Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Appreciating Art: Picasso Museum

Today I went to the Picasso museum with two of my guy friends, Andrew and Matt. A great thing about museums in Spain (and probably throughout the rest of Europe) is that they are free from 3pm onwards on Sundays. :) So we decided to go today and not spend the 9euros that it would normally cost to go inside.

The one thing I really liked about the Picasso museum was it was set up like a giant timeline. So it took you through all of his work from when we was very young (14 yrs old) up until his death (92 years old). It was really interesting to see the progression and change of his work, and his different "periods" of work. For example Picasso had some famous periods such as his Blue Period, Rose Period and Cubism Period.

Now when I think of Picasso I think of crazy distorted faces with lots of colour etc. But surprisingly Picasso started out as an average artist while he was attending various art schools in Spain and other parts of Europe. He use to paint regular portraits, or landscapes, without them being distorted using oil paint, or pastels etc. Then as he got older you were able to see that his style changed and I thought they became more basic, and brightly coloured. Then I came to a part of the museum, where all of the portraits had suddenly changed to the Picasso I know, where the face and bodies of people he is painting are distorted. Picasso also liked to take famous artwork and do his own interpretations of it. He did over 40 different interpretations of Las Meninas which is a famous painting by Diego Velázquez, and can be seen in El Prado in Madrid (see picture below for a comparison). Each room in the museum gave a historical facts summary about the year the paintings were done, where Picasso was living at the time and what influenced his work. So it was a very informative visit today!

Montjuïc !

Yesterday I climbed a mountain, not even kidding. Montjuïc is a mountain near the sea in Barcelona. Montjuïc means Jewish Mountain. It was the site for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Here you can see the olympic stadium, the olympic torch, and a museum entirely dedicated to the games. I dont really remember the Olympic Games in Barcelona because they happened when I was very young, but it was exciting and very cool to go to an Olympic site... definitely got me a little pumped for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games!!! Wooo gooo Canada. :)

We entered the mountain grounds from Plaça de Espanya where there are two huge towers guiding you through the entrance of the majestic mountain. Here you will see a large building which is the Catalonian Museum of Art, it looks like a huge mansion or castle. To assist you getting to this building there are outdoor escalators !!! Loving that, wished they had them throughout the entire mountain, but sadly there were none after the museum. dammit.

Throughout the mountain there are also the beautiful gardens, statues and walkways. There are 2 ways to get to the top... either by a cable car or walking. My friend and I decided to walk it, which at times was fine and others i felt like my calves were going to burst (it gets very steep at some parts). But it was all worth it when we reached the top, where there sits a Castle, and amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea and of course the city of Barcelona! We walked around Montjuïc for about 2-3 hours, it was a beautiful day, sunny and not too "cold" about 12 degrees, but it got very windy when we reached the top and was cooling down because the sun was starting to set. This is definitely a place I would go again either to walk around for exercise, or just casually stroll through the gardens or olympic grounds. :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pan's Labyrinth ... but less scary

Today we headed to a park in more north of the city that had a labyrinth in it. All the credit goes to Erin for finding this place (she had a recommendation from one of her professors). It was only 2 euro to get in, and consisted of a beautiful palace, fountains, paths surrounded by trees, plants, bushes, flowers, statues and of course the labyrinth! So myself, Liz, Rachel, Erin and Matt went on an adventure to complete the labyrinth and take a walk through the grounds of the park.

It was the perfect day! Sunny, only a couple clouds, and not too "cold" out (it was about 10C today). We walked around the grounds following paths until we found the labyrinth. We actually started from the wrong side of the labyrinth, but it all worked out the same. Apparently they only allow 750 people in a day maximum to keep the quality of the park and labyrinth in tact. Fortunately it's not a very touristy place and there were very few people there, it was so nice and relaxing to go to a place that is hounded by tourists! The labyrinth was made of really tall green bushes that had a dirt trail. You began at one end and had to find the middle which had a statue of Eros, the god of love, in the middle. Then you had to work back to find your way out again. Apparently a labyrinth is different from a maze, says Erin, because a Labyrinth is for a spiritual quest and finding yourself, where a maze is something you get yourself lost in. Myself, Matt and Erin actually did the Labyrinth twice, because we wanted to do it from the original entrance, since the first time we did it we actually entered from the back part. Matt took a video of using doing the labyrinth the second time and it took us 14 minutes to complete. Erin also gave us a good piece of advice if you should ever find yourself lost in a labyrinth/maze.... hold out your left hand to the wall and follow it only turning left, even if you get to a dead end just follow the wall around back and continue walking, this will eventually lead you out of the maze!

The Barri Gothic and Cheap Sangria!

Yesterday Liz and I went for a walk through the Barri Gothic which is off Las Ramblas and is an old part of town. Barcelona was originally surrounded by walls, and this is the area where you can see these walls, narrow streets, churches and a cathedral and little shops. We of course had to make a gelato stop at the beginning of our walk to get our chocolate fix. Then we followed a walk in my walking tour book through the Gothic Quarter. Our walk lasted about 2 hours, and took us through some winding streets and narrow walkways. I finally found a tobacco shop (this is where you buy stamps) that sold international stamps! so i was able to finally mail my postcards to canada :)

At night a group of us headed to this place called the Tavern right off Las Ramblas where they have cheap sangria! On our way there I met my first Canadian in Barcelona! Her name is Tania, and she's from Quebec. She's been living here for 4 months, and starts work on Monday. So her and her friend Christian from Austria tagged along with us to the bar. We got a couple pitchers of Sangria and just hung out there for a while. After we finished those we moved onto Ovella Negra (means black sheep in Spanish) which was right next door to of course have more sangria and beer. Ovella Negra is a cavernous looking pub/bar that has mostly locals in it. We stayed for a while just chatting, laughing and enjoying the fact that we are in Barcelona loving life!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Language Partner

Today I met with one of my language partners for the first time. His name is Fran, he is 25 and has recently finished his studies. He studied science - mostly physics (aka stuff I know nothing about), and now just got his first job as a telemarketer for a political campaign until he decides what he wants to do (ie get a full time job or do his masters). He is from Barcelona and last year he did a four month exchange to England to learn English. It's very hard for Spaniards to practice their English in Barcelona/Spain, so they love it when international students want to do a language exchange. So we met for lunch, and went to a very cheap chinese restaurant (which wasn't too bad). We spoke in Spanish first for about 40 minutes and then switched to English for another 40-45 min. After lunch we walked a bit down to Parc Ciutadella, which is a beautiful parc that has lots of palm trees, green space and a large fountain. While walking we spoke mostly Spanish but would switch back to English at times... especially if i didnt know a word for something lol. He's a really funny guy and likes to laugh a lot like me :) We are going to try to meet up atleast once a week to practice and just hang out.

Week 3 in Barcelona

Ive officially been in Barcelona for just over 2 weeks, and heading into my 3rd week I thought I would think about everything that has happened so far and reflect on it.

What has changed about me within a 2 week time period:
- My eating habits -> I now eat breakfast at 9/10am, lunch at 2-3pm, and dinner at 9-10pm
- I take a siesta (nap) almost everyday... though this isnt much different from my life as a university student in Canada lol - except that it's socially acceptable in Spain! FTW
- I hardly listen to my ipod/itunes anymore
- I have a permanent death grip on my purse while in the metro and walking down Las Ramblas (in fear of being pickpocketed, as they are the best in the world here...)
- Kissing each cheek of a person when you meet them for the first time, greeting friends or saying goodbye, instead of shaking hands...

