Monday, May 4, 2009
It was absolutely amazing. It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done. The trip to Morocco was so so different from any other trip I've taken this semester.
So, here we go...
The safest way to go to Morocco is with a tour group. Two different groups of people from my program went without any tour group and managed okay, but Andrea, Elle and I sold our souls to the company Discover Sevilla back in February and decided to go with them. Discover Sevilla is basically a company run by a bunch of frat boys who go out, flirt with girls and then get them to buy trips. But it was the only trip that worked out in terms of timing, etc. So we basically had no choice.
We got off to a bit of a rough start...The bus was supposed to leave at 5:15 am. BUT we live a solid 45 minutes away from where the bus was leaving from. In hindsight, we obviously should have taken a taxi because it only would have been like 2 euros each. But we decided to walk there. BAD IDEA. Three girls walking around Sevilla at 4:30 in the morning with all their luggage? I get harassed walking around in broad daylight. Luckily we happened to run into a guy who was also going on the trip. To make myself feel better I'd like to think he would have protected us had anything happened. So...there we are...dragging our bags at the crack of dawn, running on about 2 hours of sleep, feeling pretty good about ourselves because we're on track to be there right on time. Next thing we know, Andrea gets a phone call....
"Hi. This is Jorge from Discover Sevilla, are you guys on your way?"
"Yeah, we're on our way" and we're right on time! what is this guy thinking??
We roll up 10 minutes later to find that the entire bus is full, waiting on us to arrive.
Turns out the bus was leaving at 5:15, you were supposed to be there at like 5.
I got on the bus thinking "Why are all these people here already? What were they thinking getting here even earlier than we already had to?" Well, the joke was on us, but luckily they waited for us and the bus practically started leaving as soon as we sat down.
So, the bus started heading for Tarifa, which is about 2 hours away from Sevilla. From Tarifa we take the ferry into Morocco. So, I get past the realization that we were almost left, pull out my ipod and am getting ready to pass out for the next 2 hours when I heard a THUD. Our bus hit something on the road, I'm still not sure what, but I guess it lost pressure in the tires or something. So we have to pull over, wait for like 25 minutes for another bus to get there, get the baggage off the first bus, get all the people off the first bus and load into the second bus. Whew.
Eventually we did make it to Tarifa in time to catch the first ferry out of Tarifa and into Tangiers. Its weird how it hardly took any time to get there, but once you're there you feel like you're a million miles away from anything familiar. From Tangiers we got back on the bus and headed to Rabat, where we stopped and had lunch. Ah! This was the part I was so worried about: food in Morocco. Ya'll, our first lunch was a chicken pastry dish, say what?! So weird.
Don't be fooled by the cinnamon and sugar, there is chicken inside of there!! It was actually really good and the restaurant had a really good view of the ocean. After lunch we dipped our feet in the ocean and got back on the bus and headed for Fez.
Day 2: Back on the bus to head for Merzouga, the desert town we stayed in. We stopped on the bus in a town called Midelt. We got to see more monkeys on the way there! My obsession with monkeys first began on my trip to Gibraltor and has since intensified. They are so freakin cute! So of course I was extremely happy to get to see more. Lunch was really good. Moroccan food is pretty healthy. There was a lot of vegetables, couscous and fruit involved all week. We made another stop along the way at a look at and it was SOOO windy:
That is NOT us swinging our heads around, that is the wind doing crazy things. It was a really pretty view though, and by this point in the ride it was starting to look very desert-y. We made it to Merzouga right before sunset and got into 4x4 to head out into the desert. Riding on 4x4 out to the middle of the Sahara Desert was just the beginning of an absolutely amazing experience. The hotel in the desert was really cool too. We each had our own bed and there was a giant canopy hanging from the ceiling. We had dinner at that hotel and that night some of the Moroccan tour guides put on a special concert for us. It was so fun sitting there listening to them play their music. A few of us got up and started dancing. I basically have no idea how Moroccans dance, but hey, but I'd like to think I know how Americans dance. Either way, it was awesome.
When we walked outside we saw what awaited us later on in the day: our camels!!! A ton of them were ready to take us to the oasis. We decided we wanted to take pictures, so we walked over only to be harassed by some berber men. At first we thought they genuinely wanted to talk to us. Turns out they really just wanted to get their picture taken with us and try to sell us stuff. Oh well, they were pretty funny and one of them developed a mad crush on Andrea. I believe his exact words were "Andrea, I want to make you my wife!!"
oh yeah...well i want to run in the opposite direction.
So, we got up and went to tour a small Berber town. We had to sort of hike through the desert to get there and let me tell you: it was hard. Hiking through that sand is NOT easy. More on that later. The walk there was kind of sad actually, there were a bunch of little kids (like REALLY little. we're talking like 5 years old) trying to sell us a random assortment of things like stuffed camels on the way there. It was really sad to see them begging us to buy all this stuff. We also saw really small kids filling up what had to have been really heavy jugs of water to take back to the town. The jugs were practically as big as they were, and they had to lug them around.
