Travel forever….

because it teaches you more than a textbook ever will and you learn more about yourself than you could ever expect.

 

Never in a million years could I have ever thought to feel that Toledo would be considered a second home. These past six weeks have flown by and I can’t believe that I’m already back in the good ole USA. I have learned so much about culture, etiquette, friendships, and myself in my short two months here. It will be hard to put these lessons and experiences into words upon my return to the US, but I’ll give it my best shot. No matter how hard people try to understand what I’ve experienced, it will be almost impossible to fully grasp unless they have experienced it.

The hardest part about being back is that people don’t ask me about my experience. They’ll ask the surface questions that seem so materialistic, like “Did you have a good time?”. Well obviously I had a good time, it’s impossible to put in words how you feel about studying abroad. However, they only care about the one word answers, yes or no. They aren’t interested in the what’s, how’s, why’s…it doesn’t aid them in any way to know these facts. I understand why, but I wish that they were interested in what truly happened in my six weeks abroad. Sometimes I feel like I want to shout from the top of the mountains “Listen to me. See how I’ve changed!” And I think that is the most frustrating part. People can take note of physical changes, of alterations in appearance, but they can’t see emotional changes. They can’t see spiritual changes, they can’t see ideology changes, they can’t see changes of opinion…these are something that need to be seen with the mouth and ears, but many people don’t take the time to see them. It’s just another way in which the world we live in is completely and utterly enamored by materialistic things and the appearance of things. Who cares how it got to be the way it is as long as it is pretty, right? Wrong. We should care. We should be interested to see the journeys people have taken, to learn how they have evolved as an individual. But that takes time and effort, two things Americans are prone to not give. As sad as it is, I understand. I understand because I would still be one of them if I hadn’t traveled abroad for six weeks.

To try and sum up all of the experiences I have gained would be time consuming and fruitless, so I have instead decided to name a few things I have learned that I am going to carry with me for the rest of my life:

1. Take the time to enjoy. In America, we are accustomed to the fast paced style of go go go. We rarely ever take time to stop, sit and take in the beauty of every day life. If I have learned anything from my time in Spain it is that it is okay to sit down and eat, to walk at a leisurely pace and to do things at my own pace.

2. Take the time to relax. Similar to the first point, one of my favorite things about Spain was the way that they take the time to relax throughout their day. Not only do they have the “siesta hora”, which is a saving grace from God himself, but they also sit down to eat. In fact, walking and eating is not a thing there, it is actually considered rude depending on what city you are in. Eating hours are used as relaxation periods. The service is never rushed and you are allowed to spend as much time eating, talking and drinking as your heart desires. It definitely makes for a less rushed lifestyle and makes life that much more enjoyable.

3. Explore your surroundings. When you are in a foreign country, people want to go to as many cities as possible. It’s normal, but it also means that people forget to explore the city in which they are staying. There were people who went somewhere every weekend of the five weekends we were studying in Toledo and they never truly explored the historic city. They missed out on some incredible sites and it is something they will probably regret in a while. Take the time to explore the city you get to call home, whether permanently or temporary. Chances are there are some pretty neat things around the corner.

4. Turn your phone off once in awhile. One of my favorite things about studying abroad was the fact that I wasn’t attached to my phone and laptop 24/7. I barely got wifi most of the time and at first it may have been frustrating, but at the end I had grown to love it. It was so nice to actually be in tune with my surroundings and actually SEE what I was looking at. I won’t be disconnected all of the time, because that would make life quite difficult, but I will be taking more time away from my phone, social media, wifi, and laptops. It really does a lot for the mind and soul.

5. Don’t be afraid to go solo. Alone doesn’t mean lonely. Not everyone is going to want to do what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Do what you want to do and don’t let anyone stop you, it could lead to some of the most enlightening experiences of your life. It just so happens that sometimes traveling by yourself is the best way to learn about yourself.

6. Don’t be afraid of change. I feel like today change is synonymous with bad, but change isn’t always bad. I’ve learned that traveling will change you for the better. You learn more about your beliefs, your personality, your likes, your dislikes, the relationships you maintain…the list of things that you learn is outstanding. Most of these lessons will help you to change yourself and your life so that it is better in a number of ways. Change forces you to step outside of your comfort zone, so stop fighting and start embracing.

