Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Does 4 Months Of Change Look Like?

So today in the street a guy who was lost stopped me on the way home and asked me for directions, all in Spanish. Without even thinking, I knew exactly what he was asking, and answered him right away in Spanish where the FGC train (which he was looking for) was. It made me smile and be proud of myself for being able to do it... as simple as it was, 4 months ago I probably wouldn't have been able to understand him so well, and answer so quickly. So that got me thinking about what has changed about me in 4 months during my exchange here in Spain.

My Language Abilities
First of all my Spanish has improved leaps and bounds. Living with a host family was probably the best decision I made before coming to Barcelona. My host mother and father dont speak English so I have no choice but to communicate them in Spanish, which is great practice, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to do an exchange who wants to improve their language skills immensely. At times it can be frustrating if you dont know how to quite communicate something to your host parents, or if you're really tired it's hard to concentrate and speak in another language. But at the end of the day, you have to push yourself to improve your language skills. My international business professor said something that really stuck with me over my exchange here "Learning another language is a lot like learning how to swim, you're never going to learn if you just dip your toes in, you have to immerse yourself by jumping into the deep end". And it's so true... to learn a language you have to be really outgoing, confident and not afraid to make mistakes, because you're going to make them along the way but it's the only way you'll learn. It's so important to be constantly challenging yourself to learn, and push yourself outside your comfort zone, or else you won't improve. Besides living with a host family some other great ways to improve your language abilities are:
1) Finding a language partner - great way to practice your language you are learning and help out another person improve theirs. My language partners (I had more than one) were around the same age as I was so we had lots in common which sparked lots of conversation.
2) Listening to music in the language you are learning - I love music from all kinds of genres and countries, so Im always looking for songs to add to my itunes. Having music in other languages can help you learn rhythm of different words, new phrases or slang, vocabulary, and even new dances. (eg. i love salsa music, and love to salsa)
3) Reading newspaper articles - helps you keep up with current issues and can help you learn new vocabulary
4) Talking with/meeting locals - whether this is asking directions, giving directions, ordering food in a cafe/restaurant, or meeting people in bars. The more you step out your comfort zone and are unafraid to talk to and meet new people, the more people you will be able to communicate with. Sure you're Spanish may suck at first but practice makes perfect, and you'll make new friends along the way. :)
5) Dating a local - one of the best ways I learned new words/phrases/slang, and also allowed me to ask questions I was too shy to ask my professor, or host parents on certain words, rules etc. Plus it was a lot of fun and great practice, I only spoke Spanish to him, and he only spoke English to me. If i ever got lazy and switched to English he would call me out on it, and tell me to switch back to Spanish. If I made mistakes he would also correct me, another great way to learn and improve :)

My Knowledge of Barcelona & Spain in General
When I first came to Barcelona I remember thinking, "oh my god, how am I ever going to navigate through this city", and now I feel like I know the city like the back of my hand, and for this reason I am able to help other people in this city who are lost (case in point, the guy today who asked me for directions). Ive been asked several times while on exchange by Spanish people where certain things are in the city...which I am impressed by myself because:
1) I know where to direct them, and
2) I can effectively communicate it to them in Spanish
Even when I take the metro now, I dont even look at the maps or signs for which line to take because Ive taken it so many times out of routine I just know where to go. I know what end of the track to be on, to get to where I need to go quicker, I know which places to switch lines the fastest, etc etc. All of these things ive learned over a short period, and when I look back at my first days in Barcelona I thought I would never master the metro... haha oh how things have changed.
Even my knowledge of Spain in general has increased, with regards to current issues, or its history, and other cities. By talking with locals, or visiting other cities in Spain I was able to obtain a greater understanding of this beautiful country... and may have found a place I want to retire haha.

My Character and Maturity
As an only child who has gone through a lot in 21 years, I think I developed a strong character and maturity at an earlier age than most (my mother can contest to that), but travelling to Europe and living in Spain for the past 4 months, I feel like Ive changed as a person even more. I just feel like I have an even larger global understanding of the world with regards to people, countries, cultures etc. Learning how to live in another country can be tough especially when you are not fluent in the language. Working through culture shock (though I feel it didnt affect me as much as it affected other people), the differences in culture, adjusting to my new life here, travelling to other places, dealing with issues while abroad etc etc all of these things I think have added to my maturity and life experiences. I feel like Ive also learned to cope with things a lot better than I was able to do when living in Canada. Just from everything Ive gone through here personally (good and bad) I feel I have a greater ability to deal with things better and a lot faster, and try not to worry about things so much. Everything works out in the end - remember that. Also, the places Ive travelled to and the people I have met have changed my life for the better. I have made some incredible new friends, and have seen some amazing places while living in Europe. I will always cherish the memories from my time here.

Some Things That Haven't Changed About Me...

1) Im still the happy-go-lucky, outgoing, optimistic person that I am
2) I still have no idea what I want to do after university.... although I do have an incredible desire to live and work abroad, I have no idea what kind of job I want... need to figure out that this summer. yikes.
3) I still have a huge passion for the Spanish language, some people's opinion on Spain and learning Spanish have changed significantly while being here (either positive or negative because of Spanish classes and their living experiences).... if anything my exchange fueled my passion even more.

