Flamenco in the Caves, a Hole in the Wall, and La Noche en Blanco

I love, love, love Sundays. There’s something cozy about having adventured all week and weekend and spending the day putting my life back together in between sips of coffee. I know a lot of people hate the end of Sunday, but for me there are usually no distractions and I can get a lot of work done!IMG_3316.JPG

I have some random thoughts to get out before I write the activities we did this week.

The beginning of this week was hard because I got rejections from internships that I would have loved to be a part of this summer. But things can’t always be so simple and handed to you that easily, so practicing being rejected is good. It can be frustrating to work on applications so hard after classes everyday and seeing it not amount to much. So after allowing myself to sulk for a few minutes I decided to enroll in a computer programming class at UMass for the fall, because I think that’s one of the things I am missing to be a good researcher. It always feels better to do something about it when you aren’t getting what you wanted.

Now that it’s nearing the end of the usual time to apply for summer jobs like that, I want to turn my focus on Spanish. Time is flying by and I only have about 2 months left! And when I get back to school I only have one more Spanish class to finish my major (ahhhhhhh). I don’t know when I will be immersed in a totally Spanish-speaking environment again and I want to take full advantage. For me that means changing it up. Too many times I’ve skipped out on intercambios or other activities because my friends and I are tired from activities that day. So the last two months I want to dedicate to getting out of my comfort zone and making my Spanish be the best I can make it before I leave.

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It felt so good to get back to running after totally indulging last week and not running at all. My legs were moving slowly but I loved being out in the sun running along the river again. I decided not to care about my pace this week because it was not going to be as fast as usual. This week I ran 28.4 miles.

On Wednesday we went to the caves in the Sacromante for a Flamenco show! I didn’t really know what to expect when we headed up to meet the program, and it was totally different than anything I’d imagined.

There is a “Michelle Obama” chair in the cave, where she sat when she went to see the Flamenco show in Granada 🙂

The dancers come SO CLOSE to you, because the cave is pretty much a long tunnel and they don’t have a huge dancing area. I almost got hit in the face with one of her fancy little fan movements. And there’s a story line, which I didn’t know was part of it. I thought they were just going to dance randomly but there was a couple who met, fell in love, and got married.

IMG_3266IMG_3270IMG_3273IMG_3275IMG_3281IMG_3291After running on Friday morning I went to get some coffee with Alicia and Jourdan at a café we hadn’t been to yet! It was a nice way to spend the afternoon. Alicia’s program ends in April, I can’t believe she’s already leaving next month 😦 Good thing she goes to UMass too so we can hang out all of next year 🙂IMG_3341IMG_3340It was a cozy (and cold) kind of Friday.IMG_3336On Friday we decided to make a trip up to the lookout for a sunset view since there were only a few of us around. I wonder how many pictures one can take of the Alhambra in a semester before it is too many…IMG_3362IMG_3364“The limit does not exist!!!”IMG_3368We grabbed dinner with our host families and then went to find a hole-in-the-wall bar my friend told me about. She met a French and British guy who were playing there! Unfortunately we got there too late to be in the room (there weren’t enough seats) so we watched from the outside patio. It was a cool place and very local, I’m so glad we went!

It was definitely a good description because we almost walked right past it before we saw the sign. IMG_3381IMG_3380On the way out we saw people practicing for Semana Santa. Semana Santa in Granada is very well-known for its “pasos” (floats of thrones with religious icons), and also for the unique surroundings of the processions. The floats are so huge and the people underneath it have to be very coordinated to walk together! They have to bring it all the way to the top of the city for their day.IMG_3378Saturday was a beautiful morning for a 5 mile run, not a cloud to be seen!IMG_3387The day was called “La Noche en Blanco” in Granada. There were a ton of street vendors out, so we went to check out center city. The stores also stayed open until 5am, Sephora was having a party in their store at midnight!

There was a flamenco store and jeeez those dresses are expensive, I saw one for 350 euros!IMG_3392IMG_3390There were things to do in every square, like tae kwon do and gymnasts!IMG_3395IMG_3398We got margaritas afterwards to refuel 🙂IMG_3399Then we found a green screen! IMG_3403We could hear music so we headed in that direction, and we found a really fun little concert going on. They were playing really popular songs because everyone knew the words except for us! I could eventually sing the repetitive lines after a while but we tried to look them up when we got back. No estamos lokos.IMG_3405IMG_3408And more processions when we were leaving! Those poor guys what do they do if they have to go to the bathroom?? Guess they can’t!IMG_3411We hit up the trails for a Sunday morning hike today! I forgot about the time change and thought I was just super tired this morning. It was nice being only 5 hours ahead of home for a week, but now we’re back to being 6 hours ahead.

We found a few more waterfalls than we had on these trails the last time 🙂 I led us in the wrong direction for a little but we made it to some view points eventually!IMG_3413IMG_3415We found a little house thing that was cute.IMG_3418These little side creeks had ginormous frogs in them is was so gross! Everytime I saw one I got goosebumps!IMG_3424IMG_3426This afternoon I’ve felt tired, but I also feel so ready for Monday at the same time! I’ve planned to meet up with some people to practice my conversational Spanish and I’m really excited. Unfortunately I also have presentations and essays due this coming week, so this afternoon has been completely dedicated to that.

I can’t believe next weekend is already the beginning of April! It was nice to have another weekend here because I’m going to busy busy busy next month. Not that this weekend wasn’t busy though 🙂

Ian in Spain (Part 2)

So where did I leave off? Oh yes the monster hike, so Thursday ended up being pretty low-key. I had to go to some classes but Ian met me on my break for brunch and was going to try and check out one of the bike stores nearby.

