School’s Out!

It’s official- my time at Nebrija has come to a close. As I sit in the biblioteca (library for those unfamilia with español) one last time, I can’t help but reflect on my “studying” in Spain.

my non-picturesque university

Before coming, I was really nervous about taking classes in Spanish and just for the coursework in general. Thankfully, all four of my classes count towards my Spanish major (or else I probably would not have been able to study abroad because the Spanish major at Miami has soooo many classes!) and they ended up being a lot easier than any class I have ever taken at Miami.

I only had classes on Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-2:30 and so I felt like I was almost never actually at school. We rarely had taxing homework, and the only times it got tough would be when I had to study for a test. Not necessarily because the test material was hard, but because I literally forgot how to study.

All of my friends from other universities feel the exact same way about their “studying” abroad and in a way, it’s nice that the university understands that you are here to take in the culture instead of cooped up with your head in the books the entire time! That’s how I like to think they look at it anyway.

Even so, this past week was spent attempting to study, making me even more antsy to get home for the holidays! Thankfully, I just got my final grades and it looks like I am in the clear, all without doing very much work at all. Needless to say, hopefully I can remember how to be studious once I get back to taking actual classes in the spring.

One thing I learned is that Spaniards always look for a reason to celebrate. So how does the faculty like to mark the end of classes with the students? Via cookies and champagne! Yes, even if it is 12 o’clock in the afternoon, you can bet that we all just toasted to another semester being over and the drinks were flowing as long as you were drinking. And, ya know, even if it wasn’t that hard of work, everyone deserves a little bubbly now and then.

And now for the event of the year!

What: Suitcase Showdown

Who: Me, my belongings, and 2 suitcases

When: Now until 9am tomorrow morning

Where: My room to the airport

Only time will tell who reigns supreme…

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The moment you have ALL been waiting for.

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting…

¡Mi Señora!

For the ever curious, here is a picture of my host mom (grandma?) and me taken tonight before dinner.

Seeing as our time is quickly coming to a close, she made sure to remind me that we needed to take a picture before I left. This came as a relief to me because I have always wanted one but did not know how to go about it. I knew that it would have to be a predetermined night, as it would be imperative (to her) that she’d be dressed properly with neat hair and flawless makeup. So when I saw that she had been out earlier today (for her daily thirty minute walk… aka the only time she leaves the house) I asked if we could take one that night so that it was taken care of!

Five things about Flora:

1)    She is an eighty year old widow who lives with two cats, she also has eight kids and many grandchildren who all live close to her

2)    She must always be listening to the radio or have the television on, be it in the morning, during siesta, or whilst she sleeps

3)    Her hearing is no good at all

4)    She is a chain smoker

5)    Her typical day goes like this: wake-up, listen to radio whilst eating breakfast, watch television, “marchar” aka walk across the street and back, eat lunch, siesta, eat snack, watch television, eat dinner, watch television, go to sleep

While I was (and still am) a bit intimidated by her, she has truly been a wonderful host and I feel lucky to have been placed with her. Sure, it would have been nice having Internet, but I learned to cope and after talking with other kids about their host families, I feel like I did not fare badly at all!

I am officially embarking on my last week in Madrid. Christmas shopping is almost complete and now I am just getting a bit nervous about the weight of my bags on the way home! Before I can fret too much, I have two tests, an essay, and a presentation to get out of the way that I just want to get done with! Even so, it is so surreal to think that this time next week I will be sitting in my own bed blogging away!

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Food, Glorious Food!

If you have not realized already, I’m a pretty big foodie. My favorite thing about travelling is always trying new foods, browsing food markets, and making sure I do not miss trying out a local specialty! So it only seems appropriate for me to do some food-reflecting. Lemme tell you, these lists were not easy. I decided to only limit myself to the top 5 for each category in no particular order but each one of these lists could be a lot longer.

So without further ado…

Favorite Spanish Food

  1. Garbanzos con espinacas This is one typical example of a first course of a “Menu del dia”. It’s basically spinach and chickpeas blended with some flavors that makes for a very hearty and tasty dish.
  2. Pisto con huevo A type of vegetable stew with a tomato base and a nice egg on top.
  3. Tortilla Española This is the Spanish version of an omelet. It’s a lot like a quiche but without the crust and can be plain or with things like onion, pepper, meat, etc. One of my favorites had cheese, ham, and pineapple!
  4. Croquetas De jamón y queso or just plain, these things are an amazing mix of whatever ingredients you would like and bechamel (basically flour and milk) then fried to perfection.
  5. Patatas Bravas The secret to these fried potatoes is the red sauce that you see drizzled atop. It’s usually a little bit spicy and makes this typical tapa to die for.

