Semana Santa: Berlin, Krakow, and London

Well, once again I find myself way behind the time on this update, but life does have a tendency to get in the way, doesn’t it?

So, Semana Santa gave us TWO glorious weeks off (boy will I miss these vacations next year…) to travel the world. To start out, all 5 of us Andorra Fulbrighters set off for Berlin, where the German mid-year conference was happening. The German commission opens their conference to all the European Fulbrighters, so of course we jumped at the excuse to head to Berlin! It was a huge conference (an overwhelming number of people, really, when you’re used to 5!) and super fun. There was a good representation of the Spain crew there as well, and we hung out with them a lot because #spandorra is the best.

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#spandorra crew representing in Berlin. I stole this photo from Cass’s FB – thanks, Cass! But look how damn #spandorrable we all are.

 

We skipped some events because they had little to do with teaching English in Andorra, but the ones we did attend were cool. Aside from a million Americans, there was also a big group of Germans about to go study/research in the US next year, so it was cool to meet them as well. In between sessions, we managed to see some sights around Berlin, partake in lots of delicious food (mostly kebabs, kebabs, and more kebabs…), and even go to an ex-pat stand-up comedy show! Berlin is a really cool city, very hipster and interesting, and I can definitely see its appeal.

(Holocaust Memorial, Bradenburg Gate, the German government, the Berlin Dome, the Berlin Wall x2)

After Berlin, Johanna and I hopped an overnight train (complete with beds – we felt like queens!) to Krakow to spend a few days there. I honestly had no idea what to expect, because I had very few preconceived notions of Poland. I ended up loving it! Krakow is beautiful, and sort of reminded me of Prague and Budapest in more ways than one. Our time there was also spent eating delicious (and cheap!) food – this time of the Polish variety – and seeing the sights, which included a cathedral, an old salt mine with some crazy salt art, the main market, the Jewish Quarter, and a castle.

Poland is undeniably beautiful, but there is obviously a dark side to their history, especially in the 20th century. We visited the Gestapo Museum, Oskar Schindler’s Factory (of Schindler’s List fame), and of course Auschwitz-Birkenau. While I certainly wouldn’t describe any of the above as “cool” or “great” places to visit, they are very interesting and, I think, something everyone should visit at some point in their lives. I don’t really have the words to describe how it feels to stand at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and know that over a million people who walked through those same gates never walked back out, or to walk through the gas chamber and know that right where you are standing, thousands of people were murdered. The exhibitions at Auschwitz are very well done, and they are really impressive in their ability to show the scale of the atrocities committed in WWII. The scope of the horror is in some ways incomprehensible; the idea that human beings could treat other human beings in such a way is terrifying. It is not an easy thing to do, visiting these memorials, but it is absolutely important and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Poland.

After Poland, I traveled to London to visit my good friend Charlee (you may remember that she visited me back in November with her boyfriend, Josh!). I had visited London once, five years ago, the first time I met Charlee. That time we were only able to visit for a day, but now she lives in London so I got to spend several days there. And wow, London is awesome! (Expensive as hell, but awesome.) We packed in lots of tourist activities and an impressive variety of delicious food. (Andorra and Spain are wonderful, to be sure, and the local food is delicious, but good Lord do I miss international food, and wow does London deliver just that.) One of the highlights was our tour of the Tower of London. We had a HILARIOUS tour guide, “Billy Beefeater,” who pretty much took the piss (look I’m so British now) out of everyone in the group. Another super cool visit was to the Sky Garden – Charlee’s idea; I had never heard of it. It’s free and you get great views of London… and the drinks are tasty! (Although not free.)

Overall, the trip was fantastic, but after 2 whirlwind weeks, it was nice to come back to Andorra and settle back into my routine here. It’s hard to believe I have less than 3 months left in my Fulbright experience. We recently got the contact information for the new grantees coming next year, and it was a little bit weird. It makes the approaching end feel more real, and it’s even a little sad to think my students will be hanging out with a new lectora next year (although I’m sure she’ll be awesome).

