Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sevilla y Cordoba! =0)

I decided to take a busy weekend with a few friends and tackle Sevilla and Cordoba in three days. Clearly three days is not enough time to see both these amazing cities, but hey you gotta to work with the free time that you have in order to see the most places you can. For the first night, we rented a hostile in Sevilla. We took a bus from Madrid to Sevilla which took around 5 hours, and let's be real, my body was aching! Anyways, we arrived during the day around 3. What is great about Spain is that the days are so long, so even though we arrived a bit later in the day, we still had daylight until around 9:00pm! We were given a walking tour, ( in English, luckily!) and then were given some suggestions for places to eat and go out to at night. We got to see crazy sites like the Famous church and Giralda tower in Sevilla. We also had a great tour guide who told us really entertaining and interesting stories about every key point in Sevilla. After the day and night in Sevilla we woke up, did a bit more traveling about and headed to the train station to get on the fast train from Sevilla to Cordoba.
Luckily, they are not that far away so the train did not even take an hour. We got off, found our hotel, which was directly across from the famous Mesquita/Iglesia de Cordoba and then ventured out to get to know yet another beautiful city. I learned about both the Giralda and the Mesquita in my art history class so it was really amazing to get to see what we learned in person and really feel the grandiose architecture of each. the night we were on Cordoba there were Flamenco celebrations everywhere (this is where the picture comes from)! Every person in the town was out roaming about till the early early hours of the morning. I couldn't believe how many people come out to see these celebrations. I got to listen to a really heartfelt spanish Flamenco singer perform before we had to head back to our rooms in order to wake up for our early bus back to Madrid in the morning. I definitely would recommend these cities to other people, but of course, in the hopes that they will be able to spend a bit more time to enjoy the places than we were able to!
Nevertheless, they were amazing cities full of culture, architecture and new sites literally around every corner. I cannot believe how quickly my study abroad in Spain is coming to an end- Even though I am not able to put my pictures up, I really wish I could because I have so many from each place I have been to! Sometimes snapping photos is a bit excessive and annoying to me, but after you have taken them and you are looking at them, you are happy you took them. I hope my last few days in Alcala will be filled with sunshine and a few more closing experiences to soak up.
Will write soon,
Hasta Luego,
Courtney =0)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Adventures In Toledo & Barcelona

Hola Amigos!
I have had a pretty packed week and a half here in Spain. I went to the quaint, beautiful city of Toledo. We took the fast train from Madrid to Toledo, getting us there in just under 30 minutes. Stepping out of the train though, I felt I retrogressed many years- the simple natural beauty as well as the intricate architecture of every single building amazed us. The small streets are so different than the streets back home. Needless to say we got lost a few times due to the maze-like pattern the streets follow. Nevertheless, we accidentally found some hidden gems while lost. Toledo is known to be the city that is of three cultures because there is a synagogue, a mosque and a Cathedral all in the same area. We visited each and were blown away by both the inside and outside. Some places here do not look like much from the outside, but when you walk inside they are surprisingly beautiful. You can see the antique regal beauty everywhere you look.
Luckily, when we arrived there were still decorations from the celebrations of Corpus Christi, a religious holiday that is celebrated in places in Spain. There were fresh flowers hanging from balconies and from building to building as well as plants roping the streets and fresh flower petals on the floor. We missed the actual celebration but it must have been very extravagant and lively. After hours of walking we found our way back to the bus and then the train, relaxing in our fast train seats calmly awaiting the mad rush we knew would be coming when we got off to catch our train from Madrid back to cozy and slower paced Alcala.
I had my first full week of school. I am taking an art history class and a spanish class. My art history is solely in Spanish while the other the teacher uses English when needed. I still need to practice speaking Spanish a lot! I am surprised how much I am picking up just from listening in classes and, of course, clutching a dictionary for those "just in case" moments- which for me happen quite often. I do enjoy the schedule of the classes. We have classes monday-thursday. Each class is 2 and a half hours long, 9-1130 and then 12-230. Then, of course, we go home for lunch and some people take naps, siestas. It took a little getting used to the eating schedule. We have lunch around 230- 3, then dinner around 930-10! It seems a little late to me, but I am pretty much accustomed to the time and the fact that there is daylight until around 945 at night! That is good for me because I love long days. The normal time to go to sleep, at least in my host apartment is around 11:30-12:00. It is so interesting to see how much how human bodies can really adapt and how quickly we can get used to a change.
After the long week I went to Barcelona for the weekend with a few friends to see the sights and all the famous city has to offer. We went to many places, like la Sagrada Familia, this amazing cathedral that has stopped all construction, it has yet to be finished. What has been created though is crazy, tall and beautiful to look at. We also went to a famous market called La Boqueria which is on Las Ramblas, a well known road filled with places to eat, shop, browse, and many many tourists! A lot of people spoke English there, which is a lot different from Alcala. Others spoke Catalan or Spanish. I wasn't sure what to try to speak when I talked to someone! Many different cultures as well- which is also how Madrid is. Both cities have an array of people. Seeing my first beach here and touching the realllyy cold water was fun, even though the weather was not quite up to par for the beach. My face in the photo shows how cold the water really was! We snapped a few pics and went on our way. Although going to new cities are fun and adventurous, I was a little nervous about the metro system and how we would do getting around. Luckily, the metro was so much easier than in Madrid and we were able to figure it out relatively easily. That was nice to be able to get on the metro and know for sure where you are going and knowing you are on the right one! Barcelona was great but the weekend went very very fast! It seemed strange staying in a hotel rather than staying in my host family's apartment. I love hotels but it is also comforting residing with nice people in a homey-comfortable setting.
We had our midterms today- I cannot believe how quick everything is going! I am going to the Prado Museum in Madrid with my Art History class tomorrow. It is awesome to get the chance to learn about a painting or piece of art and then be able to go and actually see the real thing, apply our knowledge to real life objects. I mean lets be real here, it also makes you feel reall intelligent when you can identify the period or characteristics of a piece of art haha. Hopefully by tomorrow I will have plans figured out for where I want to go this weekend =0)
Hasta Luego!
Courtney =0)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

