Oh my goodness! It has been almost an entire month since my last post: I am so sorry for leaving you hanging! Since I didn’t travel at all in November, I had been planning on being an incredibly devoted blogger. Unfortunately, life got in the way… well, really my short attention span got in the way- every time I sat down to write a post, a friend would sign onto skype, I would get an invitation to grab coffee, or I would just get distracted by all the amazing things my Google Reader had to offer. But here I am, weeks after Thanksgiving, my birthday, and my trip to Barcelona, ready to fill you in.
1. Thanksgiving, a.k.a “Fakesgiving 2010″
While American Thanksgiving is celebrated on a Thursday, we lucky Language Assistants don’t work on Fridays, so we postponed the festivities to Black Friday. While the date was not traditional, the food was all sorts of North American goodness. For dinner, we had 2 whole chickens (there were no turkeys to be had), stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, salad (with homemade ranch dressing!), broccoli with cheese, bread, olives, deviled eggs, and the ever-important wine. For dessert, we had 2 pumpkin pies, apple crisp, 3 flavors of ice cream, and more wine. In itself, it was an incredible meal, but what made the food even more delicious was how traditional and American it all was. As soon as the food hit my tongue, I felt like I was sitting back at my dining table at home, and if I closed my eyes, it almost felt like my biological family was sitting next to me. I had to say my biological family, because when I opened my eyes, I really did have my adopted Spanish family sitting around me. Everyone was able to come together, offer up food made with love, and cram around a tiny table to enjoy the food and the pleasure of each other’s company, and for a few hours, we all felt like we were in a little bubble of love and homeyness. I was a truly happy camper.
A very full, happy plate
2. My 24th birthday
As my little brother kindly pointed out, I am now officially 1/4 of the way to the age of 96 (thanks buddy). While I may be getting up there in years, that didn’t stop me from acting like a giddy little kid all day long. When my alarm went off, my head popped up from the pillow, and I was ready to go. To be perfectly honest, I am a brat about my birthday: I look forward to the day of me all year long, and though I don’t throw temper tantrums to demand my way, I can’t help but feel like December 1st is the most special day of the year. This year’s birthday did not disappoint. A few minutes before I left for school, my doorbell rang, and I opened the door to find a gigantic box full of goodies that my darling muffins from home had sent me! (Again, Ali, Annie, Ashlea, Casey (and Jack!), and Emily (and Chloe!), thank you so much for being so incredible- I love you all!) I didn’t have time to open it right then, so I had something wonderful to look forward to during my longest day of the week. Even though I didn’t tell anyone at school that it was my birthday, my birthday luck continued and even the brattiest kids behaved themselves that day. I got home from school, and skyped with my parents while opening all my crazy presents from my friends- I felt like I was back at home again! After opening my presents, I went over to Kate and Erin’s apartment, and we made a cake for my birthday- we had people over to their apartment for cake and ice cream before going out for tapas. I had such a great time- almost everyone I adore here in León came out to celebrate. And celebrate we did. My birthday luck continued when I found out that I didn’t have to teach on Thursday, so I could stay out as late as I wanted on my actual birthday (which was of course only 11 pm, Mom and Dad…if you buy that)! I felt so lucky (that seems to be the word of the day) to feel so much love from everyone on my day!
My bed was full of presents from my friends at home
3. Barcelona: my soulmate city
My huevona Erin and I went to Barcelona from December 3rd to December 8th. Incredible. I (almost) don’t have words to describe the wonderful city that I now love ever so dearly. I will try to instill some of my love into this post, but I would also like to say if you ever have the opportunity to visit this miraculous city, don’t hesitate for even a second- jump on that plane as fast as you can. Anyway… enough with the promoting. Back to the story.
We left León on the night of Thursday the 2nd, and after a long bus ride, a long wait in the Madrid airport, and a relatively short flight, we were in Barcelona. On Day 1, we wandered around and got ourselves acquainted with the city. We meandered up and down La Rambla, the avenue where all the buskers perform, and where little tourist and gelato shops are sprinkled ever few feet. We then went to the Gothic quarter, saw the Cathedral (which was neat, but it didn’t hold a candle to León’s Cathedral- there’s that Leonesa pride popping up again), took photos of the Monument to Columbus, ate at the famous market, and did some general sight seeing… I also ate an ear. Yes, you read that correctly. We passed by a smaller market and I decided to be adventurous and try an ear of a pig, called “oreja” in Spanish. As long as I thought about it in Spanish, I was fine. However, Erin then accidentally called it an ear, and I got so incredibly freaked out and nauseated that I wanted to lick the sidewalk just to get the ear out of my mouth. It actually had a great flavor and texture… but it was still an ear. Aside from that strange little occurrence, the first day in Barcelona was quite a success.