Things I love about Spain/Barcelona:

- Being able to speak Spanish 24/7
- The weather (there is NO SNOW HERE!)
- The beauty of the city (from the architecture, to streets, the Mediterranean Sea etc)
- The night life (there is something going on every night of the week)
- The FOOD! (tapas, sangria, paella... the list goes on)
- The people, just like Canadians they are very nice and helpful. :)
- The metro ... very easy to use, many stops, very efficient (comes every 2 minutes, and its always ONTIME... unlike the TTC)
- My host family, they are so kind and take care of myself and my roommates really well

Things I dont like so much about Spain/Barcelona:
- People smoke EVERYWHERE.... not something i like at all... :(
- Certain stores/places close between 1-4pm during the week
- NOTHING is open on Sundays
- Lack of traffic lights / pedestrian safety
- How some things are only in Catalan, and therefore I do not understand it
- The hours of the metro .... it's only open until 12midnight Sundays-Thursdays
- Being mistaken as an American lol

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pretty Sure This Isn't Legal in North America

Last night we went to a bar called Pippermints that specializes in creating HUGEEEE drinks.... literally they're enormous (and they probably wouldnt be legal in North America)... So you share them between 3-5 people, and can get either beer, sangria, or mixed drinks. The night before my group of friends made new friends with local Spanish guys, so we invited them to the bar with us, and there was a lot of Spanglish going on lol. It was fun to meet locals and talk to them about their life here, where they go to school, and how to say different things in Spanish. One of the guys taught me how to say "high 5" ... but i totally forget how, he had to keep telling me last night, because I kept forgetting :( whoops. I think it was "chocas esos cinco".... something a long those lines. We stayed out until 430ish am (pretty typical in Spain.... 4am is sort of an "early night"), and then we didnt wake up until 1pm. I thought we partied hard at Laurier.... over here it's a whole different thing.

Today Liz and I went out for lunch at a café and wrote some postcards to our friends and families.... (now i just need to find stamps and mail them...) it was a very lazy day, and it was nice and relaxing to just sit in a cafe and hang out. After we ate and wrote our postcards we went on a mini walk and walked past La Sagrada Família because it was so close to where we were. Even though Ive walked by La Sagrada Família many times since Ive been here, it's still incredible to see and it never ceases to amaze me. We went into a couple gift / touristy stores beside the church and some people tried to get us to buy various things from magnets to barça scarfs lol.

Tomorrow starts my first official full week of school. Love that im only taking 3 courses :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Day of School

Today was my first day of school ! Finally, probably most of you are thinking lol. My semester in Spain is a lot different then in Canada as we start much later than Laurier, and finish later than usual (not til the end of April, as opposed to the end of March).

I had only one class today at 11am until 1245. It was International Business. My professor's name is Jorge Mongay, and he was born and raised in Barcelona. He has many letters after his name from all the degrees he's obtained from all over the world (USA, UK, Switzerland, Spain etc). He has worked as a consultant for a company travelling all over the world and working in the area of International Trade and Exports. He's very nice and quite funny, and I think im really going to enjoy his class. He seems very eager to help students learn, and just talk to them about anything that interests them, whether it be international business or what bars to go to in Barcelona. He repeatedly said that he would be happy to sit down for a "café con leche" (coffee with milk) and just chat about whatever. In class today we just did introductions, first our professor gave a background on his life and career thus far, and then we had to introduce ourselves, and then afterwards we watched a quick youtube video that was about international change and shifts in technology, people, languages and countries. It was very interesting.

Tomorrow I have a busier day... International Marketing and Spanish. I will be in school between 11am - 545pm. Hopefully those classes go well too!

Food, Food and more Food!

La Boqueria is Barcelona's most famous fresh food market. It sells everything from fruit, to vegetables, candy and meat. I went yesterday with a couple friends from API and Paul. We all got fresh fruit and smoothies for 2 euro. Cheapest lunch ever, also quite filling.... but the best part was that it was super healthy. :)

La Boqueria is located right off Las Ramblas and is not open on Sundays (as that is the day of rest/God in Spain). It is not only filled with fresh food, but hundreds of different vibrant colours from various foods from around the world. It's a very busy place with vendors trying to attract your attention, left, right and center - hoping that you will buy their food. My friends and I went to get lunch there, but it's also a really good place just to wander and look around. I couldn't get over the bright colours of the fresh fruit, and the sweet smell they gave off.

They even have a chocolate/candy section in La Boqueria... which is a little dangerous for me because I have an obsession with chocolate, especially from Europe/UK. But... I was good and only bought fruit and some cheese for lunch :) I got this pretty big block of fresh swiss cheese for 1.90 euros! Pretty cheap! Loved it.

I will most likely be going back there to get fresh fruit or cheese for lunches sometime soon!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Investing in Alcohol

I have officially been to one of the GREATEST bars ever, conveniently located in Barcelona. It is called the Dow Jones, and the whole concept of the bar is based off of the stock market.

There are digital LCD screens at the bar which display the price of each drink. Since there is different supply and demand of each drink, the prices fluctuate based on what is ordered. So for example when I first got there I bought a Heineken for 2.15 euro, but because I bought that beer, the price of a Heineken went up to 2.50 euro. bahaha.

Then about once or twice ever hour there is a stock market CRASH, and all the prices plummet for each drink. Then everyone races to the bar to buy drinks while they are cheap. You have 3 minutes to order your drink before the prices go back up to what they normally are. So during the stock market crash I got a Heineken for 1.95 euro. I find it entertaining that I would NEVER order Heineken in Canada because it's an imported beer and therefore more expensive, but here it's one of the cheapest beers!

The bar had a very chill but fun atmosphere. We also watched the soccer game when we first got there are a big screen tv. Barcelona won 4-0 against Sevilla. Messi scored 2 goals (he's the best played on the team.... also is quite good looking too).

Can't wait to see what other fun bars we find around the city.

The Beauty is in the Detail

Seeing La Sagrada Família first hand was amazing. im pretty sure my jaw was dropped the entire time just standing there in awe of this huge structure that Gaudí began building over a hundred years, and is still be constructed today. Every little piece of the church has incredible detail, and the majority is made of stone so it's all made by hand.

We spent some time outside the basilica admiring the detail of each façade which represented different stages of Christ's life. Then we went inside and they had an exhibit on how Gaudí found his inspiration through nature and showed what each piece of La Sagrada Família means, and what piece of nature it represents. Then we took an elevator to the top of the basilica to see the entire city and the construction of the upper part of La Sagrada Família. Paul said it was like a "choose your own adventure" because there were various staircases you could take on your way down, that would give you different views as you descended from the top.

After La Sagrada Família we walked over to Casa Milá, and our plan was to go inside but we decided to go on a different day because it was 10euro to go inside of that as well (Sagrada Família was 12euro... but that money goes directly to funding the construction of the church so we didnt feel so bad paying for that lol). After Casa Milá my friends Liz and Matt from API, Paul and I went on a short walking tour using a book I bought in Canada before I left called "24 Walking Tours of Barcelona". it was really good because it took us to places we probably would have never seen, and gave us the information/history on them.

We walked all the way down Las Ramblas and saw many street performers, people selling birds/pets/roosters, and lots of artists. Then my mom called me on my cellphone and that was the first time I was able to talk to her because we've had such busy schedules since we got there. So we had a nice chat while I was walking by the end of Las Ramblas.

After a day of a lot walking I had a nice long siesta. :) I think that's one of the things I like most about Spanish culture is that napping is social acceptable. It's every university students dream.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bike Tour of Barça

Hello World,

Today we had an incredible bike tour of the city. It was sooo much fun, definitely my favourite thing Ive done thus far. It was a beautiful day, sunny - no clouds and ranging from 12-15 degrees C ! We started our tour in the Barrí Gothic area of Barcelona which is a more Gothic and Roman style of an area, and then continued to explore the lower part of the city. It was a lot of fun to bike around and see so much on a bike!

My favourite part was going to the beach and seeing the Mediterranean Sea. The beach is beautiful and clean and there were even people surfing !!! The waves were enormous, and the water kept creeping up on us while we were trying to take pictures on the beach. Our bike tours were divided into 3 groups and we had Marta as our tour guide (she is the program director for Barcelona at API). So we learned about various parts of the city and its history.

After the bike tour we headed to get some lunch and found a place that had paella. I shared a mixed paella with my friend Liz, which consisted of vegetables, shrimp, chicken, spare ribs, squid, mussels and of course rice. It was sooo good, and now have had the most Spanish things to eat/drink: paella, sangría and tapas!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Busy life in Barcelona!

Hola Chicos y Chicas

It´s been a busy couple of days for my orientation in Barcelona, but im loving the city and student life so far! ive been doing a TON of walking, so im going to have calves of steel when I get back to Canada in 4 months haha. Everything is very close in Barcelona, normally nothing takes more than 20 minutes to walk to. That´s sort of the running joke. If anything is farther than that then we take the metro, or a bus, or a taxi. Im thinking about getting a monthly metro pass for the metro, but for now just bought a ticket for 10 rides, called a T-10 which was 7 euros, and im going to see how often i use the metro and then decide if i want to buy a monthly pass or a 50/30 pass which means you have 50 rides you can use in 30 days, and that is 30 euros, and a monthly pass is 48 euros which of course is unlimited and can be used on the metro, buses or night buses. The metro closes at 12midnight Sunday-Thurs, 2am on Fridays, and it runs 24 hours on Saturday! Its not that difficult to use, it was sort of overwhelming at first but now it´s pretty easy to get the hang of!

Yesterday and today we had tours of our university .... my university is La Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona or UAB for short! Yesterday we went to the Sant Pau campus which was BEAUTIFUL, and looked like an old fashion castle or mansion, it had mosaic tiles everywhere, and stained glass windows. We had an academic and cultural meeting there, found out our schedules for class (i dont start class until 11am every day yayyy), and were able to have some time to tour that campus. Then today we went to Sarriá which is in the posh neighbourhood of Barcelona, and is a more modern campus. This is the campus I will be taking my business classes at where Sant Pau is where I take my spanish class. Then after we visited Sarriá we went to the main campus in the suburbs of Barcelona which is 30 mins away from the city center by train and is called Bellaterra. It is HUGEEEE and is the campus for the local students, where Sant Pau and Sarriá is for exchange students. So we ate lunch and had a tour at Bella Terra, and I was able to try Spanish Paella for the first time! It was ok because it was from the university café, so I still need to go to an official Paella restaurant, but it was still tastey.

The eating habits of Spainards are very different. We have small breakfasts at around 8 or 9am in the morning, then they take 2 hours for lunch whihc is the biggest meal of the day at around 2pm, and then we dont have dinner until 9 or 10, sometimes even 11 pm at night! Then the night life doesnt really start until 1am, and can go until 6am in the morning!! So it´s similar to NYC, being that its a city that never really sleeps, theres always something going on!

This weekend is going to be a big exploration weekend, my friends and I and my friend Paul (who went to Laurier with me, and has been travelling around Europe for the past 5 months, and will be in Barcelona this weekend!) are going to go to Parc Güell, Casa Milá and of course La Sagrada Familia, which are all things that were designed and built by Gaudí, a famous Spanish architect. Ive been able to see a little bit of La Sagrada Familia, and I live 2 blocks away from Casa Milá, both are amazing structures, and are in the modernistic style!

I dont start school until tuesday the 19th, so I have a nice 3 day weekend! Tomorrow (friday) we have a bike tour of the city, so i hope the weather is nice tomorrow as well. Today it was sunny and 16 degrees C !!!! Im loving that! No snow! woooo

anyways i will post more pictures to facebook soon, when i upload them to my laptop.

bye for now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

La Ciudad de Barcelona

Hey everyone!

So today we had a practical walking tour of Barcelona, so they taught us how to use the metro and some key advice on the city etc. We also walked a little bit down Las Ramblas which is a VERY famous street in Barcelona where they sell all kinds of things from flowers, to art to pets. This is also the place where the majority of pick-pocketers "work", so we were all very careful about our bags, and slightly paranoid, but no one got pickpocketed which was good!

Then we stopped at a place on Las Ramblas for lunch, i had some pasta, and then after lunch we had a 2+hour bus tour of the city. So we got to see all the famous monuments and places in Barcelona. It was a great overview of the city so we know where to go and what interests us, so we can visit places this weekend and throughout our exchange.

