A Travellerspoint blog

February 2010

A week of intercambios!

No pictures today....but I figured I would give a quick update on what I've been up to before I jet off to Rome for the weekend!!!

The past week I have been meeting tons of Spanish people--> so exciting! It has really been great!

The first few are intercambios (language partners). We first contacted each other through e-mail (based on a list arranged by Spanish universities and my study abroad program) and arranged to meet on our own to practice English and Spanish. So......

Saturday was Vanessa. I think she is my favorite! She is 29, loves to run, read, and do outdoorsy things, likes tea, and she was just so sweet! We ended up strolling around Barcelona for 4 hours, talking in Castellano (spanish) for 2 hours and English for 2 hours. It was great- she gave me the inside scoop on all sorts of things from slang to the local hangouts and great places to run! And we are meeting again tonight to go to her favorite tea cafe!

Sunday was a group hangout with Natalia, Carlos, y Veia. This was also great because we are all around the same age, and want to do all sorts of things together...they aren't very comfortable with their English, so we spoke in Castellano the whole time-awesome practice.

Monday was Dolores. We met at a cafe for a quick coffee, and she brought me beautiful postcards that her friend painted of some different Barcelona sites--> so great!! She is in her forties, and has an 18 year old daughter. She spoke in English, and I spoke in Spanish. She also put me in touch with her daughter, so we have also been in contact about meeting up!

And lastly, Tuesday night we had a Language Exchange Party hosted by a Spanish University and my study abroad program. It was so great because I met a ton of Spanish students as well as Erasmus students from all over Europe. We mostly spoke in English because many of them don't know Spanish, but there were some reall cool students and we are definitely going to get together again!

The weather has been slowly getting a little nicer in Barcelona, which makes the days SO enjoyable! I'm definitely becoming very familiar with the city, but still love exploring and going everywhere!

That's it for now....prepping for Rome! Getting excited!

Besitos,
micheline

Posted by Micheline 02:51 Comments (1)

Gaudí, Chai, y Español

Yesterday I visited Gaudí’s Casa Milá, also known as ‘La Pedrera.’ I don’t exactly consider myself to be an architecture junkie, but I just LOVE Gaudí’s architecture-the shapes, the weirdness of it, and the whole Modernisme style in general…very cool! And this was a great place to see it, explore it, and sink my teeth into it a bit! So today I have a little bit about that…….

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

Model of La Pedrera

Model of La Pedrera

Here’s a picture from the actual façade of the building (and also a model of the whole building to give you a fuller view)…it is just smack in the middle of a main street in Barcelona, Passeig de Grácia. Love how it’s just like another building on the block!

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Here is another one of Gaudí’s buildings (on the same street), Casa Battló. The model in the picture shows the original building from which Gaudí created this masterpiece! It is so beautiful and mosaic—and neat that he transformed this little square building into such a masterpiece!

The best part about this building was definitely the rooftop, a sculpture garden with all sorts of eerie, curvy structures, some of which resemble human faces! The views were also great!!! Here are some pics from the roof and the views it has to offer….

DSCN0607.jpgView of Passeig de Gracia from the Rooftop!

View of Passeig de Gracia from the Rooftop!

DSCN0615.jpgDSCN0616.jpgView of La Sagrada Familia from La Pedrera Rooftop!

View of La Sagrada Familia from La Pedrera Rooftop!

The building, built around 1910, was originally a ‘modern ’ apartment building, so part of it is set up as an old apartment building from the time of its creation. The pictures are kind of boring (just old fashioned looking rooms), but it was very cool to see! I’ll just show you one pic, because it is the sewing room and has an old Singer sewing machine in it (just like Nonna’s!!)…

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One of my program directors (a fellow tea drinker!) recommended this small chai café to me a few days ago, called ‘Caj Chai’. I had searched for it twice, and finally I found it yesterday—secret gem! I love love love loveee it! First of all, it is totally off the beaten path, like down an alley way, hole in the wall, so there are no tourists or passersby that just stop in. It has a fantastic, mellow ambience with comfy chairs and local artwork and a really nice barista. And more importantly, they have incredible homemade chai!!! Plus like a million other types of teas to choose from, from oolong to green to rooibus..everything. and a ton of international pastries that I can’t wait to try! Visitors: I am definitely taking you here!

A (kind of long)note on my progress with speaking Spanish….it is going well, but it has also been one of my only sources of frustration. Pretty much all American students speak in English, and I often resort to doing the same when I am around Americans (unless it’s Kristina because I know she understands Spanish). Especially out at night or while booking travel plans- it sometimes just seems out of place (ironically) or unrealistic to work out the words in Spanish when the phrase can easily be said in English. That being said…I have been brainstorming and testing a few ways to really get in quality practice and increase my exposure! When I am at home I spend most of my time reading my Spanish novel aloud (El Alchimista!!) or studying grammer and vocab. And I’ve begun to read a few articles a day in the Spanish newspaper (I just started yesterday!). Also, I made several ‘intercambio’ dates with Spanish students (to practice conversational Spanish/English and meet locals) for this weekend, so hopefully those will go really well! It has been at the top of my to-do list since before I left for Spain, so I’m really excited to follow through and give it a go! And one more thing, I have this idea to phase in ‘no English’ days, where I literally don’t speak a word of English. (I originally figured this would be a ‘no english’ semester!) Well today I wanted to give it a whirl-----> failure! Next time I will be more serious about it! Maybe this weekend! Anyway, if anyone has some suggestions, I am all ears!

