miércoles, 23 de marzo de 2011


Our last stop for this weekend trip was Brugge. After an eye-opening experience in Amsterdam, it was very refreshing to step foot into such a beautiful city, full of history. We decided to epitomize our touristic ways and take a boat tour of the city throughout the different canals, which proved to be a very educational experience. Not only did we learn about the history of the city by seeing the different buildings and hearing different stories, we were able to experience the means of transportation that was used so long ago. After the boat tour, we walked around the city, indulged yet again in some delicious, yet overpriced, waffles, and enjoyed the antique feel of the city. The buildings are beautiful, made out of stone with gold accents and such minute details. We were even able to find the bar that has been in business since 1515, still decorated with many of the same pieces of the furniture, and even heated by an oven that has been there since. Overall, Brugge was a very quaint city, rich with history and beautiful architecture.


After a night at Delirium Cafe, we woke up early the next morning and hopped on a train to get to our destination of Amsterdam. Just a hop, skip, and a jump, and we were there. We stepped out of the train, walked a few minutes, and the smell of marijuana hit us like walking into a brick wall. We walked around a bit until finally finding our hotel. The receptionist told us that there was only one rule that was imperative that we follow: you can only smoke marijuana in the rooms, not cigarettes. Only in Amsterdam. We also came to find out that the Red Light District was just on the other side of our hotel, ironically enough. So, we dropped off our belongings and went out in search of one of two edible things that Amsterdam is known for, pancakes. They had all sorts of savory and dessert pancakes, but considering it was before noon, I chose the savory pancakes topped with cheese, ham, and fried eggs.

After yet another overindulgent meal, we walked around and stumbled upon the Red Light District. For those of you whom have experienced this, I need not say more. For those whom have not, it is something worth seeing only if you think you can handle it. It was an intense scene of just a whole block of separate windows, each with at least one semi-nude woman standing there. Some were staring into space, some were walking around the little room, a few were attempting to lure in the few men that walked by. It was an incredibly vile scene and left me feeling extremely violated and disgusted with the fact that these people are living their lives like this. Truly an awful situation.

On another serious note, we left here and found Anne Frank's house. Although we were prohibited from taking photographs while inside, the mental pictures of their home that I have will forever be engraved in my brain. Throughout the home, there are little phrases that are written on the walls, taken directly from Anne Frank's diary. It was as if she was telling her story and the house helps to bring her story to life. We were enveloped by the reality, her reality, those few years ago when she and her family were forced to live in such close quarters. We were able to look at the blacked out windows that forced her and her family to be separated from the freedom of the outside world, left only to her imagination and memory of what the outside world was. Being in the home was an overwhelming experience, to say the least, but such a privilege to see it and feel it for myself.

After leaving the more historical part of the city, we decided to head back to where our hotel was and experience Amsterdam for ourselves. We soaked in the atmosphere and ambience of a city that combines history with the art of the modern world into such a unique experience.


Just two weekends ago, I went to Belgium with a couple of friends from my study abroad program. We really wanted to go to Amsterdam and we found that the least expensive way to get there was to fly to Brussels and from there take the train. Looking back on this whirlwind of a weekend, I am elated that we chose to do this versus going straight to Amsterdam.
We flew from Alicante to Brussels via Ryanair, which is basically Southwest but on a much different level. To start off, everyone lines up at the gate about 30 minutes before they even start boarding. Once they announce that they are boarding, everyone starts pushing and nudging, trying to force themselves to the front of the line to pick which bad seat they want on the plane, meaning that every single seat is just as bad as the next, seeing as they don't recline and for the duration of the flight, you're sitting at about a 90 degree angle. Uncomfortable is just an understatement. So after being pushed and shoved by numerous people, the Ryanair staff opens the door to an enclosed area where you stand in a corral of irritable human beings. Once they open this gate, it's a mad dash to the plane; even the elderly are trotting along, hoping to get a window seat on the plane. Once you step foot onto the aircraft, your heart starts racing as the melodies of classical music are seeping into your ears and pumping blood through your veins creating an overwhelming anxiety of completing such a simple task as finding a seat. Once buckled, the music is still penetrating into your ears and the people around you are slightly less irritable and eager, but then comes the flight. The flight attendants pace up and down the aisle, selling various items such as smokeless cigarettes, food items, and other useless products. After the landing, an obnoxious jingle comes over the intercom, congratulating Ryanair for yet another on-time flight, but I consider it to be congratulating the passengers for being able to endure the flight. Congratulations, you made it out alive!

