Friday, July 31, 2009

Primer dia de Paris

So back to Paris...

Lana and I took a train from Bilbao to Valledolid last night at 5:00 pm. Once we got to Valledolid we had to get on a different train to Paris. It was kind of backwards because we were going south of Bilbao (further away from Paris) to just go back. Anyway, we barely made it on our second train because we didn't leave early enough from the lobby so that was really scary.

But we made it to Paris at 8:30 this morning! We took a taxi to our hotel and at first our taxi driver only spoke French so I was really nervous. Later in the ride he asked us if we spoke English and Lana and I both responded at the same time with "si!". I think this whole adjusting back to English thing is going to be a little harder than I thought! Once we got to our hotel we were lucky enough to have it be ready for us so early in the morning! So we got to check in right away.

After we were all settled in we went out to see the Luxembourg Garden which is right by our hotel and then we went to the Notre Dame. Once we were up in the Notre Dame we could see all of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. We are planning on going to see the Eiffel Tower tonight because it lights up at night. Tomorrow we will go back to see it during the day and hopefully climb all the way to the top. Other sights we plan on seeing include, Arc de Triumphe, Moulin Rouge, Versaille, the Louvre and whatever else we come across!

I miss everyone from the program already, but luckily most of them go to GV so I will see them in the fall! See everyone else in a few days! :)

Hasta Luego!

Agur Bilbao!

I can't believe I'm writing this while in Paris! Before I tell you about what I've seen so far here, I have to update on what I did before I left Bilbao.

I had my final exams on Wednesday for my classes and that night we had a closing ceremony to end such a wonderful trip. We got our grades at the ceremony and I got an A- in both of my classes so that made me really happy! After the ceremony, everyone meet up at Crazy Horse (the bar where I had the huge burgers) to celebrate our last night together. It was pretty fun but a lot of people couldn't go because they already had to leave for bus rides/flights home. After Crazy Horse a few of us went to a Festival in Algorta. It started raining pretty hard there so we decided to just head home. I spent the night at Ninez's house and then had to get up super early because Emily and Joe were catching a bus at 7:00 and had to take the metro right when it opened at 6:00. So once I got home I went back to sleep then packed my things to leave Bilbao :(

I still can't believe I spent 5 weeks in Bilbao. It went by SO FAST! And I had the time of my life there. I am so glad I decided to study abroad, it has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I'm so grateful to my parents for helping me go on this trip! <3

Okay, now it's time for likes/dislikes of Bilbao and Spain:


-Speaking Castellano all of the time
-Meeting great people and making lifelong friends
-Cola Cao
-Guggenheim museum
-Universidad de Deusto!
-Nightlife in Salamanca
-Chocolate con churros


-Drinking Cola Cao out of a bowl EVERY single morning
-Awkward stairs
-Smelly metro/bus rides
-Stinky streets
-the metro closing at 11:00 at night during the week
-muchisimo mariscos y pescado :(

That's all I can think of for now, but if I think of more I'll update.

Now a new post for Paris...

Monday, July 27, 2009


I definitely look forward to the weekends here. And this past weekend was our last one :(. Some friends and I traveled to Salamanca on Friday and came back early Sunday morning.

I didn't really know what was in Salamanca, but I heard it was a beautiful city so I really wanted to go. Emily's host mom called her sister and nephew who live in Salamanca to let them know we would be coming. We stayed in a residence hall at the University of Salamanca to save money and then Ninez's nephew Luisme and his brother-in-law Cesar showed us around the whole weekend.

On Friday night we went to 5 different bars/discotecas! We started at around 11:30 and stayed out until 5:30 in the morning. I have no idea how they can do that every weekend. We were so exhausted! But it was so much fun. All of the bars there are catered to Americans because there are so many students from the U.S. who study abroad at the University of Salamanca. So most of the music was from the United States (but it's about a half year behind so all of the songs are kind of old). The bars all had different themes so it was really cool. The first one had a Camelot/castle theme and another one we went to (my favorite) looked like a theater on the inside.

