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Venice! June 17, 2012

Posted by Blake Christianson in Travel Log.
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Today has been a long haul from Venice to Vienna, but we are all so excited to be here. The hotel in Venice was rough to say the least, so it’s nice to be sitting on a clean bed without bugs, random noises, or two square feet of room around the beds. However, the rest of Venice was awesome. We went to several art museums during the days for class and we went to a concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for our music class. Otherwise, we had a fair amount of free time.

The first day, we had an art history test, so we spent our first night in after our welcome dinner, which was the best one yet. We had lasagna, chicken legs, potatoes, and tiramisu. After many museums, we decided to try to find something to do for the night so everyone decided to go to the casino. It was nice enough to have to get blazers there, and I don’t think the locals enjoyed our company. Oh well, we had a great time. Savransky won 150 euro that night—one lucky day! The next night we ate before the concert and then walked around after, quickly realizing that everything in Venice closes before midnight. It was actually nice to get some rest.

Yesterday was our last day in Italy after what seems like a year, so we headed to the Venice beach after seeing a church and then lunch. I was reluctant, thinking the ocean water would be just as gross as the channel water (which if you touch, you have to go to the hospital because of its filth), but I was quite wrong. The Adriatic Sea was almost as blue as the Caribbean—but not quite. We spent the afternoon relaxing by the water before Savransky, Kevin, Clark and I had a final Italian meal. We ate right by the beach and had pasta aioli again. So good. We then stopped by one last gelato shop—it’s hard to believe we won’t be eating it everyday anymore—before just sitting on a bridge procrastinating packing up yet again.

This morning came early at 7:00 and we’ve driven all day long. Tonight we have a welcome dinner at the hotel and then we have to write a paper for the concert and study for some music listening test tomorrow morning. Mom and dad – the piano lessons have paid off. With Austria being as clean and advanced as Germany, I think we will all be happy for the next couple of days. 

My Last Week July 25, 2011

Posted by Blake Christianson in Travel Log.
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My last week in Spain has been incredible.  On Tuesday, I went to the royal palace and saw Harry Potter (which was incredible and so much better than I thought it could be).  On Wednesday, we went to the oldest restaurant in the world, Botin.  Earnest Hemingway even wrote about it in some of his books.  I ordered the roasted chicken and fried eggplant and it was delicious.  Definitely the best chicken that I have ever had.  Before we knew it, it was Thursday and time to go on our weekend trips.  That morning we visited Antena 3 as a class.  It is one of the largest television broadcasters in Spain, and we were able to see both a live television show and a live radio show.  Both were very similar to Goodmorning America in the United States.  We grabbed lunch really quickly and headed to the airport for our flight to Palma de Mallorca.

Palma was awesome!  Our hostel was so nice, and it actually had a fantastic Tex Mex restaurant on the patio with views of the ocean.  It was were we ate Thursday and Friday night, and, unfortunately, it was closed Saturday so we had to find another option.  We spent Friday and Saturday hanging out on the beach.  It was actually kind of cool, but it was nice that it wasn’t blazing hot like usual.  We found downtown Palma and walked around there, of course picking up a few souvenirs.  The trip flew by and Sunday morning we were headed back to the airport.  Worst flight ever!  The flight was delayed, we sat on the runway for probably an hour, and the flight took an extra 30 minutes (I think we got lost).  Finally, we made our way back to the residence and ate some lunch before writing our two papers.  Last night we watched Lincoln Lawyer, such a good movie, and went to bed early.  This morning I walked to the park and saw the massive cathedral for the last time.  I have to spend the rest of the day studying, since tomorrow we have our finals.

Unfortunately, this is where the blog ends. My flight home is Wednesday morning.  I cannot believe that my time in Spain is coming to an end–it just flew by!  Before I know it, I’ll be back at Tech beginning the fall semester.  I am very excited about football though.  Thanks so much for reading my blog and keeping up with my adventures in Spain.  It’s so nice to know that people were reading what I was doing.

I’ll see y’all on Wednesday!