7. Go with the flow. Anticipate the unexpected. Plans don’t always go accordingly, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be wonderful experiences to come of the unexpected. Some of the best memories I have involve getting lost in the city and the adventures that ensued. Don’t fret, don’t worry, just keep moving forward.

8. See, don’t just look. More often than not, people are too caught up in the idea of studying abroad. It’s one of the easiest things to do while traveling, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to miss what you are observing. Remember to stop. Just to stop and take everything in. Not to stop and take a picture, but to stop and look around to remember this moment and appreciate just how lucky and fortunate you are. Traveling is fleeting, but the memories you create will last your lifetime, make sure you have them.

Toledo…mi amor

No sé cómo voy a sobrevivir cuando regrese a los Estados Unidos. Toledo ha robado el corazón y no sé si que podrá recuperarlo.

I know it’s been awhile since my last post and for that I do apologize. However, I’ve been trying to distance myself from the use of social media so that I can soak up every site this wondrous city has to offer before I come back to the states. If I’m being honest here, I’ve absolutely loved the disconnect from the internet and social sites. It’s allowed me to go out and explore. It’s enabled me to go out, create memories and truly be one with Spain. People here complain about not having access to Wifi all of the time, but honestly I don’t understand it. I’ve had some of the greatest experiences of my life here and I haven’t felt the need to tweet about any of them. If we are so involved in posting about our adventures, we never fully experience the whole adventures. If we’re too busy thinking of a witty caption or a way to encapsulate the memory in under 140 characters we miss out on most of the beauty these adventures hold. Therefore, I’ve made a vow to be less involved in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram (basically any form of social media) and be more involved in life. As Jackie Kennedy once said, “I want to live my life, not record it.”

Inspired by those words, that is exactly what I have been doing. I used to be the girl whipping out her phone at every opportunity to photograph even the smallest of things, like the bull in front of the store, or the countless legs of ham hanging from the ceiling of every meat store, but what’s the point? No amount of photos will be able to replace the memories I am creating here, nor will they be able to convey the beauty and knowledge this city holds. No amount of photos will explain my love of this city and how much I have grown in these short five weeks.

In the past 12 days since my last post, I’ve been exploring and studying. I run daily if I can, each day taking a new route to discover more of the hidden treasures of this maze I’m able to call my second home. Honestly, these cobblestone hills give one of the best equipment free workouts I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing (and if I don’t have a killer butt and legs when I return, I will be upset). Besides that, I’ve spent a majority of my time buckling down in school, writing numerous essays and beginning reviews for my upcoming exams. I haven’t received a bad grade yet and for that I am truly grateful and happy. What’s different about school here, especially in this nonprofit organization I am studying at, is the teachers. They have such a passion for the material they are teaching and it is because of that that I have a passion to learn. It’s so different from the U, where teachers are numb to the material they teach. Here, it’s totally different. There’s a light in every professor’s eyes, there’s a smile as they get to points that really interest them, and there’s a tone in their voice that lets me know they care about us as people. They don’t solely see us as another number, another mindless child who’s here just because they have to be. They care about us as people and they work to make sure that we understand every little detail. They don’t mind having meaningless conversations, or staying after time to clarify points. This trip has reminded me why I love learning so much and I’m so thankful for that.

Anyways, speaking of school…I’ve got two papers that need to be written and some material that needs to be reviewed. I’ve also got to make sure to live up my last eight days here so that I have no ragrets, nope, not even a single letter (:

Con amor,

Liz

PS – enjoy some photos from the past couple of days

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Un fin de semana en Toledo

This past weekend I decided to take it easy and have a weekend of rest and relaxation in the beautiful city of Toledo. I hadn’t stayed within the walls of my city since the weekend of my arrival and I was quite excited to spend the weekend exploring the city’s hidden treasures and letting my body and senses rejuvenate.

