica ended up coming and meeting up with me at the Louvre and we then randomly ran into Shawn underneath the Louvre. Fun fact of the day: there is an entire shopping mall underneath the Louvre. Next to that pyramid? An Apple store. So all three of us then went to Notre Dame cathedral. I didn't go in and if I came back to Paris I would definitely make a point of going into more museums and cathedrals but I definitely wanted to spend this trip exploring the city. Then, supposedly next to Notre Dame there is an amazing ice cream place that has a million flavors. After spending forever looking for it we got some ice cream that to me at least seemed just as good and then we relaxed in the park and listened to a band.

Erika then went her own way and Shawn and I decided to go to the Sacre Coeur a huge cathedral up on a hill. The view up there was stunning and the cathedral lived up to the hype. It was a long walk up but it was completely worth it. My favorite part of the cathedral was its street performers. One man was juggling a soccer ball up on a light pole. Another group put on a dance performance. I wanted to spend forever up there but had to get back for the game and dinner so I headed back to the hotel.

We all met up with the other group again and had the most amazing dinner ever. Up until this point we'd kind of avoided the nicer places, but Kelsey, Erika, and I all made a pact to have one fancy meal while in Paris. I had this salmon with rice that was served with this amazing sauce. I want to eat that forever. Then we went to the back of the Eiffel Tower to watch the big USA England game on a big screen. It was crazy putting together the idea of sitting behind the Eiffel Tower surrounded by people drinking wine and eating baguettes while watching one of the most anticipated games of the World Cup. We couldn't go into the main area with our food and drinks so we stayed outside the gate but it was still an experience. I was really happy with the score, even though we got a bit lucky with Green's mistake. Most supporters were American but there was a huge American England fight in the main area that broke out in the middle of the game. I thought the French didn't like America, but turns out they don't like England even more. Also of note: the Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour. Originally the bulbs were put in for the new millenium and they were only supposed to last a year. But after the response they put in 10 year bulbs which will be ending soon. Just another fun fact from the bike tour. Anyways I'm heading to Mexican food now but I'll try and read over later to see if I missed anything. Au Revoir!!

PS That's basically it. and update on trips: Munich is out and I will be staying in Berlin until the 11th then I found a cheap trip to Milan. PS is 30 pounds less or more than my baggage? Cause I'm afraid my bag will be too heavy for Ryannair when it's all set and done. aw enough worry. Good night!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


After spending some time recovering from Barcelona it was straight back to school. My classes pass quickly and are all very interesting. My grammar class is made fun by our teacher, an incredibly nice Lady who does yoga frequently (connection maybe?). My other class we get a lecture for 30 minutes and then watch a movie so far the movies have been fairly good but the only problem has been my recent spell of narcolepsy which hasn't failed to have me a little bit tired in the morning without fail. But despite this I've had a good time and have a midterm tomorrow in grammar: wish me luck!

Monday night I signed up for a cooking class and it was well worth it. We learned how to make tortilla espanolas (which are essentially potato and egg tortilla esque things that are deliciosu), paella (a typical spanish dish with seafood rice and peas), and a desert tortilla. All of it was delicious! Then on Tuesday it was a friends bday and we went to the Cave Bar again that I talked about and ordered the Leche de Pantera. Then tonight was the 1 euro special at a local chain restaurant where we can get all kinds of food and dishes for only 1 euro each. Definitely going to become a weekly thing.

The last few days it's rained which is an extreme change from the usual burning heat of Madrid. Hopefully it doesn't rain in Paris...from the people I've talked to (French and not) the Parisians have quite the reputation built up for them haha but just check back sunday to hear all about it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How to get into fancy places

So I get back into Madrid from Barca around 8pm on Saturday with plans of having a chill night maybe playing poker at a friends apartment. Alex, however, of course convinces me to come out using the excuse "I'm only going to be here for a week more". Alex, for those of you who don't know, is my apartment mate. So we ended up heading back to the place I went the first week called Penthouse. Only thing is on weekends it's a lot more busy and a lot harder to get into. We had two girls in line ahead of us and we asked them to ask him in Spanish if our group could go in with them but, because some of us were not dressed as nice as they want us to, they said no. It could've really been for any reason but either that or because we were a large group of guys with only one girl. we could've done two things: waited in line and tried again (this could potentially mean missing a few dozen minutes of our valuable night) or try to look for another entrance. Alex was on top of it and went around to search while we waited. He came back and got two of us to follow him and all we had to do was act cool. Turns out Alex, who is fluent in Spanish, convinced the man that he didn't know any Spanish and that he was supposed to meet his dad inside the hotel. Alex was very angry and impatient and so the guy had no choice to let him and us in. All the while he is yelling into his phone in English with noone on the other line. My job and my friend Matt's was just to act frustrated and anxious, I kept glancing at my watch and looking around...and I got really into character haha it was quite fun.

