Sunday, October 31, 2010

Força Barça!

My weekend turned out better than expected as my roommate found some good tickets to the FC Barcelona v. Sevilla game!  We bought tickets to go in December but as that is really a long ways away we were really anxious to go to a game sooner.  So he got online and then bam, two tickets!

I was really excited to go.  My favorite fútbol player, David Villa, plays for Barcelona, as does (perhaps) the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.  It was also going to be my first live fútbol match so I was super pumped to go.

As we only live about a half-mile from the stadium (Camp Nou) we left our apartment and took a nice walk up to the stadium.  We get there and of course there’s a lot of people, and not surprisingly we ran into a lot of English-speakers; this is because FC Barcelona is a very international team, they have over 5 million fans of facebook and their website is also in English.

Once we got in the stadium and to our seats I almost had a heart attack; it was much more beautiful than I could have possibly imagined!  However, what made the stadium complete was the atmosphere created by the fans.  Behind us we had a father and his kid who were definietely engaging in some father/son bonding.  Each time a FCB player touch the ball the father would yell the player’s name (“MESSSSI!  Bien juega Villa!”) while the son would boo the other team (for the record, “booo” is one of those words that crosses the language barrier).  And then in front of us we had a group of 20-year olds that were acting like they were in high school.  Throughout the entire game they would rip pages out of the program, build paper airplanes out of them and then throw them; most of them actually went pretty far and I laughed every time they threw one.

They also had some pretty cool chants and cheers.  Before the start of the game they played FC Barcelona’s anthem to which everybody in the stadium sang along.  Here’s the song from youtube:

When you combine the fans with all the cheers/chants (Da-da-dadada-dadada-Barça!) you get a perfect atmosphere for a fútbol game. 

Also, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned since being in Barcelona it’s that everybody loves Lionel Messi.  He’s from Argentina but you would think he was a local by the way people talk about how they love him.  He scored two goals during the game to which the people would chant his name a move their arms in a bowing motion. 

In the end, the score was 5-0 with Barça winning of course.  David Villa and Messi had two goals apiece which I was really excited about.  I can’t wait to go to more games!

Here’s my video clip from the match, right after David Villa scored his second goal:

You can also check out my facebook album here (which of course I will update as I got to more games)

Barça, Barça, Baaarça!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome to Spain?

Ok, so I read this article on The Huffington Post today and I thought I would share it with you because it made me laugh. 

The Article: “Spanish Prostitutes Ordered to Wear Safety Vests”

"Spanish prostitutes have been ordered to wear reflective safety vests for their own safety, according to reports. Women working on rural roadsides in Catalonia must don the vests to avoid a €40 ($56) fine.

Prostitution is not banned in Spain, but it has been outlawed in some cities. However, lack of the safety vests is the only reason to fine the women working outside of the Spanish city of Lleida, where the vest program is now in effect, as prostitution is not illegal outside of the city limits.

However, some see the move as an attempt by Mayor Josep Maria Bea of Lleida to drive the women out of town. There are an estimated 300,000 female sex workers in Spain, according to the Telegraph

Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodrígue Zapatero promised to ban prostitution ads in newspapers, but has failed to do so. Meanwhile, a recent survey showed that one in four Spanish men admitted to paying for sex."

Wow.  ¿Bienvenidos a España? 

I guess the Spanish government really does take care of everyone...

You can read the original article here

Monday, October 25, 2010


So over the weekend I went on an ISA excursion to Valencia, the 3rd largest city in Spain.  It’s about 480 miles south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean Sea in the autonomous community of La Comunidad Valenciana.

We started out our excursion at a local restaurant to sample paella, the “national” dish of Spain that was born here in Valencia.  It’s a rice dish made with saffron, vegetables, meat and seafood.  We tried three types: paella valenciana (chicken, snails and three different types of beans), vegetarian paella and seafood paella (shrimps and vegetables).  They were all delicious and it’s probably one of my favorite dishes over here in Spain. 