The berber town was pretty cool though. They showed us all the hand-made rugs. I bought a ring, which I was informed was silver... only to have my finger dyed green. Whoops.
We headed back to the desert, had lunch, and....GOT ON OUR CAMELS!!!!!!
Just getting on the camel was an adventure in itself. It was like hydraulics because their back feet go up before their front feet, so you feel like you're going to go flying off. Once you're up, its a pretty simple process. You just hold on and wonder how you ever got to be so lucky to be riding on a camel in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
The head wrap was an absolute necessity because sand would come out of nowhere and get in your face without it. The ride was pretty long, about an hour and half, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to get off the camel by the end. My butt was in need of a break. But seriously, riding camels through Sahara Desert = unbelievable.
So we spent the night in a desert oasis:
Those are little tents set up in a circle that slept three people each. The tents just had a foam mattress, but it was actually pretty comfortable. So the above picture is taken from the top of a sand dune. WOW! This is what I was referring to earlier when I said walking in sand was hard. Well walking was nothing compared to hiking a gigantic dune. Seriously, I can say without a doubt that it was the hardest thing I've ever done. However, this was also due in large part to the fact that I was hysterically laughing the entire time. Me and Andrea didn't start going up until a lot later than most people. So we were attempting to climb up the monstrous dune as everyone else was frolicking down it. I'd like to tell you we made it all the way to the top ... so I will.
We (sort of) made it all the way to the top.
The view was amazing nonetheless and we could see the Algerian border from where we were.
We had dinner (I'm assuming it was brought in on the camels?) in one of the tents and they had another concert for us, although this time it was outside, in the desert, in an oasis. :D
One of the best parts about the trip was the sky that night. It was full of more stars than I've ever seen. It was straight out of a Disney movie. I think every star in the entire sky visible. It was actually pretty chilly, but we decided to lay outside and just looked up at the sky for awhile. Wow.
I can honestly say that I heard more weird noises sleeping that night than I ever have before. Like a dream, I sort of can't remember what they all were, but I do remember a particular camel who would not shut up. There were also cats meowing and lots of other animal noises that I'm not too sure what the source was.
The sun rises way early in the desert, so by 6:00 it looked like it was 11:00. We got up right away and headed back on the camels back to the hotel. I think the desert was even cooler the next morning because it wasn't as windy, meaning sand wasn't blowing into your face. However, I was still pretty sore from my first round with the camels, so it wasn't exactly the most comfortable ride ever. We made it back to the hotel and started to pack everything up. We then went back on the 4x4 through the desert and got back on the bus. We were making our way back to Fez that day and stopped in Xaluca along the way to have lunch and lay out by the pool, which was beautiful. We spent the rest of the day on the bus and arrived in Fez that night and pretty much passed out for the night.
DAY 5 = FEZ!! Tour of the Medina
The Medina was pretty much indescribable. Medina translates to 'city'. Its kind of like a huge marketplace. Again, it could have been straight out of Aladdin. No cars are allowed in, everything is transported by donkey. Every 2 minutes someone yells at you to get out of the way because a donkey is coming through. None of the streets have names, and they are all extremely narrow and look exactly alike. If I had gone in there without a guide, there's no doubt in my mind I would still be there now.
This is a picture of a hotel that is not only for people, but also for animals. Maybe that gives you a little idea of what the rest of it was like.
We also went to a berber pharmacy where they had oils, spices, herbal medicine type stuff. The part I could have done without was the tannery. The smell was absolutely unreal. Heinous. I wanted to puke. Ok, you get the point. NASTAY!! Here is a picture of place where they dye the leather:
They also took us to the place where the hand-made rugs are done and we got to see the women actually making them. Their hands were moving so fast it was a blur, very impressive. Its pretty hard to do the Medina justice with just pictures and typing about it. I've never been anywhere like it, and I'm so glad I got to go.
The next day we stopped in Assilah, a small beach town before getting on the ferry back to Tarifa. While exploring around the city me and Andrea happened upon a man with a monkey...
YAY! I finally got my picture with a monkey on top of my head. After I had my turn, the monkey decided Andrea's arm was an appropriate place to relieve itself. Hilarious. Well, not so much for Andrea....
After the monkey incident we made it back to Sevilla without incident. To say the least, it was an excellent trip. It was a lot of time on the bus, causing this to happen:
But every minute spent on the bus was without a doubt worth it.
I'm in the home stretch now. Literally. I'll actually be home in exactly a week. I had first exam today and I have two more plus a 7 page paper to write. Andrea's parents are coming this week and we're going to the beach this weekend! I can't wait! Eventually I need to write about how sad I am that I'm leaving, how much I've learned and changed, etc, etc. But I feel I've tourted you enough with this absurdly long entry, so I'll save that for later. I tried to separate by changing up the color of the font!
Whew. Thanks for reading!!! See you soon!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I think I just finished packing for Morocco tomorrow! I'm going for 6 days and I only have my book-bag and a small over-the-shoulder bag. You might think this is a testament to my superior packing skills, but really I think its a testament to how grungy I'm going to be the entire time I'm there. For some reason I'm sort of freaking out about going to Africa. I haven't really been too nervous before any of my trips. I've just been really excited and then sort of left without even thinking. But this one is sort of getting to me. Probably because I have literally no idea what to expect. I've heard different things from other people who went from my program. A few girls said that the poverty really got to them and it was really emotionally draining. I'm really excited, but at the moment I'm completely exhausted and just hoping everything goes ok. Mostly I'm hoping I don't get sick. We're bringing motion sickness medication, anti-diarrhea, the works. Cross your fingers for me.
More importantly though...I went to the Canary Islands last weekend! It was so so pretty:
It was me and my two friends Colleen and Casey. We were kind of nervous about our hotel because some of the reviews said that it was cockroach infested. If there is one thing I hate its cockroaches!!!!!!!! Luckily there wasn't a cockroach in site and we didn't get robbed! haha. It was in a really good location too.
- I'm used to getting harassed in Sevilla, but the Canary Islands took the pestering to a new level. You seriously could not walk ten feet down the street without some Irish or English person coming up to you asking "Hi! Are you out for a drink!? Come to [fill in name of bar] for this really awesome deal were having!". In a word: annoying. Although also kind of fun to listen to their accents.
- I got turned into a lobster. Being the health-conscious, fair-skined girl that I am, I took great pains (and by that I mean I spent the absurd amount of 9 euros) to buy sunscreen before going to the Canary Islands. Upon arrival at the airport, I went bouncing through security all ready to go! Then out of nowhere the evil secutiy guard swept down and commandeered my sun screen! I'm still a little bitter as I sit here and type this.
- I was the only one who got in the water. I'm really glad I did too because even though it wasn't clear, it was still really blue and pretty
- We got to hang out in Playa de las Americas and spent Sunday in the Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife (the island we went to)
- Oh man. Embarassing story...so on Sunday when we were exploring Santa Cruz we wanted to find a beach where you could just relax and hang on the white sand. So we were sort of aimlessly roaming around the bus station and decided to just ask a random bus driver where the free shuttle to the beach was. So Casey went up to the bus driver and asked "Esto es la autbus para la costa?" And the bus driver responds Si. So there we were, thinking we had really hit the jack-pot. A FREE shuttle to the coast and we just happened to wander upon it. We hoped on and starting talking about how incredibly easy that was. The bus takes off, I start looking around to discover that there are a lot of old people on the bus with us. A little while into it I start thinking that it really is pretty odd that we were the youngest people on the bus. Then we start embarking on our destination....
A cruise boat by the name of "La Costa".
Pretty hilarious. Eventually we did find the bus to the beach, but it wasnt free and it wasnt full of old people. Yay Canary Islands!
I went to a bull fight this week!
I'm so glad I went because it was definitely very spanish and a really good cultural experience. That being said, once was enough and I never want to go again. There was lots of blood, it was really gory and I felt really bad for the bulls (all 6 of them)
The girls totally horrified after the bull fight:
Alright, off to shower and then off to Morocco.
ps - today was our last day of classes! actually sort of depressing.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Andrea and I headed for Paris Friday afternoon. We were lucky and happy because we had a direct flight = no lay-overs! I filled my book-bag to the brim so I wouldn’t have to keep up with too much luggage. We got to Paris with no problem. However, I don’t think either of us was anticipating the sketchiness of Paris. When we got there it was 11:00 pm and we still had to get from the airport to our hotel, keeping in mind that neither of us speaks any French whatsoever, save our hilarious impressions of words like “croissant”.
So we hopped on what we hoped was the right bus for the ridiculous price of 6 euro. From the bus we had to get on the metro, where the real fun began. We were probably relatively safe, but at the time it seemed pretty scary: Two American girls with their luggage, and no idea where they’re going riding the Paris metro trying to make it their hotel. Lucky for me, Andrea has a much better sense of direction than I do so we eventually made it to our hotel, Hotel Liberty, where the staff spoke English and we headed up to our room. When we got there we discovered that the room we were in was not only very small, but very slanted. Yup – the entire room was slanted so that when you lay down on the bed all the blood would rush to your head. We quickly decided sleep with our heads at the other end of the bed. There was a hall bathroom and if you wanted to take a shower you had to go get the key from the front desk and go to the first floor. All in all, it certainly wasn’t The Ritz, but for 22 euro a night, it wasn’t too bad, plus we had our own room.
