Saturday, May 21, 2011

That is the end, there is no more.

Back at the beginning of the semester, I said I’d write a little bit about the food here, and I never really got around to it. So,

Meals here go something like this:

Breakfast: Eaten when you get up in the morning. This one’s easy!

Midmorning Pincho: Eaten around 11:30-12. This is usually a little sandwich or piece of tortilla to hold you over until lunch.

Lunch: Eaten around 2:00. This took a long time to get used to. What’s kind of funny is that I told my students that in the US we eat lunch around noon, and they looked at me like I had 3 heads.

Dinner: Eaten around 8:30 – 9 at my house, could be as late as 10 or 11.

In general, the food is delicious. We eat a lot of sausage, potatoes, ham/pork, fish and bread. My favorite is the tortilla española , which is kind of like an omelet that includes potatoes plus ham or peppers or whatever you want to add to it.

In Spain, you can’t throw a stone without hitting at least one café/bar/restaurant of some sort. A lot of people like to meet up with friends after work/between classes/after dropping the kids off at school to go to a café and hang out for a while (which I guess is part of why dinner is so late). So, a bunch of us (study abroad-ers who I go to school with) realized a while ago that we live/work/go to school in Spain and this is real live, we have found our way to Café Oriental, which has been likened (not even by me!) to the Central Perk on Friends. You can stop by whenever, have a café and a pincho, and almost always find someone you know. It’s a little more Spanish, of course, because there’s a really old wall out front and no couch, and I like it better that way.

Anyway, tomorrow night I’m leaving. Exams are over, my bags are packed, I’ve said very sad good-byes to everyone at San Ignacio and the university, and now I’m just enjoying my favorite spots in Oviedo for one more day. I’m having trouble believing that I’ll be home for the first time since New Year’s. I think going back to my family, friends, and job at camp will make leaving Oviedo worth it (or at least tolerable)….I’m going to miss it, but I’ll be back someday.

Maybe once I get home I’ll write one more entry to post a few pictures or make some random observations about life back in the US (they say the first time I go somewhere like Wegman’s will be overwhelming?). If not, then thank you everyone for reading….I hope we can do this again sometime.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cumplí 20 años en Alemania!

So, to pick up where we left off last time...I spent my birthday in Germany!

I took the train from Milan to Munich, which was about a 7 hour trip. While 7 hours on a train sounds pretty miserable, it was not AT ALL. We passed through the Alps, which are incredible, and huge! At one point I was leaning forward in my seat, trying to see the tops of the mountains, when the train went over a bridge and I realized that they were even taller than I first thought. I don’t think the pictures I took out the windows do it justice at all.

When I arrived in Munich I met up with one of my friends/suitemates from Canisius who’s studying in Germany. We took another train to her house in Eichstätt, which is a pretty little college town. It’s in a valley and is surrounded by what looks like a wall of trees. We climbed the “wall” up to a castle and explored around there for a while. We hung out by the river, where there’s a bar in about knee-deep water, which is supposedly good exercise to walk around in circles.

I also spent a day in Dachau, which is a town outside of Munich where there’s a concentration camp / Holocaust museum. The one in Dachau was one of the first concentration camps, and was used as a prison camp for political prisoners well before World War II started (some people were kept there for as long as 12 years). The museum is in one of the main buildings of the camp, and it was sort of surreal being there. It’s a very somber place, and I guess what I didn’t expect, for whatever reason, was that it’s very much a part of the town…as in, there’s a school right next door, and throughout the town, between the train station and the camp, there are memorial plaques and signs with information about it.

On my last day in Germany, we went to Munich, where I tried wonderful pretzels, apple strudel, and various other (mostly sausage-based!) foods that I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the names of (also, they have coffee/tea/whatever to-go and Capri-Sun in Germany. That’s pretty exciting when you’ve been in Spain since New Year’s…).

At the English Garden...a huge park in Munich.

The May Pole in downtown Munich

So, I'm back in Spain now, and one week from today I'll be leaving Oviedo to come home, but more about that later...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vita Bella

At the end of April, I spent about 2 and a half weeks traveling over a nice long spring break for Holy Week and Easter (ok, plus I took a couple more days off…totally worth it because I got to spend more time travelling AND the kids at San Ignacio learning all kinds of phrases that mean “to skip class” when I told them about it later).

