Thursday, June 30, 2011


Made it to Valencia! Yesterday we spent several hours in the train station to get reservations on a Valencia-bound train because we were told that the trains get crowded but I'm not sure we needed to since there were some empty seats on the train but it helped to get a feel for the station and be more prepared so we didn't have to rush around.

After the train we wandered around Madrid's botanical garden and then had dinner with our friend Jenna who we met at the begining of our stay in Madrid. This morning we were up early to say goodbye to the first city in our European adventure. It was such a beautiful city with nice people and a lot to see and hopefully I will go back someday. The trip went smoothly right down to the train itself, which you could barely feel move. It was a high speed train so it only took about an hour and a half to get to Valencia.

We decided to stay in some accomodations to take a break from hostel life. We are renting a room in a man's apartment, which sounds sketchy but he had great reviews so we went for it. He met us at the station, gave us maps and a "welcome pack" which includes snacks, and seems very nice. The room is big and its nice to be able to put our stuff in drawers and not have to climb a ladder to get to the bed. As nice as the space is I will miss the hostel. There were always people there to talk to and the free tour and other events made it easy to get to know the city. Still, we walked around a bit after our host went back to work and the city seems really nice and, thankfully, cooler (in the tempurature sense) than Madrid. Turns out the apartment we are in is in China Town (or Japan Town, can't be sure).
I'm sure there will be more for me to say about Valencia tomorrow when we are planning to go to the beach or walk to the historical city center or the art academy. Until then here are some pictures from the apartment!

The washing machine on the balcony. I am weirdly excited to line dry oir clothes on the lines that hang off the side of the balcony!
Michelle on the bed in our room.


As you might know there have been some big protests in Spain. Our tour guide, Pablo explained that the economy here is really bad and unemployment is extremely high so they want the government to pass some reforms to improve the situation. At first the protest consisted of more and more people congregating in la Puerta del Sol, one of the largest plazas in Madrid. Pablo said there was a big sense of community at the demonstrations and that people would bring their own food and water to give out to the protestors who were planning on staying all night. There are no longer rally every night. Instead the protestors have set up a camp made out of scrap wood, cardboard, tarps, and blankets. The huts are covered in signs, artwork, and photos of the original protests which feature a lot of Guy Fawkes masks. I'm not entirely sure what the activists do in the huts all day but it looks cool and it's interesting how the protest has evolved.

The more protest-y picture is from a protest we walked by one day. Unfortuantely I couldn't understand what they were saying but based on the signs we could read they were protesting for freedom in Syria.
Man painting the mural at the protest in Sol
One of the protest huts. The sign is Spanish for food or nutrition.
The protestors demonstrating for Syria.
Photos from the initial protests.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


As promised here are some pictures of Toldeo. Mostly we were just wandering so I don't really know what a lot of the the buildings are but a lot of them a homes and there are also images of the cathedral. I took a lot of pictures but I'm still having some technical difficulties so hopefully I can add more later.

Un dia en la Mancha

Michelle and I went to Toledo yesterday. It's a beautiful old city on a hill about an hour south of Madrid. It ix the capital of the Castile-La Mancha region and thus full of Don Quixote statues and souvineers. We did a pretty good job navigating the metro and hus systems if I do say so myself, although we did have some good instructions given by one of our dormmates. There isn't much to do in Toledo other than some old cathedrals and museums, all of which you have to pay for so mostly we just wandered around looking at the old architecture, visiting shops full of swords and Don Q paraphernalia, and playing a game that I like to call Try Not to Die of Heat Stroke and Sun Exposure. We won. In spite of the heat, I loved the city and am glad we made the trip.

Last night we finally made it on the hostel's tapas tour. For nine euro the guide took us to three restaurants to sample the tapas and drinks that they specialize in. We started at a microbrewery that served a good beer and bread with a bunch of different toppings. Mine was tomato and cheese and it was delicious. The next place was too small for our large group so we stood outside while they brought us sangria and a bunch different dishes such as chees with salami and Spanish tortilla which is potato cooked with egg and onion like a fritatta. The last restaurant served hard, bitter cider which was good but I didn't eat anything because the only veggie tapa necer made it to us. After the tour I was too tired by a long day in the sun to go out. Just read and talked to my family.

