Archive | February, 2011

El Escorial

27 Feb

El Escorial is by far the cutest town I’ve been to yet! I went with some friends on Saturday and we had the perfect girls trip. We wandered around the town for a couple of hours before going into the palace. It’s right at the base of some mountains and every nook and cranny is adorable! Right in front of El Escorial are a bunch of charming restaurants and cafes, tree-lined streets and sunny plazas. The weather was so nice that we had a picnic lunch in one of the plazas, then we got in line to see the palace.

Overlooking one of the plazas with the palace in the background.

Another cute plaza!

Amanda (right) and Kyla making sandwiches. "It's not a picnic without juice boxes."

The palace is ENORMOUS! We must have only seen a quarter of it, and that took two hours even though we moved at a good pace. (I don’t know it the entire palace is open to the public, though.) Besides it being chilly inside (stone walls will do that!) it was really interesting. There were tons of different types of rooms. We walked through a construction museum, art collections, the king’s bedroom, a crypt, a library and more. My absolute favorite parts of the palace were the ceiling of the basilica and the library. Even though you aren’t allowed to take pictures, I took plenty to share with y’all!

AMAZING! Murals like this continued into the chapel area as well. There must have been at least five of them.

The library brought back memories of my Medieval music class senior year! (LOL Sarah!)

We stayed until El Escorial closed then went across the street to the most precious cafe. It was a little girl’s dream for grow-ups! Everything was antique looking and a garden mural covered the walls and ceiling. They only served tea, coffee and hot chocolate (and maybe a few snacks). The hot chocolate was the best I’ve had in Spain so far and the tea was Earl Grey (impressive, haha).We were definitely those girls being giddy and taking tons of pictures.

Cafe Carlos III

Perfect end to the day!

XO

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Espanol

19 Feb

I am still learning Spanish, but sometimes I think I’m not the only one around here that needs to be practicing! My slightly southern North Carolinian, very American accent surely doesn’t help me sound like a Spaniard BUT my name is actually of Spanish origin. It’s even spelled the same (sin the accent over the “i”). However, the woman at Starbucks last weekend managed to completely butcher it.

This is what my name turned into. Lost in translation?

Bripsa. That’s what the woman behind the counter heard when I said Marisa. I even said my name with Spanish pronunciation! I may not know a ton of Spanish but I definitely know my name, so this time I don’t think it was me. I didn’t even go up to get my coffee at first that’s how different it sounded! My friends experienced minor additions and subtractions to their names, too. Gabrielle was “Gabriel” and Stephanie was “Estephanie”, haha.

XO

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

I’d like to take a moment to wish my friends and family back home a Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone got flowers, went to dinner or at least received an e-card! I was lucky enough to get a sweet package from my boyfriend even though I’m so far away (and it was on time!). It’s one of  the best valentines I’ve gotten and I’m not even with my him or going on a date tonight…that says a lot about my ex-boyfriends, huh?! LOL!

I love you and miss you all! I hope you are having a lovely day! 🙂

XO

UNC does Madrid

13 Feb

This weekend was nearly epic thanks to my friend Kathryn coming to visit! She is in the same program as me but lives in Malaga on the southern coast of Spain (jealous!). We kicked off the weekend by dancing at a discotec until they turned the lights on at 5:30 a.m.  (I so love discotecs!!) The next day we met up with another friend from UNC who was visiting from Sweden and staying with two other girls in my program who are also from UNC. It was our very own alumni weekend in Spain!

Gabrielle, Kathryn, Ingrid and Stephanie at Starbucks, so very American! GO HEELS!

Other weekend highlights included spending an entire day going from one neighborhood to the next drinking beer and eating free tapas, Ingrid’s made-up language (spoken in order to gain more respect from the Spaniards who get annoyed by loud American tourists in Museo Reina Sofia, lol!), going to bed at 5 a.m. being our ‘early’ night, hanging out with a couple of crazy Spanish natives (Nacho pulled his pants down in public again, que borracho!), and running into Ingrid at 3:30 a.m. on the way to a club while wearing a flower in her hair, a dress and tennis shoes! Great time, great friends…now I’m going to bed. 🙂

XO

Amsterdam

8 Feb

OMG  I want to move to Amsterdam! That’s how much I loved it! It definitely is the my favorite of any place I’ve visited in Europe. Jeta and I booked this trip awhile ago for our birthday weekend (we are birthday twins!) and because it was International Fashion Week. It’s definitely the best birthday decision I’ve ever made.

YAY!

Waterways all around the city.

We knew we wouldn’t get to do too manyshows on the fashion week catwalk since we aren’t designers, models or anyone else who would be on anyone’s guest list, but we did make it to two pretty cool events. The first night we went to a new designer’s fashion show. I loved the collection (“Afrocentric” cuts with modern fabrics and styling) and the hair styles on all of the models!! The venue was super cool, right on one of the many channels that run through the city in the shape of horse shoes, but the lighting was not cooperating with my camera. They served fancy hor de ourves before the show started. I felt pretty cool, haha!

Our last night there we went to a launch party. It was held at a store that was launching its first-ever line of shoes. It was very relaxed, free drinks, a D.J. and a lot of cool, friendly people. We thought all of the people in Amsterdam we friendly, actually, which only adds to how much I liked the city! There are a lot of English people living in Amsterdam, and they tended to be especially outgoing, louder and more drunk than the natives, LOL!

One of fairly few signs for fashion week.

We didn’t do a ton of touristy things, but we did go to the Van Gough museum and the Red Light district (of course!). I enjoyed the museum, especially because I didn’t know a lot about Van Gough before going. My favorite part, though, was the collection of Monet paintings on the last floor. But enough about that…

I (somewhat surprisingly) really liked the Red Light district! It wasn’t super sketchy, dirty or dangerous like I was expecting. It had great bars, swans, sex shops and working girls in the windows. I was shocked at my fist few vistas, if you will, the first night we checked out RLD. There are pictures of porn everywhere and, of course, the prostitute windows. In some of the windows you can see back into the rooms where the girls, ahem, work. It kind of feels like you’re intruding on their privacy, but since they are everywhere (and considering their field of work) that feeling wares off pretty fast. There are windows with women for everyone’s taste, including big women!

Bar, hotel, prostitutes...NBD.

Definitely wasn't surprised to find this!

Other highlights included french fries, cheese, stroopwaffles and shopping. Clearly, I like food! Amsterdam is known for its fries with ketchup and mayo (which I ate everyday I was there) and for its delicious cheese. There are cheese shops all over the city and you can sample whatever they have as many times as you want! I’ve never seen so many different types of cheese! I’ve also never seen stroopwaffles, but just so you know they are heaven in your mouth. Super thin waffle crisps sandwiching syrup (or caramel or honey) with a little cinnamon…YUM! I ate two packs.

The shopping was so much better in Amsterdam than in Madrid. I say this because there are more shops and boutiques and less mega stores (aka Zara, H&M, Bershka, etc. on every block). Not that I don’t love H&M, but there’s more variety when you shop in smaller stores. I absolutely fell in love with one shoe store that had styles clearly inspired by the classic dutch wooden clog but in a super modern way. Definitely nothing you can find anywhere else…and definiely too expensive for me to leave with a pair. (That’s the downside of boutiques, but most places weren’t so bad and I did buy myself two things.)

There’s so much more I could say! (For example, I DID go to a coffee shop where I drank hot tea, LOL, but it was still cool.) But I will end with that I can’t wait to go back to Amsterdam!!

Cute Dutch town houses.

XO