Saturday, January 31, 2009


This is Mazapan. Toledo is famous for it. It looks like bread...but tastes nothing like it. It is basically pure sugar. One bite did me in! It is made in all shapes and sizes such as different fruits and even 2 foot tall castles. It was incredible to look at...not so yummy to eat. Toledo is also famous for its swords. All of the Lord of the Rings swords came from here! It is also famous for damascene: the art of decorating steel with gold, silver and copper thread. It is beautiful (there is a lot of Roman, Moorish and Jewish influence in Toledo) but save your nickels for it!
We wandered around for 2 days shopping and site seeing. This city is full of winding streets that are literally a maze. They are so narrow, yet to our surprise cars still drove through them (not slowly either!) MANY times we found ourselves scrambling for a doorway or plastering ourselves against a wall to avoid being killed. It was so fun just getting lost.

I could spend ages describing this place. Toledo. The entire city sits on top of a Castilian hilltop. It is surrounded by a river on three sides. It is the religious center of Spain. There was an incredible cathedral here (well several really) The burial place of Greco is here. There were monasteries and synagogues all over. I absolutely loved it! On our way there we made a little side detour to Aranjuez to visit a palace. This palace had a porcelain room which was like nothing I've ever seen before. (unfortunately we couldn't take pictures!) Apparently there is a small building around back that the Queen loved to go to and pretend to be a peasant like Marie Antoinette.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The first time Spain tastes no-bake cookies

So maybe it wasn't the first time Spain has tasted no-bake cookies...but it was the first time Luisa tasted them! It was so fun! Almost everyday us three girls watch our favorite "cocinero" on the TV while we eat lunch. He is our favorite because he laughs at all of his own jokes and breaks out in full song throughout the program. For weeks we've been talking about making no-bake today became the day! We introduced peanut butter to her the other day (luckily Lara my roommate had brought some from back home-thanks Lara!) We have found only ONE place in all of Alcala that sells it!
We had a blast cooking together (and trying to convert the measurements into the metric system...) I wish I could have filmed Luisa's reactions to everything- they were priceless! When she gets excited about something she makes this noise with her mouth (I don't know if it's typical of Spain or not...) but it sounds like this: oyoyoyoyoyoy (but say it really fast) It is hilarious! Me and Lara laugh about it all the time...and it has become a part of our own vocabulary.
(Luisa trying the warm no-bake mix. With wide eyes and a big grin she said: "No me gusta, no no no. ME ENCANTA!!")

Sunday, January 25, 2009


This was probably my favorite experience of the whole weekend. Paella de Marisco. Valencia is famous for its we couldn't leave without getting a taste of it! We got a tip from another student in our group about this restaurant. There are several types of Paella...but we had to go for the seafood version. I have been exposed to tons of seafood...but not all of the ingredients that made up this dish. It consisted of: Mussels, shrimp, these mini lobster-like things, squid and octopus. Everything is still in-tact (eyes, legs, tails, etc.) I had a healthy serving and once I removed the less than desirable parts...I loved it!
Valencia is also known for its Horchata...naturally...we found an Horchateria and gave it a try too. It isn't like the Mexican Horchata I've had before...but it was fabulous.
Also, Valencia is home to one of the largest markets in the world. It is only open in the mornings but it is FULL of stands selling fresh fruits, nuts, meats, breads, etc. We took advantage of the fresh fruit for our Saturday morning breakfast. The clementines are to die for here!
On my facebook I have about a million pictures of this place...but I couldn't get over it. This is an arts and science museum. It houses a huge aquarium and so much more. Being poor students we had to bypass this one...but one day I'll get back to it.
As big as this city really had a peaceful feeling to it! (At least the old part did) We stayed out as long as possible enjoying the warm weather, sights and sounds.
There were these two towers that looked like mini castles overlooking the old part of the city. We climbed to the top and spent way too much time taking pictures of the quaint streets. The city was full of incredible architecture, the museums were fabulous...and we dipped our toes in the Mediterranean!
This weekend we had a free weekend, so we planned a trip to Valencia! It is SW of Madrid, right along the coast. After a 51/2 hour train ride (the same rickety train as the one to Cuenca) we arrived in the 3rd largest city of Spain. We made our way to our sleeping accomodations- the Indigo Youth Hostel. This was my first time staying in a hostel! It wasn't half bad. Luckily, I was sharing a room only with girls from my group...others were less unfortunate and had to put up with travelers who hadn't showered in dddayyyyssss.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's in the White House!