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Afterwards, we moved our stuff from the Airbnb to my apartment for Ian’s last night in Granada!

We stopped for lunch and split a slice of cheesecake at the cafe next to my apartment before we walked up to the event place that Julia and I like to walk to. It was fun seeing Granada from a different side 🙂

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So many views!IMG_3113IMG_3112

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I just realized the excessive amount of food photos and GOODNESS I need to eat some fruit this week.

Speaking of food… for dinner we got Mexican tapas and I am definitely going back, they were soooo good. We split nachos and got two beers each, but beer fills me up so much so Ian usually has to finish mine 😦

Cue a movie and a rough night’s sleep- and after Ian’s last churro breakfast we were off to Malaga!

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We checked in to the nicest hotel, Barceló! I could have stayed in there for a whole weekend but we went to explore the city first. There are so many beautiful buildings and way more palm trees for some reason.

IMG_3183.JPGWe went to the Roman Ruins and they were pretty close to the hotel, it was only  25 minute walk. It only cost 60 cents for each of us to get in since we were students!

IMG_3161IMG_3160IMG_3159IMG_3163IMG_3162IMG_3157IMG_3156The plaza de toros was setting up for a concert, so we couldn’t go in 😦 But we got to walk along the ocean! It was so pretty and there was a lot going on. You could tell everyone was on Spring Break because everyone was speaking English.

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The views from the ruins were amazing 🙂IMG_3177IMG_3176

Bike Zone is really getting some advertising in this post!IMG_3175IMG_3173

And there was cool graffiti on our walk back 🙂

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When we got back to the hotel there were chocolate covered strawberries and champagne waiting! I wasn’t even hungry but I can’t pass up a treat like that.

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The sunset from the room was perfect for Ian’s last sunset in Spain! I was happy and sad all at the same time.

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The time came around for a late supper (like true Spaniards!) and we didn’t end up eating until around 11pm! We were on the hunt for the best paella.

And I’m pretty sure…

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…we found it!

It was flavorful, salty, and filling- I could see why the place was so packed!IMG_3190

Ian had to google how to eat a full shrimp like that 🙂 And he still made a mess anyways.

We walked back and fell asleep since he had an early flight- he left the hotel at 4am! Oof, that is never ever ever going to be an easy goodbye. I had the whole hotel to myself but it felt way too big for the rest of the night. I felt much better when I woke up the next morning, after all I had the hotel until noon and I was going to use every second of it! I went to the gym and lounged out all morning. A comfy bathrobe, a movie, and a good run were making me feel so much better! I wasn’t ready to leave the room but I feel so lucky to have had the perfect week with Ian, and that he got to see where I live and what I do in a day in Granada 🙂

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Oh and lastly, the hotel had a SLIDE you get to go down at the end! I probably looked so weird leaving by myself going down the slide but I was not going to miss out.

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Even with the rain, being a bit late for the Alhambra, and other small mishaps- I couldn’t have been happier! Thank you for the best week ever 🙂

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Ian in Spain (Part 1)

After looking at all the pictures from this week I realized that I will need to split this post into two parts and they will still probably be too long! We did a lot and I don’t want to miss out on writing everything because I want to remember all the details. So let’s start from last Saturday 🙂

Ian arrived in Málaga around noon and we took a bus to Granada from there. He was exhausted (a combination of the flights and this semester) and after watching the mountains for a while he kept dozing off. Luckily he didn’t take a full nap so he would be tired at the normal time for Spain. We went grocery shopping to get some stuff for the week and walk around a little. I wouldn’t take him to the main sights until the next day because he was pretty much a zombie anyways 🙂

We got some ice cream as a pick-me-up. There was a lot going on since it was Saturday, I was glad there was so much for Ian to look at!

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We were asleep super early and woke up on Monday to go to the Alhambra! I bought tickets for 8:30 and we got there 5 minutes late but the tickets are so strict and I thought we weren’t going to be able to go, I was mad and frustrated that we hadn’t woken up earlier, but after we waited for a little while the workers there let us tag along to a group tour that was in both Spanish and English, perfect! This was my second time to the Alhambra and it was the perfect day. Everything was so beautiful and we learned a lot, it was also the perfect tour to practice my Spanish.

They give you headphones to listen to the tour guide, and you can hear him even while you’re wandering around.

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Ian works in the woodshop at school and he said how intricate these old wooden designs are.IMG_2898

It was a beautiful day for a visit!IMG_2895IMG_2892IMG_2893IMG_2899IMG_2900IMG_2901

All of the patterns and ceilings are crazy!IMG_2902IMG_2906

At the end we reached the gardens, my favorite part 🙂IMG_2907IMG_2904IMG_2903IMG_2908IMG_2917IMG_2918IMG_2920IMG_2922IMG_2915IMG_2911IMG_2927IMG_2925

I got him to take ONE picture there, it’s a tough life trying to photograph this guy.IMG_2924IMG_2929IMG_2926

I was so happy!

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After the Alhambra we were starving and churros with chocolate were the answer! We got so many and were absolutely stuffed. Ian said the chocolate pretty much tasted like a cup of melted Hershey bars.

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Obviously I finished off with a coffee.

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Ian took a siesta while I studied a little bit and then we went for a walk to the Mirador San Nicolas (because you have to on your first full day in Granada)! It was beautiful and it was fun to see Ian’s face when he saw the view. The Sierra Nevadas in the background make it look unreal!

