Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I hope that you all can track all of my travels in Spain, and live it with me (although sitting on your computer looking at the pictures won't be as cool as taking them myself) Let the journey begin!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Semana Santa came and went

 Semana Santa started off real early for us. Allison met me outside of my apartment at 3:30 am in Seville, in which we proceeded towards the bus stop, then to the airport. Our destination was Santander, Spain. Santander is located on the northern coastline, near France. This part of Spain is completely different than southern Spain. It is green almost year round, and rains all the time. The coastline is gorgeous as well. A mix between huge cliffs and beautiful beaches, it was a perfect place to start our trip...especially with all of the complications that were to follow.

The first few days consisted of walking the coastline, in miraculously good weather. The rest of Spain, and Europe for that matter was covered in cold rainy weather, but not us. The city of Santander itself was one of my favorite places. Every building was decorated with balconies and terraces; definitely a good place to retire.

Come Monday night of Semana Santa, when I was about to watch UK dominate (CATS CATS CATS), I noticed I had a text saying our flight for Tuesday from Santander to Paris was cancelled due to air traffic control strikes in France (it's always the French). Not what we wanted to hear. Of course when I told Allison, she didn’t believe me because it was April 1st. After the UK game, it was to late to do anything so we waited till the next morning. We both got up early the next day to figure out what were our options. The only option was to fly to Barcelona that day, stay the night and then fly early Wednesday morning to Paris, cutting our stay in Paris from 3 days to 1 and a half. That being our only option, I guess we just HAD to go to Barcelona. What a terrible lay over huh?  
The bay of Santander

What the coastline in northern Spain looks like.

We made it to Barcelona in the late afternoon, bolted to the Sagrada Familia (the cathedral design by Gaudi) and took a few pictures of the outside before it got dark. We explored Barcelona for a few hours at night, trying to soak in as much as we could from our free flight to Barcelona, and then found our Hostel for the night. Early the next morning, we made it to Paris finally.

La Sagrada Familia. It was to tall to get it all in the picture 

Due to our time being cut in half, we didn’t really have any time to breath in Paris or to even enjoy it really. We bought a metro day pass, and metroed (is that a verb) all over the city. Thank goodness for the metro, because we practically saw every main building we wanted to see (the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumphe, Notre Dame, the Sacre Couer, Napoleons Palace, etc); we even were able to enter the Louvre and see masterpieces such as the Monalisa (which is disappointing in size), The Venus de Milo, Lady Liberty, and many more that I’d recognized but can’t think of the name of them right now. Feel free to look at my Facebook pictures though, because they are there.

The next day, our flight left at 4 pm to Madrid. We made it to Madrid and met up with some family friends the Eddy’s. Bill Eddy’s is an Asbury Alumni (thanks dad), and his family has been missionaries to Spain for over 15 years. It was such a blessing finally to no longer have to stay in hostels, and most importantly, it was so nice to finally have a full meal, not just cheap bread and ham. While in Madrid we were also able to see the Musser family. We got the opportunity to hang out with their family for a day and really had a great time.

The Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame

This bridge looked familiar in Paris.

The Louvre Museum. Classic pic

The city of Madrid, is kind of made for certain people. Madrid is not necessarily a vacation spot I’d say. All the Madrid has in it is art museums, which if you don’t have any interest in art, then you would be bored. Luckily, we have been studying Spaniard art all semester, so we loved going in to the Prado museum which had hundreds of painting by artists such as Velazquez, Murrilo, Zurbaran, Goya, Caravaggion and many more. We also got to see Picasso “The Guernica”, which was cool to see.

After finally arriving to the end of the week, we caught the first bus available to come back to Sevilla, and have been here ever since. What I learned from Semana Santa (Holy Week), was that there are so many things that are outside of my control (flights, and travel) but that God is there. I feel like God was telling me, ‘Don’t worry about it, trust Me’. And I’m glad I did, because it was such a fun week, and once again He provided for me.