So, we landed in Brussels, and we were ecstatic. We took an airport shuttle bus and arrived in the city about an hour later, left to search for our hotel on our own. After about 30 minutes of meandering in every direction but the correct one, we finally found it. After freshening up and attempting to look impossibly pristine, we set out on the town to see as much as possible in just a little amount of time. We were trying to find the Mannequin Pis, and along the way we stumbled upon several gofre shops, so we decided to stop and indulge. They had a variety of topping options ranging from chocolate, Nutella, different fruits, powdered sugar, and anything else that could satiate any sweet tooth. So, of course I chose Nutella and some strawberries (although I ordered bananas, oops!) and it was delish!

Little did we know, the Mannequin Pis right right around the corner- go figure. We succeeded in our mission. Afterwards, we decided to try and find Delirium, a bar that was recommended to me for their infinite amounts of beer and over 2,000 different kinds. For those of you who know me, you know that I love beer and would never pass up the opportunity to try different kinds. After asking several different Belgians for directions and being harassed by restaurant employees, we finally found it. We ended up staying here for several hours, trying over 20 different kinds of beer together, and befriending the bartenders. We even found some fellow Terps and had a beer with them- gotta love UMD! Brussels is a beautiful city with amazing waffles and beer, and I loved it!

lunes, 7 de marzo de 2011


This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity of celebrating Carnaval de Alicante. Starting on Thursday night, it was a relay of dancing, costumes, and trying to get by with as little sleep as possible. On Thursday night, the festivities began with just a few máscaras that a handful of Spaniards were wearing- I even managed to score myself one at one point during the night. Friday night there were even more masks that could be seen by everyone and anyone walking down the streets. There was a live ska band that was playing and everyone was just dancing (and drinking) the night away. Spaniards love to have a good time, to say the least!
Saturday was the big night, though. La Rambla, one of the main streets, was blocked off so that cars could not enter; there was an elevated runway where people dressed in their best costumes could walk down for all to  see, a few bands playing live music, and overall, one massive block party. The streets were crawling with people dressed in creative costumes, quite to the contrary of the "sexy" costumes that Americans tend to prefer. A family of Mr. Potato Heads, a husband and wife dressed as chickens while pushing their child in a stroller dressed as an egg, and Cruella De Vil with her boyfriend as one of the 101 Dalmations, were among some of the most unique costumes that I saw throughout the night. Spaniards from towns and cities surrounding Alicante came to celebrate here, and they sure made it a good one. People were chanting and yelling and drinking in the streets, known as "botellón" until the morning. And although the festivities lasted throughout the night, the streets were lined with beautiful lights, making the city and the buildings come alive for all to see. Thus far, I would venture to say that this has been one of the best nights in Alicante.

lunes, 21 de febrero de 2011

Gracias + Denada = Granada

This past weekend, the program with which I am studying, took a trip to Granada. We left early Friday morning and took a 4.5 hour bus ride, which included a 30 minute mandatory break because drivers are only allowed to drive for 2 hours straight. Once we arrived, we took a walking tour of the city, which is absolutely beautiful. From our hotel room, we could see the Sierra Nevada mountains on the horizon, a breathtaking view. Since we had to wake up early the next morning, a few of us decided to try out the Baños Árrabes. We went to one that happens to be one of the oldest ones in Spain, and it was an experience to remember. We were told to start in the warm bath, which was warm enough to be comfortable, but not hot enough where it was relaxing. The second bath is the hot bath, which is equivalent to a hot tub, but shallow so the only option is lying down. Across from this bath, the hot stones. One of the most amazing sensations I've ever felt, lying down on the stones. My friend actually had to wake me up, which was a rude awakening from the dream that I was having. The last bath is the cold bath. I was only able to do about 20 seconds in this water, which felt like ice water, especially after the hot stones. Saying that it took my breath away is an understatement. After the cold bath, we were told to go into the steam room. Unlike a sauna where all you can feel is heat, the steam room was hot but the air was moist enough to feel the pores opening up as the water vapor warmed your body, relaxing it and the mind as well. In between the baths, we all got massages. They used oils along the body, relaxing every muscle, leaving your mind to forget where you were; I even found myself getting too comfortable and finding a puddle of drool below me. Amazing.
The next morning, we woke up early and took a tour of La Alhambra, which is full of history, too much of which I cannot include because that would be a novel within itself. We even climbed to the top of it, where the Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen, once again, on the horizon. After the tour, we walked back and the four of us girls sat down to Kababs, which are similar to gyros in the states. Delicious.
We walked back to the hotel and took our mandatory siestas before heading back out on the town for the night. We met up with a bunch of others and ate tapas at a nearby restaurant. The great thing about tapas in Granada- each drink that is ordered comes with tapas, so each meal is pretty inexpensive. We went to a few different tapas place and ate queso frito, some sort of taco thing with curry in it, and squid legs that still had the little suction cups on them. For those of you who know how weird I am about textures, be proud of me for eating the squid legs, and finding myself enjoying them.
After tapas, we went to El Camborio, which is a bar in a cave. Yes, we were dancing and raging in a cave. The music was awesome, the drinks were cheap, and the Spaniards were aggressive as per usual. We took a taxi back to the hotel, went to sleep for about 2 hours, then woke up, threw everything in our bags, and headed back to Alicante. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Granada; I found it to be much like Madrid, just on a smaller scale. There was great architecture, beautiful views, and amazing food. But after a weekend, I was excited to go back to Alicante... home sweet Alicante.

