Valencia

I’m safely home in Carmel! Yesterday was a long day of travel, and I’m definitely jet-lagged. I thought I would recap my last few days in Valencia…

Monday morning I went to the famous Central Market, located in the historical district of Valencia. It was a lot like the Market Boqueria in Barcelona with fruit, vegetable, meat, bread, wine, souvenir, and pastry vendors inside the building. Valencia’s market also had street vendors outside selling scarves, jewelry, purses, etc.

Valencia Market

Valencia Market

While in the market, I sampled Valencia’s local drink called “horchata” or “orxata” (in Valencian). This drink seems like it’s made of milk, but it’s actually made from tiger nuts, sugar, and water. Locally it’s often served with fartóns, which are kind of like donuts. They say the drink is an acquired taste, but I actually really enjoyed the horchata. I tried it the next day with melon mixed in – mmmm!

Horchata

Horchata and fartón

After visiting the market and doing some shopping around Valencia on Monday, I went on a bus tour of the historical district. It was a beautiful day, so I enjoyed riding around the city and learning more about Valencia. Valencia Bus Turistic offered 2 different bus routes around the city, and I took the second “maritime” tour on Tuesday morning. It dropped me off at the Las Arenas beach, where I shopped, took a walk on the beach, and had lunch before heading to the train station to go back to Madrid on Tuesday afternoon.

Stadium

Stadium

Las Arenas

Las Arenas

Bull Fighting Ring and Train Station

Bull Fighting Ring and Train Station

My solo Valencia vacation was a great experience… I enjoyed the City of Arts and Sciences, bus tours, market, shopping, and just sitting in cafes reading and drinking a good cup of coffee! I can’t believe my summer in Spain has come to an end… I’m already planning my next trip!

Hola, Valencia!

After a Friday full of goodbyes I wasn’t ready to say, Saturday morning I left my beloved Segovia and headed to Madrid via bus. Once I navigated the oh so exciting Madrid metro system with my suitcase (that I am convinced has doubled in weight), I arrived at the Renfe station in Madrid in order to take the AVE (high speed train) to Valencia. Even though Valencia is 300 miles from Madrid, the whole trip only took an hour and a half. The train was really nice, and I had a beautiful view of the Spanish countryside during my trip.

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View from the AVE

Valencia is on the eastern coast of Spain and a little more southern. The city is located in the autonomous community of Valencia, and it is the third biggest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. Like Barcelona, they have their own regional dialect in addition to “normal Spanish” (Castilian), which is called Valencian. English is also widely spoken here, however, so if you’re not a Spanish-speaker this is definitely a city in Spain you could easily handle.

I’m staying at a hotel in the historical district of Valencia, which was easy to find from the train station. The real struggle was trying to turn on the lights in my hotel room. These sneaky Europeans with their conservation efforts have made it so that to get electricity in your room, you have to stick your room key into this contraption disguising itself as a light switch. Considering the phone call I made to the front desk, I’m pretty sure the lady in reception thinks I’m another dumb American!

After settling in my hotel room, I headed out to explore the surrounding area. Valencia is gorgeous! The main plaza is just a few blocks from me, and there are some neat stores and restaurants nearby. I had a nice Italian dinner and headed to bed early!

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Valencia: Plaza Ayuntamiento

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Valencia: Plaza Ayuntamiento at night

Once I sent my sister a text to let my parents know I was on my way to cross the street without looking both ways, take candy from strangers, and wear my “I’m an American, steal my money” sign… I headed across town to spend my Sunday at the amazing Ciudad de las Artes y Sciencias. The City of Arts and Sciences is a museum complex that I imagined to be like the Smithsonian, but that was actually infinitely cooler! Not only do the museums have incredible things to discover, the modern architecture of the CAS is so great you could spend several hours just exploring outside. From end to end the entire complex is 2 km long, but there is something like 7 km of walkways. There were plenty of people biking, taking a lunch break, or enjoying the scenery without paying to go into the museum.

The City of Arts and Sciences has 5 different parts:  L’Hemisfèric (an IMAX theater), El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (a performing arts center), L’Umbracle (a landscaped walkway with art sculptures and plants), El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (a science museum), and L’Oceanogràfic (an aquarium). I walked through L’Umbracle and took some pictures before visiting the science museum.

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City of Arts and Sciences

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Dinosaur outside of the City of Arts and Sciences

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City of Arts and Sciences

The science museum, Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, is hands-on and very interactive. It’s designed for kids and adults to play with and touch the displays. I spent 3 hours exploring some incredible exhibits:  Foucault’s Pendulum, a Space Cadet School show, “Under a Full Sail” about wind and water patterns, Nobel Prize Winners, MARVEL superheroes, FC Valencia, and more. My psychology-major-brain liked “Bosque de Cromosomas” (Forest of Chromosomes) the best. This massive exhibit has 23 sections representing the human genome. Displays at each “chromosome” showed things like aging, vision, hearing, thermal imaging, bones, memory, water weight, nerves, fingerprints, pain, etc. Instead of just reading a big sign, you got to interact with each of the displays. For example, one area talked about how much water composes the human body, so you would stand on this scale that weighed you and then your corresponding water weight would gush into a big tube in front of you. There were screens where you could see your body’s thermal imaging, hearing tests, depth perception experiments, etc. This place should be a mandatory field trip for any kid!

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City of Arts and Sciences: Bosque de Cromosomas in el Museo de las Ciencias

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City of Arts and Sciences: MARVEL Superheroes exhibit

After lunch, I went over to explore Oceanográfic, which is the largest aquarium in Europe. The entire time I thought about how much my nephew would have loved this place! There were 10 different sections of the park that showed various marine environments:  Mediterranean, tropical zones, Arctic zones, oceans, etc. I think this aquarium was my favorite part of the day – it was SO impressive! They have over 500 species and 45,000 organisms in Oceanográfic. There were huge tanks you could walk through that made it feel like the ocean was surrounding you on all sides. I spent another 4 hours looking at all the fishies (as Day Day would say) and taking pictures at the aquarium – what an awesome day!

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City of Arts and Sciences: Oceanográfic

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City of Arts and Sciences

As you can tell, I’m definitely enjoying my stay in Valencia! Traveling alone is an interesting adventure, but I already think it’s something everybody should do at least once in their life! I’m having a great time exploring on my own (Wait a minute, that was wrong… I mean “I really wish my mom and dad were here with me!” :))

Hasta luego, Segovia!

I cannot believe that my 6 weeks in Segovia have come to an end! This summer absolutely flew by, but it’s been an incredible experience! I’ve improved my Spanish, learned a lot about the culture, met people from all over Europe, and made some amazing lifelong friends.

I had a 5 page paper due for each of my classes (Advanced Grammar & European Union) on Tuesday and then exams on Wednesday. Last night, all of the professors, students, and madres got together at a restaurant (El Hidalgo) for a farewell dinner. We all got a little dressed up and had fun chatting with everybody. After that, all of the students went out and spent our last night in Segovia partying till dawn 🙂

Amigos

Sam, Kayla, James, Steph, Jake, Shelby, Autumn

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Farewell dinner: Nathan, Chilina, Steph, Nati

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Farewell dinner: Michele, Jessica, James (& Sarah), Olivia, Steph, Autumn

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Farewell dinner: Steph & Nati

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Farewell dinner: Steph & Marian

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Farewell dinner: Nathan, Steph, Marian, Bob

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Farewell dinner: Autumn, Sam, Steph, Nathan, Kelcie, Olivia

Steph & Shelby

Steph & Shelby

My awesome host mom, Nati, got me a scarf, a jewelry box, and a special lid so that I can make my own tortillas de patatas! I’m very excited to try it out when I get home!! The next adventure will be attempting to fit everything in my suitcase without being overweight.

Tomorrow morning I leave Segovia and head to Madrid, where I’ll take the AVE (high-speed train) to Valencia in southeastern Spain. I’m traveling on my own for a few days there, and I’m very excited! It’s on the beach and has some neat museums to visit. It should be a great mini vacation before I head back to the states on Wednesday!

Last weekend in Segovia

I don’t really have many pictures from our final excursion on Sunday, so I thought I’d include some from our last weekend in Segovia!

