Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This weekend was awesome, we went to Barcelona as a group and had a fantastic time!  The trip started out at an ungodly hour (4am!) to catch the 6am train from Madrid to Barcelona.  I want to take all my trips by 'renfe' train (Spanish trains) because they are extremely comfortable.  The seats are huge, they recline, there is a food car, and they show a movie.  What more do you need during a 3 hour train ride?  It was great.  So we arrived in Barcelona and made our way to our hotel.  We stayed in a really nice hotel 1 block from the Sagrada Familia.  The city fiesta in Barcelona was going on, of course - another fiesta, so the city was extra crowded.  In Barcelona they do not speak Spanish, they speak Catalan which is like a mixture of French and Spanish and impossible to understand or read.  Once we arrived at the hotel we dropped our luggage, had some breakfast and then it was off to see the city.
Encarna, the art professor, came with us which was really cool.  We first went to the Picasso Museum which houses the largest collection of Picasso paintings.  The museum was extremely crowded, because of the city fiestas it was free, but was still really cool.  I like art museums but they seem to have this power of putting us all to sleep...

After the museum we had some lunch and then it was off to the Sagrada Familia.  It's one of Gaudí's (architect from Barcelona) most famous works and has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be finished until 2026!  It was absolutely amazing.
La Sagrada Familia at night

That night Marzia and I went out to dinner at a restaurant on the boardwalk and watched fireworks on the beach.  We didn't stay out too late because we wanted to get an early start the next day to see as much of Barcelona as we could.

The next morning Marzia and I got up and went out to breakfast at a little bakery near our hotel.  We walked around the city on the main street marveling at the great shopping and the  amazing architecture around the city.  We then decided to make our way to the Park Güell, another of Gaudí's works.  It is a beautiful Park with amazing views of the Mediterranean and all of Barcelona.  We spend most of the day at the park enjoying the sun and people watching.  After lunch we made our way to a popular square/street La Rambla.  It is famous for its living statues and to our surprise there was a parade going on.  There were thousands of people and in the parade were drumming groups of all ages, really cool.  We stumbled upon a market and walked around that for a while.  Before we knew it, it was time to get to the train station and head back to Madrid.
Marzia and I at the entrance to Park Güell

Park Güell and the view 

Casa Battló
The market
When we finally arrived back in Madrid we had to take a bus back to Villa, making the last bus in the nick of time!  (otherwise we would have had to wait for 1 hour for the night buses to start running...)  So we got to Villa and the bus driver told everyone to get off...but Marzia and I were confused because this was not the normal stop...  So we stayed on and to our surprise the bus driver turned around and started heading the other way.  Now this is not good for two girls who barely speak Spanish, have luggage with them, and have no idea where the bus is going at 1am!  We were beginning to freak out when we realized that the bus was taking an alternate route because the street was closed for what other reason than there was a fiesta going on.  :)

Overall it was a great trip.  Although I am glad I got to visit Barcelona I was happy to get back to Madrid.  Barcelona is very touristy and they don't speak Spanish, so I would never know what is going on!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Fiestas/Vuelta de España

Its been quite chaotic these last couple of days in Spain, but very fun! 
The city festivals began, and I was right, they don't sleep.  I went out the first night with my older host brother, Héctor, and his friends.  We first watched the fireworks, signaling the beginning of the festivals, as if they need fireworks to know its started, there is a freaking carnival right next to my house. (which I get the listen to all night long, but that is a different story)  After the fireworks everyone walks up the main street in Villa and parties.  There is music and dancing, and of course lots of drinking.  Its illegal to drink on the streets in Spain, but apparently the cops don't care during the festivals...weird.  Anyways, his friends were really nice and it was fun because we spoke Spanish the whole night, in a social setting and I understood about 80% of what was said and was able to participate!  Good confidence boost in my speaking abilities, which was desperately needed. 

The next morning, Marzia and I went into Madrid to watch the final stage of the Vuelta de España bike race.  I had emailed my future boss (I have an internship set up for this summer) at the Trek Madrid office asking him where the best place to go and watch was.  He offered to get me VIP passes, so obviously I took him up on the offer.  After some slight confusion at the race, we figured out where to go and had an amazing time watching from the finish line.  The best part was that Marzia and I got a car ride!  We rode in the medic car and got to watch, from the car, two laps.  We first followed the pelaton and then pulled off to the side to wait for them to come around again.  We began following the lead group, passed them going about 90 km/hr in downtown Madrid and finished off the loop by flying by all the police and other lead cars.  It was crazy.  After the race the Saxo Bank and Garmin Slipstream teams came into the VIP tent.  Frank Schleck was there and I really wanted to meet him.  I finally worked up enough courage to talk to him, and he was super nice.  Dad - he told me that I look like you. :) haha
I met Frank! (sooooo skinny) haha

Marzia and I in the VIP area :)

After the Vuelta, Marzia and I walked around Madrid and found a little bar to watch the Barcelona vs. Athlético game.  Its great fun watching fútbol matches in bars, although the fans are not as crazy here as they are in England. 

