Sunday, January 31, 2010


I had a great weekend in Sevilla! It was definitely worth the brutal 6 hour bus ride it takes to get there. We arrived in the gorgeous city just after midnight Friday morning and headed straight to our hostel. The facilities were good for what we paid, and the staff was excellent! They were super friendly, spoke great English and went above and beyond to make our stay with them great. My roommate Chloe and I had a room to ourselves, and our other roommate Danielle shared a room with 2 other girls from SLU-Madrid who we went with.

We woke up on Friday morning early enough to catch the tail end of the free breakfast (toast & coffee) and then were on our way to explore the city!

Our first destination was the Cathedral- the 3rd largest church in the world! I've seen my fair share of beautiful, ornate European cathedrals in my day... but I have a feeling this one will not just blend in with all of the other ones! Perhaps the most famous part of this cathedral is the "Giralda"- the bell tower. On the same site that the cathedral is now, there used to be a mosque. And the Giralda is left over from that (Although the very top was added by the Christians). The cathedral is so big, and so close to everything else that it's hard to get a good picture that shows how big it really is... this is just a sliver of it, and the Giralda is on the right.

It seems like this was perfect timing for me to go to Sevilla. Last week in my Art History class I learned about many of the buildings there- especially the cathedral. Looking at the arches, ceilings, doorways and designs I was able to distinguish which artistic styles they were and could recall the names for the different elements in my mind... not gonna lie, I felt pretty cool :) haha

I took this picture just thinking it was a cool statue... but I found out the next day that it's Christopher Columbus's tomb. Now I'm glad I took the picture :)

After spending some time in the Cathedral, we decided to make the trek to the top of the Giralda. To get to the top you have to walk up 34 ramps- but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. They're short and not too steep. I was surprised to find out that back in the day (when it was someone's job to go to the top to ring the bells 5X a day) the guy rode a horse up it! The views of the city from the top were amazing.

Something I learned in my Art History class, is that the Giralda has a twin in Kansas City, since the two towns are "sister cities". Seeing the Giralda in person made me feel closer to my best friend Alex, who lives in KC and who I miss very much!

Then we made our way to the Alcázar...


For lunch we found ourselves at a Chinese restaurant... and the very first thing that caught my eye was this...

...Is the same one at House of China in Dubuque??????? Next time one of you are there, keep your eyes peeled and let me know! haha it's really bugging me!!!

On Saturday, we went on a walking tour of the city that was offered through our Hostel. It was on that tour that I learned the "statue" I took a picture of in the cathedral was actually Columbus's tomb, and we also went past this building, which is the point he set off from when he "discovered" the Americas.

It's located right on the river... which made me think of home :)

The tour guide also took us down a street that is called "the street of death" (or something along those lines), because of a massacre that occurred there. And, do you see the tile with the Scull on it in the picture below? In that place, for 100 years, dangled the head of the girl who was at fault for the massacre..... creeeeeeeeeepy! How can people live on that street?!?!?!?

We didn't roll back into Madrid until after midnight, so I slept in today as late as my body would allow me to. Today has been pretty low key so far, and the rest of it will be dedicated to studying and homework... after all that is what I'm here for, right? (every once in a while I need to remind myself of that fact!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I am not creative enough to think of blog titles.

After looking at the previous posts I've made, I realized that I haven't exactly described my living situation for those of you who may not know. I technically have a "Señora" (host family), but we don't really live with her. She and her husband live in the apartment right next to ours. They live completely separately from us... so that's why we're responsible for our own cooking and laundry...

...even though cooking and washing dishes is a whole new concept to me, I feel right at home doing my own laundry! It may seem uncharacteristic for me (lol), but by choice I have been washing my own clothes for at least 8 years now. (If Bob Rusk were responsible for the laundry in your home, you'd do your own too! haha) What I WASN'T ready for, was a washing machine that can fit about 3 things and NO dryer. I can deal with small loads of laundry. But hanging clothes outside to dry is just sketchy to me. At home, I opt to hang the clothes I don't put in the dryer INSIDE the house. Unlike many people, I hate the "fresh" smell of the outdoors, and CAN'T STAND the stiffness of them.