Friday night we went to “botellón” and then to a couple of clubs with some Spanish friends of Shelby’s. I’ve learned that Spaniards love both hanging out in the streets and dancing all night long. I’ve definitely gotten used to the Spanish nightlife and schedule in general… it really fits my nocturnal personality 🙂

Autumn, Steph, James

Autumn, Steph, James

Shelby, Autumn, Steph

Shelby, Autumn, Steph

Saturday was basically a lazy day, homework and catching up with people back home. My three good friends from the program and I decided to go out for a Spanish dinner… aka we all got hamburgers. But there was wine, so that makes it a Spanish meal. Love these girls, and I’m so happy I met them here!

Kayla & Autumn

Kayla & Autumn

Shelby & Steph

Shelby & Steph

Girls' night

Girls' night

Sunday was our final excursion with AHA International. We headed to Madrid to see two art museums:  Museo Reina Sofía and Museo Nacional del Prado. The Reina Sofía is more contemporary art, and houses some collections from Pablo Picasso (like the famous ‘Guernica’) and Salvador Dalí. The art professor at our school, Elena, gave us a tour of those exhibits and then we had time to explore on our own. Being my father’s daughter and the clumsy person that I am, I almost knocked over an art exhibit. Okay, well I kicked it a little. But in my defense, bowls of food coloring in a circle in the middle of the floor 1) do not count as art and 2) should have a rope around them or something.

After leaving the Reina Sofía, we had two free hours to explore some nearby areas of Madrid. We walked a ways and did some souvenir shopping in la Plaza Puerta del Sol. We witnessed our first protest here… people looked like they’ve had a camp set up there for days! There was another larger protest happening by the Museo del Prado while we were waiting in line to enter the museum. I definitely preferred the art in the Museo del Prado to the art in the Reina Sofía. We saw works by El Greco, Velázquez (Las Meninas), Goya (The 3rd of May), and Rembrandt. It was definitely a cultural day and really neat to see some famous works you’ve always heard about in school.

Now, to work on those two 5 page papers I’ve been procrastinating 🙂 Can’t believe the program is almost over! What an amazing summer it’s been!

La Granja

On Friday our group took an excursion to La Granja, a pueblo very close to the city of Segovia (only took 15 minutes to get there via public bus transportation). We visited Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso, a royal palace constructed in the 18th century that served as a summer home for kings. The palace itself was gorgeous, but again we couldn’t take pictures inside. We toured the museum, which is housed inside the palace and has a huge collection of art.

Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso

Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso

I learned that the difference between a palace (Palacio Real) and a castle (Alcázar, for example) has to do with when it was constructed and the purpose. Royalty lived in both the palaces and the castles in Spain, but the castles were constructed in earlier centuries and were fortified for defense purposes. Palaces are more recent and were mainly designed for comfort and luxury.

My favorite part of the excursion occurred after lunch, when we toured the gardens of Palacio Real. This palace and its grounds were modeled after Versailles in France.

Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso

Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso: Garden

There were gorgeous flowers, ornate statues, and beautiful fountains everywhere. It was a beautiful day to explore, and we got some great pictures of the scenery!

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Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso: Fountain

We hiked around a little bit, and this view reminded me of Colorado in the summertime. Breathtaking!

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Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefenso: Lake and mountains

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Nathan, James, Steph, Jake, Autumn, Kayla, Shelby

The grounds of the palace have a really neat labyrinth (i.e., maze). The professor showing us the grounds, Edu, took us to the center of the maze and had us walk around it three times and then find our way out.

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Labyrinth DePauw picture: Steph, Nathan, Bob

The entire time I was exploring the garden, I could almost hear my mom saying “awwww look at the pretty flowers!” Mom, I know you would’ve loved it, so I took lots of pictures for you!

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Flowers in the palace gardens

I can’t believe I only have a week left here in Segovia! The summer has definitely flown. Tomorrow we’re going on excursion to Madrid to see two museums. Other than that, I’m busy getting ready for exams and final papers in my two classes, and making sure I get to do everything I want to in Segovia!

La mejor receta para una tortilla española

This week my wonderful Spanish madre, Nati, taught me how to make a traditional “tortilla española” (Spanish tortilla) or “tortilla de patatas” (tortilla with potatoes). It’s nothing like a Mexican tortilla, and it’s also nothing like an omelette despite the ingredients! I took some pictures while Nati was making it (she thought this was really funny), and I also wrote down the instructions (in your basic Spanglish). Much like my dad’s form of cooking, Nati doesn’t have a recipe or anything for this – it’s a lot of “whenever it looks ready” or “however much you think” or “it depends”.

1.  Fill a pan with a couple inches of olive oil.

2.  Peel a potato and cut it into thin slices.

3.  Add a little bit of thinly chopped onion, to flavor. She used a different type of onion (for which I only know the Spanish name), but it just appeared to be a smaller, regular onion? Add a few pinches of salt to the potatoes and onions.

4.  Pour the potatoes and onions into the heated olive oil on the stove. Let cook for about 10 minutes, or whenever the potatoes are fully cooked (but not fried). Keep moving the potatoes around and cut into smaller pieces, so they absorb the flavor of the onions.

5.  Beat two eggs in a separate bowl.

6.  After the potatoes are fully cooked, drain the excess olive oil.

7.  Scoop the potatoes from the pan into the bowl containing the eggs. (When I asked why you didn’t just pour the eggs over the potatoes, Nati told me it was because “that’s not a tortilla de patatas.”)

8.  Turn up the heat on the stove. Pour the egg and potato mixture back into the pan. Keep moving the pan around. Turn heat back down to medium.

9.  The tortilla only needs to cook about 2 minutes on each side. Nati placed a plate over the pan to flip it into the plate and then slide it back into the pan, but you can use a lid.

11.  Enjoy!

 

Let me know if anyone is inspired to try it 🙂 I know I can’t wait to make it back home!

El Escorial, Valle de los Caídos, & Harry Potter

Friday we had another excursion to El Escorial and Valle de los Caídos. It wasn’t my favorite thing we’ve done so far, but it’s always great to see more of the local history and new parts of Spain.

El Escorial is officially called “The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.” It is the biggest building in Spain and has been a royal palace, monastery, school, and museum. It houses the tombs of former Spanish royalty. It was constructed in the 16th century, and it only took 20 some years to build which is really impressive considering some of the cathedrals took easily 200-300 years. Inside the building, we toured the museums (tons of art), tombs, library, etc. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside El Escorial.

El Escorial

El Escorial

Valle de los Caídos (“Valley of the Fallen”) is a basilica and monument near El Escorial. The Spanish dictator Francisco Franco ordered its construction to commemorate the tens of thousands of people that died during the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco is actually buried behind the alter in the basilica, making it a rather controversial place. The basilica and monument (a massive stone cross on the mountain) make a gorgeous backdrop, so we got some great photos of Spain’s landscape.

Valle de los Caídos

Valle de los Caídos: Steph, Autumn, Shelby, Kayla

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Valle de los Caídos: Autumn, Bayley, Steph (AXO picture)

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Valle de los Caídos: Shelby, Autumn, Kayla, Steph, Jake, James, Nathan

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Valle de los Caídos: Autumn, Kayla, Steph, Shelby

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Valle de los Caídos: Steph & Kayla

After returning from the excursion, I took a bus with some friends to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 at La Luz de Castilla (a mall on the outskirts of the center of Segovia). We watched the movie in Spanish, and I was pretty impressed with myself for being able to sit, listen, and understand most everything without having to concentrate too hard on translating word for word. Loved the movie! It did, however, involve a 3 mile walk home since the buses had stopped running by the time the movie was out 🙂 Always an adventure around here!

Harry Potter

Harry Potter: Steph, Shelby, Nathan (those of the group really excited for the movie)

Alcázar

Today the weather was actually in the 60s-70s (as opposed to the normal high 80s-90s) because of a big rain storm we had in Segovia yesterday. The cooler temperature felt great for a change! This morning our group went on a “mini excursion” to Alcázar, which is the castle 5 minutes away from my apartment. The Alcázar of Segovia is one of the inspirations for the Cinderella Castle in Disney World, along with the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. If you know me you know of my love for Disney, so I was especially excited about this!

Alcázar

Alcázar

You can really see the Disney castle resemblance when looking at the towers!

