Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SNOW IN SALAMANCA...and my last 2 days here :(

I woke up this morning after literally getting 3 hours of sleep to go to my very last day of classes and stepped out of my building to see the sidewalk covered with snow. It was more of a light covering, but snow none the less. I should say that the Plaza and streets looked so pretty snow covered but since I don't have my good boots and my feet were soaked by the time I got to class my initial reaction was "ughh snow".

this isn't from today, but it kinda looked like this with a little bit more snow

Well tonight is my last night going out in Salamanca and I'm going to spend all day tomorrow packing. I can't believe I'm leaving in 2 days. I'm so excited to get home but at the same time I'm going to miss everyone here and I don't want to leave. Friday morning we leave for Madrid and spend the day there and then Saturday morning I hop on the plane for home! Craziness. See you all very very soon!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adventures in a socialized health care system

I have insurance in Spain through the university which is nice in times like these when I have throat infections (grr), but I was a little skeptical about how things would go with Spain's healthcare system. I had been to the pharmacy once before for something and was shocked that medicines like allergy medicines that can cost over $20 at home are about 3 euros here. But today I had to go to the doctor and I expected that I would have to wait forever to see the doctor. I went in around 12 and they told me that they had consultations at 6 and they took my name. Perfect. I went back at 6 to a full waiting room and figured I'd be sitting there for hours. In fact, I only sat for an hour which I've most certainly done in doctor's offices in the states. I got called in to the doctor's office, he took one look at me and said yes indeed that's a throat infection and wrote me a perscription. I walked right down to the pharmacy, they filled it in 2 seconds (only 9 euros for a z-pac, and you don't need insurance for medicine at pharmacies). So all in all, I'm a fan. Just thought I'd give all the Americans some insightful information.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dublin...and my last week abroad!!

Due to a lovely double Spanish holiday we had this past monday and tuesday off so 2 friends and I went to Dublin for 4 days. I expected it to be super cold and rainy but it was actually about the same temperature as Salamanca and we only had rain for a little bit on one day. We stayed in a hostel right in the heart of the Temple Bar area which was awesome, but obviously noisy at night. The hostel was great though, and really cheap!

Outside the real Temple Bar down the street from our hostel

The first day it was just me and Sabra because Bridget was arriving later that night. After waking up at 4:30 to start our travels we decided to just spend our first day walking around and seeing a few sights. We started by wandering around Temple Bar which is just a really fun area in general. Then we went to Trinity College and tried our hardest to blend in with the students---difficult to do without that sweet Irish accent. We spent some time walking through St. Stephen's green before a security man with a bell made us leave at 4pm (it was after dark haha). Then we headed towards Christ Church Cathedral just to see it from the outside, did some window shopping, found the cheapest restaurants in town due to our very very low budgets, and then had some fish and chips for dinner from Leo Burdock's (yum!). We went to bed early, which is easy to do considering the sun goes down at about

Outside Trinity College

St. Stephen's Green

Saturday was our big touristy day. We went inside Christ Church Cathedral which was awesome. They had a really cool museum set up in the basement which included a cat and mouse that had been mummified inside an organ (cool). Then we headed towards St. Patrick's Cathedral but just took pictures from the outside because we heard Christ Church was way cooler anyway. Then we headed through St. Stephen's green one more time because it was just so pretty before we went on our tour of the Guinness Storehouse. The Storehouse was really cool but required us to walk a bit through the ghetto of Dublin. It was complete with 6 floors of explanations about the machinery, the formula, transportation, testing of the brew of the day (beer #1), pouring your own pint (beer #2), and a complementary pint at the top (beer #3) where you get to sit in the giant room with a 360 view of the city. Basically it's just a ploy to get you tipsy enough to buy a lot of stuff in the gift shop, and a good ploy at that. Afterwards we had dinner with some friends who were also in Dublin that weekend and went out for some good 'ole Irish drinking...too bad pints are like 6-8 euros a piece so i had maybe 3 drinks haha.