After the paella sampling we headed off to the old city center of Valencia for a tour.  We got to see the Torres Serranos, which is the old city gate.  So much history is compacted into that gate, because it protected the city during the reign of the Visigoths, Moors and Christians (when they each had their turn at ruling the city).  Then we kind of just walked throughout the city center which was pretty much just like the Gothic Quarter but on a much larger scale.

On Sunday, we got to spend the day at the aquarium, which is the largest in Europe.  It was pretty cool; saw some really strange fish and go to see a free dolphin show!  The aquarium is part of La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Sciences).  In addition to the aquarium (L'Oceanogràfic) there is an opera house (El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía), an IMAX theatre (L'Hemisfèric) and a sporting center (L'Àgora).  The whole complex is on the old riverbed Turia, the main river that ran through Valencia.  It was drained and diverted because of the massive flood of 1957.  Now, it’s a massive collection of gardens and parks.  The whole Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is an ultra-modern utopia that was an absolute pleasure to photograph.  Seriously, I took so many pictures of the complex because it was just so cool and futuristic.  Our tour guide told us that Spain is trying to push Valencia as a great tourist city and now I can understand why.

Even though la Communidad Valenciana and Catalunya have a lot in common here are some differences that I picked up on.
  • Use of Catalan: As you may remember, Catalan is spoken in Catalunya, La Communidad Valenciana, Andorra (a country in the Pyrenees) and the Balearic Islands.  However, the use of the language depends on the region.  For example, in Catalunya they pretty much beat you over the head with Catalan(not that I mind); it’s on all the street/government signs, you hear it at school, and there’s television stations that only broadcast in Catalan.  In Valencia, I didn’t get the similar Catalan vibe that I feel in Barcelona.  Most of the stores had Spanish names, all the street signs were in both languages (unlike Barcelona where it’s only in Catalan) and I didn't hear anyone speak Catalan.  This may be because only 53% of people in La Communidad Valenciana speak Catalan as opposed to about 75% in Catalunya.  Another side note: Catalan is called “Valencian” in Valencia because they claim that it’s a separate language from Catalan; in reality, it’s merely a dialect of Catalan
  •  Mediterranean feel: Valencia seemed more like a Mediterranean coastal town to me than Barcelona.  First of all, it was warmer there (about 10 degrees or so) and there were palm trees everywhere.  Barcelona does have a decent amount of palm trees but they were literally everywhere you went in Valencia.
  • Cuisine: Valencia definitely has its own type of cuisine as opposed to Barcelona, which is much more international.  In addition to paella, I tried two local drinks.  The first was orxata, which is a typical summer drink made from tiger nuts, water and sugar.  It was a strange taste at first (and the aftertaste was a little chalky) but it was good by the end.  I also tried agua de Valencia, a cocktail made with cava (Catalunya’s champagne), orange juice, vodka, gin and sugar.  It was absolutely delicious, even better than sangria in my opinion.
I definitely enjoyed my time in Valencia; to me it was Barcelona, just on a smaller scale.  I for some reason Catalunya closed its borders to me I could definitely settle down in Valencia.  I only wish that I could be in Valencia around mid-March when they celebrate their main festival, which involves burning huge paper-mache sculptures in the streets and plazas!  Oh well, I got to see La Mercè and correfoc, so I guess that’s good enough for now :p

Las fotos están aquí

Thursday, October 21, 2010


*Sorry this post is late, I've been battling my first European cold since last Thursday :(

Can you take a guess as to where I spent my weekend?

That’s right, I went to Rome!  It’s such an amazing city filled with so much history, art and amazing food.  So let’s not didy-dadle any further, let’s dive right into it!

My roommate, John, and I had leave our house at four in the morning in order to get to the airport.  This is because we decided to fly out of Girona’s airport, which is 40-50 miles northeast of Barcelona.  To get there we had to take a taxi to the bus station and then a bus to the airport.  Never again will I be doing that.  On the bus we had two Germans guys sitting behind us and they wouldn’t shut up at all (they seemed to still be drunk from the night).

