Thursday, June 6

Long Overdue

  So, If you haven't already noticed, I'm really bad at blogging. It's my goal this summer to catch up on blogging about my study abroad travels, so that I have this personal record, and so that other students or people considering going abroad can check out my experiences, and maybe it'll help their own. But first, a quick update on what's going on in my life currently. I am officially a resident of Abilene, I got a house with three other girls that I studied abroad with, and I'm really enjoying it, ups and downs! (P.S. I apologize for the instagram photos, I just don't have the energy to walk around taking pictures of things, and I already had these on instagram!)

 The dining room and kitchen were originally a very obnoxious orange color, and we kept the mocha color in the living room and hallways. The bedrooms were all painted a light gray to cover up their various colors (chocolate, dark purple, burnt orange, etc), curtsey of my dad and his paint sprayer. I'm really enjoying living in a home of my own, but I do miss the ease of living for free with parents, most definitely.

Since I've been back in the states I've taken a trip to Oklahoma to stay in a cabin for a few days in December, a trip to Austin to see an art exhibit that I had a piece in (just a sketchbook, nothing spectacular), taken a trip to Graham, Texas for Easter to do some mudding at a friend's ranch, went to Tarleton State University in Stephenville to participate in an Indian Holi festival, and visited Henderson, Texas for a lazy memorial day weekend on a friend's private lake (living the luxe life, I know). I'll get around to blogging about each of these trips eventually.

For those that are interested my tattoo was completed, back in December, in Oxford, and it will probably get it's own post eventually, because I've had a lot of people ask me why I got what I did, the meaning behind it, and there's just a lot more there than a short blurb in an update blog. It says "Not all who wander are forever lost." It's obviously a play off of the quote by Tolkien, from the poem All That is Gold Does Not Glitter, which is one of my favorite poems. I'm really happy with it, and Will (Villiam Gerbery) at Tigerlilly Tattoos (He's now at Oxford Ink) did an absolutely fantastic job, especially with the vague idea I gave him, the fact that I'm a baby, and it took over 15 hours of work over the span of four sessions.

 So I've already blogged about Ireland and Wicked, Bath and Stonehenge, and Croatia. I still need to blog about Spain, Italy, and Paris, not to mention the few trips I've taken since I've gotten back to the US and the reverse culture shock (it still hits me sometimes). I guess there's no better place to start than with Spain. Like I said in my Croatia post, there's going to be some graphic images from the bullfight, but I'll try to keep it to a minimum, seeing as it's not an experience I like to play over and over in my head. I'm glad I had the experience, it's just not one that I'll be repeating anytime soon, or ever. So, read more about Spain after the jump!

Sometimes, I don't even know where to start when I talk about Spain, because we saw so much! However, I'll start where the trip started, which was in Madrid.

Our first day in Madrid a lot of people went to the Reina Sofia Museum, which is a really famous art museum, for those of you that don't know. I, however, opted out of the museum, to get to spend some time with a friend that I grew up with, Madison, who happens to be going to a University in Madrid. I still don't understand how I managed to go that entire night without taking a single picture of the two of us- but I was really glad to get to see her and catch up on everything. The day was quite an adventure, we got lost a couple times, and after we (Audrey went with me) left Madison, we had to navigate our way back to our hotel outside the city by ourselves in the middle of the night- and I'm quite proud of how well we did.

The second day in Madrid, we did quite a lot, because it was Dia de Indepencia for Spain, and there was not only a large parade, but everyone was out and about. After the parade (pictures weren't really an option because of the crowd), we went to a park, and ended up paying less than a dollar each to rent some boats, and for about an hour or so, we played boat tag on a little lake in the middle of a park, it was magical.We then rambled through some plazas and came across a "fat spiderman", who was extremely over the top. He wanted us all to take pictures with him, and when Jessica said no, and started walking away, he ran after her across the plaza begging her to come back- it was all entertaining for everyone standing around. For dinner we made our way to a tapas market which, needless to say, had the best food I'd ever had. I hate a lot of different things, much of which I had no idea what it was, but none of it was disappointing.

The next day we made our way to Avila, Spain. Here we stayed at a monastery, which sounded extremely intimidating at first. After getting there, we realized that there were actually very few monks living there, and for the most part, it had been converted into lodging for travelers. While in Avila two major things happened: we went to a classic bullfight, and we saw the Festival de St. Teresa, who is the patron saint of Spain, and the patron saint of Avila, so the celebration was fantastic, with a big parade and fireworks.