The Royal Palace in Madrid. The only thing worth seeing in Madrid besides the museums

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hello Ronda!

So far, the city of Ronda has been my favorite school trip. Cordoba's beauty is in their incredible mosque and cathedral. Toledo's beauty can be summed up by its medieval town feel. Both have their own cons, but I think that Ronda definitely out weighs them all. Ronda's attractiveness comes from its nature. It’s beautiful views and bridges

The city got the name 'Ronda' back from when the Celts founded the city and called it 'Aronda', which means surrounded by mountains. Just like most cities in Andalucia (the southern regions of Spain) there is a strong and rich history between the Christians and Moors. The city sits in a very strategic location. It sits on the top of the ridge, and the views are phenomenal. You can see for what seems like a hundred miles. 

The city itself is not huge, but it is so compact. Most houses have balcony's that overlook the 100+ ft cliffs everywhere around the city. Possibly the reason why I enjoyed this trip so much was the fact that we had mainly free time. Most trips, the teachers take us into cathedrals and talk all about them. I enjoy that don't get me wrong, but the talks can get kind of winded. Also, I'd never thought I'd say this but I'm kind of sick of seeing cathedrals. 

When we first arrived, we headed over to the famous bullring in Ronda. Ronda is amongst the top 3 cities known for their bull fights in Spain, behind Madrid and Sevilla I believe.  The ring is built out of stone, which is very unique to Ronda. Also, apparently it was in Ronda where bullfighters we know now in day were born. Bullfighters used to fight on top of horse, but it was here that the bullfighter first fought on foot.

Following the bullring, we had about 3-4 hours to wander around. The professors specifically said not to cross the stone bridge into the other part of town because they wanted to do the honors with us. But being the rebel that I am, me and a group of hikers crossed the bridge. Shout out to Randy Troyer for telling me that there was a water fall below, because if I didn’t know, I would never had seen true Ronda. This is most likely why I liked Ronda so much, the hiking. There are paths that lead straight down to the bottom of the bridge. The path is pretty scary, and steep. You practically are hugging the wall on one side, and then on the other side you have a huge drop off. It was totally worth it though. We even found a cave that went into the mountain. Caves are always fun, until you can’t see anything and step in mud.  Paths led everywhere on the side of the cliffs. We just explored like little children, it was so fun. Tyler and I even hiked all the way down to the base of the waterfall, which was quite dangerous, but it’s ok, no one died.  All throughout the hike, you have this awesome view. Even at the foot of the waterfall, you are still high up in the mountains and can see for miles and miles into the distance.

I tried to take plenty of pictures of the view, but once again pictures just don’t do it justice. Feel free to look at the picture on facebook because I have more uploaded there. 

One of the many lookouts 

The bullring

The part of town where we were suppose to stay and not cross

On the hike down, you can see the waterfall below

This bridge never gets old

At the base of the bridge, almost to the waterfall

All of the water was crystal clear. 

La catarata (waterfall)

Taylor is in Spain?!!

So, as most of you already know, Taylor came to visit me in Spain. Originally Taylor was going to surprise me and just show up in Spain. But since I had no idea she was coming, I had already bought tickets to Majorca Island for that same weekend, and eventually Taylor had to tell me she was coming, or else I'd be gone while she was here. But if she would have just showed up on my front doorstep and I wouldn't had known, I probably would have had a heart attack. Swoshhhhh.

Taylor's visit came and went in the blink of the eye. It was such a short time that she was able to come, but it was so worth it. I'm a believer that while you are in Spain, time here goes twice as fast as it goes in the States. So the 5 days that she was here, seems like 2 or 3 days. It was ridiculous how fast.

Thankfully Taylor wasn't traveling alone. She was traveling with two friends from Asbury as well. After Taylor had arrived and we were sitting outside of her hostal that first day, I remember me saying out loud to Taylor "Is this really you? Are your really sitting here in Spain with me?" It just didn't hit me till then.