So all in all, I would say my exchange to Spain was one of the best decisions in my life. It was the most incredible experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone. Whether you want to learn a language, or just experience a new kind of life, going abroad is your ticket there. As sad as I am to leave, I am ready to go home... I dont want to go home but Ive come to terms with it and am ready. I feel like I created a second life here, and dont want that life to end. With this being said I know I will come back to Barcelona some day soon (i drank from the fountain on Las Ramblas so it's definitely going to happen haha), either to visit, live or work. This city is fantastic, so much fun, and has so much to offer. Barcelona was the greatest city to do my exchange in and Im so lucky to have had this opportunity to live and study abroad. Big thank you to API for giving me this opportunity, and to my mom and friends for all the encouragement and support they gave me before, and during my exchange. <3

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Beach and Spreading Canadian Pride

Today I had my 2nd final exam, which was for International Business. I think it went pretty well, and I am kind of sad that the course is over. It's a class I really enjoyed, as International Business is what Im really interested in and want to concentrate in it in my 4th year of study. This is also the first course I have taken in the subject.

After my exam I met Holly and Olivia at Barceloneta to soak up the sun on the beach. It was a beautiful day and quite hot while laying out underneath the sun. It was about 25C without a cloud in the sky. I couldnt have asked for a better day! I love being able to take the metro a couple of stops and go from the L'Exiample district (where I live), and end up on a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean Sea. This city can't get any better.
After tanning a bit on the beach I headed to the API office, to give a presentation on Canada. Marta, the program director asked me to do a presentation on Canada because I am one of their first Canadian students (as they mainly deal with American students), and she and the other API staff didnt know much on Canada and they wanted to learn more about the country. So I happy offered to create a powerpoint presentation for them all about Canada. I covered main statistics, geography, history, culture, what it means to be Canadian, Canadian inventions, music, celebrities etc....the whole nine yards. I love being from a country where I can be so proud to be from there and happily talk about it. :) At the end of the presentation I gave API a Canadian flag and a book about Canada to keep in the office.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Roommate Adventure down Las Ramblas & a Bull Fight!

Sunday was a productive day. In the the early afternoon Hannah and I went on a mission to try and see the Castellers - which is a group of people who climb each other to build tall towers... it's a tradition that is only found in Catalunya. Unfortunately they were where I thought they'd be as I saw them the weekend before but didnt have my camera on me, and therefore wasn't able to take any photos :(.

But we moved on and went on a serious shopping adventure down Las Ramblas to buy all the touristy souvenirs we've been wanting to buy since we got here. It was fun to be a tourist for a day... as we've been actually living here (being "students") so we never really considered ourselves tourists, and therefore havent gone to do touristy shopping until now. I had a few things on a list I created of "things to buy before leaving spain"... these included: Flag of Spain, Soccer Scarf for Team España (for the world cup 2010), a keychain, bracelet/necklace of some sort to remember Barcelona/Spain, bottle of wine, olive oil, postcards,etc. I was able to get everything off my list except for a bottle of wine, olive oil and I decided not to buy postcards (to decorate my room with) because I figured I had enough of my own pictures plus other painting things I bought while my mom was in Spain. We went down Las Ramblas and first stopped off at a special fountain located at the beginning of Las Ramblas which has a legend that if you drink from it you will return to Barcelona... so Hannah and I did the ceremonious drinking from the fountain to ensure we return to Barcelona some day soon!
Then we stopped to shop at all the HOLA! stands, which sell everything from postcards to newspapers to other touristy stuff. Then we hit up the Indian touristy stores, where you can bargain and get inappropriately talked to ... fun. After we purchased all our touristy items we got lunch at a place called "Wok to Walk" which is a place where they make fresh asian stirfrys. We ate our stirfrys by Port Vell on a large patch of grass and listened to a funky band play. It was a beautiful day, and it was so relaxing to just hang out, listen to great music, eat lunch in the sun!
In the evening I headed to a BULL FIGHT!!! It's held at Monumental, which is the bullring. There is major controversy over bullfighting in Catalunya because it's a tradition from Southern Spain, and the people here are VERY against it. It's actually going through the legislative system to be banned in all of Catalunya, so eventually people wont be able to see bullfights in Barcelona or other places in Catalunya (good thing i saw one now...). I wasnt sure what to expect and didnt have a distinct opinion on bullfighting, so I figured this would be a good experience to form an opinion on the issue after seeing a live bullfight myself. It started at 6pm, and we were sitting at the top (where the cheapest tickets are... 23euro), in the sunshine. They had a mini opening ceremonies where all the Matadors came out, with other horsemen, and helper people. Then the first bull was released. There was to be 6 bulls in total, with 3 Matadors... so 2 bulls each.
The first bullfighter was ok... he wasn't anything amazing (when comparing him to the others that we saw. But initially seeing the bulls get stabbed with different swords and dagger things was intense to see... and sort of hard to watch. The Matador goes through a couple different stages with the bull. First he uses and pink and yellow cape to let the bull pass through, this is pretty much to tire the bull out. Then men on horses come out with large spears and pierce the bulls back with them, then finally the Matador uses a red cap to tease the bull, with finally putting a large sword in it's back. Then 2 other Matadors come out and make the bull turn it's head back and forth by waving the caps next to him, which actually severs the bulls nerves and veins which then kills the bull. However the first Matador didnt put the sword in the bull properly so the bull didnt die right away, then another Matador came out and took a small knife dagger and ended up stabbing it in the head of the bull - this was really hard to watch because he then jiggled the dagger in the bulls head to kill it. After this happened my friends and I were feeling iffy about the whole bullfight thing, as our stomachs had turned a bit... it was pretty gory.
But we decided to stay for atleast one more bull to give it a chance. The next bull was released and a different Matador came out this this Matador was waving his cap at the bull we were all talking about how it would be so intense to see a Matador get hit by the bull's horns... literally 5 minutes later it happened. The bull ended up hitting the Matador with his horns and flinging him up in the air... then the bull's horns actually gored the Matador in the face and he was immediately taken away by other Matadors. There was blood coming from the Matador's face - we immediately took back our words ... it was intense. Fortunately the Matador was ok and he ended up finishing the bull off. However he never came out to do a second bull, as he was pretty hurt.
The third bullfighter that came out was unreal. He really displayed the art form of bullfighting. He would turn and twist as the bull came close to him, and would also go on his knees as the bull ran past, it was INSANE. The most impressive thing he did was face the bull head on, and the bull attacked and the Matador held out his hand so he held it on the bull's head and the bull pushed against him as the Matador walked backwards... it was impressive to see (i got a video of it... so check my facebook after i get back home).