Our apartment building has a "courtyard" type thing in the middle of it, and clothes lines that run through it. Since our apartments are "U" shaped, they run from one window to the other. I caved in and did some laundry for the first time a few days ago... and was so nervous hanging my clothes on the line. #1) The only time I've ever used a clothes line in my life, was using the poles as Monkey Bars in my Grandma & Grandpa's backyard... and #2) WE LIVE ON THE FOURTH FLOOR! If something falls, I'd have to go down and knock on the door of the people who live on the ground floor, and ask them to crawl out their window to go grab it for me. (I looked, and there are no doors to the courtyard... just windows) Thankfully everything went well, and nothing was lost (this time).

Nothing too exciting has happened lately (hello, I just wrote multiple paragraphs about laundry). School and school work has been taking up a lot of my time, and I'm trying to get as much sleep as the Spanish lifestyle will allow. On Saturday, we did go to El Escorial. It's a historic royal site just outside of Madrid. It's a monastery, palace, cathedral, library, museum, school and more. It's HUGE. The creepiest part for me was that we got to go down into the basement with tombs of members of the royal family. It was actually really cool, but the rooms seemed to be never ending and I definitely had the heebie jeebies the whole time!

The town it's in (San Lorenzo de El Escorial) is very picturesque. It has mountains peeking into the sky and is full of narrow, steep streets lined with shops and cafes.

This weekend 2 of my roommates, 2 other girls from school and I are going to Sevilla! I have heard wonderful things about the city, so I am very excited. We're actually leaving tomorrow (Thursday) after class and will return to Madrid late Saturday night. We're taking a bus there and will be sleeping in a Hostel. I've only had one hostel experience in my life, and it was creepy... so hopefully this weekend goes well! :)

Hope everything is going great for all of you... and I'm sorry that my blog is so boring, haha! I will post pictures from Sevilla after I return.

Sangria and Tapas

Madrid at night

Friday, January 22, 2010

mi casa es su casa (only not really because we can't have people over...)

Well, my first full week of classes are over... and those 4 days FLEW by! If every week is like that, then my 4 months here are going to be gone in a flash.

Every Monday and Wednesday I have Hispanic Literature from 2:30-3:45. We've already read "El Poema de Mio Cid", and thankfully our professor went through it with us thoroughly to make sure we understood it... I hope she does that with everything we read! That class is the only one I have that is taught in 100% Spanish.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have History of Western Art at 11:00, Introduction to Music at 2:30, and Ethics right afterwords at 4:00. So far (with the exception of Ethics) all of my classes seem pretty interesting. On Fridays I don't have ANY classes. Three-day weekends will be great, especially with the traveling I want to do while I'm here!

The walk to school is about a mile (alllllll up hill) and it takes us about 15 minutes to get there. Considering at home I drive to my friends' houses who live in the same neighborhood as me, this walk is NOT my favorite part about this whole experience :)

Our apartment is much bigger than I expected it to be. It's homey, and is decorated with the most random assortment of furniture, pictures and memorabilia ever. This is what you see right when you walk into our "piso"... my room is on the right (with the nasty light switch)

This is my desk area (which is right inside the door). This picture was taken last week, so it looks kind of different now.

Here's my bed! That's the heater right next to it... they turn it off for the night, but when it kicks back on in the morning it gets sooooo hot! Figment and Jellaman don't stay there all the time, haha, I just decided they needed to be in the picture :)

This is our living area (and my roommate Chloe! haha). There's a TV but we NEVER watch it. We get about 5 channels.

And finally our kitchen... ughhhh. I have to cook for myself here- so obviously I haven't been eating the greatest meals! If anybody knows any super easy recipes shoot them my way!

Right now I'm pretty much out of food. I ran out of cereal the other day, which was my go to meal! The whole cooking situation is going to probably be the hardest thing to get used to here. Yesterday I was making myself lunch and I felt like Amy Adams in "Julie & Julia". Only instead of making boeuf bourguignon or lobster bisque, I was making scrambled eggs in the microwave and toast on the stove... depressing.

Another aspect of our kitchen that is new to me, is washing dishes by hand. We have no dishwasher. :( At home, I definitely take that for granted! And even if I leave a plate sitting around the kitchen, it MAGICALLY disappears... that's not the case here. I have to wash every single thing I use as I go along. yikes.