Un Saludo,
Micheline

Posted by Micheline 01:55 Comments (2)

Carnaval!!

Carnaval is like the Spanish Mardi Gras, and it just so happens that the city which celebrates it the most, Sitges, is just a short train ride away from Barcelona-how convenient!! The celebrations last from Thursday, Feb 11 until Wednesday, Feb 17, and I went on Saturday (The biggest day is Tuesday)!
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Here is a picture of me all dressed up with a peacock theme- crazy makeup and feathers and all! Kristina and I didn’t realize how similar it is to Halloween--most locals were in full out costumes, and little kids were dressed up during the day. The Carnaval celebration was CRAZY! There were like a million people on the train to Sitges, and we didn’t even go until 11pm! So there were people everywhere-a giant party on the beach, lots of dancing in nearby bars, dancing in the streets! So we danced the night away, and hopped on the train back to Barcelona at about 5am! And I made it home safe and sound with everything……………except one shoe!!!! My flat slipped off in the midst of all of the pushing and shoving to get back on the train to Barc, and I would have gotten trampled for sure if I had gone back for it! Oops! Good story though!

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Mercé has been making some scrumptious meals lately! Here is a picture of a yummy beef-stew-like plate. It had chunks of really tender beef in a semi-thick broth with super soft potatoes and onions! And of course the salad!

Last Thursday Mercé made a typical Catalan dish that is customary to eat at the start of Carnaval. It consisted of three main parts (plus some more!)…..an omelet-like egg with slices of Butifarra sausage[Butifarra=SO GOOD!], Pan con Tomate (bread rubbed with tomato, olive oil and garlic), and Coca de llardons (a flaky dry flatbread with cinnamon and sugar and almonds on top). I love when she prepares these traditional meals! Another common meal that she often whips up for us is Butifarra amb Mongetes (pork sausage with fried white beans, olive oil etc)--> delicious!

So everything was really good food wise……..until Sunday. We woke up in the middle of the day after our long night of Carnaval celebrations and Mercé was cooking up some stuff, and had the table set with her special FC Barcelona tablecloth, plate, napkin, and champagne glass set (she is a true fan!!)! She had made this big lunch with chicken, salad, bread, potato chips, and gambas (shrimp)! Eek! The shrimp were whole with heads and eyes and stuff and I had seen them in paella, but had yet to try one! So I told Mercé that I was a little scared, but that I wanted to give the gambas a chance. So she is laughing at me as I’m preparing myself to eat this thing-I twisted the head off, and peeled the legs and stuff off, and there were juices squirting everywhere! And then it took me a few minutes to even put it in my mouth! So I finally did—and it was just awful---It was juicy and fishy and I GAGGED and I just could not swallow it or chew it, and Mercé told me to spit it out, so I did!!! I felt so bad! But she didn’t care at all-she said she was proud of me for trying it! Then we had this big crème filled cake that is a Carnaval tradition, but i forget the name. She cut us giant pieces, and really it wasn’t very tasty, but it’s still a lot of fun to take part in these traditions!!!....here's a pic! DSCN0592.jpg

Churros y clara a Cafe de L'Opera

Churros y clara a Cafe de L'Opera

The other day I went to Café de L’Opera, on Las Ramblas. This café has been around for over 100 years and is a common spot for people to go pre or post Opera, because the opera house is right across the street (hence the name). So what’s nice about this place is that even though it is on the famous, touristy, over-priced Ramblas, it still has a delicious, reasonably priced menu and a lot of history and personality, too! I got a clara (part beer, part lemon soda), and churros! They were the best churros ever!

So many exciting things coming up! Wednesday I am going to see a Pedro Almodovar movie- Todo Sobre Mi Madre. It’s not new or anything, but I have just been dying to watch one of his movies! And I signed up for a workshop about teaching English abroad for the following week! And then…ROME…Amsterdam-Brussels….Katie & Andy visit…Valencia for Las Fallas…Prague-Vienna….Figueres with the Pilkingtons….weekend in Barcelona with fam! Then it’s April! Beach weather! (I am definitely ready for beach weather in case you were thinking it was warm here, you should know that last night I slept with my mittens on! It was 10 degrees Celsius during the day INSIDE THE APARTMENT! No worries though--it’s the culture!)

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Here's a quick pic of La Sagrada Familia, just because it is so beautiful and so close to where I live!!! amazing!

Wow, this semester is just passing me by!

Besos,

Micheline

Posted by Micheline 04:08 Comments (3)

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