It has been so interesting watching the news over here. (The TV is on during every meal-and most of the time it is about Madonna or American politics) I think that the presidential election was bigger over here than it was in the states!

Tonight the International Hotel in Madrid was hosting a party for Americans and Spaniards who wanted to watch the inauguration. The room was packed with English speakers (not just from the U.S.) This was a little weird for me to hear English coming out of so many mouths! They had live jazz music and tv's all over the place. Seeing the White House and D.C. on the TV made me realize for the first time just how far away I am from the states! It was so fascinating to watch not only the American citizens in that room, but the Spanish citizens as well who were celebrating this historical event. There were cameras from local news chanels all over the fact tonight as we sat for dinner in front of the TV and watched the re-run of the event we saw a couple of the guys who were with us standing awkwardly in the background.

On a side note: I ate anchovies for dinner last night. It was weird.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


An example of what was lining the narrow streets. Not far from here we ate at a little restaurant. We all decided to try Zarajos (a very traditional dish of Cuenca) also known as...lamb intestine. Yes. I tried it. Probably never again.
We walked up above the city...and the view was incredible. Getting up here we walked through all of the little side alley's, on old cobble-stone streets. Pictures just don't do this place justice.

We headed for Cuenca early Saturday morning. We watched the sun rise on the 2 1/2 hour train ride. It wasn't the most comfortable ride to say the least, but it was beautiful. The country side was just a sea of golden rolling hills. We finally made it to Cuenca and headed straight for the "old city." This picture is of what we found. "The hanging houses." It is what Cuenca is most famous for. These houses are litterally hanging off a cliff! As of late it was turned into a modern art museum.

We went to the Prado on Friday. I was overwhelmed. There is a term we throw around which is "sensory overload." You can literally only spend a couple hours at a time in a museum or see so many cathedrals in one day. Eventually you just can't take in any more! The prado (along with so many other places) could be visited 10 times and it still wouldn't be enough. I've come to know better some incredible artists such as Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Picaso...etc. At the Prado we saw so many famous masterpieces such as Goya's "Saturn" (it's a little disturbing), "The 2nd of May," and "The 3rd of May." Afterwards I sat outside in the sun, eating the Bocadilla my madre had made and listened to a man playing the Spanish guitar. It was ideal. Later that day we discovered the Parque del Buen Retiro (similar to NY Central Park) It was beautiful. Something I've noticed here is that EVERYONE dresses their dogs. They all wear sweaters! I found a guy sitting under a tree playing what looked like a didgeridoo, random...but I loved it all the same.
We found the temple the other day! Unfortunately it was overcast...but I'll get more pictures soon! We go to institute in Alcala...which is amazing. I look forward to it every week. This last week Brother Lopez said something that I loved. We were talking about the importance of keeping a journal... he said, "If you sit down one day and have nothing to write about...1 day is gone...then 2 days...20 days...gone. Eventually, you have not lived." Being here in Spain is a goal I've had for a long time and an unforgettable experience. I have the opportunity to keep these memories forever if I record them down, which I am doing. Meticulously!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Everyday it gets better!

The other day we went into Madrid to go to the Museo de Reina Sofia. This is one of the world's most famous museums for contemporary/modern art. The building itself was a work of art...but the gem of the museum is Picasso's Guernica. It is huge...with so much history and political symbolism. Afterwards, while wandering around...we ran into some mariachi players (I felt like I was in Mexico?) but it was still fun all the same! That day I also tried my first Doner Kebab (a lot like a gyro) It was so good! The food here is great...luckily I haven't had to eat anything too weird!