So we get into the hotel and have no idea where to go, but we can't let that on. Turns out there was a wedding going on and we walk right through it in our search for an elevator (but none of us drop character). Then Alex goes up to a worker and yells angrily at him saying the elevator is slow and that he needs a faster one so we get directed into the elevator. We finally get to the elevator and then another group was there, an older couple. They put their card in and press 5. It lights up. They look at us and we have no idea what to do cause we don't have a card. So we press 7 (which is where the Penthouse bar is) and it doesn't light up. They laugh and when it gets to their floor we think the gig is up. There is no way we are getting into the bar even after all of this.

Suddenly, as soon as the doors close, the elevator begins to rise. We reach the 7th floor to find people leaving! We made it! Haha I thought I'd share this story because after all of the work the beautiful view and vip status of the bar was that much better. Cheers for now.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Travel Itinery

Alright so here it is, officially a breakdown of my next few weeks of traveling for all of those wondering. UpIt is relatively open at some points of the trip and not open for others so if you have any questions just contact me!

June 10-13th : Paris

June 18th-20th : Valencia (trip included in IES)

July 3rd-5th : Amsterdam (IES officially over)

July 6th-10th : Berlin (Get in the morning on the overnight bus)

July 10th-12th : Munich (this is the plan for now, but could change)

July 12th-26th : Italy

July 26th-August 2nd : London (Get in at 8 pm)

Then fly home on the 2nd of August!

Barcelona Trip

Aww what an experience, I can now see why people claim Barcelona is their favorite city in the world. After some bumps along the way (Mike and I forgot to get the information for where we were staying and had to scramble around to call the girls who had booked it) we finally arrived on Thursday morning and were immediately breath-taken. Compared to Madrid, Barcelona is touristy. By this I mean you are more than likely to run into plenty of Americans/Australians/really anyone who is just visiting for the weekend. I can see why though cause the city is beautiful. The second we left the metro (which is not as good as the metro in Madrid...but not many metros are) we immediately see one of the Catalonian architect Gaudi's famous buildings. My goal in coming to Barca, as it is with any city I will be visiting on this trip, is to experience as many things as I can in the time allotted. A quick glance at a tourist stand gave me an idea of what I would need to see during this trip and by the time we had left we had seen nearly every major tourist attraction that the city offered. But that will be covered later. Within the first 5 minutes of our Barca trip though, we had already checked off the list one of Barca's many attractions.

It's hard to explain the architecture of Gaudi. I marvel at how one man can make buidlings that are so original and yet all have a unifying look. He supposedly has revolutionized many different forms of architecture as can be seen by his unique looking columns.

Anyways so we got to our hostel which was nice. We had a room of about 12 and 8 of them were from our group. It had a nice view and was about a 15 minute walk to Las Rombas (the main street) and 30 minutes from the beach. It's funny how many repeat stores there are all over the downtown. I counted 4 H&Ms within a few blocks of each other. But the first day was all about the beach, and at the beach we were bombarded by salesmen and got free passes to clubs later. Even more than Madrid there were street venders everywhere and they weren't afraid to ask you 10 times in 5 minutes if you wanted something. My favorite part was the street music which was awesome. It felt very island-like but sometimes there would be some amazing Spanish guitarists and very unique instruments.

That night we went to meet up with Katie and Jordan, Katie who was my friend in High School and Jordan who is my friend in college! They told us all that we should do in the next few days and then we went to this club called Opium which turned out to be very very nice. It was kind of a club/lounge and to get in you had to be wearing fancy clothes. That closed up our first packed day but the adventures were just beginning.

The second day was focused on sight-seeing. As our only full day in Barca we made sure to go to as many places as possible. We stopped by the breathtaking Park Güell which was designed by Gaudi. It had some crazy architecture and at the very top was a view of the whole city. Absolutely amazing. Then we walked for what seemed like forever to the Segrada Familia. This AMAZING cathedral was designed guessed it...Gaudi. Supposedly it's been in construction since 1880 and they just recently opened a small section to the public. The inside was just as stunning as the outside, and when it is finished I have no doubt it will be one of the most amazing churches in the world. For dinner we all ate in a family-style Spanish restaurant that was recommended by Katie and Jordan. We ordered all kinds of Tapas and pieces and shared and it was delicious.

