A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: touché

Espana

family and fun

sunny

Madrid- So we arrived to Madrid sweating and exhausted. The hostel had the nicesest kitcheen and had a guy from Argentina who offered us Yerba Mate, so I was content. The first night we heard there was a festival going on, which I come to find out there's pretty much one everyday. It was a whole street blocked off and it looked like a mini carnival, food vendors and little games set up and at the end of the street there was a band playing salsa music. Spain is a whole different world, fiestas everynight, friendly people, very few know english which I like, and the style is hippie. Guys with the top half of their head shaved and then dreads on the bottom half. I really like the style haircuts of the girls, short bangs with a layered cut. Madrid was beautiful, we went two museums El Prado and Reina Sofia. El Prado had some beautiful paintings, had some from Miro, Goya, Dali, Picasso, and El Greco. It was a little overwhelming and overcrowded cause we went during the free hours. We also went to Reina Sofia which is a modern museum, which was um interesting. I'm not really into modern art, like the big painting of colors that looked like it was done by a kid, but it was nice seeing what else is out there. It was also nice seeing Andree 3000 from Outkast. They are a popular hip-hop/pop group from the south. He was there with his kid and parents and I was soo jealous cause he talked to Polly cause they were viewing the same paintings and my friend Kellie also went up to him and sayed how much we appreciate his work. That made the whole museum worth it. Well my friends are leaving to a journey back home while I continue on and visit with the fam.

Granada- I took a bus to Granada which took about 7 hrs to get there. My uncle Vicente and his wife Christina were waiting there with there two little girls:Erika, 5 and Eli-2. My uncle lives about 5-10 min. drive outside of Granada. His house was soo nice, they have three floors and a garage underneath that also doubles as a game room slash lounge area. We went to the church in Granada where the Spanish queen and king are buried:Isabel and Fernando. The food in Spain is amazing even for a vegetarian:tortilla de patata(eggs and potato dish), tomatoes, gazpacho, cheese...and my uncle and aunt were amazing cooks. I saw the Alahambra which is like nothing I have seen before, it took about 3 hours to tour the whole place. I went to a flamenco show in a cave with Vicenete, in Sacromonte which is just next to Granada. We had dinner on the terrace with a view of the Alahambra and then got front row seats for the flamenco. There were 3 girls dancers and one guy, such a beautiful powerful dance. I took a day trip bymyself and went to Sevilla, which is three hours by bus. I really liked Sevilla except for the crazy heat. People construct the buildings close together just so the side walks are cooler and more shaded. I went to Alcazar and the catedral. The Alcazar gardin was vast and amazing. Later I meet a guy from Sevilla in a bar who gave me a real tour of Sevilla; I had a couple of hours to kill so why not. He took me and told me of all these stories that a tourist would never encounter or read about. For example there were three crosses in a small street that represents this love affair of a lady with her husbands brother and in the end they were murdered by the husband. Alot of the street names also had refrenced to a story back in history. I aslo went to a history museum of flamenco which was really thorough and well set up. My aunt and uncle aslo took me to Las Alpujarras which are white villages that are enchanting. The villages consist of Pampaneira, Bubion, and Capileira. "The Moors took refuge in these hills and resisted here, maintaining their customs and way of life for well over a hundred years after they were expelled from Granada in 1492 by their Christian conquerors. La Alpujarra was their final battlefield in Spain."
I had an amazing time in Southern Spain especially with my family, they are wonderful generous, warm people.

