Dad’s Weekend

I’m a little behind on posts right now (big surprise) so this is from a 2 weekends ago. I warned you that this would probably happen 🙂

Anyways, my dad came and visited after spending the week working in London. It was nice to show him around the city and show off my Spanish skills. I had class the day he arrived, so we met up for lunch afterwards and then walked around the city as I pointed out important buildings (el Catedral, el Mercado Central, etc.) and sights (not that I’m anywhere near as good as an actual tour guide).

The next day (Friday) we also did a good amount of walking. We hopped on a bus to the beach after I was done with class where we ate lunch and walked in the sand for a while. We then went to la Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias to see the ninot exhibition for las Fallas (a Valencian festival that happens every spring that involves making ninots (“dolls”) out of paper materials that are later displayed and burned in the streets- that’s the best quick explanation I can give, but be on the lookout for a post about Fallas in the next week or so).

That night, my Dad was invited to dine with my host family. It was certainly interesting, since my dad doesn’t speak Spanish and my host mom and host brother know only a little English (though I think they know more than they claim 🙂 ). I basically spent the meal translating, talking in Spanish one minute and English the next and sometimes to the wrong people. Needless to say, by the end of the meal, my brain was pretty exhausted.

Saturday we walked to my school so he could see the building, although we couldn’t go inside because the center is closed on weekends. We then headed to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to watch the mascletĂĄ, a firework show designed purely for the noise. This is also part of las Fallas and happens from the beginning of March through the week of Fallas at 2:00pm. I had yet to see one since I normally have class, but my dad had already seen two while I was stuck in school. It was very, very loud, but I loved it. (Here’s a link to a video of a really good one so you can get an idea. I’d turn up the volume for a better idea of what it’s like…)

We grabbed bocadillos for lunch (I am so going to miss these. Guess I’ll just have to make them myself 🙂 ) and ate them in the plaza in front of the Cathedral. We then walked around the city some more, eventually heading to los Torres de Serranos, one of two sets of towers left from the wall that used to surround the old city. We climbed up them and had nice view of the city.

Later that day, we also grabbed churros and chocolate from one of the many street stands popping up for Fallas (arguably my favorite thing about the festival).

That about sums it up, I think. I can’t wait for my whole family to come visit in April!

Hasta luego.

 

Belated Recap

I haven’t posted anything in a while (bad me). And I’ve actually done things, so I thought I’d sum up a few of the past weeks before I make a post about my most recent weekend trip to Rome.

Week one: February 8-14

School. Some more school. School again. (You can tell this is totally my favorite part of studying abroad…) But Friday night I went out for the first time with a large group of people from the program. We went to a few bars before making our way to Mya, a popular discoteca in Valencia. If you’re ever in Valencia, it’s definitely an interesting place to check out. It’s a club tucked under a bridge, half-outdoors, half-indoors, located right by the Cuidad de Artes y Ciencias. When you walk by the place during the day, you would honestly have no idea it was even there. We stayed there until about 4 in the morning before taking a cab home. If you’re alarmed by how “late” we were there, keep in mind the fact that Spaniards do everything later. Dinner’s not till 9:30 or 10:00ish for most people, and clubs don’t get busy until around 1:30 0r 2:00. It’s not uncommon for people to stay out all night until 5 or 6 in the morning (personally, that’s a little too late for me. I like sleeping 🙂 ).

The bad thing about staying out until 4 was the fact that I had to get up early in the morning (Saturday) for a group day trip. 3 hours of sleep was definitely not enough, but I managed to show up on time for the bus.

We visited Morella, a town about 2 hours north of Valencia and slightly more inland. The whole town is basically on a mountain, enclosed within a large wall. A castle sits at the highest point on the mountain.

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The castle at the top of the mountain. At this point, we’d already been climbing upward for a while, and we eventually made it all the way to the top. When I thought about studying abroad in Spain, I honestly did not expect to be climbing so many mountains.