Finally, we got on the flight and found out within 5 minutes why fares were so cheap on Ryanair; it wasn’t an airline, it was a freakin infomercial. After we had ascended they came on the PA every twenty minutes or so trying to sell you some useless crap, like perfume or their newest scratch-off game where you can win a million Euros!  Thank God I had my iPod…

So we finally get to Rome, crossing through one of the gates of old Roman city.  Of course, our first thought is “let’s go to the Coliseum!”  We got a little lost roaming through the streets, trying to find the damn thing but when we did it was epic.  The Colosseum is incredibly massive and it’s truly amazing to think that 2000 years ago people were walking down on the same street on the way to see a “show” in the Coliseum.  Only a third of the original material is still there, but that didn’t make the building any less impressive.  Once there, we walked around a little bit before we got ambushed by a sweet talking guy who wanted us to a tour group.  It sounded really shifty at first, but we decided to go ahead and go on it.  It definitely added to the experience of the Coliseum as he explained the history of it (it was built in 10 years!), some stuff that I didn’t know about (it used to have a wooden roof with an opening in the middle for ventilation) and some debunking of myths (the emperor didn’t do thumbs up/down.  An exposed palm meant that the gladiator lived and the thumb to the side with the other fingers closed meant death).  After the tour we got to walk around the Coliseum to take everything in.  It was very cool but at the same time very eerie.  Hundreds of thousands of people died here for the entertainment of the Roman people, people were literally fighting for their lives as people watched.  Also, there were crows that still hang around the building, which for me was a little creepy.  To top this off, there was also a black cat that was loose in the Coliseum who I jokingly called the last lion of the Coliseum.

After the Coliseum we got a bonus tour!  We got head over to the near by the Palatine Hill which was the main hill in ancient Rome.  This was literally the center of the world at one point as it was the most important hill in all of Rome.  It also overlooks the Roman Forum, the main town square of Rome.  The space includes the main temples and judicial buildings in addition to other government buildings.  I got to walk through the forum just as Romans did thousands of years ago.  I don’t know, just thinking about all that history while walking through the forum was just mind blowing.

After that, we decided to walk through more of old Rome, mainly to see the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain.  The Pantheon was a temple in Rome that was dedicated to all the Roman gods until it was converted into a Roman Catholic church around 602 AD.  The outside was under some restoration but the inside was very beautiful.  The marble came in all different colors and Raphael is also buried there.  Trevi Fountain wasn’t very far from the Pantheon so we checked that out next.  Of course, besides the Coliseum this is probably the next most famous thing in Rome and for good reason.  It was gorgeous and probably my favorite site in Rome.  To insure your return to the Eternal City you have to throw coins into the fountain over your shoulder.  I think I read on Wikipedia that everyday there's up to 3,000 Euros in the fountain.  However, only 5 cents of that was mine was I threw in 2 cents for myself and 3 cents in for my sister so that someday she can see Europe for herself.

After that I don't remember too much because I was really running on empty (had to get up at 3:30am after maybe 3 hours of sleep).  I do remember that we stopped at a pretty nice cafe and I had a divine dish of fettuccine  and black truffle mushrooms....mmmmmmm delish!

Saturday was Vatican City day.  We got up early to meet up with our tour group and came across a really cheap, but very good, “snack bar” near the metro stop.  A delicious cappuccino and a croissant was less than 2.00€ (just a place to keep in mind if you ever head to Rome).  We waited in line to get our tickets for the Vatican Museum, which ironically contains the world’s largest collection of pagan art (go figure).  Our tour first lead us into two long hallways that were only filled with Greek and Roman statues.  There were so many that I probably saw all the Roman gods without even realizing it.  They portrayed Hercules as half-man half-god by giving him mortal characteristics.  For example, he is often portrayed with veins in his legs (gods don’t have blood) and he was usually supporting his weight on something. 