There were 6 bulls that were killed in total. At the end of the match a winner was chosen which ended up being the first Matador, his last bull he killed was impressive. When he won they cut off the ear of the bull, and gave it to him, as a sort of trophy, then he tossed it into the crowd for someone to catch... ew. Im glad I went to the bullfight, as it's a tradition of Spain and a part of the culture (especially in the south of Spain). Im not sure if I would want to go see another one, but I was able to appreciate it for the "art" that it was.

Better late than never!

So this weekend in Barcelona it wasn't suppose to be beautiful... it was actually suppose to be quite rainy... which would have sucked. But thank godness Mother Nature is being kind because it has been one of the most beautiful weekends since Ive been here. Averaging 22-25 degrees, and very sunny!

However, since im technically in my "exam period" I need to "study". So I spent the afternoon on Saturday studying in the sunshine on my balcony looking over my street. :) I was actually quite productive and got some colour from sitting out in the sun, which was actually quite hot.

I also received a package from my mom that I was suppose to get back in March. She cut out and saved a bunch of pictures and articles from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. :) I was kind of sad that I missed such an epic Olympic games in my own country... but I think i represented them abroad well wearing all my olympic gear, and then able to catch a game or two on random tv screens around Barcelona that were actually showing the Olympic Games. But it definitely would have been a completely other thing if I was in Canada, especially the night Canada won against the USA in the hockey final ... ahh wish I could have been there for that.

Anyways better late than never that I FINALLY received my package from my mom. Thanks mommy for sharing the Canadian Olympic Love <3

Friday, April 23, 2010

♥ El Día de Sant Jordi ♥

Today, April 23rd 2010, is "El Día de Sant Jordi" ... Saint George's Day in Catalunya. It's kind of like Valentine's Day in North America but more traditional (aka not so commercialized).

Sant Jordi is the patron Saint of Catalunya, and also happens to be the patron Saint of England! It comes from a legend that says Sant Jordi went to fight against a dragon for his princess. He killed the dragon and from its blood came a rose which he brought back and gave to his princess. So now the tradition on El Día de Sant Jordi is that men give women roses... however to also commemorate the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes (a Spanish writer) who both died on the same day (April 23rd), women are suppose to give men a book. So now Sant Jordi day has translated into a day where men and women exchange roses and books.

My Sant Jordi day started off with my friends and I at La Champañería for lunch, where we devoured (once again) delicious hamburgers and even better pink champagne. There we met two fabulous gay guys, Lars from Amsterdam (who is also a male model...very cute), and Bence from Hungrary (who owns a makeup artist shop in London, England). We started chatting with them about Barcelona and living here etc. They were both really nice and hilarious. Then after we finished our lunch they joined us as we walked up Las Ramblas to see the beautiful stands of roses and books for Sant Jordi day. On our way to Las Ramblas Lars and I listened to Lady Gaga on his ipod as we walked and were singing and dancing in the streets... haha, I love how global Lady Gaga is and you can totally bond with a person over her music. While walking around almost every person in Barcelona today either had a rose or book in their hand to give to their special someone. It was so cute, and really cool to be able to experience and witness this important day in Barcelona. We walked into La Boqueria to get some fruit and chocolate to take to the beach with us. Which is where we headed afterwards. Then myself, our new gay friends, Liz and her spanish Boy Carlos all sat on the beach drinking cava, eating fruit and basking in the sunshine by the sea. ahhh life is good in barcelona. <3

Casa Mila, Tea, Hookah and the King and Queen of Spain!

As my time in Spain is quickly winding down, I am trying to accomplish all the things on a list I made of things to do before I leave. One of them was to go inside Casa Mila, which is an apartment complex that was designed by Gaudí. So yesterday I ventured there with my friend Olivia from API.