Despite the cold, we ventured out again. This time we found the Madrid temple. It is gorgeous! I can't wait to take more pictures on a sunny day! After we wandered around Madrid again...visiting another museum with famous works by Goya.

Friday, January 9, 2009 es normal

We woke up this morning to our mama excitedly saying mira! mira! (look! look!) It had snowed over night (not a ton) but for Spain this is rare. She was so excited and ran outside to go take pictures. We had our typical breakfast- either toast or crackers (that are basically cookies) with jam or nutella...and chocolate milk. I miss my oatmeal so much! I basically skip breakfast about a sugar overload! Then we were off for Madrid again. The day was great but slightly cold and wet! We came back to Alcala and went to a Chuerrilla. Ohhh mmyyyy goooddnnnesss. Basically, it is a small cup of pure melted chocolate, and a plate of churros to dip in it. Wow. Intense. A couple of us in the group decided we wanted to learn how to dance and there is a place nearby where we can take Flamenco lessons! I'm pretty sure we're going to sign up asap.


While wandering we found this little beauty. The Palacia Royal. A quaint little home if I do say so. Ha! Well the temperature had dropped to about 3 degrees below freezing so we decided to head back home, but today we were able to actually take a tour through this incredible palace!
We went into Madrid for the first time yesterday. It's only a 30 minute train ride from my home in Alcala. We came up from the metro to the Plaza del Sol...and this is what we saw! We began wandering around in awe of our surroundings! Madrid is HUGE- I'm sure I'll be spending a lot of time there...not to mention the shopping is great! We found monestaries, cathedrals, monuments and (unfortunately) McDonalds. Gross. It is my goal to not eat in one American restaurant while I'm here! There are tons of places to eat, and many of them advertise their food in the one point I found myself looking at a pig (with every part of it in-tact). It was dead of course but the restaurant decided to be humerous and place sun glasses over the pigs eyes...? There were many things I didn't recognize and other things that I think I'll try to avoid. ( giant squids and blood sausage- look it up online or something)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Wow. I've only been here for 2 days but I've quickly realized how there will not be one dull moment here in Spain! It is beautiful. The town of Alcala is very quaint...with sooo much to see. My house is a 10 minute walk in one direction to the train station that takes me right into Madrid, or a 10 minute walk in the other direction to the Universidad de Alcala. It is a beautiful campus with so much history. (it was founded in around 1508). The Plaza de Cervantes sits right in the middle of it which is surrounded by little shops, bakeries and candy stands. The food is host mama cooks us 3 meals a day and they've all been delicious! Last night she made flan but I haven't tasted it yet...definitely looking forward to that. Yesterday after school a couple friends and I went exploring...well it was more like getting lost for about 3 hours but it was a total adventure! Of course, us being Americans, forgot about the siesta time! So everything was closed down! But we ran into some Mormon missionaries from Utah, ha! I'm finally adjusting to the time...sinice I didn't sleep at all on my 10 our fligh to Frankfuhrt and only got 3 hours of sleep the first night, I have been dragging a little. My Spanish is already getting better, it's crazy! My host family speaks a total of 3 English words, and my host mama LOVES to talk so I'm getting some serious practice here, which I love! There is just so much to talk about...simply a blog is just not enough! Today a few of us are probably going to head into Madrid to explore and tomorrow we're going to the Prado! Hopefully some pictures will be coming soon! Hasta luego.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

still trying to get used to this blog thing

Since it has been about 5 months since I last posted anything, I figured I should try and pick this whole blogging thing back up. I feel like I lack in things to write about! Maybe my life is too dull?! Well, due to the fact that...tomorrow... I will be leaving to spend next semester in Spain...perhaps I will have a little more something to write about! I hope you enjoy the updates from a place very far away that I will soon be calling home.