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Then we walked down Paseo de los Tristes.

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For dinner we decided to go for tapas! Ian was really excited and wanted to “tapa hop.” It was such a good idea, why hadn’t I thought of that before? We ended up only going to two places, but it was really fun. At the first stop, El Vinoteca, we got a beer with one tapa and a sangria with another.

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The tapas there were kind of small, so we went to a bigger tapa place, La Riviera for some FREE burgers with our drinks.

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I was full after that, Ian got one more drink with a croqueta and then we couldn’t fit anymore. Slightly drunk and very full we made our way back to the apartment to sleep!

I had to wake up early on Monday for an exam, and my heart sunk when I looked at the forecast for the rest of the week. Rain, rain, rain, and some more rain. Of course the week before Ian comes is 75 and beautiful everyday and then his week is rain. I was frustrated again because I had a lot planned for outdoor activities! On Monday we took a long walk to the huge mall that Granada has called Nevada. I was happy being with Ian but definitely upset with the weather, but he said he didn’t mind! We walked around all the stores and got lunch there at La Cueva. Nevada is ENORMOUS, I think we must have walked four or five miles around the mall. Ian got potatoes with chorizo and eggs, I got a chicken sandwich.

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The view from the outside of the mall was pretty cool too (don’t mind the panorama car mix-ups!)IMG_2979

It was still raining later on, but luckily I had tickets for something indoors on Monday night, the Arab baths! You wear bathing suits and I would describe these as a series of hot tubs with different temperatures, and one cold room. But they aren’t normal hot tubs or baths, the inside looks like the inside of the Alhambra! It was so relaxing. I was nervous Ian would hate it, but he thought it was so cool. The massages were a flat “no” but I’m happy with what I got 🙂 I couldn’t take any pictures inside but I do have one from their page.

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Two relaxed people!

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After that we grabbed some food, watched a movie, and called it a night (I had to get up early for another exam). When I left early in the morning it was downpouring, I could have cried because it was the day I had planned a fun hike, but still Ian was in Spain with me even though the weather was not cooperating! We met each other for breakfast after and then headed to the science museum. He could tell I was upset that my plan hadn’t been working out but he loves science museums and it ended up being really fun wandering around there together! Some of the stuff was from difficult classes he had taken and I think he was having a little bit of PTSD..

We looked at the helicopter outside for a while:

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and explored the museum!IMG_2708

When we got back to the apartment I checked the weather again, and sunny days were coming! I did a little happy dance because the rest of the week was going to be good weather!!!! I guess you can’t really trust those apps too much 🙂 Hikes, walks, ice cream, walking around and sitting in parks were back on the agenda!

Tuesday night we did tapas for supper again! But this time we were seeking out the bigger tapas and ended up in Plaza Einstein. I don’t remember the name of the place we went to, but it was awesome and we ended up getting three rounds of tapas.

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We planned on doing a hike Wednesday morning, but not until 10 so we got to sleep in! The hike was called Beas de Granada. Basically you take a bus from Granada to Beas (a town nearby) and you hike all the way back to Granada! I love that it is a point A to point B, and Ian was able to download the whole hike onto his GPS for us to follow, in addition to having step by step directions of what turns to make. It was so easy to follow for an 11-mile hike!

Before we left Ian made some delicious breakfast sandwiches, and then we got on the bus! We were nervous we wouldn’t know which bus to get on, but the bus driver standing on the outside said “Beas de Granada?” and it was that simple! The hike took us from the point the bus drops you off at, again super easy. When we first began it was really windy but as we got further into the mountains it was still, sunny, and hot! We passed by hundreds of olive trees and the view of the Sierra Nevadas was always there, and so so pretty. I wonder how many pictures we took of them.. We also passed by a few farms with tons of goats and herding dogs! I admit I was kind of afraid of the goats and Ian was laughing at me because there just goats, but still! What if they aren’t used to humans in their area or something??

Here’s a picture I took escaping the evil goats:

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We took a LOT of pictures on the hike, can’t stop won’t stop!! We could see the Sierra Nevadas the whole time, and we were pretty much alone in the middle of the mountains, it was so cool! 🙂IMG_3014IMG_3016IMG_3017IMG_3018

I love this picture 🙂IMG_3021IMG_3023IMG_3024IMG_3025IMG_3026IMG_3027IMG_3031

There were a lot of mountain bikers, I wish he could have gone with them!IMG_3035IMG_3030IMG_3038IMG_3043IMG_3044IMG_3076IMG_3013

We packed sandwiches, apples, and peanuts, and we took a lunch break to eat them.

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By the time we got back we were both a little burned and very much exhausted. We had been hiking for about 4 hours! We decided to watch Inside Out and siesta until going for a walk and seeing the sunset. We had our hearts set on paella, but I wanted a view first! The Alhambra looked as pretty as ever, and then we walked down to grab some paella and a beer. We sat outside and watched the sun go down 🙂 The paella there was small (we think it is for one person there) and it wasn’t my favorite! Ian liked it but he just wished it was more. Because it was right under the Alhambra it was really touristy so I don’t think it was the best paella we could have gotten (but we would get the best in Málaga).

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The first days were a success and I was so happy that the weather took a turn for the better 🙂 After Wednesday we still had a lot to do, but the days go by so fast when we are together, I wish it could slow down just a little bit!

Finally Clicking

This week has been SO amazing. I feel like this week, Granada really clicked for me and I’m not sure why, but I do have five theories.