In the meantime, life back here has been great. Ski season ended, sadly, so my weekend activity of choice is suddenly gone and I’ll have to figure out a substitute. (Probably hiking, because the mountains are addictive.) Work is going well. Last week we took the students to see an English theater group that travels around and puts on plays for English students, and it was a lot of fun. They make the kids participate and do silly stuff, so we were all laughing – our students are great!

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Well anyway, that’s all for now! Happy Monday everyone!

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Carnaval Vacation: Galicia & Sevilla

Well, now that our next break is almost upon us, I guess I should get around to posting about the last break! We had a week off for Carnaval, so of course we took advantage! Although apparently, Andorra has some pretty fun Carnaval celebrations, so we missed out on some of the fun here.

The second half of the week was the Mid-Year Conference in Sevilla, so we had the first half to travel wherever we wanted. After living in Andalucia for a year (and visiting again over fall break), I didn’t feel a huge urge to spend the extra time there, and neither did Lauren, so the two of us decided to check out a part of Spain we didn’t know – Galicia.

Galicia fascinates me because it’s one of the regions of Spain where there’s a co-official minority language, Gallego. Gallego sounds and looks like Spanish mixed with Portuguese, but of course it is its very own language (just like Catalan!). We ended up deciding to go to Santiago de Compostela, which is a very famous city in Spain because it’s the endpoint of the famous Camino de Santiago (St. James’s Way).

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The Cathedral.

 

Santiago is actually not a very big city, despite its big fame. You can walk around most of the Old Town in just a few hours. Which is what Lauren and I did, and it’s very cute! Unfortunately, Galicia is kind of like the Pacific Northwest in the US – super. freaking. rainy. So although we saw the big sights – the Cathedral being #1 – I don’t have a lot of great pictures because the rain kind of ruined them all.

Also, the thing I was most excited about was the Museo do Pobo Galego – the Museum of the Galician People. But remember how I have the worst luck with museums? Well… This one was closed. We specifically checked the hours and everything, and then got there to see a sign taped to the door – it was closed to maintenance or something. THE WORST LUCK. That was our last day, too, so I was pretty bummed.

Other than that, the most notable thing we did in Santiago was eat, honestly. We found an American snack food store and loaded up on foods you can’t find in Andorra, and then stuffed ourselves. It was glorious. We also ate Galicia’s most famous dish, which is octopus. I LOVE octopus, and Galicia didn’t disappoint on that front. So delicious.

So while our time in Galicia wasn’t the most eventful or touristic, it was actually pretty relaxing, which is supposed to be the idea of vacation anyway!

We flew from Galicia to Sevilla to meet up with the Mid-Year Seminar, arriving a bit late but managing to only miss lunch! It was so nice to see all our friends from Fulbright Spain again! I guess it’s not as exciting for all of them to be gathered together, since most of them live in Madrid anyway, but for the Andorra crew it’s pretty exciting to have our social circle expanded like that for a few days. (To put it into perspective, there are like 90 Fulbrighters in Spain. There are 5 of us in Andorra.)

Seminar kicked off with some presentations, and then the first evening featured a talent show. My fellow grantees are so talented, and funny, and awesome! It was great. Lauren did a stand-up comedy routine and talked about Andorra, which was fun.

I don’t remember the exact order of events at mid-year, but they included: research/project presentations (people are doing such cool stuff!), discussion groups, a cocktail party, a tour of the cathedral and the alcazar (seen them both twice already, but still pretty), some fancy lunches, and just generally hanging out with cool people. Sevilla is beautiful, and although the weather was not the usual perfection you’d expect there, it was much nicer than Galicia! One night we even went to a super cool flamenco show that a Fulbrighter who lives in Sevilla (he’s researching music, actually) found for us.