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Alcázar: Autumn, Steph, (James), Shelby

My doctors keep telling me to take a “post-op” picture to put up on their walls to show off my successful hip surgeries. So I decided what better place than Spain? I intentionally wore a DePauw t-shirt to tick off one of my doctors who is a Wabash alum 🙂

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Alcázar: Steph walkin' around with good hips!

Alcázar is unique because it is shaped like the bow of a ship. It was built as a stone fortress, but it has also been a royal palace. They think it was constructed around the 12th century. It became most famous during the reign of Isabel I and Ferdinand II, because they lived in the castle. The inside of the castle was almost as spectacular as the outside!

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Alcázar: Shelby, Steph, Sarah

We climbed up one of the towers (with a lovely spiral staircase) and got a beautiful view of the city of Segovia!

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Alcázar: Entire AHA group!

Although I’m the only one being slightly normal in this picture, here’s one of some of the great friends I’ve made in Segovia! I’m so lucky that I’ve gotten to know such awesome people through the program.

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Alcázar: Shelby, Kayla, Jake, Nathan, Steph, James, Autumn

Summer is still going wonderfully – I can’t believe how fast it’s flying by! My program ends July 30, and I’m trying to decide what part of Spain I want to travel to before I fly home on August 3. I’ll update again after visiting El Escorial this Friday. We’re also going to find a way to see Harry Potter this weekend!!

Barcelona

What an incredible weekend! I don’t know how to even give my time in Barcelona justice with one blog post – it was absolutely amazing!

In our group of 28 students at AHA, almost 20 of us went to Barcelona this weekend. I spent most of the time traveling around the city with 4 other friends. We took a bus from Segovia to Madrid on Thursday evening (about an hour away) and stayed at a hotel near the airport. Friday morning we flew from Madrid to Barcelona (only an hour and fifteen minute flight). Then we took a short bus ride from the airport to the center of Barcelona – La Rambla! This street is filled with street vendors, stores, restaurants, street performers, a famous market, etc. The quintessential image of Barcelona! We got some gelato and had fun taking pictures and exploring for a few hours before checking in at our apartment. In Spain, a popular alternative to staying in a hostel or hotel is to rent an apartment by the night. Ours was only a few metro stops away from La Rambla and worked out well. The cleanliness was a little questionable, but at least it had air conditioning!

La Plaza Catalunya upon arriving in Barcelona

La Plaza Catalunya upon arriving in Barcelona: Steph & Autumn

Friday night we went and took pictures at La Plaza Catalunya, which is located at one end of La Rambla.

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La Plaza Catalunya, first evening in Barcelona

After spending some time exploring that area, we hopped on the Metro and went over to la Sagrada Família to take pictures of it in the evening. This place is absolutely breathtaking! It is a Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudí. The construction on the church began in 1882 and is still going on today; they don’t expect to finish until 2030.

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La Sagrada Família at night

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La Sagrada Família at night

Saturday morning we headed back to La Rambla to check out a famous street market. But before we could even get there, I acted like a true American and screamed with excitement when I saw a Starbucks. By the way, my name is spelled “Istifanía” in Catalan.

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Starbucks in Barcelona - such a happy American!

Once I was caffeinated, we headed to the market – La Boquería. They had all sorts of fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, fish (ew), breads, wine, etc. The seafood was so fresh some of it was still moving. This clearly meant I held the camera over my head and looked away to get a photo.

La Boquería

La Boquería

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La Boquería

After the market, we got on the metro and headed to Park Güell. I should point out that by this time, we became experts at navigating the Spanish metro systems. Anyways, Park Güell was also designed by Antoni Gaudí (same Catalan architect as the Sagrada Família). After walking up a set of stairs approximately the same height as a 20 story building (not exaggerating), we were at the top of Barcelona and had an amazing view of the entire city. We spent a lot of time there catching our breath, enjoying the scenery, and taking pictures!

