Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

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Emily: Six things about Spain

November 6, 2011

I have been in beautiful Espana now for two months, and some days I still feel like I just walked off of the plane from the United States. BUT more and more, I feel like I am finally understanding some of the things that happen here which don’t necessarily happen back in the United States. In the off chance that any of you reading this blog post decide to come to Spain (Barcelona in particular), I hope these thoughts can help prepare you!

1. You know that medium or dark roast coffee you picked up this morning from Starbucks or Caribou or Dunn Brothers? No, not the latte, not the cappuccino, not the mocha–the plain ole coffee. That doesn’t exist here. Only espresso and espresso drinks. 

2. You know those days when you see a random person on the street, and you are having a great day and want others to join in the awesomeness so you decide to go up to them and say “Omigoodness! Your dress/coat/shoes/shirt/pants is/are wonderful! Where did you get them? They really bring out the color in your eyes!” You both leave the encounter with a smile on your face. Score! That doesn’t happen here. If you see a random person wearing clothing that you like and you tell them, they think you are a crazy person and will run away. Literally.

3. You know how sometimes you may want a glass of wine with your lunch meal but pass because you are worried about what others may think? Here, there is nothing wrong with having a beer, glass of wine, or glass of sangria at 11:00 AM–so next time, don’t feel guilty and just pretend you are in Spain.

4. You know how you base a waitress’ service on how much she interacts with you and smiles at yours silly jokes, and doesn’t complain when your three-year old child breaks something and there is glass everywhere (believe me, this seven-year waitress could go on and on about this topic)? Here, once you get your food, you eat your food without interruption. If you need the waiter/waitress you must get their attention–this includes when you want your check.

5. On the topic of food…You know how when you go to most restuarants in the United States and you order something but it wasn’t prepared how you expected/wanted. So naturally, you complain and then the waitress/mananger/owner takes 50% off of your ticket OR let’s you re-order something free of charge? Here, if you order it, you pay for it–whether or not you eat it. 

6. You know how we sometimes arrive early to meetings in the United States? If you arrive 15 minutes early in Spain, you will be waiting 15-25 minutes until the next person shows up. 

Number 2 and Number 6 I still struggle with every day. But, instead of trying to change these things about me, I have decided to embrace these differences in culture. 

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Emily: Letters from Barcelona—weeks 6 & 7

October 24, 2011

Dear Montserrat: What beautiful hiking trails you have! It was nice to be out of the urban metropolis of Barcelona and in nature. 

Dear Salvador Dali: You were a crazy man, and your artwork is no less crazy; yet at the same time, I really enjoy looking at it. Thank you for introducing me to a new way to think and look at things.

Dear School: You are picking up. I have midterms this week. I was always hoping that studying abroad would be more “living” abroad and not “studying”.

Dear Passeig de Gracia: Every. single. day. I walk down you to get to my classes. I have never been one to feel like I need designer clothes (Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Jimmy Choo) but really, making me walk by these stores day after day is driving me crazy!

Dear Holmes Place Gym: Your trainers look at me like I am crazy when doing my workouts. One woman (a Canadian living here) told me she knew I wasn’t Spanish because I was working too hard and sweating too much. I’m taking that as a compliment.

Dear Autumn: You have finally arrived in Barcelona. This means no more back sweat from my backpack, AND I was able to break out my pea coat I got on sale last March. Thank you!

Dear Sister: Yesterday you completed your second full marathon! I am so proud of you! I can’t wait until we can run together (me a half-marathon, you a full!)

Dear Spanish Cooking Class: You are probably one of the most fun and coolest things ever! I am inspired to take a cooking class in each country I travel to! Plus, I am way excited to cook some authentic Spanish cuisine for my friends and family!

Dear Family: 59 days until you are here! I cannot wait to show you España!

Dear Spanish Keyboard: Seven weeks in, I think I have finally figured you out.

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Emily: Letters from Barcelona—week 5

October 12, 2011

Dear Classmates from International Economic History: You all make me feel like a celebrity every. single. class. Also, thank you for the compliment that my “accent” when speaking Spanish is not that American! Just you wait, my accent can only get better the longer I am here!

Dear CIEE Building: You are in a passageway that tourists actually stop by and take pictures! Many mornings when walking to you, I cannot believe that I am actually living this experience I have dreamed about for years!

Dear Madrid: I am still worn out from visiting you last weekend! It is hard to be a full-time student AND a full-time “cultural experiencer” (because “tourist” just sounds so…touristy!) 

Dear Elderly Man in the Supermecado: Today, I was able to understand that you were looking for the fresh bread and walked right by it and that you were making fun of yourself for it–but then you started asking questions… I will be the first to admit that I have made vast improvements in listening and reading in Spanish. The speaking–not so much! By the time I figure out the words and sentence structure to respond, the conversation is past… Anyway, sir, I am sorry if I seemed rude when I gave you my blank look.

Dear Flamenco Show: This week, the economics program from CIEE (all 10 of us) were given the opportunity to go to your show with our guardian angel (a Spanish econ student that is required to be our friend). Barcelona is not really the region for flamenco which makes me even MORE excited to visit Sevilla! 