On Thursday night, I went out in celebration of Drew’s 21st birthday. Things got interesting to say the least, but he had a great time and that is all that matters. I spent Friday working on a paper for my art and architecture class and letting my body get the sleep it so direly needed. Friday was also the Fourth of July, but since I’m in Spain there was no celebration. Spaniards didn’t really understand the holiday and I can’t blame them, but it did increase my longing for my hometown, family and friends. However, Caitlyn and I did a little bit of exploring. We wandered to the Jewish quarters of Toledo and happened upon the museum known as “Casa de Greco”. For those of you who may not know, El Greco is one of the most famous painters who took up residence in Toledo. Although his work was not appreciated to the full extent it deserved in his lifetime, it became rediscovered and more important in the beginning of the twentieth century. After that, I came back to the fund to continue working on my homework. I ended up falling asleep at 10 PM my time and it felt beyond wonderful.

As for Saturday, I woke up around 8 AM so that I could attend mass at 10 AM at La Catedral Primada de Toledo. Even though the mass was in Spanish, it was amazing to witness and participate in the mass. After mass, I spent 11 euros to tour La Catedral and go up in the bell tower. Honest to God, best 11 euros I have spent to date. I am not lying when I say that La Catedral is the most breathtakingly beautiful creations of art that I have ever laid eyes upon. Certain things in that building almost brought tears to my eyes. There is only one word to describe a place of that beauty and that word is magnificent. I could have easily spent the whole day mesmerized by the beauty of the paintings, architecture and sculptures, but I had to go back to the Fund and begin writing my paper on La Catedral. Take a minute to look through the photos I took, even though they truly don’t do the real life version any justice.

After dinner, I ventured to the park with a huge group of people. The park is a place where people go to hang out and it is lined with free discotecas, or clubs. I’ve been there once before and it always proves to be a good time, even though it is a good 30 or 45 minute walk from the plaza. If I don’t have killer legs by the time I come home, I will be slightly upset because all of this uneven cobblestone and hills are the world’s greatest weight-free work out for the legs. Just like before, I had an awesome time at the park! 

Sunday was spent relaxing, doing homework and catching up with those who had went on the Andalucia trip. Overall, my weekend was pretty fabulous and now it’s time for the busy week of work to begin! 

Ciao mis amores,

Liz

La oscuridad de la noche

La gente siempre dice que nunca bueno puede ocurrir por la noche. Me permito disentir. La oscuridad de la noche siempre permitirá brillar las luces más brillantes.

 

 

Last night, Drew, Lydia and I decided to go for a nice night walk (and by night I mean 11 PM). We ended up walking about 30 minutes outside of Toledo so that we could hike up the side of a mountain to a place called La Piedra. It was a great form of exercise, but more than that, it was one of the most tranquil and peaceful experiences I have ever had in my life. La Piedra translates to “the rock”, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s this huge rock on the top of a mountain that offers one of the best views of Toledo. However, should you turn your back to the city, you will get a view of the scenery that surrounds Toledo: green trees, plains that extend for miles, and gorgeous stone that is randomly dispersed throughout the greenery. Should one choose to lay flat on La Piedra, the clear, navy blue sky would be lit up with stars that shine as if they are angels themselves. The view of the stars was my favorite view last night, and I’ll tell you why. Last night, thunderstorms surrounded the area of Toledo, but never near where I was, and I watched as the lightning broke the sky and created a contrast with the darkness of the night and the beauty of light. As lightning was breaking the darkness, I felt an eerie sense of tranquility come upon me. I’ve always felt connected with nature, as weird as that is, but I felt as if it was my dad, showing me that he was there with me, that he was experiencing Spain with me. This belief was only strengthened when I look towards the moon and saw that one single cloud was illuminated by the light. Normally I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but I was mesmerized because the cloud was either shaped or illuminated perfectly to mirror the ring that I wear that holds the ashes of my dad. Never before have I experienced something like this, so I want to believe it was him. I want to believe that he hasn’t left me alone in this cold, dark world. I want to believe that just as the lightning broke the darkness of the sky, his light will break the darkness of my world as a constant reminder that he is the light in my life, that this world isn’t all bad. There’s no way to ever know if it was him, but for know I am going to believe it was him because in my bones, I feel that  it had to have been him.

