Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving Thanks

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This is a week late but I still think it's an important post. So here is what I'm thankful for.
-These wonderful women in the picture above. That's Carmen and Teti, my host family. My stay in Barcelona would have been so different if I hadn't lived with them. Their support, hospitality and caring made my stay so comfortable and enjoyable. My Spanish is much improved thanks to their help and I never got lost with their good directions. I am going to miss them so much.
-My biological family. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have been in Barcelona at all. They have given me the opportunity to travel the world and have supported me throughout every second of it. It was hard to be away from them during this time of year for the second year in a row, but I am thankful that they understand how important these experiences are to me and make them possible.

We had our Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in Barcelona. All of our host families were invited so we could meet everyone and thank them for everything they had done for us. The food was delicious! Pumpkin soup, a huuuge turkey, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. I'm glad my dress was stretchy. After that just the kids from the program went to a bar to spend time together before we all headed our separate ways. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm Going to Miss This

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About a week before I left Claudia (our program director) invited us to her apartment for dinner. We had so much paella and then hung out and played games. With all of the laughter and wonderful moments I was thankful that I had gotten the opportunity to get close to this wonderful group of people. I will definitely miss them when we all go our separate ways.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

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I post very few of my pictures here. I add all of the ones I have taken to Facebook and Photobucket. So, dear family, because I know you guys read this, here is the link to my Photobucket library and you can stalk to your heart's content.

The Gaudí Trifecta

Now that my crazy travels have come to an end I took the time to explore the city that I've been living in for the past three months. My friends and I focused on Gaudí and went to La Pedrera, Casa Batlló and La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia
We had gone during orientation week but we wanted to go back now that we aren't jetlagged and less confused about what the heck was going on. We also bought tickets to go up into the tours. That was a waste of money. If you're interested in seeing a beautiful view of the city that's what it is, but honestly you can do that for free. I can do it from the window of my bedroom. La Sagrada Familia isn't my favorite church. I don't feel that it is religious at all, it's just one giant tourist trap with an interesting history.
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La Pedrera
The best part about La Pedrera was the roof. Basically it was an apartment complex for suuuuper rich people. The flats were gorgeous, but besides the roof, it didn't feel super "Gaudí". The fun part about going with my friends is that, although we appreciate the art, we also have lots of fun. We never take museums or other cultural locations too seriously. But I promise we learn a lot.
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Casa Batlló
Definitely my favorite. It was beautiful and had Gaudí's style all over it. We even got an audio guide included with our tickets. I love audio guides! The keyword for this place is ergonomic (the science of fitting the work to the user instead of the user to fit the work). Every other word on that tour was ergonomic. The furniture, railings, stairs, they were all ergonomic. There was music in every room and I was so overwhelmed by how beautiful it was that I just started dancing from room to room. I didn't care if other tourists were bothered, I was having more fun.
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I leave in two days which is quite upsetting. But I'm fine, I'm already looking for ways to come back. My mom is thrilled.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day Trip to San Pedro de Roda and Museo Dalí

November 9th the entire Knox program took a day trip to Gerona and Figueras to see the monastery San Pedro de Roda and Museo Dalí. We were up bright and early before the sun was up to make it to the tour bus. After a busy weekend (full of worthless workshops) we were very tired, so we spent a lot of this day trip tired and kind of cranky. It didn't help that our art history professor was with us. He talked a lot and verrrrry slowly. It was hard not to nod off at times. Honestly, I don't remember a lot of things he told us about the monastery and once we got to the museum all of us ditched him because we knew we wouldn't stay awake if we stayed. The monastery is of Roman origin and was constructed in 975bce until 1020bce. We had a personal guided tour with our professor and then we headed over to Figueras for lunch. Lunch was yummy! I had a never ending chicken with the best wine I've had yet. After that we went to the Dalí museum. Like I said, we were able to leave our professor and wander around as we pleased. The thing about the museum is that Dalí himself was able to help design it. So the whole thing is like his own giant art project. It's a trippy place.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Childhood Dream Come True

The weekend of Nov. 1-4 I went to Milan with my friends. If I had to describe Milan like it was a person I would say that it is that bratty mean girl that no one likes but pretends to think highly of anyways. Milan is all about it's image. You want clothing stores, make up stores, shoe stores? Great, you could walk into one if you had your eyes closed. You want a grocery store or a pharmacy? Good luck! Apparently people in Milan don't eat or care about health. Also, everything closed at about 6pm. So what were we supposed to do after 6pm? After we found a grocery story (a hike away) we had wine and snacks and were fine. But before that it was rough. For having the reputation of being a hard working city, Milan sure doesn't seem like it. Stuff doesn't open until 10am and it closes at 6pm. I'm confused. It's also not super tourist friendly. Which is weird because I didn't feel that way in Rome. But, all complaining aside, it was a fabulous and relaxing trip. 

