A Travellerspoint blog

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)!
DSCN0591.jpg
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!

DSCN0581.jpg
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)

Güell and Guinness

Before I came to Barcelona, I think the number one touristy thing I was looking forward to seeing was Gaudí’s Parc Güell, and I went yesterday—its only like a twenty minute (albeit all uphill) walk from my apartment! Anyway, it completely lived up to everything I was expecting, and more!

Here are two pics of the entrance to Parc Güell—such funky, beautiful structure—the epitome of Gaudí’s Modernisme style! It sort of feels like you are walking into a lifesize game of CandyLand. DSCN0547.jpgDSCN0548.jpg

There are just acres and acres of green plants and trees and shrubs with cobblestone stairs, pathways, and amazing structures and architecture weaved in. I’ve got lots of pics to share here!!! Tons of colorful mosaic artwork…some more really cool musicians doing their thing (see video!)….artists painting on the spot…a giant plaza with mosaic seating all around, overlooking the beautiful entranceway…and of course the VIEWS! Amazing amazing views of the entire city of Barcelona. It was such a beautiful, clear day, too, that the picture doesn’t even do much for everything in sight! Haha can you tell I loved this place!?DSCN0552.jpgDSCN0555.jpgDSCN0561.jpgDSCN0566.jpgDSCN0569.jpgDSCN0572.jpg

I have also had my share of (minorly) frustrating experiences that come with learning a new city…mostly transportation issues! The metro and bus systems are actually really great, and there is also a ‘Nit Bus’ system that runs 24/7, but it can get a little tricky! A few nights ago, my friends and I were on the Nit Bus for two hours and when we finally got to our destination (a club), it was like 3am and therefore too late to get in for free, so we would have had to pay 20 € just for cover!! Haha Hell no! So we turned around and went home! Oh well! :)

A few funny dinner stories….The other night Mercé left us leftovers of that white fish (from my last entry) for dinner, but she wasn’t around during dinner time. I tried it again, but after two bites I really couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried, but I didn’t want to make her feel bad that I didn’t eat it, so Kristina and I threw a piece out and took it to the dumpster! Haha I won’t do it again!!!!! Last night she made friend calamari, and I actually liked them this time! They sort of had no flavor besides fried-ness and they didn’t have that chewy tendon-like texture that I have hated about calamari I’ve tried in the past! Yay seafood!

The other night we happened upon this little bar with fun live music! And I played with the band! They just gave me these little sticks to bang together—so fun!!19074_1266..90_n_1_.jpg

Last night we watched the jets-colts game (a little dose of American football!) at an Irish Pub. Anyway, I had Guinness for the first time…actually really liked it! Sort of like a meal in a glass, but I really liked the flavor and I wasn’t expecting to (kind of like mapley!)………. but I think sangria is still my favorite!

Some other random observations I’ve made around the city…..

-There are dogs everywhere! Everyone has them and they all take them everywhere! Restaurants, malls, metro, stores...I kind of love it! [Katie, you would be in heaven!]

-There is American music playing just about everywhere. I guess I was expecting Spain to have its own popular songs and artists, but apparently not so much! Haha of course there is some Spanish music here and there…But for example, I was in a really authentic Spanish/Mediterranean restaurant the other day, not much English was spoken, but they had someone like Fergie or Lady Gaga playing! So funny!

- Shopping malls are totally different. I can’t really explain how, but they like basically categorize them. There is one really popular shopping center called El Corte Ingles, and there are a bunch of them all around the city. They each have about 4 or 5 floors, with a bunch of different stores in them, but all mixed together. So an equivalent in the States might be like one big building with Abercrombie, Victoria’s Secret, Barnes and Noble, Forever21, Filene’s Basement, Sephora. all mixed up between a few floors but with very little distinction between sections. It’s sort of like a giant department store, but each Corte Ingles is different. One is famous for having a lot of books, the other for clothes, another is really high end etc…very different!

And guess what, my nails are long! Yahoo!

Posted by Micheline 06:24 Comments (0)

Las Reinas de Ensalada :)

The Queens of Salad

The past few days have been pretty rainy so I haven’t really covered any new ground in terms of exploring the city lately. But this morning was sunny so I went on my first run through the city! To the water! It was so beautiful, and then Kristina and I wandered through a beautiful park and through the Born neighborhood of Barcelona (a trendy area with lots of tapas bars & restuarants). We got pretty lost, but I was loving it! I secretly wanted to get lost, just so we could find our way back!

Tuesday was my first day of classes and they are great! I’m taking Spanish Language, Business Spanish, and International Econ (this one is taught in English). The classes will be easy As, but at the same time I’m actually excited for them and will probably learn a ton. I think the Span Language speaks for itself, but the Business Spanish class is particularly cool because the class itself is so international: 3 Colombians, 2 Mexicans, 4 from China, 4 Americans, 1 from Portugal. We’ve only had one class and already it’s been pretty cool to hear how perspectives on business principles and the workplace change from culture to culture!

DSCN0543.jpg
I still haven’t gotten to try paella, but Mercé has cooked us seafood the past few nights! For those of you who don’t know, I have never really eaten seafood. So I’m trying to have an open mind, and I am going to at least try everything! Here is a pic that I took of Mercé and Kristina eating our first seafood meal-pasta and some sort of sauce with calamari. (not sure how I feel about the texture of calamari, but I ate two rings!) Y su ensalada deliciosa, por supuesto! Mercé calls Kristina and I “Las Reinas de Ensalada” [The Queens of salad] because we eat a giant bowl of her salad like everynight!