We had read up on Rick Steve’s guide to Paris and ended up doing his suggestions pretty backwards because we were planning on visiting the Eiffel tower when the weather was supposed to be the nicest. So the first day we decided to visit Versailles. We had a little bit of an adventure trying to find the right train to get on but we finally got on the right one and got there with no sweat. It was really crowded when we got there with a huge line waiting to see the palace.
The palace was HUGE. It sort of reminded me on the white house the way it was set up, room after room, each with sort of a different theme. But it was also really different from the white house because it was sort of gaudy, for lack of a better word. It was a little much. Tons and tons of paintings were in the different rooms and lots of drapery etc. The beds these people slept in were ridiculous! But also really fun to look out, they were so excessive. I can’t imagine living in that place, it just seems really unnecessary to me, especially while the rest of Paris was living in extreme poverty. This one moment was absolutely hilarious though. Me and Andrea were about to enter a room, and we were standing around with a group of American students who appeared to be in middle school and their tour guide/teacher who was also American. The teach begins “Alright guys, we can only stay in here for about 2 minutes” And then follows up with “That’s what she said”. Me and Andrea immediately start hysterically laughing. I think the group of kids he was with was too young to appreciate the hilarity of the comment so they were staring at us as we were uncontrollably laughing. The joke itself was pretty funny, but the fact that this guy thought that THAT moment was the appropriate time to say something like that also added a lot to the moment.
After the castle we hung around for a little longer, went to see the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed and I went and got a McDonald’s ice-cream. I literally have never had McDonald’s ice-cream in the U.S., but since being in Europe I’ve realized that it’s cheap and delicious! We then headed on the train back to Paris. After our experience in the metro coming into Paris at night, we decided it was best to stay in our hotel room after it was dark so we got back and just stayed in our room. We actually never left our room after dark the whole time we were there, which I’m sure was for the best.
OMG! The catacombs are a bunch of dead people! And I do mean a BUNCH! Wow. There is a ridiculous amount of skeletons in the catacombs. And all the bones are organized into patterns. I’m not making this up. Apparently back in the day the graveyards of Paris were causing people who lived nearby to contract diseases. So they for decades they would have processions at night where priests would move the skeletons to the underground catacombs, which used to be used to be for mining. Spooky, but spectacular. We came out with limestone all over our shoes.
A really big church. With a good view of Paris. Where people harass you before you go up to buy a bracelet made of yarn.
After snapping pictures of us being hunch-backs in front of Notre Dame we headed inside to check it out. After waiting out the long line, we made it inside. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think it was something different. I guess after being in the Cathedral in Sevilla, which is the third biggest in the world, Notre Dame for some reason didn’t feel as spectacular as the one in Sevilla. Don’t get me wrong –it was awesome. The stain-glass was really cool and it reeked of incense, so the whole atmosphere was pretty cool. No hunchbacks though.
Mona Lisa, smile!! Basically the only reason I wanted to go to the Louvre was to see Mona Lisa. Again, very long lines waiting to get in and tons of people once we were in. I was actually really funny to see all the people in front of Mona Lisa trying to see her/get a picture. She has her own wall and a huge glass case in front of her. Andrea and I snapped some pretty hilarious pictures of us imitating Mona Lisa before heading off to see the Venus.
We stopped to get some French food. France is the food capital of the world, which I didn’t even fully realize until we were there. I realized so many foods originate in France. For example – omelet is a French word! Of course, I just never realized. I got spaghetti and dinner which was delicious, but also I was so hungry I would have eaten anything. The guy at the restaurant asked where we were from and when we told him the US, he like everyone else, responded by telling us how much he LOVES Obama and hates Bush.
By this point we had been hiking around Paris for a solid 8-9 hours and were really exhausted so we headed back to Hotel Liberty and passed out.
The Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel tower is absolutely amazing. The catacombs, Versailles and Mona Lisa were really cool but the Eiffel tower is absolutely spectacular. I can’t even describe it. It was such a weird feeling being there too. I guess there are some things in life that I have always just assumed that I would see someday. Like Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, things like that. The Eiffel Tower was sort of one to those things. And there I was. Me! I’m only 20 years old and I’m so lucky to be able to have this incredible experience in Europe. I mean really? What have I done to be able to see the Eiffel Tower? On the most beautiful day!! We really made the right decision to wait and go see in on the last day we were there because the sky was the perfect shade of Carolina blue (more on that later). We took about a million pictures of us posing in front of the tower before getting in line.
So you have a choice when it comes to the Eiffel tower: you can walk or you can take the elevator and pay 4 more euros. 4 euros when you’re on a budget is an entire meal. So, yup, we walked. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Hiking the Eiffel tower! There are really awesome views of Paris from the 2nd and 3rd levels. There were a lot of people up there, but I guess thats just part of Paris I. I can’t really describe the whole thing – basically it was awesome. I’m so lucky. And I’ll never forget it.
After the tower we headed over to see the Arc de Triumph – again, very cool. And very big! Then we headed down to see the Moulin Rouge. We didn't see a show cause its like 40 euro but it was still cool to see the outside. We stopped and got some ice-cream (yum!) and then headed back to Hotel Liberty and our slanted bed.