  • I’m so happy and excited because I just went to get coffee with two girls I randomly met the other night (also studying from the US) and we really hit it off. We planned a hike and a rocking climbing trips for the future, and we ended up talking for 2 and a half hours without even realizing it. It’s cool to to hear what other people have been doing and we updated each other on places to see and things to do.
  • Ian will be in Spain on Saturday! I have planned a lot of stuff for this coming week and booking tickets for everything was so worth it. I can’t wait to write all about next week 🙂
  • The weather really brought us all outside together doing workouts, walking around, and eating on the patio. After a rainy weekend, it was perfect.
  • Tomorrow some girls from the program and I are going to Nerja for a beach day! We’re so stoked to explore around there and soak up the sun on our Friday off.
  • My confidence to speak Spanish more has definitely doubled since I got here, and especially after struggling with French for a weekend. I am raising my hand to speak more in class, easily holding conversations with my host mom, having no issues in restaurants or asking for help, and I’m understanding conversations when I hear Spaniards walking down the street. It’s so exciting to notice my speaking and listening skills getting better and better every week 🙂

Today I just have some randomness for you, mostly of what I have been eating lately with a few adventures in the mix. I added in a lot more vegetables this week (I tend to eat healthier when it gets warmer out) and it feels really nice. At lunch, I’ve been filling up on the salad instead of all the carbs and I bring nuts and fruit to class that our mom buys us for snacks. Anyways here I go!

Here’s an accurate picture of what I do after studying and before sleeping- Sherlock Holmes and chocolate. Ever since we went to the museum in London I had been wanting to watch, and it’s so good! I forgot how good mysteries are.

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This cafe has really good smoothies even though they are different than the ones I;m used to. The one I like to get is strawberry banana with almond milk and ice! It’s perfect for a snack or after I finish working out and want to cool down and just sit.IMG_2697

On my run Monday I had to take a detour from my normal route because of construction, but the detour was prettier than I though, and no pavement! The only thing was that it was SO muddy from rain the night before, but I’ll definitely be coming back here. IMG_2686

I went for a walk during siesta, I still had too much energy!IMG_2700IMG_2703

The Alhambra never gets old.IMG_2704IMG_2705IMG_2706

I skipped out on chocolate before bed on Monday and went with popcorn instead 🙂IMG_2715

After my class on Tuesday I made a breakfast that I was so proud of! I usually ruin omelettes and turn it into scrambled eggs but my some stroke of luck I did it 🙂 There’s spinach and onions somewhere in there. It was really filling so I was all fueled up for our hike later on. IMG_2722

After lunch we all met up and were off! Kayla knew where she wanted to go but wasn’t exactly sure how to get there. First we went to Generalife to find the view point we were looking for, and went from there.IMG_2727

We found the lookout she was searching for, although you can’t see it very well in this photo. We decided to literally just head in that direction, go up, and hope for the best!IMG_2728IMG_2729

We stopped for a few detours on the way down.IMG_2730IMG_2731

But after walking through some questionable streets we found it! Apparently people usually drive to this lookout but we walked on the main roads and it was exhausting. The sun felt so hot on our faces but the view was so worth it.IMG_2734

Daily dose of Granada 🙂IMG_2747

Tuesday hikes are kind of our thing now, I love knowing that I have that to look forward to every week, and it gets me out doing an exercise other than running.IMG_2748IMG_2752IMG_2756

I was more than ready for supper when we got back, I added a bunch of spinach to the side of my fajitas.

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After classes yesterday I went for a 9 mile run in the 75 degree weather! I felt so good and energized, I love those runs.IMG_2762

9 miles at 8:32 pace made me so hungry! I made veggies with one egg, with a side of banana and Nutella toast. Yummm.IMG_2772IMG_2774

After teaching English some of my friends and I went to do a workout in the park!IMG_2782 (2)IMG_2778

We did circuits and wall sits on a tree was my favorite 🙂 Least favorite = push-ups and planks, I could do cardio forever but my upper body is so weak! I’m going to try and go do the circuit with them every couple days now.IMG_2779IMG_2780

The slow walk back was well-deserved!IMG_2784IMG_2786

Aaaaand today, I’m really sore. Happy Thursday! 🙂

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It was a pretty chill week here in Granada… so I was able to run 30.1 miles this week which has been my highest mileage in a while!

On Wednesday I was a good pal and picked up a bagel for Julia at the Dunkin here, I found out that they have them and I knew she had been craving one for a while!

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We found a house/restaurant with an absurd amount of plates on the outside during our Thursday hike.img_2627

It was a hot day and the view was so perfect!img_2633

Our professors bring up the president a lot in our classes and it’s interesting to see from a different country’s perspective…img_2625

You can see all the trails going across the mountain, it almost looks like it is sliced into a bunch of pieces all the way up.img_2631It was an oddly rainy weekend.img_2638

I took advantage of the small amounts of sun to go on a few runs!img_2639

We went out for tapas on Friday and got really strong sangria.img_2647img_2664img_2668

I watched Sherlock Holmes for a while (the Netflix series is so good!)img_2657

I had to get coffee of course while we did our homework.

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I was grateful for a slower weekend because next weekend Ian will be here and there will be so much to do! This week it is going to be in the mid 70s and I couldn’t be more excited 🙂

 

Hiking, Brussels & Paris

Four days back in Granada did not include much but homework, a few runs, and a hike before it was time to get on a plane again! Today I went for a slow 4 mile run, made coffee, and got ready to write this long post. My posts will probably be a bit shorter now because I won’t be traveling for a few weekends, or I will start writing 2 per week. I’m excited to spend more in Spain and put off traveling far for a little while!