DSCN0544.jpgDSCN0545.jpg
Here are a few pictures of last night’s meal: some sort of white fish with bread crumbs, ensalada, and potato chips (how funny!!!) It was good...sort of oily but not too fishy tasting…Maybe haddock? No sé, and I didn’t want to ask because I told Mercé I’d try it again tomorrow! Next up……paella!! (I hope!)

Posted by Micheline 08:53 Comments (0)

"El gran sabor de los pequeñas cosas"

the great taste of the little things :)

So i just realized that the captions i created for my past pictures don't show up on my blog so from now on i'll try to give a little explanation with each picture!

beautiful barcelona architecture

beautiful barcelona architecture

This is just a taste of what I see walking around barcelona on a daily basis. The majority of the buildings are just so beautiful, with such style!

Vida con mi madre de acogida (life with my host mom) just gets better everyday. We don't see each other most of the day, but I enjoy spending some time with her when we are all home, and I've begun asking some questions about her and her family. Todos las noches (everynight) she cooks dinner for kristina and I, and we've started a little tradition of watching a Spanish game show 'Pasapalabra' every night during dinner! Fun!

Yesterday a few of my friends and I climbed the hill of Montjuic, which is a part of Barcelona filled with tons of Jewish history, plus it was the site of the 1992 Olympics. It made for some beautiful views of the city, and it was very cool to see the Olympic Stadium. The pictures I've included show the olympic stadium as well as a view of the outside! DSCN0539.jpgDSCN0542.jpg

I went exploring down to la Barceloneta, and got some delicious focaccia with Catalan sausage. ps catalan sausage is delicious! DSCN0537.jpgOn the way there we passed through a section of Las Ramblas with some incredible artwork, all being created right there on the street in front of us. Here is one little collection that I loved for its bright colors! DSCN0532.jpg

So there are just tons of awesome restaurants and and stuff going on down at la Barceloneta but my favorite thing above all was the street musicians! There were so many awesome soloists and groups with such flair! I've included a little video of one of my favorites. This group had really cool drums and a cello {how interesting!} and some other cool instruments, and their singer was so unique! Loved it! I just sat and watched a few groups! (haha one time I almost got up to salsa with the guy cause he was trying to get this other girl to dance who just wasn't quite cutting it! Next time!)

More to come! I am going to try paella tonight! can't wait!

Posted by Micheline 05:38 Comments (3)

Getting comfortable in Barcelona....... :)

DSCN0513.jpgDSCN0523.jpgDSCN0524.jpg

DSCN0520.jpg

Kristina and I moved in with our host mom, Mercé, on Monday!! A bit about it….

What I knew about her before--> Mercé is 65, lives alone in a small apartment, has a son and grandson who live in the area. She is unemployed but does odd jobs during the day for money.

When she first brought us to her apartment, she showed us around, handed us some keys and left without saying when she’d be back etc. It’s a little different than the image of an excited host mom who is dying to learn all about us, but it is actually nice to have the independence of not having to tell her where/when I am going or returning. And she is really pleasant and clearly loves to have us around! We have already watched muchas horas of Spanish tele!

She doesn’t speak a word of English, and instead speaks extremely fast Spanish. It forces me to use my spanish with her at all times(good!), but can be a little difficult because at the moment I understand about 30-40% of what she says (just enough to sort of get the gist of things) and she isn’t too good at slowing down in order to help me understand.

Because spain is under a cold spell, and gas/electricity/water are really expensive here, she doesn’t turn the heat on, so the apartment is an icebox! To get an idea, last night I slept in a sweatshirt, leggings under pajama pants, socks and slippers! But all of the houses are like this right now, so its just a little taste of culture!

Pluses and minuses, but overall (and considering a few of the horror stories I’ve heard) I give it a THUMBS UP! It’s definitely going to be a learning experience and that is exactly what I wanted!

Over the past few days I’ve gotten to do a lot of exploring and wandering and have just happened upon the most beautiful buildings! I live about eight minutes (walking) from La Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece of a church. I don’t even want to post a picture because it is so much more beautiful in person. I’m on this search to find my favorite café, so (as I’m sure you can imagine with cafes on just about every street corner) I’ve had a number of delicious cappuccinos and coffee drinks!

We went on a bike tour of barcelona today, which was just so amazing! Everytime we stopped at a site I said 'oh, this is going to be my spot' I am totally overwhelmed (in the BEST way) with the amount of great places there are to see and experience! I think my favorite area today was La Barceloneta, Barcelona's beaches and port area. It is just beautiful. There are also so many plazas, some hidden between alley ways and others centrally located, that i just love love love! I am clearly in the 'honeymoon' stage of being in a new city because i just can't help but LOVE everything i see!!!!

Oh yeah, also, i just love the structure of the days here. My typical day so far (havent started school yet!!!!) has been....wake up at 930ish....explore/do things for the until about 2 or 3, lunch at 2ish, return home for a siesta, nap, go back out and do more exploring, dinner at 9, bar/pub/tapas at about 11, discoteca at like 2! Repeat! Quite the life, I'd say! :) :)

More Later! Muchos Besos!

DSCN0527.jpg

Posted by Micheline 08:16 Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 16) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »