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OH MY GOSH ROWING!!! … oh and some other things too. July 16, 2013

Posted by sofiatuttle in Travel Log.
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I officially never want to leave Spain. It has delicious bread, rowing, and skiing nearby. What’s that? Rowing? Skiing? I’m so glad you asked! So I had been contacting the local rowing association and a German U23 rower who rows out of the club, and finally on Monday (last Monday.. I’m a little behind on the whole blogging deal.. oops) got the chance to go out to their boathouse and check it out. It. was. incredible. I met Felix, who was so nice and hospitable and within 20 minutes set me up with all the paperwork and insurance I needed, along with a boat to use for the next few days. I had been expecting the boat club to be far away, to have to fill out tons of paperwork and pay lots of money to MAYBE get on the water, and lots of other generally low expectations. Nope. Check out this sweet setup:


That would be the Río Manzanares, aka a canal through the heart of Madrid with the most consistently flat water I’ve ever had the pleasure to row on. I got to row Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – getting in about 34k total. I wish I had had more time to spend on the water, but alas such is the struggle of studying abroad. So much to do, so little time. But I have officially decided I am going to have to live in Spain for some period of time in the future, whether it’s another study abroad or a year or more of working. So, Remo Madrid – until next time.

Side note: the public transportation in Madrid was sooo convenient. The rowing club was all the way across the city, but using the metro I got there in 30 minutes (20 minutes metro, 10 walking to and from the metro stops). It’s pretty cool to be able to go to a metro stop and wait 2 or 3 minutes.. instead of the 15 or more with our very own MARTA. Not to mention that I never felt unsafe at any point while traversing the city – no matter the time of day. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the Spanish don’t have a concept of “night=sleeping” like us, so there are always people out and about. Even at 5:30am.. but we’ll get to that haha. I just love that city. Love love love.

Thursday we had our final exam, which was very fair given the material we covered and the studying we’d done. After that we had an hour-long flamenco lesson! I was a little hesitant at first, but it was such a neat experience and I definitely developed a taste for that kind of music. I actually have become more of a fan of Chambao – or “flamenco chill” as it’s called. It was a little awkward at first, but after a few minutes we all just went all out and looked silly together. The greatest was seeing all the guys get so into the moves. What we lacked in talent, we sure made up for in passion, or at least effort haha.

After flamenco I headed to the train station to buy tickets for the weekend in Morocco, then headed back to the residence for dinner and packing for Barcelona! After our 4th of July celebrations last weekend, I learned the hard way that it’s best to pack before going out. Since it was our last night in Madrid (the weekend was spent in Barcelona, and then Monday morning we had to leave for Granada) we all went out into the city as a group. The night started at around 11 at El Tigre – a tapas bar a few blocks away. For every drink you ordered, you got a huge tray of tapas.. with 10+ people we ended up with more food than you could imagine. After finishing our (quite generous) drinks and as many tapas as we could eat, some people called it a night and others headed to Teatro Kapital – one of the most famous night clubs in Madrid with 8 different, themed, stories. I was in the latter group, and we even got in free thanks to some coupons with free cover before 1:30am. That was definitely a great example of Madrid nightlife: at 1:30am the place was almost completely deserted. Things turned around though, and it was a pretty awesome night. Sparing the details, we ended up walking back to the residence around 4:30am.. getting back just in time to shower and walk allllll the way BACK across the city to catch our train to Barcelona.

After some much needed sleep during the 2 or 3 hour train ride, we made it to our hostel in Barcelona and chilled while our rooms were readied. After checking in and changing into bathing suits, we headed the main Barcelona beach around 1 or 2pm. I missed the beach so much and it was a perfect day to be out there. It was packed, but the hot weather and cool dips into the Mediterranean made it so worth it.


During our few hours on the beach we enjoyed the sun, talked to a lot of club promoters (talk about an ego boost), and even partook in a particular Spanish beach tradition. It was a good day to say the least. It took us a while to figure out which bus to take back to the hostel, but once we got there and showered we were back out for dinner and some night life. It wasn’t a crazy night for me, but a fun one nonetheless.

