Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reunions, Sangria, Hikes, and Moorish Influence

For my final big trip of the semester, I decided what would be more perfect than experiencing another part of the country that I have grown to love.  Marina, my friend from Australia, and I decided to take a trip to the south of Spain and explore the cities of Alicante, Granada, and Malaga.

I chose to go to Alicante because my best friend  from back home in NE is currently studying there for 6 weeks this summer.  After 5 months of being on separate continents, I couldn't handle the thought of not traveling to visit Mallory when we were in the same country!  A short bus and plane ride later, we were finally reunited!  Mallory, Marina, Taryn (one of my other friends from back home), and I enjoyed the short 2 days that we had in Alicante.  We explored the night life and spent a day at San Juan beach.  Taryn, Mallory, and I were all fascinated with the clear blue water.  It was seriously the clearest water that I had ever seen!  Marina, being from Australia, had seen clearer water, but even she admited it was a beautiful beach. After being separated for 5 months, it was wierd to only see each other for a mere 24 hours.  Luckily, it won't be long before we are reunited yet again for San Fermin in Pamplona!
 Marina and I exploring the marina in Alicante.

 Mallory, Taryn, and I at the beach on my first night in Alicante. 

On our last day, Marina and I hiked up to the top of a mountain to a lookout of the ocean and Alicante.

The next part of our trip was Granada.  Marina had been to Granada a couple months earlier, and was absolutely in love with the town.  I soon understood this love.  In Granada, we stayed with two friends of Marina's from Australia.  The girls were amazing!  The took us out to their favorite nightclubs, took us to a bbq at another foreign exchange student's house, showed us around Granada, and took us to our very first bull fight!  Granada quickly become one of my favorite places that I have ever been too!
 Jen (a student from England), Marina, and I on our first night in Granada.  This was seriously the best Sangria that I have had since coming to Spain!  Granada is also famous for its free tappas with drink purchases.  Tappas are like the Spanish version of appetizers.  Tappas were basically what we had for every meal in Granada, and they were always so delicious!

 Mel (one of Marina's friends that we stayed with), Marina, and I with our new friend from the Arab markets.  These markets were one of my favorite parts of Granada.  They all had the most interesting and beautiful things in them.  Just walking through the markets was the best way to experience the Moorish influence on Spain. (Aladdin was one of my favorite movies growing up, so as much as I hate to admit it this may or may not have also played a big part in me loving the markets as well as the Moorish influence all around southern Spain haha.)
 We all enjoyed our first bull fight.  It wasn't quite what any of had expected, but it was still very interesting.  During the show we watched about 8 different bulls.  We also watched in horror as 2 of the matadors (bull fighters) were carried off to the infirmary.

 Mel took us to a bbq with other foreign exchange students in Granada.  This was the view from the girl's patio where the bbq was.  The view of the Alhambra and surrounding mountains really did take my breath away.  It was one of those "Oh, that's right.  I'm living in Spain." moments. After seeing this view, the next day Marina and I walked around the free part of the Alhambra (It is so big that it is divided into smaller parts.  Some parts you have to pay to go in.)
Marina and I with our wonderful hostesses, Mel and Tara, during dinner on our last night in Granada.  Tara, Tara's boyfriend, Brad, and Mel all cooked us dinner before we left!  We just sat around eating, drinking wine, talking, and laughing (and of course, in my case snorting) until about 4 am. It was such an amazing night! That night will forever be one of my favorite memories from my experience abroad.

The last leg of Marina and I's journey was Malaga.  We only had one full day in Malaga so we spent it touring Pablo Picasso's birthplace and museum, exploring Alcazaba (a Moorish fort where weapons were stored), and doing one of the toughest hikes I had ever done up a mountain to a castle lookout.

 Marina and I during our exploration of Alcazaba.

 All of the Moorish architecture was incredible!

   One of my favorite pictures from the trip.  Marina was the perfect travel buddy and we had sooooooo much fun together in the south!  I loved experiencing a different part of the culture that I have become so accustomed to.  It was the perfect trip to end my traveling adventures!

I guess I shouldn't really say that it's the end of my traveling adventures.  I am going to Barcelona to meet my dad and his friend in just a little over a week!  I can't even begin to say how excited I am to see my dad and to  show him Spain!  I am even more excited to experience San Fermin with him!!  Stay tuned for details on that adventure :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Motherland with my Mother

Hey all!  Ok, so with true Des fashion, this post is coming a tad late.  I mean only a month behind.  Better late than never.

At the end of May, right when I was finishing up the last of my exams and projects, my mom and her friend came to visit me!  Mom and Lori were flying in to Bilbao (a city about 2 hours away from Pamplona) and they were just going to call me from their hotel in Pamplona when they made it.  I decided to go and surprise them at the airport.  I said it was all to surprise them, but in reality I just couldn't wait any longer to see them!  I couldn't go into bag claim, but I waited behind this glass window a floor above them.  I stood their waving like an idiot, until they finally saw me.  I can't even describe my feelings when I finally got to hug my mom after 5 months.

The first night they even got to meet a majority of my friends here at a going away dinner for a few of the girls!  The next few days in Spain we visited San Sabastian, where there is a gorgeous beach, and Olite, where there is a castle.  I think that both Lori and Mom enjoyed the mini day trips.  However, I could tell that they were both shocked from the amount of walking!

After experiencing Pamplona for a while, we headed back to Bilbao.  We had a flight for 6 am the next morning to Prague, Czech Republic.  My family, as well as Lori's family, have Czech heritage so it was a trip that hit close to home for all of us.  Whether Lori and I were piecing together what Czech we did know to talk to locals or walking around the city taking in the sights,  there was barely any down time.  I absolutely fell in LOVE with Prague.  And a trip with my mom couldn't have been more perfect.  Carly, my friend from Pamplona, also came with us.  Needless to say there was NEVER a dull moment. 

We did a sightseeing bus tour one day.  I really enjoyed this, because we also got to do a tour of the Prague castle, which is the biggest castle complex in the world!  We also took a day trip to the Moser Czech Crystal factory.  It was so neat to see how crystal objects were made!  The pieces were so beautiful, and I never imagined that so much work would go into every single piece!  We also did a day trip to Terezin to the concentration camp.  It was very interesting, but so sad.  Actually being inside a concentration camp goes beyond what any book or movie can portray.  We also did a dinner night cruise to see Prague at night.  Our days were filled with so many activities, that the trip went by far too quickly.

 The famous "Flower Puppy" at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  This was just the beginning to our trip!

 The Prague castle during our bus tour.

 Lori, Mom, and Naile, our favorite Irishman.  He was the manager/owner of the bus tour company.  When we ran into him later that night, he proceeded to buy round after round for us :)  Between our night with Naile and a night with Absinthe shots, Prague's nightlife was definitely an experience!

 Part of the view during our dinner boat cruise.

 Camp Terezin
 Carly and I on St. Charles Bridge

Mom and I in the center of the Old Town.

Being in Prague was like being back home.  I am from Prague, Nebraska.  Mom and Lori never failed to give a stranger one of our hometown's postcards to prove that we were really from Prague, too. haha.  Between the food, language, and just the familiar last names really was like a taste of home for me.  It made me realize that I will actually be home in Prague (the one in NE, of course)  in just a few short weeks.  It's such a bittersweet feeling. 

Thanks for reading! :)