A Travellerspoint blog

Returning "Home"

sunny 19 °C

Had a great last weekend in Spain. It was bittersweet, excited to see my family in the states but say to say goodbye to the family I had created in Granada. Our host mom got all teary when Lauren and I left, hauling way too many bags to the bus station. Sweaty and gross by the time we got there, but it was good to see our friends as we all piled onto the ALSA bus for one last weekend at the beach. Nerja was beautiful as always and it felt great to literally have nothing to do. Exams were done, I was already packed, our tickets were booked, nothing but the ocean waves and Sangria to keep us company.

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The next day we hopped back on the bus to go up to Madrid, because that's where we flew out. Three American girls with total of 3 backpacks and 5 suitcases (or something like that) was the biggest struggle I have ever experienced on the metro in Madrid. First of all, we were all paranoid and watching each other's backs for thieves seeing as we were incredibly obvious targets. Second, the metro in madrid is not handicap accessible we found out as we lugged our suitcases up countless flights of stairs. Trying to take an elevator one time just spit us out to where we would have to pay again, but luckily this seemed to be a common problem because the security guard let us through anyways. Finally make it to our hostel, only to find... more stairs. No wonder people are fit in Europe.

We had a great last night out, unfortunately didn't make it to the 6 story club Kapital (since it wasn't open on a Sunday). But spending the last night out in Spain with Lauren and Alice, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

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The next day was fantastic, even though it was an incredible struggle. Lauren and I got churros and chocolate one last time. Tried multiple times to sell Lauren's guitar, and it was just not working out at the Cash Converters (aka Pawn Shops). Giving up we went to go have our last cafe Bonbon. The sweet restaurant owner took pitty on us it seemed, and even though he had absolutely no use for the guitar he bought it from us for more than the Cash Converter shop. SUCCESS! We were in the goofiest mood, and decided to play on a playground for a solid 10 minutes.

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Afterward we stumbled upon the fresh market in Madrid, and took the longest time deciding what we wanted to eat. It was worth it though and we had Iberian ham, gouda (with spices in it), a fresh baguette, and an avocado sandwich -- with olive oil of course.

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We meandered the rest of the way over toward the Plaza del Toros because we had tickets to see the corrida (bull fight) that day. On the way it just decided to start HAILING -- when it had been sunny only hours before.

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We ducked inside a coffee shop and waited it out for awhile. By the time we made it to the Plaza our feet were soaked, but the clouds were passing. I was seriously hoping for a rainbow, but it didn't end up happening. During the corrida one of the matadors got smeared into the ground by the bull :/ but surprisingly was still able to stand up and finish the bull fight.

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After the corrida we made our way back to the hostel and then to the airport to spend the night. I ended up staying awake and letting Lauren sleep. We were to the airport with plenty of time before our flights because I was determined to not miss my flight like the last time I was coming back from Europe. However, upon checking in with Iberia I was informed that even though I had been purchased my ticket back in September the airline is allowed to overbook the flight by 10% or something and I was therefore on standby. The solution was to put me on an earlier flight, one that happened to board in 15 minutes from the time they told me. With lack of sleep and a bit of travel stress I was freaking out a bit trying to get through security, and ended up running to my gate and just making it in time to board. Even though my time in the London airport was a bit strange, on the plus side I think I got rid of my jet lag.

Upon arriving in the SeaTac airport I immediately saw familiar faces, including my friend Jennie and Monique and... Macklemore (even though I only spoke to him enough to get a picture).

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It has been great being back in the United States, though of course bittersweet. This may be my last blog post about this adventure in my life, but it definitely will not be my last. So grateful to have had this experience in my life, and I cannot wait to see even more of this amazing world that we live in. ¡Hasta luego España!

Posted by rae.lloydlever 25.06.2013 21:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ibiza

sunny 24 °C

And now I want to move to an island.

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 25.06.2013 20:37 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

An amazing weekend

Jerez de la Frontera

sunny 26 °C

First off traveling by motorcycle in the wind is an experience. With everything flashing by so quickly as we zipped along from Granada to Jerez, I felt as though I was in a movie that was fast forwarding. I must admit, I was not very impressed when we first got to Jerez and were walking around because for some strange reason it was completely abandoned.

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We had a delicious dinner of octopus and croquetas, then decided to wander around and ask about the Feria de Caballos (Horse Fair) that was going on that week. Finally we kept seeing more and more people making their way in the same direction, all of them dressed to the nines! The women were either wearing fancy clothes and heels or a full on flamenco dress, and the men were all wearing buttoned shirts and blazers.

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The Spaniards definitely know how to throw a party, the amount of lights, rides, food, music, dancing and people that were present were INCREDIBLE! Completely changed my opinion of the city, and I could understand why nothing closer to the center of the city was open -- all of the people were out celebrating at this event. We we walked into the main area where there were a bunch of little houses that served food and had bunches of people, I felt like I had stepped into the middle of a firework.