Blake

Andalucia again… July 18, 2011

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This weekend we took another class trip to Andalucia.  The people who just did the Madrid program did the exact same things we did last time we went, but this time we took an “alternate trip” with our TA.  It was so nice to not have to learn anything and just have a relaxing weekend.  We spent the first night in Grenada doing whatever we pleased, so we bought some souvenirs and of course went out to eat.  Grenada has a arab market that we never saw last time.  It was really interesting to see what you could buy.  The next day we went to the Alhambra again.  It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in Madrid, so there won’t be any pictures in this post.  The rest of the day was spent driving to Sevilla, my favorite city in Spain.  We walked along the river again and had a class dinner with lots of tapas, small appetizers to share.  It was delicious!  That night we found an outdoor bar to hang out at with our group.

The next day we went to the beach while the other group toured the many cathedrals in Sevilla.  The beach was perfect, not too hot and not too cold.  We had tomatoes with mozzarella for a snack at a restaurant overlooking the beach, and they were definitely the best tomatoes I’ve had in Spain.  We road back to Sevilla watching the gorgeous scenery flash before our eyes.  That night we went to Flaherty’s, an Irish restaurant that Drew and I had gone too in one of our previous visits.  The spinach and artichoke dip can’t be beat.

The last day of our trip was spent meandering around Cordoba.  They have all of these handmade ceramics that are incredible.  For the most expensive ceramics, gold is actually melted and painted on the plates or vases in beautiful designs.  Incredible.  Cordoba is one of the hottest cities in the world, so when the temperature reached 117 degrees we decided it was time to dip into a restaurant for a break.  Before we knew it, we were back on the bus and headed for Madrid.  Last night we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant to watch the world cup.  What a bummer we lost, but who would’ve though we would have made it to the finals?

Tonight we’re going to watch the Harry Potter move.  I cannot wait!  It’s hard to believe that I only have 9 days left here.  Where has the summer gone?  This weekend I’m going to Palma de Mallorca with some friends for my last weekend in Spain.

Miss you all and see y’all soon!

Blake

San Sebastian and Pamplona July 9, 2011

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This weekend was crazy!  Since we didn’t have class on Friday,  some friends and I left on Thursday night to head to San Sebastian.  We, like idiots, decided to not get tickets until the day of, but it all worked out!  Since this weekend begins San Fermín, the running of the bulls in Pamplona, there are like absolutely no places to stay, so we didn’t book a hostel or hotel either.

We arrive at San Sebastian around midnight with the plan of simply sleeping on the beach.  We get all bundled up, lay out our blankets, and after about fifteen minutes the police so politely tell us that we are not allowed to sleep on the beach.  So, we walk around the city asking place after place after place if they have rooms.  None.  Finally, we find a little hotel and cram four people into one room.  It worked for the five hours that we actually slept.  We woke up the next morning and walked up to the monument of Jesus.  The walk was absolutely beautiful.  With views of the ocean, beach, and mountains, San Sebastian was definitely one of my favorite cities in Spain.  For the rest of the day we walked along the beach and watched the sail boats before getting our bus to Pamplona at 9.

We board the bus to Pamplona to realize that the company had overbooked the bus.  I got the immense pleasure of sitting on the stairs for an hour.  Thrilling.  When we get to Pamplona at 11, the firework show began.  Spain knows its fireworks because I thought the finale had occurred about ten times before it actually did.  You could literally feel the ground shake with the amount of fireworks that were exploding.  We spread out our towels and listened to all the bands play for the rest of the night before deciding to sleep for two hour in the bus station.  The running of the bulls begins at 8 exactly, so we were up and ready to go by 6 to find a spot.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity dressed in our white and red just like the thousands of other people there.  Finally we here the gun shot!  About 100 people run in this race with probably 1o bulls.  We were right by the Coliseum so we luckily were able to catch the end of the race.  Definitely one of the coolest things I have ever seen!

At 10:15 we hopped on our bus back to Madrid with having barely slept.  I crashed and did not actually wake up until we were pulling into the Madrid station.  Perfect!  We walked back to the residence and tomorrow plan to going to the San Jerónimo el Real cathedral for church tomorrow.  I also have three papers to write.  Fantastic.  This week we only have class until Wednesday, but our first rounds of tests are on Tuesday.  Thursday we leave for Andalucía to explore Grenada, Sevilla, and Cordoba again.  Miss you all!

Toledo and the Fourth of July July 5, 2011

Posted by Blake Christianson in Travel Log.
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It is so nice to be in Madrid where I can take as many showers a day as I want, run by my own schedule (minus class), have my room cleaned everyday, and have wifi all the time; but you still can’t beat the beach or the calmness of Cadiz.  Madrid’s awesome but it’s going to take some time to get used to the fast pace of everything here after constantly moving at the pace of a snail for a month in Cadiz.

On Saturday we took a day trip with our class to Toledo.  Although it was over 100 degrees and we walked for 6 hours straight, the city was undoubtably beautiful.  We saw the inside of their Cathedral and simply walked through the streets.  Our tour consisted of over 30 people with just one quiet-spoken native Spanish speaker, so there wasn’t much listening to the tour guide done.  We enjoyed the air conditioning inside of a McDonald’s before getting on the bus back to Madrid.  If we had been given more free time I would have definitely bought one of their cool hand made pocket knives or swords.  They also make all of these gold embroidered plates which were gorgeous.  Saturday night we walked around our favorite plazas for a while before going to bed.

Sunday was incredible!  It was one of those few days here that I was able to sleep in.  After I woke up, I went to lunch, and the rest of the day was spent simply watching movies  So nice!  For some reason, all the museums we had wanted to go to were closed for the day and everyone was exhausted from Friday and Saturday.  Gotta love some Toy Story 3.

Monday was the Fourth of July!  I guess they celebrate in Madrid with class from 9-2 and 4-6.  Not to exciting.  However, for dinner we went to Hard Rock for a good American meal.  The whole place was decked out in red white and blue balloons, so we all felt a little more at home.  After Hard Rock, we went to our favorite place, Ulysses, to hang out for the rest of the night.  No fireworks, lake, or barbecue, but we still had a good time.

Miss you all!

Blake

Time for Madrid June 29, 2011

Posted by Blake Christianson in Travel Log.
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Its been a while since I’ve written, but the last week and a half have been packed. In Cadiz we had our last week of classes which included three finals. Most days were spent going to class, eating a quick lunch with our host family, and heading to the beach to study. Now that I am in Madrid, I didn’t realize how nice it was to be able to do all of my work out on the beach listening to the ocean. Starting Wednesday night, Cadiz had la feria de San Juanillo. It is just one of many parties Cadiz has which lasted from Wednesday to Saturday night. On Wednesday, we made our last visit to the regular hang out, 100 Monteditos for 1 euro appetizers and then went to watch the fireworks at midnight that signified the start of the feria. Unfortunately, we had to study on Thursday night so we only went to about an hour of the celebrations, but it was quite interesting. They burn these massive signs that people put together to make political statements. Friday, we finished our last exams and had a celebratory paella dinner at the school with our professors. We then headed out to the beach one final time before getting ready to go out to the feria. We met up with our professor from Cadiz and headed to the old city. The feria is almost like a fair back the US except with much louder music and dancing. There were a lot of little shops and tons of good food. We stopped at our favorite kebab place before going back home.

We woke up Saturday morning with all our bags packed, took pictures with our host parents, and said goodbye. Mari Carmen and Juan started crying and said that Drew and I were there favorite students they’ve ever had. We took the bus to our plane, the plane to Madrid, and finally ended up at our unfortunate hostel. At least we only had to stay there for three days. That night a group of us went out on a tour of the city. On Sunday, we slept in for the first time of the whole trip! Then we made our way to the Reina Sofia a solid thirty minutes before it closed. We did the quick and speedy tour of Dali and Picasso and promised to return. Next up was a rest break at Starbucks before heading to the royal gardens which were beautiful. We then went to the Prado and saw more Picasso along with some amazing Velazquez pieces. For some reason, at least one person in our group of friends is always hungry so we stopped at the Prado cafe before heading back to the hostel for dinner. We were all exhausted so we decided to just watch a movie for the night. Conviction was amazing.

