Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The most comfortable chairs I've ever had the pleasure of putting my arse on, ( and probably ever will) are bright blue, perfectly ergonomically correct, outdoors and oh ... cost tens of thousands of dollars per chair. Think you can find these in the royal palace? think again. you find these on the sideline of Bernabeu stadium -- the arena that hosts the royal spanish soccer team, the team with the best track record in the entire world, Real Madrid!

This past weekend we toured the stadium of the Real Madrid soccer team ... remember, real = royal in spanish. What I learned was that Real Madrid is a full club that also houses basketball, tennis, track and numerous other sports teams as well. Seeing so much soccer memorabilia in one day made me pretty sad -- I realized I really miss playing! I'd play in Spain but I'd rather not make a commitment to something -- I'm trying to live less scheduled and more spontaneously while I'm over here -- I didn't even bring a daily agenda book which is a shock if you know how much I love a good plan to start my day! Also check out the hair cut/color -- not bad for not knowing any hair terminology -- although I thought I asked for long layers, apparently I asked for a big cut -- oh well, live and learn!

one of their trophies looks like a boat!
the best players in the world do not shower together, they each get personal, massaging showers. what's not shown is the whirlpool tub right in front of this!
one of the many walls of the trophy room.
old school goalie gloves and ball.
the gloves of Casillas, the current goalie and best goaltender in the world.
old school uniform.

gahhh what a beauty!
me and the team!

Monday, January 25, 2010

El Palacio Real (The Royal Palace)

Imagine a house -- beautifully decorated with hand made furnishing, silk wallpaper with your monogram sewn in, marble floors and out of every window there's a view to kill. Well, that's what you'd find in each and every room of the royal palace -- all 2800 rooms, that is.

Built in the late 1700s after the original palace burned down, the king at the time wanted to have the largest palace in all of Europe, and it still is today. Of the 2800 rooms, we were able to tour about 10 and each one absolutley blew me away. In addition to those rooms we were able to see the apothocary/pharmacy where recipes dated back to the 1600s and the weapons room with suits of armor for man, horse, and dog! It was really an amazing palace, the only problem is -- we weren't able to take any photos! The savvy investigative journalist in me came up with a sneaky little idea though -- i bought some postcards and then tookphotos of them!

These are some pictures from the courtyard between the palace and the royal basilica. I tried to take a video, but it wouldn't upload to the blog! Sorry!

the view from the courtyard, imagine how it looked before the city was built below! you could see for miles and miles!

to the left of this photo is the basillica, to the right is the palace!

this is the "short side" of the palace, although it's the main enterance it strectched much wider on the other side. this enterance faces the basilica.

below are the postcards!

this was my favorite room. it's hard to tell in the picture but the marble floor has a floral pattern, which is mimicked in the chair coveings as well. It then "grew" up the wallpaper (where it was sewn in so thick the flowers stuck out about 4 inches from the wall!) and then continued to grow up and across the vaulted ceiling. On the ceiling the flowers were ceramic and some of the vines "grew" outward from the ceiling for about a foot!

This is the throne room. although no one lives in the palace (apparently the king prefers one of his more modest palaces) he and the queen do have photo ops here and whenever diplomats visit they are greeted by the king and queen in this room. The thrones are between the lions in the middle of the left side of this picture. When President Obama visits in May, he will be greeted here and dinner will be held in the dining room -- that has seating for 145! and I checked, it's all one long table cloth, not a seem to be seen!

Friday, January 22, 2010

School and such

A lot of you have been emailing me asking what school is like and how my classes are going so I thought the best way to update you is via blog post. I promise I've been doing fun things and I'll post them soon but I haven't had much free time to upload pictures or write blog entries! (which is a good thing, but I promise I'll get to it this weekend ... i think)


my school schedule goes something like this:
MTWTHF (all five days) but on MWF my day is done at 2:45
10am-11:30am Grammar Class with Alicia
11:30am-12:00 pm descanza (break for coffee)
12:00pm-1:30pm Conversation Class with Begona... here we simply chat. it's pretty cool we learn slang, talk about the right way to say random things from "this tastes like sh*t," to the word for a shot at a bar, the proper way to ask for eggs at a grocery store ... it's really useful and fun.
1:45-2:45 Culture Class ** the topic and professor change every two weeks but will cover topics of Arte, Cine (movies), Gastronomia (food), Historia, y Literatura**

------- in all of the above mentioned classes my classmates are: 1 american named Bob who is part of my group, one older american woman Carly, who has a young daughter, they live in the residencia with me, a pregnant woman from Romania, and then about 7 chinese kids and 2 japanese kids. at first, it was really hard that very few people in my classes spoke English but already, in the two weeks I've been taking classes my confidence in my speech has grown because I am forced to speak spanish if I want to communicate with my classmates. The asians don't speak english, and obviously the woman from Romania doesn't either. It's really great practice -- I even had enough confidence to go to the post office and hair salon by myself this week without my friend who has better spanish knowledge than i do!
then on Tuesday afternoons we also have another class from 4-6:30 called Spanish Culture but it's more medeival history, and it's a real college level class taught by a spanish professor with real text books and everything -- It's pretty hard to follow.

Thursday afternoons we have another college level class from 4-6:30 called Spanish Cinema and Theatre. right now we are reading a play written in 1610 ... it's the equivilant of giving a 10 year old american student a shakespeare play and telling them to understand it and then write essays on it. we don't know these old spanish words and they aren't in our modern spanish dictionaries -- soo agian, we're a little lost but at least we're all in it together!

on another note, the food is GREAT! different, but great!

tomorrow (saturday) we are going to tour Real Madrid's stadium and then wander around madrid in the Salamnca district. Sunday my friends and I are thinking of taking a day trip to a near by town but haven't decided which yet! I promise Sunday night I'll update the blog with pictures of all the cool things I've been doing!

Chao Chao!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Perk - o - WHAT - olator??

Coffee Woes ...

It's customary in Spain to have coffee at least three times a day ... once for breakfast with a small pastry, again around noon with a small pastry (we even get a 1/2 hour school break for this) and then again later in the afternoon after a large meal.

The coffee servings here are very small and very strong y no me gusta!(see first picture I took at the cafe we go to on our 1/2 hour school breaks) ..... So, I've been ordering cappuccinos. butttt, capuccinos a few times a day can get expensive and in an effort to be thrify I thought I could start making my own coffee, especially because
my sister bought me a cool travel coffee mug! The only problem is, I have no idea how to use the coffee pot that came with my apartment.

my mother has a larger percolator that we use for parties. this looks nothing like it, not even on a smaller scale. this one does not plug into the wall, and has odd contraptions. if anyone knows how to use it, please send me an email!

... i guess this is just one more Spanish thing i'm going to need to adjust to!

this is the full coffee pot.... it comes apart into two pieces, a bottom and a top

this is the bottom piece. A little basket lifts out of it. I assume coffee sits in the basket and water sits underneath in the base of the bottom piece.

this is the top piece it sits ontop of the piece shown above. but it has no holes on the bottom of it so how can the coffee filter up thru it?

however it does have holes on it's underneath ... but where do they go to? they don't go into the inside because as i said in the picture above, there are no holes inside the pot!

even if i do figure out how to make it work, how much time will it take for the coffee to percolate and heat up? how hot do i put the stove? is this going to take 5 minutes or a half hour? do i have to buy a specific kind of coffee?

I WANT DUNKIN DONUTS!!! which, in spain, is called.......

but is only found in major cities like Madrid and is clearly only for tourists.

i walked to the grocery store to buy coffee grinds today to at least attempt to figure out how to work this stupid coffee pot, but sad news... grocery stores are closed on sundays here :(
takeout for dinner it was, and breakfast ... well i guess I'll be stopping at a coffee shop....


on our first Monday of classes we awoke to a light dusting of snow, and thought "guess I can't wear the cute shoes today." So we bundled up, put on our walking shoes, and headed out the door. (Here in spain they don't really own shovels so the sidewalks and walkways are quite treacherous even if there's only a dusting of snow on them). No sooner were we 1/2 way out the door when our friend, Jeff, called to say his host mom called the school and reported that classes were cancelled! Although we didn't believe him at first, mainly beacuse you could still see the grass on the ground through the snow, we double checked and Jeff was right! here are some pics of the "Snow storm". students were so excited to see snow they threw snowballs against the building for hours!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

downtown alcala

this is Plaza de Cervantes (miguel de cervantes, the author od Don Quixote was born in Alcala) that statue is of him. This is the Plaza where the bus to school drops us off. It is much prettier when all the bushes grow their greens back!
another view of Plaza de Cervantes, you can see the very old buildings in the background (built in late 1400s and early 1500s)
me sitting on Don Quixote's lap outside of Miguel de Cervantes' house.
The church of the Santo de los Ninos (saint of children). this is in the plaza de los Santos Ninos and also near the Plaza of the Irish (Irlandeses) because a few hundred years ago Irish Catholics came to Spain to escape religious persecution and they ended up in Alcala). This is the church we look for on our way to school, that's how we know we're walking the right way!

Tapas! I'm not sure if you can see here but Tapas are a toasted piece of bread usually with ham or tuna on top, and you choose how its prepared (raw, cooked, with tomatos, with a sauce, etc) For 2.20 Euro you can get 1 tapa and 1 drink (either a glass of wine, glass of beer, or soda) it's a great snack!

my friends and I inside Miguel de Cervantes' house.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

i'm turning into my mother ...


here are pics of my "apartment" when I first arrived. Notice red is the beautiful accent color haha.

after these pics is a short video tour after I redecorated. Redecorating made me feel like my mother, who, even on a 2 week vacation brings her own slip covers, rearranges the furniture, brings her own pots/pans/iron etc even though they are all provided because even when on vacation, she desires the comforts of home. I know understand her point of view. At first the room was cold and lonely but I've spruced it up with what I can find at the store called AlCampo ... it's like a walmart -- clothing, food, homegoods etc. therefore nothing is of the best quality but you can find what you need and find it for cheap so you dont feel so bad getting rid of it in 4 months. Therefore nothing in my room matches but at least now my room has a little life! I even bought myself new cooking tools because the ones provided were really in a sad state.

also, for you wine lovers out there, you can find vino for only about 1.50 euro, and it's pretty good!

view from hallway, the bathroom is to the right (not sure why this underlined, i cant get it to stop though!)

you can see the shower in the mirror's reflection.

view from just inside front door

my "kitchen" 2 burners, 1 small fridge underneath.

the top half of my "kitchen"

my bed slash couch

VIDEO (it wouldnt work uploading it here so i put it on youtube.)


VIDEO: things to note:
1. my front door does not open all the way
2. the flusher for the toilet is on top, making it impossible to have any counter space
3. the shower, although small has AMAZING water pressure
4. please excuse the pile of trash ontop of my folding kitchen chair, we havent yet located any dumpsters
5. no, that is not a table cloth, that is a dish towel ... just to give you a reference for size
6. and yes, i did move the bookshelf in front of the window because it made me feel safer since i'm living on the 1st flood haha
7. those sheets cost me 5.99 mmmm comfortable! haha

all in all, it now feels much more like a home and not a cold, small apartment. I'm glad i went to the store to buy things and tomorrow my friends in homestays are coming over to see how our half lives! tomorrow is my first full day of classes, wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

These boots WEREN'T made for walkin' ... but that's just what they had to do!

Estimados a todos!

Greetings from Spain! The weather here is moderate -- upper 40s, but quite rainy/damp. The town in which I'm living, se llame (is called) Alcala de Henares is very quaint for being a large town. It is very safe here and the people are all quite friendly. The streets are made of stone and the buildings are the same color, large trees and street lamps line the sidewalks and foot traffic is more popular than los coches (the cars). Okay, that's the good stuff ... now here's the truth:

i live in a shoebox! for the rent my family is paying (appx equivilant to an apartment in college park) I assumed I was getting an apartment, but really I got a glorified dorm room! I will upload pics just as soon as ... well here comes the next story:

Let me tell you how I ended up in Madrid, I'll keep it on east coast time, but with spain time in parentheses:

4:30 PM (10:30 pM) depart Boston Logan Airport for Madrid via Lufthansa Airlines. The service on the plane was excellent, hot towels, warm blankets, individual tv's free wine/beer with dinner -- BUT NO LEG ROOM! southwest has about 4 more inches of leg room and I think we all know my giant legs don't exactly fit comfortably in tight spaces. So for me it was impossible to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. They also served us a light breakfast before we landed.

12:30 AM (6:30 AM) Land in Frankfurt Germany. Snow is softly falling out the window, no real accumulation but looks beautiful. My next flight is scheduled to take off at 9:10, but due to snow has been pushed back to 9:30. My group has not yet arrived, and it keeps getting later and later and later, so i buy the internet to check their flight status and see they are late getting into Frankfurt. I assumed I'd have to hold the plane for them (8 people were jioning me who flew in from DC) because they also had to travel thru customs and again thru security before boarding, and their plane landed at 8:45.

3:10 AM (9:10 AM) my friends arrive, with 20 minutes to spare, plenty of time. We are all exhausted but none of us wants to sleep. We do the introductions etc, plane is announced that it is delayed until 10AM. Then 20 minutes later the man announces "Due to snow, no planes are arriving or landing in the airport... literally there was 1/2 inch of snow. I have no options for you, perhaps except to get a voucher and go home and book for another time." So of course, I go up to the counter and say HELLO WE CANNOT JUST GO HOME WE ARE FROM AMERICA! you have to have another option". he says "Lady, I am sorry, we have no plane to put you on, all planes have been diverted to other airports." my theory, if you wanted to know, is that there was a security issue but in Germany they choose not to alert the public of that, because really there wasn't enugh snow to even make BWI stop sending out planes, and the streets, which we could see from the window of the airport, as well as the runway, were perfectly clear of snow. I say I want to speak to a manager and get on the next flight out to madrid, he says I have to go to a rebooking window only.

4:00 AM (10:00 AM)
We run as fast as we can to the rebooking window in an attempt to beat out all the other people also heading that a way. We end up being about 300th in line. Literally all Lufthansa flights were cancelled. Frankfurt is their hub and there must have been at least 25 Lufthansa flights going out around our time to different countries. The line was about 200 yards long ... probably a good thousand people and ONLY FOUR REBOOKING AGENTS AT THE COUNTER. we stood in line for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS thereby missing the earlier flights that left for madrid.

9:30 AM (3:30 PM) we finally get to the front of the line, after having stood/sat/squatted on our heels/attempted to sleep standing up/learned some german/learned we now hated the sound of german/thought about screwing it all and going to drink some german beer and dealing with the plane issue later/made friends with a father daughter duo from Arizona also trying to get to Madrid/learned to hate teh gold star members who got their own line which moved much more quickly/and realized that as nice as the lufthansa people were, they were SLOW AS MOLASSES. they spent about 20 minutes per customer because most customers needed to take overnight trains to get to their destinations and lufthansa had to look it all up and book it for them, one by one. Anyway, the woman put us on a 5:55 flight.

11:55 AM (5:55 PM)
after grabbing a quick bite -- we hadn't eaten since breakfast at 5:00 AM on our first plane, we went to the gate, which was then changed, so we went to the new gate, which was changed back to the old gate, so we went to the other gate, boarded a bus to take us to the new gate ... again ... and finally got on our plane. After having heard german for about 12 hours, we were actually relieved to hear the flight attendants speaking spanish, something we knew better than german -- it was the first time in my life i was relieved to hear that language!

2:30 PM (8:30 PM) we land in Madrid. We head to baggage claim. thought it was great that the carts used to push your luggage were free here, and didn't cost money like in the US. We all get carts. None of us gets luggage. We waited and waited and waited but none of our luggage went around that conveyor belt. We then speak to an agent, in Spanish of course, and she takes us to a lost luggage area where we file claims and are told they will be delivered in about 24 hours.

4:30 PM (10:30 PM) we boarded a bus with our Resident Director, Mercedes, and head out for a very late dinner of traditional paella, chicken, and a dessert similar to creme brulee.

7:00 PM (1:00 AM) we've now been traveling for a full 24 hours, but have been awake for about 32, we smell, we're sweaty, tired, grouchy, and go right to sleep at our hotel around 1:00 am spain time when we return from dinner.

AND I HAVE DONE ALL OF THIS IN MY HIGH HEELED SUEDE BOOTS which were a great chirstmas gift from my aunt. I thought i'd wear them on the plane so I looked more European and less like a tourist when I arrived ... but now they are getting to be quite a hassle, and I will be SO happy when I get my sneakers! high heeled suede boots are not exactly what you want to trek 2 miles in the rain to the grocery store wearing! needless to say, my boots and I have bonded quite well.

It's now Wednesday, we've done some great touring in Madrid (seven more hours of walking in my boots) have attempted to get settled as best we can without our clothing, found a store to buy some frozen meals that can tie us over until we buy cell phones so we can call cabs (we have to walk 2 miles back from the grocery store so we can only buy light things that we can carry ... we intend to do more thorough shopping once we know how to call for a cab). And have found a hospital across the street with a decent cafeteria where we've been eating our dinners.

The people on the trip are all really great and we've all been screwed over together which is comforting in it's own little way. We are still having fun, last night we went to a bar, we are learning our way around Alcala and we really love the area. Our luggage is due to come in tomororw, so keep your fingers crossed!!

Next time i'll write less, share pictures, and be more positive! pray I score well on my placement test tomorrow!

Friday, January 1, 2010

i can sum up this entry in just a few words: I HATE PACKING!!!

how am i supposed to get all of this into just two suitcases:

you may think i'm an over packer, but i have to pack for 5 months. it will be winter for 2.5, summer for 2.5 probably a little spring like weather somewhere in between. I'll be traveling, studying, dancing, exercising, and who knows what outfits are appropriate for all of the above? I wish I could just pack jeans and T-shirts, but something tells me I'd stick out like a sore American if I did that.

My favorite thing I'm packing is this awesome mug from my sister, Elizabeth:

when you tip the mug away from your body, a portion of the coffee enters a top chamber, which instantly cools the coffee to what the company calls "the perfect temperature" so that you don't scald your lips and tongue! such a great invention!

well i'm off to Spain tomorrow. I am flying to Frankfurt by myself and then meeting up with the group for our connecting flight to Madrid. We have a private bus that will take us to a hotel upon arrival and we will spend the next few days getting organized and settled in a new country!

frankly packing has made me so exhausted i hope i'll sleep the entire flight!