We went hiking on Tuesday after a quick 3 mile run, and I was just following Kayla and Ashley because they had some idea of where the trails were and where they finished. Our last hike was a bit of a let-down, but this one turned out to be much, much better! We started off on Paseo de los Tristes again, and took the walk way like last time, but we turned upward on the trail MUCH earlier. It was a steep hike but I loved it because we felt sore afterwards, and the views were amazing! That’s what I love about hiking, you get a reward at the top for all of your effort. Eventually we needed to cross over a stream, only Alicia and I got our shoes wet, somehow the others stayed completely dry.

img_2364There was a clear path for quite a while after that, but we lost it after about half a mile.

img_2360We couldn’t see the path, but we could see the lookout point, so instead of following a path we went straight up the mountain to the lookout. It was super steep, and Kayla ran up most of it while the rest of us lagged behind her.

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On the way down the path was so orange, it looked like we had left Andalusia completely!img_2367img_2366

And we were still getting some views pretty much the whole way down. It ended up being a 6 mile hike!img_2365

On Wednesday I was going to do a long run again, but I felt like I was done after 7 miles. It’s not like I’m training for anything, so I figured 7 was enough for the day. Anyways, I had a lot to do later on! I needed to print everything I would need for my trip in Brussels and Paris and get everything organized, teach an English class, grab something to eat, and then go to tapas for an intercambio! I was exhausted by the end of the night, but I have gotten used to the idea that I am going to be tired a lot this semester. There is a lot less homework, but there is so much to do. Sometimes it can be difficult because I don’t want to miss out on a single thing, with all that is going on, it’s easy to forget that you need to put aside time to just relax too!

After classes on Thursday and a rushed lunch we left to stay the night in an airbnb in Malaga. Since our flight on Friday was so early, we couldn’t manage to leave from Granada on Friday morning. In fact, we had to leave from the airbnb in Malaga at 5am! The night before I ate a sandwich our host mom had packed for us while some people got Chinese food. On our way to pick it up, we saw the sea, I had not idea we would be that close. I want to come back when it gets warmer because it’s only an hour and a half away from Granada.

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A 4:30am wake up was no fun, but our Airbnb host was really nice and offered to drive us all to the airport for an extra cheap price. I was able to pretty much sleep for the whole plane ride, and was quite rested when we arrived in Brussels, Belgium! We went to our next Airbnb to drop off our bags, and again the host was really friendly. She even bought us a bottle of champagne to have later on! She told us how to take the bus into the city, and we left in immediate search of waffles. We were really hungry so we ate at the first place we saw, a sit down waffle bar. I got a waffle with Nutella on it, and Belgian chocolate on the side for good measure. img_2471img_2422

It was amazing, but the style there is for waffles to be crispy, while I like mine soft usually. Still, it was delicious and I’m glad I tried it! We were annoyed with ourselves when we left because we walked by a ton of waffle places for way cheaper than we got them for, we learned our lesson to look around for a good price before just buying whatever. For the rest of the trip, Camila and I vowed to keep our meals and a minimum cost. It’s nice when you have someone to hold you accountable!

After eating Camila and I walked around the Grand Place while the others stopped by a beer tasting at a little tour. The Grand Place was stunning, I took way too many photos and we walked to all the corners so we could see it from every angle. It was an open-air marketplace in the 10th century and was voted the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010!

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We walked into so many Belgian chocolate shops and touristy shops (and got free samples at almost every single one).

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When we all met up again we wanted to find the statue of Brussels that we had heard so much about! It’s called Manneken Pis, and finally we found a crowd of people trying to get pictures with it. I thought it was going to be this big grand statue, but it was seriously so small, and it was a little boy peeing! It’s only 24 inches tall but it is SO famous, I had to look it up when I got back because I was really confused. Apparently there are a lot of different legends about why it was made but it was created by Hieronimus Duquesnoy.img_2435img_2437

We weren’t sure where to go afterwards, so we stopped by an information booth to get a map of the city. The map that we got showed were all the cartoon murals were, which turned out to be a great way to explore! That kind of tour was called the Comic Book Route, and we saw all the best sights.15006338792_ff5fa17b78_bbrussels-comic-book-route-32

Once we got hungry again we got burgers and then went to a bar before going back to the Airbnb around 9/9:30. We weren’t sure what time the buses shut down so we decided to go back early, we were tired anyways because we had walked almost 10 miles!

On Saturday morning we left early to get the the bus station in Brussels- we were busing from Brussels to Paris! This was much harder than we expected. First of all, I don’t have even the smallest education in French, so the bus station was difficult to navigate. Even if the station did have English, it still would have been so confusing and disorganized. Running around trying to find the stop was hard and actually a bit scary! We passed by probably a quarter of a mile line of homeless people, covered in blankets and on top of one another. It was actually scary because I didn’t recognize that this mass of objects were people. Two of them were fighting very harshly and I was praying that our bus stop wasn’t next to them. I couldn’t look at this pile of people because it made me feel ill, it was really sad, and it was in addition to already being worried about missing the bus. I had never seen anything like this scene in my life, I felt so innocent, naive, and privileged. We had to exit the station and go across the street and down aways until the stop. There was absolutely no sign for the stop expect for a small sticker on a street pole that said “Eurolines.” While we were waiting there were drunk people behind us, kind of in the distance, but still too close for comfort to me. It was the worst bus stop I had ever seen, and I was more than happy to get on a stuffy bus for 4 hours, we all wanted to leave so badly, I was happy that I had people with me.