The building is very different looking on the outside... it's very wavy, and non-tradition type of Barcelona building. The inside lobby is beautiful, the ceilings are a mesh of beautiful colours mixed together and there is a large open space in the middle of the building that acts as sort of an outdoor (but technically inside) terrace/patio.

The building is half a museum and half a functional office building. So the first two floors are reserved for businesses and their offices and the upper floors act as a museum. We saw an apartment where the Mila family use to live... it is fully furnished with old fashioned furniture and objects from their home (very antique-y). Next we went to the floor before the terrace as there are replicas of all of Gaudí's major projects (such as Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló etc), and the history about them. Then finally Olivia and I made it to the roof which is the most famous part. The roof literally looks like a wave because it's well... wavey shaped. It also has "chimneys" on the top which look more like soldier's helmets than anything, and giant white things that Olivia said looked like "soft serve icecream" haha.

After checking out Casa Mila, Olivia and I walked to the bullfight ring to buy tickets to go see a bullfight on sunday! Currently bullfighting is just frowned upon in Catalunya but will soon be outlawed because it is a very southern Spain there's a lot of controversy over bullfighting here in Barcelona... but im still excited to see it to form my own opinion on the whole issue.

Then I met up with Liz for tea in the Barri Gothic. As we were walking to my favourite café (La Clandestina) there was a huge crowd of people, with tv stations and their cameras, as well as a ton of police (both provincial and federal). So we knew something was up... plus we couldnt walk the way we normally do because it was blocked off. So as we were walking around the big crowd we found out that the chairman/president guy of the Olympic Game Committee had died, and he was from Barcelona and today was his funeral. As we were looking at the entrance to the Cathedral, there were several cars that drove past us through the crowds. When we looked at the cars we saw some important people waving as they drove by... then they stopped infront of the cathedral and got out... people started cheering and clapping and we realized that they were the King and Queen of Spain... no big deal.

We continued onwards to my favourite cafe and sat down on a comfy couch. I ordered a tea, and Liz got a cappuccino. Looking around we saw a bunch of people smoking Hookah, and then decided to get one, which is called Naguilé in Spanish. We got a flavour called "tutti frutti". So sitting in the café Liz and I chatted about life and our experiences in Barcelona and how we've changed over tea and hookah for about 2 hours. It was a very relaxed afternoon spent in the Barri Gothic. (probably my most favourite area in Barcelona) :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

API Farewell Dinner

This week API hosted its farewell dinner for all of its exchange students currently studying in Barcelona. We had a stand up dinner so we were able to mix and mingle with everyone while we ate various tapas. We had Catalan bread (pan con tomate), chorizo, cheese, little sandwiches, pizza, and other kinds of little hot appetizers.
API made a powerpoint slide quiz that was "You know youve been to API Barcelona when..." and was questions all about the API staff, to show how much we've gotten to know them over the past 4 months. API also created a slide show to sum up our semester here in Barcelona. Complete with music and photos it went through each major trip and cultural event we had. Watching the slide show take us through the entire semester all over again with all the things we ere able to do here, made me realize what an incredible time ive had, and how lucky ive been to have had this experience. I will always remember my time here and will cherish the memories ive made while studying in Barcelona.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spanish Cooking Workshop

This past week API organized a cooking workshop at a hotel for all of the exchange students to come and learn how to make traditional Spanish meals. We learned how to cook Paella, Tortilla (which is like a french omelet with potatoes in it... NOT like the Mexican tortilla lol), Pan Con Tomate (traditional appetizer type of food only served in Catalunya, Sangria, and Creme Catalan (like caramel flan).

We had our own seating area for approximately 60 students in an outdoor tent, with a chef and some of his assistants. We started with the paella, as that would take the longest to cook. There was a HUGEEE (emphasis on HUGEEE) paella pan in the middle of the room, the biggest thing ive ever seen, which is where we'd be cooking the paella to feed 60 people. The chef began to explain how to make the paella and asked for volunteers to start help to cook the meat in the pan. I volunteered with a couple of my friends and we started cooking the chicken. Then he added the rice, then came the chicken/seafood broth, then we let it boil a bit, then put in mini lobsters and mussels, and to finish it offer placed lemons on the top. The chef then put a large white sheet over the entire pan to let it cook and let the steam seep through the sheet while the paella cooked. After it was done cooking we naturally started eating it.

This is what the paella dish looked when it as complete:
This is what the paella dish looked like when it was demolished by 60 people:

Then the chef explained how to make Tortilla, which afterwards we tried. It wasnt the best tortilla ive had here, but it was still good. Marta said it's very important that Tortilla is made with love or else it doesnt taste good, obviously the chef didnt put much love into it when he was making it. lol

After the tortilla and paella, Marta asked for a volunteer to make the sangria, so I volunteered my mom. She wasnt too impressed but i figured it would be good to expand her education on wine and sangria. So she demonstrated how to make it with the help of the head chef infront of about 60 people. :) hehe. For dessert we had Creme Catalan which was delicious, but i wasnt really paying attention while the chef was explaining how to make it, I was more focused on eating it... whoops my bad. good thing they sent us home with the recipes.