A lot was done in those 5 days that Taylor was here. Lots of exploring, lots of cooking good meal (my new recipe: pasta and chicken with garlic and mushrooms), and of course hair cutting. The last thing mentioned was something that I needed done badly. My hair was long, and since I didn't want to spend money to get it cut, why not have Taylor do it. I was more enthused about the haircut than Taylor was. She wasn't so sure about it. I kept saying "It's ok, you really can't make it that bad" And "If it looks bad we can just buzz it". So I practically gave her no pressure, but I was just as nervous as she was. After an hour or so, the hair was cut and it looks perfect! except for that one spot in the back that is missing hair, no jk, it looks great Taylor! Thanks!

AS for the explore and site seeing I felt like such an expert of the city when Taylor was here. Wherever we would be walking around I'd be telling her random facts about the architecture of the cathedral when it was built, art work, history behind a lot of things etc. It goes to show that I'm actually learning stuff in school, and that I'm not just here on vacation (although Taylor thinks otherwise) ha. We were able to go inside the cathedral, we visited the Plaza de Espana, got to feed the pigeons out of our hands at the Plaza de Americas, hung out down by the river and had a picnic, and for the highlight we even got to go into the oldest still in use royal palace of Europe, the Alcazar.

The royal palace in Sevilla

The duck in the Royal Palace that followed us around

Inside the gardens

She is quite the model

Don't go Taylor!!!
I enjoyed every second that Taylor was here. As she left she said "8 more weeks, no big deal". It is crazy to think that I'm half way done with the semester. Like I said earlier, times flies 2 or 3 times faster here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Trip to Toledo, Spain…not Ohio

Last week was definitely what school should be for everyone every week. I got back from my Italy trip on Wednesday, so I missed all of classes that day. I went to school on Thursday, and then Friday at 6 am was our school trip to Toledo. I had a 1 day week, and it was glorious.  I really shouldn’t be blogging right now because I have test tomorrow, but like a good student I’m procrastinating a little bit more.

We were on the bus by 6:15ish and off to Toledo. Toledo was one of the first cities conquered back by the Christian king Alonso II from the moors during the Spanish ‘reconquista’ (one bad thing about learning everything in Spanish is that I don’t know what the term is in English).  I was a very crucial city from then forth for the Spanish kings.

Toledo has a very medieval environment still. A very distinct fell to it than Seville. Toledo sits on a hill, still surrounded by walls. The alleyways are all tiny and mainly consists of cobblestone streets. 

On the way to Toledo it is a school tradition to stop at these windmills right outside of Toledo. The windmills are pretty old and are no longer used. This location is in Cervantes book Don Quijote where Don Quijote thinks that the windmills are giants and fights them. Pretty interesting, they look like windmills to me.

My sister and me

Toledo is very well known for their sword makings. All of the major swords from movies such as Lord of the Rings (which that is Aragorns sword that I'm holding), 300, Gladiator, Robin Hood, Nights of the Round Table, Sword in the Stone and many more swords from movies are made in Toledo. Also, random fact, Toledo makes all of the swords for the US Marines. 
One of Toledo's best building of course was their Gothic Cathedral. This cathedral was one of the  first built and is purely Gothic architecture. They were sticklers about not taking pictures inside of the cathedral for some reason so I didn't get many pictures. I only took a few sneaky ones.
One of my sneaky photos inside the cathedral. This stain glass was to good not to take a picture of
Most of the city wall still remains intact and standing. We had some free time after seeing the cathedral to explore a little bit. This just adds to the medieval feel to the city.
Before leaving Toledo, the bus took us to this incredible look out of the city. I tried to get a panorama of the city and it came out pretty good. That being said, pictures just don't do it justice.   

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When in Rome...

Wow, what a trip! Looking back on this trip, it amazes me that in 4 days time we were able to travel over 900 miles, make it to 3 major Italian cities, on not much of a budget, not really have any travel problems and still make it home alive. God was definitely with us to help everything go well, and although we had a few problems in Venice, everything went smooth. One of my biggest concerns was that something would go wrong with booking our train tickets. As a matter of fact, we had no idea what to do, but we just need to somehow end up in Venice on Wednesday morning to fly home.