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The bus stop exhausted me, so again I was able to sleep almost the whole way. We dropped our stuff off at Julia’s friend’s apartment. I was happy that we didn’t need to pay for any sleeping arrangements, with her friend it was completely free! We realized we hadn’t eaten all day and it was 4:30 in the evening. Camila and I were on a mission to spend less than 5 euros for each meal, and we were able to do so for lunch- at a sit-down restaurant no less!

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I just got a ham and cheese sandwich, but it was filling so I was happy. There was Dijon mustard to put on, and not knowing that it was be SO SPICY, Camila and I put way too much on our sandwiches. It was crazy hot mustard, my eyes were watering and I could feel heat coming through my nose. Lesson learned, Dijon mustard is the real deal in Paris! We were able to scrape most of it off but Camila still needed to douse hers in ketchup to be able to eat it, we were laughing so hard at how much we put on because the waiter was amused by our watery eyes throughout the meal.img_2475

We took the metro and buses to go exploring! First stop was Notre Dame de Paris. It was incredible, and we learned so much because they had descriptions in Spanish and English for everything inside. A mass began once we were inside, but they don’t close for masses, people are still allowed inside! That doesn’t happen in Spain- there are no tours on Saturday nights or Sundays usually.

img_2478img_2480img_2481img_2485img_2487Second stop was the Pantheon, which wasn’t open it was still cool to see!

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The sun was starting to set, so we headed to the Eiffel Tower because a lot of people had suggested to go at night instead of during the day.

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The Tower was so beautiful lit up in yellowish orange light! There was intense security to get in near it (like everywhere else in Paris and Brussels). There is a restaurant on the top of it, and meals start at almost 90 euros, and that’s just for appetizers. img_2517img_2498img_2503

The Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour, so we waited to see that before we went to the Arc de Triomphe! It is in the middle of a rotary, so I was wondering how were were going to get inside! I thought we might have to dart across somehow.

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Other people are smarter and found a tunnel underneath the rotary that led up to it.img_2507

The sights from the top were perfect, you could see so far in each direction!img_2510img_2512

Everyone was exhausted by nighttime and we were asleep at midnight. We wanted to get up early to go to Versailles because it was about 45 minutes away by metro! We wanted to get there on the early side because we knew it would be packed.

We stopped at a bakery before getting on the metro, and I got a croissant type thing with creme and chocolate chips in the middle, I miss it already.

img_2518Aaaand yup the line was huge, we waited in line on Sunday morning for probably 45 minutes. It was a cold and cloudy morning but I actually didn’t mind waiting in line. I love hearing all the different languages that are brought to the major sights, and people watching is always fun. There was an Italian family in front of us and a French group behind us, so I was trying to pick out words they were saying.

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We finally got inside, it was free and with free audio-guides! I like using guides a lot because without them I kind of just wander and have no idea what I’m looking at. But with them I can imagine what people used to do in each room, and it paces you around the Palace.

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The Hall of Mirrors was my favorite part!img_2534

Eventually the guide led us outside to the gardens that went on for what seemed like forever. We didn’t walk all the way to the end because it was freezing cold! img_2551img_2553img_2580img_2533img_2531

We grabbed quick sandwiches at a stand so that we would have plenty of time at the Louvre.

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We waited in line there too for a while, and then we all picked a place to meet up when they closed (at 6) because we were all going to wander in random directions.

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First we all wanted to see the Mona Lisa together! There were guards on both sides and bullet proof glass, it was intense.

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Then I went through French paintings, Italian paintings, and French sculptures. Time flew by before we met up to get out coats and leave.

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The Louvre is enormous, it would take weeks or maybe months to see everything inside.

It was our last night in Paris so we went to the Latin Quarter, and I got a martini while the others tried Crème brûlée. Places weren’t open late since it was Sunday, so we got back around 12:45 and fell asleep.

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Monday was a travel day, but we had a little time in the morning to grab some coffee. I got a very strong espresso and was ready for the day. Julia got a Nutella crepe that I was really jealous of. The place was quiet and empty, but I was glad because we were all so tired.

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One flight and a hour ride back to Granada, we were able to catch the sunset- I missed Spain so much! I loved France and Belgium, but I missed the warmer weather, the people, and the language in Spain a lot.

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The best part about seeing all that we did in Paris was that it was absolutely free to get in if you were a student, everywhere! We needed to show our University of Granada card and our visa, and we were all set. It was so helpful because if it wasn’t free, we would have spent so much money on that part. Instead we were able to save money and still see a lot.

This trip I learned so much, and I was surprised that most of it happened at the bus station in Brussels. I’m not even sure if that would be considered culture shock, but I hadn’t felt that uncomfortable or out of place until then. I think we managed it pretty well and kept moving forward!

Somehow I gained more confidence in my travels and Spanish after struggling to make my way through French-speaking countries. The comparison of the different languages showed me how much I actually do know in Spanish. I missed it so much and I was excited to speak to my host mom in Spanish when I got back.

