Tuesday, March 24, 2009

P is for Portugal

As mentioned in the Ireland blog (which I suggest you check out below) I just got back from Portugal. I was actually kind of on the fence about whether or not to go to Portugal, but I am so so so glad I did, because it was an absolutely amazing weekend, I had a fabulous time. The fact that Portugal wasn't on my list of places to go when I came over and the really long bus ride were really the two big reasons why I was considering skipping it, but the bus ride was really fun, and in hindsight, Portugal really should have been on my list, especially considering how close it is to Spain.
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.
byyyyee! :)


Yay Ireland!!
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

The Greatness that is Granada

I. loved. Granada.
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!
day 3:
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

Craziness in Cadiz

So this weekend we went to Cadiz a small beach town about 2 hours away. They were celebrating Carnaval there, which is a holiday that is for some reason neglected in the United States. It lasts for about 15 days and its supposed to end at the beginning of Lent, but the one in Cadiz lasts longer. I'm not sure I can really describe it, its one of those things that you really have to experience to know what I'm talking about, but I'll do my best...Mostly its a mixture of Halloween on Franklin Street and Mardi Gras.
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.
Oh, Spain...
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...