Wednesday, May 20

come back!

Wednesday, May 20
FYI! I hope you keep this blog in your tabs-- I am beginning to upload pictures to the entries from the month that don't have them yet, as well as add hostel, restaurant, and tour advice and names. So check it out! :)

Sunday, May 17

that's all...for now

Sunday, May 17

Here ends the stories of my travels in Europe! I know the other thoughts are a little scattered but I'll sum up the return. Kathy and I left the next day (she was heading back to the US early) to head back to Maastricht through France over two days of travel. We rode back through Barcelona and killed time and had an amazing lunch. We went through the seediest train station ever at the Spanish/French border. We made a friend there. We braved the Paris metro (to switch train stations) early in the morning. We endured the ridiculous wait for the platform number to appear on the Paris Nord timetable. We were literally the only passengers on the train from Liege to Maastricht.

And finally, we arrived at home sweet home- blossoming with flowers and sunshine. Seriously?! Since when had Maastricht become the Garden of Eden? And it was lovely. I spent the rest of my time there cleaning, packing, and walking around the city. A huge group of us went out on our last night to Nora's, a kebab place that we had started to consider our spot. Then, it was time to come home.

Tuesday, May 12

lies of hollywood part 2!

Tuesday, May 12
April 19

In the morning, I met up with Jenny, a friend from church who goes to SMU. She's studying in Madrid this semester. We all spent the morning at Rastro Market- the largest market in Europe! No lie, it is as big as a neighborhood, and you could find almost anything you've ever wanted there.

By noon it was extremely packed (as Madrid often seems to be!) so we headed to the enormous, beautiful Parque Retiro for lunch and helado. It had a gorgeous pond with people lazily rowing boats and enjoying the sunshine.

(And again, the ridiculous street performers...props to Mickey and Minnie, standing outside and taking family pictures like we were at Disneyland, haha.)

We found the beautiful Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), a pastel pink and glass structure next to a pond. We relaxed in front of the palace on the bright green grass for a good while, enjoying strawberry ice cream and the calm, cool air.

After much debate, I mustered up the guts to attend a bullfight with Jenny, Kaitlyn, and Kathy. Let's be honest. The only knowledge I had of toreadors came from a VHS clip of Goofy Goof as a bumbling, kindly matador. So I was a little shocked when Jenny explained the show to me. I'll tell you a little about it, but I won't chronicle the graphicness- you can read about it here. (This is Las Ventas, one of the best known arena for bullfights)

First of all, there are different groups of people that stab the bull before the toreador even comes out into the ring. Second, they kill the bull at the end. I am glad I went, because it was an eye-opening cultural experience.

I could understand appreciation for a talented and graceful toreador, but at the same time it wasn't the romantic, subtle dance I was expecting.

When Jenny headed back to her host home for dinner, the rest of us were hoping to catch a flamenco show, but once we arrived at the venue (early, to see what it would be like) the area was a little too seedy for nighttime, so sadly we missed out on this. We did however want to indulge in a tradition: churros y chocolate.

These aren't your creepy Six Flags Grandpa's churros! And the chocolate is thicker than a cup of hot chocolate. It's quite rich.

We enjoyed the friendliness of the waiters who spoke a little English, and then headed back to get some sleep.

Oh yes, I can tell you about a dinner experience we had (not sure what night this was) that finally makes sense to us now. We had a friendly but non-English-speaking waiter one night. Our table was in the basement area of the restaurant, and as we left, he passed us with wide eyes. "Besitos, besitos!" he cried and also looked like he was going to cry tears of joy. ("Little kisses" in Spanish). We were utterly speechless as to why he would lavish such praise upon us. You see, this whole time we had been leaving a tips at restaurants. But Jenny keyed us in to the fact that in Spain, no tip is just ask for la cuenta and go on your way! Glad those besitos had a basis!!

Tuesday, May 5

my trip to the hundred acre wood?

Tuesday, May 5
April 18

In the afternoon, we wandered to Plaza Mayor, and were greeted by a mariachi band and a ton of street performers.

For some reason, Pooh Bear is exceptionally popular among Spaniards...we saw 4 Poohs within 100 feet of each other! Hahaha.

Enjoy also this aging Spiderman, and an odd couple:

Next we walked to La Basilica de Santa Maria, one of my favorites. The ceilings were so colorful!

Then we visited my favorite palace of the entire trip. Palacio Real. Man this thing is a beast. We didn't even plan on going in, but some of us really needed to find a restroom and paying the entrance fee was our only option. As we walked through the first three rooms, we all realized this palace is WAY more ornate than Versailles. We couldn't take pictures of the inside, so check them out here.Outside, the surreal Spanish clouds greeted us. The Prado art museum is free at night, so it was our next stop. We made sure to see "the bot" and the Spanish masters. (I should explain...our Dutch Art History professor was obcessed with Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Delights, and loved to point out the questionable sexual acts occurring in the painting, including a man with flowers coming out of his bot [English= butt]).

We didn't make it to the Reina Sofia- thus one of my regrets of the trip is not being able to see Picasso's Guernica. However, Madrid is definitely a really cool city with lots to see and do.


April 17

The train from Barcelona to Madrid was heavenly!

The whole process was like an airport, only less stressful. I changed into shorts so my legs could continue to recover from the sunburn. We watched a movie (Meet Dave-- superbly bad acting of Eddie Murphy with a just as questionable Spanish dub), stretched out in the super nice chairs, and the "stewardesses" handed out candy at the end of the ride...yes please!

The weather in Madrid wasn't much better, but we checked into our hostel and the six of us met up with Chris again at La Plaza Mayor, a happening place. There was a group of happy people singing and dancing so we enjoyed the music even though it was drizzling.
After a fun reunion dinner at an all you can eat buffet (complete with flan!) we headed back to the hostel to dress up for a night unlike any other. Let me preface this by saying it was a cultural experience more than anything else.

Kapital is a famous seven-story club, each floor with different music. We went with two of Amanda's friends who are studying abroad in Spain this semester. The club doesn't really get started until waaay after midnight, and by then it is completely packed. Packed. We arrived at 12:30 and stayed until close...6 a.m. Yes, I know. You are surprised! Somehow time is weird in Madrid. It is always later than you think it is. We were shocked when we looked at the clock for the first time and realized it was already 3:45.

Surprisingly, and perhaps unfortunately, there were way more guys than girls, and Spanish guys (at least the ones here) were very forward and direct. I fended off numerous males but considered it an opportunity to practice my Spanish at least! In fact as I reflected later I realized I used the most Spanish of the trip at Kapital!

Anyway, we did have fun dancing, although I am pretty sure I witnessed some risque behaviors. Rachel, Kathy and I tried some karaoke. The real reason we stayed until 6 is that the Metro starts back up then, and a taxi, well, costs money. Needless to say we slept in the next day until 1 pm!

Monday, May 4

architecture of barcelona

Monday, May 4
April 17

Today, we ventured to some major Barcelona architectural landmarks.

La Pedrera- A curvy corner building- very modern and interesting.
La Sagrada Familia- Apparently this epic cathedral is always under construction-- every postcard had a crane in the background! But, what we could see of it was pretty cool. It was actually really busy, and we were short on time, so we weren't able to go inside. But it has the characteristically wild, curvy, pale stone look of famous Barcelona architecture.

La Catedral- Again it became sunny and rainy, plus the entire front was covered up by construction, so we weren't able to see much of this one.

After that, it was time to head to Madrid!

Sunday, May 3

i know, i know

Sunday, May 3
the updating...still working on it!! :)