Saturday we woke up around noon and left to tour the city. We went to Plaza Mayor and walked around to see all of the Cathedrals and parks. It was so cool because since it was a Saturday in the summer we saw a ton of brides and weddings taking place. I saw about 9 brides and we got to see a few exits of the bride and groom. They do the same thing we do here, throwing rice or beans and shooting confetti. All of the cathedrals are gorgeous it's no wonder there are so many weddings there.

That night we went to Luisme's apartment right outside of Salamanca (a town called Castellano Mariscos) to have dinner. Cesar's wife and their friend Laura made us a delicious Spanish dinner of tortillas, chorizo y jamón, some seafood, and salads. We sat outside on the patio that overlooked the countryside. The view was amazing because the sun had just set so the sky was very orange. We were so lucky to have such great hosts for the weekend.

We left Sunday at 3:00 in the morning and got home around 9:00. I took a nap because we didn't get much sleep on the bus ride because it was freezing cold! After my nap I ate lunch and headed out to the beach. I could definitely get used to living here and going to the beach every Sunday, or everyday after work/school. There are so many beaches to choose from!

There are only 3 school days left, and the third day is just for final exams. I can't believe how fast this trip flew by! I can't believe this Friday I'm going to be in Paris. I can't wait!

¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


If you guys are really interested in the Sanfermines festival in Pamplona and want more information, I found a sweet website.

P.S. Someone died in the running of the bulls the day after we were there! Yikes!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Última semana en España

I'm looking forward to lunch today because my Spanish professor from Grand Valley is finally here! She was supposed to be with us for our entire trip, but became ill. I think she just got here yesterday. I got to see her for a second and say hello. She is my favorite Spanish professor that I've had so far, and it will be nice to see a familiar face who is a native of Bilbao.

Today I'm going to go to the residence hall to eat lunch with her and other Grand Valley students. It will be nice to catch up!

This week has been moving pretty slowly and I think I'm ready to leave Spain. I've had an amazing time here and I've had so many great experiences. But I've been missing my family a lot lately. My Mom is a great listener and lets me talk to her as long as I want, and Poppy gives the best hugs. I could really use one right about now! My home stay experience hasn't been that great but it has definitely taught me to appreciate my home in Grand Rapids. I love you Mom and Poppy!

As much as I'm ready to go home, I'm going to make the best of this last week I have left. I'm hoping to go to Salamanca with friends for the weekend so that will be a great way to end my stay here in Spain. And I still have Paris left on my schedule! :)

I'll continue to keep everyone updated!


Monday, July 20, 2009

¡Otro fín de semana maravillosa!

This past weekend was another great weekend. I definitely look forward to the weekends here. It was our first weekend that didn't have a planned excursion so we got to do whatever we wanted.

Thursday after class I went with two girlfriends to the beach in Sopelana. When we came back to my friend Emily's house (who lives in Sopelana) we ran into a neighbor of hers who is about the same age as us. She invited us to go out with her and her friends the following night. After the beach, we went to a Pulqueria concert (if you're really interested, you can look them up on myspace). They're like a mix between Ska, Punk, and Mariachi/traditional music. It was really cool!

So Friday after class we went back to Sopelana to go out with Leire, the girl we met the night before. When we got there she was still at work so we went out for Chinese food. It was so good! Unfortunately it was pouring rain on and off, so we called Leire to let her know we would not be going out. Instead we stopped at a candy store and stocked up on junk food then went back to Emily's house to have a movie night. We watched Bugs in Spanish. It was so nice to just relax with friends.

Saturday we got up super early and took a 1 and a half hour bus ride to Santander. What a gorgeous town! All of the people are so nice too! We must have looked lost trying to find the Plaza because a nice old man came up to us and asked if we needed help. It was cute. We made our way to the Plaza de cuatro caminos to buy our bullfight tickets. We bought them from a scalper for only 15€. I thought that was a good deal because I was planning on paying twice that. We did a little shopping in Santander and just walked around. We ate at an Italian restaurant and they gave us huge portions (restaurants like to do that here I think). It was so delicious! I could definitely go back there.