Tyler and I arrived right outside of Milan in the small city of Bergamo. We explored the cool city for an hour or so and then got a train to Milan. In Bergamo, there is this awesome part of town called Cittá Alta (Tall City), which used to be the Italian stronghold against its enemies. This part of town lies on the top of the hill with a huge wall surrounding it. Quite amazing. In Milan, we barely had enough time to see the Duomo Cathedral and the Sforzero Castle before it got dark. The cathedral is gorgeous, and is the 3rd biggest in the world. Apparently that same night had a huge carnival going on that night and there were people in the streets with masks, while silly string and confetti was flying everywhere, it was chaos. After a while more of walking around, we headed back to the train station to figure out our way to Rome. The last train to leave, left Milan at 11:20 pm, and arrived in Rome at 7:20.

At the time of planning this trip, I had thought that going by train in theory would be a good idea…but during each train ride, i was MISERABLE. The only negtive thing about this whole trip was the lack of sleep. That was due to the lack of comfort on the train. Being a college student, we weren’t going to pay $90 for a bed on the train, when we can grind it out in a seat for $60. Our cabin fit 6, and to our luck, we had 6 crammed in there. Language was a huge barrier and I’d like to see a video of me trying to have a simple conversation with some of those other passengers. At one point, not knowing how to express what I wanted to say, I simply said “pizza” and “pasta” in the most Italian accent I knew, which brought laughter. I’m pretty sure it was more of a ‘Dumb American’ laugh, but oh well. The only Italian I learn on this trip was “Parle Englese”…Do you speak English? I figured that was all I needed to know, because if they responded with ‘no’, then there was no chance of communication and I’d find someone else.

Once in Rome, we had lots to see. Everyone knows of the major sites: the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, and the Pantheon among others. But what amazed me is that everywhere I went, every corner we came about was full of rich history and architecture.  We went into every church possible (they are free) and we were constantly amazed at the amount of decoration and detail that is everywhere. Every arch, every window, every roof space has something decorating it. Of course we did get to see all of the major sites. I saw the Colosseum, The Pantheon, St. Angelo’s Castle, the Vatican Museum (The Sistine Chapel), St. Peter’s Basilica, and many more. My favorite building was St. Peter’s Basilica. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but I’m pretty sure Rupp Arena could fit inside of St. Peter’s. The place is so huge that I didn’t really even bother to take picture. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

After a full 3rd day of exploring, we made it on our 2nd and last train headed to Venice. The train was exactly like the first train, except it was an hour shorter, thank goodness. One of the passengers on this ride actually was Peruvian, so I was able to communicate via Spanish to at least one of the others in our room. We arrived in Venice at 5 am. Of course nothing open up till 7 or 8, so we simply sat outside of the train station, freezing our butts off trying to get a few extra zzzzzzz in as we waited.

Once everything opened up, we were able to find the only McDonalds in town to use the free bathroom (oh how I miss free bathrooms) to change and brush our teeth. We got some snacks for the day and simply did what we do best, walked around for hours. Venice is such a bizarre city. Who was the retard that thought that using a system of canals and boats would be a good way for ALL transportation in the city?  I saw a ambulance boat, a police boat, a gas station boat…you name it. There is not a single car in that city, only long skinny boats, and gondolas.  There is a reason why old Venice is nothing but a tourist town, because it makes no sense what so ever to have a city that runs by boats. All it is are a bunch of shops and restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Venice, but man it had a different feeling to it. And also, everything is a lot more expensive in Venice.  The Paolo Cathedral in Venice is simply breathtaking though. Inside, the who top half of the cathedral is made up of a giant mosaic. Everything in that cathedral was a mosaic. Unfortunately they are really strict about not taking any pictures of it so I could only take mental pictures.