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Barcelona, Parte 2: Sabado y Domingo

The rest of my weekend trip to Barcelona! You can find Parte 1 here. (Also, sorry for taking so long to post this…)

Day 2 started bright and early after a night of not much sleep (when your Airbnb host warns you that it’s a little noisy at night, he means it’s really, really, really noisy at night). We had tickets to Sagrada Familia at 9:00, the earliest entry time, which we purchased with the intention of avoiding the crowds later in the day.

A metro ride later, we came above ground to this:

Buying tickets online ahead of time and for early in the morning was definitely worth it. The line to get in was practically non-existent.

A little bit of history: Sagrada Familia is a basilica/temple that began construction in 1882. Antoni GaudĂ­, a well known modernist/naturalist architect, took over the construction in 1883 (not much had really been built by that point), and eventually altered the original plans. GaudĂ­ died after being hit by a tram in 1926 before the construction was finished (he’s buried in the crypt of the church, which seems quite fitting). Since then, construction has slowly continued following the plans GaudĂ­ left. That’s 134 years of construction so far. Sagrada Familia should be finished in 2026 (guess I’ll have to come back to see it 🙂 ).

I took a lot of pictures of the inside, so I can’t possibly post them all here. Also, pictures just don’t do this enormous work of art any justice, but I will post some nonetheless. (Click on the photos to enlarge them and read the captions.)

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Wait, That’s Not Spanish

Spain is a country divided into 17 comunidades autonomas (autonomous communities), which are then divided into provinces. For example, the city of Valencia is located in the Comunidad Valenciana (a.k.a. Comunitat Valenciana en valenciano), specifically in the province of Valencia. Barcelona is a city located in the autonomous community of Catalunya (Cataluña en español), specifically in the province of Barcelona. The autonomous communities sort of function like states in the U.S., but they have even more autonomy (from what I understand).

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Now, as for the languages spoken in Spain. Obviously, Spanish is one of them. It’s the common language that unites the whole country. It’s also called Castellano, referring to the region of Spain it originated from, but that name is becoming less popular (especially because it’s called Spanish every other country that speaks the language).

You may or may not have noticed, depending on your knowledge of Spanish, that the names of places in my last post were not in Spanish. In Barcelona (and the entire autonomous community of Catalunya), CatalĂĄn is an official language in addition to Spanish. CatalĂĄn is very similar to Spanish, but it certainly isn’t the same language. (If you didn’t know that they both meant street, you probably wouldn’t think carrer (CatalĂĄn) and calle (Spanish) were the same word.)

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Barcelona, Parte 1: Viernes

This weekend (Friday-Sunday) I went on my first weekend trip outside of Valencia! Mi amiga and I took the tren from Valencia to Barcelona, about a 3.5 hour journey to the north of Valencia. The only thing that dampened the excitement was having to get up at 4:45 in the morning in order to catch the 7:25am train (ugh). I didn’t help that I was up until almost 2:00. In my defense, dinner was at 9:30 so I didn’t start packing until 11:00 and then I just couldn’t sleep.

We got to Barcelona Sants (l’estaciĂł de tren, as they say in CatalĂĄn- it’s la estaciĂłn de tren in español, but more on this in a different post) a little after 10:30am. We made our way to the metro and took it to center of the city, in the middle of Les Rambles (a.ka. Las Ramblas en español). We came out of the metro right across from the Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s largest and most famous market. It was cool, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as big as el Mercado Central in Valencia.

From there, we wandered around the Barri GĂČtic (Gothic Quarter), winding our way through the narrow pedestrian streets.

We then found ourselves at la Basilica de Maria del Mar, a very old gothic church. We eavesdropped on a couple of tour guides once inside. The first guide spoke CatalĂĄn, so we only got bits and pieces of what he was saying, and the second spoke español, but she was giving the tour to a small group of estudiantes estadounidenses (I wish this word existed in English
) and was speaking with that in mind, so it was incredibly easy to understand her.