Then from the restaurant we walked for what seemed like forever (again!...I swear we walked the whole city) to reach what we were told was a light show. What it turned out to be was a huge Palace lit up with fountains on either side and right in front of the grand staircase was a monstrous fountain that every 30 minutes would play a show synced to lights and music. This felt very Disneyland-esque and the entire scale of the show left us awe-struck. The palace was actually in front of the Olympic village so we got to see the torch and the stadium too. My favorite part of the night was sitting and having drinks (provided by some of the vendors haha) at the top of the palace while listening to a Spanish guitar player. Not to end the night early, we then went to ANOTHER club which after some navigating finally found (forget the name but it sounded like Auto Zone) which had different rooms each with a separate theme.

Saturday was chill, and this is where I got serious sun. We just went to the beach after walking another one of the main streets. The street performers here (the people that ask for coins and then do something) were all crazily unique. One was a guy that looked like Ronaldinho who juggled a soccerball while balancing on a ladder. Anyways so we get to the beach and oh yah, I forgot to mention the beaches are all topless here in Europe. Was definitely not used to it but I can't complain (unless you count the fully nude old man just walking around). But we then ate lunch at this hole-in-the wall amazing sandwich place that was so packed we had to push through people just to enter. The food was cheap and amazing, and after the rest of Barcelona I needed exactly that. The city is much more expensive than Madrid which makes me just dread having to pay for stuff in Paris (which I will be traveling to this coming week) but it was completely worth it.

As much as I love Barca though, it's nice to be back in Madrid where I can safely drink tap water and not have to worry about being tempted to buy from shops and get distracted by beaches. I am so tan right now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Keeping to my word

I feel so weird writing so soon after my essay. I've come to accept the fact that I will have way too much to write about for one sitting...and while I let it sit there will be even more to tell until I just have to pick the best of the best, or en la realidad solamente the one's I have time to write about when I decide to sit down and pump it out. But today is a new day, even though it's's today somewhere in the world as I found out when I stayed up till the metro re-opened last Sunday.

Anyways onto the news. Watched my first Spanish film today, it was called El Viaje del Carol. At least that's what I remember off the top of my head. Once I'm on a roll typing I'm too lazy to go and check cause I'll get distracted. It was quite good, and quite sad. It reminded me of those older American movies we used to watch growing up like the one with Elijah Woods which had them in a tree house. Very descriptive I know, but watchagonnado.

So yesterday I went to this cool thing called Intercambio which is at a bar near the center of town. Alex and I went there and it's basically a place where foreigners and locals go to meet and talk and practice language. It was really cool even though it wasn't as crowded as other weeks supposedly. I was able to meet a lot of really amazing people form all over the world and that was just from our little table. I'm definitely going to be going back every week!

Then today after class (explained above) I went to the Palacio Real and guess what?!! My camera was out of batteries. As much as I love my new camera, it should give me a little heads up before it dies. The last time it ran out of batteries was on the LAST DAY OF CANNES when EVERYONE was together at the going away party! It picks literally THE WORST TIMES to tell me to change the battery pack. Come on camera, don't just die on my give me a little notice. Rant end. So the Palacio is basically this amazing palace (don't worry I'll be stealing other people's pictures) where the King and Queen lived up until the 1930s. We got to take a tour given to us by this softspoken very enthusiastic Spanish woman and we got to see all sorts of rooms decked out in incredibly royal fashion. Not only that but nearly every ceiling had paintings on them done by famous painters. Don't worry, I couldn't have taken pictures of this stuff anyways but it was still quite frustrating.

It's been incredibly hot here in Madrid as of recently and not California hot, this hot literally melts humans. It's not even up to what it could get, and I'm glad I'm going to Barcelona this weekend (in case you didn't know I'm going to Barcelona this weekend) cause it'd be absolutely unbearable otherwise. I think it actually shrunk my clothes when I put them out to dry.

Well that's it for now, it's funny because I know I've missed talking about so much but it's nothing compared to the usual and I need sleep. So enjoy the more frequent update, I won't be doing another one until Sunday but expect another picture update. I'll at least try and keep one thing consistent. Stay cool.

PS: Watch Memories of a Murder (i remember that title!). A South Korean movie that now is officially one of my favorites of all time.