 

Above are the photos that actually turned out. It’s not as beautiful as it was in person, but it was hard to capture the beauty of the moment.

 

Moving on, more about what I’ve been up to since my last post! Today is Drew’s 21st birthday!! That’s actually the reason we walked up to La Piedra, he wanted to be there when the clock (Spain time) struck midnight. Tonight, we are going out to celebrate and I’m happy that I get to spend the day with him. He’s nothing short of awesome and I’m beyond happy that I’ve gotten to know him during this trip.

Other than that, my life has been quite boring recently. I went out for the USA vs Belgium game, and of course was disappointed by the outcome. The night was fun, but it would have been better if the US had pulled out a win! Besides hanging out with friends and creating life long memories, I spend most of my time doing my school work. I really want to receive A’s in all three of my classes, so I’ve been working hard on my papers and readings. In fact, I just had a test in my linguistics class, but I feel great about it. It wasn’t hard and I think I got an A. So, no worries mom, I’m not just studying the types of alcohol and party culture here (;

That’s it for now, I’ve got a paper due in four hours.

Mucho amor y abrazos,

Liz

Vamos a la playa, a mi me gusta bailar.

Hola mis amores!!

 

I haven’t blogged in such a long time, and for that I do apologize, but things have been so hectic here the past week or so. So bear with me as I fill you in on the events, as there was no shortage of weird and exhausting occurrences.

Last Friday, I partook in a scheduled day excursion to El Escorial in Escorial, Spain. It was a short two and a half hour bus ride to a quaint, tiny, gorgeous town. We went there to learn about the Royal Site of San Lorenzo del Escorial. I was extremely excited to go on this excursion because we had just finished learning about the architecture of monasteries in my art and architecture class. Let me tell you, this monastery did not disappoint in any way. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture the beauty of the actual basilica, or any part of the church, or the pantheon in the basement. Just for clarification, the pantheon is where all of the past Kings of Spain’s coffins are, along with the queens who had sons who later became kings. It was undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous things I have ever laid eyes upon. However, I want to take a moment to talk about the church portion of El Escorial. Ever since my dad passed, I have had trouble even setting foot in a church just because the memories of the funeral are too much to bear. However, when I stepped inside of this basilica, I don’t think I have ever felt more at home. The height of the ceilings were the equivalent to one football field length, and as if that wasn’t enough to overwhelm you, the beauty of the paintings on the ceiling were breathtaking. Everything was so bright, warm, vivid, and wrought with detail. We were fortunate enough to see an opened case of what is referred to as “relics”. Within this case are painted versions of the Saints’ heads with bones that are assumed to be from their body. It was slightly creepy, but extremely cool to witness.  When we exited the basilica portion, I made an offering for my dad and lit a candle in his memory because I knew that he would have absolutely loved this part.

After the basilica, we toured the royal palace of El Escorial. King Phillip II of Spain built this monastery in response to the Protestant Reformation that was sweeping through Europe at the time of his reign, and it is obvious the amount of time he devoted to this task. Since we were there on a fortunate day, we were able to see the bed where King Phillip had passed, along with the private garden that is normally closed to the public. As we learned in art and architecture, the garden is used as a symbol of paradise, or heaven, which is derived from Muslim tradition. Let me tell you, I definitely felt as peaceful as if I were in actual paradise. There were gorgeous water pools and vivacious plants covering every inch! After the garden, the tour was over, but it was a very gorgeous and informative two and a half hour tour through El Escorial.

After lunch, we then parted ways with the school to get to Madrid in order to take our night train to Barcelona. I was super excited to be on my way to Barcelona, but the train ride was awful! Besides the fact that it was nine hours and the seats were uncomfortable, there was a man in the back smoking nonstop with his window down, an eight year old child that would not stop yelling, and an obnoxious man who decided to sit down next to me in the aisle and attempt to court the young lady to my right. My lord was I annoyed! However, I was able to escape to a little more peace and quiet in the cabin behind me where I was able to catch a little bit of sleep.