Valentine’s Day, Route of the Sun & London

This is going to be a doozy of a post, so get comfortable and grab some coffee or a snack! I’m going to throw it all the way back to Tuesday to begin:

Valentine’s Day was last week, and there were decorations and flowers everywhere! We asked our professor how the holiday is usually celebrated in Spain, and she told us it’s pretty much the exact same as in the United States– very Hallmark-y. Still, I liked seeing tons of flowers being sold around the city and all the cute couples being romantic.img_2087

I found peanut butter in a store!! Finally, it does exist! But I probably won’t buy it because it is ridiculously expensive here, also crunchy peanut butter isn’t really my thing. I’m really getting used to a peanut-butterless life 😦img_2089

I dressed for the occasion on my 4.1 mile run:img_2092

Afterwards, I set out for a 3 mile walk to explore streets I hadn’t been down yet! The graffiti is really cool and seems much more thought-out than most of what I see in the United States. Also, graffiti is more embraced on the city walls, rather than being constantly painted over. People call the graffiti in Granada the “back street art galleries.” img_2098img_2099img_2100img_2102

We celebrated Valentine’s Day in my apartment with some girls from the program, we watched a movie and drank champagne 🙂

On Wednesday I woke up early for class, and did my long run afterwards! I ran 10 miles because I didn’t know how much I would be able to run in London. Plus, I like when my legs are tired for the plane ride, then I don’t feel so restless. I knew Wednesday would be almost 70 degrees, so I wanted to be outside for a lot of the day. I even got some tan lines!

This was my view around mile 7, I felt weird because I was running behind that guy for so long, but I wasn’t going fast enough to pass him- he was the perfect pacer for the end of my run without even knowing it- thanks mister!

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On the way back, I passed by a lot of stands selling biking jerseys, hats, socks, pants, you name it.img_2117

It looked like a race of some kind?img_2140

Oh a BIKE race, it took me a little while but I figured it out 😉img_2139

After I finished my run I wanted more time outside in the beautiful weather! I had an hour to kill so I read outside by the river. If you can call it that, there isn’t much water in it right now 😦img_2137img_2136img_2135

At tutoring on Wednesday only one student came, which was a little disappointing because we had planned a whole jeopardy game, but we can always use it another week 🙂 Instead, we played hangman and learned expressions! Our student asked what it means to be “cheesy” because she heard someone say it on Valentine’s Day. She knew it couldn’t be right that someone was covered in cheese, so we got that all sorted out 🙂 I told her that I heard someone say that someone “tiene pelos en la lengua” which translated literally means that someone “has hairs on their tongue.” Apparently it means that they say whatever they want without thinking, like “not having a filter.” Expressions are fun to learn, but it is difficult when trying to learn a new language, you take everything so literally! Tangent over- moving on.

By the time I got out, Ian had responded to my pictures of the bike race set-up saying that it was La Vuelta a Andalucía, a one-day race from Málaga to Granada and that I should definitely try to watch! I headed over around 4:15, having no idea what time the race started or would be finishing. There were tons of buses and intense-looking bike vehicles around.

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I posted up on the side of the finish, there was a screen at the end, but it was far and I couldn’t see it very well… I texted my mom to ask her to look up when the race would be ending since I had no idea if it would be 3 hours or 20 minutes away.img_2153

But it looked like I was right on time, how lucky!img_2154

Then motorcycles started coming through honking their horns, it was almost time! I had only been there for about 25-30 minutes so I definitely lucked out with timing, and I got a good spot too! The guys all around me had biking gear on and shirts and signs so it was all very, very exciting.img_2161img_2159

Then the racers came through and were in front of me for what seemed like .00000000000000000001 seconds, they were FLYING. I couldn’t believe I just stumbled upon this on a random Wednesday, I felt so lucky. I was trying to watch and take it all in, so I had no idea what my photos looked like, but here you go!

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It was really awesome to be there, and so close-up! I’m so glad Ian told me to go, even though I hadn’t known about it before, I looked up info on the racers when I got back so I could understand more about what I saw afterwards. I learned that:

  • The race is called La Vuelta a Andalucia, but also called “La Ruta del Sol, “Route of the Sun” in English.
  • It’s a 5 day stage race, and the stage that I saw the finish of was the first stage and 96.31 miles.
  • Alejandro Valverde, who is 36, famous in biking, and from Murcia won the stage.

I took pictures of them cooling down too, and then ran away because they were kind of intimidating and were probably wondering why this random American girl was taking a picture of them!

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After a 10 mile run, tutoring, and standing at the bike race for almost an hour, I was more than ready to siesta and then get packing for London the next day! I watched Real Madrid vs. Napoli while I got my luggage all sorted.

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Thursday morning I woke up early at 5:30 to get myself situated, we weren’t leaving for two hours but I like a LOT of time to prepare, I hate being late for anything- especially a trip.

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We started off with an hour and a half bus ride to Málaga, which I didn’t mind because I love looking at the landscape.

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Then we left the airport for a 2-hour flight, which felt like nothing!img_2200img_2204img_2208img_2346img_2206

We made it!img_2209First order of business was to see ELLA!! I haven’t seen her since she left studying abroad at UMass in December 0f 2015, oof. We got drinks while we waited for a seat to open up at supper. I missed Italian food and pasta with white sauce, chicken, and mushrooms hit the spot. Europe doesn’t do take-away leftovers, so I kind of felt like I needed to finish all of it. Bleh, I hate that feeling. img_2212

But I got over it as we were going out for drinks! We went to three or four different places and got way too many sugary drinks. I loved trying them all, but I definitely did not feel 100% in the morning. Luckily, I got to have a lot of sleep before coffee and the bus tour!