The bullfight started at 6:30. It was really intersting. The entire "program" has about 5 or 6 rounds of bullfighting. It starts out with a novice matador and then they gradually get better and better after each round. The first round was the hardest to watch because when the matador put the spear in the bulls neck it he didn't not fall down right away like they normally do. He was a fighter and kept on walking around afterward. çFinally he started shaking and collapsed. I was really nervous that all of the rounds would be like that but the others were much faster. I talked to the woman next to me and she explained a lot so that was cool too. The third matador did such a great job they cut off one of the ears of the bull and gave it to him as a prize.

Sunday we went to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and Bakio with Emily's host mom Ninez and her boyfriend Reime. Bakio is also a gorgeous city (every place is gorgeous here). It had a beautiful beach and a ton of people travel there to go surfing. We really want to go back for an entire day to enjoy the beach so hopefully next Sunday we will go. (P.S. I told Reime I want to live there. Maybe if I'm ever rich I'll buy a summer home ;)). Before that we went to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe which is a church on the top of a mountain in the sea. We had to walk for a long time and then climb over 360 stairs! It was a huge workout but so worth it. The view was amazing. Once we were at the top we rang the bell, took lots of pictures and then made our way back.

We went to the beach after that but it was getting late so we didn't get a chance to lay out. Instead we went to a really cute restaurant that had delicious pizza. It was like American style because the menu was in English and even the waiters spoke English too. The guy who took our order was really funny. His wife was behind him in the window to the kitchen and showed him her hand with her wedding ring. He turned back to me and said that his wife doesn't like it when he talks to girls. It was hilarious, and of course I was the only one that noticed it.

And now it's back to another school week. This is our last full week of classes so we are going to be super busy with homework and studying for finals! Wish me luck!

P.S. I've noticed while I'm here that the majority of the people drive Audis and BMWs (it's cool to see my dream car everywhere ). I asked Ninez why everyone has them and she said that they are a lot cheaper right now because of the economy. So shout out to Uncle Steve, you should move here and then you can buy as many Audis as you want! :)

¡Hasta Luego!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Un día tipica

¡Hola a todos!

I thought I would write a little blog entry of a typical week day for me here.

I usually wake up around 7:00am to get ready for school. My host mom wakes up around 7:30 to make me desayuno (breakfast). I always get a bowl of hot milk (yes, I said a bowl) with Cola Cao (cocoa) mixed in it. So it´s basically like hot chocolate, but not as good. I get cookies and jam to eat with the Cola Cao and a glass of juice. I leave the house around 8:00 and walk 10 minutes to the metro station. I get off the metro a couple stops later and take a 15 minute walk to school. I love the walk to school because I get to see some really nice shops, the Guggenheim museum and the ría (river). It's gorgeous.

My culture and politics class starts at 8:40 and goes till 9:55. After that I have a 3 hour break before my Literatura Española del Siglo XX class. I usually go to the computer lab at that time to check my email and such. My second class is only an hour, but then on Mondays and Wednesdays I have seminar that goes from 4:45 until 7:30 (yuck!). So on the days that I get done with class at 2:00 I usually go home to have almuerzo (lunch) and the days I have seminar I prefer to pack a lunch (well, my host mom packs it). Almuerzo is the biggest meal of the day which is usually a soup and then a second course. Since I don't like fish, I usually have some kind of meat for the second course.

I eat Cena (dinner) around 8:00 at night and that's a little smaller than almuerzo. Some of the dishes I've had for dinner include patatas fritas (french fries) con un huevo (egg), chicken sausages, or meatballs.

My host mom takes her dog Luna out for a walk from 8:00 until 10:00 at night so I get to have some time to myself which I enjoy. I try to go to bed at a decent hour so I can get up early for school!

And that's a typical day!

¡Hasta luego!

P.S. I have a ton of pictures from Pamplona but for some reason they aren't showing up on Picasa. I will try and work on that today, and hopefully they will be up soon, because they are really cool!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Los fínes de semanas

This past weekend was crazy! It was so busy and I didn't get much sleep.