Here is the part of the whole trip that was depressing. While me and Andrea were off frolicking in Paris, our basketball team was off winning the National Championship. Very depressing. I really can’t believe I missed it. I would have given anything to fly back and be in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street for the celebration. I think I would have honestly traded a night in Paris to be in Chapel Hill for that night. UNC and school pride is such a huge part of who I am and what I love about college. I really can’t believe I missed it. Oh well...c'est la vie.
We got back on Tuesday in time to experience Semana Santa. Which deserves its own blog.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
A huge group of a little over 20 people from UNC all went to Portugal together. Our bus left after class on Friday afternoon. We were all at the bus station ready to go at 3 o'clock and the bus did not show up for an entire hour. All part of the Spanish lifestyle - really laid back and a disregard for things like schedules. The bus ride was about 7 hours, but went by pretty quickly. We all made it off the bus, through the metro and to our hostel by about 11:00. Turns out our Hostel, Black and White, is run by a bunch of 20-something girls who were all really nice and helpful. I was in an 8 person room with 4 other people from UNC and one random Australian surfer. Saturday morning we all broke off into smaller groups to do some sight seeing. It was me and three other people, I think 4 was the perfect amount to go around with. We basically managed to see all of Lisbon in one day. We started out with this really pretty Cathedral that was pretty small, but REALY PRETTY:After the Cathedral we went to look for a museum of modern art, but we couldn't find it. We ended up wondering into a sort of open-air market that was selling old maps and books and such. After stopping to take a look we headed on to the castle, which despite being huge, was actually really hard to find. We did run into some pretty awesome look-out views on our search for the castle, which made it worth it. The castle was absolutely beautiful and offered an amazing view of Lisbon. Here is a bit of the castle with the Portuguese flag.
After the castle we stopped for some lunch and headed over to Belem, which literally translates to Bethlehem. First we went to the monastary which was really pretty as well as the cathedral attatched to it. We got the view of the Cathedral from the choir level, so we saw the whole thing from the top, very cool. Also, Belem is where the really famous navigators statue is:
After seeing the statue, as well as the bridge which you can see in the picture above thats modeled after the Golden Gate bridge we went and got some pastries which Lisbon is famous for. The pastries reminded me of French toast, and were amazing. Clearly most of Saturday was dedicated to sight-seeing, so it was pretty jammed packed, but really interesting. We made it back the the hostel, bought some food at the grocery store and cooked dinner in the kitchen in the hostel. Most of just hung out in the hostel that night talking and playing cards before heading to bed. The next day we went to Sintra, a city just outside of Lisbon that has beautiful castles. The castles in Lisbon are some of the ones that the Disney castles are modeled after. I liked them a lot because they were a lot different from the Gothic castles we usually see. These ones are really brightly colored. We hung out in Sintra for most of the day seeing the castles and then headed back to Lisbon.
By Saturday night a lot of people had already left to head back to Sevilla, and the group of us that was still in Lisbon hung out in the hostel and had an amazing time. The next day we caught the morning bus back to Sevilla and spent the majority of the time on the bus laughing and telling embarassing stories, which I had an embarassingly large number of.
I loved Lisbon and realized how much I love all the people from UNC I'm here with. As of right now I'm planning on taking this weekend off to get work done and I think I'll just stay in Sevilla.
So I'm a little behind in updating this. I actually just got back from Portugal, so I'm going to have to blog about that as well. But for now: Ireland. It was amazing. I actually considered studying abroad there, but in the end Sevilla worked out with my classes, budget, etc. So the moral is: I'm really really glad I got to visit Ireland while I'm over here even though it put a serious dent in my already seriously depleted bank account.
So: Friday - Me and Andrea head out for the bus to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We're waiting and waiting and then finally the bus for the airport comes! Yay - here we go..."wait! why is the bus driving right past us?!". Yup. Apparently you have to flag the bus down, little did we know. At this point we still had a good amount of time, so we figure we'll just wait for the next one. Twenty minutes later we're forced to get in a cab and pay 8 more euros than we would have had to. Not really the best start. But we made it to the airport, made it to our layover in Barcelona and then ... made it Cork! And got a beautiful green stamp in my passport. We grabbed some maps in the airport and headed out to the bus into the city. Just sitting on the bus and hearing the accents got me really excited. As soon as we stepped off the bus we pulled out our maps to try and figure out how to get to our hostel when these two cute boys come up and ask "Do you guys need some help? Where are you trying to go?" Immediately we knew we were no longer in Spain where the locals would never ever ever ask you if you needed help. Yay Ireland!
We made it to Shiela's, our hostel, which was packed. We stayed in an 8 person room with 6 other drunken Australians. We were really tired from all our traveling and at first it was just the two of us in our room so we went straight to sleep. About 4 hours later: enter the drunken Australians. "Oh no! People are sleeping in here!" Despite this realization they didn't seem to have any problems turning the lights and talking really loud. Actually, this was the least of our problems because a mere few minutes later we realized we were sharing a room with a choo choo train!! Seriously, this girl snored like it was nobody's business.
The next day our Australians were up bright and early, and due to this, so we're we. No problem there, who wants to sleep in Ireland? So we headed out on a mad search for chocolate chip pancakes, which (an apparently misguided) guidebook told us a restaurant in Cork is famous for. Nope. We never found the restaurant. Oh, well. After exploring Cork for a bit we went and bought bus tickets to Blarney, home of the Blarney Stone, of course! The Blarney Stone is part of the castle in Blarney. If you kiss the stone you are:
a) In good company, including that of Winston Churchill.
b) Supposed to gain the gift of eloquence of speech.
After climbing the castle, exploring all the different rooms and kissing the stone we went for a walking tour around the city and the surrounding lake. There are also "wishing steps". If you walk up and down them with your eyes closed thinking only of a wish, it will come true within the year. We then headed back to Cork on the bus. We still had a little bit of daylight to burn, so despite the fact that we'd literally been walking around ALL day since about 8 am, we decided it was a good idea to make the trek to Cork University, which was so far from where we were that it was actually off the map. About an hour and a half later, we found it! It was really worth the hike, it was beautiful and on our way we found this beautiful Cathedral. The Cathedral was closed, so we decided to stop back the next day to get to go inside.
We picked up some dinner, and headed back to the hostel. After showering and eating, I was completely exhausted and all I wanted to do was climb up into my (top) bunk and sleep all night. Our room mates had other plans for us though. They came in and invited us to go out with them. Turns out the Australian accent is very persuasive so we decided to try to work up a second wind and go out. We went to a pub which got progressively more crowded as the night went on. When we got there the dance floor was pretty empty, and I don't think people had enough Guinness in them to want to dance yet. So, me and Andrea, who need no Guinness to make fools of ourselves, decided to get the party started and were literally the only ones dancing on the dance floor for a solid hour. Our room mates were actually really fun people. One guy, Steve, insisted on buying me and Andrea Guinness. Which, considering the price, was really generous. As you can imagine, after a few hours out, we were completely exhausted and headed back to the hostel before most of our room mates.
The next day we were up bright and early again and headed out to try and see the inside of the Cathedral. We got there right after mass had started, so we ended up staying for about half of the mass before we snuck out to try and make the most of the day. Cork was having a little festival for St. Pat's day with food, music and stuff life that. We bought some Irish soda bread which was delicious and then made our way to the bus station again to go to Kinsale, another small town about 30 minutes outside of Cork. Kinsale was beautiful and very Irish. There is a really old Fort there, Charles Fort, which we wanted to see. This involved us trekking up the Irish country side right along the river. It was uphill and about 2 miles both ways, but the walk was beautiful. By the time we made it to the Fort (yay!) ... we found out it had closed about 15 minutes before. I went up to lady and begged her to let us is. The American accent did nothing to sway her sympathy and she did not let us in. It wasn't that big of a deal though, we still got to walk around all the fort and enjoy the amazing view.
The next day we caught the first bus out of Cork to Dublin. It was about a 4 hour ride to Dublin, all through the beautiful Irish country side. When we got off the bus we went to attempt to find our hotel in Dublin. This was much easier said than done. We kept on getting questionable directions from people, including a drunk (this was at 11 am) man wearing a wife beater who reeked of beer. After taking an unplanned walking tour of Dublin we finally made it to our hotel, which was a HUGE upgrade from Shiela's. We then headed out for the Guinness Factory! The Guinness Factory is basically one big advertisement for Guinness, but none the less was still really fun. The best part is that at the end when you get to have a free pint of Guinness on the very top floor with glass walls and an amazing view of Dublin.
After the Guinness Factory we went and explored Trinity College - very cool and very pretty, and very UNC-esque. (but not quite as cool, obviously). We then attempted to find the where Oscar Wilde lived while he studied at Trinity College and ran into a St. Pat's day fair and decided to ride the Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel was HUGE and creaky, and I may or may not have screamed in fear when we got to the top.
After the Ferris Wheel experience we went to get some authentic Irish food, Shepard's pie. It was really really good, especially considering that I was all but famished by the time we eat. We then headed back to our hotel, where I passed out in the most comfortable bed I've slept in since I've been in Europe. The next morning, I was heading but, but Andrea and Elle still had another day. So, there I was waiting at the bus stop, when the bus to the airport pulls up. I ask the bus driver if it was headed to the airport and he informed me "nope." and pointed me in the right direction. So, there I was waiting at the next bus stop. After about 10 minutes this taxi pulls up and tells me that none of the buses are running today because of St. Pat's day, but that he would take me to the airport for the fee of the bus. Sounds good to me! I found my pot of gold in this Irish taxi driver. It was incredibly weird riding in the taxi because they drive on the wrong side of the road in Ireland. The whole time I felt like I should have been the one driving. The driver was really nice, but he kept on asking me questions like "So, you see the bus there, what route do you think that's taking?". "Uh....I actually have no idea." His sister also lives in the US and he asked me if I knew about the giant peach in Georgia (Hi Katie and Kim!)
