No me ha dejado

I cannot believe that it is my last day in Sevilla.  This place has become home.  After all of my trips, I feel relief to be back in Sevilla; back in my bed, in my apartment, with my señora.  I know none of these things are really mine but I become so accustomed and comfortable that these past three months y pico that it is hard to believe that they were not always so.

The past few days I have been trying to soak up as much of this city that I can.   All in all, this has been an amazing adventure.  I have made great friends, traveled Europe, surprised myself and learned a lot along the way.  I am so grateful for this experience and as excited as I am to go home to family and friends, I am not truly ready to say goodbye.  In January, I could not wait to get here and now as I get ready to leave I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed.  I don’t know the next time I’ll be in Sevilla but she will always be in my heart. So I guess it is hasta luego, never Adiós.

“Qué difícil es hablar el español”

Yo ya me doy por vencido, para mi país me voy.

But really…

We watched this video the last day of my phonetics class and how true it is!

After a total of 5 months in Spain, I feel like I have a decent grasp on Spanish.  Unlike last Summer, I have not asked for sex instead of ketchup or talked about bull sperm instead of races and I didn’t ask my intercambio when he was having sex with a train.  So I’d say this semester is a little more successful than last in the sense of my words not getting “lost in translation”.

But let’s be real, according to wikipedia,  about 406 million people speak spanish.  So of course there are going to be differences, right?  We have the same issue in English.  In the south of the US, people may say water fountain and in the midwest maybe bubbler.  In the UK, they might say biscuit while in the US we say cookie.  These differences are easy though nothing crazy.  In Spain, I can say concha (shell) but in a lot of countries in South America that is not the case…  and slang words are just the start.   When I got to Spain, my computadora became an ordenador and my sándwich became a bocadillo.  If I ask for hongos in Mexico I get mushrooms but my señora was shocked when I asked for foot fungus.  This is just the start of it but I think the video does a better/more entertaining job explaining…

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch

Why Ryan Air doesn’t suck…at least not anymore.

I am sure I am not the only one who has heard nothing but horror stories about Ryan Air.  Prior to coming abroad I knew I would be traveling with them and I was dreading it- Crazy fees, rude staff, untimely flights, etc..  I had read blogs from my favorite travel bloggers that prepared and slightly scared me.  But all around I have been happily surprised.  I am by no means saying that Ryan Air is perfect OR that I would choose them if another option was available for the same price but I think the time of continuous Ryan Air negativity is coming to an end.  Furthermore, not to sound like a Ryan air advertisement but this year they have made a decent amount of changes:

  • Their website is super easy to navigate
  • You have a 24 hour grace period to change small booking mistakes
  • You can bring your purse along with a carry-on
  • If you forget your boarding pass the fee is “only”  € 15 (instead of the previous  € 70)
  • Excess bag fee was cut in half to  € 10/kg

Ryan air is still a discount airline, it is small and crowded.  There is no free food and they are constantly trying to sell you things.  However, they are not trying to screw you over.  There is a reason Ryan Air is so cheap.  If you want better seat, more space, free drinks etc. you’re going to have to pay for it!

I’m not sure what inspired me exactly to post such a commercialized post… maybe it was the fact that I had gone in expecting a disaster and experienced the opposite or maybe I just don’t like the one sided convo that I am always reading/hearing about Ryan Air.  I hope that this is a change across the board, but maybe I have just been abnormally lucky.  So here it is, rant/advertisement over!

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While you still can.

You won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you. So travel, young person. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. While you still can. -Jeff Goins

 

Running… out of luck?

Our weekend in London was jam packed and amazing!  We were there from Thursday until Sunday and contrary to my expectation, we had no extra time!

Thursday night Kelley, Sarah, Riley, Amy and I  arrived in Stansted Airport, outside of London.  Our plane landed a few hours before Levi’s so we hung around the airport while we waited for him to catch our bus.  While we waited, we played Heads Up.  If you haven’t heard of it check out this video.  I think I have finally given up trying not too look/ act american… We had quite the audience while playing charades in the middle of the arrivals pick up but it made the time fly!  Once Levi arrived, we hopped on the bus to Baker Street where we grabbed dinner at Gourmet Burger Company. Then headed to the house we were staying in [Luck #1: They let us on the early bus, so we got on an hour before we were supposed to].

Friday morning, we took the tube into the center.  Right away we saw big ben, the London Eye and Parliament.  We then took a quick walk over to Westminster Abbey but decided not to go in, as it was 16£.  Then we walked to Buckingham Palace and through a couple parks before heading across the river for lunch.  We did not have anything in mind but we luckily ended up at a gathering of food trucks put on by KERB [We could call this Luck #2].  So for lunch we lucked out.  Sarah and I split spicy mac n cheese, a Philly cheese steak.  So yummy!  We wandered a bit and eventually arrived at the Borough Market.  After looking around the market, and tasting lots of goodies (like turkish delight- the great mystery sweet from Chronicles of Narnia), we met up with some friend’s of friend’s of Levi’s, Enid and Adrienne.  They took us on an amazing pub crawl through the city.  We went to Olde Cheshire Cheese, Gordon’s Wine Bar, The Rake, and The George to name a few. I think by the end we had tried about 21 beers and visited bars older than the United States!  When we finished the pub crawl, with the recommendation of our guides, we headed to Soho for Chinese at Mr. Kong and then home for the night.

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The whole group with our great tour guides at the Lamb and Flag

Saturday began a little earlier.  We got to Leicester Square around 9.  There Kelley and Levi bought tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from one of the many booths selling tickets.  We admired the fountain and then went inside M&M World, where I found CRISPY M&M’s!  From there we headed to Trafalgar square and then to the London Eye to ride it while the weather was still nice.  However once we got to the Eye we found out it was out of commission for the time being.  Instead of waiting around, we we to a pub and had lunch.  After lunch, we walked until we could see The Eye and it was back in working condition [Luck #3]!  getting to cross another thing off my bucket list was pretty exciting, by the end of the ride my cheeks were sore from smiling but the ride was great!

View from the top of the London Eye

View from the top of the London Eye

eye

After riding The Eye, our group split up.  Amy, Sarah and I had tickets to The Warner Brother’s Studio Harry Potter Experience.  It was a hefty trip to get there, about an hour from the city center, but totally worth it!  We were at the Harry Potter museum for about 3 hours, but could have used 2 more!  There was everything from costumes to sets to small scale mock-ups.  It was incredible.  Every turn was even more exciting than the last.  We left the museum at 9:40 and started our 2 hour trip home! Still totally worth it!

Try not to be distracted my my cuteness.  We are on Hagrid's motorcycle, with the Knight BUs behind us and 4 Privet drive in the background!

Try not to be distracted my my cuteness. We are on Hagrid’s motorcycle, with the Knight BUs behind us and 4 Privet drive in the background!

Sunday was a crazy day!  We woke up extra early to go to Stonehenge.  Another check off my bucket list !  We needed to be in the center to catch our bus at 8:45.  At 8:40 we were still on the metro, where we realized Sarah had misplaced her oyster card(metro pass).  When we got to our stop we started running, and Sarah dashed out of as well [Luck #4: no one stopped her].  We didn’t know where our bus was but with the work of Levi and Kelley we made it!  As we ran up the stairs where our bus was literally getting ready to depart a woman who worked there ran to stop it for us [Luck #5].  We made it!

Stonehenge was awesome!  The day was a bit dreary but it just made Stonehenge even more amazing! It was just as big and amazing as I had imagined.  They recently moved the visitor’s center away from Stonehenge to a 5 minute car ride away.  I am not sure what it was like while that was there but with the country side and sheep surrounding the area it really felt cool.

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Try and tell me you aren’t awestruck!

After about 2 hours at Stonehenge, we were on our way back to London.  We knew we would not have a lot of time so once we were off the bus we went to find a bus that could take us to the airport.  We bought our tickets for 4:20, this gave us 50 minutes to eat lunch and get on the bus.  We were over ambitious and sat down at a pub to eat.  By the time we finished, we had about 15 minutes to find where our bus was and get on!  By the time we got there, at 4:19, the bus was literally pulling away. Despite our efforts and the efforts of other passengers, who had also just missed the bus, the driver would not stop. At this point, we realized that our luck had run out.  You can only get by on Spanish time in London for so long!  But of all the times to be running late this was the worse.  If we had caught our bus in the first place we would have had just over an hour to get through the airport to our flight.  The next bus was in 20 minutes and with traffic we ended up running 20 minutes late.  By the time we arrived, we had .  We all sprinted to get our passports checked by Ryan Air[Luck #6: a worker saw us running and pulled us out of line to check our passes], through security and then to our gate.  I had lost everyone. I made it to our gate in about 18 minutes only to find out the gate had changed.  After sprinting one more time, I ended up being the second person in line and everyone else arrived a few minutes later[Luck #7]!  I don’t think I have every been so happy to make a flight.  Maybe it’s time to start being on time…

Empty Gate, Success.

Empty Gate, Success.

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Looking good, I know!

 

A weekend in Geneva

Last weekend I ventured to Geneva.  While there, I stayed with a my cousin and her daughter.

I arrived on Thursday evening. Loretta picked me up from the airport and we headed to her house to eat fajitas (not so mexican but still yummy).IMG_3161

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Human Rights Conference Room ceiling artwork

Friday I was alone to explore the city while Loretta was at work and her daughter was at school.  First, I visited the  United Nation.  The united nations campus was gorgeous.  The UN in Geneva focuses on Human rights.  While I was there, the Human Rights and Civilizations room was closed because it was in use.  So I couldn’t take pictures but I could peek in and see the gorgeous ceiling.  The ceiling  was donated by the Spanish government and was constructed by the Spanish artists Miguel Barcelo.

After the UN, I walked across the street to the Red Cross Museum.  I was expecting something old, with lots of black and while pictures and maybe some old videos.  I was very surprised with what I found instead.  The museum reopened in May 2013 so it was very modern!  There were 3 rooms, each designed by different architects, giving each are a unique feel.  Each area had video narratives from peple effected by or connected to the work the Red Cross does.  It really made their work come to life.

I ended my day in the Botanical Gardens where I walked around, took some pictures and eventually settles down to read.

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Red Cross Museum

Saturday  was Women’s Day.  We started with a tour about women in sports in Geneva.  The tour was in French, but IMG_3203Loretta was kind enough to translate for me!  We learned about all sorts of women: explorers, athletes and intellectual women as well.  I learned that in Switzerland women were not allowed to practice gymnastics until around 1908 because they may hurt their reproductive systems!  After the tour, Loretta, her daughter Zoe, Loretta’s friend and I headed to the lake to have a coffee at the Baths.  It was an abnormally beautiful weekend and we took advantage of the day.  Loretta and I headed out quickly after our coffee and began a tour through the old city, the Italian city of Carouge and a few other spots. In Carouge I had the pleasure of meeting Loretta’s friend and talented artist Michel Baumgartner.  He showed me his studio and even gave me a couple things to keep!  Geneva is beautiful, clean and easy to navigate.  The lake was gorgeous and also clean!  Such a change from southern Spain.  We made a stop in the local grocary/ department store, mad does Geneva know how to do chocolate.  Seriously it was in abundance everywhere, it was great! And according to Zoe, everything was “the best in the world.”That night for dinner we had homemade Fondue!  Yum!

Notice the Cat...

Notice the Cat…

It was interesting to get to speak with Loretta about Switzerland.  For whatever reason I imagined switzerland to be so progressive, at lease in the sense of equal rights.  Through our conversation I found out there is now equal pay act in Switzerland and women did not get the right to vote (country wide) until 1959! WHAT?!  Way to go America, I guess.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Find of the week: Ovomaltine!   I had it as a spread but it originally was a hat drink powder much like hot chocolate.  The best way i can describe it is like Nutella with rice crispies in it… SO GOOD!  Too bad it I couldn’t bring it in my carry on…

Sorry for the Recent Hiatus

The past couple weeks have been great, my lack of posting is proof of how busy I have felt!  So to my loyal readers, Steve and Mom, sorry! ALSO JILL AND AMANDA!

I spent last weekend in Portugal.  We were in the capital city of Lisboa.  It was beautiful and busy but in an old fashioned kind of way.  Everything felt older there especially for a capital city.  The people were so friendly and most spoke English which was nice since portuguese is nearly impossible for me to understand when it is spoken!  We were told most of them learn English from TV and movies.  Unlike in Spain, TV is not dubbed over in portuguese,  they play it in it’s native languages- which is usually English.

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View from the Castle of San Jorge

On Friday, we visited the Castle of San Jorge. It is an ancient Moorish Castle positioned on one of the highest points in the city overlooking the Tagus River.  After visiting the castle, we walked through the old part of the city that had not been damaged by the numerous earthquakes that have hit Lisbon.  The streets we super skinny and really windy making them nearly impossible to navigate, thankfully we were not alone!  We had the rest of the afternoon and evening free.  We walked toward the river and relaxed in the midst of live music and the sound of the waves.

Praça do Comércio

Praça do Comércio

That evening we ate at a burger place.  I was so excited to get to Portugal and eat beef!  It may sound silly but chicken and pork rein in Spain… so much that beef is essential nonexistent.  Fina once told me no one would grill a kebab of beef because it would be too tough and would not taste good! LIES!:)

On Saturday, we left Lisbon for a day trip to a nearby town, Sintra.  In Sintra, we visited the Pena National Palace.  Like the Castle of San Jorge, this palace is built at the top of [very tall] hill.  Our bus dropped us off at the wrong palace so we had a nice hike up to the palace.  It actually was a nice hike, it was cool weather and gorgeous surroundings but I don’t prefer surprise hikes.  The palace was beautiful.  Prior to being a palace, it was a monastery.  The mix of architecture and decorations were so interesting.  After passing through the first gate, you see a portuguese gargoyle that represents life.

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Fried with olive oil and garlic and finished with white wine

After returning to Lisbon, we again had a free evening.  We wanted to see  more of Lisbon so we set off down the main street towards the river.  The streets are beautiful there.  The sidewalks are paved in simple mosaics, every block and a half or so there is some sculpture or plaza and there is the constant sound of jazz music.  We ended our walk at a local restaurant we found on a side street, I again had steak. YUM!

On Sunday, we got started very early.  We had a relatively busy day and a 5-6 hour bus drive back to Sevilla.  We visited the national carriage museum, the Belém Tower, the Monastery of Saint Jerome, the Monument of the Discoveries and Pastéis de Belém (to try the local specialty custard pies).  Sunday was a sunny, breezy, beautiful day.

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Gorgeous day on the River

Monastery

Monastery

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Belém Tower

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Monument of the Discoveries

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Pastéis de Belém

Amateur Hour

Our attempt to conquer Madrid, Segovia and Toledo in 2 Days…

Disclaimer

I would not suggest attempting this in such little time.  Segovia we really did see and enjoy to the fullest, but both Toledo and Madrid had more to offer.  I think Segovia and Toledo deserve a day each and Madrid well that city seems full of things to do and see…  But if you are going to do it, here are some things that might help.

Saturday

  • 7:45am Board train at Sevilla-Santa Justa to Madrid Atocha
  • 10:05am Arrive at Madrid Atocha

Once we arrived in Madrid, Kelley and her boyfriend, Levi, met us at Atocha.  From there we walked to our hostel to grab our keys, drop off our stuff and we headed back out.  We hopped on the metro and rode it to Madrid Chamartín Station where we had tickets to Segovia.

  • 12:20 Board train to Segovia
  • 12:50 Arrive in Segovia

Segovia

The train station in Segovia is in the middle of nowhere.  There are two options to get to the old city, bus or cab.  The cab cost 8 € so between the four of us it cost 2 € each, so we went with that over waiting for the bus (I think the bus cost 1-2 €).   We took the cab to Plaza Mayor.

We had reservations at 1:30 at Restaurante Jose Maria  to try the local favorite, chochinillo, suckling pig.  The IMG_1708restaurant was less than a 5 minute walk from Plaza Mayor. It was delicious and rich and a little pricey at 25€ a plate, but totally worth it!  After lunch, we returned to plaza mayor where we visited the cathedral, the alcazar and finally the aqueducts. We still had some time before our train back to madrid so we slowly made our way back to Plaza Mayor taking our time and getting a little lost on the way.  Before leaving we tried another local favorite, Ponche Segoviana at Limon y Mente,  pastelleria off Plaza Mayor.

We took a cab back to the train station.  This ride was not as cheap, they must have a special rate to the city… tricky cabbies.

  • 6:30 Board train to Madrid
  • 7:00 Arrive in Madrid

Madrid

Once we were back in Madrid we went on a mini tour of the city.  We were so lucky that Levi has been living there so we didn’t waste any time getting from place to place, being lost or wondering where to go nex

IMG_1704We stopped at La Mallorquina, a pastelleria in La Puerta del Sol (right next to our hostel and the Metro) where we got a variety of sweets, I chose the chocolate hedgehogs… almost too cute to eat!  We continued on our walking tour to see the Palace, cathedral and Plaza Mayor.  Then we made our way to the Mercado de San Miguel.  It is a modern indoor market with endless options of delicious tapas and drinks.  After that, we headed out for tapas.  The best place, by far, was El Tigre.  Like Granada, tapas were free with every drink.  We paid 5€ per drink, a little pricey but they were huge, and were also given 4 plates overflowing with food.  We headed home early to make sure we were ready for our early morning the next day!

Kelly Sarah and I in Plaza Mayor

With Kelly, Sarah in Plaza Mayor

Tapas and Drinks at El Tirgre

Tapas and Drinks at El Tirgre

Sunday

Toledo

The morning we left for Toledo we first had to go to Levi’s apartment so we could drop off out backpacks.  We grabbed a pastry at a small shop Levi knew and headed out to El Rastro.  El Rastro is at the Plaza de Cascorro, the Calle Ribera, and the streets surrounding the area. There were stands galore selling everything from Antiques to clothing to jewlery and more.

  • 10:50 am Board Train to Toledo
  • 11:23am Arrive in Toledo
Museo Santa Cruz

Museo Santa Cruz

The train station in toledo is in the city but with the little amount of time we had there we decided to take a cab to the center.  The cab cost 5€ , we are not sure if it was a special sunday deal but who cares!  We took the cab to Plaza Zocodover.  FIrst we visited the Museo de Santa Cruz.  It was free admission and had a reasonable collection of art(including works by El Greco), mosaics and glazed tiles.  Per Rick Steve’s Travel book- When you get to the second floor stop at the second window.  You will see the Alcazar, you will also see  gunshot in the metal bars protecting the outside.  Unlike Rick Steve’s directions, do not open the window to look closer or touch it, the guards don’t like that… After the museum, we went to the Sefardic Museum at the Sinagoga del Tránsito. Then to the Cathedral where Kelley and Levi went inside and Sarah and I found a magic museum and decided to see what it had to offer!  Before our time was completely up, we also tasted the local specialty of marzipan toasted and filled with sweetened and cooked egg yolk- YUM and bought assorted cookies made by nuns in a local convent.

  • 3:25pm Board Train to Madrid
  • 3:58 Arrive in Madrid (we would have taken a later train if possible, but the next one would have arrive in Madrid after our train the left for Sevilla)

Madrid and Home

We had just enough time to grab lunch and our things before heading back to Atocha to catch our train home.  We stopped at El Brillante to try their famous Bocadillos de Calamari.

  • 6:00pm Boarded train to Sevilla
  • 10:30pm Arrived in Sevilla

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Our Hostel

We stayed at Hostel 360.  It had decent reviews on Hostel World and I would say they were definitely accurate.  It was perfect location, right in the city center and only a couple minutes from the Plaza del Sol where the metro station is.  As the reviews said, it was really noisy at night(Had we not had such an early morning on Sunday the noise would not have been an issue).  There were tons of people our age all of whom were really friendly.  Every morning they order churros for breakfast so that’s pretty sweet too.   Bathrooms were fine, internet was good in the lobby and iffy in the rooms and the communal kitchen was clean.

 

La Tortilla Española

Last night I was so lucky to walk into the kitchen at just the right time!  I have asked Fina, in the past, to teach me how to prepare a tortilla, spanish omelette, but have never been around to catch her before dinner is served and it is too late to learn.  But today, after my run, I popped my head into the kitchen to find her just beginning to cook.  IMG_1566

It was so much fun to spend time cooking with Fina.  Food really does bring people together.  Cooking with her made me really feel like I was at home.  At first she was hesitant to let me do anything, but I think my persistent “quieres ayuda” and “yo puedo” annoyed or convinced her enough of my eagerness and ability.  We talked about the current scandal about the Spanish Infanta who was on trial this weekend, divorce, my family and the problem with not cooking food from scratch.  And as per usual, Fina fed me, while we cooked!  Not that I was turning her down by any means.  The strawberries were delicious, they are getting sweeter everyday, and I ate a potato out of the raw egg mixture, under Fina’s guidance (demand). I guess that just reminds me of how crazy we are in the U.S…. always worrying about contamination and bacteria, since Fina didn’t even think twice.  So hopefully next week’s post has no news about E. Coli…

Here is the recipe and pictures for those interested!

Ingredients (Yield: 3 Tortillas)

  • 3 medium potatoes, dicedIMG_1576
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Medium onion, sliced thin
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Salt

Procedure

  1. Dice the potatoes.
  2. Salt the potatoes and set aside.
  3. Fill a small frying pan with Olive oil. Let it get hot.
  4. Add salted, diced potatoes.  The oil should just about cover the potatoes.  Turn the  heat to medium and cover.  Cook this way for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so.
  5. Thinly slice onion and add to the potatoes.
  6. Cook potatoes and onions for another 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked.
  7. Drain extra oil from potatoes and onions.
  8. Separate yolk from the white.
  9. Beat whites until frothy.
  10. Add yolks beat until frothy.
  11. Add potatoes and onions to eggs.  Mix well.
  12. Coat a small frying pan with olive oil.
  13. Add 1/3 of the egg and potato mixture to pan and cover.

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    Steps 14-17

  14. After about a minute and a half, flip omelette onto a lid or plate and put uncooked side down into pan.
  15. After another minute, flip again.  Push down onto omelet using spatula.
  16. After another minute or so flip again and cover.
  17. Continue flipping every minute or so until omelette is cooked through. 9-10 minutes total.IMG_1606