Thursday, February 26, 2009

Carnaval in Alicante

This past weekend was Carnaval in every city across Spain. Carnaval is basically a mix of Mardi Gras and Halloween. It is the weekend before Lent begins, but everyone dresses up in costumes for the entire weekend. Halloween is my favorite holiday so I was excited to have another chance to wear a costume! There was Carnaval in Madrid too, but Hannah, Sondee, and I decided to visit Lindsey and Theresa, two other girls from Ripon, who are studying in Alicante. Alicante is on the eastern coast of Spain, along the Mediterranean, so it was beautiful!

We flew Ryan Air, so we got pretty reasonably-priced tickets, we got in around 11 pm Friday night. Theresa met us at our Hostal (Hostal Milagraso) and gave us a brief tour of the barrio and the main sights of Alicante. It was an early night though, because we were all tired and wanted to rest up before all of the festivities on Saturday. Saturday we met Theresa again and did some more sightseeing. The first thing on the list: find a supermarket! Theresa took us to El Mercado, the HUGE market full of everything from fresh fish to fresh fruit! The floor with the fish and the meats smelled so bad, but once we found the fruit we were in heaven! So many fresh fruits and vegetables! We bought a kilo of strawberries (fresas) and I got three apples (manzanas). Then we continued on our way to a real supermarket to buy bread, cereal, jam, and of course sangria! After our grocery shopping we took our things back to the hostal and then went out for lunch. In Spain, they have what's called a "Menu del Dia", which is a really good deal. You get a two-course meal plus bread, dessert, and a drink all for anywhere from 7-10 euros. I love it! But you definitely cannot do the menu del dia if you are in a hurry. There is so such thing as a fast lunch here. Everything is prepared just for you, when you order it, and eating out is not about the food, but rather about spending time with friends and socializing--which I love. After lunch (which is eaten in the middle of the afternoon, around 3 pm), we went to the Castle of Santa Barbara, which looks out over the entire city. It used to be a fortress for various kings...It was gorgeous, but so windy! After the castle, it was time to head back to the hostal and get ready for Carnaval! We all had elaborate feathered masks that we wore with dresses and Theresa was an Indian. It was so much fun! Live music in the streets, dancing, street vendors, and tons of costumes! I loved it! We stayed out until almost 4 am, but the party was still going strong! The nights don't end until 6, 7, or 8 am here! Sunday morning we checked out of our hostal at noon, then headed out to see a few more of the sights of Alicante. We found Plaza del Toros, the bullfighting ring. Everything was decorated for Carnaval, even the iron bulls and bullfighter sculptures outside, so I had to take a picture with them! The bulls had fake eyelashes, scarves, and there was a thought bubble that said, "Obama, save us!" I thought that was so funny! After that, we met up with Lindsey on the beach and went for lunch, where we met Theresa. After lunch, we still had a lot of time because our flight didn't leave until 11 pm, so she showed us a few more plazas, went to an exposition on Biodiversity (Sondee's a bio major...), and roamed around. A lot of places close on Sundays, so it was pretty quiet. We caught a bus to the airport and were back in Madrid a little after midnight. It was a long weekend, but a lot of fun! I can't wait until Lindsey and Theresa visit Madrid!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Weekend in Granada!

This past weekend I went to Granada, a city in Southern Spain, surrounded by mountains. It was beautiful! Last year, the Spanish department had a T.A. from Granada, Elena, so I told her I was in her city, but we weren't able to meet up.

We arrived Friday night and took a walking tour through the city, then later that night we went to a Flamenco Show. The Flamenco was incredible! We were in a room that was shaped like a tunnel and the dancers were less than three feet away, sometimes I had to lean back because I thought I was going to get hit with their skirts! But it was a great experience! We also got to see the Alhambra at night--beautiful. Saturday, we actually went to the Alhambra, once the residence of the Muslim rulers in Granada. The muslim architecture and designs were incredibly beautiful and intricate. It was definitely the highlight of the trip! Then Saturday night, we went to Mae West, a huge discotecta in a mall! It was fun, but very crowded! Then Sunday we had the day free to do some shopping in many of the Gypsy markets and to go for a stroll through the city.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bienvenida a España!

Hola! I am now writing from Madrid, Spain, where I will be spending the next four months studying at the Carlos III University. I have been in Madrid since the 24th of January and have been busy getting acquainted with the city and its wonderful metro system. This week is orientation at the university, so Monday I took a written exam and tomorrow I have an oral exam to evaluate my level of Spanish and to place me in the appropriate level of classes. Last week I spent the whole time sight-seeing around Madrid and fell in love with the city! Here are some fotos! :)
The view from La Plaza Mayor

La Plaza Mayor

Palacio Real

El Parque de Retiro

Hasta Pronto,