Best Meals Outside of Spain

  1. Salmon crepe at Café in Versailles The best crepe that I had while in Europe. It consisted of salmon and egg inside and the top was drizzled with a creamy sauce that included chives. It was amazing!
  2. First night in Lisbon I do not have a picture. But man, this seafood dish was spicy and the most flavorful dish that I had the entire time in Europe.
  3. Italian night in Sevilla The family and me hit up a Rick Steve’s recommended restaurant after a flamenco show and it was amazing. I got a salmon dish that was baked inside a crepe that was then layered with tomato sauce and more cheese than you can ever imagine. It  was piping hot and so filling but I could not stop eating it!
  4. Homemade meal in Germany From the pumpkin soup to the homemade tiramisu at the end, this meal was amazing. The stuffed pork we had was perfectly tender and accompanied by one of my favorite German foods- spaetzle!
  5. Paella in Valencia The most famous place for paella in the world is Valencia, so naturally we had to make sure we got the best and I can assure you that we did! Everything about this massive rice, seafood, and chicken filled dish was savory and we did not leave one piece of rice in the pan!

Things I’m Excited to Get Back To (I don’t think these really need explaining)

  1. Hummus
  2. ANY and ALL Mexican food
  3. Greek Yogurt, Frozen Yogurt AND Smoothies
  4. Veggie Burgers (accompanied with Sweet Potato Fries)
  5. Peanut Butter and Chocolate combination items (like cookies!)

Best Ways to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth (this list was about 50 things but I managed to narrow it down to 5)

  1. Hot Chocolate from Demel in Vienna Seriously best cup of hot chocolate ever. It was like they melted a candy bar, mixed it with the best milk and topped it with delicious whipped cream. Perfect way to escape the frigid Austrian air!
  2. Napolitana de chocolate from Mallorquina in Madrid I still believe this is the best way to spend one Euro in Madrid. Perfect combination of dough and sweet chocolate that is great at any time of day.
  3. Gnutella and Banana Crepes (Paris does them well, but any place is just fine!) Melt in your mouth goodness that can be found at stands any time of day. 
  4. Dried Fruit from food markets (like la Boquería in Barcelona or Naschmarkt in Vienna!) My favorites are strawberries and mangos but this stuff is better than any candy in the world. I could eat it all day long!
  5. German gummy bears Words cannot describe how perfect these gummy bears are. The flavor is juicy, the chewiness is divine, now if only they could stick around for longer! (Or delivered to the US!)

And one love that deserves a category all to itself:

SWISS CHOCOLATE From Milka to Lindt, you have to love it allllllll!

Welp, now I’m hungry!

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Slow down you crazy child…

So for my final Euro-trip I headed north to Austria to visit my best friend Kelly (the same one who visited me in Madrid last weekend!) I got in very late on Thursday night after a looooong day of traveling and she greeted me and took me to her dorm. Drastically different from my sitch, she lives in a residence of just foreign students which made for quite the experience! Her floor is really lively and it seems like a great time to live with a big group of kids from all over. Even though I love the experience of living with a host, I think that this way of doing it would be really really fun, and Kelly seems to agree.

Friday we woke up early to catch a three hour train to the land where the hills are alive... Salzburg!

First sight: Sound of Music themed cow

It ended up being really cold and rainy the entire day, making our self-guided walking tour a little less than pleasant. There were plenty of Christmas markets though to warm our spirits through hot wine and fun treats.

All the apples had little hearts on them like this!

True to form, I tried the inescapable Mozartklugel, a truffle that has become a tourist gimmick even though it is the size of an eyeball. Lemme just say I was not a fan (but I also just do not like dark chocolate).We rounded off the wet day at a really cool restaurant recommended by our hostel and I had amazing sausage that definitely made up for my failed attempt at eating Brautwurst in Germany.

Much better than before :)

When we returned to the hostel for the night we opted to watch Sound of Music (much to the worker’s dismay who responded “You want to watch Sound of Music now?” trying to conceal her confusion as to why we would not just join the party going on at the hostel bar instead). But feeling like the rain jilted me of my true Sound of Music experience, I was determined to watch the movie (not to mention, one of the girl’s I was traveling with hasnever seen it!)

Thankfully, Saturday brought better weather and we embarked on our day in very much the same manner as before, only this time our feet weren’t soaking wet and heads not turned to shield the rain. Lemme tell you, it was a very different city we saw and it turned out to be very pleasant.

Good work Salzburg, you redeemed yourself

We saw the Mirabell gardens where the Von Trapp kids frolic singing Do-Re-Mi, Mozart’s Residence, and visited more markets! Then, we headed back to Vienna for the night where Kelly and me had a fabulous Italian dinner and took a stroll around the city, taking in the lights and sounds of Vienna.

I love Christmas in Europe!