During the city festivals in Spain most cities have a 'running with the bulls' event followed by a bull fight.  In Villa there are three of them.  This morning my host dad and one of the other American girls and I went to watch.  The bulls run down the streets which are surrounded by tall fences that the spectators climb on to watch.  In the streets the 'village idiots' run with the bulls.  I watched from the fence and was terrified when the bulls ran past, thinking how much it would hurt for the horn to smash into my feet....They run the bulls through the city and to the bull ring.  (which is also right behind my house)  Once in the bull ring they simply irritate the bull and it charges them, but they don't kill it until the actual bull fight which is in the evening.  (I did not going because its really bloody and cruel)  I am glad that I was able to see the running, but its not something I care to go to again.

'Running of the Bulls' in Villaviciosa de Odón

Classes are going well, everyday it gets a little easier to understand, although I still miss some of the important things, like what the homework is, now its time to finish the homework that I didn't know I had. ;)  Until Next time...


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hello!  I have now been in Spain for 10 days and am starting to settle into a routine.  Its very different than in the US because I don't have that much to do, and don't know what to do with my free time...

La Noche Blanco (the white night) was so much fun!  I started out the night going to a Real Madrid fútbol game with my host dad and brother which was really fun.  I then met up with the rest of the exchange students in Madrid to celebrate la noche blanco.  The festival was crazy.  All the main streets were shut down and people were everywhere!  All the museums and restaurants were open late, and there were outdoor concerts all over the city.  We spend most of our night walking around the city and taking it all in.  I didn't get home until 6am....and when I left Madrid there were still tons of people out!  Spanish people like to stay up late and party.  I don't know how they do it every night?! 

My host brother Raúl and I at the Real Madrid game.

Classes began for real on Monday.  They are really challenging for me, I have never been so lost in my entire life!  Once I figure out what is going on, usually by someone explaining it to me in english or slow spanish, the material is very easy.  We spent an entire class period (2hrs) defining what culture is....but hopefully I will be able to improve my spanish in that class!  I added a literature and cinema class to my schedule but after one class decided that I need to drop it.  The professor talks very fast, facing the board...  The one thing I did understand was that we have to read 4 novels, which would take me like an entire year...so I will try a different class. :)

This weekend the city festivals begin, which is an entire week of activities in Villaviciosa de Odón.  I imagine that everyone will stay out all night, again.  haha This whole not sleeping thing is going to take some getting used to....

Friday, September 10, 2010


I am in love with Spain.  I love the weather, the sights, the people, everything.  So far its been fantastic.  On Wednesday we went to the Prado Museum in Madrid.  It was of course an adventure getting there, because we had to take the metro system.  4 wrong train rides later we all arrived an hour late to the Prado.  At the museum we met with Encarna, a professor of Art in Spain who gave us a private tour.  It was really cool to have her with us, but we did not get to see everything so we all want to return for longer, and also to go to the Reina Sofía, the contemporary art museum in Madrid.  After the Prado we had tapas (basically appetizers that you have for lunch) at a cafe near the Prado.  Susan then bought us all tickets for the tourist buses (a double-decker with no roof) to tour the city.  We had a great time riding all around Madrid taking pictures and relaxing. 

On Thursday classes began at the University.  We were all very nervous but they turned out to be just fine.  We all had our Spanish language class together, which went well.  After that we went out to lunch at a local restaurant with Susan which was really good.  I was supposed to have another class that evening but I decided to switch that class because it was also on Fridays in the evening and conflicted with another class.  I don't like Friday night classes and Susan told me that I should switch is, so I did not go. 

On Friday we all skipped our classes, which I guess is normal to skip classes during the first 2 weeks because students are still arriving from all over the world.  We went to Toledo, with Encarna, which was amazing.  If you ever get the chance to go to Toledo you have to go.  It is only a short train ride from Madrid, about 30 mins. on a speed train.  Its a very famous city in Spain because there are many buildings and famous people from the city.  We visited the most beautiful cathedral there and 2 synogags.  We then had lunch and had time to walk around the city.  It was a great day and I am excited that I am here for two semesters because I can go back to Toledo when the next group of students arrives. 