¡La Champañería!

Today Holly and I ventured through the Barri Gothic (because the metro was stopped due to some illegal immigrants selling purses and being arrested at another station... thus our station was stopped, so we decided to walk in the sunshine) to the Beach to go to La Champañería. This was my first time there and so glad I was able to go!

La Champañería is right next to the Barceloneta metro stop and right next to Port Vell on a side street. The cool thing about it is that there is no sign on the outside of where it's located so you kind of have to know where youre going. Another thing is that it's a locals place and is always busy because they make such good food and drinks for ridiculously cheap prices.

We went in and it was packed! Literally you had to sort of push your way through to make it to the bar where the cooks were to order your food and drinks. We met Erika, Afton, Garrett, Kyle and Steve there and were celebrating Erika's 21st bday (nothing like getting tipsy off of champagne at 4 in the afternoon... oh barcelona how i love you). Garrett and I ordered a bottle of champagne rosat (pink champagne) to share which was 4 euro (amazing), and we each got these amazing hamburgers with bacon and pickles for only 3 euros each. Literally the best hamburger ive ever had (if not atleast in my top 3), they're freshly made, and amazing.

So we chatted for a bit, drinking glasses upon glasses of fresh champagne while devouring our hamburgers, then Holly and I walked from the beach up Las Ramblas, stopped at La Boqueria to grab some fresh smoothies then continued walking to our apartments in the sunshine. What a great way to spend a friday afternoon! <3

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Magic Fountain!

Last week I went to see the Magic Fountain for the first time. It had been recommended to me by almost everyone I know who has been to Barcelona - and for good reason too. The magic fountain is located infront of MNAC (which is an old fashioned palace and now a major museum for Catalonian Art) on Montjuïc. The shows run Fridays and Saturdays from 7-9pm, and they are incredible! and the best part they're free!

The shows consist of various pieces of music, anything from classical, to movie themes, modern music, and even disney songs, to a water and light show. The fountain itself is HUGE, and round so hundreds of people can come to see the show and everyone has a great view of it no matter where you are standing! The best time to go is right when the sun is setting because then the colours through the water show really well, especially when it's dark out.

My heart almost stopped when there was a water/light show to my favourite song "Apologize" by OneRepublic. I LOVE THAT SONG, and it was amazing to see it through the Magic Fountain - video to come on facebook. :)
Other favourite songs through the magic fountain have been: O Fortuna, Forever Young, and Adios Ayer.

If anyone reading this is planning on going to Barcelona one day... YOU MUST GO SEE THE MAGIC FOUNTAIN AT MONTJUÏC !!!

Barça.... what an incredible team

This week has been super exciting with regards to Barça soccer games.

This past tuesday was an important game against Arsenal because it was the quarter finals of the Champions League. The final score was 4-1 Barça, and incredibly, Messi scored ALL 4 GOALS! He is insane. When I was watching the game with my mom as it was starting I was explaining about all the players and mentioning how Messi scores probably 80% of all the goals, and lately has been scoring on average atleast 2-3 goals per game. My mom thought this was crazy and didnt believe me until she saw him score all 4 goals against Arnsenal. Case, in, point. Winning against Arsenal puts Barça in the semi finals and they will be playing InterMilan next.

Then this past Saturday was the Barça vs. Real Madrid game... which was a much bigger deal than the Arsenal game as this game would determine who would be #1 in the Spanish Soccer League. My mom and I went to the same english pub as we did for the Arsenal game, and it was PACKED. SOOO many people were watching this game it was intense, and so much fun to be in an atmosphere like that. This game was a more intense and faster paced game than Arsenal was, which made it more nerve-wracking to watch. But thankfully, Messi, who is a soccer god, scored the first goal at the 36' minute mark. The bar went crazy when we scored, it was so much fun to be in there. Then at the 58' minute mark the 2nd goal was scored by Pedro who is a Barça player... making the game and final score 2-0!!!!!! On the TV they kept showing stats on how many goal keeper stops there had been... Valdes (barça's goal keeper) had 8 stops on goal, the Real Madrid player had only 1. lol. Just proving that the entire Barça team is AMAZING. Real Madrid may be the most expensive team, but FCBarça is the BEST team and #1 in the Spanish League !!!!


Costa Brava !

This past Saturday I had my last trip with API. We went to Cadaqués and Figueres which is located in the area of Costa Brava (about 2 hours north of Barcelona on the coast). "Costa" means Coast, and Brava means "wild" or "rugged". Our first stop was in Cadaqués where we had time for to go to the beach for a bit, walk around the town and eat lunch. Cadaqués is a cute little beach town with white and blue buildings like the kind you would see in Greece. It is also famous for being the place where Salvador Dalí (famous and crazy Spanish artist) lived most of his life. My mom came with me on my day trip so we sat on the patio of a restaurant, soaking up the sun, and had fresh seafood and sangria! The seafood came out as a full fish, head, tail and all, which I have never seen before because I am use to just getting a fish fillet at a restaurant and not the whole fish! Regardless, the fish was probably the best ive ever tasted as it was so fresh! After lunch we walked around the town abit going down by the water, and walking along the beach.
Then we got back on the bus and headed to Figueres. Figueres is famous for having a HUGE museum dedicated to Dalí's art work. Now, this Dalí museum was probably the most crazy f***ed up thing I have ever seen. Dalí's artwork is "interesting" and "different" to say the least, so it was a very strange and cool museum to see. After the museum I grabbed some gelato with my friend Eric and then we sat down and had a beer with my mom at a local pub until it was time to go back to Barcelona. :)