Our train departed at 10:30 PM and arrived in Barcelona around 7:05 AM. Since we couldn’t check into our hostel until around 2 PM we decided to do as the tourists do and explore one of the biggest tourist cities in Spain. Even in our tired, delirious states we were able to take in the beauty of this beautiful, and huge, city! We spent the morning at the aquarium (the largest in the Mediterranean) and wandering the street of “Las Ramblas”, which was a street lined with huge trees and a bunch of stores. When 2 PM arrived, we made our way to our hostel and then headed to Barceloneta beach. I was a little shocked when I first arrived at the beach because I had a momentary lapse in knowledge and forgot that all beaches in Europe are topless…so that was a little bit of a culture shock. However, the beach was gorgeous! I even went in the water, and if you know me you know about my irrational fear of water. We spent a good amount of time at the beach, but then went to dinner and decided to wander about town and somehow ended up at Barcelona’s own Pride Fest. Talk about a fun time! There was a cool light show going on with the fountain and a live concert with one of Spain’s biggest singers as well as lively entertainment everywhere!

The next day was spent at the beach, obviously. We had no energy to do anything else as our feet had swelled to near balloon size after all of the walking we had been doing. Of course, my fair skin did not fare well in the increased intensity of the sun and I am currently the color of the reddest lobster known to man. However, it was definitely a good trip!

Even with all of the amazing things happening here in Spain, I can’t help but to begin to feel a little homesick. I am so grateful for having this opportunity, but there are some days where I just need my family, and it’s a little hard when your a whole ocean away. Anyways, time for bed! Enjoy the pictures (:

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All above are from the beautiful El Escorial!

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Ciao,

Liz

 

El futuro es desconocido…

…pero el horizonte no se mueve si no andas. 

 

Translated into English, this means “The future is unknown, but the horizon does not move if you don’t walk.” I read this in one of my articles for my cultural heritage class here in Toledo, and I was struck by the beauty and the veracity of it. We all have those dreams lying upon the horizon of our minds that we cannot reach without walking towards them. It’s the little phrases like this that make me come upon epiphanies and realize that I am in control of what horizon I walk towards.

Speaking of dreams and horizons within our grasps, I am so excited for my sister. Today she leaves to embark upon the journey of a lifetime, and it is one that has been a lifelong goal she has talked about since age 3. After graduating and earning a double major in Dance and Communications, Allie is moving out to California to pursue her passion of dance. In this moment I could not be prouder. She’s taking her future into her own hands, not leaving her destiny up to fate. The amount of work and practice that she has put into this makes me know that she will be successful. While I am ecstatic for her, I am quite sad at the fact that I can’t give her a proper goodbye because of the large distance between us, but I know I will see her again (soon, hopefully). 

I know that our dad is looking down upon her today with proud tears gleaming in his eyes because she’s finally doing it. After years of telling us to go after our dreams and that our future solely depends on us and our ambition, she is actually doing it. I know that he will be with you throughout this journey, Allie; always walking beside you with a helping hand upon your shoulder. Let his light shine through you, and show the world your gift with his help.

Allie has grown into such a beautiful young woman and I can’t wait to see where her future leads. Watch out world, here she comes! And who knows, maybe you’ll see her name on a billboard with lights one day (:

Love you big sis!

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Un fin de semana en Madrid

Hola mis amores!

This past weekend was spent in the beautiful city of Madrid. While Madrid had gloriously beautiful scenery, I felt as if I could go to any big city and feel as I had felt exploring Madrid. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Madrid. There was a guided tour when we learned about all of the different plazas, the significance of buildings, statutes and the fountains that were encompassed within them. After the tour of Madrid, we visited the famous Museo del Prado (https://www.museodelprado.es/en/), where we had another guided tour to learn about some of the most important pieces of art housed there. While the paintings were quite impressive and beautiful, I would have loved to have had a chance to explore el museo by myself, to find what works of art were the most meaningful to me.  After this tour ended, we went to lunch and that was the end of the school related excursion to Madrid.