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The three days FLEW by, and I was pretty sad for it to be over. There’s no end of the year reception or anything, so we don’t have another chance to see everyone in one place again. So even though it was the mid-year seminar, it felt kind of like a goodbye! The good news is, some of the Spain Fulbrighters and all of the Andorra crew are going to Fulbright Germany next week, so we will see each other there!

Since then, things have been good! I’m off to teach a class, but we have 2 weeks of vacation after this week, so my next update will probably be after that!

Winter Break Part 2: Prague & Budapest! (2 million photos)

Hello again! Okay so winter break Part 2, now that I’ve been back for over 2 weeks, ha! Time just flies! Today marks 5 MONTHS that I’ve been in Andorra, meaning my Fulbright year is halfway over – I can’t believe it! It makes me want to cry. It seems like just yesterday I was jet-lagged and hauling my giant suitcases up 3 flights of stairs to my boiling hot new apartment. Things I’m not okay with: this year flying by. To think I was so nervous I wouldn’t like it here and now I love it so much!

Anyway. Winter break. Starting from January 2 in Barcelona….

Parker and I flew to Prague that night and arrived pretty late, so we didn’t have time to do much other than check into our hostel and find somewhere to eat. We ended up at a cool little Czech pub with yummy soups and beers and very friendly waiters.

Our first morning in Prague we took advantage of the hostel’s free walking tour, which was great! It was 3 hours long though and SO DAMN COLD. Oh my God, I thought I would lose all 10 fingers to frostbite. (Note to self: Take better gloves to Prague.) But the tour was cool, and we got to see a lot of the city and learned a lot from our knowledgeable guide, Ekaterina. Prague is BEAUTIFUL, like something straight out of a fairy tell honestly. I couldn’t get over it.

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WE WERE SO COLD. Also all my pictures of buildings turned out blurry 😦

It’s been long enough now that I don’t remember the exact order we did things anymore, but other things we did in Prague included:

Visiting the John Lennon wall.

Going to the ballet like the classy bitches that we are (I have no pictures of this because obviously it’s not allowed but trust me it was classy).

Visiting the Cathedral in the snow and feeling like I was living in a magical fairy tale world.

A visit to the Spanish Synagogue, which was beautiful.

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A day trip to Kutna Hora, a town mostly known for its ossuary (bone chapel), but which also had some other cool stuff.

Finding a super local Czech bar where the drunk Czechs next to us were very friendly and the beer was tasty and cheap.

Being really fucking cold all the time.

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Hot wine helps.

Our original hostel situation wasn’t ideal (a VERY loud snorer) so we changed to a 10-person room which was miraculously empty, which was nice. After a few days in Prague we took a 7 hour train ride to…

Budapest!

We arrived in Budapest to find it warmer than Prague (unusual, but the cold snap had ended just as we changed cities) but with gross, slushy weather. We took a very confusing bus, found our hostel, and then found dinner in the midst of what was apparently Hipster Budapest.

In the morning, we met up with my cousin Josh, who lives in Bratislava and came in for the day on the train! It was so great to see him! (Other cousins: get on our level – Josh and I have hung out TWICE in Europe! Where were you?) He knew Budapest pretty well, speaks a little Hungarian, and knew lots of fun facts about the history of the city/country, so it was a really cool day – we basically had a personal tour guide! Josh took us to lots of cool spots, starting with Budapest’s BEAUTIFUL Parliament building, which is the 2nd largest in the world, I think. It’s absolutely stunning. (My photos don’t do it justice.)

After that, we wandered around to places like the Shoes on the Danube Holocaust memorial, Heroes’ Square, and Vajdahunyad Castle.

We went to the Dohány Street Synagogue, which is the 2nd largest in the world, and breathtaking.

We finished on the other side of the river at Fishermen’s Bastion, which gives a good view of the Parliament lit up at night. Josh had to go back to Slovakia then, sadly.

The next day, Parker and I went to visit St. Matias Church, which is another gorgeous place, and St. Stephen’s Basilica (which is fancier but I think I actually liked it less). Parker left early Saturday morning, but my friend Francis, who teaches in Debrecen (only 2 hours away by train) came into town to hang out!

He introduced me to some yummy Hungarian food and TOOK ME TO A CAT CAFÉ!!!!!!!!!!, and then we went to the Terror Museum (which was in fact pretty terrifying, about the Nazi & Communist times in Hungary and the Arrow Cross and lots of horrible things), wandered around a bit, and just generally hung out. It was so good to see him! Francis and I met 2 summers ago at Lac du Bois/El Lago del Bosque, so we have the Concordia bond forever.

That night I went back to the hostel, expected to sleep a few hours before my crack-of-dawn flight, actually got NO SLEEP AT ALL due to loud people in the hostel fighting/talking/snoring, and then began the journey back to Andorra.

So there you have it. My winter break in a nutshell. Overall just a beautiful trip full of beautiful places! I’m back in Andorra now and have been for almost 3 weeks. Routine is back on, and it’s kind of nice. I still love my job, my students still make me laugh every single day, and I still love it here. I’ve been skiing a few times but this is a weirdly warm and snowless winter in Andorra, so the snow hasn’t been great.

I’m actually leaving Andorra for a break again (we have so much vacation! Haha!) in a little over a week to head to Galicia with Lauren and then the Fulbright mid-year conference in Sevilla, so that will probably be the contents of my next update 🙂

Winter Break Part 1

Hello, all! I’m back in Andorra this week after a whirlwind winter break. Traveling was WONDERFUL, and I’ll write all about it in a second, but I do have to say… it’s nice to be home! Back to routine, back to eating homemade food, back to sleeping in my own bed. So anyway. Winter break stuff.

As I wrote before, Devin visited for the first part of break. While his first few days here weren’t the most exciting, we did have a bit more fun after that! We drove up to Engolasters to see the lake, which finally has water in it. It was so nice!

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We also went skiing with some of my students from private lessons. Devin wasn’t a big fan (it was his first time), but I had a good day! Much more successful than the first day of the season for me. My students, of course, were born on skis, so they were bored with the slopes we were sticking to. Eventually we told them to run off and have fun and we’d see them for lunch.

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Devin NOT having a good time.

We had Christmas Eve dinner with Lauren and Johanna, as well as Kat, a visitor from Madrid. Then Devin dragged my unholy butt to midnight mass. In the morning, we had Christmas brunch with the others and then we went to Naturlandia to ride the Tobotronc! The Tobotronc is an alpine coaster (the longest in the world, I’m pretty sure, it’s 5.3 km long) and it’s actually a pretty controversial thing here (as in there a website that’s literally called stoptobotronc.com) because a lot of people wanted it shut down. I was a bit scared because I kept hearing how dangerous it was, but it was so much fun! Freezing cold, but fun.

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The day after Christmas, Devin and I set out for our road trip to Pais Vasco (both the French and Spanish parts) and Barcelona. Our first day involved a 5 hour drive from Andorra to Bayonne, France. I slept almost the entire way. Oops. I’m the worst at road trips. We got to Bayonne just as the sun went down and wow it was a good sunset!

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We had dinner that night, where I realized how rusty my French really is, and then called it an early night because we had gotten up early. The next day was our only real day in Bayonne. We went to the Basque Museum, walked around town a bit, and then got back on the road. Fortunately, the drive to San Sebastian was pretty short.

San Sebastian was our longest stay. We went to a super cool Basque Musuem there (San Telmo), which was really well-done and worth seeing, but a lot of things we had wanted to see were unfortunately closed for the holidays. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and the weather was perfect. Our main objective in San Sebastian was to eat, which we did. Pais Vasco is famous for their pinxos, which are kind of like tapas except that you just pick them off a big serving platter and stick them on your plate and then eat them standing up. It’s a little stressful but they were SO GOOD. Everyone told us we would eat well in Pais Vasco and they didn’t lie!