Barcelona- This trip was about 11 hours by bus from Granada. My uncle, Joan, was waiting there for an hour until I arrived. He lives outside of Barcelona and near Molins de Rei. He also has a nice set up of a house. He took me to Stiges, a beach south of Barcelona which is a booming gay community, no wonder it was a well kept beautiful town. Joan is also a very good cook, he made one dish that I like alot. Its a cabbage type lettuce that has a dressing he would make with blue cheese and heavy cream..mmm. I explored Barcelona a few times by myself and went to the Picasso museum and the Chocolate museum. I wasn't a big Picasso fan until after visiting that. It had works from him as a student up until his most recent works, which was quite a contrast. The chocolate museum was pretty cool too, learning of the histroy and then seeing crazy creation people have done with chocolate, oh and having a chocolate bar as my ticket was pretty cool. My friend who I worked with in the states Juoquin, is orginally from Spain and visits his parents once a year. So I was able to go down to his town near Murcia called Fontealamo. It was nice cause I was able to stay in his friends house cause his friend was away for a few days. This house was nice but needed a womens touch because it didnt have any sinks in the bathroom, no kitcheen, a mini fridge, and no mirror. And his friend had been living there for two years. crazy. The whole week was fiestas to celebrate santo augustine. Of course most of the people there didnt know what they were celebrating. I liked this town cause its not a town that foreigners visit, so I was able to get a real authentic experience. I spent a couple days there and then went to Valencia to go to the tomatoe fight!!! Pretty much what I have waited my whole life for, getting tomatoes thrown at me. I stayed in a nice hotel in Valencia, which was a treat to myself and went to Bunol the next morning to experince the maddness of La Tomatina. La Tomatina was very crowded, it begins at 11 am and goes for one hour. Its not what I had hoped it would be but I think its just cause i didnt get there early enough. I was hoping that we would be swimming in a pile of tomatoe juice and have access to the truck to pick and throw the tomatoe at anyone. Not so much. We were crowded on the sidewalks while two or three trucks of tomotoes would slowly drive by with workers that would throw the tomatoes at the crowd. You could then pick up the remaining bits of the tomatoe on you and throw it at others. Overall I am glad I went there even if I didnt have a companion to go with. I also went to Vic where my grandpa used to live and Hopitalets to visit my friend Didac, whos 23 and a bum like me:) We ate in a town near his place called Tona with his mom.(whose friends with my mom and aunts) in this restaurant I loved how they give you a baguette and whole tomatoes and garlic where you can but it on the bread yourself. Of course there was another festival so we went out at 12am and didnt getd back till 8 am. Pretty rough. We went to the market in Vic and then I headed back to Bracelona. I was happy that I got to hang out with my cousins, Anna, Joan, and Eli. We went to some bars and discotecas together and played some texas holdem. Joan and his girlfriend Emma took me to Mounjewit(totally spelled wrong). Which is a fountain show in Barcelona, one of the most amazing ones I have ever seen, the first time they played it to classical music and the they switched it up and put cheesy 80s music which kindof ruined the moment but it was still beautiful. My aunt Esa took me and my cousins to the beaches in Costa Brava, which might possibly be one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. My time in Europe has come to and end, sad to leave but happy to experience something new and amazing in central/south america.

Posted by touché 09:32 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

prague, amsterdam, berlin, and lisbon

the good times are killing me

Prague
So this is the part of the trip where we go from one city to the next with very little time to spare. We ended up take flights to all these places cause in the long run it saved us time and money. We flew from Venice to Prague, where we left the euro and went to the crowns. Which took us awhile to figure out the conversion rate. Prague I was very impressed with, the architecture was amazing. All the buildings were tall and had different styles from cubism to baroque to gothic but they all blended together beautifully.5768_57721..32160_n.jpg I always felt like it was a fairy tell setting, it was unreal looking. The people weren´t as friendly then what i have experienced in italy. They offer free tours across europe which is a three hour tour that takes you around the city and then you tip if you feel it is worth your time at the end. We did that and it was amazing to hear and learn about the history of Prague. The concert hall where Mozart last performed one of his operas is here, this is a picture of one of the characters from the opera.5768_57721..58569_n.jpg We saw the famous astrological clock which our tour guide told us wasnt that impressive. It goes off every hour on the hour and every one crowds around to watch it but i think everyone leaves dissapointed because it really isnt that impressive. We went to the beer gardens were there were amazing views of the city. Saw the John Lennon wall and each made our own contribution to it. 5768_57721..91754_n.jpg
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my contibution "A life lived in fear is a life half lived"..5768_57721..66141_n.jpg
And of course did a pub crawl. We also tried absinthe for the first time which was horrible. Unless you like licorice you should stay away. Only three of the five survived without projectile vommiting, but it was a cool set up how they lit it all on fire and melted the sugar but never again.5768_57721..04117_n.jpg