 The only hiccup in our trip was trying to figure out a place to stay the last night. We had plans to stay with a friend of mine, but when that fell through we needed to find somewhere to stay. I had no money left and was mentally exhausted but willing to sleep in the train station that night if need be. Tyler was not up for that. So eventually we found a hotel to stay at that was a little more expensive than we wanted, but it was all that was left for such late notice. At this point, the lack of sleep had caught up to us. Once in the hotel, around 5 pm, we were both in our beds and would fall asleep soon after. The flight home the next morning went smooth and well.

Now I can finally check off a lot of things from my bucket list. It has been such a good time, and was definitely worth it.

Sorry if this is a long blog… even as so I had to eliminate a lot of things because I didn’t want it to be extremely long.  I’m always thinking about my followers ha.

P.s Pictures are on facebook so check them out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's been a while

Hey everyone, sorry for such a delay in writing a blog. I have been trying to write a blog after something major happens. Since you haven't seen any new blogs, that's simply because you guessed it, nothing major has happened.

Due to the lack of trips, I'll update you all on the craziness that will be happening for the remainder of the semester. A friend told me today as we were leaving school that out of the remaining 80 days of the semester that is left, only 38 of those are school days. That leaves 42 (I'm good with math) of holidays, weekends and breaks.  From this weekend on, I only have 1 or 2 open weekends in which I do not have a.) a school planned trip or b.) a Jonathan planned trip.

Here is what the remainder of my semester looks like:

1. Milan/Rome/Venice (4 day weekend)
2. Toledo (school planned) *stay tuned Glen
3. Taylor visits!
4. Ronda (school planned)
5. Granada (being planned)
6. Santander/Paris/Madrid [Holy Week]
7. Italica (school planned) & possibly Barcelona
8. London/Portugal (Feria)
9. Free Weekend
10. USA bound

Now with all of that planned, and it costing a little of money, my hostel stays will most likely be the cheapest I can find. I may be starving myself (Emily and Daniel, remember CR??) while in Paris or sleeping next to the Vatican due to lack of funds, but hey I made it right??! That's all the matters, memories.

As for school, all is well. Grammar isn't to fun. It sucks learning spanish one way, and then having to change what you learned because they use 'vosotros' here. 'Usted' and 'Ustedes' is perfectly fine, but not according to Carmen (grammar prof).  It kills me! Other than that, first round of tests came and went smoothly. I spend countless hours every night being studious and reviewing everything from class that day, psych. But seriously, I'm alive over here and still starving as usual from all the weird meal time hours. For example it is 9:30 right now, and my senora just got home to start cooking. I"MMMMM STARVING!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Acción Solidaria

I want to start off by thanking Emily for thoroughly explaining how to use the accent marks (notice the title and its appropriate tilde).

You may be asking yourself what 'acción solidaria' is, well I was asking myself that same thing up until about yesterday afternoon when I was able to see first hand what exactly it is. Acción Solidaria is a community outreach. A chance for us to reach out into our community and help out with whatever we can.

This is done in many different ways. Some classmates are working closely with a nursing home, others are tutoring young children, others are mentoring troubled teenagers, and then there is the ONCE, which is my outreach. Organizacion National de Ciegos de España. Again in english Organization National of Blinds of Spain (perfect translation sounds funky but you get the picture). This is going to be where I will be helping out once a week on Mondays for the next few months with whatever I can. One of the men in charge gave me and the other person helping from our group a little synopsis of what we might encounter while helping out. It varies between simply going to the blind person's house and taking them to a doctors appointment, simply accompanying them to the park, taking them to listen to concerts, or even to play soccer! We are the eyes. Now I need to explain the last activity about playing soccer with blind people. Completely foreign to me on all cylinders. The only difference is that blind soccer consists of a ball that has a siren or beeping noise and on a smaller field. He told us that as the guides, we may be involved by either being blindfolded to level the playing field, or we may be the designated ones to direct the blinds to where the goal is. Either one of those sounds like a blast to do. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what lies a head of me with this ministry.