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Guernica

After leaving San Sebastian, we stopped in Guernica for the day. I was REALLY excited about this because a) Guernica is my favorite piece of art ever, if you recall my Madrid posts, b) Guernica as a city is really interesting to me because of the history there, and c) there was a Peace Museum I REALLY wanted to see. So we got there, we went to the Junta, which is the government building. It’s beautiful, with this amazing stained glass ceiling. It also has the famous tree outside, which was cool to see. (I’d write you a lengthy history of Guernica but it would take years and be very long so if you want to know more about why it’s so interesting just Google it).

But then, we tried to go to the Peace Museum… and it was closed! I had very carefully checked the days and hours on their website, and it should have been open, but it was closed for maintenance! I was so upset! I guess I’ll have to go back someday.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

After Guernica, we got back on the road to head to this little church a co-worker of mine who is from Pais Vasco had recommended visiting, called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (say that 3 times fast, I dare you). It’s on this little island-type thing (as in at low tide it’s not an island but apparently at high tide it is) and it’s supposed to be gorgeous. Living surrounded by mountains is amazing but I do miss the sea, so I loved getting to see the coast. Pais Vasco is so beautiful! We had to park and then walk down to the little church, but the views were worth it!

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Bilbao

From San Juan de Gaztelugatxe we continued on to Bilbao, which felt the most like a big city of the places we had been so far. The main thing I wanted to see there was the Guggenheim. We got in in the evening, and we were only there for one night, so after finding dinner we went to bed and then got an earlyish start the next day. The Guggenheim was SO COOL. They had some really cool exhibits, which unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos of. Womp. Then we set out for the drive to Barcelona, which theoretically is about 5.5-6 hours but took us 8. I managed to stay awake for most of it!

 

Barcelona

By the time we arrived in Barcelona it was pretty late, so we just went to bed. The next day, we had an early tour of Sagrada Familia, which is my favorite of the 10 million Spanish churches I’ve seen. Devin liked it too, yay! We went up one of the towers, which I hadn’t done before. I’m terrified of heights so “fun” wouldn’t be my word of choice, but it was cool! You take an elevator up, but the stairs down have no handrail for a while and it’s a very tight little spiral staircase, so I was getting nauseated from the turning and from my total terror.

After that we wandered around other parts of Barcelona, for the most part. We saw the Cathedral and the Gothic Quarter, Park Guell (where we saw a fun jam session going on), and a few other things. Parker and his friend Chloe met up with us for dinner that night, and then Devin and I spent New Year’s Eve together 🙂

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Devin left on January 1, so I had a day to myself in Barcelona and I admit I spent most of it in my hotel room. That sounds SUPER lame I know, but I’ve been to Barcelona before and I needed some downtime before beginning phase 2 of the journey: Prague and Budapest with Parker! I’m going to save those for another entry because wow, this got long!

Hello, yes, I’m alive and doing things.

Wow, I am just getting worse and worse at updating this, aren’t I? To be honest, life has been a bit routine so I haven’t had a whole lot to update on. Classes are good, tutoring is good. (Actually, this week tutoring was GREAT.)

Of course, the big news right now is that Devin is visiting me! He arrived Wednesday evening after 48+ hours of traveling, the poor boy, and he is still recovering from his jet lag. So far he hasn’t done much in the way of seeing Andorra because I still have to work this week and the beginning of next, but he’s met the crew here and seen where I work and been to the place with 1000 beers, so I think he’s doing okay. This weekend we’ll do more adventurous stuff, and next week 3 of the kids I tutor are going to go skiing with us and teach us!

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Finally here!

 

In other news, a few weeks ago we got to take an official (!) tour of Casa de la Vall, which is Andorra’s historical government building. It’s a very cool old building from the 1580s. They’ve actually moved to a new building in the last few years, so we got to tour that as well, and we met the Subsíndica del Consell General, which as far as I can tell is like the VP of Parliament.

We learned a lot about Andorra’s government (which is fascinating) and legal system. Andorra has 28 members of Parliament (can you imagine if we only had 28 people in Congress?!). There are 2 representing each of the 7 parishes, and then 14 who are national representatives. Of the 28 members, 14 are women, which I think is SO COOL (it’s actually the second-highest proportion of female legislators in the world!). I was really surprised to hear, though, that women in Andorra didn’t have the right to vote until 1970, and couldn’t run for office until 1973! Look how far they’ve come in just 45 years though… (Ahem, America, take note.)

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Here we are with her! (She’s the one in the white top.)

 

In less official news, the Fulbright crew here has been eating some delicious meals. I’m definitely the worst cook of the 4 of us, but my friends here are gourmet chefs so we had an amazing Hanukkah dinner and then a Mediterranean night and everything was perfect. It reminds me a little bit of community dinners back in my Project SERVE days! (Actually this year reminds me of my Project SERVE year in a lot of ways!)

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Look at this deliciousness. I only brought the wine so I take no credit.

 

The teachers at my school had a Christmas dinner last week and it was SO FUN. I work with the coolest people. Also, I just love the work culture here. It feels so much more laid-back than in the US. I had a blast. There was karaoke, dancing, games, lots of good food… Great night. (Have I mentioned yet how I never want to leave?)

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Two of my wonderful co-workers: Priya (teaches English) and Anna (teaches Spanish and Catalan).

 

I bought a ski pass! I am an official season pass skier. How fancy am I?! Do I know how to ski? No… not yet. But I figure if I go every weekend (which I better, to make the cost of the pass worth it!), I’ll eventually be at least half-decent right? I got skis and stuff to borrow from one of the teachers at school, so I’m all set up! I’ve only been once so far, with my friend Isa. She’s a cool snowboarder chick, so I felt bad that I was holding her back to green and blue slopes when she’s a badass… Except she totally tricked me at one point and made me go down a red! She said it was a blue, but then I thought I was going to die I fell so many times! When I finally made it to the bottom, she told me it was a red! So I guess I survived that. After the day of skiing I was exhausted, sore, and totally unexcited about climbing up 4 flights of stairs to my apartment… But it was fun!

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The view from the top of the slope I totally didn’t know was red.

 

Anyway, that’s about it for now! I’m sure I’ll have more adventures to update you all  soon! 🙂 I have some pretty exciting travels coming up over Christmas break!

Tots Sants Vacation Part 2: Madrid

So, part 2 of Tots Sants vacation… now that I’ve been home for a whole week. Oops.

Anyway, I went from Málaga up to Madrid on a six-hour bus ride Thursday (October 29). Parker was nice enough to host me for the weekend, so he planned lots of fun stuff for us! Thursday night, we went to the Reina Sofia Museum, which is free on Thursday nights. We didn’t quite realize how HUGE the Reina Sofia is, so we actually only got to see one of the 4 floors, and we didn’t even get to see all of it. We picked the second floor because it’s home to my favorite painting of all time, Guernica. Parker and I are both super into the Spanish Civil War, so it was super exciting for both of us to see it in real life.

Guernica, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Guernica is so impressive in person. It’s 25 by 11 feet, so it’s MASSIVE. It’s the only thing in the room. Standing in front of a painting I’ve done tons of research on and thinking about was pretty powerful. Just thinking about all the things it symbolized was almost overwhelming. The rest of the floor had a lot of art about the Spanish Civil War and fascism in Spain, some very famous pieces and some not, but it was all very powerful. If you’re ever in Madrid, I’d highly recommend checking out the Reina Sofia. Unfortunately, it closes at 9, so we got kicked out at closing time and didn’t get to see the rest of the museum – next time!

After the museum, we met up with an other Fulbrighter, Ben, and some of his friends who are also teaching in Madrid through the Auxiliares program. We went to a Mexican place called Takos al Pastor, and while I am skeptical of Mexican food in Europe, it was AMAZING. The tacos are all 1 Euro, too! Delicious.

Friday, we hopped on a bus to the outskirts of Madrid to El Escorial to visit Valle de los Caídos, which is a basilica and monument in memory of the Spanish Civil War. (Can you tell how much Parker and I are nerds about this?) It’s a controversial place because Franco apparently wanted it to be a symbol of atonement and reconciliation, but then it was built using convicts, some of whom included political prisoners from the Republican side. Valle de los Caídos is absolutely breathtaking – it’s at the top of a mountain and in the perfect fall weather, the views were gorgeous. The monument itself is also beautiful.

The inside of the basilica doesn’t allow photos, but it’s beautiful too. There are a bunch of giant tapestries depicting the apocalypse, some truly terrifying statues, and Franco and Primo de Rivera’s tombs. As a Spanish and Politics student, and even as a linguistics student, I have spent YEARS studying these people. As a result, they’re almost like mythical figures to me. Standing in front of their tombs was a very, very strange feeling. It made them feel more real. It’s easy to feel removed from history (even something as relatively recent as the Spanish Civil War and Francoism) when you study it in books and photos; standing in the very places history was made can be weird.

It’s also uncomfortable because, to me and to most people, Franco is so obviously a bad guy that it’s strange to see him honored like that. I think for me, what sets the Spanish Civil War apart is the fact that the bad guys won. We look at things like the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, both World Wars, and while they are undeniably terrible things, we can at least feel satisfied that the good guys won. But that didn’t happen with Spain. We look at the Civil War and all these people were killed and all these horrible things happened and… the bad guys won. They won and they ran the country for decades. It’s a sad feeling. So anyway, these are some of the things I thought about, standing in front of Franco’s grave.

After Valle de los Caídos, that evening we went to a colloquium on female refugees in the US and Spain that Fulbright Spain had invited everyone too. The speakers were interesting, and spoke mostly about victims of domestic violence and genital mutilation. They were both badass lawyers who have done a lot of amazing work, so it was very cool to hear from them. Afterward, the Q&A session got a bit awkward when a woman in the audience basically said “We should tell refugees not to come here because there are too many and they’ll die; they should just stay in their own countries and make things better there.” You know, as if they haven’t tried that route. She was pretty adamant about it, and things got a bit uncomfortable, but the speakers handled it much more gracefully than I would have!

There was a reception after the speech, and we hung out with the Fulbrighters there (I think about 18 people came!) and then went out with them afterward.

Saturday was THE DAY – Parker and I went to the Real Madrid game! We paid a lot for our tickets, but we had SUCH GOOD SEATS. Oh man. Perfection. Real Madrid won (obviously) and it was just so fun. I’d seen Spain-Colombia in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, and I saw Real Madrid play in Málaga five years ago, but I’d never seen them in the Bernabeu, so I was pretty pumped. It was so cool!

The game was pretty early, so that evening we went out to celebrate Halloween with the other Fulbrighters. I was a broken porcelain doll because a) Spain goes scary for Halloween, rather than cute or funny, and b) it was pretty easy/cheap to pull off, mostly just hair and makeup!

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Being real serious with Drew, one of the other Fulbrighters from Baltimore! (Too bad he went to Gilman so we can never be friends.)

After a wonderful few days in Madrid (thanks Parker!), I went home on the AVE (high-speed train) the next day, and while my travels were a blast and it was wonderful to see so many friends and places for a week, it was nice to get home and unpack and relax!

Anyway, that’s the story of Tots Sants! First break is in the books – next up is Christmas! In the meantime, there are 6 more weeks of school and lots to do!

Tots Sants Vacation Part 1: Granada and Málaga

Hello everyone! I know, I know… it has been TWO weeks since my last measly update. I’m sorry. But for one of those weeks, I was on vacation 🙂 And for the other, I’ve been dealing with my usual daily-double of crappy Wi-Fi and a busy schedule. Anyway. About vacation!

