Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Pictures of Santorini that don't do it justice.

Cervantes Week, Paris, Other Random Thoughts

The town that I live in , Alcala, is where Miguel Cervantes, author of the novel Don Quijote, was born. Every year they have Cervantes Week where they do reinactments of his stories and the plaza is converted into a medeival marketplace. The venders dress up in old clothes, there are donkeys and other farm animals in the streets, and there are a ton of little shops selling everything from spices and cheese to jewlery to toys to delicious food and drinks. At the end of the festival, a person dressed as Don Quijote (complete with armor) and a person dressed as Sancho Panza, his sidekick, ride through the plaza on a horse and donkey. There are also groups of singers drinking beer and singing traditional Spanish songs (not sure if that´s a great combination) on about every corner. It´s a very unique festival and people come from all over Spain to attend it.
That was a few weekends ago but I forgot to write about it earlier. This past weekend I made a trip to Paris. Other people in my group had already gone and they didn´t think it was that great and warned me that everyone would probably be mean to me if I spoke Spanish. False and false. I thought Paris was a really pretty city and everyone there was incredibly nice, even when I spoke in English (which I did most of the time since it is more prevelant than Spanish). Our first stop was the Eifel tower, just 15 minutes from our hotel, which was something in itself--if I stretched my arms out I could reach both sides of the room, the showers were outside, and it could definitely use a good spring cleaning. But it was cheap and I figure I better stay in these sorts of places before I get old and care about things like germs and heat :)
The Eifel Tower is definitely something to see, if only for its magnitude. I don´t know what exactly I was expecting, but I didn´t expect it to be so gigantic! We posed for some pictures and I tried to recreate a photo of my Grandpa Good that was taken of him in front of the Eifel Tower during World War II. It´s odd to think about the vastly different circumstances that brought us to the same place. My worries at the time were about midterms while his were about winning a war. Just some food for thought.
We climbed the 668 steps to the second deck of the tower before taking the lift to the very top of the Tower. The views of the city from the top were pretty cool. We saw the Eifel tower both during the day and at night when it was all lit up. Every hour at night there is a light show where the Tower sparkles for 5 minutes. We decided to be very French and bought some wine and a block of cheese to eat by the Eifel Tower at night. Very cliche, I know. But being shortsighted, we didn´t think about how to uncork the bottle, which lead to me going into a random restaurant and asking a waiter if he would uncork it for us if I gave him a Euro, which he did.
We also went to the Louve, though we didn´t go in because of the huge line, but instead walked around the park next to it, looking at the sculptures there. We went on to the Notre Dame cathedral and marvelled at its beautiful stained glass windows. We hit a couple restaurants for crepes, which of course were amazing. We didn´t have much time there (only 2 days!) so I would love to go back and see all the things I missed if I ever have a chance.
On the plane to Paris I was reading the Spanish newspaper and there was an article about the Spanish Prime Minister´s visit to Washington. There was a part of the article where the Minister said that the key to peace in the middle east is in Obama´s hands. Through the news and just talking to Spanish citizens, I have come to the conclusion that the world has a lot more confidence in our President than we do.
This weekend will be dedicated to studying for my midterms coming up next week. But it shouldn´t be too bad because I have something pretty awesome to look forward to after I finish testing on Wednesday--my parents and Nikki will be here on Thursday!!!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The beach, some wine, and Greece

My blog has fallen by the wayside due to the fact that my computer here decided to die. No problems in the 3 years I've had it, but of course it would malfunction abroad :)
Briefly, here is what I've been up to the past couple of weeks.
3 weekends ago I took a trip to Valencia, a city on the eastern coast of Spain. We hit the beach for a couple of days and took a free walking tour offered by our hostel which was really interesting and told me a lot about the city's history. We also met and made friends with a gay bachelor party one night. It's a long story, ask me about it later. ;)
2 weekends ago was one of our two Butler excursions, which are included in what we pay to study abroad. All 11 people in our group, our Butler professor and her husband, and two of the Spanish professors headed up to La Rioja, a region in northern Spain known for its wines. We toured 2 vineyards where they explained how their wines were made and we got to taste the wine at each of them. My college paid for me to drink wine with my professors. Not too bad, huh? My favorite quote of the weekend: "Let's party."--Antonio, one of my Spanish professors. We also toured a couple of monestaries the next day. Maybe they thought they should make up for our wine drinking the day before.
This past weekend was my first trip out of Spain. Three our girls and myself headed off to Greece. Two of the girls went straight to Athens, but me and DeeDee slept in the Athens airport and caught a 5 am flight to the Greek Island of Santorini. I guess that's one way to save money on a hostel.
Santorini may be the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Google Santorini and you'll see what I mean. Beautiful white houses with bright blue rooftops overlooking the ocean. The island is pretty small. From the East coast of the island we walked 30 seconds and were on the west coast. We didn't really have a plan for when we arrived in Santorini, but luckily I met a man on the flight from Madrid who saw me doing my Spanish poetry homework and we struck up a conversation (in which he told me he thinks Obama is the best president the United States has ever had and that anyone is smarter than Bush), and he ended up drawing me a rough map of Santorini on the back of my airline ticket that we used to navigate around the island.
To save on a taxi fair, we walked from the airport to the capital which only took about 45 minutes. We were definitely a spectacle since we were both in summer dresses (it was in the 80's there--I heard it's freezing at home. That sucks. :) carrying our backpacks with all the stuff we needed for the weekend since we didn't check into our hostel in Athens until that night. We made it to the capital and spent the day taking tons of pictures, which I will have up in about 2 weeks when my family comes and brings me my camera cord, walking around the winding streets and looking at the shops, climbing to the highest point of the island with a magnificent view, and relaxing by the ocean. To make this amazing trip even better, the small island hospitality was incredible. Everyone in the doorway of their houses would wave and say hello, an old man offered to let us try the dessert he was eating, and more than 1 person offered to call a cab for us so we didn't have to walk with our backpacks. I could definitely see myself going back there again sometime in my life--I already looked up prices for hostels and hotels there in the off season.
After our day in Santorini, we caught a 6pm flight back to Athens, checked into our hostel, and passed out. That's what only 3 hours of sleeping in the airport will do to you. The next day we met up with the other girls and visited all the main sights of Athens--the Parthenon, Zues's temple, the ancient Greek cemetary and museum, the Agoras (historic market places), the ruins of their theater, and the Olympic Stadium. After a delicious Greek lunch, we headed towards the Plaka, which is the main flea market area in Athens. We ate dinner and dessert and again passed out after another beautiful 80 degree day and miles and miles of walking.
The next day, Sunday, we took a free walking tour of the city, where I met a woman who had just gotten back from Uganda and was so focused on talking to her that I think I missed most of what our tour guide said. We got lunch and then headed to the airport to come back home to Spain.
So that's a brief summary of my last few weeks here. Quite a few details lacking, but it'll have to do!