Amsterdam...dont remember. Ironically that is the place we have the fewest pictures of. You walk into the hostel and immediately get a contact high from the weed. There is a smoking room in the hostel and the hostel was centrally located. We did a walking tour here as well too but wasnt too impressed with the history. The only cool things I learned was that people throw alot of bikes in the river if they are damaged or some times for fun they will see a bike that is not locked up and throw it in the water. The coffe shops were coffee shops where you could purchase marijuana. Marijuana is actually illiegal in Amsterdam that is why the coffee shops are called coffee shops. The Dutch are alot about bringing in income so they look away and just will saw why whatever do you mean those are not marijuana places they are coffee shops see it says coffee shop on the outside. We went to the red light district which is supposed to close in 2015 and my friends went to see a live sex show which i opted out of. Very weird experience and not sure how I feel about the red light destrict. We actually arrived when they were having a gay parade which was cool cause I always wanted to go to one in Long Beach but was never able to. We also went to the Ann Frank house was a sobering moment and sad to know that one month after she died in the camp they were liberated. I like Amsterdam for the diversity and open minded people that live there. Although they have a weird sence of humor they were very nice and helpful, some of the nicest people we have meet yet.

Berlin
After that blur of a moment in Amsterdam we head of to Berlin. Berlin I liked alot, its strange becuase all of the buildings are very modern because 90% of Berlin was destroyed in the war. We did another walking tour here which we went to an abstract memorial to remeber those of the holocoast. 6768_57795..48880_n.jpgIt was a lot of stone of various sizes and as you walk through it gets colder and darker and you can loose your place in it. It is left to your own interpretation. We stood over the bunker of Hitler were he spent his last month which was eeire and saw the Berlin wall that was destroyed only because of a mistake in the minutes that the leader of east berlin made announcing that it is to be torn down. He did not prepare for the press confrence and end up saying that the Berlin wall was to be torn down cause he misread his minutes, sounds like something Bush would have done. Berlin was nice and one of the cheapest cities we have been to. The people were friendly as well. They kept to themselves but if you needed help they were more than happy to assist. They also had very cool artwork and graffitti in Berlin. This is our tour guide Tom from Scotland with one of a the artworks.6768_57805..83972_n.jpg

Lisbon
Lisbon was beautiful and I wished I had spent more time there. It seemed that our hostel was in the ghetto by the looks of it from the outside, but at night everything changes and it becomes this cool town where shops, restaurants, and bars are open until late. The first night we went on a pub crawl, you know to get acquainted with the town and all:) It ended up being just me and my friends haha no other people went on the pub crawl which is very different from Praha where there were about 50 of us. But we def. got special treament from our guides. One was Miguel who was very attractive and sweet. Its weird hearing foreigners when they speak english and have a british accent I defenetly expected a portuguese accent but oh well. We actually didn't venture very far in Lisbon. It was cool that two guys we meet previously in Prague were able to meet up with us here, so we hung out with them. One is from Canada and the other from San Diego. The guy from Canada can speak french, english, and hindi which is pretty impressive. us.jpgWish I could have explored more. The beach we went to was nice but the water was the coldest I have ever felt.me.jpg la.jpg Even colder than Cali's water in the winter, it was crazy. Well we are off to Madrid...

