miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2012

Visit to the Homeland to hang with leprechauns

 This past weekend I too my first pilgrimage to Ireland to visit a couple of my irish friends. It was my first time flying in Europe since we landed and I went the the ever safe and reliable Ryanair whose reputation precedes itself. Turns out its not actually all that bad and I didn't end up dying thankfully but it has to be the most bizarre airline, might as well of just been a hallow alloy shell we all sat in. First of you have to get there early so that you can get to the front of the line when the board since they don't assign seats (thats the first warning sign you actually get what you paid for), and European airports I've noticed were built with making it easy to get to your gate in time since it takes about 20 mins to walk there from security. Next they don't actually have their own gates so they share with other cheap airlines yet all the employees at the desk are the same. So you finally get on the plane and its completely bright yellow, not even kidding so bright you need sunglasses or else you will go blind. Then you pick a seat and watch as everyone else behind you piles on and frantically tries to get the best seats available. Then heres the kicker, its true they have advertisements up everywhere, and you can only bring a suitcase the size of kids lunch box, and they make advertising announcements every 10 mins for the entire flight. And if things could get worse you get airborne and you lean your chair back to sleep... but oh wait the seats don't go back.

Anyways got there thursday night and that night my friends took me to what they described as an "Irish Institution" called Coppers which is a bar/night club. It was a good time and packed full of Irish people, so I got an authentic experience. Friday we woke up really late at like 2 and then my friend Steve showed me the sights around Dublin. We both are big into golf and I know him from my golf club back home cause he worked there with me last summer, so we obviously went into this golf shop and I obviously couldn't leave without buying something so I got this sick gor-tex pullover jacket, then since we both felt broke after being there we went to Subway for lunch. Since it was freezing cold out we watched a lot of movies and American sitcoms (they love that stuff for some reason) so we watched a movie and then for the second night in a row ordered pizza, really authentic Irish cuisine. That night we went to a friend of his house outside of the city for her 21st birthday party. It was a blast, but it was hilarious because although everyone speaks english and it seemed enough like a normal American house party TO a certain extent, I felt so lost sometimes because I swear Irish english is a different language altogether.
 Saturday we drove out to his hometown of Kilkenny to hangout there and eat a home cooked meal, 3 nights of pizza was not happening. Kilkenny is a country town, very different from Dublin, but its beautiful out there. It has rolling grassy hills everywhere you look and fields for as far as you can see. The town of Kilkenny itself is a small quaint little town with cobblestone streets lined with little shops. We walked around the city a little bit and went up to see the Castle of Kilkenny as well. Compared to all of the other Spanish/Muslim/French/Roman castles I've seen it was much smaller but way more dark and medieval looking. We got lucky while in Kilkenny because there happened to be a food festival going on so we walked through tons of tents in the town square all selling different kinds of foods and deserts.

 For dinner we went to his family's house for a home cooked traditional Irish meal that his mom cooked for us. For dinner we had meat, boiled potatoes, roasted potatoes, veggies, and gravy; I have never eaten so much food in my life and it was so nice to have a meal like that after being away from home for 2 and a half months. For desert we had apple pie which I was so excited to see and this big meringue and cream tart with fruit. It was amazing and I felt so spoiled eating it all but also so lucky to be able to do so since I have friends from the country and they invited me into their house. His family was the nicest and his mom was so funny, she was so nice and it was hilarious because she was asking me all theses questions about the US for example "is it true at dinner you guys have these big bowls of food and pass them around the table like you see on tv shows?". We were only in Kilkenny for the day so we headed back to Dublin after dinner and when we got back we all watched a movie and then went to the movies to see the new James Bond movie. Sunday we walked around this huge new mall in Dublin for a little bit and then it was back off to the airport and home to Madrid.

 I know I've neglected my blog over the last two weeks but I'm back and theres a lot to catch up on. So two weeks ago now (October 20th) school offered a free day trip to Segovia for whoever was interested and so a bunch of my friends and I went, because who would turn down a free trip to tour Spain? Segovia was really cool and very very different from Madrid because it is a much older (and smaller) city. Segovia's claim to fame is their roast suckled pig and their 2000+ year old Roman aquaduct. It was incredible to see because you really don't realize your in Spain when you see it, it is enormous and the craziest part is it has been sitting there for the last 2000 years, through wind and rain and its not even held together with cement, just the power of engineering and arches. Besides from the aquaduct Segovia has lots of medieval history and buildings as well as remnants from the renaissance, its a lot like a cliff on the shore that has layers marking different periods in history.