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Park Güell: Shelby, Steph, Kayla

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Park Güell: Steph, Nathan, Shelby, Kayla, Autumn

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Park Güell: Shelby, Nathan, Steph, Kayla, Autumn

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Park Güell: Me with the famous mosaic lizard fountain "El Drac"

From Park Güell we headed back to visit la Sagrada Família during the day. You have to pay a fee to enter the church, which goes to the construction funds. We decided to also buy the audioguide sets to do a self-tour, which was the best decision we made all weekend! We probably spent 2-3 hours listening to our headsets and exploring the inside and outside of la Sagrada Família. I learned so much about the church… I could write a post (or a book) just on that! The size of la Sagrada Família is just overwhelming in itself, but the thought and detail into every inch of the facades and interior of the church is spectacular! It’s truly the most amazing architecture I have ever seen.

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La Sagrada Família: Passion Facade

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La Sagrada Família: Church interior

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La Sagrada Família: Stained glass

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La Sagrada Famíla: Nativity Facade

After touring la Sagrada Família, I went shopping at some stores near La Rambla with a couple of the girls. We visited the famous Top Shop, and I bought a skirt and dress. During the months of July & August, pretty much every store all over Spain has “las rebajas” which means the sales / rebates. Everything is 30-70% off, so it’s a great time to shop!
Top Shop

Top Shop: Steph & Autumn

Saturday night we went out to experience Spanish nightlife and ended up at a club called Razzmatazz, where we met up with some more friends from our AHA group. This place was huge and had something like 7 dance floors. To say the Spaniards love to party is putting it mildly! The place did not even get crowded until about 2 am, and people were there long past sunrise when we left.

Razzmatazz

Razzmatazz: Sam, Kelcie, Olivia, Jessica, Steph, Michele

After a few short hours of sleep on Saturday, we got up Sunday morning and checked out of the apartment. We headed to the beach area where we spent a couple of hours eating lunch and taking pictures of the pier, boats in the marina, and the beach. I can now say I’ve touched the Mediterranean Sea!

La playa

Barcelona Beach: Shelby, Steph, Kayla, Autumn

Clearly, I had an absolutely wonderful weekend! I only wish we had more time there. Barcelona is definitely on my list of places to visit again – there is so much to see and do! I have a lot more photos on my Facebook than I had room for on this blog. Tomorrow we’re visiting Alcazar (the castle in Segovia), and on Friday we’re going on an excursion to El Escorial. Stay tuned for more updates this week!

Classes, Internship, & Euchre

I don’t have any fun pictures to share this time, but I thought I’d post an update before I leave for Barcelona!! I’m finally feeling MUCH better – I have an appetite and energy again! I’m happy to be back to enjoying Spain.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and this morning (Thursday) I had classes as usual. I feel like I’m actually getting a lot out of my Advanced Grammar class that will help me when I get back to DePauw this fall. In my European Union class, we had to do presentations on the different institutions of the European Union. My teacher (Marian, also the site director) knows I’m interested in law, so my partner and I presented on the Justice Tribunal. Research, PowerPoints, and presentations in Spanish get a little tricky 🙂 It’s been interesting to learn about, however. One thing I’ve noticed here is how educated everybody is (not just professors) on the politics of other European countries and the United States. It’s definitely impressive / inspiring.

This week I also started my internship with la Fundación Don Juan de Borbón. This foundation is basically a music & arts organization that organizes and encourages cultural events around Segovia. Right now they are preparing for a 2 week long musical festival they host, starting on July 18. I’ll get to help out at some of the events, which should be fun! One thing I love about Segovia is that I frequently seem to stumble upon some random street performance or show on a stage set up in one of the plazas. There are always cultural events happening around town, and I’ll get to be a part of that while interning with the foundation! Pretty exciting!

Last night I went with friends for pizza (we were majorly craving American food), and then some of us Midwesterners sat outside one of the many cafes of Segovia and played euchres for several hours. It was a beautiful evening, and we had a lot of fun! The people in the AHA program from Oregon thought the game looked extremely confusing, because most of them had never even heard of Euchre. Us Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan folk set them straight, though 🙂

Tonight I’m leaving for Madrid, because we have an early flight to Barcelona tomorrow morning. I’m staying in an apartment with a couple of other friends – renting an apartment by the night is a popular alternative to hostels around here. We’ll have about 2 1/2 days to enjoy Barcelona, and I cannot wait!! I’ll be sure to update more (with pictures) when I get back Sunday night.