Outside the halls o’statues our tour guy stopped at a big board that showed the pictures of the Sistine Chapel.  He used this to explain what Michelangelo did and why it is considered the crowning achievement of his life.  He of course explained all the scenes in addition to “The Last Judgment” which appears behind the altar in the chapel.  He literally talked non-stop for about 20 minutes; I didn’t know it was even possible to talk that long without taking a break or pausing.  After his explanation, he asked if we had any questions.  After a moment of silence, with everyone taking in what he said, one guys said one word that summed up what we were all thinking: “wow.”

After that we got to tour more of the museum, which included a few rooms painted by Raphael, a room filled with painted maps of Italy, a room filled with tapestries and a collection of modern art.  This of course was building up to the moment when we finally got to enter the Sistine Chapel.  It was breathtaking.  The ceiling was a lot higher than I expected and I couldn’t get over that Michelangelo painted it with such detail to the point where it was absolutely perfect.  He painted that ceiling for 4 years as paint and crushed up glass was raining down on his eyes while he painted.  Now that is dedication.  “The Last Judgment” was also incredible.

The only bad thing about the chapel was that you weren’t allowed to take pictures or videos and you were to remain quiet, as it’s a holy place; they had three guards to keep the peace.  About every three minutes you would hear a guard cry out, in a stereotypical Italian accent, “no photo.  No video.”  If you were lucky enough you would hear on the PA system (in six languages) that basically said to shut your trap.  Even though I’m not a religious person these two things really took away from the atmosphere of the chapel.  People, you’re looking at one of greatest accomplishments of humanity, can you stay silent for five minutes and just appreciate it?

After that tour we went to Saint Peter’s Square to see St. Peter’s Basilica.  I can’t even begin to describe how impressive the basilica is nor do my pictures do it justice.  It’s just one of those things that you have to see in person to fully appreciate. 

After we left St. Peter’s Square it started raining, to my displeasure.  All I was thinking was “why does it always have to rain when I take a weekend trip somewhere?”  Anyway, we continued on our way in the rain to Castel Sant’Angelo and walked around the city for the rest of the day.

On Sunday we were both dead tired but we still managed to walk around the city.  We walked over to Piazza di Spagne, Plaza of Spain.  Besides wanting to go there to see the really cool Spanish embassy that’s also where the Spanish Steps are.  There’s nothing too special to them except that they are the most famous steps in all of Rome.  Then there was Piazza Novana, which is the plaza where you can see’s Bernini’s most famous fountain Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers).  One thing that I absolutely loved about Rome was all the cool fountains.  They were each incredibly detailed and stunning.  After that, we tried to go into Santa Maria della Vittoria, a church featured in Dan Brown’s Angel’s and Demons but as soon as we got there some friar shooed us out of the church and then locked the door.  I guess visiting time was up…

The trip was an amazing experience; it was definitely a lot better than Paris IMHO.  Here are some last thoughts about Rome.
  1. Italian: I had an easier time reading and listening to Italian than I did with French.  First of all, a lot of Italian words look a lot like Spanish so I was able to deduce a majority of the words I came across.  In Paris, I could literally stare at words for hours on end and still have no idea what it was saying.  Also, the Italian stereotypes that we have (they talka like this) are not stereotypes, they are true.  Everyone talked that way and I was really surprised by that.  If I knew Italian I wouldn’t have a problem understanding them cause they talked slowly and seemed to annunciate everything.
  2. Cappuccino: Italian coffee is the best I’ve ever had.  It was incredibly rich and there was just the right amount of foam in each cappuccino that I had.  Of, and they drizzle the top of it with bittersweet chocolate.  I was in heaven.
  3. Narrow Streets: All of old Rome was like the Gothic Quarter in BCN: narrow streets and cobblestone streets.  I absolutely loved it.
  4. Italian crosswalks: The lines to cross the street do exist but actual cross walks are far and few.  As a result, in order to cross the street you literally have to walk in front of traffic and hope that they don’t hit you.  I felt like I was playing Frogger but at the end I got pretty good; I would walk in front of the cars confidently and without fear.
  5. We came up with several catchphrases during the trip, the first being “no photo” from the guards in the Sistine Chapel.  The second one came as we were walking in Piazza Novana.  A guy comes up to us with a looped string and tried to tie it around my finger (“Finger please”).  We continued walking, ignoring what was probably some sort of scam.  As we're walking away he says in a very funny voice “what, no finger?”  The final one comes from John's Italian-English translator app that was apparently sponsored by Fiat 500 because a lot of the phrases seemed to promote that car.  For example, under the “essentials” section next to useful phrases such as “Do you speak English” was a phrase that made me laugh: “I would like to buy a Fiat 500.”  Never mind if you need to know how to yell out "help!" in Italian, the most important thing was locating Fiat dealership, hilarious.  A couple of other comical phrases: “Thanks, it’s a Fiat 500” “Can I take a picture next to your Fiat 500” and “We should be driving a Fiat 500” 
Como siempre, you can view my photos here.  I’m off to Valencia (the 3rd largest city in Spain) for the weekend, so next week you can look for a blog post about that and also one about my host family (as I realized that I haven’t described my living situation yet!)


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spanish a La Calle (Parte 1)

The day I arrived in Spain, I came into contact with colloquial Spanish; that's to say, the Spanish they don't teach you in high school.  Here are just some of those expressions/slang that I like or that I found comical.

Cool expressions/words
  • Rompecabezas: Puzzles, from the Spanish words romper (to break) and cabeza (head).  I did learn this word in high school and it’s probably one of my favorite Spanish words.
  • Comer la cabeza: Loosely translates “to eat your head.”  It’s means "to persuade someone."  
  • Ser mi media naranja: Translates to “to be my half orange.”   It’s used to say “he/she is my better half.”  
  • La peña: Your group of friends.  However your best friend(s) is called un/a colega.
  • Ñoño: Silly, used in a teasing way, as in “no seas ñoño” (don’t by silly).  By far my favorite Spanish word because it has double  ñ’s!. 
  • Pijo: A snob. 
  • Chulo: cocky, arrogant
  • Cuesta la cuesta: Translates to "costs the hill."  It's just something you say when you're walking/climbing up a steep hill.
  • Pip-pip (prounced peep-peep): it’s the sound they make for horns.  I find it funny because we say “beep-beep” and the only thing separating a “p” sound from a "b” sound is that the vocal cords vibrate when making a “b” sound (sorry, the linguistics nerd is coming out in me…)
  • Hacer pipi: As shown above, the Spanish “i” is pronounced like the English “ee.”  Knowing that, say the Spanish word pipi.  Hacer pipi means “to go pee” (literally “to make pee”).  
  • ¡De puta madre!: How young people say “awesome”
  • ¡Hombre!: Means “man” but it’s used to express surprise or “hey look,…….”  For example, you haven’t seen your best friend from high school years and then one day you pass him on the street.  “¡Hombre!, ¿cuánto tiempo ha pasado en no verlo?” (Hombre, how long has it been since I’ve seen you?)  Or let’s say that you’re discussing something with a friend and they say something that you think is incorrect or don’t agree with: “Hombre, no creo que sea esa” (hombre, I don’t think that’s it). Although it literally means “man” it’s used between man-women and women-women in addition to man-man.  You will hear this word all the time.
  • Vale: Spanish version of "ok."  You will use this all the time.

Caution, the following expression are either vulgar or contain content of a sexual nature (mind you, I did learn some of these words in my Spanish language class over here...)  I figured that some of you would get a kick out of learning some of these words, so I'll put them here and you do with them what you want to.  If you are offended by such material, please close your web browser and wait for my next post.

