First Weekend In Valencia 02/23/2012
I am going to start off by saying that I am pretty terrible at riding a bike, oh but what is this? On the 3rd day I am in Valencia you want me to ride a bike all around the city? Well shoot sure tour guide I will ride a bike and fall over multiple times >.< But in all honesty I would have to say that I actually enjoyed the bike tour very much because all of Valencia is very flat so there are no hills and the new part of the city has bike lanes all over which is really amazing. As a group we got to ride around and see the sites of the new city which included the arts and science building, a giant playground in the shape of a guy and along the coast and pier area at sunset which was absolutely gorgeous. Of course no trip would be complete without shenanigans which are just what we did by riding around in open areas and doing silly tricks on our bike or riding really close to other people to try and psyche them out. All and all the ride was about 3 to 4 hours and I had much more fun than I thought I would on a bike.
The next big thing I did this week was go on a historic tour through the old downtown part of the city which is where all the gorgeous old buildings and statues are. To tell you just how old some date back to the 1200’s and have been conquered by at least 3 different groups of people all fighting for their right to control the town. We started off by meeting at Serrano towers which is one of the two towers that is still standing today. At one point there were 12 towers that formed a wall around the city that helped to guard it from outsiders, it is an absolutely amazing structure that is complete with gargoyles, slits in the walls for archer to shoot their arrows through and a heavily fortified structure that has withstood the forces of nature and mankind which is very impressive and I could not help but stare at it for around 10 mins or so just looking at how much work had to go into this place. Unfortunately only two of the original 12 towers still stand today but they are a very big part of the city because of their historic value. After looking at the towers we headed off into the labyrinth that is the historic area because most of the streets are original streets and so the labyrinth like walk ways were meant to confuse invaders or in the case now a day’s people that get drunk in the downtown area. While walking through this area we saw all sorts of statues that were figures of saints and important people throughout the history of Valencia as well as churches and cathedrals. There is one imparticular called the cathedral is a great example of 4 different types of architecture because it took so long to build that it spands 4 different periods. Hopefully soon I will also get to go into the Silk exchange and the Mercado Central, both of which are very beautiful works of architecture.
First Week in Valencia 02/23/2012
The first week here has been a very interesting and different cultural experience to say the least. While I can understand most of what people are talking about in Spanish I cannot communicate very well back unfortunately but it is my first week here so I assume that I will get better with time and practice. Also just adjusting in general is defiantly different in part because I am part of a group of only 12 students with very different personalities that in some ways clash due to our differences. Luckily there are more students than just the ones in our group that I can get to know that are from around the world.
I am going to start off this week’s blog by talking about the Aip School its self which is a very nice a small group working environment. I am in the beginner level class, which honestly I don’t think I should be in because all of the things they are teaching us are very basic review for me and it takes me maybe 20 minutes if that to do my homework but it is what it is for the moment I will try to contest it next week to get moved up to the higher level. Also the different levels of the class are very different and it’s hard to tell what their structure is like in terms of how they decide who is in what level. The “beginner level” is actually not easy for someone who has never taken Spanish because it assumes that you have already taken Spanish before and know sentence structures and basic things like how to tell time, count and know objects in Spanish…. If you don’t well then this class is a hard one. As for the rest of the school environment it is pretty nice and fun to hang out especially once new students from Italy and various places start to arrive next week.
One thing that I would have to dislike about the school is their attendance policy because it is very very strict and while I understand that they do it for a reason it would be nice to have a little leniency. The policy states that if you miss three classes then you automatically get 10% off your grade and while that seems very manageable and double it really isn’t. This is because we have 3 classes of Spanish a day because the classes are split into 3 different sections so that means that if you miss one day of class then you will get 10% off your final grade, not good right? Yeah that is about the only downside to this school other than that it is very fun so far. Other then that I will be uploading pics so that you can see all the glorious food and snacks I have been eating as well as the silly things I have been doing.
Valencia Day/ mass update day 01/21/2012
Alright you ready for this? Mass update time! over the past week I have had a very deficult time uploading my blogs and most of the time they have not even made it to my blog page due to the internet failing, luckily my Senora to the rescue fixed it and now I will update regularly. So on with my post for the first day in Valencia.
