Monday, June 28, 2010

Barcelona, Spain

I had the most amazing time EVER in Barcelona!! I absolutely loved the city! I don’t even know where to start with all my experiences. There’s just so much that happened and so many interesting things there to see and explore. Today is “Italy Day” on the ship – we don’t have classes, but we are having back-to-back meetings/seminars about Italy, since we are on our way to Civitavecchia and will arrive TOMORROW! I almost wish we had one more day on the ship to prepare and rest up for tomorrow. Everyone is so exhausted. BUT CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO ROME!! Anyway, here’s what I did in Barcelona!

Day 1: We pulled into the port of Barcelona around 8 am, and after having a short meeting with the US/Spain Ambassador onboard, we were free to leave the ship and explore BARCELONA! There was a ton of construction going on at the port area, so they had a bus for us that took us out of it all that only took like 3 minutes. So me and Lee set off together off the bus, and didn’t even know where to start! We had a map of Barcelona, but we didn’t know much at all about the city! We made a list of all the important sites we wanted to see, but we just started walking. We immediately found Las Ramblas, which is one of the most famous and popular streets in all of Spain. It was about 10 am, and the day before we got there was a holiday in Spain, so it was pretty quiet… everyone was sleeping in after partying hard the night before! Las Ramblas was pretty much made for tourists, I suppose. All the restaurants and bars had really high prices and tons of “!Hello!” little kiosks selling postcards and little knick knacks. There were so many MIMES setting up on the sides of the road, putting on their makeup. After walking down Las Ramblas for the first time, we went down a few more streets and found Barri Gotic, the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona! OH MY GOSH! The Gothic Quarter was my favorite area of Barcelona. All the streets are so unique: very narrow with the tall, ancient buildings! They were all constructed in the Gothic period, hence the name of the area. You could explore all those narrow alleys for such a long time. They had tons of cute little boutiques and gelato/churros places, bars and restaurants! It was so much fun! Oh, a naked man also walked right past us on the street. His front parts and butt were tattooed…I didn’t see his front but LEE DID and flipped haha! I thought he just had dark, flimsy underwear on but Nooo. It was a tattoo! After about two hours of walking around and stopping at our first cafĂ© for a chocolate croissant, Lee and I ran into our new friends, Bryant, Matt and Erik! Bryant had a field trip planned soon after meeting her, so she had to leave and go back to the ship. We stayed with Matt and Erik and found our other friend, Lindsey! The 5 of us went in search of some food around 2:30 pm, which is when Spaniards eat lunch! We stopped at this cool little restaurant, and immediately ordered some Paella. (Pronounced Pie-Aya) It’s one of the trademark foods that Spain has, so we had to try it. It was…interesting! Haha! I’m glad I ordered it but I probably wouldn’t get it again ☺ It was this huge steaming platter of orange rice, pieces of chicken, clams, vegetables, and crawfish! I am not a huge seafood eater, so the huge crawfish staring at me with his little eyes was a little unsettling.
        After finishing our paella, we all went in search of Antoni Gaudi’s La Pedrera: it is this huge building Gaudi designed with a hole in the middle. You can pay to go inside and explore it, and climb the 20 flights of stairs to the roof on the top, and look down to the ground. There was the most amazing view of all of Barcelona on the roof – we got tons of great pictures! (Christine, you would be so proud of me for seeing lots and lots of Gaudi’s architecture! His stuff was awesome, you were right!) After exploring the Pedrera for awhile, we met up with Bryant again, and went walking around, trying to get more familiar with Barcelona. We walked sooo much that first day – after retracing our route on the map, we are figuring that we walked over 10 miles that day alone!
        All that walking led us to this really cool sect of Barcelona – just a neighborhood with lots more bars and such. We had dinner at one (I forgot the name of it) around 7 PM. We stayed there and all just talked and had dinner until we had to go down a few blocks to see a FLAMENCO DANCING show at 10 PM! This night was absolutely hilarious and probably will be one of my favorite memories of Spain. So we pay for our ticket to see the show and are led into the long room, and they seat us at the table that is right next to the stage. It turns out that we were the ONLY ones at that show! Haha! So we had a private Flamenco dance experience! We were amazed that they still had the show when there were only 5 of us to watch (Erik had to go home because he was feeling really sick and had to wake up at 5 AM to travel to Madrid!). But we had the BEST TIME EVER! The dancers were sooo nice to us, and our tickets included unlimited Sangria and popcorn! HA. Don’t worry, Lee and I didn’t get too crazy ;) We had so much fun laughing and clapping and cheering for Antonio, the ONLY male dancer who was 70 or older, and the four lady dancers! At the end of the show, they made us get on the stage one by one and danced with us; THEY MADE ME GO FIRST! Aaah!!! Hahaha Yall would have all laughed at me. BUT…I got some GREAT shots of Lee dancing, can’t wait to show you all when I get back ;)
        The show ended at midnight, and after Cecilio, our waiter, gave us each bear hugs and popcorn for the road, we walked back to the bus that takes us to the ship. It took us almost an hour to walk back! We were exhausted but had the best first day ever.