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I realized that I have not been to the fair probably since high school either, the flashing rides and the huge ferris wheel were a strange contrast against the old style flamenco dresses.

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The next day we went to the horse-show aspect of the event schedule. I was so impressed, and I know absolutely nothing about horses. My dad was explaining a lot of the things going on to me throughout the performance. All of the horses were so well trained. There were flamenco dancers that would flip their shawls in front of the horse -- literally dancing in front of their faces as well, and they were trained to not freak out or become startled in the least. There were two horses that even were trained to dance as partners facing each other, creating a mirror image. I felt like I was watching a mixture of a dog show and a circus performance. Some of the horses were able to stand on their back legs, bow, and then process to sit down with their two front legs propping them up. Really amazing.

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I would have to say though that probably the most emotionally stimulating and exciting thing about the weekend was the Corrida de Toros that my dad and I went to. It is a very controversial subject in Spain as well in the rest of the world, because to some it is seen as cruel and barbaric. I can definitely see where people are coming from on this, but for myself I feel like I cannot denounce the Corrida because I also eat meat. The large bulls have the best of lives for 5 years, where they live comfortably and eat the best food. It was an incredibly interesting experience. I would say that I am a worrier as well, so watching people purposefully get as close as they possibly can to a 1,000+ lbs animal made me nervous to say the least. At first with all of the adrenaline pulsing though my veins my hand was shaking enough that it was difficult to take pictures, I can't even begin to imagine how the toreros felt being in the ring.

A little bit of information about the Corrida that can help you visualize: there are 6 bulls, 2 for each torero. There are 4 main phases and in total I believe that each bull is supposed to take no longer than 20 minutes because after 20 minutes the bull will have learned all of the moves of the torero, because they are very smart. First off, the bull enters the plaza and many toreros come out with the magenta and yellow cape (capote) trying to rile it up. The matador takes the bull by doing some cape work.

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Next comes the picador, this person is on horse back (the horses are completely padded up, have their eyes covered, and cannot hear) and the picador jabs the bull in its hump, I think to enrage them more? But I am not exactly positive. This part I was not a huge fan of because the bull runs straight into the horse; which yes it is padded but that cannot feel good at all.

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Then come the bandilleros who face off to the bull with nothing but these spikes that they have to stick into the flesh of the bull.

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Finally, comes the matador which is what most people think of when they picture a Corrida. He uses a red cape, and we learned that the reason it is red is because they wanted it to be the same color as the blood which is better for the spectators. Bulls are colorblind and can only see in black and white anyways, so the movement of the cape is what is important. You can tell when a matador is good, I would have to say that it is definitely an art. The second matador put on the best show in my opinion, but I think the third was supposed to be the favorite. The second matador: David Fandila Marín is from Granada actually, but he just had so much confidence that he was able to dominate the performance. On his first bull he received both ears (which means they did a really good job), and he threw them to the crowd... The whole crowd rose their feet when he was done and waved their white handkerchiefs in approval.

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David Fandila Marín had that macho attitude that so far he has been really successful with, but he was definitely playing with fire. He would do cape work on his knees, run backwards with the bull chasing him with his hand out, and turning his back on the bull -- a sign of bravery (or stupidity depending on your opinion).

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 12.05.2013 10:50 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

País Vasco (Basque Country)

Bilbao, Bermeo and San Sebastian

rain 14 °C

So being from Boise of course I knew about the Basque Country, and it was on my list of places I absolutely had to make it to while traveling. Finally accomplished after this past week! After traveling with my dad in Portugal, I met up with Alice and we spent the evening in Madrid and walked to the bus station to catch our early morning bus. I think I am becoming a pro at sleeping on buses, and I passed out for the 4 1/2 hours to Bilbao. Hopped on the metro and made it to the stop that Gus told us to go to, and there he was! So grateful that he was able to meet us early in the morning. Stayed with friends from his program: Brynne, Amelia and Ashlee who were fantastic and so nice for letting us crash at their place. Walked around Bilbao the first few days just exploring the city and OF COURSE visiting the Guggenheim.

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We decided not to go in because we heard that the outside is more impressive than the art collection inside, I'm sure some people debate this but I felt satisfied looking at the architecture. Had an amazing lunch at La Mary, they offered a menu of the day for a mere 10 euro. My first course was lentils and chorizo, second a steak with soft red peppers and fries, and finally tiramisu ice cream for dessert. Too delicious.

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It was a bit rainy the first two days, but gave us a greater appreciation when we went on a hike that Friday in between the two towns of Bakio and Burmeo. BEAUTIFUL! The water was such a deep blue, and contrasted starkly against the green of the island. We climbed the more than 200 stairs to the top of the island, a top of which was the church San Juan de Gaztelugatze. I could easily convert it into a little house if they would let me :) Might be a bit windy and cold on a rainier day though. Definitely happy that Alice motivated me in the early morning to catch the bus to say the least.