Tomorrow, I think that I am going to a Real Madrid game with my host dad.  They have season tickets and its the opening match tomorrow.  I am very excited because tickets are very expensive.  Tomorrow night is also a festival in Madrid, La noche blanco (the with night).  I don't know what it celebrates but it sounds fun.  :)
Miss you all xoxo

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

let the crazy life begin :)

Well I am a little more settled, and when I say a little I mean that I finally got my clothes put away in my closet.  The first full day that I was here (Mon.) I met all the other exchange students from America.  There are six of us total from all over the US and one girl who is from Afghanistan.  They are all very nice and it was good to have some English spoken around me.  We all got cell phones, so if anyone wants to call me just email me for my number - however, it will be an international call for you.  We then had a walking tour of the city, Villaviciosa de Odón, which is a beautiful city of about 30,000 people.  I am already in love with the city.  We then had lunch all together at a cafe, which was very interesting.  This is what my meal came out looking like...

It was looking at me, and had teeth!!!
After I figured out how to eat the fish we all returned to our houses to take a siesta.  We had also decided that we wanted to try out the bus system and explore Madrid that night.  So we all took a bus (about 15mins) into Madrid and went out.  We walked around the city and sat at little cafes and bars and had a great time.  However, when we tried to get home that night we did not have great luck.  Once we figured out how to get back to the bus station we waited, and waited and waited some more.  Finally, once the bus was like 20 mins. late we decided to take taxi's back because the next bus wasn't until 5am and there were not any people around and we didn't think it was a great idea for a bunch of Americans to be hanging around a bus stop at about 3am.  So after flagging down 2 taxi's to take us back to Villaviciosa the challenge then became telling the taxi driver where we lived.  I knew what street I live on, Calle Gaviota, but finding it at night and in a car when I had only walked there was a different story.  But all worked out in the end and I made it home at about 4am.

This is a little cafe that we found in Madrid near the Puerta del Sol, a famous plaza in the city.

The next morning we all went to the Universidad Europea de Madrid (UEM) to register for classes and figure out how to get there on the buses.  It is a beautiful campus with modern buildings and lots of International students.  I am taking 4 classes, all in Spanish.  I am very nervous but I am in a few classes with the other Americans which is good. 

Tomorrow we are going into Madrid as a group to visit the Prado museum and see the city during the day.  We are also having Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel & Plaza Mayor and trying to buy Real Madrid tickets. 
Having a fantastic time, but do miss understanding everything around me... 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I made it!

Ahhhh I am here, finally!  It amazing/beautiful/hot/crazy/confusing etc...  the list of what I am feeling incorporates any feeling or emotion that you can think of.  So the travel day was an adventure.  I got to sit in the Chicago airport, for a good 4 hours, which wouldn't be that bad if you were in any airport besides Chicago.  Seriously Madison has a better airport.  Once you pass security in Chicago there is NO food.  I had peanut M&M's for dinner, (mom style dinner).  Once on the plane, which I was really excited about having a "world traveler" seat which actually turned out to be the same as economy class.  I sat next to a couple that were moving to Africa to be missionaries, full time.  Once I landed in Madrid I was so nervous and excited that I couldn't hardly stand it.  They had me fill out a customs card on the plane, but I never had to go through customs.....crazy.  Hopefully I am able to come back to the USA next year. 
My host family was waiting at the airport with Susan, my liaison, ready to kiss me on each cheek.  They are really nice and I think I am really going to like them.  We drove home through downtown Madrid and its incredible.  Its such a beautiful city, I can't wait to spend some time there.  The language part is difficult, they don't speak any English but their two sons, Raúl and Héctor do speak a little.  I can understand most of it, but when more than one person in the room is talking or they talk really fast I am completely lost. 
Raúl, Héctor and I went out and met up with some of their friends, one of them is hosting two other American girls.  His friends were really nice and kept trying to get us to speak to them which we were trying but they would get going on these crazy tangents and then we were all lost.  We got back to the house at about 10pm and ate dinner then.  Mercedes (host mom)  made chicken fajitas which she told me were spicy so I was very cautious....however, I soon realized that even though they were all sweating,  I could have used some salsa.  :)  It was quite good though, so at least I know that I won't starve to death. 
My room is sweet.  They live in a row house and I have the top floor (3rd) which has a bedroom and a bathroom and a living area that has a pool table.  I am pretty excited, except for that it is like 110º up here....
Tomorrow's day is packed with meeting type things to figure out cell phones, tour of the city, safety etc.

They asked me what I wanted for breakfast, and then offered corn flakes, not chocolate dad.  :)

Hopefully I will have more exciting stories later on...

Friday, September 3, 2010


Packing sucks.  There is no other way to put it.  Tell me how I am supposed to pack for an entire year, and be able to carry it all in 2 suitcases?!?!  Its really hard.  I have a lot of shoes that really are necessary, and purses and jeans and jewelry.  I have all day tomorrow to make it all fit, and then the adventure begins!

We will be dropping my sister off at school early Saturday morning and then driving directly to the airport.  From the moment I land in Madrid, it will be 100% Spanish.  My host family does not speak any English....its going to be interesting. :/  Hopefully I will pick it up fast, otherwise it will be a long year.  :)

That is all for now, next post = SPAIN!!