Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Malaga and Sevilla

Wow!
I feel like the past week in Spain was just a dream now... as soon as I got back to Nantes, I had a pile of work waiting for me and I think this is the first chance I have had to breathe! Not that I am complaining of course, I just had a week off. But that is the reason I am posting so late!
Barcelona was amazing and beautiful, and before we knew it we were on a RyanAir plane bound for Malaga, in the South of Spain in the Andalusia region. If you are interested in travelling to Spain, I would highly recommend this region because it is beautiful and sunny and warm!
Malaga has a population around 500 000, so it was the smallest of the places we visited. It was also very charming and cute. We were only there for a few days, but it was a lot of fun. Instead of posting pictures directly in this post, I am going to post my best Spain photos in a separate post, since I didn't get to add any Barcelona ones to the first post.
In Malaga, we did a lot of walking. We walked to the beach and hung out there for awhile since it was so beautiful, and we also went on a walking tour. It was just us three and the guide, so it was pretty fun. He was very knowledgeable and had a lot to tell us. Malaga is the birthplace of not only Pablo Picasso, but Antonio Banderas also. Pretty cool. We learned a bit about the Spanish Inquisition and the life and times of the Spanish monarchs.
One story that I found particularly amusing centres around Christopher Columbus. He came to ask the King Ferdinand if he could have money to check out the new world. The King said no. Columbus hung around for a bit and then asked again. This time, he was granted his wish. Why? Well, Ferdinand wasn't terribly attractive but his wife Isabella was. Rumour has it that Columbus and her had a little something going on, so Ferdinand wanted to put a stop to it. What better way then sending him half-way around the world? Well the story doesn't stop there. Columbus did his whole discover America thing and eventually returned to Spain. Isabella eventually died around the age of 40 from symptoms that seemed like syphilis, though that was never confirmed. Funny thing is that syphilis is thought to have originated in North America; so how did she get it? Well, Columbus also died of syphilis. Coincidence? Who knows.
There were many more stories, but I found that one interesting. You don't hear about the darker side of our past heroes in public school.
After Malaga, we journeyed to my favourite city, Sevilla. It has about 320 days of sunshine a year, and I don't think I saw a cloud in the sky the entire time I was there. It was amazing. Clear blue skies, 26 degrees, and the most amazing architecture. A lot of the architecture is a fusion of Christian and Muslim, or Moorish architecture. I wish I could remember the name, but it was a little strange so I don't remember how to spell it.
Our hostel was amazing and organized lots of events; we did them all! An amazing tapas tour, where we got to go to three different places and sample their various tapas, a flemenco show (dance, voice, and guitar), walking tours, a pub crawl, and learning how to make paella, as well as a BBQ night. The city itself was just amazing. It was sunny every single day and the buildings were incredible. Even though it was a tourist destination, it didn't feel as crazy as Rome or Amsterdam, or even Barcelona. It was just inredible.
I will be putting up pictures tomorrow probably.
All in all, my week in Spain was incredible... good food, good friends, good weather, amazing sight, and all around good times. I hope I can go back to see more of Southern Spain someday!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Barcelona!

