January 31, 2010


So we began our journey in the amazing city of Madrid. The first night, we went on a panoramic bus tour of the city with our directors. We learned a lot about the history of Madrid and got to see most of the important buildings. It was super informative and made me realize how old everything is here compared to the US. They have building built in the 16th century. America was barely even discovered and Europe had entire civilizations.

Afterwards, a group of us went to a legit Spanish house party in the suburbs of Madrid. A couple of guys in our group had been to Spain before and had met a bunch of Spanish kids. They’ve kept in touch since then and invited us all to their apartment. We stopped at El Corte Ingles for food and drinks before taking the metro to the bus station and a bus station out to his town. Their Spanish friend, Antonio, met us there and greeted us with 2 besos – one on each cheek. So European! It was already 10 PM by the time we got to his place but that is considered early by Spanish standards. More people showed up as the night went on and it was really fun trying to communicate with them all. There were a lot of different levels of language at the party – some of the Spanish people had studied abroad in America, others had taken language classes, and others spoke very little. We were able to get by most of the night by leaning towards the Spanish side of Spanglish. After the party, we went to a barre to dance and continue the party. We took a taxi back to our hotel around 3 AM, which was still early for the Spaniards so they continued to a discoteca. But we were running on 3 hours of sleep so they gave us a break.

The next morning we ate breakfast and headed to El Prado where we got a guided tour by a guía de turismo. There basically specially trained tour guides that know basically EVERYTHING about tourist attractions in the city. Our guide was super knowledgeable and spoke a combination of Spanish and English. At El Prado, we saw some great works of art by Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. Our guía showed us all of the important pictures, like The Holy Trinity, Charles IV of Spain and his Family, and Las Meninas. They had these cool headsets that we wore so that we could hear the guía without her having to yell over the crowd.

After El Prado, we had free time so a few of us headed to El Parque del Buen Retiro right behind the museum. It was a gorgeous day to enjoy the Bosque de Recuerdos (Forrest of Memories) and el Palacio Cryital (Crystal Palace). After that, we headed all the way across town to el Palacio Real (Royal Palace). We walked through la Plaza Mayor on the way. We saw some interesting people dressed up in Mickey Mouse costumes. Mickey was a long way from home.

We only saw a small portion of the 2000 rooms in the Palacio Real but what we did see was absolutely beautiful. We saw gorgeous chandeliers, incredible marble floors, tapestries galore, at least a million clocks, and even a room with wall panels made entirely of porcelain. What could you possibly do in a room like that? The throne room was really cool too!

After that tour of the Palacio, I had been on my feet for over 7 hours. So after we walked back to the hotel, I passed out for a good 3 hours. I ran over to El Corte Ingles for some dinner and went back to my room to continue to sleep. I’m the life of the party, let me tell you…

Overall, my impression of Madrid was that it was a beautiful place with monumental buildings. But the natives weren’t particularly welcoming to a group of 30 American tourists. Not that I would expect them to be, but it was weird being in that position. Usually I’m the native making fun of the tourists behind their backs.

I was also very peeved about the whole not having internet thing. I didn’t realize what a luxury it is in parts of the civilized world. I was just hoping and praying the next hotel in Toledo would have wi-fi – and it did! Kinda…

A statue of Velazquez outside of el Museo del Prado

The symbol of Madrid - a bear climbing a strawberry tree

La Plaza Mayor

El Palacio Cristal

How about that ride in?

Like I said, I’m finally HERE in SPAIN. I seriously can’t believe it. It hasn’t set in yet and I don’t think it will by the time we leave on Saturday.
It was my first time flying overseas and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. The flights were super underbooked (which my Spell Checker tells me is not actually a word. Spain brings out the rebel in me) so for both flights I got a row all to myself. I love window seats!

Maybe it’s Jersey Shore. FIST PUMP!

This trip is a lot of firsts for me like my first time being served a meal on an airplane.

On the menu: (sketchy) chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies, a roll, salad, cheese & crackers, a brownie, and water in an ice cream cup.

We even got breakfast since it was already 9:35 AM in Spain by the time we arrived.

The moist towelette was surprisingly refreshing!

And since we were flying east, we got to see a sunrise on speed.

Snow-covered mountains over northern Spain.


Closer and closer to Madrid.

Super cool round-about somewhere in Madrid. We’re getting closer…

Spain might be Dr. B’s worst nightmare. Dr. B: you may want to close your eyes for the next few pictures.

It may also be J’s dream.

There were at least 5 that I saw as we got closer but went by before I could snap a picture. (Mom, please tell Dr. B he can open his eyes :) )

Touching down in Madrid at Barajas.

Barajas is known as one of the most beautiful airports in the world for this terminal. It’s elegant, innovative, and really awesome.

I didn’t take this picture. I didn’t even arrive at this terminal. My plane actually parked in the middle of the tarmac and a shuttle pulled up to take us to the main concourse. Hacía muy frio : 27°F! But we made it, got our passports stamped, and picked up our luggage. We met the group directors and met the people we are going to spend the next 2.5 months with. Everyone is super nice and I love how we’re from all over the country, from all different backgrounds, with completely different majors but still have end up here together. There’s even 2 guys from Serbia in our group!

After all of the delayed flights arrived, we hopped on a bus that took us to our hotel, la Husa Moncloa in la Plaza Princesa. Unfortunately the hotel does not have free wi-fi; it costs 6€ for an hour! But once I get to Málaga, I will have more access and you will have more frequent posts :)

I hope everyone is doing well and I miss you all. ¡Vos amo!

January 28, 2010

Estoy Aqui

So I am finally in Madrid and have internet connection! For a few minutes at least. I will post later when I have a more time but for now I'm just glad to have a few glorious moments. I'm currently in a Starbucks in downtown Madrid enjoying an Espresso Macchiato :)

Lots of love!

January 13, 2010

Dos Semanas

In exactly 14 days, I will be leaving sunny Florida for SPAIN!

I can't believe it's already here. On Monday I received my final housing packet in the mail from my study abroad program. It includes a bunch of information like our itinerary for the first week, other students in our program, and our housing assignments. Sadly I will be the only student representing the state of Florida so I guess I will be making LOTS of new friends. Here is the description of the home I will be living in:

"The apartment is right in front of the sea and has a breathtaking view. The apartment is large, yet cozy. There is one double room to be shared by two students. There are two bathrooms that are shared with the family. The apartment is 20 minutes walking distance from the student office and less than 10 from the city center."




Is this real life?! Because it sounds AMAZING. I was also able to find my roommate on facebook. Turns out she is already in Spain doing an Intensive Month program. She has 5 hours of intensive Spanish classes a day. Props to her because I don't think I could handle that.

I'm ecstatic that it's all happening so soon. But I'm already missing home. It's going to be extremelyt hard at first but it will definitely be an experience. I just want to be able to take advantage of everything the country has to offer and live as close to an authentic Spanish life as I can.

And of course, I will be blogging all of my experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Hope everyone is having a great New Years and stay tuned for more frequent posting :)