 In all there were fourteen of us and one teacher, Medina who is the absolute man, it was nice having a small group because we got to see way more things and have a much more personal tour. We went to see the cathedral, which is relatively young at only a measly 500 years old, we also got to go see Isabella's castle which is built on the edge of a huge cliff looking over the country side. The castle has a foundation which is thought to be Roman, then the building itself is detailed with the classic Muslim prints, and the inside looks like Spanish medieval castle; so the castle itself in a way reflects the city itself with the different layers of history. The views the castle were incredible and we got an even better view when went up to the top of the castle tower, from there you could see for miles into the country side and all of the city of Segovia. After the Castle we had some down time and went to this really old restaurant that was started in the 1700's and is still run by the same family, its now the 4th generation that is the owner and his son is the head chef. This place, and Segovia in general, is famous for roast suckled pig... sorry to let you down but no I didn't eat it, its legit a whole pig so I skipped it and went for a spanish omelet. 

 After lunch we met up at a bakery where Medina bought us all coffee and introduced us to the famous desert of Segovia called "el ponche segoviano". Then we headed back to Madrid only a shirt hour and a half drive away up this huge mountain where you get lost in the fog at the top at 1900 meters (6233 ft). 

miércoles, 17 de octubre de 2012

La Roja

 I'm going to keep this one quick since realistically I'm writing it as a form of procrastinating from studying for my Spanish midterm. Last night on a whim me and 10 of my friends bought tickets for the World Cup Qualifier game between Spain and France. Being a huge soccer fan and especially a huge Spain fan (since when I was 12 we didn't have a team worth rooting for and its still true today) it was an awesome opportunity that I couldn't pass up and especially being abroad a lot of things we do are unplanned and on the whim, thats half the fun of it. Hopping on the metro down there was an experience in its own, the train was packeddd legit I'd rather of been a sardine in a can then go through being squished and unintentionally (I hope) groped by random people. At the stadium stop everyone flooded off onto the platform and it took a good 15 minutes to get out of the station with all of the traffic. The streets were much of the same story, once you got to within 2 blocks of the stadium streets were blocked off and filled with people. If the atmosphere outside the stadium wasn't already cool enough the atmosphere inside was even crazier. Since it was an international match and for 1st place of Group I for the 2014 World Cup stakes were high and of course all of us took the game seriously so for the few hundred French fans it meant living in hell for a good 3 hours or so.

 We had an awesome view of the field from behind the goal and the game was a good one... for the first half. Spain scored early which got everyone amped up, and then it started to fall apart; Fabregas (supposed to be one of the better players for Spain but anyone who knows anything knows its not true) missed a PK at the end of the first and then the second half was some of the sloppiest soccer I've ever seen. It looked like they eek out the win though and in the 93rd minute we were all up on our feet cheering the win in anticipation for the final whistle, and then the nightmare came true. The new right defender Juanfran, who had just been called up this year to fill in for the injured legend Puyol, made a careless mistake and to make a long story short France scored in the 94th minute to tie it. The tie was disappointing but it was still an amazing experience and awesome to get to see the national team play, I will definitely never forget it.
 Getting home was interesting, we figured since the green line would be packed we'd walk to the grey line since it looked close on the metro map... note to self metro maps aren't made to scale. So I asked a cop for directions and he tells me its over the bridge and a 20 min walk from there. To save myself all of the embarrassment we ended up walking 45 mins wayyyyy out of the way and catching the yellow line instead like 2 miles from where the stop we were trying to find was. Yeah I'm great with directions I know. Alright back to studying for spanish, wish me luck! Nos vemos

lunes, 15 de octubre de 2012

Familiar Faces

Yesterday I met up with a family friend from home father Dani, he's a young preist from the N. of Spain who used to be a preist at our parish back home. I recently found out he has a huge role and deals with all the publicity for the Vatican, the Jesuits in Africa, and is constantly travelling the world on business so I feel lucky he could spare a couple hours for me. I went to mass at his church which was on the opposite side of the city from me and I got ridiculously ost of course, but I ended up only being 5 mins late. After mass he took me out with one of his childhood friends to a local bar for a beer and tapas. It was so much fun to be able to hangout with them because A) they're both hilarious guys and really friendly as well but B) Dani wouldn't speak a word of english to me or let me speak english to it was awesome to be fully and immersed and even better to realize my spanish is all coming back to me and I didn't have one problem understanding or speaking even though they were speaking really fast. After 2 months of being here I no longer feel like a tourist and feel more and more immersed into the Spanish culture. The crazy thing is while I'm just starting to get good and feel at home I'm more than halfway through with my time here and it feels even shorter since I'll be gone 5 out of the last 7 weekends. But I'm doing whatever possible to not think about that. Anyways I'm hoping the next 10 days fly by so I can go to Ireland already and thats all I got for now, hasta luego!