Posted by touché 09:17 Comments (0)

naples, rome, florence, venice

(the end of the italian trip)

So after Greece Shelby and I made a pit and pizza stop in naples. We were there literally for 4 hours just to try the famous pizza at Pizzeria da Michele opened since 1870. There were basically two choices margarita or one with oregano and garlic. If you have read "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert this is the place she describes. The pizza was good, Shelby really loved it. In my opinion though the dough was really thin in the middle which made it soggy from the cheese and oils. I had ordered the margareta with double cheese a large one and finished every last bite so cant say it was too horrible. ps a little random fact the pizza was first created in the late 1800s by a local baker in honor of the Italian Queen visiting naples, Queen Margherita. The baker did the pizza to represent the colors of the italian flag, the tomato, basil, and cheese. Pretty cool. My phone has been inoberable for the past 2 weeks so i also stopped and picked up a blue tooth in naples which i believe happened for a reason which will be explained later. (my phone only works with a blue tooth or else the person cant hear me)

Enter 3 more friends the next day in rome. Shelby and I after eating the pizza went straight to rome and decided not to get a place for the night cause would be a waste of money since we had to leave early to meet up with our friends at the hotel where we had reservation. So we hung out at McDonalds near the train station and then slept outside the train station till 4 then when it reopened slept inside the train station till 8. OUr friends were supposed to arrive at 830. they had the flight from hell. The got tickets booked through orbitz(which i highly discourage anyone else to get) and they were supposed to fly together but their flights had gotten canceled and no one helped them at orbitz to rebook it. SO basically one freind flew by herself, Kellie, had no information on the hotel we were staying at and had a phone that didnt work. So she was supposed to arrive an hour before the other friends got in who also had a phone that didnt work in italy. So if I had not purchased the blue tooth basically Kellie sayed she probably would have booked a ticket home. They some how missed each other early one and were communicating through me. 7 hours later they found each other at the airport and meet us at the hotel.

First day in Rome we saw the Colliseum, which was amazing. Then we saw the Trevi Fountain. 5768_57720..04756_s.jpg
You are supposed to throw your coins in there which will give you a return trip to Rome. Some guy next to us had a magnet and was pulling people returns trips out of the trevi fountain which i thought was kindof funny. Just hope he didnt take my coin. We then saw the Spanish steps, and then called it an early night and went home. We spent the next two days in Rome. The girls saw the Vatican City, which I opted out cause I have been before. We made out way to florence on the 24th.

We spent four nights in Florence. The first night we just layed low and the girls went to Pisa. The next day we went to cinque terre and meet our friend from couch srufing there and walked from Monterosso to Vernazza which took about an hour and half, but was a beautiful view. 5768_57721..36489_n.jpg
The next day we went to the Uffizi Gallery and then had apperitivos and meet my friends I meet previously in Florence, Riccardo. He brought his good friend Fabrizio and his two friend from Holland. They are the nicest guys ever and helped organzie a wine tasting trip to take us on the next day. So we went to tast wine and then went to the tuscan village of San Giovana(i think thats right) and walked around and did some mroe wine tasting. 5768_57721..73495_n.jpgThe guys work at a restaurant and planned a meal where we pay 25 euros and have a 5 course meal and all you can drink at their hotel with them and the girls from holland. So how could we resist. 5768_57721..13133_n.jpg We went to the piazzale michalangelo (for my fourth time) checked out the amzing view then went to the dinner. The five course meal was amazing, we were ful just from teh first plate but the food and drinks kepts comming. It was a beautiful experience and would have been more amazing if I had not drank too much but such is life.

Venice was a short but sweet trip. We were literally there for about 7 hours and definetly made the most of it. Everything we heard about it was false, expensive, dirty, smelly, not beautiful. I loved Venice. We were hanging out having a drink on the side of a bridge...5768_57720..27780_n.jpg when a group of guys in a taxi boat went by and we shouted hello and they ended up comming back and offering a free trip in the boat. Matea was one of the guys and was a happy go lucky everybody knows him kindof guy. We went in the boat for a little bit, then walked around the city with him and his other friend Matea and had a drink...5768_57720..76417_n.jpg and then went back in the boat and watch the reverse sunrise and then proceded to become a party boat.5768_57720..52589_n.jpg.
5768_57720..10385_n.jpg.they def. made the trip worth while!

i am sad to leave italy, for some reason i have this obsession with it and it is by far one of my favorite places. i will be back most likely next september to live for a few months as long as that guy didnt take my coin out of the trevi fountain:)

Posted by touché 23:55 Comments (0)

Greece

the island of Corfu

433.jpgWe made it to Pisa and stayed with our host Sergio and his three flat mates. The place was awesome. They were getting ready for finals that week, which was very gererous they let us stay They have lectures up until may and then they have two months to prepare for the oral finals. The first night they took us to a friend of there's birthday party. Which consisted of around 40 people drinking infront of a church building outside with a big think of sangria and everyone just playing the guitar and drums and dancing. Then the cops show up, to my surprise no one fled like in the US. They were documeting people, but not issuing tickets. Then when the cops left everyone cheered. I have never seen anything like it, the cops didnt turn around and taser everyone like they would in the states. It was quite a sight to see.415.jpg We some really good pizza for only a euro that night. Pisa had little to do besides take the pics of the leaning tower which we finished the first day we were there. But it was nice to be staying with a good groop of folks, I made them the infamous tortilla espanola and we left to go to toscana for two days, with a pit stop in florence for the day. Toscana was like the first place I was at, it was very relaxing and peaceful. It was a hostel but really was set up like a hotel, with four beds and a kitcheen. The pool was amazing and had the best view, they had a weird rule of weiring a swim cap though. We met some peeps from Canada, Kansas, and Colorado and hung out with them on the terrace both nights. We were then preparing our journey to Greece. Excited to switch up from something besides pizza and pasta, i was looking forward to humus and baklava..
we took a night train from florence to bari which could have been worse. It was 6 chairs that layed down and only four were taken. Thats when i met a Tano, train buddy. We talked a bit then it was bloody late so we shared my ipod and then cuddled, so cute and random. He is from Bari so when we got there he told us what beach to go to and then met us there later.
We arrived in Greece at 8am and Mary, our couch surfing host picked us up. We stayed in the island of Corfu, which from her boyfriends percpective, Costus, who has lived her all his life, its beautiful but the people arent. There are about 150000 people living on the island. Its definetly weird to enter a world you understand nothing of the language but everyone speaks english and we were staying with a Greek couple so we got by. They took us around the whole time to all the great beaches and to a couple of their local fav. spots to eat. The defenitly were in shock I came to Greece being a vegetarian, they were like whats the point. They did have good food for me, but to my disappointment no humus!!! Its not in season. But the greek salad, fried zucchini, garlic potatoe dish...were pretty delicious. The last night we went with Mary to her boss' bachlerotte party. They used a rocker bar that was only for them and had a stipper come. He only danced for three songs, and only took of his shirt...lame. But the bride to be, Vicki, had a blast. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. We are leaving today to go try the best pizza in the world in naples and then have three friends meeting us on our journey on july 22nd!!532.jpg

Posted by touché 01:50 Comments (0)

diploma in italian!!

sunny

Ok so i have just finished studying in Trapani for two weeks. Shelby and I took Ryan Air where you practically pay nothing for a flight. We payed prob. 40 going from Milan to Trapani and then about the same coming to Pisa. But they have a catch 22. 1) if non EU residents don't check in online and print their boarding pass. it will be a 40 euro charge to do it at the airport 2) you checkin luggage has to be no more than 15 kilos(which is close to 35 lbs) after that they charge by the kilo 3) you can have only one carry on item and it cant be more than 10 kilos and that doesnt mean a purse and a carry on and believe me they are strict about that. Lets put it this way Ryan Air is talking about initiating flights that will only cost 5 euro (thats with tax and everything inc.) but there will be no sits. thats right a stand up flight. hey i guess you get what you pay for. Okay enough about the airline, Trapani...It cause you are unaware Trapani is locate in Sicilia, the little island that is under the heel of Italy. Well I was two blocks from the beach which had clear water, and rocks to jumps off of. I shared an appt. with 3 girls and Shelby also for the 5days she was there. One girl from Kasakistan, Giania(not how she spells her name but how is prounced), the other from Russia, Irina. They were friends previous to arrival and shared one room. Then I shared a room with Dora from Andalucia, Sevilla, Spain. The appartment was in this very old building but looked all brand new and was amazing inside.
the school
The school was located inside a Rotary Club and was a very small class, there was beg. or intermediate. In my intermediate class there was my roomates plus John, from Ireland. And the following week a french girl and a girl from Barelona joined. The teacher was nice, She is from Trapani but lives in Paris the rest of the year. I feel like I learned a little more on the culture and expressions and we covered grammer as well. Sicilia is fomous for its Mafia but where I was there was no trace of any Mafia like orginization. It still exists but its like anyother orginization of crime which the US has lots of. Anyway Trapani was a small town that I felt very safe in.
The Excursions
I took four excursions. One to the island of Mazia. Which everything is still a work in progress. They are digging up ancient ruins from civilization that existed BC. It was crazy mom looking at the exhibits of the pottery they had and seeing pictures of what they had used for a kiln, which was just a massive hole in the ground where they would put the fire in there. The most impressive thing to me was the path they had built not a bridge but path which conncected to another island, which made it look like you could literally walk on water. Next excursion I took with fellow classmates was to Erice. "Located in a 750 feet above sea level, Erice preserves whole all the fascination of an ancient medieval village, with little piazzas, winding streets, gorgeous flowering courtyards and more than 60 small churches.The view from here can span over all of eastern Sicily, over Trapani, Marsala, and the Egadi Islands.
Erice was founded in the 7th century b.C. by the Elymians, who erected the temple dedicated to the worship of their fertility goddess". Then I visited Favigniana, another island where its beauty was breathtaking. We rented bikes and found a beach that had caves. Pretty legit! Dora and I also went to Palermo, which by far is the craziest of craziest for driving in italy. I would just not look when crossing the street, so the driver wouldnt see the fear in my eyes.
the nights out
We definetly got to know some locals, being that everyone ended up at the same bar everynight. Trapani doesnt have clubs or cinemas, just the beach. Which I often got asked by many locals, why Trapani. We meet some nice people. Two short lived romances, one with a Tusinian who live there, Wajdi. And the other who owened a bar with four of his friends, Enrico. This def. payed off when I went out with Dora cause they would just give me and Dora a whole bottle of wine or champagne each night. It was fun especially when shelby was there because we are such an mix of people that communicating was a sight to see, esp. since shelby speaks only eng. one of the french girls spoke very little english and no italian. and the rest of us tried to communicate in italian. It was especially fun communicating with Dora, which i got along well with, because we would try in italian but our conversations would be very slow and delayed. Dora is going back in november to Rome for a year to finish her degree, which we have planned on me comming back and living with her for 3 months in sept. of 2010.
The food
Pizza was delicious. Especially one place called Calvino, which had been open for over 50 years and I swear the whole town would go there each night. They had this older italian men working in the back making the pizza. the american in me does miss all the condiments you can put on pizza, ie parm. and red pepper. But the pizza is good enough you dont need it. Another dish is a potatoe and cheese dish which you could also get with tomatoes, onions, and anhcovies;and hot or not hot. Last and not least the desserts: brioche, cannoli, and granite. This are all what Sicilia is known for so of course I had to try them all. Brioche is gelato in bread. Cannoli is a hard shell stuffed with ricotta cream based filling . And granite is basically like a slushy. Yummy.
Next stop is Pisa , home of the leaning tower, where once again we will couchsurf for two days, then stay on the east coast ancona with another couch surf host, then off to a Greece island, Corfu, with a couch surf host as well!
ciao ciao

Posted by touché 00:51 Archived in Italy Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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