As usual I will post pictures of the tour when I can get it to work!


Monday, June 27, 2011

French Fries are not Traditional Spanish Food

Haven't posted in a couple days. We've been seeing the sites and trying to survive the heat. Saturday we went to the Reina Sophia, a museum that features mostly modern art by Spanish artists. There was a lot of work by Dali and Picasso including Guernica, one of Picassos's most famous murals which depicts his views on war. I had seen the painting before in art history but in person the scale made it seem so different and much more powerful. In the same room as the painting was a series of photographs taken at different stages of the paintings production and the gallery next to it was full of composition studies and other process work that Picasso did while preparing for the final piece. Since we focus so much on process work at school it was nice to see the steps it took to make such a massive painting. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I have nothing to show for this museum outing.

We tried to get traditional Spanish food for dinner by heading into a small local restaurant but we accidentally ordered fench fries so that didn't work out that well. Should have paid more atetention during the Food unit in Spanish class. We took it easy Saturday night and just took a walk around the city, getting ourselves lost in the process and only finding our way back after asking an unhelpful cop and a very helpful waiter for help.

Sunday we went to the Prado which has older, more traditional wk than the Reina Sophia. It was a beautiful building with tons to look at although after a while the paintings and sculptures began to seem a little redundant. We did stumble on Las Meninas by Velazquez which we didn't even kniw was there. It's weird wandering into a random gallery and stumbling into such a wll known painting.

Today we were planning on taking a day trip to Toledo , the origianl capital of Spain but we overslept and decided to go tomorrow instead. We ended up at the palace which was cool. Very ornate with carved ceilings and brocade covering pretty much every surface. It was so hot today that on the way there and back we had to keep stopping to dunk our feet in fountains or get water. I'm definitely buying one of those cheesy fans from the next street vendors who offers.

Tonight is another night in for us both. We have become engrossed in the Hunger Games series. I started reading them Saturday afternoon and am already on number three. But don't worry, I'm not so obsessed that I've stopped leaving the hostel to see the city! I'm still enjoying exploring Madrid and practicing my Spanish. It's not great but I can communicate pretty well. It's possible that that's mostly due to my frantic arm gesturing than my actual grasp of the language but I like to think I'm getting better. I have had ample opportunity too practice the phrase "No, gracias." I have been deploying it constantly since we got here and began to be approached constantly by club promoters and guys selling beer on the streets out of plastic bags. Because plastic bag beer isn't sketchy at all!

Since I forgot my camera at the Reina Sophia and the Prado and the palace don't allow cameras I have very little photographic evidence of my presence in Spain for the last few days. Promise to take it to Toledo tomorrow!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Picture 2

The Royal Palace

Fun facts: Thee palace is located on the site of the Royal Alcazar which was built by the Moors when they controlled Spain. When a new king from France came in to power he thought the Alcazar was ugly and wanted to build a Western style palace. When the people of Madrid protested having this landmark destroyed the king threw a huge party outside the city for Christmas Eve and invited everyone for free food and drinks. When they returned they found that the Alcazar had been burned to the ground. It's unconfirmed but I think the king did it...obviously.

Old School Music and the Shocking Truth About Hostels

I was going to end with this but I thought I would tell you the shocking truth about hostels so you don't spend the entire time you read this thinking that our mattresses are full of crack or something (that's what you were thinking right?). The real truth is that cheap European hostels, or at least this cheap European hostels, are nicer than my house in Cincinnati. Shocked right? Ok nicer might not be the right word but the showers are much bigger than mine, the kitchen is huge, the bathrooms and dorms are cleaned daily, and there is breakfast every morning. Also none of the windows have bullet holes. Fancy, right? On a less fancy note, the top bunk I'm sleeping in requires some serious ninja moves to get out of and the doors of the showers are see-through. But hey, you can't have everything.

Thursday night we went out with our new hostel friends and  Anna and Sue, friends from school who are studying in Madrid. We went on a pub crawl which seems to be the thing to do here in Spain. For 5-10 euro you get a guide to some good (and some not-so-good) bars and discotecas where you get free cover and, usually, a free drink. Not a bad deal for someone on a budget. This brings me to the old school music mentioned in the title. The music in the discotecas is half 90s music, half old singles from current artists. My personal favorite was a mix of Aretha Franklin's RESPECT with the beat of LMFAOs Shots. Might sound bad/sacrilegous but it was one of the the greatest things I've ever heard.

Slept in yesterday and then mostly just hung out, walked around a little, and bought burner phones. In another budget-friendly move we made our own pasta for dinner before heading out for the night. Came back a little earlier and managed to be up for breakfast.

Next stop: the Reina Sophia. More on that tomorrow!

Picture 1

I'm having trouble posting images so I'm going to try it one image at a time. If this works maybe I'll start giving little snapshots of the trip, one picture a day. First up, to give a general idea of the city, is a standard street in Madrid. Fun fact: the king of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid in one day with no prior planning. That night the king and his family slept comfortably in the Royal Alcazar, a fortress built by the Mores but all of the nobles had nowhere to stay so they slept in the streets.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Madrid: Day 2

So this post was supposed to come from my blogger app and contain pictures but my apps seem to be struggling with the wifi so here I am rewriting it sanspictus because the blogger website doesn't seem to want to post them. Maybe the app will suddenly work and you can read the same basic post twice. Lucky you. If not I promise to keep trying so you can see some pictures.

Today we did a walking tour of Madrid. Its free and a bunch of other people from my hostel and a couple others went so I got to kmow a couple new people which is always nice. Our guide was funny and knew a ton about Madrid which was impressive especially since he is from Argentina. It was a fun tour and a great way to get oriented in the city (sort of) but at three hours it was a lot of walking.

After the tour we went to a resturant which featured authentic (I think) Spanish food for pretty cheap. We struggled with reading the menu even after we got the English version. I ended up ordering a "toast" with "toast vegetables jump with goat cheese." As you can imagine I was disappointed to find that the vegetable weren't so much jumping with the vegetables as sitting under them on some bread but ittasred good and it was my first real meal since before I got on the plane so I can't complain.

More on Madrid (and hopefully some pictures) later! Adios!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Greetings from Madrid!

Finally in Madrid after a long plane ride of watching Country Strong and trying to choke down plane food. The combination of jetlag and anxiety is not agreeing with my stomach and crusty lettuce wasn't helpful. Other than that everything went pretty smoothly. I was momentarily struck with terror when I hit 30 minutes of watching the same six bags that were not mine spin around the luggage terminal but my bag came eventually of course and all was well. We had trouble finding the hostel. Had great direction for the metro but forgot to figure out what to do when we got that worked out about as well as you might imagine. We asked some lovely old men at a fish booth who rambled at us in rapid Spanish that we couldn't understand but their pointing got us headed in the right direction. We made it eventually, waited around for a couple hours to get checked in, and took some long awaited showers and naps.

More later! Adios!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy father's day!

It may seem strange for my first post on my travel blog to be about my dad, who is not travelling with me but today my dad proved to be more than a little helpful in helping me prepare for my trip. He helped me get my tablet up and running so I can stay connected while roaming around Europe and he put up with my rage when I couldn't figure out how to get pictures from camera tablet! We figured it out with a little help from the geek squad and now I can this blog up and running! Thanks dad for being a champ! You are the best even when I am being a pain!

(Thanks also to my awesome mom who has been keeping me fed, organized, and calm and my sister for being awesome as well!)

Check out these pics of my dad...hopefully I will figure out how to rotate pictures on here!