But on a more exciting note, I have some trips planned! Two of my roommates and I are going to Amsterdam in April, and we're also traveling over a Winter Break that we have coming up in February. We have flights booked to Paris, and are wanting to go somewhere else during that time also. Today we found a relatively inexpensive way to get to Germany (Dusseldorf) from Paris by bus. Hopefully we get those tickets today! We have a pretty long break for Easter and are trying to figure out what to do during that time... Maybe Italy? I've been there before but never to Rome, so I'm hoping that works out!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Getting to Know Spain

This weekend was full of touristy things, which I've been loving! As I wrote about before, Friday we went to the Palace and walked around the Sol area of the city. Yesterday we continued our exploration of the city by visiting two art museums- La Reina Sofia and El Prado. I was very excited to go to both of them! They each have sooo many amazing pieces of art- and MANY that I have learned about in school over the years.

The Reina Sofia was first. Upon entering the very first room, the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" came to mind. I remember a part when Julia Roberts' character said something along the lines of, "Who decides what is art?". That crossed my mind SO many times in the Reina Sofia. This museum had a lot of modern art that I just didn't "get". Like there was one with just one little tally-mark on it. Or a giant wall with 1, 2 and then 3 florescent lights on it. Some of it was really thought provoking, though. I was most excited to see Picasso's "Guernica", which I looked at I have seen it in Spanish books for years, and it was amazing to see it in person. There was also a series of photos in the same room that document Picasso's progress while creating the giant painting. It was so interesting to see the changes he made along the way.

There were rooms upon rooms of Picasso's paintings. It was crazy to see them up close and personal! In the same museum I also saw a painting by Wilfredo Lam, who (fun fact) I gave a presentation on in 11th grade Spanish :)

We stopped for a quick bite to eat, then took a very scenic walk over to El Prado. It was amaaaazing. I realized that I prefer older, classic art to the modern stuff. The brochure we got upon entering the museum had a list of the pieces of art that are considered to be "masterpieces". We made it a point to see each of them :) By far the most amazing- and most famous piece we saw that day was "Las Meninas" by Velazquez.

I was in owe. It was huge. It was beautiful... and I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that hundreds of year before, Velazquez was standing right in front of the same painting I was, creating a masterpiece we would all be able to enjoy for centuries to come. I also saw amazing things by El Greco, Rembrant, and many, many more.

Today we went to Toledo! It was a day trip arranged through school and about 60 of us went. To say it was beautiful is an understatement. I don't even think pictures can do it justice! So come visit me and I will take you there :) haha. It's crazy how old the city is... people settled in it during the 7th century BC!!! It's older than Jesus, man!

PAELLA!!! yummmmm :)

One week ago today I just got here! I feel like I have done and seen so much in that short while. Our first full week of classes starts tomorrow and I'm fiiiinally going to have a routine, and responsibilities! How boring is it that I'm actually LOOKING FORWARD to homework?! haha.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Orientation, classes and adventures...

The Roommates

Orientation is over. Classes have started. And my first full weekend in Spain is here! Lots has happened since my last post. Orientation started on Monday and went okaaaaay. Since there were basically all SLU students in my orientation group (just like the group flight), it reinforced how much I miss my friends and wish I had them here with me. Our first day of orientation was full of the basic stuff... tours around campus... sessions with breakers. That night 2 of my roommates and I went out to a Tapas bar called "El Tigre" and even though the place looks empty in the picture below, there were actually a lot of other SLU Madrid people there.

The next day was the second and final day of orientation. We had a ridiculous bus tour of Madrid. And they dropped us off at some random place in the city and told us we were done... thankfully one of my roommates is a directional whiz, because I would have been COMPLETELY lost on my own (I still haven't even figured out the streets around our apartment yet haha).

On Wednesday, classes started! I only had one that day (On Mondays & Wednesday)and it started at 2:30. I figured I didn't need to set my alarm for that morning- that I would naturally wake up before noon at least. Well, I was wrong! At 1:30 my roommate came in to wake me up! Apparently I wasn't as used to the time difference as I thought I was. That night we went out to "Cafe Orange"... and didn't get home until 3:30am. The sad thing is, that is waaaay early by Spanish standards. I don't think I'll ever get used to that.

Thursday (yesterday) I had my other 3 classes (which I have on Tuesdays & Thursdays). They started at 11, I definitely took advantage of Siesta time! During some exploration that evening, we found a place that sells AMAZING Tortilla Española for only 2 Euro. Later we went to a club called Joy...It is in a building that used to be a theater. So we were up in one of the balconies dancing the night away... and the curtain on the stage randomly went up. And this is what we saw...

A Lady Gaga impersonator and a handful of white chicks with afros! It definitely made the night :)

This morning Danielle, Chloe (my roommates) and I got up to go see some sights. We went to the palace, and explored the area around it. We went and got some of Spain's famous "Churros con chocolate", went to a Cathedral and did some shopping.

Now it is 9:51pm and I'm soooo tired! Tomorrow we're hitting up some museums and then Sunday I'm going to a trip through school to visit Toledo! I feel like such a loser for admitting this, but I am actually really excited for next week to be a full week of school. I need some kind of routine! It still hasn't hit me that I'm going to be here for so long- maybe once I get settled into classes it will. I have some short, random spurts of homesickness. The other night all of my dreams took place at Grandma & Grandpa's house, and only family members were in them... so that's definitely a sign that I miss my people!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I made it!

Well boys and girls, I'm here! The time between my application to SLU Madrid and today has flown by sooo quickly and I can't believe I'm here already. After some teary goodbyes, I boarded my group flight from Chicago to Madrid. Like I suspected, I was pretty much the only student on our flight who doesn't go to St. Louis University. I was getting pretty nervous because it was like everyone else already had their best friends there with them, and I didn't know a single person. It definitely had me missing my friends and wishing they were with me... and the girl who sat next to me on the flight kept staring at me. Creeper.

One of the things I was most nervous about was actually getting to my host family's apartment. So when I hopped into a taxi and told him where I needed to go, the butterflies were definitely flying! The ride was about 20 minutes because he kept getting lost, and when we finally got to the apartment he dropped me off at the curb with an "adios". So there I was, standing on a random Madrid street staring at a random apartment building. I buzzed the apartment number of our hosts... and the guy said "Hola"... not having any idea what to say, I randomly said "ummmm... soy una estudiante..." and before I could finish what I was going to say I heard the buzz that let me in. I lugged my 130+ pounds of luggage (believe or not that final weight was after MANY rounds of elimination) in through the door and before I knew it, my host mom was down to help. Thankfully there was an elevator.

I was the last of my roommates to arrive, and she and her husband gave me the grand tour.The first thing they said was "la casa es para estudiar... no fiestas!"(The house is for studying, not parties!). It kind of had me afraid of them, but they are super nice. They pointed out the different parts of the apt and then proceeded to take 5 minutes to show me that for hot water you move the handle to the left and for cold water you move the handle to the right, whipped out a giant map of Madrid, and then left me to settle in. Since I was the last one there, I'm sharing the double room (The apt. has 2 single rooms and 1 double). My roommate, Elizabeth, goes to SLU and is from Missouri, I talked to her for a little bit and then ventured over to the other side of our small apartment to talk to the other two girls. Chloe is from San Diego (and goes to school in LA) and Danielle is from Long Island (and goes to school in Maryland).

When we were getting to know each other, our host lady brought over a Tortilla Espanola, which is a very traditional spanish dish. It was really good. Besides the leftovers of that, there was no food in our apartment at all, so we went to El Corte Ingles a huge department store to look around and buy some food. It's really close which will be sooo convenient. When we left the store it was snowing! It caught me way off guard considering snow supposedly isn't common in Madrid.

So we came back, I finished getting settled in... and then I got electrocuted!!! Turns out, there are two different kind of outlets in our room (one with holes just slightly bigger than the other). And if you put something too big in the little ones and then try to pull it out, it'll get ya. I'm not talking like a shock from static intensified slightly... this was straight up, volts of electricity raging through my body (ok just my hands). But it's probably an hour later right now and my left thumb is still throbbing. So now that plug is still half stuck in the wall, and I'm too chicken to attempt to get it out again.

Well, it's 9:30 pm here right now and I'm beat. The four of us are just hanging out at the apartment tonight...

Orientation starts tomorrow!