█ ♥ █ Mom's visit to BCN █ ♥ █

My mom is currently visiting me in Barcelona! She flew from Montreal to Zurich to Barcelona a week ago Saturday and she is here until the 14th of April. On her flight over here she got bumped to business class for her flight from Montreal to Zurich because of overbooking, so she was able to enjoy all the perks of business class for the longest portion of her trip over here! :)
The day she arrived I took her to meet my host parents where I acted as a translator as my mom doesnt speak Spanish and my host partners dont speak English - awesome. But after 4 months of living in Spain and speaking Spanish the majority of the time, it wasnt too hard to do and my mom was impressed with my ability to translate and the level of improvement in my Spanish. :) After meeting my host partners we headed over to her hotel, which is conveniently located 3 blocks away from my apartment. It's a really nice hotel for only 3 stars. For her first night in BCN my mom and I went to get Tapas for dinner at one of my favourite Tapas restaurants on Passeig de Graciá, and enjoyed a pitcher of Sangria and yummmmmy Tapas. We went for an "early" dinner (by Spanish standards) at 8pm, normally dinner is eaten at 9 or 10pm.

Over the past couple of days Ive taken my mom around Barcelona showing her all the major sites. We've been to Parc Güell, Las Ramblas, Barri Gótico, Barceloneta (the beaches), Sant Pau Hospital (also where my campus is located), Sagrada Familia, the magic fountain etc etc. Last wednesday I took her to see a Flamenco Show near Las Ramblas which she enjoyed a lot.

We've eaten a ton of different food while being here:
- Spanish
- Catalan
- Mexican
- Indian
- Italian
- Seafood
.... the list goes on. Not to mention all the wine/sangria/margaritas that have accompanied all of those meals. :)

Last Thursday my mom and I had dinner with my host mom and host dad, where my host mom made this rice, pork and peaches (yes, peaches like the fruit) dish, which was really good. Once again I acted as the translator, which went relatively smoothly and there werent too many things "lost in translation" :)

We even went to a British pub (twice) to watch 2 Barça games. The first game was for the Champions League and was against Arsenal which Barça won 4-1, then Saturday night we watched Barça vs Real Madrid (biggest rivalry in Spain - sooo exciting) where Barça kicked RM's ass and won 2-0. :) So she's been able to experience the craziness of Spanish futbol and my new obsession with Barça. :)
We visited the Torres Winery in Vilafranca (2 hours outside of Barcelona) to go on a tour and sample the wine. We learned all about the various wines they grow there, and able to see the entire production process. There was even this wind tunnel thing they took us through where you are able to smell the various aromas of the seasons while they play a video, it was very cool to see. At the end we sampled a Chardonnay (which isnt my mom and i's favourite, but free wine is free wine lol).
My mom was able to come to my day trip with API to Costa Brava on Saturday, and she will be attending a Spanish Cooking workshop with me on Tuesday night as well! :) She has 3 days left here in Barcelona, and the time has gone really quick! We've been able to do a ton of different things, and I feel like she's gotten a great sense of the city and culture here in not only Barcelona but overall in Spain.

She mentioned to me today that Barcelona is definitely one of her Top 5 Favourite Cities in the World. :) yay more love for BCN.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Goodbye Laptop

So just before I headed to the Canary Islands for my spring break, my laptop was stolen :(

So I wont be able to actively update my blog as I would normally like or upload photos as fast to facebook - though my roommates are letting me use their laptops which is so nice of them.

Good news is, that my laptop will be covered under insurance and I will be able to buy a new one in time for my summer semester at school. Still the whole thing really sucks, and such a pain in the ass as I am abroad. ahhh *sigh*.

Semana Santa: ISLAS CANARIAS !