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Looking at the weather we planned on San Sebastian Saturday, and it was gorgeous. We spend basically all day just lying on the famous beach: La Concha, soaking up the rays and eating cheese, chorizo and crackers. We wandered around the city and did a bit of shopping and purchasing of ice cream. The city center area is historic and bustling with life. Successful and relaxing day on the beach to say the least.

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Our trip ended on Sunday with a 10 hour bus ride back to Granada :/ We decided to break up the trip a little bit by spending three hours in Madrid walking around, and moving our bodies again before another 5 hours on the bus. Got in late that night and fell asleep quickly. So happy I was able to make it to the Basque Country, I will definitely have to go back.

Posted by rae.lloydlever 12.05.2013 09:06 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Portugal

Lisbon and Sintra

sunny 19 °C

Started my trip taking a bus far too early in the morning/late at night from Granada to Madrid where my attempt to sleep on the bus left me feeling a little bit off but enjoying life none the less :) Very random but the Madrid airport bathrooms had the scent of pink bubblegum, you know the kind that is 6 feet long or something and in a giant roll like a measuring tape. I stepped off the plane in Lisbon and out to the entrance to see my dad standing there with a flower -- best father of the year award already won but a sweet surprise. Reminded me of every time he would come down for my birthday and meet me at school with a bouquet of flowers. We took the metro to our hotel and I passed out for at least an hour so that I could be a functioning human being again.

Lisbon reminded me a lot of San Francisco, there a old trolleys climbing the hills all around town and a bridge that looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge but is called the the Bridge of the 25th of April.

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We spent the grand majority of our time walking up and down, over and across all of the city. The neighborhoods were the best part (along with the pastries of course -- the pastry that is famous in Portugal is called Pastel de Nata which is a flaky dough with cream in it, nom nom). There are three major neighborhoods: Baixa, Barrio Alto, and the Alfama. We had a delicious first lunch in Barrio Alto of a salmon salad for me and a rabbit burger for my dad.

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I think that my favorite thing about traveling is honestly just walking around and getting to know a city. It isn't really an event but I feel like it is the most real, if I can walk around a city and know where I am going because I recognize the area I have such a feeling of contentment. On our walk down from one of the many lookouts over the city, we walked past a building that had the XX blaring from a window and I couldn't help from smiling. You have to enjoy the simple things in life, and be happy in every moment.

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We had a delicious dinner of arroz de mariscos which is kind of similar to paella. We spent a lot of our time going into random churches that were beautiful, my favorite reminded me of a sunflower with yellow, pinkish, and orange colored marble. The church even had flower decorations on the ceiling. My dad and I were commenting on the fact that even in tiny little towns that he has been visiting on his travels they have magnificent churches.

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We spent Friday and Saturday walking around Lisbon, and then took my dad's motorcycle to Sintra to spend the night on Sunday. Now I want to just go live on the beach, do yoga, learn how to surf, and ride a motorcycle around. Yes this does sound a bit fantastical, but it was so beautiful just staring at the waves on the back of my dad's motorcycle with the wind beating us from side to side. We stopped on the way at a kind fancy place, and had a tasty lunch -- obviously we have been eating well while traveling. The view was amazing, staring out at the deep blue waves touched with white, and crashing upon the golden, sandy beaches.

Sintra is super cute. Our hotel was great, with a view that looked out over a glimmering patio. I also thought it was a fun coincidence that the guy who worked at the front desk was named Domingo and we happened to be there on domingo (Sunday).

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The city is tiny but it has at least three palaces that we could see.

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We walked around town the first night and had both of our first port -- in PORTugal which I thought was appropriate.

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The next day we went to the Pena Palace; which is quite the wild mix of colors and shapes. It is half goldenrod and half a maroon/purple color. Cool to see how everything had been preserved, but I cannot imagine living there because everything was so incredibly over the top.

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We returned to Lisbon on Monday and stopped at the Westernmost point of Europe, Cabo da Roca, and the wind nearly pushed us off the edge from how powerful it was. Spent the night at the same hotel, went out to dinner where our waiter spoke a modest 6 languages... but that wasn't many because his father was a translator in Washington DC and spoke 10. We went to a bar before walking back to our hotel that reminded me of Portland, because of its weird hipster vibe. It was very dark inside and the lamp shades that hung from the ceiling were plastic cabbage or lettuce leaves.

Tuesday I had to say goodbye to my papa at the airport, but then flew to Madrid and spent a few hours wandering around exploring before meeting up with Alice to go up to the Basque Country. A second spring break was an excellent idea!

Posted by rae.lloydlever 07.05.2013 15:31 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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