Markets, and markets

One of my favorite things to do in Madrid, is explore all the markets here. These are no ordinary supermarkets that you find next to your local gas station. I’m talking about huge, open-air markets that sell everything from freshly cooked meals, to hand made leather goods. There are a bunch of them to visit in Madrid, but I chose to go to the famous Mercado de San Miguel and El Rastro.

The two were so much fun to shop and walk through. The Mercado de San Miguel was like going to a restaurant and produce market at the same time. You can buy a wide variety of fresh fruit, or just have them juice it for you. It was also loaded with stalls of people selling delicious cooked foods like paella, baked sweets, fish, chicken, beef, gazpacho, mini hamburgers…you name it, they have it!

The Rastro, most certainly lived up to its reputation of being the largest open air flea market in Madrid! With the surrounding streets shut down for the market, you could spend the whole day there roaming around and browsing every vendor…though I don’t advise that for the sake of your wallet. I went with the intent of buying a leather purse and since it comes from Spain, purchasing leather goods is actually very affordable! I’m proud to say I stuck to my intentions  fairly strong, even though I passed buy countless little trinkets and clothes that I would’ve been more than happy to house.

 

Approaching the Mercado de San Miguel

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageIn the mercado, were stools and tables to sit and enjoy your food…that’s if you could find a spot. This place gets packed!

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Tortilla de Patata, my favorite!ImageImage

This happy employee was making fresh yogurt.ImageImage

At the Rastro flea market with my good friend Sarah. Here, she’s negotiating on some shirts to buy…I love that about markets in Spain, the price is almost never set in stone.ImageImage

Inscens ImageImage

Hand made jewelry Image

There were countless vendors selling leather bags!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Churros y Fútbol

These two things are synonymous with the Spanish culture.

I think the reason is because here, it means something more than a sport. It’s a celebration, win or lose (though you wouldn’t want to be caught in the latter). People of all ages gather to watch the game and cheer on their favorite player. You don’t even have to buy a ticket to sit in the stadium and be a part of the celebration. There are big screens outside that project the game. So, being in Madrid, I knew I’d regret not seeing at least one game while I’m here. I went Monday with my girlfriends Marcelle, Sharlene, and Sarah to watch Spain vs. Croatia and had a blast. Ok, so maybe we didn’t stand there the whole game — we decided to walk around a little after it began — but we came back after half time, right in time for the first, only, and winning goal made by Spain! Oh and about those churros, they are to Spain what apple pie is to America. Some kind of fried batter, long like a stick, that you dip into melted hot chocolate. And they are oh, so, delicious.

But dinner before dessert-sauteed peppers and onions.

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Pasta

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Pork, I opted out for an egg instead. Sol is very accommodating :)

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The place we went to for the churros, San Gines, has been open since 1894! No wonder why the churros are so good!

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So decadent, oh my gosh.

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Devoured.

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Sarah, Me, and Sharlene

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Outside of the Stadium Santiago Bernabeu where they host the fútbol games.

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The crowd went wild as they announced the players!

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Feeling so Spanish right now!

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Even the little ones are fans!

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This guy went all out!

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After Spain made the winning goal, it was chaos!

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The stadium looks so cool at night!

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The celebrating continued all the way through the metro-not to mentioned heightened when people saw me taking pictures.

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Cool eye.

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Barcelona, Day Three

If you are ever in a foreign country/state/city, I highly recommend going on a walking tour as a way to get to know the place you’re in — preferably a free tour. That’s what my friends Sarah, Sharlene, and I decided to do on our last day in Barcelona. Really, I wish we had done this the first day we were there. I learned so much about the city I would have never figured out on my own. Our walking tour guide took us to many sites in addition to telling us where else we should go, fun activities to do during the day — and night! — and most importantly, where to eat the best food!

Our first site on the walking tour, the last standing Roman Aqueduct in Barcelona

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Picasso’s artwork on the building of the school for architecture

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The Cathedral de Barcelona

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Street musicians, you’ll find a lot of them in Barcelona. These guys were actually really good!

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Kind of hard to make out, but those are Hebrew letters carved into this ancient stone wall.

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The Bishop’s Bridge. Legend holds that if you walk backwards underneath it, you will be granted a wish…

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…our group decided to test our luck!

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Artist at work

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Practical graffiti.

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The art school that Picasso attended

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Doors of the Cathedral de Barcelona

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Sarah, Sharlene and I continued walking after our free tour. We stopped by the cafe 4 Cats, where Picasso was a frequent visitor.

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Everything was too expensive for my taste, so we got some sweets from a close-by gelato store.

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…it was amazing.

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We enjoyed our ice cream while watching a free street performance. Que suerte!-How lucky!

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And then the finale…

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Nailed it!

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Afterwards, we rode the Teleferic de Montjuic-cable cars-and got a great view of Barcelona from up top.

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Sarah, Sharlene, and I :)

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Eating a PB&J sandwich on top of a castle, feels about right.

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Some abandoned buildings near our hostel

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We arrived back in Madrid last Monday morning. It felt so nice to come back to a home-cooked meal, I missed Sol’s food!

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Rice and beans and beef stew with sauteed chicken and peppers!

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And a fresh bowl of cherries, it’s good to be back!

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Barcelona, Day Two

Refreshed, replenished, and recharged. Day two always feels like the first day for some reason, but in a good way. I think it’s because everyone is charged with excitement and anticipation for what the day will bring. We did more exploring on our own, but this time we had a game plan. The first site to see was La Pedrera by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s unique architecture is displayed all throughout Barcelona. That was my favorite thing about this city. Even cooler is that Gaudi’s inspiration for his work came from nature, like the octagon shape of a bee’s honey comb that he frequently uses. Besides that — more old buildings, the beach, and the fact that they want to be their own country, Barcelona is very similar to Madrid. Except it was more touristy. Way more touristy.

This is the youth hostel that we stayed in. Sorry for the lack of pictures, it was nice but didn’t really compare to the Gallery Hostel that I stayed at in Portugal.

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I had to…gamer for life!

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And this is  La Pedrera. More of a sculpture than a building if you ask me.

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Walked by this cute little bakery/coffee/tea shop and couldn’t resist going inside. There was a rainbow cake, can you blame me?!

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I love loose-leaf tea

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The distorted ceiling mirrors make another appearance!

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A castle in the middle of the city street. Completely normal, completely cool.

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Roxy and Kevin being silly.

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Approaching La Sagrada Familia, the famous church designed by Gaudi that has been continuously under construction for the past 130 years. It started in 1882 and is suspected to be completed in 2041.

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In front of La Sagrada Familia!

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The church doors.

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I can’t describe, nor can I capture the complete beauty of this structure.  It’s a tall stained glass windows, and the most interesting architecture I have ever seen. I felt like I was in another dimension.

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The ceiling. Hypnotizing, isn’t it?

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Not all of the windows are completed, but once they are, they will be as amazing as this.

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Looking up at the ceiling, reminds me of a kaleidoscope.

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The genius himself, Antoni Gaudi.

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After that, we started the long hike up the hill of Carmel-thankfully there were escalators for most of the way-to reach Park Güell and see more of Gaudi’s work.ImageImage

View of Barcelona from the top of the hill

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The tip-top of the hill. And yes, that man is wearing matching leopard leggings and vest. He was weird.

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You can see La Sagrada Familia from here!

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Me and Roxy

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Roxy and Kevin!

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Quick lunch on top the hill. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I had about 6 of those that weekend.

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Crazy hair, don’t care. It was windy.

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The crew

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Oddly similar to a gingerbread house, I wonder if Gaudi was hungry when he designed this building.

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For dinner, we took our hostel’s recommendation and went to a tiny pasta house. Everything there was homemade from scratch and absolutely delicious. Not to mention cheap. My wallet and stomach were both satisfied.

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The BEST gnocchi I have ever had in my life.

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Making pasta.

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Fresh basil for our pasta.

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The perfect top to the night, seeing the light show of the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. Crowds of people swarmed the square to gaze at the multicolors and spurts of water that was synchronized with music, awesome.Image

Barcelona, Day One

Last week was my final week of Spanish classes, and, come Thursday — the final day. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m extremely happy I got an A, so Friday was a free day for us. Now that my group only has to focus on filming my teacher’s novel El Hijo de Hernandez, this weekend was basically our last free weekend. What to do? Three-day weekend in Barcelona? It’s on.

Located at the metro in Barcelona is possibly the world’s largest vending machine.

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The Fira Nova Artisana, a huge street-flea market with all kinds of gifts like scarves, incense, jewelry, and leather goods!

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We took our first day easy, since we had just arrived early that morning, and roamed around to the bay…

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There were so many neat boats, modern and antique styled ones!

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Not to mention all the seagulls

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My friend Sarah, sitting on the dock of the bay.

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Hey, look, we can see ourselves! (on this giant mirror on top of the mall)

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Lindsay got her herself some sweet crepes.

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Stumbled across this Cuban band giving a free concert. They were so good!

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The beach in Barcelona. The next day I learned these beaches are manmade, with sand from the Sahara Desert!

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My first dinner there: fried salmon with salad and french fries!

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The boardwalk at night

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Life-guard stand

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Sandy toes.

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Beach-bums

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Granada and the Alhambra Palace

I’m sorry to have kept you guys waiting, but after a combination of school work, a subpar Internet connection, technical blog difficulties, and some more traveling (to Barcelona — to come in my next post), I’ve finally had the chance to finish this blog from my visit to Granada last weekend.

I loved Granada. When I was walking through the streets and could hear Arabic music being played on the radio, I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of the summers I loved to spend in Beirut, Lebanon. And my favorite part of Granada had to be the Palace of Alhambra. Located on the top of the Assabica hill — and what a long, hot climb it is up there — the vast palace is adorned with countless patches of vibrant gardens, and constructed in beautifully detailed Arab architecture. Beautifully detailed is an understatement. Almost all the walls are covered by carvings of Arabic script and patterns. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, if walls could talk. Then there is the breathtaking view of the entire city  you can see once atop of the hill. I’ll let you guys see for yourself.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I got an A on my Spanish final exam — and for my overall grade in the class  :)

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Alleyway stores that sell magnets, clothes, leather bags, and other craft trinkets

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La Real Chancilleria

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Starting our long hike up to the Alhambra Palace

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Flowers from one of the palace gardens

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Cityscape from the top of the hill

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There were many fountains throughout the palace grounds

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Carved walls from the Museo Angel Barrios

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A ceiling in the Museo Angel Barrios

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Another ceiling with star shaped openings

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Granada cityscape

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The FAU gang, minus a few who didn’t come on the trip

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The beautiful Palace

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Palace walls

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This section of the palace was under maintenance, but you can still see a glimmer of color reflecting on the wall…imagine how it looked when the whole window reflects colors!

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All throughout Spain, you can find drinkable water fountains like this. So cool and refreshing, not to mention saves you money from spending on water bottles!

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A church in Granada

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We all got back to Madrid early in the morning last Monday, so my friends Nathan, Marcelle and I treated ourselves to this tasty gelato! Then I came home to this feast!

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Salad, and pasta…

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…with oven roasted chicken legs

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Delicioso!

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19 days left

To some of you back home, that may seem like a while. But to someone who has just made a new home in a foreign country, I know 19 days will disappear faster than a glass of milk in a room full of Oreo cookies. I realize this as I sit en mi habitacion/bedroom — sorry, I tend to think in Spanish now that I’ve been living here for 23 days — about to study for my Spanish final exam that I this morning.

It’s hard to believe I’m already more than halfway through my study abroad program, but I still have so much to look forward to and do! Including sharing my 100’s of pictures from my day in the city of Granada last Sunday. Yeah, I take a lot of pictures. Fortunately for you and unfortunately for me, this means narrowing down my photographs to the “crème de la crème”. School must come first, though. So as I prepare myself for today’s test, enjoy a little sneak preview of what’s to come from my visit to Granada, the city famous for its lavish Palace of Alhambra!

Overview of the city from atop the palaceImage

They sell things like loose-leaf tea in the streets of Granada

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Homes, restaurants, and shops look like this

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Happy to be in Granada! The Alhambra Palace is off to the top right corner. That meant a long and hot hike up, but totally worth it!

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I’d say about 90% of the streets there are made from stone like this. Pretty to look at, but killer on your feet.

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I can’t even begin to explain the beauty of the gardens in the palace…

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…And fountains.

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Arched doorways, common Arab architecture

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A glimpse of part of the palace grounds

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All the walls in the palace looked like this. Amazing.

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My brain-food from last night. Feeling even more at home with this yummy homestyle mac ‘n cheese and crispy fried chicken!

A-choose your dessert night-varying from fruit to flan and pudding. Naturally, I grab a banana but eventually give in to the sweet callings of vanilla pudding…an excellent mix.

Saturday in Segovia

It was 7 am when I heard the unpleasant sound of my alarm. Another early Saturday morning. Not what I expect when I thought of how I’d spend my summer weekends in Madrid, but I can’t complain. Especially not when my weekends involve seeing roman structures and ancient castles. Saturday was my trip to the city of Segovia, about an hour north of Madrid. Synonymous with the name, Segovia is the amazing roman aqueduct built there. Standing at 818 meters long and 29 meters high, this thing is massive. It consists of about 25,000 granite blocks, stacked upon each other with not a single drop of cement. It’s no wonder people travel from all corners of the world to see it.

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My fellow photographer, Marcell

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The Puerta de Sol

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 The beautiful Cathedral of SegoviaImageImageImageImageImage
Elaborate ceiling
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Etched floors
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So much detail in the walls
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Exactly what I love to see…
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The old style of the walls are uncovering
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Taking in the view

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And then there was the Castle of Alcazar. I didn’t even know this was here, but what a pleasant surprise!

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Crossing the tiny bridge over to the castle, it’s a long way down..

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A knight’s armor

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I imagine kings and noblemen sitting on these velvet seats at the table

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Stained-glass window

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Oh, hey, Nathan!

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About to drop this coin down the well

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Canon

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Overlooking Segovia from the castle

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So hungry for dinner! We had pasta…

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Vegetables, always a favorite…

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soft pan-bread

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And homemade hamburger

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Strawberries and pineapple with whip cream to satisfy my sweet-tooth

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Museo Reina Sofia, Palacio De Cristal, and Real Jardin Botanical

My top visits  of the week. So far.
  • Wednesday: La Reina Sofia, Spain’s national museum of 20th century Spanish art. You may recognize the two most famous artists on display: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
  • Thursday: El Palacio de Cristal. It translates to “the glass palace.” The beautiful structure is made entirely from glass and has glass exhibits on display
  • Friday: Real Jardin Botanical, a botanical garden made up of flowers, trees, fruits, vegetables, and even tobacco.
It’s been a busy week. Today I went to the city of Segovia, where they are famous for their huge Roman-built aqueduct system. Tomorrow, I’ll be in the city of Granada, known for its Islamic architecture, fortress, and palaces. I can’t wait ! And as always, I won’t forget to share my adventures with you guys, so check back next week to see what my weekend was like!

This face says I probably shouldn’t be taking pictures right now considering it’s not allowed.

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Discussing photos and reading poetry

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Our teacher and unofficial tour guide, Dr. Conrod

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Dali’s, Portrait of Joella

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Another work of Dali called The Face of the Great Masturbator. Strange. And if you tilt your head to the left you can see the face of Dali. (Hint: the tip of his nose is touching the ground)

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Dali, The Invisible Man

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Dali, The Endless Enigma

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Creating our own art within the art

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No one is allowed to take pictures of Picasso’s work, but this one was permitted! It’s called, Momunet to the Spaniards who Died for France

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Dawn of the Resurrection by Joaquin Vaquero Turcios

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Palacio de Cristal

One of the several columns constructing the Palacio de Cristal

Bunches of bottles.

These guys making soap bubbles can be found all over Madrid. Some of us decided to take a whirl at it!

Hey, we’re not too bad!

Botanical Gardens. This tree’s roots are so strong that they broke Through the stone stairs. I love it!

Even cats love it here.

Bird-bath

Now my favorite time of the day, dinnertime.

Super yummy tortilla de patata

Lentejas-Lentils

Ensalada

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Lasagna

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And juicy watermelon!

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Porto, Portugal: Day Two

Day two in Porto.

With free breakfast in our stomachs and a nights rest, and Casie and I were ready to explore more of the city. We decided to go on the free walking tour  the Gallery hostel offers every morning. Who better to see and learn about the city than from the locals? The tour was almost two hours long. I learned that Porto is one of the one of the oldest European centers, and registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. When the tour was over, Casie and I continued walking through the city, eventually making our way down to the Douro River that runs all alongside Porto.

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My tour guide told me that these candles are part of a religious tradition.

To the right of the number 358 are old etchings of Roman numerals from many centuries ago during the Roman Empire of the region.

Castle in the sky.

There are so many seagulls in Porto.

The famous train station, São Bento, which is famous for its blue tile panels that tell the story of the history of Portugal, remains in use to this day.

Naked mannequin, totally normal.

One of the many vendors selling crafts by the river.

An artist at work. She was carving pendents out of coins.

I bought the starfish for myself!

The Douro River.

These “locks of love”are all over Europe!

Casie did some wine tasting at the famous Calem Winery,which was established over 140 years ago.

One of few bridges over the Douro River that connect the city of Porto to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia.

After walking the entire day, we were exhausted and more than ready to eat dinner. We ate at the hostel again, and considering how delicious the food was the night before, what nice company we had.

Cheese and tomato stuffed mushroom caps!

It was a typical Brazilian dinner. Rice, beans, salad, french fries, steak, and chicken. It just might have been as good as how my Brazilian grandmother makes this!

Dessert: Homemade flan-cake. Another word to describe this is delectable.

Oh yea, and a friend of an employee from the Gallery Hostel brought over cookies and cream ice cream. Homemade cookies and cream ice cream. The Portuguese know how to eat!

A little post dinner entertainment from the cookies and cream chef

I made sure leave my mark at Gallery by leaving a note

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We arrived back in Madrid Monday morning, just in time for my birthday. I cam home to this cute note Sol put on my bedroom door.

And she surprised me with a cake after dinner, she is so sweet!