Thursday
Elaine, Kayla and I hopped on a plane and flew to Milan. We checked into our hotel (which was way nicer than we thought it would be) and dealt with the lizard in the shower. It was quite a process. The lizard ended up losing its tail. It was awful. Before that we stopped by the train station which was around the corner from our hotel and looked at train tickets. We had decided to take a day trip somewhere on Saturday. The original plan was Lake Como because it was close and well priced. I suggested maybe we could look at Venice, just because. The price wasn't bad at all, it wasn't too far away, so spur of the moment we bought them. I was on top of the world. I had originally wanted to go to Venice but it had been too expensive. I couldn't believe things had worked out the way they had. Then we ate the dinner we had brought with us, walked around and came to the sad realization that nothing is open at 9pm in Milan. We watched MTV music videos in our hotel room and went to sleep.

Friday
We slept in, rolled out of bed, mastered the metro and made our way to the Duomo. The Duomo is a huge and beautiful cathedral. We were able to get in and look around for free and we had to pay a little extra for a couple of the rooms. But it was a pretty cheap trip overall. After the Duomo we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It had a bunch of designer shops like Prada and Luis Vuitton. It also had a bunch of Zodiac Mosaics on the ground. It's good luck to spin on the bull's balls so we all took our turn. Then we kept walking to the Piazza della Scala. Teatro alla Scala is one of the word's best opera houses. It actually doesn't look that great from outside, but I'm sure it's great on the inside. Then we walked around the some of the most fashionable streets of Milan. We went into shops like Dior, Burberry, Gucci, etc. They were more like museums for beautiful clothes than actual stores. We stopped by the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi which was an apartment complex that belonged to two bothers around 1897. It was full of old furniture and other knick knacks. After that we continued to feel inferior and poor in designer shops and made our way back to our hotel for dinner. Since we were on a budget and we couldn't find a super market (believe me, we tried), we went to McDonalds. I hadn't been to McDonalds in the longest time so it was fun for me. When we got back to the hotel we asked the man behind the desk if there was a super market near by. He said it was a little ways away and it might not be open but he pointed us in the direction. It was open! So we bought wine and snacks for the train ride to Venice. Then we realized that we didn't have a way of opening the wine. But Milan was giving us a break, the nice men who worked at the supermarket opened the wine bottles for us.
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Saturday
We were up bright and early at 6:30am to catch our train to Venice. We took the five hour train ride and arrived in Venice. Our first view was of the Grand Canal. We were all pretty excited so we spent the first half hour reminding each other we were in Venice and took pictures. I had bought my very own guide to Italy so going by its recommendation we hopped on a water bus that took us from one side of the city all the way to the Piazza San Marco on the Grand Canal. I took so many pictures because Venice looks like it's a whole other world. I knew that the majority of Venice was canals and water, but I guess I just didn't believe it. It's more common to own a boat there than a car for transportation. We wandered around Piazza San Marco for a while and then went off to find a restaurant that my guidebook recommended. As mean as Milan was to us, that's how nice Venice was. We were kind of wandering in the direction of where we thought the restaurant would be when Kayla found and fell in love with a pair of beautiful leather boots. Even though we had no idea where this restaurant might be, we accidently stumbled on the right location anyway. The meal was delicious (I had pizza and beer) and affordable. After that we followed a walk that my guidebook suggested around Venice. We stopped along the way and got most of our gift shopping out of the way. The walk took us around to different squares that were much less crowded and let us stop and admire how amazing Venice was. We didn't get to finish the walk or go inside anywhere because we had to catch our train back to Milan. After doing the math we realized that we spent 7 or 8 ours round trip on the train to spend 5 hours in Venice. It was definitely worth it.
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Sunday
It was rainy and grey, so we complained about how much Milan must hate us and how much we hated Milan. It was a frequent conversation topic that weekend. We spent our last day in Milan at Castello Sforzesco. It used to be a huge fortress with lots of history, but now it houses a bunch of museums. For a pretty good price we got a ticket that worked in all of the museums and wandered around. We started in the museum of antiquities. I want to say we learned a lot, but actually we went through all of the sabers and swords and picked the ones we liked the best. We did get to see Rondanini Pietá. An unfinished sculpture and last known work of Michelangelo. After that we went to a furniture museum. Then we got more pizza, got our luggage and headed to the airport. 
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And that was Milan. Although we complained a lot, we had a great time. I think the best part was the spontaneous trip to Venice. I've realized I'm a huge fan of Italy and I want to see more of it. So far the checklist includes Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Milan and Venice. I have my handy new guidebook now so the grand Italian tour planning has commenced. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

So this happened...

Lazy, but not so Lazy Weekend

The weekend of Oct. 26th was the first that I didn't have some crazy trip planned. But don't worry, I still had a very busy weekend. I spent Friday studying and then I went and played frisbee. On Saturday I took a day trip to Girona all by myself. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could be a tourist all by myself. Turns out I can! It's a small city, about an hour away on the train from Spain, so it wasn't a crazy first experience traveling by myself. It was great though. The historic part of the city is really pretty and full of winding streets. It's split into different sections including a Jewish section, call The Call, where all the Jews went after the diaspora. The funny part is that there is no Jewish community in Girona any more. Not even a temple. I went to an awful museum that should have been called Judaism for dummies. It had the most simple facts about Judaism that made me smile a bit when I read them. After The Call I went to a cathedral and walked along the walls of the city. It was starting to get cloudy so I made my way back to the train station and got there just before the rain started. I liked being all independent, but eventually it got kind of old talking to myself in my head. There were only so many times I could ask myself "okay Maddie, where to next?" or exclaim to myself, "Wow! So pretty! Take a picture." I felt like I was going a little crazy by the end. When I got back I rushed to get dinner with some of my frisbee friends and then we went out for the night. It was nice to go out in Barcelona with people who live there instead of being a tourist and running off to a club. On sunday I went to Bravas practice on the beach out in Castelldefels.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Santander: Campeonato Feminino

My trip to Santander is exactly like I posted earlier, a blur of wonderful moments with lots of beach ultimate in between. I guess I'll just go through what we did each day, but what was really important about the trip were all the inside jokes, bonding and support that happened all weekend.

Friday
Those of us who didn't have to work boarded a plane (for 9.99!) and flew over to Santander, Spain. We were pretty early, so we chilled, went sight seeing and ate some delicious pinchas. A pincha is kind of like a tapa but bigger. It comes from northern Spain. Once the rest of the team had arrived, we pow wowed and went to bed.
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That's a pincha
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The official headquarters of the Santander Bank

Saturday
3:00am
One of our team mates woke up to a horrible kidney infection. She managed to get to our captain's hotel room and our captain took her to the hospital. They didn't get back until 7am. Our captain said she had been getting worried that she wouldn't be able to play if it got later. Our team mate wasn't able to play. She rested and took her antibiotics. She's fine now :)

 We woke up bright and early, ate breakfast and made our way to the beach. The first game was bad. We weren't very experienced at playing together as a team and we weren't really in game mode yet. We lost 13-5. It did nothing for our positive attitude. The second two games were amazing though. We came together as a team, got to know each other's playing styles and cheered our heads off on the sidelines. Both games were a fight for every point. We won both of those games on universe point. We played our hardest until the very end. We were really happy because we thought we had made it into the winners bracket because we had won two out of our three games. Turns out there was a three way tie. We lost it because we had lost our first game so badly. The most frustrating part was that we got shut out of the winners bracket by 2 points. The highest we could come in at this point would be 5th place. After complaining and feeling bad we pulled ourselves together and decided, if we couldn't win the tournament, we would win the party. We got all cute and headed over to the tournament dinner. After that we went to a bar and danced. We all agree that we were the winners of that party.PhotobucketPhotobucket

Sunday
We got up way too early for having gone out dancing last night. We got our attitudes together and decided that if we couldn't be in the winners bracket we were gonna prove that the results were wrong. We won both of our games by a lot. The first one of 13-4 and the second one was 13-2. I was so proud that our team was able to pull it together and look at what had happened in a positive way. After the tournament was over we cleaned up and set up camp in a restaurant. Then some of us went on a quick hike around the cliffs of Santander. The views were amazing and I got a chance to know some of my teammates better. After that we got some more pinchas for dinner and caught our flight. We were afraid we were going to miss it because the airport bus broke down, but we caught some taxis and it turned out our flight had been delayed anyway.
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*This is my 50th post. That's pretty cool, right?