During the previous week I signed up for an optional "excursion" where we meet with native Spanish speakers to practice our speaking skills. On Friday we met up with our group and I was so disappointed. My group consisted of 7 people from our program one student "leader" (who was not a native Spanish speaker) and a leader from our program. We barely spoke any Spanish. We made our way to a tram that took us up to the top of the mountain. From there we could see all of Bilbao and it was gorgeous. The Guggenheim museum looked so small from where we were. After that we went to a bar to have Sangria. I was taking my time drinking my Sangria because I'm not a huge fan of wine, and everyone else was finished with their first glass and apparently it's customary for people to wait until everyone is finished before they pour their second glass (I really don't know if that's true). So I tried to finish my first glass as fast as possible so that I wouldn't hold them up.

After that we walked to the bus stop and the bus was going to take a long time to get there so John Franco the program leader in our group decided to order more Sangria at a bar next to the bus stop. We all had a another glass there and then got on the bus to Casco Viejo. Once we were there we went to yet another bar and had more Sangria. By this time I was so sick of it! That was my last drink for the night. Our program leader had to leave so we were left with the student leader for the rest of the excursion. This should have been my cue to leave too, but I stuck around with the group. We walked around Casco Viejo and then went to a restaurant that had the best burgers I've had here.

Later that night we went to Santurtxi for a huge festival. There were so many people! We hung out by the stage and enjoyed the concert for awhile. A few of us left around 1:00am to head back home.

Saturday we went to Gernika a famous city that had been destroyed during WWII. We went to a museum there that explained life in Gernika during WWII and it had a lot of exhibits about peace too. It was such a cool museum! We also got to see a copy of the famous Picasso painting "Gernika". After that we saw the government house and learned more about how the government runs in Spain. Gernika has a famous "promise" tree that is used to make promises to the town.

After that we went to a small town harbor town called Mundaka that had a gorgeous beach. It was so beautiful!! Unfortunately we didn't have time to stick around and enjoy the beach so we basically just looked at it--what a tease!

Saturday night we went back to the festival in Santurtxi. If I thought it was crazy Friday night, I was totally wrong. It was insane. It was literally shoulder to shoulder everywhere we walked. There was trash everywhere and it smelled! People here definitely like to party. They stay out all night long. I made it home around 4:30 am and was exhausted! I don't know how they do it.

Finally, Sunday was beach day. My friends and I took a trip to Sopelana to enjoy the weather. It was a perfect day for the beach. One thing I realized though is that I definitely prefer fresh water and lakes over the ocean. I swallowed so much salt water and the waves were pretty big. Every time I would jump for a wave I would land on a rock too. So I didn't stay in the ocean for too long. About 20 minutes after I got out they changed the green flag to yellow so that's probably why the waves were bigger than I thought they should be for green. That night I caught up on my sleep and went to bed at 10:00 so I would be well rested for class.

And now I'm just continuing my week of classes. I have two papers due tomorrow and an exam on Thursday.

Sorry for such a long post and good job to those who read the whole thing!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

¡Viva Pamplona!

1 de enero, 2 de febrero, 3 de marzo, 4 de abril, 5 de mayo, 6 de junio, 7 de julio San Fermín!
A Pamplona hemos de ir por la fiesta, por la fiesta
A Pamplona hemos de ir y un buen botín!

The night before Pamplona my host mom sang me that song and again in the morning before I left. It's a famous San Fermín song to celebrate the festival. Yesterday we left for Pamplona at 5:00am (I got up at 3:45) and got there around 7:15. Right when we got there we headed straight for the stadium where we would wait to see the entrance of the bulls (el encierro). It was nice to not have to worry about being in any danger. We watched the actual running of the bulls on a big screen in the stadium, then got to see them come in a long with all of the runners. I couldn't believe how many people participated. Once the bulls entered the stadium they were all taken somewhere else except for one. The last bull stayed in the ring and all of the participants had to dodge the running bull. It's kind of hard to explain. Definitely an experience I will never forget. It's tradition to get chocolate con churros after el encierro so of course we did that. The churros were unbelievebly delicious. The chocolate was good too, but it was pretty much like a melted candy bar. A little bit too sweet.

It was so neat seeing so many people wearing all white with red belts and scarves (traditional San Fermín costume). Lucky for me we were there when everyone was passed out or in their hotels sleeping so there weren't too many people in the streets. When the festival starts on July 7th it's pretty much non stop drinking for the entire week (I tasted the traditional kalimotxo beverage which is wine mixed with coca-cola) The streets were filled with trash and it didn't smell too good either. It's still cool to say I've been to Pamplona/San Fermín festival though.

After that we got to spend a couple hours in San Sebastian which is a beautiful port city with a gorgeous beach. We didn't get a chance to spend time on the beach because it was cloudy and breezy. We walked around and got to see all of the old buildings and stores. It's such a beautiful city I really want to go back and spend some more time there.

Everyone will be happy to know that I have tried fish here! It was kind of unavoidable, so I expected it. My host mother made me eat fish the other night even though she knows I don't like it. She told me I have to eat fish at least once a week (yuck!). The next day we had fish for lunch in San Sebastian. That fish wasn't as bad, so I ate half of it. Hopefully I won't have to eat it for awhile though!

Tomorrow I'm going on an optional "excursion" (I don't think we're going far) with native Spanish speaking students so I can practice my Spanish speaking skills. Saturday is another excursion so I'll let you know how that goes!

¡Hasta Luego!

Monday, July 6, 2009

¡Mucho Mejor!

Since my last post I have been having so much fun here! I've finally adjusted to the culture here and the meal times. People here are much more relaxed and take their time with everything. It's definitely something I appreciate. Family seems to be really important too. I walked around my neighborhood yesterday with my host mom and her friends and saw lots of families with little children playing in the parks or eating at tapas bars.

Last week Friday afternoon we were welcomed by a blues/jazz concert performed by a women acapela group from Yale University. They were amazing! I loved it so much! Grandma Jolman and Mom would have enjoyed it too! I'm going to try and find their website so we can order a CD later.

After that we went to the Guggenheim museum. Shout out to Uncle Jim-you would love it! There was a ton of abstract and contemporary art to enjoy. Unfortunately we couldn't take any pictures so I only have a few of the outside. But everything was really cool. I think my favorite part of the whole thing is the building itself. It's situated right across from my school so I get to see it everyday.

Later that night we went to a concert at a bar with almost everyone from our program. It was so awesome! The first band was Midnight Road and they were so good! They don't have a CD or record label yet, but hopefully they will soon and I can get their CD too.

On Saturday we didn't really do much but we went out to dinner at an "American" restaurant. The portions were GINORMOUS! I will post pictures on picassa of the food. It was a great way to celebrate the fourth of July away from home. I spent the day with my host mom on Sunday and we walked around my neighborhood and then later that night we walked her dog Luna around the gorgeous park right across from our apartment.

Right now I'm at school waiting for my class to start at 1:10. Wednesday we are going to Pamplona for the San Fermin festival. I CANNOT wait! I'll probably update again after that.


Friday, July 3, 2009


Here's the link to my online photo album. Check it out!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Estoy en Bilbao!

¡Hola a todos!

I´m currently in Bilbao and today will be my second full day here. So much has happened already since Madrid and Segovia. Madrid is a beautiful city but it reminds me a lot of New York. Segovia is also really beautiful but it´s more like old Spain. We got to see the famous aqueduct and a huge palace (Alcatráz). We got to climb up the tower and from there you can see all of Segovia. I really wish I could put up pictures but I won´t be able to until I can bring my computer to campus because my homestay doesn´t have internet.

Bilbao is also a beautiful city. It still has an old part but within the past few years it has become very contemporary with the Guggenheim museum and Museo de los obres bellas (I think). The shopping here is going to be awesome! There are so many stores it´s crazy. I can´t wait to take the time to go!

Today we are going to Plentzia which is a beach nearby. The weather isn´t really that great today, but hopefully it will get better by the time we leave. Tomorrow we start classes and I hope I tested into the ones I want!

As far as my homestay, Amelia is a very sweet older lady who loves to talk. She is constantly talking to me and telling me the most random stories. So far it´s been interesting living with her but hopefully it will improve. So far I´ve really enjoyed the food here except that I have yet to adjust to the schedule of meals. We usually have a medium sized breakfast early in the morning and then we don´t eat lunch until 2. Then dinner isn´t until 8 or 9 so by then I´m usually pretty hungry.

Well I think that´s all I´ll write for now so I don´t overwhelm you all!

¡Hasta Luego!