Aly's Spain Adventure

Read about what I'm doing while in Spain so you can keep up with me!

Location: Des Moines, Iowa, United States

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fri. Nov. 17
Day 1 in Rome
Ok so I just looked back at the last blog I wrote & I totally forgot a VERY important part! Basically the whole time mom & Catie were visiting (for like 2 or 3 days at least) there was something going on right by my street (basically my street, just right off of it), some kind of filming. So we kept seeing it as we would walk by so finally we were like "I live nearby I was just curious if you could tell me what's going on here." The guy was like "You know what the Bourne Identity & the Bourne Supremacy are right?" and we were like of course. He showed us his badge & was like "This is the 3rd one-The Bourne Ultimatum." Holy cow!!! Matt Damon was there! We tried to take some photos but since it was night time they didn't show up too well. So when everyone sees the movie & there is a blue-ish car & they're just filming sitting in the car, yeah that's my street!

So Friday morning we got up BRIGHT & EARLY (Our cab picked us up at about 5am). We got to the airport on time & all & actually had a very nice ride in our taxi with a very nice cab driver. I actually saw one of my friends from Madrid in the airport too so that was kind of crazy. We arrived around 9 or something like that. I had been sick all week and of course I had to go on vacation sick too so that was a bummer. From the airport we caught a shuttle bus to our hotel & met a lady who was riding w/ us & she's from Finland. She was nice & we all chatted & eventually got dropped off right near our hotel. There was some kind of a strike/demonstration going on so we had to walk about a block to our hotel because the driver couldn't drive us there. It was a very nice place, pretty large with a very nice bathroom. So we were all ready for lunch so we grabbed some at the restaurant right next to our hotel which was kind of fancy. Real Italian food is so yummy. Of course with every single meal you get bread. They also do something, instead of tipping, they add a cover charge or sometimes it's called a service charge. Unfortunately we didn't figure this out right away so we gave some REALLY big tips on accident. Oh well.
So we decided to go find a tour bus so we could see everything in the city & it also doubled as our form of transportation since the city is pretty large. Grandma & grandma had told us not to get the "green ones" so we wanted to get this red one which went to a lot of places as well as it actually had a second bus service which went to the outskirts of rome to the catacombs & aqueducts. Unfortunately we figured out the red bus people were on strike so we had to get the green bus. So we hopped on the green bus & started our tour. We decided that we wanted to do the Colosseum first so we got off on that stop. There's a really big arch by the Colosseum which we took some photos of but of course now I can't remember what it was for. So we were approached by some "gladiators" who asked if we wanted to take a photo. Assuming they were with the Colosseum we said sure & took 2 photos. They then told us (after taking the photos) that it's 10 euros. We were like what?! They said "it's our job & we pay taxes" & we were like whatever dude. We did give them 5 euro but not all of it. Shouldn't even have given them anything! People will do anything to trick you. Oh well. So we went to enter the Colosseum & found that it was closed even though on the sign it said we had a whole nother hour. We were like what is the deal?! Well it turns out there was another movie being filmed there! It's called Jumper & it has Hayden Christensen (he was Anakin in the new Star Wars) & Samuel L. Jackson in it. Unfortunately we didn't get to really see anything but I found out later about an hour after we left they filmed the movie OUTSIDE OF THE COLOSSEUM so we could have seen it! Oh well, we'll live. So from the Colosseum we walked for a bit & ended up discovering the Roman Form & Imperial Forum. We learned in a tour later that they are the oldest cities/first cities of Rome. They began being built in about 50 B.C. One of the cool things about Rome is that is how it is all over the city, just random bits of old city that is discovered & just blocked off with a gate. We actually saw some people excavating more of the Roman Forum which is not completely discovered yet. How crazy right? Super cool! So after that we went to this little tomb area that was also a prison/dungeon & went down in to see it. It ended up not being much but it was neat. We headed back towards the Colosseum to see it at night & to also catch our tour bus back. They were still filming at the Colosseum! Actually we think they were setting up INSIDE the Colosseum. They had big huge lights that they were putting over it & into it & we waited around a bit but didn't see anyone. :-( So after that we caught our bus & took the rest of the tour & went back towards the hotel. Catie & I got some dinner at a restaurant near by & mom went back & straight to bed where we joined her shortly. We were all EXHAUSTED. More to come...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sun. Nov. 12-Thurs. Nov. 16
So Mom & Catie arrived today! (Mom's bday) Of course something had to go wrong. I woke up late! Mom & Catie figured out how to use a pay phone & called me & woke me up at 9am so I hurried to the airport but it turned out to get to the Metro area they had to catch a shuttle so I actually met them just in time. We hopped on the metro & Cercanias & got back to my place. We walked around a bit & grabbed a little breakfast & then headed to the Rastro where they got their souvenirs & I finished buying the souvenirs that I want since it might not be open the next time I could go. I think after that whole big adventure we probably grabbed some food & actually headed home & they were so jet lagged they just slept the rest of the night. I of course had to study for an icky test so that was fun but I did get time to study so that was good. So over the next few days there was just a lot of touristyness with Mom & Catie. On Wednesday Catie came to school with me & that was really fun. I took her out for about 2 hours Tuesday night just so she could see what the clubs were like but we had class the next day so we didn't do anything really big. Wednesday night I took them to my salsa class & they tried Caipirinhas which are yummy lemonade like slushy alcoholic drinks. Mmmm. Actually my director of the study abroad department was in Madrid so she was there too with Alcyn & Linda and we just chatted about how our time has been here so far. Thursday Mom & Catie went to Segovia all day to see the Aqueducts & the Alcazar castle which is actually the castle the was a model for the Disneyland/Disneyworld castles. They got back around 9pm & we actually went to dinner with Carlos & Joanna (my roommates couldn't go because one was out of town, one was sick & one had to study for a test :-( ). Dinner was a good time with some yummy paella but we had a really crappy waiter. It was of course the crappy waiter that we got. So we headed back to my apartment and got packing for Italy & France and hit the sack!
Soon to come...The visit to Italy & France

Tues. Nov. 7-Sat. Nov.11
So there wasn't too much that happened the week after grandma & grandpa left. I think Tuesday night Joanna & Emmanuel came over & we all watched Prison Break which I have come to love. You all should watch it. I've been downloading it online so they came over & we watched the newest episode & had a beer & some popcorn & that was a good night. Then Wednesday night Joanna & I went to salsa of course. My friend Johnathan & his friend ended up coming (Johnathan is the one that now lives in my old apartment). It was nice to have dance partners but they both were showing interest in Joanna and I & we both have boyfriends & of course we not interested so once class was over we bid them goodnight & I walked Joanna to the bus stop.
So we had no school on Thursday due to another break so I kind of relaxed all weekend. Friday night I went out with Joanna. We first got a drink at a bar & then met her girl friend from her University who was actually also Polish but Polish American (born in US). We had a good night and I think we got home around 5am or so. It was kind of nice because the girl was friends with the bartender so we ended up getting free drinks but it started to turn into a "club scene" which Joanna doesn't care for & I didn't really care for her girl friend so we went home & that was my crazy night for the weekend. Saturday night I did my best to go to bed early because mom & Catie came Sunday morning!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sat. Nov. 4-Thurs. Nov.16
Hello all!!!
So I'm sorry it's been such a while since I've written. In between everyone visiting me I haven't had much time. So it has come to my attention that some people have been worrying about me & my going out late & all. Just to clarify, I'm going out late but just as late as any other person here. We take our siestas for this reason & it's really truly not a big deal here. Being out that late is completely normal in Spain. In fact I go home "early" often compared to the Spanish & I am being safe I promise. Any worrying about any Spanish guys bothering me is unneeded. I have been dealing with their boldness & they leave you alone if you let them know they need to leave. Since mom is here right now she can tell you they really just are very many of them that are bold like that but it's nothing to be worried about. So to review, all of you I love you & please don't worry. I'm being smart & being safe & I won't put myself in danger.
So now for the good stuff...
Well I ended with the first day that grandma & grandpa were here.
So on Saturday we all got up at a pretty decent time & grabbed a quick bite to eat. We had to run a few little errands (go to Corte Ingles, etc). We ended up having to go to the police station then because it was NECESSARY that grandma file a police report in order to get her traveler's cheques reimbursed. That luckily didn't waste too much time (like an hour or so). Unfortunately though it got in the way of us going to a castle because of the time of day because we had reservations for a Flamenco show that night around 6:30 I think (kind of early). So we headed back & grabbed something to eat. This unfortunately was a while ago so some of my details are foggy but my grandparents can tell you it all! So then we headed to Flamenco which we planned on doing with my American friend Rhea & her mom who was visiting. The show was amazing. Everyone really really enjoyed it. I'll get some of those pictures posted. Flamenco dancing is a very popular thing here in Spain. It began in Spain & has somewhat of a tap dance aspect to it along with very specific hand movements which are graceful. There are also guitarists & a singer that go along with the performance. I will try & figure out how to post a video online for you all the see the dancing. So after that it was still pretty early so we went to eat a little something. We got some more tapas (normal tapas) with Rhea & her mom. I had a caipirinha (a yummy lemonade type alcoholic drink that is Brazilian) & grandpa tried Sidra (cider-like apple cider that is fermented which is very popular here as well). We were there for quite a while & actually just ended up hitting the sack after that since we were all pooped!
Sunday morning we got up & went to the Rastro. As always it kind of becomes overwhelming with so many people but I think grandma & grandpa did enjoy it. Grandma got a few patches & a cute little Flamenco dress for one of my cousins. I got a few little things for some of my wonderful friends who read my blog as souvenirs so get excited! After that we had planned on going to a castle that is right outside of Madrid. We had to take the metro up north & then after that catch an Interurban bus. It took about an hour to get there in total but we saw some great scenery & the castle was AMAZING. It was called Manzanares El Real. It's not a super big castle but it was so very neat to see. We could walk around all outside & then we could go inside too & it wasn't too overly redone so it didn't look like it used to anymore. They had original suits of armor & everything & the guy told us the parts that had be redone (to keep up the castle) were redone so they continued to look exactly as it was. I'll get these pictures put up too. We got done there & finally caught the bus back home. We had planned on making an "american" dinner Sunday night for all my roommates & my friend Joanna from school. So we headed home (we had already bought the groceries) & made fried chicken, pork chops, corn on the cob & homemade potatoes & gravy. It was such a great dinner for me since I missed home & great for my friends who hadn't had some of that before. We also had root beer floats for dessert. Except for the US & Canada I'm not sure if they have root beer anywhere else. Most people have no idea what it is. They all really enjoyed it though & we had great conversation. It was a really great time!
The last real day that grandma & grandpa were here (they left early Tues. morning) they unfortunately had to spend the whole morning trying to get grandma's new passport & then we planned to meet up @ 3:15 to catch the Renfe train to Toledo @ 3:50 to go & see all the famous swords there as well as everything else Toledo has to offer. (Toledo is a town about a half hour TRAIN ride outside of Madrid). Unfortunately it was too late so we missed the train. :-( Well grandma & grandpa went to the Reina Sofia instead & I studied for a while. When they got done @ the Reina Sofia we went to get some Paella! The place we went to is actually one of the first places I went to in Madrid (the same place with the beer taps at the table). We were all STUFFED full of food. Grandma & grandpa loved the Paella & we also had some sangria & salad earlier. Even though we were bursting at the seams we went to get churros & chocolate so they could have it before they left. Since churros taste similar to funnel cakes that wasn't so good but we did get some really good chocolate & enjoyed that. After that we headed back to the hotel & I kissed them both goodbye. It was really kind of sad for me but it kept me going that I would see mom & Catie next week. It was a really nice visit from my grandparents & I'm glad we all had such a good time.
To be continued...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Friday-Friday continued...
So I obviously got up extremely late on Sunday afternoon around 3pm. I actually woke up to my roommates who had cooked lunch! My Spanish roommate Bea cooked a Spanish Omelette (spanish tortilla) & we had some salad & such & then we also had a flan type of dessert but it was actually lemony. It was a GREAT thing to wake up to! So that was basically the highlight of my day as I didn't do too much else that day.
I had my first test on Tuesday. I ended up being late for it because I have a class before it at the far away campus & so I am usually late. Unfortunately the professor that day was different than usual so I didn't get any extra time allocated at the end of class. :-( I think I did alright but that time I missed could have helped a lot.
Wednesday we all intended to go to a salsa class but we didn't go. Wednesday was actually a holiday in Spain so I didn't have class but I mostly just hung around at home all day because when it's a holiday there's not too much to do.
So Friday finally came & that's when my grandma & grandpa came!!! I accidentally missed my classes that morning by waking up too late (WAY too late). So I headed to the airport & waited for them. Their plane was a little late so that was FUN. Hehe It was so great to see my family here! We took them back to their hotel but unfortunately on the way grandma unknowningly got pickpocketed & someone took her "wallet" that contained her passport, traveller's checks & about 40 euro. We realized it on our way to the hotel. So we knew that would be fun to figure out. Then when we got to the hotel we realized that grandma had made the reservations for the days that they were in Italy!!! Fortunately the hotel let them stay but they did get charged for one night's stay for not calling in. What an unfortunate day!!! So then we headed to a little street I know & got some tapas which I thought would be like a few potatoes, some olives, etc but it was HUGE peices of bread w/ ham, cheese, etc. on them. A different kind of tapa though still a tapa but not what I thought. We also had some pizza with it so we were stuffed & actually went back to the hotel & took a nap. We got up for dinner so grandma & I went to get a different kind of tapa & grandpa stayed at the hotel cuz he was too tired. We also had some Sangria which of course grandma loved. We walked around Plaza Major & Puerta del Sol a little & then headed home & I let them turn in for the night. I headed on my way home & got some sleep!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Oct. 27-Nov. 3
Hey all! So I think I'm going to kinda change to writing every once in a while. Now that life is more normal there's a little less to write about.
So last Friday I went out with my roommates & my friend Carlos from school & his friend. We went to calle de Huertas but the girls didn't quite understand the bar hopping concept of Huertas so we stayed at a few bars for a while & actually around 4am I went home because I knew that Saturday night would be a big party night so I should get some sleep. We were right by some big fight that was breaking out that night that was kind of scary. I couldn't understand exactly why they were so mad though because you can imagine how understandable a pissed off drunk spaniard is. Haha. We had a good time though at the few different bars we went to. I did meet the friend of one of my roommates who was actually French but she has been living here for 3 years so her Spanish is perfect & she almost looks Spanish so I thought she was. Hope my spanish is that good someday.
So then Saturday was a great time! I got up late as always & didn't do too much the whole day but got ready for that night. Carlos & Cesar (a Mexican guy from school) invited me to their friends party which I found out upon arrival was a costume party. I also called up Rhea & her & her Spanish friend came. So we did some English speaking, some Spanish speaking & it was great. Something the spanish think about Halloween (which they don't really understand in the first place) is that the costumes are supposed to be scary, not focused on creativity or humor but just scary or maybe dress up as another person. In Spain they celebrate Halloween but have started to adapt it just recently & don't really understand anything behind it. They do not trick or treat or have haunted houses or CANDY CORN either. Ooo which reminds me: *shout out to mom-you should bring over some candy corn with you.* So we were at the party for quite a while & then the police showed up. Hehe, I can't get in trouble for drinking at a house party in Spain!!!!!! How great!!! No dropping the beer & running. Everything got smoothed over & then we decided to go to a club. We lost some of Carlos's friends on the way *they said they'd meet us there.* Then Carlos's friend Alberto who was with us saw someone he knew living on the street. He works at a "nursing home" & one of the guys who used to live there know lives on the street. It was really sad & unfortunately really affected Alberto for the rest of the night so he ended up not going to the club with us. So Carlos & I got there finally & searched for his friends who we ended up never finding. We just danced for a while & then they started playing American oldies!!! We were dancing to freaking Elvis, Shout!, & Grease. LoL It was quite ridiculous especially since the Spanish don't know how to dance to some of the classics. No one jumped up with their hands up during Shout! Oh well. So we were getting ready to leave & upon waiting for Carlos to finish in the bathroom a 40 year old drunk guy came up to me & started dancing w/ me & pulled me onto the dance floor. He was quite harmless though & I finally escaped his drunken grasp. It was pretty funny. After that I finally headed home & went to bed around 7am. Crazy night!!!
To be continued...
P.S. Photographs!!!!!!!