A few of us from the Canisius group spent several days traveling around Italy. We visited a lot of different cities, which was good because each place was so different. We ate lots of pizza and pasta, became VERY familiar with the rail system in Italy, learned a bit of Italian, saw lots of cool things and met lots of cool people.

We started off in Naples, where the pizza is fabulous and the traffic is a free for all. While we were there, we took a little day trip to Pompeii, where you can walk through what remains of the ancient city.

From there, we headed up to Rome, which was beautiful. In a lot of ways, it was like other big, modernized cities (tall buildings, traffic, tourists…the works), but then you turn a corner and there’s the coliseum or some other reminder that this city was more or less considered the center of the world at one point.

While we were in Rome, we took a tour of the Vatican. The number 1 piece of advice I would give to anyone planning to visit would be, invest in the guided tour! We had a great guide who explained everything that we saw and shared all kinds of fun facts about the history of the place (such as how Michelangelo wasn’t really a fan of the Pope when he was painting the Sistine chapel, and if you look closely at the frescos, you can tell).

After Rome we went to Florence, which was by far my favorite place in Italy. It’s a fairly small city (you can walk everywhere and it doesn’t take you very long), there are a lot of art museums, markets, plazas, and the whole place is just beautiful in general.

Before heading to Venice, we stopped in Pisa to see the leaning tower:

Our lodging situation in Venice was kind of interesting. Long story short, when you’re trying to spend a holiday weekend on (or as close to as possible) a beautiful island in Italy, you kind of have to take what you can get as far as a cheap place to stay. We ended up in a little cabin at a campground outside the city, and took a ferry into town every day. So, for all you who camp, here are a couple pictures of how it's done in Europe (not too different except that the campers are generally smaller and I couldn't figure out the logic of the layout of the sites...they seemed to be parked more or less randomly in the grass. Also, there was a nice bar/restaurant...right next to the shower house).

Venice itself is amazing. The original part of the city is more or less an island with a bunch of canals all over it. There are pedestrian streets, but no cars…everyone gets around either by walking or by boat.

Our last stop in Italy was Milan. Milan is up there with New York and Paris as far as fashion goes, and there are all kinds of classy stores and restaurants all over. By this point in the trip, the Holy Week tourist crowds had died down (plus Milan isn’t really a super touristy city), so we had a relaxing day window shopping, visiting the cathedral, and eating gelato in the park.

From Milan I took the train up to Munich, Germany, to visit a friend who’s studying there this semester. Since I’ve probably already crashed your browser with all the pictures I’ve posted in this post, and Germany deserves its own post, I’ll save that for later. For now I’ll just say IT WAS AWESOME!

Monday, May 2, 2011

2 Days in Portugal

A few weeks ago (Ok...about a month ago...) we were fortunate enough to find the CHEAPEST FLIGHTS EVER (if you ever want to travel around Europe, check out Ryanair and Easyjet. It's magical) to Porto, Portugal.

Porto is a beautiful city on the Atlantic coast and a river, which I guess makes up for the fact that it was built more or less on what, after 2 days of walking all over, feels like the side of a cliff.

Our first stop was the Lello bookshop, which is considered one of best bookstores in the world (also, apparently J.K. Rowling used to go there to write the first Harry Potter book when she lived in Portugal).

We spent a lot of time walking all over, seeing old buildings covered in tiles, markets, and the beach.

I just got back to Oviedo after two and a half weeks of traveling around Italy and Germany during spring break. I'll get going on uploading those pictures pretty soon!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Hey Courtney, why don't you update your blog as much as you used to?"

Oh, you know, life.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately, and now that it’s spring, time is flying by. Also, that whole “beach only half an hour away” thing doesn’t help when it comes to getting things like my blog accomplished.

A couple weeks ago, I went on a school trip to País Vasco. Although it’s a region known for having its own language and culture, it really didn’t seem too different from the rest of northern Spain. We visited San Sebastian and Bilbao, which are both beautiful.

That's a Cristo statue in that last photo, so of course we hiked up there!

Last week, a friend of mine from high school was in France on her spring break, so I went up for a long weekend to visit her.

We hung out by the Seine in Paris:

We visited the Moulin Rough, Notre Dame, and a some castles in and around Blois,

...had a picnic....

and explored Blois.