So I apologize that I won`t be able to attach any photos when I blog over my break, but I promise that I will put some up when I am back in Nantes.
After a slight airplane delay, my two friends and I made it safely to Barcelona on Friday evening. Our hostel is pretty chill and we have a room to ourselves, so that is nice. We went out for a walk on the first evening to Las Ramblas, the pedestrian strip in the city. It was pretty lively. In some ways it reminded me of Rome because of the people selling ridiculously cheesy things.
Yesterday, I woke up earlier than my travel companions so I went for a quick walk down to the port. We met in the lobby at 11am for a tour of Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona. Our hostel organized the tour and it was really great. Only two guys (an Australian and an Irish) showed up along with our tour guide, so we had a pretty relaxed day. The view on Montserrat is absolutely incredible. I can`t wait to post pictures! We had to take a cable car to get to the top, and I was slightly terrified but we made it up in one piece. We got to do a bunch of hiking around and checked out the view as well as a monastery for a few hours before heading back down to the catch the train. We had about 45 minutes to kill, so we went to this sketchy looking shack on the side of the hill, which was actually a little cafe and was pretty cute. I mean, it was rustic. We all got some hot or cold drinks and the Irish guy ordered a tapas (appetizer) and beer combo, except he didn know was the tapas was... and it turned out to be snails. He ate them all though! I tried one and they were pretty good. We were pretty wiped from all the fresh air, so we crashed on the train ride back. We had originally intended on grabbing dinner out, but decided to save money and make our own meal in the kitchen; we`re going to eat out tonight instead. Our hostel organizes bar hops ever night of the week, but we weren`t feeling up to it last night, despite everone telling us to come because apparently they were going to the best dance bar... 5000 people and 6 different rooms with different music in each one. But there was no way we were going-- they weren`t leaving for the bar until midnight and then not going to the big dance place until around 2am!!! I guess the Spanish party pretty hard... not quite my style, haha. Now I know why "siesta" is a Spanish word! We stayed in, played some cards, chatted with some people, and were in bed before midnight. Solid.
This morning, we all woke up to find some churches. Jody and I went to an International english church and Siobhain went to a Catholic cathedral. Our service was awesome... quite the international crowd, but there were a lot of Americans. The service was in English and the music and speaker were both awesome. It was a really great way to start off the day.
After that, we met Siobhain outside of the Santa Maria Familia cathedral, a famous cathedral by Gaudi which is always under construction. I actually need to look him up, since I don`t know anything about him other than he was incredibly talented. After the cathedral, we spent the rest of the day wandering around the Parc Guell, another creation of Gaudi`s. It had some really fantastic architecture. We spent quite awhile in there, especially after the sun came out and it warmed up a bit.
To end off, I went for another walk down by the docks since it was sunny and I wasn`t ready to head back to the hostel. There were lots of people out and it smelled like an ice cream store... I loved it.
Tonight, we are going to go out for dinner and then maybe meet up with some friends from Nantes who are also visiting Barcelona.
Bye for now! Hope everyone had a great weekend !

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reading Week!

Well, this is a quick post to say so long for now... tomorrow begins our winter reading break! Two friends and I will be voyaging to sunny Spain, where we will hopefully get lots of warm temperatures. Barcelona, where we begin, is supposed to be 12 degrees and sunny tomorrow. Not bad! We will be there for a few days, then voyaging to the Andalusia region in southern Spain. We are staying in Malaga (temperature next Wednesday... 18!!!) and Sevilla, but also will be taking day trips to places like Granada and maybe Cadiz.
When I get back, I will write a lovely few posts to sum up my adventures, complete with pictures.
I am looking forward to seeing all the beautiful sights in Barcelona and well as climbing Montserrat; watching the sunset in Malaga, exploring the beach, and sampling the tapas; and viewing the stunning architecture in Sevilla, doing some hiking, and not to mention the flemenco dancing! I am excited to experience a new culture and meet new people. If only I knew Spanish...
Adios!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Hello everyone and welcome to February 14th, aka Valentine's Day! Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope that you take a moment to enjoy the holiday dedicated to love. I will be celebrating by watching Titanic in 3D this evening with a few friends (in French!!).
I have been following the Book of Common Prayer online, in preparation for my job this summer, and here's what it has to say about the tradition:

Valentine of Rome (d. 269)
A Christian priest in Rome, Valentine was known for assisting Christians persecuted under Claudius II. After being caught marrying Christian -couples and helping Christians escape the persecution, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned. Although Emperor Claudius originally liked Valentine, he was condemned to death when he tried to convert the emperor. Valentine was beaten with stones, clubbed, and, finally, beheaded on February 14, 269. In the year 496, February 14 was named as a day of celebration in Valentine’s honor. He has since become the patron saint of engaged -couples, beekeepers, happy marriages, lovers, travelers, young -people, and greetings.

Poor St. Valentine.
Anyways.
Here are some cute photos I found for Valentine's Day. They may give you an idea of a way to celebrate...