The bullfight was... eye opening, to say the least. We had several conversations about what went on in our Ethics class after the fight, but for those of you that don't know, classic bullfights are to the death, and because of the pain and suffering to the animal, they are outlawed in the majority of Spain. There are six rounds, meaning six bulls die- I stayed for three and left. Many people, when they think of a bullfight, think of a man dressed in fancy clothing, waving a cape around, making the bull look like a fool, which, is what happened in one round, but what they don't normally talk about, is the spear that the matador is hiding behind the cape, or, in some cases, the spear he is holding while he's galloping around on a horse. Basically, and I'm sorry for the gore, but it was a part of my experience, the bull is stabbed repeatedly until it collapses of blood loss or pain, the more creative or flamboyant the kill, the more points the matador scores from the judges, who take hints from the crowd's cheers. Even with my limited knowledge of Spanish, I knew that the more horrific the death, the more the bull fought through the pain and blood, the more they loved it. Needless to say, it's not a sport that I can get into, and it's definitely not a sport that I expected so many children to attend- but, it is a cultural difference, and I'm glad that my eyes were opened on the subject.
 One other thing happened while I was in Avila, and that is that I discovered Yemas. I think that these are my favorite sweet, and they were so delicious. They are especially associated with the region of Avila and St. Teresa, so you know that they were especially fantastic on this special weekend. Yemas is the Spanish word for egg yolk, so this desert is a sweetened egg yolk, and the ones that I fell in love with had been made on top of a soft shortbread cookie and dipped in white chocolate. I can't begin to explain the flavor, but they were really delicious, and I hope that one day I can finally get down the recipe for the ones that I liked so much. We spent around 5 days in Avila, so there was a lot of spare time, we killed it at the park and playing ultimate Frisbee, oh, and enjoying the view from our windows.

After Avila, we made our way to Zaragoza, for just one night to break up the drive, since we were traveling by bus. Even though we were only there for one night, this city has one of the most beautiful Spanish cathedrals I've ever seen, and the colored roof tiles were spectacular.

After Zaragoza we traveled to Girona, where we stayed in an apartment style hotel. Needless to say, it was a bit strange because our bathroom also led to our balcony, and doubled as our kitchen and closet. It was definitely the most multi-functional room I've ever been in. Sawyer is sitting on the toilet while Audrey checks the refrigerator, it was quite odd.
 We also ate a lot of good food there (are you beginning to see a theme?). From paella to gelato, to heavenly pizza, I fell in love with Spanish food even more. Other than that, we did shopping, exploring, and more eating. Girona was definitely a relaxed city.

From there we made our way to Barcelona, where I got to spend some time on a beach, ate at a glorious pinchos bar, Xiaolin, took a cooking class, and watched a soccer match. I will preface with this- I love love love love love Barcelona, I could move there and be the happiest girl alive. The two or three days we got there was not nearly enough for me to get my fill, and I will be back there for an extended vacation someday. I didn't get to see any museums, popular art, or major landmarks while I was there other than the Olympic Park, but I did experience a lot of street art and modern culture, which I'm generally more interested in than seeing museums. This is not to say that I'm not sad I didn't get to see any museums, and they're definitely all on my bucket list.

The first day in Barcelona we went to the Olympic Park. We did a lot of walking but had a lot of fun. I walked over 15 miles that day,  and would have walked much more than that, had it not been for the sky train. It was really cool to get to see an Olympic venue, even if it is one that hasn't been used in ages except for children's concerts.
 That night we made our way to Xiaolin, which is a really fantastic pinchos bar. The waiter looked like Russel Crowe and the food was to die for. We had a great time trying everything he brought out to us and left full and content.

 The next day I took a cooking class. On the menu: Roasted Pepper Pesto with grilled zucchini spears, roasted bell pepper soup, Traditional paella (made with pork and chicken, not seafood), and Crema Catalonia, which is similar to Creme Brulee. We met some really awesome people, a couple of girls from Australia, a couple from Hawaii, and a woman that ran her own restaurant in Scotland(?), not to mention our instructor who was a native Spaniard.

After the cooking class we booked it over to our soccer match. It was a really great game, and a fantastic experience. I wish I could tell you more about the game, but the details are a bit vague because of everything that was going on, the fact that I was so full of food, and that the only Spanish I was able to pick up, were not things that would help explain the game, but rather the incompetence of the referees.

We got back to the hotel rather late and packed up to head back to Oxford, which we all considered home at that point, and were glad to get there. All in all, it was a really fantastic trip, and I can't wait to get back to Spain and explore all the things that I didn't have time to the first go-around!