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SanSe

26 Apr
 I remember saying that El Escorial was the best girls’ trip ever, but I think my weekend in San Sebastian topped it. (O.K., bothwere awesome, so I guess El Escorial was the best day trip and San Sebastian was the best weekend trip.) San Sebastian is on the north coast of Spain and the beach is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen! It looks like a horseshoe made up of the two mountains on each end of an arch-shaped strip of sand and one more island mountain in the middle. We took a bright red cable car up to the top of one mountain got breathtaking views…and ice cream.
 
(From Left) Laura, Amy, Paige and myself in front of the beach.
From one of the mountains at the end of the beach.

Speaking of food, the cuisine in San Sebastian actually is the best in Spain. A friend of mine told me some of the best chefs work in northern, coastal cities because of the tourism and French influence. I didn’t fact check this, but I believe her because everything we ate was delicious! The food in Spain has just been O.K. I haven’t been blown away by much except for good paella, brava sauce and aioli sauce. SanSe is apparently famous for its pinchos, aka small servings of gourmet food, which were piled on every other bar’s counter. I loved anything and everything with mushroom sauce!

The old part of the city was great for bar-and-pincho hopping, which phased into just drinking at a pirate bar that was blaring hard rock music while playing Taylor Swift on CMT with Captain Hook’s look-alike as the bar tender and John Travolta’s look-alike as our new friend…??…whatever Spain. LOL! After that bar we went to a couple of clubs, neither of which charged a cover. (Thank you, SanSe!) Regardless of where we went, there were people all over the streets, lots of bars, the usual lack of an open container law, and everything was walkable.

Why not?

In addition to a beautiful beach and entertaining night life, the shopping was comparable to that of Amsterdam, which has had the best shopping of anywhere I’ve been so far! There are a lot of boutiques and shops in the old city of SanSe that are different from the usual Zara and H&M. (Not that I’m hating on either of those stores at all!) Basically, I highly suggest San Sebastian to anyone looking for an awesome vacation!

Last minute shopping. Not even the little bit of rain we got could put a damper on our trip!

XO

Carnival!

8 Mar

Last weekend was the beginning of Carnival in Cadiz, which I hear is one of the largest in the world, and I was there! It was a quick trip but I got to check a lot of things off of my “Things To Do While In Spain” list.

#1- Botellon. This is the name for groups of people drinking in the streets. Younger people do it in Madrid, Sevilla and wherever all the time, but apparently the police are cracking down on it. (But judging by how blatant and often they are, probably not!) Saturday night is Cadiz was, simply put, one ENORMOUS, all day botellon, DJ included. Check!

Botellon/block party around 6pm...it got much more crowded later.

#2- Go camping. I have random and somewhat frequent desires to do outdoorsy things. Hiking is one of them, which I have done while and Spain, and camping is another. Like every other time I have gone camping, it was not all that rustic. We did squeeze five people in one tent (great for staying warm at night), and there was no grill or electricity, but there were bathrooms, showers and a cafe next door to the camp ground. Not to mention, the beach was right across the street! Check!

Our 'hotel room' for the weekend!

#3- Road trip. I knew I wouldn’t get to go on a road trip unless I found a Spaniard to drive. Luckily, my friend is dating a Spanish guy! The trip from Madrid to Cadiz was a typical 6.5 hour, picnic dinner, Cosmo-reading, play-trivia-on-an-iPhone road trip and it was so much fun! On the way back we made a couple of impromptu stops in Rota and Jerez. Rota is pretty beach resort town where we stopped for cones of fried seafood (YUM!). Jerez is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Nothing was really open since it was Sunday afternoon, but I would definitely go back t visit the Alcazar, cathedral and Tio Pepe winery!

Outside of the Alcazar in Jerez.

Basilica in Jerez.

 #4- Go to a Carnival. There are several carnivals in Spain in the spring. I’ve asked a few Spaniards why they celebrate and no one had a definite answer, so I’ve concluded it’s like Halloween or St. Patrick’s day in the U.S. – just another excuse to party! Spaniards take their costumes seriously, too. There weren’t many sexy secretaries or naughty nurses (and the ones I did see were probably American girls), but there were a lot of cross-dressing men. Most people were either super creative or had bought full on, head-to-toe get-ups. Basically, Carnival in Cadiz is the equivalent to Halloween in the states if you multiplied Franklin Street by 100. Check!

Amy (left) as a white board and an octopus with bush...because why not?

Needless to say, it was a great trip! Besides the day drinking and block party (which definitely got more and more sloppy and dirty the later it got, LOL), the city of Cadiz is right on the coast with palm trees and old architecture. Breathtaking!

Part of a huge church in the center of the city.

Literally RIGHT on the coast!

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

NYE

21 Jan

I thought New Years Eve deserved a special mention all its own. Not because it was the best party of my life or anything. Because it was…interesting.

First let me explain one of my observations about Tangier. There are men everywhere! Not people, almost only men. It is especially noticeable when you stop in one of the many cafes, which are also everywhere. They all have outdoor seating, they all primarily serve coffee or tea with fresh leaves in it (maybe a few pastries), and they are all full of male patrons that will only sit facing the street, somewhat creepily watching people walk by all day. (Sometimes there may be a couple or group of women, but they usually sat upstairs.) Beau and I ventured into a couple of these and it was perfectly fine…just different.

That little bit of information may make more sense of our NYE experience in Tangier. We walked down the boulevard by the beach to pick from one of the clubs there. They were all fairly expensive (40 euros, no drinks included), so we decided on one that ended up letting me in for free…but then required both of us to buy a drink at 10 euro each. Some deal, right?! But whatever, it was New Years.

At around 12:30 we noticed that it was still mostly men in the “club” and that the entertainment, 3 overweight belly dancers, hadn’t gotten any better. We had also noticed a lot of younger girls showing up all dolled up (I guess that’s the best way to put it), so we figured a change in dancers would come at any moment. It didn’t. These younger girls took off their coats, checked in, then made their way to seemingly predetermined tables.

That’s right, they were working girls. Needless to say, we left a little over an hour later and despite how cute my NYE top was I ended up keeping my jacket on the whole night. After all, I didn’t want to be confused as a working girl, ha!

A "club" throwing a New Years Eve "party" Tangier style...(I guess, ha!)

Anyway, we both decided it would definitely be a NYE we wouldn’t forget…and at least we got to spend it together!

XO

Eat, Drink…Repeat

12 Nov

I LOVE to eat! And I enjoy drinking occasionally (aka on the weekends). Monday through Thursday I work and have to get up early, so I sometimes meet friends for dinner, drinks, or wine and tapas one or two of those nights, and I think a lot of Spanish people are more relaxed during the week, too (even though they still consume alcohol way more often then I would ever think to). The weekends are a different story.

A friend of mine from South America who has lived in Madrid before told me the first week I was here that everyone in Madrid hangs out in La Latina on Sundays. I asked why and what happened there every weekend and she said, “Eating and drinking. We just go there to do that all day. Then we go out.”

I had my own experience with one of these marathon feast-’til-you-go-out days last Saturday. Some Spanish friends invited a bunch or people over for lunch at noon. I didn’t get there until 4 p.m., but no worries because everyone was still eating and drinking. When I walked in, there was a huge spread of Australian and Spanish food and at least 8 open wine bottles and an empty case of beer. I ate my lunch, then everyone had coffee, then dessert was served all the while with more drinks. After dessert, liquor drinks were made for everyone and the Americans and Australians tried to teach circle of death to the Spanish people in Spanglish. It was great! Four or five hours after I arrived (so 8 or 9 hours after everyone else had started) we left for the bars. Needless to say, I was the second person to leave to go home. I don’t know if I can keep up with the Spaniards!

 

The dessert that marked the end of a 4-ish hour lunch and beginning of pre-gaming: rum soaked pineapple, custard with kiwi and whipped cream and chocolate liquor

 

This weekend was kicked off with even more delicious food. This morning (and by morning I mean noon, ha) some friends and I got together to make French toast for brunch.  It was so good…we used enough sugar and butter to make Paula Deen proud! And it reminded me of home 🙂

 

Making french toast and caramelizing bananas to go on top, YUM!

 

 

Our brunch included homemade syrup, bananas, whip cream and orange juice

 

After working out and relaxing, I think I will meet everyone for drinks and tapas…and then go out! Tough life, right?

XO

Hi, November!