After lunch, we trekked to our hostel and dropped of our belongings before we explored on our own. The majority of Friday was spent walking around, taking in all of the sights Madrid had to offer. We even had time for a little shopping (of course). (: Friday night we went to one of Madrid’s largest clubs, called La Kapital (http://www.grupo-kapital.com/kapital/). And when I say large, I mean it was HUGE. There were seven different floors that each offered some different experience. For example, the first floor was a huge dance floor whereas the second floor had a karaoke bar and the sixth and seventh floor were more quiet, allowing for a little relaxation when we needed it. One thing that has taken awhile to adjust to is the fact that Spaniards don’t go out until around 1 AM, and they don’t start going home until about 5:30, 6 AM. That is a huge culture shock compared to America where we go out around 9 or 10 at night and come home around 2 AM or so. However, the siesta hora makes up for the lack  of sleep we get at night! 

Needless to say, we took advantage of sleeping in on Saturday morning. When we finally awoke, we decided to go explore Madrid some more. I honestly think we walked over five miles during our time in Madrid, but I’m glad we did. We happened to come upon Real Jardín Botanico de Madrid, which was one of the most peaceful and tranquil gardens I have ever walked through. It was a great opportunity to get some awesome photos, and I’m glad we stopped by. Saturday night, we participated in a fun pub crawl that was hosted by our hostel, which consisted of two bars and one club. It was so fun! 

Alas, I’m back to reality with being back in Toledo and the first full week of classes starting. In all honesty, I’m extremely happy to be back in Toledo. I love this little maze of a city with hidden treasures lurking around every corner. Now I’m off to take a nap before I start my homework!

Abrazos,

Liz

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Me encanta España

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el 19 de junio

I swear I fall in love with Toledo more and more with each passing day. There are always new streets to be explored, new shops to look in, new adventures to participate in….It’s almost as if this city never sleeps. Even more so, it’s so peaceful. It’s so quiet and calm, despite the constant flow of events within the walls of the city. The people are so pleasant that it makes “Minnesota nice” pale in comparison. Everything about this city is wonderful.

First, a little recap of everything that has happened to me within the past few days. Yesterday, I had my first introduction to linguistics class and I absolutely loved you. The course works to help us understand the importance of language in culture, the science of language and how we learn to use the language. The professor is actually a professor from the U, which makes it easier to understand him as he is not a native Spanish speaker. It’s a smaller class, with only seven students, but they are all actively engaged in class and a few of them are quite the comedians, so it makes the hour and fifteen minutes fly by. I have a little bit of homework to finish before Monday, but it’s not too bad…yet.

In terms of exploring Toledo, I would say I’ve done quite a bit of that. Yesterday, Drew and I went for a little walk to explore the beauty outside of the walls of Toledo, but we got a little turned around. We ended up lost in this maze of a city, on the opposite side of where La fundación is. We walked alongside the river and it was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever taken. During our adventure, we stumbled upon a stray cat (there are quite a few around here) that was clearly not faring well. Drew wanted to carry it with us and try to save it, but I was terrified of the fact that it could be carrying diseases or bite one of us, so I urged him to leave it. I know, I’m a cold hearted wench. No, it killed me to leave it laying there, but the potential consequences just didn’t outweigh the benefits. However, I am convinced that it is following me because I saw it on a hike later that day with my roommate, quite a decent mileage away from where I first saw it. After Drew and I managed to get back to la fundación, I had the second part of my class and then I went on a hike with my roommate, Lydia. We hiked quite a bit, and I loved every minute of it! It was so nice to leave my phone at home and truly feel at peace and connected with nature. Something about hiking is just so calming. I’m not sure if it was the beautiful scenery, or the physical exertion it requires, but I absolutely love it. We made it back with enough time to shower, get ready, eat dinner, and then join our friends for a night out at Dragos (a bar) to watch the Spain and Chile game.

The night out was so much fun! A huge group of people showed up at Dragos, and we stayed there watching El Mundial (World Cup), praying that Spain would come through with a win against Chile. Alas, they didn’t, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. We went to O’Briens (Irish pub) and then found ourselves back at Dragos. I love the bartenders here, they are so much fun and they love having conversations with us (good use of my Spanish speaking abilities, am I right?). We eventually decided to hoof it home, but we got a little lost on the way. With the help of a few very nice Toledo-ans, we were able to get home without a hitch. We got back around 2 AM and then we hit the hay in preparation for our early wake-up call at 9 AM today.