Later we had a meeting for housing as we move into our places tomorrow. Im living with a host family and other students are either in a dorm or apartment. After our meeting we went out for dinner to a Tapas restaurant, and ofcourse had tapas and sangría ! we felt very Spanish lol. The sangría was delicious!! A pitcher of sangría was less than 10euros, which is a really good price. Beer and wine are cheaper here in Spain then water (how convenient).

After our dinner we had a craving for gelato, but since we dont eat dinner in Spain until 10pm, and we didnt finish until 12midnight, the gelato place was closed! :( So instead we went to a bar lol. We found this irish bar that was really close to our hotel and was a lot of fun, they played great music and had good prices for beer. We met a lot of other exchange students there as well.

Good times so far! it's 215ish am ,annnnd i need to go to bed.

Buenas Noches!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Estoy en Barcelona !!! (I am here!)

¡ Hola a todos !

I have safely arrived in Barcelona. :)
My flights went smoothly and no major problems. I was initially delayed in Montreal by 30 minutes but nothing after that! I am super tired and jet lagged, but so excited to be in this BEAUTIFUL city i dont even care. Flying into Barcelona was incredible because it was sunny, and we flew right over water right by the city, so I had an AMAZING view!

I arrived at El Prat (Barcelona's airport) around 1145am (Spain time), and waited around a bit had a coke zero because i was dead tired and needed caffeine. Then waited a bit and found some other API students, so then we waited together until the API resident director picked us up. I met my roommate who I will be living with at our host family in the airport as well which was convenient! She's from Texas and very nice, her name is Hannah Wilson.

We took a coach bus from the airport to our hotel, which took not even 20 minutes. We got a VERY quick glimpse of the city, and it's GORGEOUS! I can't wait for our bus tour tomorrow to see more of the city... (expect to see some pictures very soon). Our hotel is right downtown next to a major plaza, and is 4 stars.

Hilarious story --- so my roommate for the hotel and I got to our room, and went to turn on a light or plug something in and nothing happened... no electricity... we spent about 10minutes trying to figure how to get the electricity working. So then I called the front desk and apparently we had to insert our hotel room key into this special device thingy by the door to have power... WHO WOULD HAVE FIGURED THAT OUT?! anyways it was pretty funny, just because we get to europe and can't even turn on a light. haha.

We have an orientation meeting soon, and then dinner later on.

Love from Barcelona,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My bags are packed, im ready to go.... leaving on a jet plane

Hey everybody !

So im currently in my mom's work office because this is the only place i get internet in Brockville lol. I just printed out my boarding pass and now leaving to go to Montreal to the airport! I have window seats on both my flights which is good so i can stare out the window in awe when i arrive in Paris and Barcelona :)
This morning I put my blackberry on hold which was weird and sad as most of you know my hand is permanently attached to that thing. But it should be a different experience not to have my BB at every waking moment.

Good luck to all my friends at Laurier on their winter semester, and goodluck to my friends on their final coop term! I will miss you all very much and see you all when I get back :)

I promise to update my blog as much as possible while in Europe on my travels, and post lots of fb pics.

Goodbye -15C weather and snow, i will not miss you.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Barcelona here I come !

Hey everyone,

So it's just under 24 hours until i am on a plane to Europe! I fly from Montreal to Paris and then to Barcelona and I will be flying with Air France. Im keeping my fingers crossed that the weather/snow cooperates for me and therefore my flight will NOT be delayed !

I should be arriving in Barcelona around 11am (Spain time, so subtract 6 hours to get Canadian time), then I will be going to a hotel to receive two days of orientation and then I will be moving into a house with a host family. We then have orientation/tours of the city of Barcelona, and the weekend free to explore, so I dont start classes until the 18th of January !! So I have a mini vacation before I start school which will be a lot of fun im sure.

Im doing my exchange through an exchange company and not through Laurier International. The company is called Academic Programs International (API), and they have been fantastic so far. They organize EVERYTHING from housing, to classes to getting me a cellphone. The only thing i had to worry about was booking my flight.

Anyways that's all for now, I will send another message once i arrive in Spain and have access to Internet. I will miss everyone while Im away but can't wait to go to Europe. :) Goodbye snow! hello flipflops !