The next day, we all slept in until we had to leave for the Sagrada Familia. There’s no point in showing pictures because the enormity of this structure is just incomprehensible. It was so beautiful and so different from any other church I’ve ever been to before. It also allowed for some pretty great views of the city when we climbed up one of the many towers. After an hour or two there, I was a little tired of the big group scene. I absolutely love my LBAT group (I seriously could not imagine a more fun and perfectly compatible group) but sometimes I just need some time solo. So, I went out on my own (mom and dad you guys can ignore that) and ended up having a really great time. I found a delicious (and cheap) wok place for lunch, and used the wifi there to plan out my afternoon. I got directions to Parc Güell, which turned out to be several miles away, but I figured I had nothing but time. So after a very long, very uphill walk there I found myself in this massive, winding, beautiful “park” like none I’d ever experienced before. There were paths and courtyards and unique building-esque things everywhere.. really you have to see it to understand how unparklike it really is. I had picked up water and gummy bears at a supermarket on the way there for like 1 euro, so the first thing I did was find a shady spot to chill out and listen to some music for a while. Then I climbed to the top of the park to find the most excellent view of the city –


The hour (plus) walk to get there was sooo worth it. Being at the top of the city, there was a cool breeze blowing and I decided it was a great time for a nap. So on a bench in the shade, amidst other tourists checking out the view, I had a nice little 30ish minute nap. It definitely broke into my top 5 naps ever, so that was bueno. I spent the next couple hours wandering the park, stopping to listen to other musicians (they were everywhere, and were all really good), and appreciating the various famous parts and monuments within the park. Gaudí – the dude responsible for the Sagrada Familia and this park – definitely had some crazy going on. But the good kind of crazy, evidenced by the thousands of people enjoying his creations across Barcelona.

The rest of the that day was very chill – I took the bus back to our hostel (again, very simple – Spain public transportation continuing their record of excellence) and relaxed for the rest of the night. A couple of us ordered pizza from a recommended local place and took it easy. The next day we slept in again (our rationale was that you enjoy the city more if you’re rested.. makes sense right?) and then headed to the Parc de Montjuic – it was only a few blocks from our hostel and I’d read it had some pretty great views of the city. Barcelona definitely corners the market on beautiful mountainside parks. However, on the way, we encountered a tiny parade with “gigantes” – giant puppet-esque people we actually had just finished learning about in our culture class in Madrid. The park was very nice – we climbed up to a nice shady spot with stairs and all chilled out with some music and conversation.. and maybe a little napping. We had to continue the tradition of spending the last day of each weekend excursion lounging in a local park, after all. And the view of Barcelona and its port, of course, was incredible.

ALRIGHT getting closer to the present day! Power through, I’m getting there. So, we arrived back in Madrid late that night, and woke up early the next day to make the bus leaving for 7:30am to Granada. I have to admit I was really sad to leave Madrid, and would have been content to spend the next 2.5 weeks there. Although, now having been in Granada for not even 2 full days, I am more than happy to be here. Anyways, our bus was pretty classy and we each got a pair of seats to ourselves – aka there was some serious nappage getting done over the 5 hour ride down to Granada. We arrived around 1pm and met our host moms – mine is AWESOME. She’s so nice and is more than happy to converse with me despite my still a little broken Spanish. We had our first meal of ham/cheese spaghetti, salad, and watermelon for desert. There’s also another student living here with us – Anna from Australia (originally Hong Kong but she’s studying down under for her “uni” as they call it). She’s learning Spanish from scratch, so it’s such a cool mix of cultures and language skills under one roof. One roof which happens to be an adorable little apartment – tasteful and spacious and airy and generally cute. Libby and I definitely lucked out with our host home.

After lunch with our host mom and Anna we headed to the Centro de Lenguas Modernas for our first afternoon of classes. Turns out “classes” included “massive city-wide scavenger hunt”. I can undoubtedly say that it was the most fun scavenger hunt I’ve ever been on. We explored almost the entire city, which helped me to decide that Granada is the the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to. Yeah, I know there’s lots of “most ___” and “best___ of my life”s in this post – but what can I say.. Spain is just incredible! And during said scavenger hunt, we stopped for some tasty smoothies… dare I say the tastiest smoothie of my life?


After the scavenger hunt (which really only consisted of visiting various parts of the city and taking pictures there.. like you even need to ask a group of 5 college girls to remember to take pictures.. pshh) we had a scheduled dinner of drinks and tapas at a local tapas bar. I can’t even express how much of a fan I am of drinks and tapas being a scheduled, and paid for (thanks program fees!) event during my study abroad program. Notice to all students: Spain LBAT is the way to go!!!