Mummified cat and mouse in Christ Church

Sabra finishing her complimentary pint at the Guiness Storehouse

Sunday was more relaxed. We we shopping a bit for gifts for friends in many of the millions of tourist shops and then headed to Kilmainham jail for a tour. It's an old jail that old held criminals for a short time. The rest of the time it was used for holding all the rebels during the uprising against Britian. It was pretty terrible to see the cells because they were super tiny and they held men, women, and children. There was no glass on the windows and we were there when there was glass on the windows and it was still freezing. Because of over crowding they usually had more than 7 people in a cell and some people were just held in the hallways. And during the famine people were committing crimes just to get put in jail so that they could have some food. We also saw where they used to do public and private hangings and where they shot the leaders of the last uprising before Ireland became independent.

Courtyard of the jail where executions took place

Monday we had our flight at 5 so we spent the morning looking in shops and wandering around and enjoyed one last round of fish and chips. Then we got on a bus to the airport at 2 to begin our 12 straight hours of travel time between bus to the airport, waiting for our flight, 2 hours on the plane, taking the metro to the bus station, waiting for our bus, and our 3 hour bus back to Salamanca. It was exhausting to say the least and now we are all sick. Yay for sinus infections during finals. BUT besides the sick part Ireland was amazing and I definitely want to go back!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This past weekend we had an Emory trip to Barcelona and I'm pretty sure it's my favorite city of all the ones we've visited so far. We took our bus to Madrid and then took the AVE (the high speed train to Barcelona) which was nice because it reduced a trip across the country to only 4.5ish hours.

Our first day there we got there in the afternoon so we just went to see the Sagrada Familia which is the giant church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was completely planned out by Gaudi down to the very last detail and he did the initial construction (1882), but it is still being worked on and is not expected to be finished for another 30 or 40 years. Gaudi expected the project to take so long that he included things in his design that the technology of his time could not possibly do with the expectation that someone would figure out how to do it eventually. It was cool to see the little museum, but because it's under construction it was kind of hard to get the whole picture and see the whole thing.

Sagrada Familia

The next day we visited Casa Mila which is an apartment building also designed by Gaudi. It was amazing and if I had a ton of money I would live there haha. Some people still live there, but parts of the building have been set up as they would have looked like in the early 1900s. Basically it looked like a giant fun house, it was awesome. After Casa Mila we walked down Las Ramblas where you can basically find any street performer you want and buy basically anything. They even have pet store stand things, it's very odd. We also visited the big market which was amazing. I don't think I've ever seen that much food in one place in my entire life. Oh P.S. next to the market was a Dunkin Donuts!! Too bad they don't know how to make real iced coffee in Spain...major bummer. After all of that we took a walk down to the beach (Playa Barceloneta) where we met a very enthusiastic 2 year old boy that fell in love with us all ("chica, chica, chica, chica, guapa, guapa, guapa, guapa").

Casa Mila

Market (all that seafood was alive and moving by the way)

Playa Barceloneta

On Saturday we saw the Picasso museum in the morning (who knew that Picasso actually painted like a normal artist for most of his life?!) Then we headed to Parc Guell, the gigantic park designed by Gaudi as well. It was really cool, there were great views of the city and lots of crazy benches, sculptures, and houses. After Parc Guell we headed to Plaza Espana to see the giant light up fountain show which was really pretty. Basically it was a very packed weekend, but I had a great time and I definitely want to go back to explore another time. Only complaint: the metro is not very well designed, but I can deal with that haha.

Parc Guell

Plaza Espana/Fountain

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mike visited, yay!!