I’ve travelled about a million kilometers in the past two weeks, starting with a 6 am bus ride to Lleida to catch a train to Granada. I opted out of the option to fly from Barcelona because RyanAir has terrible baggage policies, and I am a chronic over-packer. After 10 hours of traveling, I finally arrived in Granada, where I was greeted by my spectacular hosts, Danny and Patrick. Danny is originally from Málaga, and I met him my senior year at Dickinson when he was a TA in the Spanish department, and then I met Patrick through him one of the times he visited Dickinson. They let me stay at their apartment and I even had my own room! (This seems like the epitome of luxury to me – to have an apartment big enough to have a guest room!)

Anyway, I’ve been to Granada twice already so I’ve done some of the big touristy things, like visiting the Alhambra. And while the Alhambra is beautiful and absolutely worth seeing, it’s also a very popular attraction and can be hard to get tickets to, so instead I opted to see some new sights! Danny and Patrick showed me some hidden gems, some gorgeous views, and some delicious food. It was so good to see them after several years, and I had so much fun!

Being back in Andalucia for the first time in almost five years made me so nostalgic. I love everything about Spain, pretty much, but Andalucia is my favorite part by far. I love the architecture, the culture, the weather, everything. Muslims conquered parts of Spain for over 700 years (711 to 1492), and Granada was actually the last place to be surrendered back to the Christians. You can see the Moorish influence everywhere in Granada, especially in the Alhambra (the fortress the city is most well-known for) and the Albaicín (an old neighborhood), both of which are World Heritage Sites. If you can only visit 3 cities in Spain, Granada would definitely be top 3 for me.

After my stay in Granada, I boarded a bus in the pouring rain to Málaga, the city where I lived 5 years ago during my year abroad. Málaga, honestly, is probably not Spain’s most interesting or tourist-worthy city, but it is my favorite because it’s home. Which isn’t to say Málaga isn’t worth a visit–it has beaches, an old Muslim fortress, a cathedral, museums, about 5 million cool restaurants, and more. Actually, Málaga has only gotten cooler since my time there. The port area five years ago was a whole bunch of nothing (actually, I don’t even remember what was there because I think there was literally nothing), but now it’s been given a makeover and it’s got a cool little harbor, museums, trendy shops and restaurants, and a ferris wheel! It’s pretty cool. (As usual, click to make the photos bigger.)

Anyway. I stayed with my old host family, actually, which added to the feeling that I was taking a nice little walk down memory lane. There, at least, not much had changed. My host mom, Rosa, greeted me with a huge homemade lunch about 5 minutes after I walked in, and her dogs were excited to see me. It felt so good to be back in my second home! Living with a host family was one of the best parts of my year abroad; I got very lucky with the family I had, because they are AWESOME.

I spent my days in Málaga wandering around town (I was excited to see I can still navigate the city without getting lost, an ability which took many months to develop because, like most towns in Spain, Málaga seemingly has no real logic in its layout). I did some shopping, went to some of my old favorite spots, and most importantly, saw the people I knew who were still there. I visited with my old Universidad de Málaga profes, the Dickinson resident professor (I had her for Spanish 305 as a freshman – nostalgia!), and my old internship at Movimiento contra la Intolerancia (the COOLEST internship in the universe). I also hung out with the current Dickinson student at Rosa’s house, Emily, and her friends, and it was so fun to hear about Dickinson now (it has only been 3 years, but a lot of things have changed, it seems; then again, a lot of things have stayed exactly the same).

I could ramble on for about 300 more years about Málaga and how amazing it is and how much I love it, and how it will always have a HUGE piece of my heart, but you probably don’t want to read that, so here are some more photos instead, this time of things that are personally but maybe not historically/culturally significant:

Suffice it to say, 3 days back in Málaga only heightened my extreme nostalgia for my favorite place in the world. I spent a lot of the time wandering around and wishing I could bring Devin there and show him the place that means so much to me… someday! It was sad to say goodbye on my last day, but I was also excited for the next stop: Madrid!

However, this has gotten LONG and I need to head to work for the day. So be on the lookout for my next post, which will be all about Madrid!