A Leonesa with a Lion at the Monument to Columbus
The next day, which will be called Gaudí Day, Erin and I saw everything there was to see by the crazy/genius architect Antoni Gaudí. This man was an architect during the Art Nouveau period, but went above and beyond the definition of the movement with his incredible designs. I had seen pictures of Gaudí’s work before, and I was really only excited to see the buildings because I “had to.” Man, oh man. Where Gaudí is involved, forget the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If photos could really talk, they would turn mute and be completely incapable of expressing how incredibly intricate and amazing his work is. Erin and I went to Casa Batlló, La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera (my personal favorite and the building we went inside), and Parc Güell. Each building has its own charm, but I 100% fell in love with La Pedrera, an old apartment building that is full of curves, open-air courtyards, and sculptures that look like chess pieces (or Sand People buildings from Star Wars, depending on who you ask) scattered across a roof with a beautiful view of the city. I can’t wait to go back to Barcelona with Meagan (Hi Meagan! Look! I’m finally posting a blog and writing about you!) and show her all these masterpieces.
View of La Sagrada Familia from La Pedrera’s roof
The next day, Erin and I were a bit tuckered out from all the architecture, so we spent the day outside, enjoying the City Park (with the Arc de Triomf on one end and the Barcelona Zoo on the other). After wandering around the park and watching adorable little kids chase giant bubbles made by a street performer, we were off to the Picasso Museum (always in search of more culturing!) to wander around and admire another artistic genius. My favorite room in the museum was devoted to Picasso’s adaptations of Las Meninas, a famous Spanish painting. Picasso rendered over 40 new paintings from the 1 famous painting, and they are all incredible. After ooh-ing and ahh-ing for a sufficient amount of time, we wandered around an adorable, artsy neighborhood, El Born, and had a delicious lunch of paella at a cute little hole in the wall. And then, later that night, Erin and I… saw Harry Potter 7! Yes, we’re nerds (and proud of it), and we refused to see it for the first time in dubbed Spanish. Since Barcelona is a bustling city, they offered the movie in English with Spanish subtitles, so our nerd-quest was fulfilled.
Huevonas at the Arc de Triomf
On Day 4, we took things a little easier: we went and played at the beach. It was nice enough out that we could sit on the beach in just light jackets, and I (of course) rolled up my jeans and splashed around in the waves of the Mediterranean until my toes felt like popsicles. We then acted like we were 5 and played on a jungle gym while we waited for the Teleferic to open back up for the afternoon. The Teleferic is a cable car system that was built in the 1930s and that goes across the city. This was an absolutely amazing adventure: it was so mind-boggling to see how big the city is, and to figure out how much of it we had covered in our wanderings.
The view of the bay from the Teleferic
We spent our fifth and final day in Barcelona going to the Futbol Stadium, and then to the Royal Palace and the Montjuic Park. We had been looking forward to going to the FC Barcelona Museum and into the stadium. However, the stadium was closed that day in preparation for the game that night. We didn’t feel like shelling out 20 euros if we couldn’t see the stadium, so we were feeling defeated and getting ready to leave… when we heard screaming. We ran across the parking lot and… the whole team was getting onto their bus after practice! I almost fell over because I was so excited. I got to be a creeper and watch Messi read his newspaper while he waited for the bus to leave. Talk about nerdy excitement. After my heart rate slowed back down to normal, we went to the Montjuic area that houses the old Royal Palace, the Roman Towers, and the Magic Fountains. We were completely awestruck by how beautiful the Palace was. I’ve now seen quite a few castles (how cool is it that I can say that?!?), but I have never seen one as beautiful as the one in Barcelona. I can’t put my finger on it- everything just came together so well to create such a magnificent atmosphere, and Erin and I were (almost) speechless for a few minutes. We climbed the stairs and had a picnic lunch on the top of the Palace steps, looking out over the city while we listened to a man playing his flute for money. Though we had a very simple lunch of cheese on a baguette and a shared Twix bar, it will be a meal that I always remember.
Blissfully sitting on the Palace steps
I had such a fantastic time in Barcelona: not only was it a fun city with oodles to see and do, it was also a city that felt like it was made for me. I hold special places in my heart for cities like Kansas City, Lawrence, and San Francisco, but the more I discovered Barcelona, the more I felt like I had found my city-soulmate. During my time there, it was difficult to imagine ever leaving and going back home. I am so excited to go back there, though I know the more I visit it, the harder it will be to say goodbye to Spain.