We then stumbled across el Mercat del Born, which isn’t actually a mercat at all. It’s a cultural center with the ruins of buildings destroyed in the War of Spanish Succession by King Philip V in order to build la Ciutadella, a military fortress. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes without recompense. Today, the fortress no longer exists and in its place is the Parc de la Ciutadella. El mercado was constructed in 1876 and functioned as a market until the 70s/80s, although the ruins weren’t discovered until 2002 when the building was undergoing some renovations. It took us a while to figure out what we had stumbled upon, and I looked up those dates out of curiosity.

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This (Not So Eventful) Week

Not much to report this week. Classes, homework, the usual. Then I got sick on Thursday, which put a bit of a damper on the weekend. I spent most of Friday (a day we were supposed to have class) and Saturday lounging around and sleeping, leaving the apartment briefly on Saturday to meet a friend to get the notes I missed. I felt significantly better today, though, which was good because I had a fĂștbol game to go to!

I ate a picnic lunch at the rio (the river that’s not really a river) with my friends before we headed to Mestalla (the fĂștbol stadium). We stopped at a stall outside of the stadium to buy some scarves for Valencia CF, the team we were there to see.

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Once inside, we climbed a ways up to our seats behind one of the goals, having to ask someone who worked there how to find them. This wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if our tickets said the right section.

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It occurred to me once we were seated that I’ve never actually been in a stadium designed only for fĂștbol. They’re a little harder to come by in the U.S.

It was a pretty decent game, but Valencia ultimately lost, unable to score a goal to tie the game after the other team (Sporting de Gijon) scored via a penalty kick. With the amount of shots they had on goal, though, we were surprised that none of them managed to make it in (let’s just say there was a lot of angry swearing going on behind us, which I could understand pretty well after a brief lesson on swear words in my conversation class).

Well, this is a pretty short post, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

Hasta luego

El Catedral de Valencia

Saturday (sorry for not posting this sooner…), I visited Valencia’s Cathedral, a building that I’ve mentioned in a few other posts (where I stole the above pictures from). This cathedral was built and renovated over many different centuries and is an interesting blend of architectural styles. After having walked by and around the exterior of el Catedral many times, we actually went inside the gorgeous building today and did an audio tour! I love old architecture, and aside from castles and palaces, old churches tend to be the most impressive of old buildings (as was intended). This church did not disappoint.

Here are a bunch of photos I took of the inside.

Have you ever noticed the large amount of dead people in churches, particularly old cathedrals? Tombs in the floor, the walls, sometimes even underground crypts. The Cathedral in Valencia was no different. The picture on the top right below shows one tomb in a wall of one of the many chapels of the church. There were lots more just like it.

The Cathedral has a large side chapel that is very Gothic in style. It also houses the supposed Holy Grail. They say the cup dates back to the 1st century, though the base is newer and was probably added later. Regardless of weather or not that is actually the Holy Grail, it’s kind of amazing that a cup that old is just hanging out in this chapel.

The Cathedral also houses a relic of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of Valencia. The lefthand picture below shows the saint’s preserved arm. Creepy, right?

So that about sums up the coolest parts of the inside. But we also climbed the bell tower attached to the cathedral, the Miguelete (not the worst thing I’ve hiked up recently, but it was a good amount of stairs. Definitely worth the climb and the 2 euros).

While we were up at the top of the tower, it turned five o’clock. A few other churches in the area rang their bells first, and we thought, “hey, that’s pretty quiet,” thinking it was the bell in the tower that was ringing. Wrong. A couple seconds later, the bell we were standing right next to started to wring and it was SO LOUD I plugged my ears. It also scared the crap out of us and everyone else that was up there, which was pretty funny.

Other than a history-filled walking tour, this is probably my favorite of all the things I’ve seen in Valencia so far. (The castle in Xativa is up there on that list, too, but technically it’s not in Valencia).

 

Hasta luego!

Week in Review

A warning before I begin: please excuse any errors in this post. I’m tired and mildly intoxicated, and the more time I spend thinking in Spanish, the harder it is for me to write in English.

Well, this week was interesting. Classes started on Monday, and that was mildly overwhelming. If you’ve ever been confused by a syllabus, just imagine hearing it explained quickly in another language early in the morning. But I think classes will be fine once I get into the rhythm of things. It is very strange, though, to have all my classes by taught in Spanish since I’ve only ever taken one Spanish class at a time. At first, some of my professors were kind of hard to understand because they talked so fast or had a strange accent, but I can understand them much better just after a couple of days. I think the hardest thing is going to be reading all my assignments for my literature classes because it takes me about 5 times as long to read anything in Spanish… especially when I have to stop and look up words.

The start of classes also meant less time for sightseeing, so I don’t have a whole lot to report. Thursday afternoon after class, I went out with a friend to buy Spanish sim cards for our phones, which we ultimately couldn’t do because we needed our passports and didn’t have them with us (oops). Looks like we’ll have to do that this weekend. After that, we went to el Mercado Colon, a collection of restaurants and little cafes in a market-like building in the area of Valencia where all the shopping is located. We tried horchata (a drink made from tigernuts- nuts that grow on a plant, just so we’re clear. One of my friends looked at me funny when I first said that…) and fartons (a kind of pastry), a fairly typical combination in Valencia.

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My friend posing with our horchatas and fartons. Hopefully she doesn’t mind me posting this picture 🙂

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Misadventures and XĂ tiva

Yesterday did not go expected. At first, it seemed like that was going to be a bad thing, a ruin-your-whole-day-and-maybe-even-the-whole-weekend kind of thing. But it turned out much better than that.

Yesterday was our group day trip to XĂ tiva, a nearby town closer to the mountains than Valencia. We were all supposed to meet up as a group and take buses the school had paid for. I left with just enough time to get to the meeting place by 11:00am, arriving about three minutes early. We were meeting at the football stadium, on the side that borders a main street. When I got there, however, there seemed to be no one on that side (you can probably see where this is going). I didn’t think much of it and decided to walk around the building (which is rather large, I might add, because, you know, it’s a stadium…), which is when I ran into some other students looking for the meeting place. We walked to the side we thought it was on, and no one was there. By that point, it was a few minutes after 11, and a few more students showed up. It was then someone received a text from another student saying that the group buses had already left.

At first, we thought he was joking. We kept asking, “are you serious? They actually left?” We were all there at 11:00 and couldn’t figure out why they would have left already. A few people who got there earlier than me never even saw the buses. That’s when the same guy got another text: we were supposed to be there at 10:30 and the buses left around 10:45, 20 minutes ago by this point.

9 of us had managed to miss the group buses. We all thought we were supposed to be there at 11:00, having read one of the many papers we were given at orientation. None of us bothered to look at any other papers, which we now discovered said 10:30. One little error on one paper out of several caused more than 10% of us to not end up on the group transportation. Needless to say, we were all pretty annoyed and disappointed.

We debated what to do for a few minutes, trying to figure out if there was some way we could get ourselves there. Maybe the public buses, we thought. But XĂ tiva is about 50 minutes outside of Valencia and it seemed unlikely that the buses would go that far from the city. A cab? This was a bad idea for many reasons, seeing as we’d need 3 of them to fit all of us and it would probably be ridiculously expensive to go so far. One of the guys in our group decided to ask a woman walking her dog if we could take a bus there. She told us that no, we couldn’t take a bus there. Well, great. But we could take a train, she said. She then proceeded to give us directions to the train station, pointing us to the nearest metro station. She also mentioned metro the stop we needed to go to: XĂ tiva. How confusing and coincidental.

Into the metro station we went. One little problem: none of us knew how the metro worked. We didn’t know which line we needed, or exactly how to read the map, or if XĂ tiva was the right stop or we just misunderstood what the woman had said (if it had been called anything other than the name of the city we were trying to go to, maybe we would’ve been less confused), or how much tickets would cost, or how exactly to buy said tickets. Back up to the street we went.

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