Today was quite eventful in the morning, with a guided tour of Toledo and a visit to La Piedra, a huge rock wall, so that we could get a look at Toledo as a whole. Boy was it gorgeous! The tour was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. It allowed us to learn more about the history of Toledo, random details and allowed us to see the city in full swing for the parade for Corpus Christi, the most important festival in Toledo. The streets were filled with people, making it even harder to navigate the narrow paths but it made for great people watching. The path of the parade procession was lined with flowers, chandeliers and other decorations that added even more beauty to the city. We learned a lot about the history of Toledo and why the streets were designed to be long and narrow. Take, for example, that Toledo began as a city completely inhabited by Muslims. They designed the streets to be long and narrow so that the sun would not reach the street and continuously make it hot. Also, Toledo is the religious capital of the entirety of Spain, hence the huge deal about the festivities for the week of celebrating the body of Christ, or Corpus Christi. Another interesting fact is about the canvas canopies that line some streets of Toledo. Our guide told us that it was the path taken by the parade and priests as to protect the body of Christ, seeing as it is one of the most sacred things in Catholicism. I found this to be very interesting, along with just about every other detail of Toledo.

After our tour, we went to La Piedra and took some panoramic shots of Toledo. It was one of the prettiest sites I have seen and I’m glad I had the ability to capture that moment. We then came back to la fundación  to have lunch and ever since then the time has been ours to use in whichever manner we see fit. Obviously, due to my long night and morning, I decided to use this time to shower, relax and pack for Madrid!

I can’t even begin to explain my excitement for my weekend excursion to Madrid that begins tomorrow! I have to remind myself that this is actually real life. It all seems so surreal and I can’t wait to continue to explore more of Spain and make more lifelong memories with some of the coolest people I’ve met in my two years of college!

I won’t be able to update until late Sunday or Monday, but I will make sure to update then!

Con amor,

Liz

 

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A concert at “La Plaza del Ayuntamiento”

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My roommate, Lydia, and I

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Drew and I at the start of our nature walk

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The river that forms a natural protection barrier around Toledo

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Another shot of the river during our walk. Drew claims tilted camera angles are “artsty”.

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Drew and the infamous stray cat.

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Myself, Lydia, Drew, and Kadi before the Spain game.

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Chupitas en fuego (fire shots)

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A few of the girls from the trip I’ve gotten close to.

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La Catedral with decorations for the festival.

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For all those back home who thought I was travelling to Toledo, Ohio for the summer.

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A door that is very common in Toledo. They are so high because when nobles came to visit, they would arrive on horses and then would enter into the house still on the horse. Once inside, they would dismount and the horse would be tied to a wall inside.

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This picture is in the beginning of the post, but it’s my shot of Toledo from La Piedra.

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Last photo of the post! Pretty much self explanatory.

Besos y abrazos a todos!

 

 

 

 

June 17, 2014

Primer Día de las Clases  

¡Hola!

Today is quite nerve-racking as it is the first day of classes! While I have been taking Spanish for a large part of my life, all of the professors here are native, complete with their own dialect that alters the pronunciation of each word. I have adjusted somewhat to this dialect, but I just hope that I don’t embarrass myself with my speaking abilities! Just for reference I am enrolled for a total of nine credits, which equates to three classes here. I am taking a writing intensive on “Spain today” which is a course in which the culture and politics of today’s Spain is discussed. I am also enrolled in another writing intensive that is an introduction to Spanish linguistics. The fun class I am taking is an exploration of the art and architecture of Spain. I can’t begin to express my excitement to go out and personally explore all of the buildings here in Spain and learn what influenced this beautifully sculpted city. 

They schedule classes a little different here, which I found to be interesting. Instead of having the same class once per day, we have it twice. For example, on Mondays and Wednesdays I have the linguistics class once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busy days with the culture of Spain writing intensive and the course on art and architecture taking up the majority of my time from 8:40 AM to 7:45 PM (thank the Lord for that siesta hora!). In my free time, however, I plan to explore and wander without aim through this maze I’ve come to love in three days. It seems that each day I find new alleys and streets that lead to exquisite places. I’m constantly in awe of those who constructed this city, even though the cobblestone roads make the hilly streets unbearable at points. 

