Wednesday, May 25, 2011

End Credits

So I'm finally getting around to my last post! Its kind of sad and crazy to believe that just 4.5 months ago I was writing my first post talking about how nervous/excited I was to be going on this trip. January seems ages ago and I think I've really accomplished a lot since then. I'd like to use this last post to kind of sum up my feelings about my semester in Europe and also thank all of you who read my blog! Seriously, it meant so much to know that I had loved ones at home still thinking about me

So the first thing I'd like to do, I guess you could say, is brag a little bit about myself. I'm so proud of everything I've done this semester.

  • I have visited 8 countries and 14 cities
    • Spain (Sevilla, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Barcelona)
    • France (Paris)
    • Ireland (Dublin and the country side)
    • Italy (Venice and Rome)
    • Germany (Berlin)
    • Czech Republic (Prague)
    • England (London)
    • Portugal (Lisbon)
  • I no have the confidence to get around in any city in the world no matter the language or transportation. Whether its a metro, plane, bus, taxi, boat or by foot with only a map in my hand I KNOW I can get around. Something I NEVER would have known how to do before this trip.
  • I have overcome the obstacle of not always having the choice/say in the things that I want/need to live comfortably.
    • Not being able to chose what I was fed (hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, pizza, every night for dinner)
    • Not being able to chose when I ate (11pm dinner every night)
    • Not being able to do my own laundry or ask to have it done. Having to go 2-3 weeks with dirty clothes.
    • Not being able to say, mom, unclog the sink, thats disgusting. Or dad seriously, do not shave (or smoke) in the clogged sink.
  • I have lived thousands of miles away from my family and friends for 4.5 months by myself in an unknown and different city and have discovered what it means to truly be an independent person
  • I can now speak Spanish fluently. Even if I don't know a word (which there are still lots of words I don't know, I have the ability and high level vocabulary that I can successfully talk around the word and describe it until my listener understands what I am talking about.
  • I understand and comprehend the worst Spanish accent there is (Andalusian!...Ask ANY Spanaird and they will salute you if you can understand Andalusian dialect). They cut off their "s" and "t" and say "th" for "z" and "s". Instead of hasta luego, its said "aa lue", another example is when they say "ya esta", it is pronounce "yata"
  • I can even pick up a few speech impediments that a normal listener to Spanish couldn't. (Alaina couldn't hear any difference when a Spanish girl obviously was slurring her "s")

I also thought it might be fun to do a fake award ceremony and tell you my favorites/worsts/tops/and bottoms of everything I was able to see in Europe. I do this because people always ask me what my favorite city was. There is NO answer to that because they were all different and unique in their own way. I really don't have a favorite, but I thought I'd share my favorite aspects of each city.

Best Hostel
1. Dublin
2. Rome
3.Berlin

Worst Hostel
1.Prague

Best Nightlife
1.Barcelona
2.Prague
3.Madrid

Best Church
1.Basilica San Marco-Venice
2.St. James-Prague
3.St. Peter's Basilica-Rome

Prettiest
1.Venice
2.Prague
3.Paris
(Runner Up- Madrid)

Best Parks
1.Madrid
2.Rome
3.London

Best Touristy Attractions
1.Paris
2.Rome
3.London

Best Food
1.Prague
2.Paris
3.Italy

Worst Metro
1.Rome
2.Prague

Best Metro
1. Sevilla (one year old, only one line)
2.Paris (best biggest metro)

Friendliest Citizens
1.Paris
2.Dublin
3.London

Rudest Citizens
1.Rome
2.Prague

Best people met in the hostels
1. Barcelona
2.Rome

Yay! I can't believe I'm done with my semester abroad already! It has gone by so fast and I had such a wonderful experience. I've caught the travel bug and already have 2 future trips planned out. I want to see the world now and these past 4.5 months have really given me a step up to get out in the world and do so!!! It was the semester of a lifetime and I am so thankful to have been given the chance to travel abroad!

Venice!

Wow, wow wow! Venice was seriously the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I was just so fascinated by it. Picture 150 canals, 117 islands, 400 bridges and 0 cars. Then listen to the sounds. No motors, no honking, just the chatter of people and birds throughout the island to be joined by the tantalizing smell of the ocean, fish and amazing food. Venice was the picture perfect city. I think I took a bajillion pictures of the similar subject, canal, bridge and cute little houses. All so different in their own way that you can't help not to take a picture. Here are some examples :)



Once we checked into the creepy hostel, A Venice Museum, we decided to make our way to the main attraction in Venice, San Marco Basilica. I have to admit that I was pretty confident that I could succesfully get around any city in the world after my 5 months in Europe. However, Venice, like el centro de Sevilla was filled with skinny little nameless streets that twisted and turned and then ended up being dead ends. After about a 1/2 hour of trying to use the map, we just decided to use the "go in the general direction" and "follow the people" plan of action, and it worked pretty well.

While Rome was the most crowded city and hustle/bustle city I've been to, Venice was the laziest. There are probably less than 6 big attractions to see with 4 of them being museums, which we didn't want to do. What we did go to, as I mentioned before, was the San Marco Basilica which was my favorite church ever (and I've seen about a bajillion). We couldn't take pictures, but I'll steal some off the internet to give you an idea of the fabulous golden interior that was San Marco.

Prettiest outside annnd inside!

Literally the reast of the day we did nothing but get lost in the narrow streets of Venice, have a long relaxing lunch served by a man named Fabio, and go to the park and read/ Although I felt that we should be going, going goin, we had a good full day set up for Thursday and decided to "do as the Venetians do" (as Alaina liked to say) and enjoy the city the relaxing way.

Thursday was such a fun day. We got up early and jumped on a bus (which is actually a boat!) and headed out to two of the more popular islands off of Venice. The first one was called Murano and is really famous for their glass making. (If you didn't know, Venice sells the most beautiful glass pieces ever! Alaina and I bought all kinds of jewelry from the different stores in Venice.) Murano was built a lot like Venice with canals and such, but definitely wasn't as pretty. I think of the island as more of a factory island. There were a few little factories and glass blowing shops which we got to see, but it was more industrial then anything else.

The next island we headed to was called Burano and was about a 45 minute boat ride from Venice. It was the cutest island I have ever ever seen! Every single building was brightly colored. Pictures do not do this place justice! It was just so cute!!! It is also famous for their lace making, so lots of lace stores were all over the streets, which was really neat.




As you can tell, Venice was just the all around cutest city ever! While there wasn't much to do and I definitely wouldn't suggest staying more than 2 days (or even a day), it is still a city everyone HAS to see!!!

When in Rome, do what the Romans do!

This great quote was used every five seconds. Now, I'm not really sure what exactly Alaina meant by saying that we need to do what the Romans do (since she thinks that this is a common quote everyone uses), but it kind of gives you an insight to all of the funny things I got to hear her say. I'm sure the girls at the bank can appreciate this as well :) Alaina was also EXTREMELY confused at the euro system. She just didn't understand how it could be different than the dollar. Also, she loved to break out in an English accent (since we were in London and all) about every other conversation we had.

So as you can tell just by my little introduction, Alaina and I had a great time in Rome! Sure, we fought to the point of no return at least once a day, but in minutes we were best friends again laughing non stop. It was great to travel with Alaina. Other than her, my family, and my two closest friends can I ever really be myself and show my bad side when I'm frustrated or my weird goofy self when I choose to be. I don't think I've laughed so much the entire time I was in Spain as I did with Alaina.

The first day in Rome, we literally hit EVERYTHING! We heard the Vatican was a half day affair and since we didn't get started in Rome until 2:30, we decided to hit as much as possible on Monday. Here are pictures from the major sites we hit on Monday!

Alaina posing in the Piazza del Popolo (A little disappointing because of all of the construction going on!)

The Spanish Steps! Beginning of the Via Condotti, the street with the best stores ever! Dior, Burberry, Gucci, LV, Armani, Jimmy Chu.

Alaina and I at the Piazza de Venizia

Trevi Fountain. Prettiest fountain ever!

Colosseum!
Roman Forum. A huge area of ruins near the Colosseum

Pantheon

Piazza Navona
We seriously did all of these sites in one afternoon! Although Rome is big, a lot of the main sites are reall pretty close to each other. There are two metro lines, but they are horrible! For a capital city so populated and big, I've never heard of it only having 2 metro lines. Paris, London, Madrid and other big cities I've visited have all had at least 10 lines. Also, the metros in Rome were always SO crowded. I mean, I really don't like crowds anyways, but being packed into the metro like sardines really wasn't the most enjoyable thing

Speaking of crowds, I just have to comment that Rome was the most crowded city I have ever been to. I've been to famous Paris, London for the wedding of the century, and still haven't ever seen anything like it. No matter where you went in the city, you were behind loads of people on the streets, all walking really really slow and not letting you get by. The Italians are no different than the rest of the Europeans who literally have no clue that you are trying to pass them or that they're in your way or if they just cut you off. It's quite frustrating, especially in a big crowd.

We went to bed pretty early our first night since we hadn't slept for 38 hours, but woke up Tuesday morning refreshed and ready to hit the streets. When we got off the metro near the Vatican City, we were stopped by tour guides who were advertising a tour of the Vatican for 40 euro. At first we were like no way, but to get into the museums with an audio tape, it costs 26 euro, so actually 14 euro for a tour guide who was great, took us through everything, explained all parts and areas of the painting in the sistine chapel and made sure to hit the important paintings and sculptures in the Vatican museums. I'm really glad we signed up for it because the Vatican museum is HUGE! It's only 2nd in size to the Louvre in Paris and would've been first if Napoleon wouldn't have stolen artifacts from the museum in Rome. It's so big that if you were to spend 5 min on every object in the Vatican museums, you would be in there for 7 years!

The Vatican museum is host to the famous Sistine Chapel. It was so gorgeous and mind blowing, but kind of frustrating because you literally only had 3 minutes in there. The guards were moving everyone out almost as soon as you got in and also kept yelling at people to be quiet. I didn't take any pictures because it was prohibited, but it was definitely something everyone needs to see!

Even the Pope gets the Baby Schabe feeling :)


Vatican City. Smallest Country in the world! 

St. Peter's Basilica. Gorgeous!

The big fortress that used to guard the Vatican City
We then headed to the beautiful Villa Borghese, which is a huge, heart shaped park that used to be some man (named Borghese's) estate. We started at one end of the park and headed to the opposite end where we were searching for the Museo e Galleria Borghese that is housed in the old Borghese Villa. I had read about it in my handy dandy travel book, but wasn't informed that it was "pre-booking" only. The tickets were sold out for this museum until Friday, 4 days in advance! I've never heard of a museum being prebook only and was really surprised at how popular it must be. Alaina had really wanted to go in because she had taken an art class last fall and had learned about many of the artists (Bernini, Carvagio, Raphael, etc) and their sculptures and paintings featured in the Borghese museum. We were a little bummed since we had walked all the way there, but for me, once you've seen one museum you've seen them all. However, luck was on Alaina's side because some lady from Seatle came up to us as we wre leaving and said she had two extra tickets if we'd like them for free (20 euro value!) So we said yes and went into the museum, saw the big artists Alaina wanted to see then headed to dinner.

view from the park

pretty cool shaped park!


There wasn't much variation to what we ate in Italy, but no matter what, it was all delicious. Pizza, pasta, pizza, and gelato was our main diet. We ate different kinds of pizza every time and loved them all. Our favorite was Capriccio that had eggs, artichoke, mushrooms, bacon, ham and olives loaded onto it. We got that kind probably 4 times.

We were happy with every meal except the lunch after the tour of the Vatican. We split a pizza (10 euro) and got two soft drinks. Most of the time, a can of coke (NEVER any refills in europe) is about 2.50 each, so we weren't planning on anything expensive. When I got the bill and saw we owed 28 dollars (when it should have been closer to 15) I was appalled. The cans of coke cost 5 euro each and the man charged us EACH 3 euros for 1 basket of rolls (which all the other places gave it to you for free) and a 2 euro service charge. I asked the waiter if it was correct and he said yes. We were pretty frustrated and upset, but we had already eaten and there really wasn't much we could do. We learned our lesson and next time will make sure to ask for the prices of everything!

At the end of the day, we headed back to the coolest hostel ever (with a restaurant and bar on the bottom floor), The Yellow and met our really cool roomates. I love traveling because you meet so many cool people .There were two guys from Singapore (did you know the official language there is English!??!) who were traveling for 5 months, a 30 year old man who was already divorced, a 20 year old guy from Alabaaama, and a girl from New Zealand.

All in all Rome was such a great city! It was definitely a city I wish I could have spent more time in, but with only 2 days, I think Alaina and I were champs at seeing everything we did. I loved how there is SOO much history and background that is still standing thousands of years old and then modern things sitting right by it. Rome is just a really neat mix of old and new and it was the perfect city to start off my trip with Alaina!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Alaina Comes To Europe

So as you can tell by my title, Alaina came to visit me in Europe! She came Friday morning right after my final exam ended Thursday night. I ended taking a train to get her in Madrid because she only had an hour to go through customs, security and get to another terminal that was a bus ride away. I'm really glad I was so familiar with Madrid's airport because I knew exactly where she would have to go and that there was NO way she would have time to make her plane to Sevilla. Once I found her with a Sorority sister's sister, I took her back to Sevilla happy as could be to finally see my little baby sister :)
 
It was amazing seeing Alaina after 4 1/2 long months. In the past week, I had been getting very anxious to leave my host family and see my family. In the past month that I had been staying in the apartment, we had been served a steady diet of hotdogs/hamburgers/pizza with tuna/ or chicken nuggets for every meal. Also, our sink had been clogged since I got home from the Prague trip. When I say clogged I literally mean that the water only left through the hole near the faucet. It was made worse when after his shower, David would shave his chest and put on makeup, all the while smoking and depositing the ashes the sink. YUMMMMYYYY.

Although I still missed my parents terribly, a little bit of that anxiety was quelled by seeing Alaina. On Friday, I had a touch of home after what seemed like a lifetime ago. It was also the perfect way to end my stay in Sevilla. I got to walk and tour all throughout Sevilla and once again, really apreciate its beauty, rather than walking to and from class everyday. I made sure Alaina got to see and do some of my favorite things in Sevilla. While some of the activities were touristy (like the catedral and alcazar), I think it is so cool that I was able to show her a different side of Sevilla only someone who lives there would know. I took her to a bar (only identified to locals by its red door in a back alley) called the Carboneria where they have free flamenco shows and a popular drink called agua de Sevilla. (Here's a video of flamenco. I don't think I ever showed you all a video of it :))
video
I think Alaina also made me realize how much I've learned in Spain. I guess I never really paid attention to how well I speak Spanish because I just do it every day. Whenever I had conversations with the locals/waiters/my family, I just kind of assumed Alaina understood but of course she didn't. I felt pretty cool.

When Alaina and I dropped off our luggage at the Madrid airport on our way to Rome, my new language ability really hit me. A Londoner was in the room with us and very frazzled. Her husband had had a stroke on the plane and she was trying to store her bags and then run off to the airport. Unfortunately the man working only spoke Spanish and she only spoke English. I could tell that they were having difficulties, so I finally asked her if I could help and ended up being their translator. It was so cool!


Alaina and I stayed in Sevilla from Friday until late Sunday night then took my last ever torture 6 hour bus ride to catch a plane in Madrid for Rome the next morning! Leaving Sevilla was very uneventful. I didn't even say goodbye to my family (who I thought were going to drive us to the bus station). I told them what time I was leaving, but I was home an hour before I left and a few minutes after when we were going to leave. I left them a note saying bye, but still haven't heard anything from them on facebook. O well, most everyone from the program was disapointed with their homestay. Most families do it for the money. Its just different then in the US. In America, we'd take them out to eat, include them in our every day activities and would never think of not saying goodbye to someone who had lived with us for 5 months. Also, I was a little frustrated because we spent quite a bit of money on the family buying them thank you gifts and Laura's shirt was too big and she flat out threw a fit yelling that she didn't want it and hated it (in front of me, my sister annndd her mom). Oh well, its over now!


We had gorgeous weather the entire week!


Little Lainy finding a comfy pillow face first in my backpack

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Changes

Hi! So I know I said not another blog until I came home, but I didn't promise, and I didn't take into consideration how much I was going to hate studying this week. Seriously! Its everyone's last week in Europe and they expect us to study?! Yeah no.

Anyways, I thought I'd jot down some of the changes that have happened recently/will be happening.

1. I decided to switch up the picture on my blog (yeah I know a little late in the game huh?). But that was a picture of El Plaza de Espana en Sevilla. I've lived in Sevilla for 5 months, but I've also seen the world. I think the new background is a little bit better at depicting my European adventures.

2. Its no longer pleasantly warm. Its HOT. Not humid hot. HOT HOT. Today the weather was at 37 degrees celsius, which is over 100 degrees. Try walking to and from class (45 min walk). Yeah no fun. I no longer can walk to class without having a water bottle in my purse. (Ps we still aren't using airconditioning and we don't have ice, so i'm always hot, even when I have water!!). I'd also like to point out that every time I say. "ay! que calor!" my Spanish family (or favorite ice cream lady) tell me I haven't seen anything yet. O dear! Good thing I won't be here for the summer!

3. Some other changes are coming my way in 10 days! I'll be home! I'm very excited to go home and see my family and friends. I have loved all of my experiences over here so much, but being away from home that long really makes you appreciate what you have back at home.

I'd like to share some changes that I will be glad will be taking place.
-Living with my real family and seeing my much missed friends
-Having my own room.
-Not sharing one bathroom and shower with 6 people.
-Being able to run/work out every day
-Choosing what I want to eat and drink when I want to eat drink. Aka no hotdogs and hamburgers every night at 11pm and no water all day every day.
       -Being able to eat a huge salad, baked potato, corn on the cob, any type of veggies or fruits
-Working so I can actually have an income and not an outcome
-Having heat and air conditioning. (When it was Jan and Feb I slept in 3 pairs of sweats, 2 sweatshirts a coat, gloves and a hat and still froze. Now its too hot to sleep).
-Not getting stared at/hooted and hollered at
-Sit and watch American TV
-Having my cell phone and texting!! YAYAY!
-Being able to drive, even if i despise my car sometimes ;)

Here are some changes I'll be sad to see go.
-Traveling!!! I've caught the travel bug and want to see the world now!
-Being lazy. I've gotten really good at doing nothing with my time. Something I've never been able to do. I don't want to go home and study for the GRE and visit grad schools :/
-My host family. Although at times I may have gotten frustrated, they are amazing and I'm so thankful to have been able to live with them.

Ok, well that was me procrastinating! Hope you enjoyed it!

Lauren