Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another semester completed at the Suffolk University Madrid Campus- another tough goodbye. Leaving my apartment for good was sad. I had to take a nice long deep breath of that dirty Madrid air from my balcony before walking out the door. First leaving my host family seemed like the hardest thing in the world, then it was leaving Chueca. But having kept in good contact with Mercedes, I figure theres always next semester to visit my friends in Cheuca. Its always tough to leave, but its a little easier knowing I'll be back in a few short months.

Until then its back to Boston. Working is made a little easier knowing that every dollar saved will contribute to more great travel experiences next semester. Mentally planning future trips is exciting. With all of Europe right in my backyard, the options are seemingly endless. Sweden? Russia? Bulgaria? Why not?

Now when I go back for my second year I'll be a little smarter, a little more experienced. A seasoned veteran. And first on the list is a long walk around Retiro, always at its best in the summer. So when life seems overwhelming here in Boston, all I've got to do is think forward. And I'll be home before I know it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reason 242 To Live in Madrid

You don't even have to watch the futbol games. You can tell if Real Madrid wins by the level of noise on your street. 

Crunch Time

         You never know what you got till its gone. I never thought my street sounded very fun until I was piled up to my neck in books, writing papers, studying for finals, falling asleep on said pile of books... etc. The sunlight sits on my balcony, teasing me, tempting me to take a much needed break. But I can't. Its crunch time.
         At least during finals time Madrid has El Dia de los Libros, Book Day! All books in the city are 10% off, and, in traditional Spanish style, theres a party in the National Library. Knowing how loud Spaniards can be, especially at parties, I wouldn't suggest the library as a tranquil safe haven for all that work you didn't do over the semester. Of course, I would know more about this unique holiday if I wasn't so busy myself...
       So as I sit here in my room, flustered and overwhelmed (as many others out there are), taunted by the sun and what sounds like the most fun day ever, those who have time to go party in the Spanish National Library, I applaud and envy you. Maybe next centennial I'll make it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bucket Paradise

I think I have officially been to more cities in Spain than in the United States. I guess it makes sense, considering Spain is a wee bit smaller- easier to get from place to place. Matter of fact, its the perfect country to destination-hop. Beaches, big cities, mountains, skiing, fish ports, castles, its got something for everyone. My latest trip happens to be one of the biggest tourist destinations in Spain- the Balearic islands, or more specifically, Mallorca.

Mallorca is the biggest of the islands which comprise the 'autonomous community'. Its a beautiful island, complete with caves and mountains alike, beaches and fishing boats, jet skis, and of course- Germans.

The area I was staying in might as well be called little Germany. The people of Mallorca speak Castilian, Catalan, and probably German. The street my hostel was on: Calle de Berlin. Menus, promoters, signs; everything had German. It was a bit surprising, seeing as French or English is often the second language in Spain, but it was also refreshing. I've always liked the sound of the German language more than overrated, nasal-y French.  It really is a beautiful language, and it makes mini golf all the more fun.

The most complex mini golf course I have ever had the pleasure of dominating was in Mallorca. As any lover of the game knows, it always come with frustration. So when you're sitting on a par-3 and its your seventh stroke, listening to the German family behind you commenting as if it was German Sportscenter is quite amusing. Brings a little levity to a grim +4 mark on the score card.

But for the most part, and much to my Spanish teachers disliking, I didn't travel the island very much. It was vacation, and I was content on the beach. If you ever find yourself in Mallorca don't forget to try the local sensation- a beach bucket. Not just any ordinary bucket, this one you don't fill with sand or salt water, but rather with ice and your favorite fruit beverage! (Or water to stay hydrated in the hot sun). It comes complete with about 15, one meter long straws so you can share with all your friends. 12 liters of fun in the sun- a perfect vacation. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Where in the world would you find a language unlike any other? How about turquoise sea water just meters from plush green mountains? A seashell shaped bay overlooked from a roller coaster on top of a mountain? 
(Photo by Keta)

Certainly one of the most interesting cities in Spain, the answer is Donostia. Many more will know it by its Castellano name- San Sebastian. It’s a tiny city, with a modest population which is often tripled during tourist season. Just 20 km from the southern coast of France, it’s architecture is a unique blend of Spanish, French, and Basque styles. The French part of the city even looks a little like Paris sometimes, especially near the river. 
Donostia is part of the Basque country, a semi-autonomous region of Spain with a distinct, ancient, rich, and unique culture and ethnicity. Basque people are quite interesting, and even for someone who is not from Spain, the difference is noticeable. 
San Sebastian has a unique history, stuck in between France and Spain but identifying with neither. Historically it was a fishing town, and the bay was even the starting point for explorations as far north as Denmark. Today still they serve some of the best Cod I have ever had- with sweet red and green peppers and onions. They even have a state of the art aquarium with a walk-through tank (not for the weak-stomached...) 
Attractive to surfers and families alike, San Sebastian has a lot to offer. Its most famous symbol is comprised of three metal sculptures protruding from some rocks just off the shore. The sculptures, much like the city, will simply not be done justice with words- they must be seen with your own eyes. So next time you find yourself, like me, sitting on the wait-list for the trip which leaves at 6 am, go for it! You might just make it free of charge, for a visit to one of the most unique places in the world, San Sebastian. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Las Fallas 2012

The City is Burning

What do Spaniards do for St. Patty´s day? Just about all of them party, some go to that Irish pub down the street, some even to Ireland. But the same weekend as St. Patricks day is also the Fesival de Las Fallas in Valencia.
Las Fallas is a longstanding tradition in Valencia, an ancient city on the southwestern coast of Spain. They build huge paper machet sculptures, sort of like floats, that tell stories. They´re massive, colorful, must take months to think up and build, and at the end, they burn.
It may sound trivial at first, but its actually a culturally rich festival. Groups of 20-100 men women and children dressed in ancient roman clothing parade through the streets singing, dancing, and followed by a marching band. Everyone and their mother has fireworks, noisemakers, or just things that blow up. Its not a rare sight to see a three year old lighting and tossing a firecracker into the middle of the street.
Most of the roads in the city are blocked off to make room for the hoards of people pushing, stampeding to see the Fallas. There are 385 total in the city, one at each major intersection.
Everyday at 2 pm they would have a fireworks show loud enough to cripple your ear drums and maybe make you think you´re in a war zone. Its hard not to cringe and flinch at gunpowder exploding right below your feet.
Finally, at midnight on Monday night they have the biggest firework show of them all, and they light the first Falla to burn. The crowd resembles Times Square on New Year´s Eve. Nobody even so much as thinks of St. Patrick. The whole crowd is enthralled, ooing and ahhing at the colorful explosions in the sky. And finally, the chain reaction of explosions works its way to the top of the sculpture and fire erupts.
Everyones got a little pyromaniac in them.
The heat tans your face, and the crowd makes you sweat, but the sight distracts you from feeling any of it. It seems like a lot of work to spend 364 days building these massive, impressive sculptures just to burn them. And maybe to some it seems a little wasteful- but until you go for yourself you won´t understand the magic of Las Fallas.