After leaving Madrid which was an absolutely beautiful city and a fun place to just hang out for a few days there was the much anticipated trip to Valencia where we will be staying for about 3 months, this meant meeting out host families which is a very exciting and very nerve racking thing because I have heard both good and bad stories about them. So we hop on the bullet train which is nicknamed the duck because the front of the train to be very aero dynamic so it look kind of like a duck face because of it and head to Valencia. The train ride was very fun and the scenery was very breath taking because of how different the landscape was from back home. Our guide, Miguel made sure to point out various things along the way like massive vineyards, local lakes and travel destinations as well as just have very funny conversations with us. The whole trip was about an hour and a half from Madrid to Valencia which is fantastic and very short.
Soon we arrived at our destination which was a giant train station and our host families were waiting on the other side of the station. We all gathered around and waited for the families to call our names so that we could leave with them, most families ended up with two people from our group each. When me and Saline, my roommate for the next 3 months, names were called we were greeted by a mom and her daughter and they were very excited to have us. We then proceeded to introduce ourselves and head home which come to find out is about 10 minutes from the train station which means that for future trips all I have to do is walk to the train station. When we arrived at the house we were showed all around the house, which is bigger than I thought it was going to be, and then were allowed to each choose our own room which was amazing because they are good size rooms. My room is closest to the kitchen and faces towards the inside wall of the apartment complex while my roommate’s faces the outside part, both are nice and very accommodating.
After getting settled in and looking around the house some we had lunch and then went out for a stroll around town. After words and later on that night my host mom and I went to go grab subway tickets because we live pretty far from the school and it would take about 45 minutes to an hour if we were to walk to school. After that it was time for bed because I was absolutely exhausted from the previous night and only 3 hours of sleep plus all of this is still pretty hard to take in, in one go.
Madrid Day 2 01/21/2012
Madrid Day 2
Alright so today we went around and visited quite a few places including many of the royal places and presidential buildings ( which are all castles because you know Spain is awesome like that) and also went to a very new Cathedral that was built in the 1980s. We also went to a phone store for all of us to get phones which was an adventure in and of itself because of how lone the wait was. The final activity that we did for the evening was go to Prado museum which is one of the best museums in the world which I will describe.
Our first event for the day was waking up bright and early to go have a Spanish breakfast which consist of toast, coffee and orange juice. Not the biggest breakfast but at least it is something. Next we were off to the San Miguel market which is a pretty popular place that is pretty similar to pike place except for instead of tossing fish and selling flowers they had hanging legs of smoked pig and many many cheeses and wines to sample. We stopped here and got to explore a very common place in Madrid since there are many of these throughout the city. I really liked this place and especially love this black sugar coal thing, which was exactly how I described it, raw sugar with black coloring added to it. During Christmas this is given to children who are bad, kind of like giving kid coal in America except for the fact that this coal will make the children bounce off the wall do to sugar over load. Our guide Miguel decided to by some for us all to try, it was good and very very sugary, aside from the market right down the steps behind it are some of the oldest places in all of Spain including one restaurant that’s been there for hundreds of years.
I would like to describe how amazing the royal place is, it is absolutely huge and very beautiful but is now mostly used as ornamental and a tourist attraction. The only time it is really used by the royal family is when they are having a foreign dignitary over or when there is a wedding or such. When it is not being used by the royal family many people will stand in line in order to get their turn to go into the palace to look around. From what our guide was telling us they only have about 15 rooms on display out of 100 or so which is mind blowing. Our group did not get a chance to go in because the line was just too long and would have taken up most of our day. Instead we went and visited other royal and presidential buildings which were absolutely gorgeous as well and varied in architecture depending on when they were built. Also our guide told us that the president and the royal family have mansions just outside of the main city area where they stay for most of the time and the people pay for them to live there meaning they pay for absolutely nothing which is a very interesting notion I think.
Next we went to a church which was very beautiful and I would have thought it to be at least a couple hundred years old due to the nature of the architecture but come to find out this building was built in the 1980s and is one of the newest buildings around. The thing that caught my eye the most was this beautiful bronze cast door that was the opening the church, it had everything from horses to noblemen in this very intricate piece of work which was very breathtaking. Going inside the church was very interesting as well since it was a very touristy feeling with few people actually inside praying.
Next and last event for the was the Prado museum which was fun to look at. Now unfortunately I do not know much about art so I could not really tell who the famous painters were but I could defiantly appreciate their beauty and hard work that went into these paintings. I did however recognize some painters, the most notable being Francisco de Goya, who has most of his paintings actually in the Prado. All and all it was a very nice and pleasant visit with way more paintings and sculptures to look at then what you could in a day. We only went there for about 2 hours because after 6pm it was free so that made it even better.