When in Alicante...

After living here for a little over a month, I am more than elated to be able to call Alicante my home. There are beautiful beaches, the university is great, and everyone seems to love life here. For those of you whom can tolerate my rants, I condone you for having that ability, and I hope you can tolerate the following...
Everyday that I've been here, I've learned something new, either about the culture, or just words in Spanish. I have classes Monday through Thursdays and everyday I take the bus to the campus, which is about a 30 minute commute. The first day of classes, as much as I hate to admit it, I was the epitome of an American tourist. I had absolutely no idea how the bus system worked, and I was even yelled at several times by many different bus drivers. Looking back, I am so glad I figured it out after the first day. Getting to the university was a struggle at first, but I was fortunate enough to catch on quickly, so as to avoid further episodes of self-inflicted embarrassment. 
The first week of classes flew by. Since everyday I encounter some sort of new experience, it makes the time pass much quicker. A handful of the new experiences were just with food and drinks, alone. They sell hot coffee in vending machines, grilled cheese sandwiches in vending machines, and even beer/wine is served in the main cafetería on campus. There are several fountains and sculptures on campus, even a few that would be considered risque in the states. 
The daily life of a Spaniard is also something that I have come to appreciate while living here. On any given day, I go to class, come home and have lunch around 2 or 3 pm, then take a mandatory siesta, forced upon everyone due to the fact that the entire city shuts down. Even if I wanted to do something from 2-5 pm, I would be unable to. After the siesta, the city reopens, and its inhabitants take walks along La Esplanada, grab a café con leche, or shop until 9 pm when everything closes, once again. Dinners are served around 9:30-10pm at night, and a few hours later is when the city comes alive and the bars open in El Barrio. Some discotecas aren't even open until about 3:30 am, and stay open until around 8 am. Then, the next day, the same cycle continues. Saturday nights are by far the biggest nights out; everything is closed on Sundays so even the people who have jobs are able to enjoy a night/morning out on the town. It's definitely an experience to be walking home when the sun is rising, the street cleaners sweeping the walkways, and the older people taking their dogs for a morning stroll....


Apparently, I'm not used to having an online diary so I need to step my game up and update whomever on my life in Alicante. A few weekends ago, a few friends and I took a day trip to Benidorm. It's a beautiful city, rich in photographic areas as well as restaurants. It has the ambience much like that of Ocean City, MD, for those of you whom have experienced that "unique" place, for a lack of better words. When we were in Benidorm, it felt like the states, the waiters even asked how the meal was going, in contrary to what the norm of Spain is. Usually, if you want or need anything in the middle of the meal, the only way to get the camarero is hunt them down and/or yell to them. Feels strange, but the fact that tips are frowned upon, it makes sense. While in Benidorm, we ate the best calamari I've had in my entire life. This may seem like a stretch to those reading this, but I can honestly say that it was by far the freshest and most delectable that I can remember; even without the cocktail sauce. Leaving Benidorm, it was nice knowing that I could go back to a place that I can comfortably call my home. Once the sun set, the mood changed on a dime and the rude Spaniards started to surface. Walking to the train station, the three of us girls were "hollered at" by a man on a megaphone, not to mention the fact that he was only standing about three feet away from us. Alicante, tendrás mi corazón para siempre.