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I honestly wasn’t crazy about the idea of a super touristy bus tour around London, but it actually was the best way to see a lot of the city. The fact is, London in HUGE. It has boroughs like New York, except there are about 30 of them- instead of 9, craziness.

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We got off the bus to walk at times and then back on again. We were walking for the changing of the guards which was exciting!!

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The palace lived up to everything I pictured it would be– so beautiful! But it was packed so we didn’t get very close.

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This is our tour guide who was constantly making dad jokes and telling us off for not keeping up with him. We had him for two days on our tours!

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We could see Big Ben in the background most of the time, but I learned that the tower is actually Elizabeth Tower, it is the bell that is named Ben.

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We stopped at London Bridge towards the end. I’m surprised we had such nice weather, it was sunny and not too cold! It was shaping up to be an awesome weekend.

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Clouds were rolling in though, but I still thought it looked so magnificent. It felt like a glamorized version of New York City.

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After the tour some people stopped for gelato for the walk back, the place was so cute but I forget the name of it!

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Katherine loving London exhibit A:

img_2270I wanted to try to run while I was there, but it proved to be very difficult. I ran 3.1 miles when I got back to the hotel, but I just ran around a little square for what felt like forever. The thing was, I couldn’t really run through the city because 1) I would probably get lost 2) I had to stop every 3 seconds for cross-walks, which is a huge annoyance of mine and 3) I kept looking the wrong way crossing the road and I knew I would make a deadly mistake if I went for it! So that was my only run of the weekend, I guess it was a good chance to practice not running every day. They had signs on some of the roads to help, Jessie said hundreds die by getting hit by the buses in London each year.

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I met up with the Lizotte’s later for supper, it felt amazing to see faces from home! I got squash soup and a huge chunk of bread. Afterwards, I went back to Jessie’s place to see her apartment, meet her friends, and go to a club! I accidentally walked past the bouncer unnoticed and got in for free, oops but yay! Everyone else had to pay 10 pounds. Here’s a blurry picture we took!

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I got back to the hotel around 1:30 and fell fast asleep.

Next up was the British Museum with that same tour guide! It was right next to our hotel so we just walked (and got to wake up later). I was super excited to see the Rosetta Stone!! I had to pretty much elbow people out of the way to get a good look at it and a picture of it. Isn’t it amazing how it is like the missing puzzle piece to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphs? I wish we could of looked at it longer but we had to move on eventually.

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He told us of the struggle it took to get this king statue to the museum, it is SO heavy and took a lot of man power. The smile on the statue is making fun of the people who though that moving him would be so easy, nope!img_2284

All the Greek statues had no heads because the Christians chopped them all off.img_2291img_2289

More ancient art!img_2295img_2296

After the museum I met up with Jessie and her family again! They were taking Christmas card pictures and I was more than happy to help.img_2301

Then we headed over to Baker Street to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The line was long but very worth it. There were three floors filled with wax figures, books, photos, paintings, letters, and creaky floors. img_2305

After we left I took the tube back to hang out with people from my program. The tube in London is insanely easy to use! The man who designed it, Harry Beck, was an electric designer and designed the Underground to function like a circuit board. It was very easy to follow and I took it 6 or more times while we were there.img_2299

We went to supper at Mother Mash, so people could try the dish that was so raved about. I just stuck with a cheap green salad (had to make up for the money I spent on drinks with Ella). Everyone’s dishes looked like mashed potatoes with gravy and a slice of some kind of meat pie, I would love to try to make it at home! Side not- my brother rocks at making home-made chicken pot pie, so I’m sure I could recruit him for the job. We walked to the restaurant instead of taking the tube which ended up being a long walk, but it was nice to see the sights for our last night out.

Some people went out to the bars for a little while, but Ashley, Joo, Kayla, Camila, and I were down to go back to the hotel and hang out there. We talked on the way back about how we definitely chose the right city for us, because we were already missing Granada. Not only is Granada so much cheaper than London, but I missed the mix of city and nature. I also missed how relaxed it is in Spain, and I felt like I was losing all the Spanish I had gained!

The next day I had coffee and then we had until 2 to do stuff before departure! We chose to go to Camden with our remaining hours. If you’ve ever seen or read the Hunger Games, a lot of the people there reminded me a litttttle bit of the citizens in the Capital. They had piercings everywhere, different colored hair, so many tattoos their skin appeared to be a different color, and clothing I had never seen before. It was so cool, I felt like I had stepped outside of London and into a different world.

There were a ton of food stands, everything was so tempting!!

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I stuck with a hot chocolate though, because it was cold and I was trying to be good!img_2323img_2325

There were so many stands for the most random things. There was just so much STUFF to look at, it was overwhelming!img_2327img_2326img_2329

Camden has some of the best piercing places, so some of the girls in my group went to get some! I opted out (I don’t even have my ears pierced), I think it looks cool but it’s just not my thing.

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I wanted to find the Amy Winehouse statue, and I did! People always put lipstick on her.img_2333

Again, just so much stuff, so much to look at, and so much to do! Three days is not nearly enough for London- I’m wondering if even a month is enough.img_2334img_2337img_2338img_2340

We left the hotel at 2:15 and didn’t get back to our places in Granada until 1:30am, I was a zombie and I had to be up bright and early for my 8am today! After that class I got in a 5 mile run which I had been looking forward to that whole stuffy plane ride, and I ended up going for a 4 mile walk too, in order to clear my head from all the busy traveling. I really just wanted to walk around and not think too much. Today is all about getting myself together, doing homework, and being able to relax for our next trip coming up this weekend: Brussels and Paris!