  • Hacer un pis: Literally “to make a piss), but of course it means “to take a piss.”  I laughed so hard the first time Arantza said this (“¿¡Qué has dicho Arantza!?”)
  • Tener culo quadrado: Translates to "to have a square ass."  It's used to describe the feeling when you've been in a chair too long.  Again, gracias a Arantza for that one.
  • Tener una aventura: Transaltes to “to have an adventure.”  It’s used to describe cheating on your spouse, but in the sense that it was only a one-night stand.  However, if you have a lover, then the expression would be tener un/una amante (to have a lover).
  • Amigo con derecho a roce: Loosely translates to “a friend with the right to touch.” It means friends with benefits.
  • Pechuga: Normally it's used to describe the breast of an animal, like pechuga del pollo (chicken breast).  However, it's also used to describe a woman's large rack.
  • Echar un polvo: Loosely translates to “to expel dust.”  In Spain, it’s used to say that you’ve had sex with someone, though I've found that the verb follar is much more common. 
  • Joder: Spain’s f-word.  The word is very interesting to me because it can be used in the infinite form to express surprise/anger/disbelief/astonishment and it can also be used regularly in its verb form.  For example, you’re climbing up a steep mountain and you still have a lot to climb: joder.  You’re describing to a Spaniard that you can’t walk around certain parts of Toledo wearing a certain color because of gangs and the Spaniard responds: joder.  You find out that you’re wife is “echando un polvo” with the milkman: ¡JODER!  Of course, only use this around people you are very close with.
Of course, I will update this list when I come into contact with some more cool expressions and sayings, probably towards the end of my trip (a day I don't want to think about right now).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cava, Gaudí and Sitges: Just Another Week in Catalunya

Well life is really starting to pick up here in BCN.  My classes are taking up a lot of my time, I’ve been busy planning weekend trips (Rome is this Friday through Sunday!), and my homework is starting to pile up.  But of course, I have time for a quick blog update!

Update 1 - School: Classes are going decently.  My Spanish language class if by far my favorite because it’s a really small class (only 16 of us), the teacher is very helpful and chill at the same time, and the classroom dynamics are perfect.  For example, on Tuesday we had to imagine that a nuclear bomb destroyed the world and that there was only enough room for 13 of us in the shelter.  Therefore, we had to explain (in Spanish of course) what characteristics and experience we can bring to the table to rebuild civilization.  I started off saying that I’m a psych major and that I will be able to help everyone with emotional problems to which some other girl responded with “well I’m a psych major too, my parents are psychiatrists and I’ve studied mediation techniques and yoga.”  My teacher asked me if I had a response to that.  I knew that I could not compete with that, so I tried to respond with humor: “um……¿adiós?” 

Although my Catalan class is fairly difficult, I’m still enjoying it because I’m learning the language of the land and it’s a great conversation starter with my host mom (she always asks me what I did in my Catalan class when I come home).  However, it’s requiring me to forget years of what I learned in Spanish in order to pronounce the vowels correctly.  Catalan vowels are reduced when they are not in they are not in the stressed syllable, unlike Spanish where all the vowels have their full value.  For example, casa is both Spanish and Catalan for “house,” but they are pronounced differently: [] versus [ka.zə].  To make things more confusing, Catalan also has 3 more vowels than Spanish.  Catalan also has a difficult sound for the double l and of course it’s in a lot of their words (llum, Lluís, lliure ect..)  I just have to keep on reminding myself that once again I’m learning a new language and it took me awhile to get a good grip on Spanish.  With time and practice I’ll become better at Catalan.

In addition to learning Catalan, the class is also meant to teach us about the Culture of Catalunya.  So far we talked about La Mercè (which of course I got to experience first hand) and a popular folk song about a midget "Patufet."  The jist of the story is that he's this tiny tiny kid who has to sing this song so that no one will step on him.  It rains one day so he has to under a leaf to keep dry.  However, a cow devours him and the leaf in one gulp.  Since it's a story meant for kids it has a happy/funny end: the cow farts and Patufet flies out to freedom.  Here's the video we watched in class it's actually pretty funny and it has a catchy chorus ("Patim patam patum, homes i dones del cap dret, patim patam patum, no trepitgeu en Patufet")

My other two classes are going well too.  We’ve talked about the 2nd Republic and Franco’s dictatorship in my Spanish politics class and about the Roman Barcelona (Barcino) in my History of Barcelona class.  Apparently, Plaça de Sant Jaume was the center of the Roman city (the forum) and now I can walk through the plaza next time appreciating it a little bit more.