Last weekend Mike got to come and visit which was really exciting. He was here Thursday-Tuesday and we had a really good time. Basically we saw the usual Salamanca sites (that takes all of a day), hung out with my friends here, and Marisol cooked a special lunch one day. And I wish I lived in the apartment-hotel thing that we stayed in because it was so close to everything! Oh well... Here's an unattractive picture of both of us, but I think it sums up the weekend haha.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nice Melons Chiky-Monkey?- Tenerife, Canary Islands

We had monday off of school so we decided to take advantage of the weekend and go to the Canary Islands :). We left friday night on the last bus to Madrid (around 9) and got to the station at about 11. Then we took the metro to the airport and slept on the floor there until 4:15am when we were able to check in for our 6am flight. We aren't crazy, it's just that there are no morning buses that would get us there on time so we really had no other choice haha. Anyway our flight was good and we got to Tenerife (one of the 7 Canary Islands) around 8am because they're an hour behind Spain. After checking into our hotel and talking to a really helpful tourism lady we decided to spend Saturday on the beach at Playa de las Americas. It was really touristy and full of flabby topless ladies, but was really fun overall. For a Spanish territory in Africa it was a lot more British than I expected. And everyone spoke english even though Spanish is the official language. Their spanish was also funny because it is a lot more like latin american spanish than Spain spanish (i.e. we took the guagua instead of the autobus).

View from the plane
Hopefully there are no visible naked ladies in this one

The next day we woke up early again to take the only bus up to Teide, the volcano in the middle of the island. It's the highest point in Spain and the 3rd largest volcano in the world at 12, 198 feet. When we got up into the mountains we took a little walk/hike for about an hour and a half (not too difficult since I was doing it in flip flops) to the giant gondala that takes you up only 300m shy of the crater (you need a license to go all the way up). It was really really beautiful, but I learned that I don't do well at high altitudes. At all.

View from the top of Teide

The top of the volcano

After our all day volcano adventure we went home and went to bed early again before our 9am flight Monday morning. It was a really short trip but I'm definitely glad that we went!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Andalucia: Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla

This past weekend we had an excursion to Andalucia (the south of Spain, and the region where all Spanish stereotypes are true) and stayed in Cordoba, Granada, and Sevilla. The bus left at 6:45 Thursday morning (lovely for those of us that have a 30 minute walk to the bus station, aka me) and we drove 7 hours to Cordoba to see the Mezquita de Cordoba (ancient mosque-turned-Catholic cathedral). Andalucia occupied by Mores/Arabics for the longest of any area in Spain, so there is a lot of Arabic influences eveywhere.The Mezquita was gorgeous, but it was really a shame to see such awesome Arabic architecture destroyed by gaudy christian memorabilia. As the story goes, the Catholic Kings saw the Mezquita and asked King Carlos if they could change it into a Cathedral. Since he had never seen it he said sure, but then after visiting immediately regretted his decision. I've seen about a thousand cathedrals since I've been here, but the Mezquita was interesting because it was different. In Cordoba we also walked through the Juderia (Jewish neighborhood) and saw one of the oldest Sinogagues left in Spain.

Arabic part of Mezquita

Christian part (note the difference)

Then we got back on the bus to Granada. We just walked around that night in Albaicin (and arabic neighborhood with a great view) and the next day we went to Al Alhambra. Al Alhambra was created as a Muslim paradise on earth, and thats exactly what it looks like now. Basically it is acres and acres of beautiful gardens and palaces. Of course this was taken over by the Catholic Kings too and they couldn't help but put there mark all over it. Also, apparently Napolean tried to have it blown up, but someone difused the bombs before it happened because it was too beautiful to destroy. We spent most of the morning here and it was probably my favorite thing I've seen in Spain.

Part of the Palaces in Al Alhambra

More Al Alhambra

That afternoon we got back on the bus to head to Sevilla. When we got there we had a few minutes to put our stuff in the hotel and then we went for a walk through Sevilla's gigantic ancient Jewish neighborhood and then to a Flamenco show. The flamenco was awesome (and our program director kept poking me and telling me how "guapo" the male dancer was haha) and I didn't realize that it wasn't just dancing, but singing and guitar as well. Also, I don't know how those dancers move their feet so fast, it was crazy.