Yay! I finally made it to the airport. I had to fly through London before finally making it to Sevilla, so it was a pretty long day of traveling. But it was fun being in London and hearing all the English accents.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sevilla is frequently described as having characteristics of both a small and large city. I think this sums it up pretty nicely, it has the narrow cobble stone paths, gigantic cathedral, etc. BUT it also has big office buildings and hotels. Granada really just felt like a small town, but it still had so much energy to it.
All of us piled on the bus early Friday morning for the 3 hour bus ride. We got there, got settled into our rooms and had the rest of the day to ourselves. When we first headed out it was right in the middle of siesta, so not a lot was open, but we wondered around and stopped in a few cafes to get coffee and drinks. In Granada when you order a drink they bring you a tapa with it. Actually this is the case in most of Spain with the exception of Sevilla (I guess Sevilla is too proud of their tapas and wants to make you pay seperately for them). So with every drink came a sandwitch or something similar. We then headed back to the hotel for dinner. I was so excited to eat some food that wasn't fried, but I seemed to temporarily forget that although I was no longer in Sevilla, I was still in Spain, and much to my dismay was given fried chicken. Oh well - the salad was amazing. We then headed back out and hiked up the entire city to participate in what all the professors told us was a UNC tradition - you hike up to this overlook where you can see the entire city of Granada lit up at night. It was really breathtaking but unfortunately really hard to capture any good pictures from up there. There was also this drunken man playing the guitar up there which was also added to the ambiance. From there we headed back down to town and stopped in an Arab tea place. I got a tea called 'Fruit Infusion' and it was by far the best tea I've ever had (as if I've really had that much tea in my life...) I had my own little kettle and there was actual fruit in it and it was so delicious!
Day 2: Saturday we got up fairly early had an amazing breakfast at the hotel and headed out to tour the Cathedral and the Capilla Real. The Capilla Real was first and it holds the remains of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and is absolutely huge. I thought it was the Cathedral at first because of its size. The Cathedral was next which was really really neat. Its a lot different than the Cathedral in Spain because its NOT Gothic like the one in Sevilla, so its really white and bright on the inside, not dark like the one in Sevilla. So...we're in the Cathedral and Rafa, our professor/tour guide asks "Does anyone here sing?" Me, in my dazed, over-whelmed state of awe of how amazing the Cathedral is dumbly respond with "Si, un poco". So Rafa explains how in the Alhambra, the palace we're visiting tomorrow, there is a place that if you stand in the exact center your voice is really amplified, so you can sing for us tomorrow. "Oh, uh...ok." This is then followed up by comments from everyone for the following two days like "Oh, Angela, are you warming up for tomorrow?" "Are you ready to sing". Yikes. More on this later....
So we finish touring the Cathedral and have the rest of the day free. We basically just went around to different bars and got various tapas and drinks. Me and my friend Casey also went and got some frozen yogurt which was no yogurt pump, but definitely delicious. A group of 4 other students from UNC who had already been to Granada decided to come back for the weekend and stayed in a hostel overlooking the city and the mountains where we spent some time sitting out on the porch. Then back to the hotel for dinner and then out for the night. It was really funny because all 30 of us headed out together. A smaller group of us ended up at a Discoteca called Granada 10. It was supposed to cost 10 euros but for some reason we got in for free. Its used a movie theater during the day and turns into a discoteca and night so it was really cool on the inside and 4 of us got up on the platform and started dancing. woohoo!
breakfast at the hotel, bags on the bus, headed for the Alhambra. We couldn't have asked for a better day to visit the Alhambra. I am convinced that the sky was more blue than I've ever seen it. The Alhambra is basically a huge palace but we were walking outside a lot too. There is this really big tower we climbed up that overlooked the city of Granada as well as the Sierra Nevadas, which were covered in snow. Then the moment I had been dreading arrived, we were in the place that amplified your voice and everyone was badgering me to sing. Yikes! What was I thinking telling Rafa I sing? I was in Dottie Tippet's choir in high school, that hardly counts as having a voice anyone would actually want to listen to. Another girl and I got in the middle and sung a few lines of "do, ray, mi" before people realized that I was actually incapable of singing. But its ok because probably my favorite part of the weekend happened right there. Everyone stood in the middle, where your voice was amplified and sang the fight song. Ah, the fight song. It gets me every time. It gets me at the end of a basketball game we should have won, it gets me at the end of Clef Hanger's concerts and it most definitely gets to me in Spain, in the Alhambra with a group of people who are going through the same experience as me. I'm a tarheel born, I'm a tarheel breed and when I die I'm a tarheel dead.
After the Alhambra we headed back to Sevilla and I was in my apartment by about 8:00, in time to watch the Duke v. Carolina game. Luckily, there was a website that was streaming it live so I got to watch Carolina beat Dook...again! Its times like that I wish I could just go back for a couple hours to watch us kill Dook, hear Tyler's goodbye speech, celebrate on Franklin Street and come right back to Spain. But I might also have to make a quick stop at Yogurt Pump before I came back.
This weekend...Ireland for St. Patrick's Day. I can't wait!!
Enjoying every minute of it,
Monday, March 2, 2009
We left Sevilla at 11 am on Saturday morning and got on the train. It was me, Andrea, Elle, Derrick and Ricky. Everyone else bought their tickets together so I was in a different part of the train than them on the way there. I felt like Julia Stiles at the beginning of Save the Last Dance sitting on the train by myself. We got to Cadiz which is a mixture of Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Its cool because it has an old Cathedral and the cobble stone paths but it also has the craziness of Myrtle Beach. We went and sat on the beach and eat our sandwitches and then headed into town to walk around. There were a bunch of people in town and there were stands selling candy and food. There were also a ton of street vendors. We walked around for awhile before heading into a Mexican restaurante for dinner\lunch? I'm not really sure what meal we were eating but I got a fruit salad that was absolutely delicious. It was nice to not eat the fried food I'm used to at Mercedes'. Andrea Elle and I went and changed into our costumes in the bathroom of the restaurant. Andrea was a baby, I was a mouse and Elle was a cowgirl. Derrick and Ricky went as Vikings, but they had their hats on the whole day. Then we went and sat on the beach and eat snacks and watched the sunset. While we were sitting on the beach there were these two guys dressed as ninjas who decided to really get into character and started climbing the walls, either that or they were real ninjas because they managed to do it without falling.
Once the sunset is when the massive numbers of people began coming in. Everyone there really went all out with their costumes. There was a lot of men dressed as women, chickens, priests, Marios, cows and lots of other insane costumes. Most of our group headed back to the train station to wait the night out pretty early which left me and Andrea to mingle among the crowds. Andrea and I seem to attract only the creepiest and the weirdest of men, so I think we both knew we were in for it when it was just the two of us left....
So first we went into Ben and Jerry's were there were two workers litterally restraining this girl who I guess just really wanted to go in to get some ice cream (can you blame her?) She was talking in English and I'm sure the workers had no idea what she was saying so eventually they literally dragged her by her arm and took her back onto the street. Then we decided we needed to find someone dressed as the joker to reenact our picture from Halloween. This one objective lead to meeting about 30 people hell-bent on getting to talk to us. Some highlights:
1) A man who must have been dressed up as an ugly person because he had his teeth blacked out and his eyebrows joined together with black pencil who decided he wanted me to take a picture with him. Then his friend jumped in. The picture is priceless.
2) A pirate who thought it would be funny to take a picture kissing my check and then decided to lick my face. Disgusting and totally not ok. He also made a serious attempt to kiss on Andrea on the lips. ewwwww
3) A man dressed as Antonio Banderas who first asked us if we had eyeliner. Uh...no.
Do you have ice? Uh...no. Do you have 7-up? Nope. He also told us that we spoke really bad english and decided he only wanted to talk to us in Spanish. Antonio left us with these wise words: ¨May you have long life, with lots of parties, alcohol, and sex. Shhhh!!¨ It was very deep.
4) A man who at first ensured us that ¨I am good guy¨ but then decided it would be fun to pick me up over his shoulder and start dancing around.
5) We finally found our joker and took a nice normal picture with the guy. He wasnt AS good as the joker from Halloween, but he wasnt bad. We also managed to find some people from the Dharma Initiative to get a picture with.
At this point it was about 5 am and out train didn't leave until 7:40 and the train station didn't even open until 6:00. We spent a very cold hour outside the train station waiting for it to open before heading back to Sevilla and sleeping most of Sunday.
It was really fun and definitely worth having to stay up most of the night.
Early on in the week it was pancake day in England so I went over to a friend from England's house to celebrate with LOTS of pancakes. They're a lot thinner there, so they were similar to crepes. They sprinkle a little lemon and sugar on them and that is a typical way to eat them there. I went for the much-missed maple syrup = so good.
It's hard to believe it, but I'm nearing the half-way mark. The time has literally flown by, I still feel like its January. I'm having so much fun and I'm really not ready to go back yet, but hopefully I will be in another 2 months.
love to you all from the other side of the Atlantic.
ps - my parents are headed to New Zealand for about 3 weeks to go camping and spend time with my aunt. turns out the south island of New Zealand, the one they are going to, is literally AS far away from Sevilla, Spain as it is possible to get. and here i was thinking we were already far enough apart...