Today started off with classes from 9-1, then we returned for lunch again with the host mom. Then we had an excursion to Alhambra – an originally Arabic ancient fort/castle/city/palace built in 889. That’s a three digit date in case you guys missed that. It overlooked the entire city and so we got to see an absolutely breathtaking vista. I know I’ve mentioned a lot of those, but this one, of the city of Granada, is undoubtedly the most entrancing and unique view I could imagine. You have the entire city, a monastery in the hills, and then the plains and mountains off in the distance. Mountains which, might I add, are completely SKI-ABLE in the winter and a mere 30 minute bus ride away. PLUS these ski slopes are unique because there aren’t trees – so it’s basically completely awesome. Anyways, here’s one of about 4 or 5 different view of the city/mountains we got:


Yeah. Exactly. Gorgeous is probably the word you’re looking for. It was also incredibly hot, but that’s a smile price to pay for seeing one of the most visited sites in the world. After touring the whole area, which was chock full of beautiful and intricate architecture, carvings, and wall and ceiling designs (not to mention gardens), we headed back into town to get some homework done (we had to interview people about their thoughts regarding the current economic crisis in Spain) and then back home for dinner. After which Libby and I had an hour long discussion with our host mom regarding the current economic situation in Spain, complete with arguments regarding the causes and effects of the situation. Just had a casual intelligent conversation completely in Spanish – the usual. Oh how I love studying abroad. We’re now up to date, so I’ll leave you with one picture of Alhambra!


Hasta luego!


La Adventura de Andalucia! July 30, 2011

Posted by annasulimirski in Travel Log.
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The third weekend I was in Spain we took a trip as a class all over the southern region of Spain, Andalucia. We visited the cities of Granada, Sevilla, and Cordoba which were all extremely beautiful! I loved how the entire region has so much Arabic influence. We left as a class on Thursday to travel around southern Spain. We started out in Granada, which was the last Spanish city to fall from the Arabs to the Christians. It’s architecture is to die for, and mountains with snow on them are in sight even though it’s boiling hot! We visited the Cathedral and the Alhambra there. The Alhambra is incredible. It was considered to be one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world at one point. It is like a palace/fortress building of the Arabs on the huge hill. It’s gardens and geometric designs were marvelous!

Next we went to Sevilla where we saw the 2nd largest Cathedral in the world and an old palace modeled after the Arab style. They were both incredible. I loved the feel of Sevilla on the riverside.

We then drove to Cordoba, which felt like we were in a desert. There we visited the Mezquita. It was my favorite building of the whole trip. The site originally had a cathedral that was then ruined for a mosque, and then the mosque was converted into a cathedral again. It’s mixtures of two cultures is fascinating!

I then traveled back to Cadiz for a week before leaving for Madrid. I finished up my finals in Cadiz and had to say good-bye to my home and Spanish mom, which was really hard!

Madrid was slightly overwhelming because of it’s huge size compared to the cities we had visited before then. I grew to love it, though, especially the huge parks that all the locals spent so much time at, especially at night. I visited the Royal Palace, the train station that practically has a rainforest inside, many monuments, and took a day trip to the little town of Segovia. Segovia had roman aqueducts from the first century A.D. and the castle that Walt Disney based the Sleeping Beauty castle on.

It was an incredible 2 weeks 🙂

Granada, Sevilla, y Cordoba June 21, 2010

Posted by Lisa Thornsberry in Travel Log.
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Just got back from a fabulous four-day weekend traveling throughout Andalucia!

We left Thursday morning for Granada. We had all of the afternoon free to wander the city, which was a wonderful experience. I spent the time making my way to both of the rivers in the city. The first was surrounded by imposing buildings and wide streets with many plazas and gardens, a stark contrast to the second river, which was covered in wild greenery and flanked by centuries-old buildings. I made my way back through the Albaicín, the historically Moorish part of town famous for its tiny cobblestone streets. The whole group then visited the Cathedral, which was impressive to say the least. The towering gray stones housed countless relics of centuries of Catholicism. After the Cathedral we went back to the Albaicín, this time to the gypsy part of the neighborhood. There we saw a flamenco show. It was very different from the flamenco we saw in Cadiz; though there was less movement and technicality to the dancing, the overall impression was much prettier. It was a very enjoyable evening.
The next morning we visited La Alhambra, which was my favorite site of the whole weekend trip. La Alhambra was a fortress and a palace, the oldest parts of which date back to the ninth century. We started at the fortress part, the Alcazaba, where we climbed up an ancient tower to see a great view of Granada far below. Then we hustled over to the Palacios de los Nazaries, where we spent the majority of our time. Every inch of the palace is elaborately decorated in the traditional Moorish style, and the impression is overwhelmingly beautiful. The size of the palace is unbelievable as well; whenever I thought we were coming to the end, we would turn the corner and see four or five more rooms. The beauty of the building was accentuated by the courtyards full of vibrant plants and fountains. I was completely in awe. And if that weren’t enough, we finished the visit at the Generalife section of La Alhambra, which is composed of wandering pathways through humongous gardens.