Update 2 - Exploring Barcelona: Since I don’t have Friday classes (score!) it gives me an opportunity to either travel or explore BCN.  Since I didn’t have a trip planned this weekend, we decided to explore some of Gaudí’s creations.  We went inside of Sagrada Familia to find out that the inside is pretty bare.  The ceiling and columns were exquisite, but there was no interior décor, like pews or altars.  We did decide to take the elevator up to one of the towers of the church and it was worth every euro to go up.  Not only did you get a great view of church but also great views of BCN.

Next up was Casa Batlló, which I have to say was kind of disappointing for 14€.  I mean the inside was really well designed, but the rooms were completely bare with no furniture.  I went in expecting to see an actual house with stuff it, but nope.  The roof was kind of cool though; it was like La Pedrera but only more colorful.

Update 3 - Exploring Catalunya: On Satuday, ISA took us on an excursion to Cordníu winery and Sitges.  The winery is famous for producing cava, Catalunya’s champagne (they can’t call it champagne for copyright reasons).  The tour of the place was really cool.  It included going down to the cellar to see miles and miles of wine/cava just chilling there.  We got to ride on a cart that reminded me of something Disney World would have, but it was so much better.  We got to go through the cellar and see how much wine and cava was actually there.  Afterwards, we got to try two types of cava: a white and rose kind.  Yeah, everyone was much more talkative and alive after that cava tasting, haha.

We then continued on our way to Sitges, a little town in Catalunya on the Mediterrean coast.  The town was very pretty, it reminded me of los pueblos blancos (white towns) of Andalucía.  However, if you weren’t there to party or to soak up some sun on the beach there’s not to do.  It’s probably much more fun at night, but during the day it’s kind of a snooze.  Literally, I think we walked from one end of the town to the other end in less than an hour. 

As always, my photo albumns are updated.  This one includes random pictures of Barcelona (including La Boquería!)  in addition to Cordníu/Sitges and the other one is an updated version of Gaudí’s Barcelona.  Check back midweek for a post about some cool Spanish phrases (including the Spanish spoken on the street…) and next Monday/Tuesday for my post about Rome.  Until then, I’ll see you when I see ya!

Monday, October 4, 2010


I just took my first weekend Paris.  Yes, it was beautiful.

My flight in Barcelona was delayed an hour so I eventually got into Paris-Charles de Gaulle at around midnight.  I spent the weekend with a friend who’s studying in London for the semester. Since it was really late at night when we arrived, we had to take a taxi to our hostel.  Right away, a language barrier was present.  The taxi driver didn’t speak English or Spanish, so my friend had to communicate with what French he did know.  We get to the hostel at around 1 in the morning and go to our room to find that we have a 60-year old Australian roommate.  That kind of struck me, because I thought hostels were mainly for people my age, but I guess anyone can rent room, lol.

We were both hungry so we found a local place that was still open.  Right away, the cook at the counter knew that we didn’t speak French and he just started smiling.  My friend asked him if he spoke Spanish, and he said that he spoke it but not very well.  He asked if we were from Madrid and I said “no, I’m from Barcelona,” to which he responded “MESSI!!!!”  It was so funny and we all just bursted out laughing.  The entire time we were waiting for our food he would keep on naming off Spanish and Barcelona football players.  It was a very funny experience, and I guess it’s good to know that I can pass for a Spaniard, lol.