Although I had been in Austria since Thursday, Sunday was my first actual day in Vienna. It was a bit cold but nothing a headband bought at a metro station can’t fix.

We went to a church mass with wonderful music recommended by none other than my buddy Rick Steves. The man does good but am I am happy to be done with studying his Best of Europe book! After the service we hit up Demel, a famous Vieneese chocolate shop, for the best cup of hot chocolate I have ever had. We then went to the Schonbrunn Palace and, of course, stopped along some Christmas markets along the way (can you tell they are everywhere?!) True to form, I had some wonderful roasted almonds that were heavenly.

Monday was spent at Naschmarkt. Kelly, knowing my affinity for food markets, had a strong inkling I would love this place, and love it I did. Every food market is a little bit different and this one was no exception. Filled with vegetables, fruit, olives, and cheese, it also had Indian spices, flowers, falafel, and sushi galore. I sampled some falafel (one person was offering 20 pieces for 2 Euro!) and picked me up some amazing dried fruit! This one also has a bunch of little cafes and restaurants interspersed among all the stands- we chose a Chinese place that hit the spot and filled us up for a long wait at the…

Opera! After visiting the Albertina Museum (showcasing Impressionist paintings that were so pretty and a good change from the older art I’m studying at the Prado) we headed to the opera to try to get standing room tickets for the premiere of Macbeth. Vienna is known for it’s classical music and I knew that this was something I would love to do. It’s really cool because you can get standing room ticket for 3-4 Euro, so we took our chances and ended up getting seats. I absolutely loved the show. I was unsure of what to expect but this was unlike any opera I have ever seen and it definitely exceeded my expectations.

And now here I am, on my last flight back to Madrid, snacking on this baby I picked up at Naschmarkt. Gosh am I gonna miss pastries…

It tastes a lot better than it looks, I promise

Vienna was so different from Madrid but I really liked it. I am still in awe by how many food stands selling Doner Kebaps and sausages one city can have, but it can definitely come in handy when you need something cheap and on the go! The buildings were so big and beautiful and the city just embodies classiness. While the weather was cold some days, I am thrilled I came during Christmas time for the markets- I think I could just tour those and eat all the different food and drink hot wine all day long!

But alas, all good things must come to an end. I cannot believe that when I get back I will have ten days left in Madrid before heading home. Where does the time go? Needless to say, I have a long to-do-before-I-leave-Madrid list waiting for me upon my arrival!

P.S. Does anyone recognize where my title comes from? Lemme just say it was the very first song I listened to when I got off the plane after landing in Vienna. One of my absolute favorites and it just felt appropriate…

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Sweatin’ it in Spain

So as I mentioned yesterday, my gym membership is officially up! When I first got here I signed up for the three month deal they had going, knowing that I would want to be working out while I was here. Thankfully, that was a good move because not only do I have way too much time on my hands at all times, but I am not quite sure how I would avoid gaining 100+ pounds without it. Overall, it turned out to be a nice place, I loved the Pilates classes (although they are a lot easier than the ones at home- here the focus is more on stretching and not so much the work-out), I tried spinning for the first time (quickly realizing that my knees were not built for it), and I worked with a personal trainer and finally got over my machine-phobia.Don't those primary colors remind you of doing toddler gymnastics?

Spending time in the gym also gave me lots of time to experience and reflect on Spain’s attitude towards exercise, leading me to assert that it really is a lot different than back home! For starters, to see girls working out is very odd. I cannot tell you the number of times it was about 15 men and me in the weight room. But, oddly, I did not mind. (Which is funny considering at school, I refuse to enter the fratboy-infested area with all the weight machines due to intimidation!) Instead, I took a bit of pride in it (and I’m pretty sure they found it less strange because they could tell that I was American). Good news is that I took my folder with my workout regimen in it to maybe keep up it up in the states if I can find the courage! I really did like lifting and working my muscles though and not only doing cardio all the time because I do feel like the two go hand and hand and it made me stronger!

The walkway to the gym!

However, what women can do without reproach is Pilates and the stretching classes. This is where you will find old ladies who chat like you’ve known them for years and twenty-somethings trying to fit some sort of exercise in their routine. Like I mentioned before, a lot are easygoing stretching classes with some emphasis on resistance training so I do not think you can rely solely on these classes for “exercise.” I always liked going to Pilates though and found it was a great way to stretch and relax.

To be honest, my gym was rather stuffy and not the most comfortable place to spend the day and so at times, I would run outside in the park right by my house! I established a wonderful loop that I can run once or twice depending on how I’m feeling. Here I experience similar things though and sometimes get strange looks from old people sitting on benches and very rarely see other women running (but lots of men!) A few of my friends have even been called out while running themselves. The other day, one was forced to stop by men impeding her path, only to be told “You run too much,” and then allowed to carry on her way. Another one of my friends was mocked while walking home after a run by boys our age, I guess since it really just is not that common?!