Aside from talking about classes in this post, I wanted to share some of the beauty of Toledo with you: Image

La vista de me habitación (room)

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La vista del río: Toledo is a walled city, completely surrounded by a beautiful river!

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Some of the streets here have this canopy-type cloth for you to escape the blazing sun.

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At La Fundación, we have the pleasure of the “torreón” (tower), which offers one of the best vantage points of Toledo. 

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Here’s a photo of one of my good friends on the trip, Drew! This was taken at the Irish Pub O’Brien’s where we watched the US win 2-1 over Ghana! 

 All in all, I’m having a fabulous time over here! I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip has to offer! 

Besos y abrazos,

Liz

Hola from Toledo

Hola mis amigos y mi familia!

Pinch me, the trip I have been counting down to for months is finally here! It’s currently 5:51 PM on June 16th here in Toledo and my first two days here have been absolutely exquisite! First, let me give you a little synopsis of what has been going on in my travels these past three days.

On Saturday, I left for the airport at around 8:30 AM. My scheduled plane to Charlotte, North Carolina was supposed to depart at 10:51, but due to a crew rest, we were delayed until 11:30 AM. Now if you know me, you know I don’t like delays or unexpected occurrences in a planned schedule, so I began to get a little anxious when I found out about the delay. I had a connecting flight to Madrid from Charlotte that left at 4:45 PM and there was no way I was going to miss that. Alas, the delay only set me back thirty minutes or so and I had no problem getting to Madrid. However, the eight hour plane ride to Madrid was nothing short of awful. The plane and crew were wonderful itself, I just wasn’t able to sleep even a wink on the way over here. Not to mention, there was a cute little five year old boy who turned not so cute as he managed to get sick on the plane, vomit and cry for a good 3/4 of the flight. Needless to say, it was quite a long adventure, and when I arrived in Madrid on Sunday at 7:10  AM local time, I was running on what little sleep I got on Friday night. After we got our luggage and met with a staff member from “La Fund” we took a bus to Toledo, which was a little over an hour.

Arrival in Toledo

We arrived at our university in Toledo around 10 AM local time. I am constantly in awe over how gorgeous this city is. The history this city has is evident in it’s architecture and museums. Upon our arrival we were given our rooms and roommates. Luckily, mine happened to be the girl I sat next to for the eight hour plane ride, so I was already comfortable with her! We’ve grown to become friends and I’m extremely happy I had the blessing to meet her.

Continuing our first day in Toledo, we took it upon ourselves to get out and explore this maze of a city. The streets are completely cobblestone which is gorgeous, but makes a good workout. Also, the streets here are almost too narrow for cars and should one come your way, you must flatten yourself against an antique brick building and hope that they don’t run over some limb. We came upon beautiful views of Toledo and sights within this city, especially the Cathedrals. Dear God, I have never seen prettier buildings in my life. However, one interesting thing about this city is the siesta hora! For almost two hours of ever day, the whole town, including the university, shuts down so that everyone may take a nap. Hello college kids dream! (: I’m still adjusting to the meal times here as they are extremely different from back home. For example, breakfast is the smallest meal of the day, given around 8 AM. Then around 1:30 PM we have lunch, which is the largest meal of the day. Dinner isn’t served until around 9 PM at the university, but the students doing homestays usually don’t eat until around 10 or 11 PM. It’s been a challenge to adjust to! Due to utter exhaustion, I passed out right after dinner and slept the whole night through until today.

 

Day 2

Today was spent taking assessments and registering for classes. We then had the whole day free to continue to explore and I did a bit of shopping for some essentials that I forgot (ie, a brush). I had my first drink legally and it was a delicious concoction by the name of “Tinto de verano”. It was a wine with fruit blended in and  oh my, was it delectable! Here’s the kicker: in Europe, they give free food with their drinks so that it counteracts the alcohol, what a win-win! And the drinks were only 2,50 euro, or roughly $3.50! But alas, I must go as I am partaking in an adventure to an Irish Pub to watch the USA take on Ghana for the world cup! More to come (: