The End

10 Jul

June FLEW by! I kind of knew it would. My work schedule changed to half days, my tutoring classes were ending one by one and, after teetering between staying part of the summer to work at a camp or going home to search for a job in PR, I finally bought my ticket home. It’s hard to believe it’s over and while I know I’ve been here awhile and have felt that way at times, it seems like I just got here.

The elementary-age Marisa would’ve told you that she was going to travel the world (and got to college UNC-Chapel Hill). The college-age Marisa was telling people that she was going overseas for a year after graduation (even though she didn’t have a way to do so until the end of her senior year). Turns out I was right. Even though I was pulled in two directions—staring a job and in NYC vs. working abroad—I am happy with my choice. I have gotten to go to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting, made some amazing friends, learn more of a foreign language and grow up a little.

Personal reflection aside, June has been a good month. I didn’t do any more traveling except for a half day trip to EL Palacio del Pardo. El Pardo is just outside of Madrid and is still a fully functioning palace. Franco made it his personal residence while he ruled out of fear of possible assassination if he lived in the Royal Palace in Madrid. Now kings, queens and presidents stay there when they visit. The tour guide told us that recent U.S. presidents have had to rent out entire hotels in the city rather than stay at El Pardo because they travel with between 500 and 800 people! Somehow that didn’t surprise me very much. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but my favorite part was the 6-foot tall French chandeliers that hung in almost every room of the palace.

El Pardo, there must be a fire place in almost every room!

Other than that and job searching, my last month in Madrid was filled with hanging out, drinks and tapas, despiertas (goodbye parties) and a little rebajas (sales!) shopping. Now that summer is starting, there are tons of fairs around the city and people are making regular weekend trips to all the beautiful beaches around Spain. It might be kind of nice to be here for the summer, but I am excited to go home and to have air conditioning! Farewell, Madrid!

XO

I’m Strange? Creo que no!

5 Jul

I wrote a post right after arriving to Madrid about things I would have to get used to. (Being tall, eating a real breakfast, being a vegetarian, not drinking ALL the time, etc.) I got used to some, and just accepted that some Spaniards will just continue thinking I’m strange when it comes to others. After being here for nine and a half months, though, I think the weirdos might be them.

  • Dear middle-age to old Spanish women, I know it was expensive and I know it’s pretty, but if its 65 degrees outside MAYBE a fur coat is too much. (This goes to younger people, too, who were still sporting pea coats, scarves and gloves!)
  • On the flip side: I know it’s necessary to be “en la moda”, dear annoying Spanish teenagers, but boots when it’s about 100 degrees outside is a little beyond commitment to fashion!
  • I eat dinner between 7:30 and 9pm. This fact should not result in an entire third grade class (including the teacher) to make exclamations and raise their brows about how unimaginably early that is. I think eating dinner between 10:30pm and 12:30am is much more shocking.
  • If food is free, I am going to eat it…A LOT of it. Free food doesn’t seem to excite Spaniards. Weird!
  • Peanut butter isn’t sold many places in Europe, and I have come to find that a lot of Europeans actually hate how it tastes. (I can understand that coming from the people of Belgium since they have Speculos spread, which is SO much better!) Obviously that makes pb&j sandwiches less than a big hit here, but with bocadillos stuffed with fried calamari or tortilla Española (potato-packed omelet/ carb overload), one can hardly call any sandwich strange.

I mean all of this with love, of course. Spanish culture is different from American culture in several ways (including efficiency of pretty much everything, haha), but I like it. Spanish people love to enjoy life, like to talk a lot and are very proud of their history. I am lucky to have gotten to experience it, but I do hope I can shake the chronically-WAY-too-late habit I have started to adopt (aka “Spanish time”, which is approximately 45 minutes to 1.4 hours late). As if I was ever all that great about being early anyway!

XO

Sorolla, El Pintor

3 Jul

I had the chance to go on a field trip with the fourth grade classes awhile back. The trip was to the Sorolla museum, a Spanish painter I had never heard of but is very famous here. The museum was actually the painter’s old mansion that had been converted into a gallery of his work after he died, and was only a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Turns out, Sorolla maybe be one of my favorite artists, right up there with Monet!

"Paseo por la Playa" by Sorolla. Probably his most famous painting.

 

"La barca" by Sorolla. He was known for his beach scenes, which he copied from his own photographs of his family.

What I liked best was the way Sorolla captured light in his paintings and that despite only using a few colors in each one, they were still brilliant. (I also liked that I understood 97% of the tour, which was all in Spanish!) I thought I’d give this museum a plug because it is less known than the enormous Prado and Reina Sofia museums but worth the visit. Cheap, short and sweet.

XO

The past month

29 Jun

So….it’s been awhile, huh? I kind of dropped the ball this past month, but with good reason. My boyfriend was here just about the entire month of May, so I traveled and hung out with him rather than blogging as often. Since he left, my to do list has looked something like this:

  1. Search for jobs.
  2. Apply for jobs.
  3. Find a job.
  4. Do whatever it is I do here while searching and applying for jobs.

So far, I have only completed numbers one, two and four. (Know anyone hiring?!) I have faith that number three is just around the corner, though. (And if not, I can always come back to Spain next year.)

Apart from the hours of job searching, which hasn’t really been too bad, I’ve been savoring my last month abroad.  I took my two last trips to Paris and Gran Canaria, Canary Islands while Beau was here. It was my second time visiting Paris (I’ve been before with my mom), but the city is so big and the Eiffel Tower is so awesome that it doesn’t matter how many times anyone goes. We could have gone to several of the one hundred museums, but instead we took the advice of our friends and Rick Steve and walked the city…literally almost the entire thing! Haha.

The Eiffel Tower all lit up!

Our favorite thing during our short weekend in Paris was sitting on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, drinking wine (if you forget your own bottle or run out, guys are there to sell you more!), hanging out and watching the tower’s light show. We did climb (by stairs, there are 669 of them!) to the second level the first night we were there to check out the view of the city and Seine River at night. We also managed to visit the Notre Damme, Arc of  Triumph, the palace courtyard and the Louvre gardens during our two-day walk-a-thon.

Beautiful stained-glass windows of the Notre Damme.

 

The entrance to the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa.

 

Courtyard of columns in front of the Royal Palace and gardens.

 The week after Paris, we went to the Canary Islands. Our weekend in Las Palmas was definitely more of a vacation (relaxed) than a trip (site-see frienze). The beach near our hostel was beautiful, the weather was perfect and the ocean was freezing. Gran Canaria didn’t look as much like the islands in the Caribbean as I expected. There are tons of mountains and cliffs and some of the beaches are more rocky or even have black sand! We spent one day seeing some of the city and another on the beach. We attempted one planned activity, but it failed, haha. I guess it was just meant for us to relax! (Which was fine with us after our trip to Paris :))

Paradise!

XO

French Fries,Waffles and Beer

24 May

Northern Europe must be my kind of place because so far the people there are serious about their french fries! I was already impressed after the cones and plates of fries piled high topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. (I was also surprised that I liked mayonnaise on my fries.) So, that was the first thing Beau and I tried when we got to Bruges, Belgium. The mayonnaise was just O.K. so we were a little let down. That didn’t stop us to getting fries a second time, and that’s when we found “samurai” sauce (aka super spicy mayo-based dip). It was AMAZING! And it is the reason why we ate two large servings of french fries with samurai sauce both days we were there. (We split them…so that’s just one a person…definitely less unhealthy than two each.)

Day two, serving number three.

 Belgium is known for a few other foods, which we also tried. The chocolate was super rich and you can find every type and flavor under the sun in any of the 100 chocolate shops within a five-mile radius of the center. The waffles were to die for! I’ve had waffles with nutella (in Florence) and it was good, but the waffles in Bruges blew them out of the water! They were so delicious that we turned around and bought another one from the same shop as soon as we finished eating the first one. (Luckily, there was a different attendant at the window, haha.)

As good as all the food was, I can’t forget to talk about the beer. We visited a brewery the first day we were there where I found my new favorite beer, Brugse Zot. The brewery, De Halve Maan- I definitely suggest going, you get a beer with your tour!, seemed small but went on forever. It was cool to learn some of the history and see how beer is made, but the best part was definitely trying the beer. We tried a few more Belgium beers throughout the weekend and found another really good one, Leffe. These are probably the only two not light beers I actually like.

Hops home-grown in Bruges

 

Real beer that actually tastes good!

 We didn’t just eat and drink while we were in Bruges. My favorite thing we did was ride bikes through the countryside. Not only did it burn off the extra calories from all the french fries, waffles and beer (hopefully!), it was beautiful! The sky, windmills and fields looked like postcards! We biked through two tiny towns outside of Bruges until our butts were sore, had a picnic lunch and found a windmill that was still used to grind wheat into flower. All for only the 6 euros it cost to rent a bike for the day!

This windmill is open to the public so we got to climb around inside and see how flour is made!

 

We biked through towns, fields and tree-lined trails

 

So pretty it almost doesn't look real.

 We opted to go to Bruges rather than the bigger city of Brussels thanks to my trusty Rick Steve’s guide book, and I’m so glad we took his advice!

XO

Hablas Español todavía?

17 May

An update on fluency: I’ve been told “has mejorado much en Español!” by people like my landlord or parents of kids I tutor, which is them saying I have improved a lot. Yay!

While this is exciting (not that I had any way to go but up, lol), there’s still a ton I don’t know.

Some days I feel particularly confident in my Spanish conversation skills. This usually results in me saying something I mistakenly think I know or am able to pronounce. This happened in Alicante. I was so proud of Laura and myself because we were speaking a lot in Spanish since it was the only common language we shared with our host. We were chatting it up on the beach when I thought I would offer everyone some peanuts I had brought for a snack.

Me: “Alguien quiere cashew-tays?”

Roberto y Laura: “Que dices?”

Me: “Cashew-tays. Sabes? Estos (pointing to my bag of peanuts).”

Roberto: (still looks confused)

Laura: (bursts out laughing)

Me: “What?! I know this word! You spell it CACAHUATES. Ya know, cashew-tays”

Laura: “No, dear, it’s kakaoowates.”

Roberto and Laura: (laugh at me extensively)

Oh well, at least I try.

XO

Alicante

17 May

FINALLY sand, sun and bikinis! Laura and I had wanted to spend most of our vacation on the beach and while it was just a little too windy and cold in Valencia and not possible in Florence, we got a full day on the beach in Alicante! It was just like summer and convinced me that I should probably live by the beach one day.

Yay!

 Chillin’ on the beach was the perfect way to end a week of traveling, especially considering our nearly empty wallets! (The beach is free, as well as the lounge chairs and umbrellas on it.) The town itself had ruins of a castle perched on a cliff above the city and a few cute shops and cafes in the old center, but not too much else. If you’re just looking for a weekend to have fun and relax on a beautiful beach, Alicante is a great choice.

View of the Mediterranean Sea from the top of the castle.

 We couch surfed in Alicante, as we did in Valencia, and had a great host (Thanks, Roberto!). His place was across the street from the water and he was extremely hospitable. (Coffee on the terrace looking at the water after waking up at noon? Yes please!) We had good experiences everywhere we surfed, so I definitely recommend it for anyone else with a nearly empty wallet, haha.

Apparently there is a huge party in Alicante in June for a week straight, if anyone is interested… :)

XO

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