First Week in Spain!

It is hard to believe that I am writing from Spain right this very moment. I wanted to write sooner and put up some pictures but I just got my internet in my apartment today and I realized I forgot my usb connection from my camera to my computer. Luckily, this is only a small item that I forgot to bring, but of course just goes to show that when traveling it is best to quadruple check to ensure you have everything! So, even though I am a little late to this Blog Sesh, better late than never..
Although we had a few delays, our flight over here was pretty smooth, as I slept a bit and anxiously awaited the ultimate land in a new country. We all met up at the airport and got on a bus that took us right into Alcala de Henares, the town we are all staying and going to school in. It hit me that I was in Spain when one of the people from the Institute that came to meet us, greeted us and told us he did not speak one word of English. With my Spanish being fair, but by no means strong, I knew that this was going to get realll interesting realll fast.
My host mom is adorable and very accommodating. I have a roommate as well and she helps me so much because she can speak fluent Spanish- I am practicing and working on my spanish, trying to talk and intently listen. Still, it is so nice know to that my roommate is there to help me! Our apartment is just a short, less than ten minute walk to the school we are studying at. We usually go to school Monday through Thursday each week, except this week we have today, Thursday, off as well due to the fact that it is a religious holiday here and everything closes. We were given a short tour of Madrid, but I have to go there with some of my friends from the program in order to get to know the metro systems and directions of places. I do not want to find myself in an important situation where I need directions and can only get by with interesting hand signals and low grade Spanish! I am learning though, for sure. Each night I try to write down words that I learned, or words I wanted to say but did not know. I am definitely out of my element as I am usually a talker and love to hear people's stories. Although I can basically understand what my host mother is saying, it is hard to respond and keep a conversation going for long.
I felt a bit overwhelmed, which I realize in natural when a person goes to a place where there is a language barrier. I am feeling increasingly more comfortable with the language, but of course, it is only my fourth day here and I know I have a ways to go! A few friends and I just booked tickets on the fast train to go to Barcelona next weekend. I am really excited to see another part of Spain. It will be especially different from Alcala and Madrid because Barcelona is on the coast of Spain and will therefore have completely different scenery and probably a bit of a different weather situation! I have learned that this month in Alcala has been one of the hottest months ever on record! It has been getting hotter and hotter during the days here, so we will see if this sticky temperature sticks!
Tomorrow some people from the group and I are going to Toledo, another city in Spain, for the day. It will be interesting to see another area close by.
Will Write Soon,
Hasta Luego,
Courtney =0)