Now don’t get me wrong- there are lots of women who do work out, but it is definitely more of an exception than a rule. I think everyone else just considers their exercise in all the walking we do everywhere. That, and I have found Spanish people are very proud of their diet- they think that it is the healthiest and best food in the world even it only revolves around olive oil, potatoes, bread, and  ham. So maybe they don’t think they need  a reason to work out when they eat so “healthy?”

Even so, for me, working out is not only a tool to lose weight and maintain physical fitness, but more importantly, it’s really makes you feel better and alert for the whole day! I can always tell a difference after I work out and it’s something that you cannot get just from walking.

So there you have it, my little take on Spanish culture and exercise.

In other news, I got my advent calendar filled with yummy Spanish chocolate and Taylor and me put up a tree in her apartment today whilst listening to Christmas carols!

My advent calendar! (Ignore the flash)

Our lovely Christmas tree

Now my dilemma for the day… if I go to Vienna tomorrow do I:

a) Eat all the chocolate for the 4 days I will miss beforehand

b) Bring the chocolate in a baggie and eat one piece a day

c) Wait until I get back and eat all the pieces at once

HELP!

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December Begins!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, leading us right into the last month of the year, DECEMBER! Reflecting on the new month this morning, I realized that there is lots going on…

1. For starters, it is my last month as a teenager. While most of my friends have already been in their twenties for a year (if not longer) already, I have been ceaselessly stuck with the label as a “teenager.” In reality, I’m kind of sad about it, my teenage years were great and it’s crazy thinking that I will soon be entering a whole new decade and be a twenty-something come January 1st!

2. December is the month of the advent calendar! While in Europe, I have seen some amazing Advent Calendars (see my post on Germany for the Kinder one!)  I have not bought mine because I did not realize how quickly December was approaching but you can bet that by the end of the day I will have one in my possession and I cannot WAIT.

3. I’m abono-less. Abono’s are essentially our metro passes for the month. Since I only have two and half weeks left and will be spending about 5 days in Vienna, it does not make sense for me to pay the full price for a new unlimited metro pass for December. What does that mean? Well basically I will be living off the 10=trip tickets but knowing me, I will be reluctant to buy these and thus, walking as much as possible!

4. Maybe that walking will be a good thing though because my gym membership is also up!

5. I have my final Eurotrip to Vienna and while I am there we are going to Salzburg!

6. Then, it is home for the holidays on the 19th! Although I have loved my time here, I am definitely starting to get antsy to return to Colorado and then head back to Miami!

So there you have it. I do not doubt these next three weeks are going to fly by as quick as the past three months have!

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Tis the Season!

So I think it can be said that Christmas is officially upon us. Being in Madrid, it was hard once the Christmas decorations started to be put up because I felt like something was missing… That something was Thanksgiving! Since they do not have the holiday to mark what I consider to be the official beginning of the Christmas season, they kind of haphazardly start decorating window fronts, changing shopping bag designs, and selling Christmas treats. But I knew that I had to hold off on jamming out to Christmas carols until the end of Thanksgiving.

The day started out just like any other normal Thanksgiving… With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! Sure it does not rival watching it on the big screen and we did not get to actually begin watching it until 4PM, but I got to see Dora and Snoopy in all their glory and that is all that matters!

After “slaving” away in the kitchen we ended up with this spread. In the mix is roasted chicken, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, bread, olives, corn, and gravy! We had some friends come over to hang out before they had a dinner at 9PM hosted by the university but it was me, Kelly, and Taylor who took to conquering all this food… and conquering it we did!

The meal was followed by a cookie dough and ice cream dessert combo and many hours of Glee! What a wonderful day…

As I mentioned earlier, my best friend Kelly came and visited from Vienna for the weekend and we had a wonderful time and I loved being able to show her around! After she tagged along for a field trip with my school at a local TV station, we paraded around the city with our other friend Colin who came up to Toledo for the day! We immersed ourselves in Spanish culture with calamari sandwiches, sangria, Retiro, and then Christmas lights!

Kelly and me in front of the big tree in Sol!

Now they first put up this tree about three weeks ago and finally on Friday night lit it up (talk about anticipation!) After, me and all my friends walked around the city to see all the other lights that were finally turned on! In one plaza, they put up another big tree, ice skating rink, store, and there were carolers!

The Madrid group taking in the X-mas spirit!

I am so happy the Christmas season has finally kicked off and cannot wait to go to Vienna next weekend and see all the markets (and Kelly, of course!) They put up a really big Christmas market in Plaza Mayor that I am eager to go check out… Two papers stand in between me and it though and I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up motivation!

Hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings!

 

 

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