Monday morning we had a speaker for two hours about alternative medicine at the International House. I don’t really think that crap actually works, but whatever floats your boat. We then went to lunch before just walking around the city and napping. For dinner, we went to the grocery store and bought cheese, bread, chips, and dips and decided to eat in the plaza because Spain isn’t cheap. We enjoyed watching the sun set as we gorged ourselves. Tuesday was our last free day and Drew left that night. We woke up and had a Starbucks breakfast before walking around the city some more. I felt sick so I ran to the pharmacy to get some medicine. They hand out prescription drugs here like it’s candy. The rest of the day was spent walking around the massive park, rowing in the lake, and napping on the lawn. Drew’s flight was at midnight, so we went to dinner for paella with all eight of our friends for the last time. We said goodbye to Drew and moved into the residence we’re staying in for the month. So nice! It’s basically a hotel. They do all our laundry, clean our room daily, and feed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plus I finally have wifi–its been way too long! Today we started our first day of classes and met everyone new that came to Spain just for the Madrid program. I think we’re going to have a lot of new friends to hang out with! Lunch was delicious, and then I wrote a paper about the goofy alternative medicine lady before writing this.

A Weekend in Portugal June 7, 2011

Posted by Blake Christianson in Travel Log.
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Our first weekend in Cadiz quickly approached, and Drew, Marnie, Emily, and I decided to take a trip to Portugal. Classes got out early in Friday so we were able to make the 12:30 bus to Sevilla. We had booked a 3:00 bus from Sevilla to Lisbon, so we had to move quick. We ended up getting into Sevilla at 2:45 and were convinced that getting to the other bus station and on our bus to Lisbon would be impossible. However, with little hope, we hopped into a taxi, started rambling in Spanish about how fast we needed to go, and by some miracle of God we made it to the train station at 2:58. We sprinted through the station straight to our train like we were on the Amazing Race, and at 3:04 we were in our seats ready to embark. I slept almost the entire way, and we finally arrived in Lisbon at midnight. We quickly realized that none of us spoke any Portuguese, so it took three taxi drivers to finally find someone who knew which hostel we wanted to go to. With us babbling in yet again Spanish trying to speak to a man who spoke Portuguese, we were 2 for 2 for taxi drivers thinking we were absolutely insane that day.

We showed up at the hostel, and to our great surprise, it was clean, new, modern, fun, and the staff extremely helpful. We threw our bags in our rooms and went out for dinner to a small pizzeria. Delicious! The owner was from Italy, and she even gave us a few free slices. I think it was because we were the only ones buying half a pizza per person at 12:30 at night. We then went to the park in Barrio Alto and enjoyed our simple meal on a park bench. You would think that no one had ever seen an American before as Emily goes, “are we the zoo or something.” We stayed out for a little longer and then went back to finally go to sleep.

We woke up the next day around 10:30 and set out to explore the city of Lisbon. We stopped at a Starbucks to grab some breakfast and then just continued to wander. It’s amazing what you can see by simply walking. Eventually we stumbled upon a flee market where everything was sold from furniture to clothing to stamps to children’s toys. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy some cheap souvenirs so we went in and out of booths for about an hour. It was time for lunch, so we went to this nice little Portuguese restaurant, and I ordered the best salmon I think I have ever eaten. We then went into a few small cathedrals before finally making our way to El Castilo de San Jorge. With views of the entire city, it was an incredible experience.

After being in Spain for a week, we realized that it was time for our daily siesta, so we returned to the hostel to nap until dinner. At 9:00, we headed out to dinner. I was going to be adventurous and order the swordfish. To my surprise, the entire grilled fish was put on my plate, from eyes to fins. It was actually really good, but picking the bones out got annoying after the first few bites. We went to the Hard Rock cafe for dessert, and then headed back up to the Barrio Alto area to continue the night. We met this really nice Hungarian group and hung out with them for a few hours. When they left to go back to their hotel it was about 4:30, and we decided to stay up until sunrise. We went to a jazz bar for about an hour before heading out to the bay to watch a beautiful sunrise. What a gorgeous city and morning we had! After the sun rose it was time to head back to the hostel, grab our backpacks, and take a taxi to our 9:00 bus to Sevilla.

Portugal was more amazing than I could have ever imagined, and I hope that some day I can come back.

I miss you all!

-Blake

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