Day 2: Lee and I woke up by 9 AM and scrambled ourselves together in time for our bus ride to MONTSERRAT. Montserrat is about an hour drive away from Barcelona, up in the mountains of Spain: it is an ancient, beautiful monastery! The bus ride there was kind of rough because our bus had to climb up the mountain around all of these sharp curves- Lee was sitting next to the window, and we were scared to even look out over the edge! But we got there safe and sound – it was so worth it!! Montserrat is beautiful. We got to go into the church there and the courtyard where all the monks congregate. We saw the building that the monks live in but weren’t allowed to explore them of course. It amazes me how OLD everything is – the monastery and church are made out of the same rock from the mountains. The front of the church had all of the 12 disciples and Jesus carved into it, and it was all so intricate. It just blew our minds. Lee and I also walked up into the trails that the monks travel through for privacy and prayer. It was so breathtaking there and peaceful, and all along the trails were old, old statues of Jesus Christ and some saints. We had lunch on this bricked trail that overlooked the countryside of Spain and the city of Barcelona…it was AWESOME! The air there was so clean and fresh, and the view unlike anything! I’m so glad we got to go there, I just wish we had a few more hours to travel down the trails that went to some other ancient caves and a grotto that was supposedly where the Virgin Mary once revealed herself to two young boys playing. You could see it from our view of the mountains.
        We got back to the city around 2:30 pm, so we headed back to the Gothic Quarter to explore it some more! The Picasso Museum and the Chocolate Museum are both located in there, so we went in search for Picasso first. It was really cool, because the place had a ton of his work from his early years- sketches and paintings from when he was 14 and 15 years old and up! We found the Chocolate Museum, too, after getting lost and down a few deserted alleys first. But we eventually found it- we were ruthless! We both are chocaholics so we could NOT leave until we had seen this place! Our ticket in was a chocolate bar, which we both just ate up immediately. We walked around rooms that explained the origins of chocolate and how it was made and how it evolved throughout history. Preeetty cool, if I do say so myself! It was about 6ish when we were done with that, and Lee and I were feeling pretty accomplished. We decided to be adventurous and WALK to the Sagrada Familia – the absolutely huge TOWERING church that Gaudi built in ___and that is still not finished. We took out the map and after finding a good route to the church, we set off! We never once got lost, but it took an hour and 40 minutes to get there! We got there around 8, and couldn’t go inside since it was too late. But we stood in awe of it for several minutes and took pictures. Our feet were killing us so we had dinner (early for Spain) right NEXT to the Sagrada Familia! It was amaaazing! We ate on a street with a strip of outside cafes and bars. We had two waiters who were so friendly and interested in our trip and welcomed questions about Barcelona and, whatever! They called a cab for us and sent us off, saying goodbye to us at our window! Haha! They were so cool! The cab only took like 10 minutes to get back to the ship, and it took us FOREVER to walk that distance! We were so tired after our full day, so we slept in til 10 the next morning!

Day 3-4: The afternoon was pretty relaxed – me and Lee walked more around Las Ramblas and explored the pier near our port. We were still so exhausted later that afternoon, so we came back to the ship to take a nap and shower and all that. We met up with Bryant, Lindsey, Matt, Erik and a few others at the ship and all got ready together – we had planned to go out and experience the famed Barcelona “NIGHT LIFE” together! OK, so never in my life have I ever been to a night club before, and my first time in one was in Spain! I was pretty excited. We took the metro together to the street where all the nightclubs were – right next to the beach! You know how all the night life in the U.S. for the most part closes around 2 AM? NOT SO in Spain! The parties don’t even start until 1 am at the least, and the night clubs all close at 7-8 AM. Is that not insane!? We went and got some food for a few hours and just chilled until we went to the Cat Walk. WHOAA! It was so busy. All of us girls got in FREE, but our 2 guys had to pay 20 euros each to get into the club! We felt so bad for them :/ We danced inside for a few hours and it was preeettyyyy fun!:) Almost all of the music was American music, so we were glad we knew the music at least. We stayed until about 4 AM, and walked back to the metro and were back to the ship by 5 AM! Now this is where me and Lee’s slightly bad decisions come into play…. We had both signed up for a “Barcelona by Bike” field trip for that same morning, and we had to be at the bus by 7:15 AM. We didn’t want to sleep for only 2 hours and have to wake up, so we just stayed up and took a shower and ate BK. The biking throughout the city and to the beach was fun with our group, but we were basically zombies, we were so tired. We came back to the ship and SLEPT from noon to 7:30 PM! HA. We had the best 26 hours awake ever, but were happy to sleep. Now, that was yesterday, and we left that night at 9 pm.

Final Thoughts on Barcelona: I love the city, the old parts and the new! We had so much fun. Before going on this trip, I was looking forward to every single country, but Spain was not the one I was the most excited for, just because I didn’t know very much about it and I don’t speak Spanish or anything like that. I know much more about the country and even picked up a few of the Spanish words by the end of the 4 days! A majority of the population in Barcelona speaks Catalan also, which is a mix of Spanish and French, and that I could NOT understand. I loved just watching all of the people, listening to their foreign conversations, seeing their different clothes and also similar clothes, etc.  Oh man, so much happened and we saw so much, I am sure I left out a ton of information, but I know this blog post is already SOOO long, and I don’t want to bore you any further!!! Thanks for reading, my dear family! Miss you all! I’ll be posting probably a couple different posts for Italy in a little over a week – since I will be traveling through Rome and Naples. ☺

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 5: Middle of the Atlantic?

Heeeey! Thanks momma, I’m glad ya like it and glad Gma Bev is reading this too! Lauren, I’m so glad you are contemplating THE BACHELOR. I KNOW THEY WILL CHOOSE YOU AND YOU WILL BE ASKED TO ACCEPT THE ROSE EVERY SINGLE TIME. (As long as you don’t let him hear you snort.) And Laura, CHECK YOUR E-MAIL!!! E-MAIL ME BACK! I know it sent, so either it went to your junk mail, or you are ignoring me, bad girl!

This is my fifth night on the ship, and it feels like I’ve been here for a month! Our daily schedule is kinda strange! I’ll lay it out for you briefly (very briefly, don’t want to bore you): wake up at 7:20, quietly get up and try not to wake Lee (I fail every morning), go to breakfast/ eat a chocolate breakfast bar while walking to class on Deck 6, get to Anthropology class by 8 AM. After Anthro, I head over to the Union, where all students have Global Studies, after GS, back to the room for a nap. Naps have become very necessary for us, since we have to set our clocks forward one hour every night. (Every night except last night, at least!) So we’re constantly losing an hour of sleep almost every night! After nap 1, all onboard go to lunch, then I head back to the room for possibly nap 2, or do homework. Class at 1:30 then I’m done for the day! I guess that wasn’t THAT BRIEF. Sorrrrryyyy ☺ I spend the rest of the day doing my homework OUTSIDE with the ocean as my view! It’s amazing!

I absolutely love being out in the middle of the ocean! It’s so beautiful and kind of unreal to see only ocean and no land. This morning, our ship passed a Portuguese island around sunrise (6 AM!) I wish I could remember the name of the island haha. But I can’t. That would be the first sight of land we’ve seen since leaving Halifax. I didn’t hear the announcement yesterday, so I missed it! I heard it was really cool though, because it was still dark out but the lights on the island made it stand out awesomely ;)

As for my classes, they are going alright so far! They are very interesting, at least. If you don’t want to read about school during the summer, just skip this paragraph☺ I love my anthropology class; my teacher has done field work in Ghana so it’s really cool listening to her experiences. My Good and Evil in Religion and Literature teacher is CRAZY. He is such a goofball. His lectures make no sense whatsoever and have no structure. I think he just likes the sound of his own voice. I hope he can’t read this. But he is crazy! I don’t know how he has a job at UVa! But at least the reading material is interesting☺ Both of my teachers have talked about religion and how they think you can find God your own way, however you like… which is a nice thought, but not what I believe! So that can be a bit challenging to listen to.

On another note, Lee and I have been meeting more and more people! It’s been very interesting! Since you can’t use cell phones or facebook/internet it’s hard to meet up with people you don’t know very well, unless you tell them your room number, and then you can just drop by. But because of that, we usually sit with different people at every meal! It’s really cool to meet so many different people from different states. We’ve been meeting more and more people from Boston and Pittsburg and Connecticut. OH MY GOSH! Lee just found out earlier today that there are two more girls from Baylor on the ship!! How did we not know that?!! One will be a junior and she’s a Kappa, and the other is a senior! I don’t know who they are yet but hopefully we’ll run into these other Baylor girls soon!! Also, I saw a guy from far off yesterday with a University of Arkansas shirt. Wonder if anyone knows him? Also saw a girl with a Seaside sweatshirt one! There are just so many unknown connections all around haha☺

We have only 4 more days until we reach the shores of Barcelona, Spain! I cannot wait to get there. Lee and I and a few other new friends have so much planned for when we are in port; I just want to see everything!

Anyway, thanks for reading, family and friends! I love when I hear from yall, it’s easy to get homesick here. Me and Lee have just had to make each other our home and family. Keep us in your prayers and yall are in mine!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hey From the Rocky Boat

Hey yall!
Right now, it’s about 2:30 PM and I’m sitting on my teeny bed in my teeny room! Lee and I have had so much fun so far, and it’s only the second day! My brain has been constantly overloaded with information the past two days, so I’m not quite sure what to write to you about! I guess I’ll just tell ya the things I can remember clearly ;)

2 days ago, my mom and I woke up at 4:15, left home sweet home at 5 am, and were on our first plane to Newark, New Jersey by 6:30 am! I slept the entire way there haha. From Newark, me and mom flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia! When we got to the baggage claim in Canada was when we ran into our first spot of trouble. The baggage claim didn’t shoot out my two huge bags, not to mention at least 10 other Semester at Sea students’ bags who were on my flight! We were all worried and the airline didn’t really have an answer for why our bags didn’t make it, yet my mom’s bag did as well as the rest of the passengers. Ah, Continental Airlines!!! There wasn’t much we could do about it at the time besides hope and pray that our bags would make it to Canada by 5 PM the next day. But my day was quickly brightened as soon as I stepped out into the waiting area in the NS Airport, because LEE RICE was there, waiting for me and mom!! It was so good to see her! Me, Lee, and my mom shared a taxi van with two other sweet SAS gals to our hotel. The rest of that day is a blur, but we did get a call around 11 PM saying that my bags were now in the grand country of Canada!

The next morning (yesterday) all the SAS (semester at sea) students had to check in and board the MV Explorer, our ship! Lee and I got there at 9 AM, and stood in line over an hour UGHHH! It was so boring waiting to board the darn thing. My bags still hadn’t been delivered all morning. BUT- when we were still in line, but about to go into the building where we scan our luggage and we ourselves are scanned, my mom saw my bags!! They were just sitting on the ground about 5 feet from us! A security guard for SAS was fighting with an airline deliverer guy, and the guard was about to not let my bags on the ship! Good thing my mom saw them ;) It really was an answer to prayer- I prayed that he would provide for me (clothes and things I’d need for this trip) and He did – He literally delivered my bags right to where I was! Haha. It was good. So I had my bags, and didn’t have to worry about not having any clothes or even a toothbrush for a few days!

Once I climbed the very steep, VERY wobbly stairs up to the ship, I looked around my new home for the next 9 weeks! It was so amazing! The library onboard used to be a casino! HA. I love the idea of a floating campus, and am so excited about living it out! Me and Lee are quickly realizing that we are not as sturdy as we would think ourselves to be, though… the ship moves as if it is the size of a small fishing boat! I feel like you can feel every lull or every wave! Lee was super smart and brought Bonine, a seasickness pill, and we have been taking those like candy. Last night, while lying in bed, we would randomly just moan out, “OHHHH MAN.” The waves were crazy! They give you the most drowsy feeling like no other! I can’t wait until we arrive to Barcelona… dry land. Land that doesn’t move or sway or cause you to “take a wide stance while walking”.

As for the other students onboard with us, we have met so many cool and interesting people! It’s sort of overwhelming how many students there are. 708 students onboard, representing 49 states (wonder what the runt state is) and over 200 colleges! Pretty sweet! But… I have yet to meet a Southerner. Actually, I guess that’s not true. We met a guy who went to OSU and a girl who went to Texas Tech! But that’s it. Haven’t seen them since yesterday morning either! The majority of people onboard are from California and Colorado. The #1 represented university is UC Boulder! Anyway, I bet that’s enough trivia for ya. Hope yall are all doing GREAT and having a great summer so far! I miss everyone back home already… it’s really starting to hit me that I’m going to be away from home for 9 weeks!