miércoles, 10 de octubre de 2012

School paid for me to hangout on the beach in Barcelona

 This past weekend (first weekend of October) we had the last trip of our Eurovison Seminar. For our trip we had the great fortune of going off to Barcelona for 4 days and 3 nights. Theres a good and a bad with this; we spent 8 miserable hours on a bus each way, but the nice part was we stayed in a wicked nice hotel right in the heart of the city and they took us out to a huge seafood lunch on Saturday. 
 Barcelona is such a sick city because it is right on the Mediterranean, has amazing architecture and is a very vibrant and lively place. The main street in the city is called La Rambla and its full of people, shops and restaurants; its also the biggest tourist trap in the world. One night me and one of my friend fell for it at a tapas bar and ended up spending 22 euro on two little, not very good tapas and 2 Fosters... ripoffff. Clearly I didn't learn my lesson either, to make a long story short I lost 50 euro to a guy on the street who was tricking people with the 3 cups and a ball and trying to guess which cup the balls under; so which cup is the ball under? In case you're wondering the ball isn't under any of them! He takes the ball out when hes taking you're money... fun day.
 I got lucky, since Lilly studied abroad there last semester she gave the hookups for all the best places to eat. This placed called Milk has the best breakfast I've had in Europe, they had the classic American specialities such as french toast, pancakes, and even breakfast burgers. Then for dinners we ate at a hole in the wall sandwich joint called Bo de B and it was so good we went the last 2 nights in a row. You get a huge sandwich loaded with whatever toppings you want on a fresh baguette for only 3.80 euros, its an absolute steal. The night life is crazy there too theres so many clubs by the water and its a hopping places with tons of clubs, bars, and casinos. The last night I was finally feeling better and we went to the Ice Bar which was so sick. Its -8 degrees celsius inside and everything is made of ice... literally everything the cups, the seats, the tables it was unreal. They give you a jacket and gloves when you go in and after 30 mins you're cold. But it was definitely something to check off the bucket list.
 The best part about the trip was all the sights in Barcelona... except I didn't get to see those either cause I had the great fortune of getting the flu the day we left. That put a damper on the weekend but I still got to explore a little when we would go out for lunch or dinner. Theres so many old buildings that are still erect and in good shape that in certain parts it feels like you some how went back in time and are walking through a medieval city or even a roman city. Plus its right on the water so we spent a lot of time at the beach plus they have fresh seafood which school bought us for lunch on saturday. 
 Barcelona is an awesome city and its beautiful, when we first got there I wondered why I didn't study abroad there, but after the weekend I'm glad it was only a weekend because its pretty touristy and kind dirty too. It was a fun weekend and I'm glad I got to see it before it becomes its own country...

Sunday when we got back we went to this Irish bar we go to a lot called Dubliners to watch el clasico which is when the two superpowers Barcelona plays Real Madrid, its a huge deal like Red Sox v. Yankees in the ALCS or Bruins Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was fun to be in there with the atmosphere from the game and I of course reped my Barca jersey and wasn't fazed by the hecklers. Game ended in a tie 2-2 with the two superstars Messi and Ronaldo scoring all the goals. Just our luck after that game the Pats game was on the big screen so we got the best of both worlds. During the Pats game we ended up making a couple Spanish friends to, so we got to practice our Spanish and culture ourselves a little bit. Well thats all I got for now so until next time hasta luego!

miércoles, 3 de octubre de 2012

Stay to the right... or just walk wherever

 When you're growing up you're always taught to stay the right when walking and always give me the right of way and such... Apparently they don't teach that in Madrid, people walk wherever the hell they wanna walk. I can't even start to count how many times I've played chicken with people on the sidewalks and lost because I assume they're going to move to the right and then they force me into the street. The best part is the sidewalks here in my neighborhood are barely big enough for me to fit on in the first place. I guess its not completely their fault though because the escalators are backwards as well.
 It makes it even more fun walking on the sidewalks because dog's here aren't potty trained, so they feel free to poop all over the sidewalk and I get to play a fun game of don't step in the crap on my way to school everyday. Usually they'll sit there for weeks until it rains too and its hilarious because I'll see one in the morning and then when I come home there will be a foot print in it.
 Anyways midterms are over until November and I'm off to Barcelona so I'll tell you guys all about it when I get back. Hasta pronto