3 Nov

I can’t believe it’s already November! AND that the first week of November is almost over! Time has been flying by, but it also feels like I’ve been here awhile now.

I am sad to say that November was not rung in with an huge Halloween celebration the night before. (Of course, with the exception of my awesome trip to Salamanca on Friday!) In fact, Halloween was kind of a bust and didn’t even come close to Chapel Hill. I guess I was expecting too much. I was told that Halloween is a relatively new holiday here (people my age didn’t even know what it was when they were younger and still aren’t into it now), but I figured there would be way more parties on the 31st. All Saints Day on November 1st is a much bigger deal here (and kind of solemn), so I’m guessing that partly accounts for all the closed bars on Sunday night.

The people that were out did dressed up…a lot! For the most part, people from Madrid only dress as 4 things, all of which are actually scary (witch, vampire, zombie/ other type of dead person, devil). The American and English people here, though, reminded me of being on Franklin Street 🙂 There was a group of English people dressed as calvary men, some American girls I know were the characters from Alice in Wonderland, and I even saw a couple of decked out Star Wars characters. My favorite costume, though, was an American guy, 21 years old or less, who dressed as an abono de transportes (aka monthly metro pass). It was cheap and creative….cardboard and marker. Definitely something that would’ve been on Franklin Street!

XO

 

The abono with our abonos!

 

Salamanca a Noche

30 Oct

I loved Salamanca! As in I loved it so much I maybe want to move there. Yesterday/today has been a very long and very awesome day. I went into work Friday to help with Halloween even though I am usually off. I only worked a half day then went home to nap before the long night ahead. Around 5 p.m., two of my friends and I bused to Salamanca. Our game plan was to party until about 6 a.m. and catch an early bus back to Madrid so we wouldn’t have to pay for a hostel, and that’s exactly what we did!

Salamanca is a beautiful university town. The cathedral (not sure if it was the old or new) was so impressive to drive up to when we got there. Every building looks like it’s part of a castle and is lit up at night, so the whole town has an enchanted feel. I definitely want to do this trip again with a little more day time to see the cathedrals and art museums…and then go out and dance until 6 a.m. again, of course!

 

Theater on the way to Plaza Mayor

 

 

A view from Plaza de las Augustinas

 

 

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca

 

When we got to Salamanca, the first thing we did was eat dinner. We wandered around looking at menus until we found a French/Italian place that was tucked away in a basement. It had great food AND service, which was very refreshing considering the general lack of customer service in Spain. We were at dinner for 3 hours! But drawn out lunch, dinners and coffees are normal here and it’s kind of nice not to feel like the waiter is trying to kick you out.

 

I had a four cheese crepe, Jeta ordered the menu del dia (3 courses) and Siury had four cheese tortellini. Yum!

 

After dinner, we found a bar that was DECKED OUT for Halloween, so we went inside. (We later realized that most of the bars were decked out for Halloween, but it was still really cool.) It was 12:30 a.m. and the place looked like it had just opened, which it had. The bartenderess was awesome and would definitely be our BFF if we lived in Salamanca. She gave us free shots and only charged us for probably less than half of what our drinks actually cost. The music was great (Latin and reggaeton) and the bar was packed within half an hour of us getting there. The next bar had good Latin music and was decorated for Halloween, too. It was also populated with by far the most forward Spanish men I have met since I’ve been in Spain. My friends an I were literally running away from them most of the time, lol. Not that moving away or telling them I had a boyfriend deterred them very much. Over all they were fun and funny. The next bar was a shot bar where we met some more cool people and my friend and I tried Absent for the first, and last, time. (It tasted like licorice and burned on the way down so I had a glass of ice water after it.) The last stop of the night was a discoteca. We hung out until about 6:15 a.m. then headed to the bus station to eat breakfast and catch the 9:30 a.m. bus back to Madrid.

We all agreed on going back in the Spring as soon as we were back in Madrid! Here’s a picture timeline of the night.

XO

 

Siury and Jeta with our awesome bartenderess and new bff.

 

 

 

Spooky entrance that drew us into the first bar.

 

 

Bar #2

 

 

This picture captures our feelings toward the forward Spanish men at Bar #2, ha.

 

 

Fast forward to 7:30 a.m., Siury sleeping in the diner. Time to go home.