lunes, 17 de septiembre de 2012

Weekend in Lagos

 Portugal was easily top three greatest times of my life. Its one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and the weather was fantastic all weekend. It was a longgg bus trip there (6.5 hours total) but it was well worth it, we left Madrid at 1am on Friday and got to Sevilla at around 7am. The bus to Lagos didn't leave until 1:30 so we had some time to kill and got to explore Sevilla which was awesome. Out of our group of Syracuse kids there were only 5 boys Brad, Josh, Joe, Brian and me; and we all split a tour of Sevilla in a horse and buggy which was a lot of fun and allowed us to see everything in a short time. Sevilla is a beautiful small city with amazing old architecture and a beautiful central park. After the buggy tour we were walking around looking for food and we stumbled upon heaven... they have Dunkin Donuts in Europe, but I gotta say its not nearly as good as the real thing. From there we headed off with the group to hop on the bus and head to Lagos which is about another 3 hour or so ride.
 We ended up geting to Lagos around 4:30 and our hotel was gorgeous, its called AquaLuz and its a 4 star resort only blocks from downtown and the beach!  Once we got there we dropped our stuff in our rooms and headed down to the beach in the cliffs called Praia Dona Ana.

 We spent the rest of the day there hanging out, swimming, playing games and sangria. After a few hours we headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. For dinner 12 of us went to this really nice seafood restaurant and I got a bowl of cream of shrimp soup and a tuna steak with potatoes and veggies which was wicked good; and the best part was it was pretty cheap only 10 euros for the fish and 2 for the soup. Then we went off to this club down the street where Discover Seville (the company we went with) rented out a club for us. That was a lot of fun and it was a small place and we pretty much took it filled it up since there was about 120 or so of us total on the trip. Saturday we woke up for breakfast a little before 10 and ate by the pool then hopped on the bus and headed down to the wharf for the sangria cruise, but because of the fog we had to wait until it cleared and went to the beach close by called Meia Praia for the morning. This was a hugeee beach that had beautiful white sand and some good waves. We played football for a little bit, then had a 3 on 3 game of soccer on the beach and swam until 1. At 1 we walked back to the wharf and got on the sail boats for the sangria cruise. There was 60+ of us so we had to take two of these big 50ft sailboats. We made sure to get all 25 of us who had come from the Syracuse program on the same boat which made it 10x more fun. 

 We took the boats out to the cliffs where we dropped anchor and hung out there for the entire time, when we dropped anchor it was time for swimming and jumping off the boat (obviously my idea). While people were swimming 8 kids at a time got to hop on the skiff and take a tour of the cliffs which have all been named by fisherman back in the day, so for example there is the kitchen, the garage, the living room and so on. The cliffs were magnificent, the are so pretty and it was so cool to go inside of them and you can see the layers and layers of old shells and sand that have built up over time to form them. 

 Hanging out on the boat swimming and doing flips off the boat was a blast and in the spirit of Europe some of us may or may not of swam European style briefly... YOLO. Then it was back to the beach where we grabbed lunch and hung out briefly before heading back to the Bus to go back to the hotel. 
 Back at the hotel we went swimming in the pool and hung out at the pool for a little where we played dibble which is where some take a bottle cap and put is on the bottom and you have to wait on the pool deck until you think you see it before you jump in and try and grab it all in one fluid motion. After the pool it was off to the showers and we headed back to the bus to go to a place called Sangres also known as the end of the world, which is about 40 mins away to watch the sun set over the ocean from the cliffs. It was so beautiful out there and we saw dolphins jumping too as the sun was setting it was an amazing view.

 Once the sun set we hopped back on the bus and into town for dinner. This time I tried the sea bass, which came out as a whole fish head and all! It was good fish and again very cheap which is amazing compared to home. After dinner we walked back to the hotel where Brian and I played pool before showering and heading back into town to the bar where we were meeting everyone. The next morning it was up at 9:30 for breakfast and then we (the Syracuse kids) headed off to Praia Dona Ana again to spend our last half day at the beach while the rest of the group got surf lessons at Praia. 

The last day at the beach was a lot of fun it was just us which was a blast, I got buried in the sand and we went cliff jumping which was pretty sweet. Then it was the long journey back, left at 5:15 got back to Sevilla at around 10:30 then grabbed a quick bite before our 7 hour bus ride back to Madrid where we got in at 5:30 this morning and i've only slept 2 hours since! Good thing I don't have class till noon tomorrow. Well tomorrow's a big day we're going to the Man City vs. Real Madrid Champions League game... 12 rows off the pitch couldn't be more pumped so until next week thats a wrap!

lunes, 10 de septiembre de 2012

 Its now been one week since I've been in Madrid. Madrid is a huge city with many different parts to it, Sol is the main nightlife area, Salamanca is the neighborhood I live in, and Almagro is the area that our school is in, just to name a few. Madrid kind of reminds me of New York in a way it has the same sort of feeling and a lot of the hustle and bustle that comes with such a big city. The funny thing about Madrid is that there are all kinds of people here; pretty much every corner store is owned by Asians who speak Spanish with Asian accents which sounds pretty bizarre, there are a lot of Indian people, and then tons of tourists from all over the world as well as the 10,000 plus American students study abroad all over Madrid.
 While here myself and Colman Tishler, another St. Mike's kid, are living together with a host mother, or Senora, named Paloma. She's a really nice older woman who lives with her daughter and her daughter's husband. We got lucky enough to live in a house so there are three floors; the top floor is where here daughter and her husband live, the 1st floor is where Paloma lives as well as where the kitchen and such is, and the basement is where Colman and I live. Its nice to have our own floor cause we get more space and we don't have to worry about being to neat all time because she never comes down here anyways.
 The program I came abroad through is Syracuse University's abroad program, but we study at the International Institute in Madrid which is also used by USC, BU, and Stanford. For us classes started officially last Wednesday an we had 3 days of the equivalent of syllabus week. I'm taking 5 classes this semester; Money and Banking and Economics of the EU are my classes taught in english and then Colonial Latin America, Spanish Society and Pop Culture, and Spanish IV are all taught completely in Spanish. Its definitely kind of weird having classes all in Spanish but luckily so far I've been able to understand everything my teachers say and hopefully my comprehension will only get better as the semester goes on. This week classes kick off and we actually have to start paying attention, but considering class only lasts about 5 hours its not to bad.
 It's been a great first week in Madrid and its nice to finally be settled in because I'm starting to feel more comfortable and get a rhythm which is always nice. I've bumped into a couple of my friends from high school  as well which has been fun and it'll be nice to see them throughout the semester as well. This weekend a bunch of us are headed of to the beach town of Lagos, Portugal to surf, swim and hangout which should be a blast, so i'll make sure to brag about how much fun it was next week, but until then nos vemos!

domingo, 9 de septiembre de 2012

 I left the states on August 21st and just arrived in Spain the other day on September 2nd. For the two weeks in between my arrival and my departure I was on my program's seminar for business and economics students called Eurovision. Eurovision was a seminar where we travelled to 5 different countries visiting different political/economic institutions and businesses. We started in Heidelberg, Germany where we stayed for our first four days, Heidelberg is very old city with a lot of charm and culture. For a small city it is very diverse in terms of the people that live there and believe it or not but it gets quite a lot of tourism because when we were there I'm pretty sure I saw more tourists walking around than locals. Heidelberg was a great place for us to start because it literally has one main street so it was a good place for us to adjust to life in europe and get to know each other since it's impossible to get lost on one street. Although we stayed Heidelberg the purpose of our visit to Germany was Deutsche Bank's head quarters in Frankfurt, Germany. We only went into Frankfurt for one day, our second day there, and it is a very built up city that when you see it is quite clearly a financial hub. While in the big city we went and walked around the EU building before our meeting, then we headed over to Deutsche Bank and got a talk about the history of the Bank and the role they play in the global financial world. The best part though was getting a tour of the Audi factory, unfortunately we didn't get free Audis but the plant was really cool and we saw some sweet R8s and even some models that haven't come out in the US yet. After Heidelberg we went off to Amsterdam for 3 days; Amsterdam is a neat city and full of interesting people, it is 7 feet below sea level (or 7 miles as one of my friends was convinced) and so there a serious of canals that create horseshoe shapes through the city. In Amsterdam we visited the Anne Frank house which was really neat to see, the houses in Amsterdam aver very skinny but long in order to avoid higher property taxes so the space where Anne and her family was very very small and it really made you appreciate how they did it for over 2 years. That night for dinner school treated us to a 5 star meal at a local restaurant which was pretty awesome, and then from there we went off to explore Amsterdam. At the conclusion of Amsterdam visit we stopped for a tour and tasting at the Heineken factory which is about 40 mins outside of Amsterdam.
 It was a good tour and I never realized just how big of a company Heineken was until that visit, the tasting at the end wasn't too shabby either. From Amsterdam it was on to Belgium where we stayed in the old small city of Bruges, which was a beautiful city with great architecture, but the purpose of our stay was to Visit the European Parliament and European Commission.
 The European Parliament was kind of a disappointment because we couldn't see the chamber because there were cracks in the ceiling and the guy who spoke to us was very boring and went on forever. The European Commission was a lot better, we had a English guy with a great sense of humor talk to us about the Commission and tax policy in Europe, which to his credit, he made interesting.

After Belgium it was on to Paris for a few days where we saw all the sights, had a great fancy 5 course meal underneath the glass pyramid at the Louvre, climbed the Eiffel Tower, visited the Arc de Triomphe, walked the Champ d'Elysees, and got a boat cruise on the Seine river. The business we visited while in Paris was a international ad agency called Publicis Groupe, they do a lot of work for many of the biggest companies in the world, their office was a really cool modern building and we got talked to by an  
American guy who has been working there for the last 8 years. From Paris it was on to Bordeaux where we spent less than 24 hours, while there we got to visit Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and who happened to be there right before us but Spur's star SG Tony Parker. The vineyard was a really cool place and it was huge, they said they produce around 40,000 bottles of wine a year, we got a tour of the barrel storage area's, the fermentation area, and then we got to try a red and white wine. Bordeaux was a much bigger city that I expected, its right on the Gironde Estuary and has a lot of cool buildings, but again we weren't there long so I didn't get to see too much. After France we made it into Spain and stopped in San Sebastian in the northern Basque country for a night. In San Sebastian we got shown around by a woman who does wine and culinary tourism, San Sebastian is a food mecca, she took us through the big market and to a culinary club where we got to sample some cheeses, the traditional wine and cider and the best part we got an amazing lunch. We had fish soup/chowder, salad, chicken and melon for dessert. It was really cool visit and interesting to learn about the history of these culinary clubs which started out as all male clubs where guys would share recipes and ideas and cook for each other, smoke cigars and play cards. Since San Sebastian is in the Basque country it was a pretty different place not only because they speak Basque which is a pre Macedonian language but they also are separatist and want to be their own country from Spain. It is a costal city so we got to eat a lot of good sea food and of course we spent all our free time at the beach. The next day it was back on the bus and on to Madrid, I'm looking forward to finally settling in and to the semester ahead.