So in Spain there is a special holiday called Semana Santa, which is their Easter holiday, and it's a huge deal in Spain - as the majority of the country is Catholic. I personally like this holiday because we get 2 weeks off of school haha. So with 9 of my friends from API we planned a vacation from our vacation to the Canary Islands, specifically to the island of Tenerife for a week.
We stayed in Playa de las Américas, at a apartment-hotel called Playazul. The apartment was really really REALLY cheap to stay in, it worked out about 15 dollars US a night a person. It wasnt an all inclusive resort, but it was cheap, and since Im slowly running out of money this was a really good thing. Since it was an apartment we had a fully functional kitchen where we would cook our own meals. In addition to the fairly large kitchen, the apartment had a large living room, porch with a stunning view of the mountains, 2 bedrooms and a washroom.
We arrived in the later part of the afternoon (thanks to stupid Spanair WHO ARE ALWAYS DELAYED... grr... so frustrating), and so we spent our first day just walking around the area checking out the beach, and on a mission to find sunscreen before our big debut at the beach the next day. One thing i DID not like about Tenerife is HOW EXPENSIVE sunscreen is. The average price was about 15 euros for a regular sized bottle... my jaw dropped when I first saw the prices.... Thankfully we found this store called Hiperdino where a bottle of 50spf sunscreen could be purchased at the awesome price of 12 euros... *sigh* but it was a necessary item so I didnt fry under the African sun (Canary Islands are located right next to Africa, and so the sun is REALLY REALLY hot). The first day at the beach I was really paranoid about the sun and ended up putting on 3 or 4 applications of sunscreen in the course of one day.... i REALLY didnt want to burn - and since my family background is British Im really white, and therefore burn really easily. Thankfully I didnt burn at all really (with the exception of my left foot... random i know... where I forgot to put some sunscreen on it on the first day).
Over the course of the week we found 3 major beaches, and so each day we ended up trying out a different beach, and then returning to the ones we liked later in the week. I was able to swim in the Ocean, which surprisingly wasnt that cold, and had HUGE waves. There were also tons of surfers out every day, and it was really entertaining to watch them. It was definitely a lazy week, and our daily routine consisted of this: wake up at 9am, be at the beach by 10am... stay there until we got hungry around 1 or 2pm, have some lunch then spend the rest of the afternoon chillin by the pool. Then at night each room (we had 2 apartment rooms between 10 of us) would take turns cooking dinner for each other. Also at night we would venture off near our apartment to check out the local bars. The bar/club promoters in Tenerife are VERY aggressive and want desperately for you to enter their bar/club... since we had 10 of us we used this to our advantage to get as many free drinks or bottles of champange as possible lol. Also funny thing about Tenerife, is that it is a Spanish island but it's completely filled with people from England - as it's a major vacation spot for them. So everyone we met had an English accent.
By the 4th day I had actually developed a bit of a tan, which I was proud of since I didnt have to burn to get it. So all I wanted (and successfully got) was tan lines :). I felt really paranoid and overprotective about using 50spf everyday, but Im really glad I did because the sun is so much stronger down in the Canary Islands (being next door to Africa and all), that a lot of the girls I went with who were using 20/30 spf got burned. So though I didnt come back all nicely tanned a light brown (which I dont think i will ever be in my life, given my body is so white), I did come back with a bit of a tan, with tan lines and some colour on my face. :)

It was a nice relaxing week, and I felt very lazy since all we did was laze on a beach all day. So it was nice to take a vacation from my vacation lol.

La Capital de España: MADRID! - part 2

DAY 3:

On Saturday it was Analilia's idea to have a picnic in Parque Retiro (which is Madrid's famous, beautiful and huge park within the city). So myself, Danthe, Analilia, and Lua all headed to a grocery store in the early afternoon to pick up some food, and drinks to take for our picnic. We chose a spot on the grass next to the lake in the center of the park. There we made bocadillos (sandwiches), and had tinto de verano (of course lol). There were lots of people out in little rowboats on the lake, as well as many people walking or running through the park. After eating we all relaxed on our blanket we had in the sun, and chatting about various things. We then walked a bit through the park to check out this huge green house, next to a pretty pond with fountains and this cave structure thing. We took some photos and then headed to the main part of the park again, where I was able to see the Alfonso Monument, which is huge and a center piece in the center of the park. Outside of Park Retiro I saw Puerta de Alcalá, which is a large Arc de Triompf diving major roads in Madrid.

After seeing Puerta de Alcalá I headed over to La Reina Sofia museum with Danthe and Lua. This is another famous museum in Madrid/Spain, which houses contemporary art. So there was a lot of Picasso, and Dalí. I was able to see "Guernica", which is a famous piece of artwork by Picasso, which depicts the civil war in Spain but in a style only Picasso could do. It's HUGE in real life - once again these paintings were larger than I thought they were going to be. (For example, when I went to the Louvre in Paris back in highschool and saw the Mona Lisa it was much much smaller than i thought it would be.. soo all of these are exceeding my expectations in size). After seeing more Picasso and Dalí, the museum kind of got dull because it houses ALOT of contemporary art that is for example... 2 boxes in one room. Now I can appreciate art, to a certain level, but seeing random stuff like this in a museum isnt very exciting for me. I much prefer the old fashioned paintings and artwork than "new age art" (no offense to anyone reading this, that is a huge fan of contemporary art).

So after a long day of site and art seeing, we all headed back to Danthe's apartment and had siestas lol. After our semi-long siestas Lua and Analilia made a big pasta dinner. It was here that there was an impromtu english lesson, and I started to teach them various sayings, and the difference between sayings in english and when to use certain phrases etc. It was hilarious. We kept laughing, and then Danthe would get confused or frustrated at something because he wouldnt understand why there are so many ways to say something. Needless to say, it was educational, and very entertaining. After dinner I also gave some music suggestions to Analilia and showed her how to take youtube videos and convert them into mp3 songs for her laptop. She seemed pretty impressed by this. :)

DAY 4:

On Sunday which was my last full day in Madrid, Danthe, Analilia, Lua and Myself all travelled to Manzanares, which is a little town about 30-40 min bus ride outside of Madrid. We all travelled to Manzanares to see its famous castle. We met Lua's mom in the town (as she lives just 10 min outside of the main town of Manzanares), and she joined us on our day trip to the castle. The castle was big, not the biggest ive seen (ive seen larger castles in England) but it was still very impressive. We got to tour the inside of it, and read about it's history, which was all in Spanish so I understood about half of it lol. We even got to go to the top of the castle and see the views from the top of the town and lake surrounding the castle. After learning about its history, seeing the grounds and randomly dancing to Baroque music that was playing on speakers outside (lol), we headed to Lua and her mom's house for dinner. Lua's mom made the most delicious meal... it consisted of roasted lamb, marinated fish, rice with a bean sauce, avocado salad, and then for dessert we had icecream with this melted chocolate sauce that tasted like liquid chocolate cake (SOOOO GOOD), and to top it all off we had Cava (spanish champagne). After dinner we hung out for a bit before heading back to Madrid for the night, we were all so sleepy from the yummy food and day trip to Manzanares. It was a lot of fun, and so nice to meet Lua's mom!

DAY 5:

My last day in Madrid consisted of getting up semi-early to go to the airport to catch my flight back to Barcelona. It was sad to leave Danthe, as we had such a great time, and it was so nice seeing him again after 2 years since my Mexico trip! We promised each other that we would have regular skype dates where 30 minutes of conversation would be spoken in Spanish and another 30 minutes would be spoken in English to keep our practice up. :) I couldnt thank Danthe enough for having me that weekend, as he provided me with my own room, showed me around the city, and even cooked for me. So a BIG Thank You goes out to him! THANK YOU DANTHE :)

La Capital de España: MADRID! - part 1

Over the weekend I travelled to the capital of Spain - Madrid, to visit my friend, Danthe Menes, who I met when I did my two week exchange in Mexico 2 years ago. This was the fist time Danthe and I have seen each other since my Mexico trip, we remained good friends after my trip through facebook and msn. So when I told him I was coming to Spain for my exchange he insisted I visit him! I stayed at his apartment with his other roommate, Analilia (who is also from Mexico) and Danthe's girlfriend Lua (who is from Brazil). I even had my own cute little room to myself for the weekend :)

DAY 1:
Danthe picked me up from the airport and then we went back to his place to drop off my stuff. After his apartment he took me downtown to La Puerta del Sol, which is the center hub of activity in Madrid. Here there is a large plaza and the famous Oso de Madroño (the Bronze Bear), who is kissing a strawberry tree. I loved him he was so cute!
In Puerto del Sol I was also able to stand in the exact center of Spain :) it's called Km 0 because all roads lead from Madrid and it's calculated to be the middle of the country.
After Puerta del Sol, we walked to Plaza Mayor which is HUGEEEE. It is a set of restaurants, apartments, hotels, and cafés in a large square, and was also the set of a movie called "Vantage Point" (if you havent seen it, you should watch it, it's really good). After Plaza Mayor, we walked to Plaza de España which has a famous statue of Cervantes (famous Spanish writer) and Don Quixote. After that we headed over to a beautiful set of Egyptian ruins which look incredible lit up at night. It's called the Temple of Debod, and they're from the 2nd century B.C. .... intense. lol. I got to see the view of the city all lit up at night at a Mirador (viewing point), the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) was especially beautiful at night :) Then Danthe and I headed to Puerta de Europa, which has two famous "Torres" (towers) which lean towards each other, and a great big tower thing in the middle, with another statue near it, so it provided a beautiful background for some awesome night photographs. :) After our photo shoot we met up with Lua (Danthe's girlfriend) for a quick bite to eat before we headed back to Danthe's apartment to call it a night.
Day 2:
Friday was also another sight seeing day with Danthe. Our first stop was to visit Real Madrid's stadium. It was huge just like Camp Nou in Barcelona... but i just got bad vibes from it, probably because Real Madrid is my home team's enemy lol. After visiting RM's stadium, Danthe and I headed over to Plaza de Toros, which is a HUGE bullfighting ring. I wish I could have seen a match, but we didnt have time over the weekend, plus it was a bit rainy all weekend too :( boo. Danthe showed me the different statues around the bullring that commemorate Bullfighters who have died in the ring, or bull's that have been allowed to live after a match etc. We headed back to Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor to check them out again in the day time. Danthe and I walked through the streets of Madrid to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). So I got to see the royal palace of Spain, as well as its beautiful gardens beside it. Madrid definitely has a different vibe than Barcelona.... in some aspects they appear the same, but it's a lot bigger, and is more "city like" and busy, for example like Toronto - minus the large skyscrapers and condominiums everywhere.

After walking around for a bit, the weather cleared up and became a really nice day. Our next stop was El Prado museum, one of the most famous museums in Spain and in all of Europe. The one painting I was really excited to see was "Las Meninas" which was painted by Velázquez. It was a lot bigger in person than I thought it would be. For dinner Danthe, his roommate Analilia and I went to a place called Montaditos, which serves this appetizer sized sandwiches which are cheap, delicious and filling. They also make great Tinto de Verano, so of course I had to have some. :) After chatting over dinner, in Spanish, of course we headed back to Danthe's apartment for the night. I was both mentally and physically exhausted from speaking spanish 24/7 and touring around the city, so i was excited to sleep lol.