martes, 2 de octubre de 2012

PDA in Spain

 So before I get into the hilarious details of how shameless Spaniards are about PDA I gotta talk about how hilarious class was today when my whole classes showed up for our midterm without studying except for like 4 of us and literally tried begging and guilting the professor into moving the test to next week... it was a joke. One kid thought he was tough and decided to get up and hand in a blank test a minute after they were handed out cause he's wicked cool and everything. Then you actually open the test and it wasn't bad at all... rookies.
 Anyways now that thats out of the system on to uncomfortable awkward PDA here. So ever since I got here I've noticed Spaniards thoroughly enjoy PDA. It doesn't matter where it is subway, park, cafe, street, escalator, crosswalk, you name a place they PDA all over it like its their job. Best part about it is its not just like holding hands and giggling or sneaking a kiss in when no ones looking, no they don't mess around this is like full of clothed intimacy; they go big or they don't do it at all.
 I have to take the metro, which I still call the T, to school everyday and I gotta say I'm starting to contemplate walking instead. At least 4 times just on the subway ride there I am confront by a couple age 14-43 ravenously making out on the platform next to me. Then on the train there the couple sitting down or standing in the corning eating each others faces off, then when I switch theres another couple dry humping on the escalator down, and finally one more on the platform before I finally get to school.
 If you haven't tried it yet I recommend you find a couple attempting to procreate with clothes on and stand right next to them, most uncomfortable thing you'll ever do but after that you can say you've been to Spain because when people ask you how it was you can tell them about the PDA and they'll think you're a local. Doesn't get anymore awkward than that, strangest thing is its an accepted practice... go figure.
 After that lecture on PDA we're gonna discuss dogs, dogs pooping on the sidewalk, and sidewalk etiquette in Spain... or lack there of. I know you won't sleep tonight in excitement for my blog tomorrow, so drink a lot of coffee tomorrow. Buenas noches

lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

I'm back, recap of the last 2 weeks

 Its been a couple weeks since my last post due to a combination of being busy and laziness so theres a lot thats gone on in those last couple weeks. The soccer match the other week between Real Madrid and Machester City was incredible, literally couldn't of asked for a better ending. We had amazing seats 12 rows back from the field in the corner by the Machester goal in the second half (the spot where all the goals were scored). Man City starting the scoring in the 2nd half and it went back and forth until it was 2-1 City with less than 10 mins left they scored to tie it and then Ronaldo scored the game winner in the 90th minute and ran over to our corner for our celebration. the atmosphere is the stadium was like nothing else i've ever seen and the streets after the game were overflowing with the 80,000 people who were at the game and other people who had been in the bars around the stadium. It was an amazing experience that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. After the game at this Irish bar me and my friend Wes ran into a Man City fan who we started to talking to and he invited us to go hangout with him and his friends and so we made friends with some English guys and we talked and they told us jokes for a good three hours. I don't think I've laughed so hard in my life, when we were saying our goodbyes we had told them how we were going to London and they told us it wasn't worth it and if we decided to come to Manchester instead they'd bring us to a game and show us around and now we're going to Manchester as well! After the game and hanging out with the English blokes it was a great and unforgettable night.
 Fall is finally here in Spain and its been a lot chillier than I would have expected, we've had weather in the low 60's for the last week or so which has been great because the 80's and sunny everyday was starting to get a little old and sleeping without AC is brutal. Fall in Spain isn't quite the same though the leaves aren't changing yet and frankly there aren't all that many trees to change anyways. Its great to have sweatshirt weather though and although this is no New England fall, fall is my favorite season so it'll do.
 Last weekend we had a ton of rain which is great for the ground but there was some pretty major flooding in the south of the country kind of like in southern VT last fall. The wind we got was crazy though it made it a little difficult to walk sometimes which provided some great entertainment when out and about. The other big news here has been the rioting thats been going on over tax hike and austerity measures the government is imposing. Luckily I haven't been close to any of them but they've turned pretty violent and hundreds of SWAT policeman end up swarming the massive crowds of thousands of people. I've only seen it on TV and online but I've never seen more people in one place at the same time, and they actually formed a ring around the parliament to barricade policymakers inside. Things are definitely heating up here with the economic situation in Europe only getting worse, but its neat to be here to witness history in the making first hand.
 Since I've been here I've been noticing a lot of things here that seem strange to me compared to back home, since theres so many I'm going to break them up and do a couple each day for the next week or so. So look forward to tomorrow to hear about how the Spanish love PDA and will go as far as you can with clothes on in all public areas with no shame. Until then I have to actually study, go figure right.
Hasta manana