The next day in Sevilla we did a tour of the Cathedral (a very long tour) and climbed up the Giralda (the giant Cathedral tower, and yes we climbed up all 35 ramps). We also got to see the Plaza de Espana (where they filmed a scene of Star Wars) which was amazing and then went to eat tapas as a group (we at rabo- bull tail, thats what they do with the bulls when they kill them in bull fights!).

Plaza de Espana
Bull tail, it was actually really good

Before we left on Sunday we took a tour of the Plaza de Toros (bull fight ring) in Sevilla which is the oldest working bull ring in Spain. They had a whole museum which was really neat to see. Then we got on the bus for our lovely 7 hour ride home. It was a great we're off to the Canary Islands!

Plaza de Toros

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Don't Speak Portuguese

This past weekend 2 friends and I went on a trip offered by Cursos Internacionales in the University to Lisbon, Portugal (Lisboa in Spanish). It was a lot cheaper than if we had gone on our own, and we had a guide so we figured it would be good. Unfortunately it was a group of 50 people, which doesn't make anything easy, but I'm still glad I went.

It took us around 6 hours to get to Lisbon, and once we got there we had some free time and then we went as a group to see El Castillo de San Jorge, the Cathedral, and the Plaza del Comercio. The Cathedral was really pretty, but I've come to the conclusion that once you've seen a Cathedral in Europe you've seen them all. The Castle was at the top of a mountain (that was a fun walk) and there were some gorgeous views from the top. There wasn't much of a castle left, just some ruins, but it was really cool to see. When we visted the Plaza del Comercio and the Cathedral we learned that most of Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755 and therefore most of the architecture is from the 1800s. No wonder it doesn't look quite as old as everything in Spain...
Views from the Castle Ruins

That night we went on a crazy adventure to find a restaurant that our program director had suggested. But after searching for a while and asking a lot of people for directions (p.s. this is hard when you don't speak portuguese), we decided it didn't exist. Luckily a nice guy that worked in some store recommended a different restaurant for us and it was delicious. We had grilled shrimp and a kebab (sp?) of grilled peppers, onions, and pork wrapped in bacon...yeahhh. We also had bacalao (cod) with potatoes because that's what Lisbon is known for.

Yummm pork wrapped in bacon...

The next day we went to the Monasterio de Los Jeronimos, Torre de Belem (used to make sure that boats paid the entrance tax on the river), and the Monumento a los Navegantes (built to honor the explorers who "discovered" India- Vasco de Gama- and other places). After all of this we took a break for lunch and then saw La Boca do Inferno (where the waves crash onto a really rocky cliff) and then on to the beach at Cascais.

Monasterio de los Jeronimos
Monumento a los Navegantes
Torre de Belem
Boca de Inferno
The beach in Cascais

After we got back from all of this we successfully navegated the subway and the boat taxis to get to a restaurant across the river for dinner. We had to walk down a pitch black street with creepy buildings on one side and the river on the other to get to it, but it was really pretty once we got there! Except for the gross cats that wandered around all the tables waiting for good...yuck.

On Sunday on our way back to Salamanca we stopped in Obidos, a cute little medieval town closed in by a fortress wall, and then to the Monasterio de Batalha. The monastery was huge and really really pretty. We also got to see the Monument to Unknown Soldiers and watched the changing of the guards there. Part of the Monastery is the "unfinished chapels" which is where the building of the Monastery was stopped because the King changed and the new King wanted to build something that people would remember as his doing, not the other King's. Oh politics.

Monasterio de Batalha

I wasn't super impressed with the city parts of Lisbon, but all of the areas on the outskirts were gorgeous and I really enjoyed all the monuments and things that we got to see. Maybe I would have liked the city more if we hadn't been with a huge group.

Yes, they sell beer in vending machines. Odd.

P.S. there are a lot more pictures on facebook!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Today our classes were canceled for a national holiday so we decided to take advantage of the day and my friend Sabra and I took a bus 45 minutes north to Zamora. It's a city that has a lot of historical things to see and I think is often overlooked by tourists unfortunately. It's about the same size as Salamanca, maybe a little smaller and was easy to navigate (thankfully because Sabra and I are the most directionally challenged people in existence). We started off in the Plaza Mayor which was not nearly as amazing as Salamanca's. We were then planning to go to the Semana Santa museum in order to figure out what the KKK looking guys are supposed to be, but little did we know it was closed on Monday's. Next we headed towards the River Duero (one of the most important river's in Spain; it starts in Portugal). It wasn't flowing quite as strongly as I had expected, but the bridge and the view from the bridge were very pretty.

church in the Plaza Mayor
Bridge Over the Duero

Next we headed up to a small church (one of many) and then towards the city walls (murallas), la Catedral, and the Castle, all of which were very impressive. The Castle was surrounded by a really nice little park (which was convenient because had an hour to kill before it was open for visits) and we sat and had lunch there. The Cathedral was also really pretty, but similar to most of the other cathedrals I've seen in spain so far.

Outside of the Castle
Some of the Castle Ruins
Me with one of the awkward modern statues they put inside the castle (is that supposed to be someone drowning in the moat?)


After all of the site seeing we took our time wandering back to the bus station (and of course got ice cream on the way). It was a really nice day, and affordable! We did it all for under 12 euros. Nice. More to come this weekend, we're going to Portugal!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Los Gordos

Last night we went to the movie theater to see "Gordos". If you can speak/understand spanish I would highly recommend it. On the surface it is about a group of fat people in therapy but really it talks about all of their messed up lives and all the fattening things we have within us (whether it's food or desire or lust or whatever). Anyway, check it out. I liked it a lot. Warning: spanish films show whatever they want, be prepared for fat people nudity!

Oh and we totally ate candy and popcorn while we watched the fat people movie...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Galicia: Tui, Portanova, Santiago de Compestela

This weekend I had a trip through my program to Galicia, which is in the north-west corner of Spain. It's really beautiful, but because of it's location unfortunately it is prone to rain...a lot of rain...all year round. It pretty much looks like Ireland, and because of the strong celtic influence in the area it might as well just be Ireland. It's also bordered by the Atlantic ocean, which means lots of pretty coastline and beaches. Too bad it's cold and rainy most of the time.

Our first stop in our 6 hour journey was in Tui, a small town on a river with nothing too exciting except for some pretty views. We ate lunch by the river and then got back on the bus to go to Portanova. On the way to Portanova we stopped and saw ancient celtic ruins...basically the stone foundations of houses in the forest on top of a mountain. It was pretty amazing that were still so well maintained...and they were everywhere!
View at Tui

Me among the Celtic ruins

Portanova is a small fishing town right on the beach and our hotel was right on the water, it was really nice. In the morning we had an appointment on the fish equivalent of a booze cruise. Explanation: Us, a group of a lot of old people, and plates and plates of fresh shrimp and muscles just pulled out of the water. Yummmmmmy.
Beach near PortanovaEnjoying the muscles on the boat

After we were full of fish we got back on the bus to go to Santiago de Compestela. This is the capital of Galicia and is the site of the famous Cathedral de Santiago. This Cathedral is apparently where the remains of St. James the Apostle are. Because of this it is the end of a pilgramage route that starts in the south of France and cuts all the way across northern spain stopping in specific churches and hostels along the way. Not everyone does it for religious reasons, some just do it to say the walked the full 780km. And hey, people have been doing it for over 1000 years so thats pretty cool. We took a tour of the church and got to see a bunch of people finishing up their journey. Oh and you know those things the priests swing around in church with the inscense? Well they have a gigantic one hanging from the ceiling that they pull with a rope and it swings all the way across the church (for both religious reasons and to combat the stench of the smelly pilgrams who've been walking for 780km).

Catedral de Santiago

I loved Galicia and thought it was really beautiful, but it rained far too much and I was soaked for a good portion of the weekend. I don't know how anyone lives there.