Well now it’s off to go explore some of the night life here and prepare for our big trip tomorrow to Valencia! I cannot wait; I am both excited and nervous at the same time.
Madrid Day 1 01/07/2012
Today has been a very big adventure, first it started with me heading to the airport at 5 am in order to catch my flight that left at 7am. Things were pretty uneventful for that flight and I made it to Newark,NJ where I saw New York as I was flying in and where I also had a 5 hours layover. I am glad that I was able to find one of my classmates, Zach because there was really nothing to do in this airport ( no wifi and you had to fight for a power outlet). We almost missed our flight because they changed the gate # without making any sort of announcement; luckily we were able to board the plane just in time and met up with another one of our classmates and my roommate for the term, Seleine. We then get on the plan and find out that we are stuck there for about an hour and a half because of a chair that was stuck in the recline position. By the time we took of I had watched almost all of the Puss in boots movie (pretty cute movie by the way).
Finally after sitting for ever we were off to Madrid, I watched as the New York lights faded into the distance and everything outside turn pitch black. For the plane ride I really didn’t sleep much and instead watched a few movies that I had never seen before and played Portal 2 for a bit and then some Bioshock as well. Other then that the plane ride was smooth sailing and we arrived in Madrid about 10:30 am there time. The first task that we had to figure out was where our guide. Miguel was because he was nowhere in sight and we searched the entire area. After not being able to find him we decided to try to call him, luckily I had his number handy so that was no big deal. The problem was we did not know how to use a pay phone in Spain……which turns out takes three foreigners staring at it for a few minutes and pushing lots of random buttons to try and figure this machine out. Finally we were able use it and found out that there was the option to change the options to read in English, which helped out quite a bit. We were then able to call Miguel in which Erik, the 4th person from our flight tried to talk Spanish to him and found out that he spoke English just in time for the pay phone to die ( because in Spain the payphone last about 45 seconds for one euro).
Luckily Miguel came to our rescue and we were off to Hostal Aguilar which is the hostel that we will be staying at till Sunday morning. The bus we took to get to the hostel was a really good way to see the city for the first time I really could not believe my eyes at how beautiful the city was everything was very old architecture and stunning. When we got to the hostel we dropped off out things, which by the way our hostel is much nicer then I was expecting, and then headed out and about the city. We soon came to find out that most of the city was closed today January 6th because it was the last day of the Christmas holiday in Spain known as The Wise Men. Since this was the case most of us went to a Tapas Bar and were treated by Miguel to a very traditional dessert that is served on this day called, which is a pastry filled with cream and topped with candied fruit that has a small figurine hidden somewhere within the pastry. After a fantastic lunch we were able to explore on our own which I did by wondering around the city by myself, very exciting by the way. After wondering around for about two hours and seeing many many different new things I ended up getting myself lost. But not to worry because I had a map…..which I usually fail at using properly and get even more lost but not this time, I was able to successfully use a map without any help…..might seem silly but I was very proud of the fact I was able to do that.
The rest of the night was spent relaxing and hanging out with my new classmates, which seem like a great group of people and I think that we will all have a great time together over the term. I think that this is it for me tonight since I am very exhausted and need to get rest for a full day of sightseeing tomorrow! Hope everyone enjoys reading my adventures and I hope to post more soon!
IT IS TIME! 01/05/2012
So this picture is very appropriate for how i feel right now i am both excited/ really nervous. I can't believe that its already time to go to Spain. I have had a great year so far, which included a fantastic going away party, airsofting, movie watching and going to the Space Needle on my finale day here before I leave.
I will post as soon as i can when I get over to Spain and upload at least a pic since I will see how I will feel after a 17 hour plane ride, luckily I have a great book that i am reading as well as games on my laptop. I cannot wait to begin my study abroad experience and I hope you enjoy following along on my adventures. Well here goes nothing....TO SPAIN!
First Post! 12/05/2011
Hi everyone! my name is Cassandra and i will be going to Spain three weeks from today! I cannot tell you how excited and nervous I am for this trip, it is a dream come true to be going on a study abroad and I have made this blog so that you can follow along on my adventures. Now bare with me while I figure out how to load photos, videos, etc. because I have never used a blog before so this will be fun as well. In the next couple of weeks I will be frequently updating and talking about Valencia,Spain and how i am preparing for the journey. After I am in Spain i will be updating about once a week due to not knowing when i will have internet access.
Until the next post, talk to you then!