Friday, we decided that the first thing we need to see in Paris was the Eiffel Tower.  We finally got to it and it was so much more impressive in person than it is in pictures.  I used to think, “Oh the Eiffel Tower, it’s just a big piece of iron,” I didn’t really understand why people use to go gaga over it; now I understand why.  I couldn’t stop staring at the damn things, it was so mesmerizing.  The tower seemed to follow you everywhere in the city because you would look up and be like “oh, there’s that tower again.”  After the Tower, we then just strolled through Paris, looking at beautiful buildings that neither of us knew what they were. 

However we eventually made it to a spot that we knew very well, the Louvre.  It is ridiculously big, I had no idea that one museum could hold so much art.  We actually visited it on Saturday and we literally spent about 7 hours there and I’m pretty sure that we didn’t see everything.  However we did get to see the most famous lady in the world, the Mona Lisa.  She was protected behind bulletproof glass and you couldn’t get within 5 yards of her.  It was something to see with my own eyes and that alone was worth the price of admission.  Some other highlights from the museum were Venus of Milo, Napoleon’s apartment and the Code of Hammurabi.

We also visited Notre Dame on Friday.  It was a very impressive cathedral and we made the wise decision of climbing to the top of the cathedral in addition to going inside of it.  The view of Paris from the top was absolutely precious, even though it decided to rain.  You got to see a lot of the gargoyles and I just loved looking at each and every one of them. 

We also made our way up Champs-Élysées (an extremely ritzy avenue) up to the Arc de Triomphe.  The walk up there really sucked cause it was raining and it only continued to get stronger as the night went on.  By the time we got back to the hostel, both our sweatshirts were soaking wet, as was every other article clothing we were wearing.  However, Saturday turned out to be a much better day.

After the day at the Louvre on Saturday, we went out night with two girls from our hostel, an American and German.  It was such a fun night, we went to see Moulin Rouge, the famous cabaret that was the birthplace of the can-can.  We didn’t go in though because a show it costs close to 80€ to see a show…Later, we headed to the Eiffel Tower to watch the light show.  At every hour on the dot, the Tower sparkles as if millions of diamonds are reflecting the light of the city.  In actuality, the Tower has 20,000 light bulbs that keep the show running for at least a good 10 minutes.  It was the perfect way to end my time Paris.

Here are some things I noticed about Paris (some in comparison with Barcelona)
  1. Lots of gold: Seriously, the whole city was filled with bling bling.  It was on bridges.  It was on statues.  It was on rotunda of buildings.  I was in shock that they just have actual gold on public monuments.
  2. You need money: Paris is very expensive.  Walking down streets most meals cost about 13-15 Euros while in Spain I can get 3 plates of tapas for that much. You need to bring a lot of money to Paris if you want to eat decently, and it’s definitely not meant for students on a budget.
  3. Police: After my trip I found out that the US issued a travel advisory to Americans in Europe, which explained why the whole city was crawling with French SWAT.  All the major attractions had groups of 3-5 SWAT guys walking around in full uniform, some with machine guns.  They were definitely on high alert and I was a little bit paranoid when I saw 10 cop cars fly down the street with sirens a blazing.
  4. Architecture: All the buildings in Paris pretty much looked the same; they were all constructed with the same style.  It was very pretty to look at, but I prefer the diversity of architecture (Gothic, Modernism ect) in Barcelona.
  5. Quiet atmosphere: Just walking through the streets or riding on the metro I noticed that it’s a lot quieter here than in Barcelona.  We were riding the metro at 1am on Saturday and literally no one was talking.  In Barcelona, the metro is crowded with groups of young Spaniards talking loudly, laughing and having a good time.  Everyone just seemed a little bit more subdued in Paris.  I’m not judging or anything, it was probably the thing that stood out the most for me.      
Although it was a very nice city to visit I could never live there.  First of all, I don’t know the language (parlez vous an…do you speak English?”), it’s ridiculously expensive and I love living in Catalunya too much.  That being said, I'm glad I made the trip up there and it was a really good experience.

Until the next time, au revoir Paris! (pictures can be viewed here)