Dear Cappuccinos: Maybe if you cost more than a euro here, and there weren’t seven cafés on every block, I wouldn’t have become addicted to you. Whatever am I going to do when I go back to the United States and go back to paying an arm and a leg?!

Dear Spanish Professor: Sometimes you teach us words and phrases that are EXTREMELY helpful to know, even though the subject matter isn’t exactly professional. I think this is totally acceptable.

Dear Montserrat: Tomorrow, a bunch of us are going to hike you and visit the monastery in your rocky ledges. I am excited and can’t wait to write you another letter next week about the experience!

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Emily: Week 4 Barcelona Letters

October 6, 2011

Dear Spanish Political Science Class: Talk about a lot of catching up on history this girl has to do! Why is it that in the US we only learn about the US government, but in other countries, they learn about their governments and those of other countries….

Dear Madrid: You are beautiful. I loved how I could actually read signs (in Barcelona, most signs are in Catalan with Spanish underneath). You almost have a semi-New York feel to you–although New York is definitely much more fast paced (You are still located in Spain!)

Dear Spanish Royal Palace: Are a few of your rooms over the top? Yes. Does any “house” actually need over one thousand rooms? No. Do these questions really matter? No. With the help of Rick Steves, my new friends and I toured you on Sunday and I think we were all feeling that you could be our second home–especially since you are only used for ceremonial purposes (Even King Juan Carlos thinks you are a little too much! Ha!)

Dear Toledo: Here I thought Madrid was beautiful–but you take the cake! Especially for this girl who has had a soft spot for history her entire life (I mean how many 1st graders do you know that played “indentured servants”). Walking around your maze-like streets and occasionally going in circles only adds to your charm. Be sure that I will recommend you as a place to see for all those going to Spain. I still cannot believe that many of your roads in the city have been around for over 300 years! It seems like they are constantly doing road construction in Minneapolis…

Dear Ave (pronounced Ah-vay) Train: You are a fun way to travel. Going at speeds around 160 mph across the Spanish terrain was definitely more interesting than an airplane (please don’t tell my boyfriend that…in his eyes airplanes trump all other forms of transportation).

Dear October: You are already here. How you showed up so fast is beyond me as I can still remember my cramped 7-hour plane ride over here perfectly. I need to book my plane/train tickets if I want to see anything besides Barcelona.

Dear Readers of this Blog: I am sorry that I am not including pictures with my posts lately. As some may know, I am only using my iPad while in Spain (the heavy lap-top that must stay plugged in at all times remained in South Dakota). The only problem is my iPad doesn’t exactly let me easily put my pictures from my camera on here (if there is an easy way, please do share!) I do promise that when I get back to the States around the 1st of January, I will share some of the best ones!

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Emily: Barcelona weeks 2 & 3 letters

September 23, 2011

Dear Spanish Test: 99% = I dominated you! Enough Said!

Dear Econ History Class: You are going to be an interesting class for the sole purpose of being through a different lens than the “American” lens. In other words, you aren’t constantly asking the question “how does this affect the United States?” Instead, you ask “how does this affect the world?”

Dear Sitges: You are a small(ish) tourist beach town out of Barcelona. CIEE took us to you last weekend, and if I would have not been suffering from sinuses, I would have probably thought you were even more wonderful! Your beaches are beautiful; your community is quaint; and everybody was so laid back!

Dear Cava Tasting: Although unique and tasty, I am not accustomed to having two glasses of cava (Spanish champagne) at 11:00 AM–I think I would plan my next cava tasting in the evening/late afternoon.

Dear Victoria: As my homestay “mother” you have gone above and beyond making me feel comfortable in your house. I am pretty sure my suppers here are much better than anything I would be cooking for myself back at school. PLUS not only do you do my laundry, you change my sheets weekly, AND found me skim milk for my cereal in the morning! I am eternally grateful! 

Dear Bocqueria: You are this amazing market with little stalls selling all of the fruit a fruit-fanatic could imagine, vegetables in every color and shape, fish straight from the Med, fresh cheese, meats, and bread. In other words, you put all farmers markets I have been to in the United States to shame. I am still upset with myself that I have only visited you once since arriving here!

Dear Spaniard Classmates: You don’t understand my obsession with working-out everyday. Don’t worry, neither do my friends back home. 

Dear United States: I still get homesick every once in awhile. However, I have found that letting myself go to Starbuck’s once a week is a good counter-measure. I am happy to report that Tall Skim Chai Lattes and Tall Skinny Caramel Capuccinos taste the same in Spain as they do in the US. On the note of Starbucks–Caribou Coffee, I miss you! Please expand into Europe. 

Dear Upcoming Week: You bring the start of my “real” schedule as all of my classes will have started by next Tuesday. Don’t tell any of my cool friends back home, but I am looking forward to learning again!

Dear Blog: New goal, do better at keeping you updated!

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Emily: Barcelona Letters week 1

September 14, 2011

Dear Victoria: You are my señora for the next three months. Although we have had a few miscommunications the first week, I now feel much more at home. Thank you for opening up your home to random nieve American students.

Dear Clase de Español: I am definitely probably a little to advanced to be in the “beginning” class, however, mi profesora is more than willing to challenge me in order to get better. My deadline of speaking English in Victoria´s home is October 1 and with your will be so much easier!

Dear Skim Milk:  You are the thing I miss the most. Although they have something similar to skim milk it is nothing like my blue-ish-white colored drink back in the United States.

Dear La Playa (the beach):  I have been to you four times in the last seven days of being in Barcelona! That is what you get when you put a midwestern girl near the sea!

Dear Economy Class:  Everytime I take a plane that is more than 4 hours long, I make a personal vow to someday either work for a company that let´s me fly business class or have a job that gives me enough money to afford business/first class.  AKA the flight over to Barcelona was cramped, crowded, and full of bland food because I was in your class!

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Emily: Homesickness sets in

September 10, 2011

I am not sure this is the best time for me to write my first post in Barcelona because the truth of the matter is that I am one hundred and fifty percent homesick. There are so many things that frustrate me–the language barrier, moving in with a new family that has different views than me, living in a place that is hot and humid but none of the buildings have air conditioning. (See! I sound like a complete downer right now!)

Study abroad materials say that homesickness is natural (although technically I should still be in the “honeymoon” stage where everything is new and exciting.) However, I have decided that some of my homesickness might actually be sadness of changes and growing up, on top of the homesickness. Let me explain. This summer, I spent a wonderful three months with my family–helping my dad, road tripping to Chicago, Montana, and Colorado with my family, going shopping and to movies with my mom. And there was also the bonus that I got to see my boyfriend and talk to him every single day on the telephone for at least seven minutes. Here, I am stuck with Skyping (if the internet connection feels like it) and Facebook chatting. My sister is also starting her first semester at college and it was so fun the last few weeks to be excited with her. And finally, it was my last summer at home. In May I will be graduating and actually become part of the real world. No more Criminal Minds marathons on Tuesday afternoon. No more daily evening walks with my mom and the dogs. Sure these things may happen here and there, but not all summer. I know that I should be excited for this next chapter of my life. But I have always had trouble letting go (which is probably why I watched the Disney movie Tangled two days before leaving for Spain!). Tomorrow in order to combat this homesickness, I am going to try to fill the day with sightseeing. I may actually be a tourist for the day and pay for the overpriced ticket that gets you on a double-decker, open-topped, bus and take a tour of the city. I still do not know my way around completely so I could even say that it would be educational. Plus, it is something my family would do if we were here together (Since that is what we did in DC and London). I will try to write a more upbeat post soon because there are some pretty cool and exciting things to talk about as well.

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Emily: Goals for Spain

September 4, 2011

In a few days, I leave for my semester in Barcelona, Spain. Right now, so many different emotions are bubbling to the surface every other minute–which is making me quite miserable actually–people are not meant to change emotions so frequently! I am, overall, excited and grateful for this opportunity; yet, there is a piece of me that is nervous (to be expected, I would presume).

One of our pre-departure tips was to think hard about our goals for our study abroad experience (beside taking classes for our major). I want my goals to always be nearby as I have found the more I read my goals and spend time thinking about them, the more likely they are to be achieved.

  1. Learn more about myself and how I can use this experience to not only better myself as a person but also those around me. 
  2. Completely immerse myself in the Spanish language and be able to have and keep a conversation going by the end of December.
  3. Learn, live, appreciate, and experience the culture in Barcelona without letting myself get trapped in the “American” or “tourist” bubble. 
I will be aboard my flight in Minneapolis heading to Newark, NJ before boarding my flight to Barcelona. I have begun the process of packing my bags (almost done, just a few odds and ends left). The summer has flown by. There have been numerous times throughout the last six months where I am just in awe of where my life has taken me. I would have never in my wildest dreams imagined how many opportunities I would get at the age of 21 to travel the world, not to mention the United States as well.

I know that many of these opportunies would not have been possible without the support of my parents, my sister, my boyfriend, my close friends, my school advisors–so thank you, to each and every one of you. Leaving for a new country (even to only be there 117 days–a small sliver of time when considering a lifetime) is somewhat overwhelming. Yet, having this wonderful and strong support system truly makes the “leaving” part of the experience much easier knowing that all of these people will be back will be behind me.

 Onto a new adventure…

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Michelle: Barcelona

April 16, 2011

Only a three-hour bus ride and the sister city of Montpellier, I would have been really sad if I didn’t take the opportunity to go to Barcelona during my stay here. With only six weekends left, last weekend was practically my last chances to finally see beautiful Catalonia. Unfortunately, I could only spend one full day there because I had already bought a ticket to see Mozart l’Opera Rock that same weekend in Lyon…but Lyon will be a different post. If ever I have the chance to come back to Europe, I will definitely be returning to Barcelona.

Getting dripped on the entire trip by Euroline’s overhead air-conditioning and being roasted by the heat coming out of the vents underneath was a bit of a downer, but even that didn’t dampen the rest of the visit (I tried to find contact information on their website so I could complain, but no such luck).

One of the first things I noticed about the people of Barcelona is they are much more colorful than those in Montpellier. People walk down the street wearing colors other than black, navy blue, tan, or white! In all, it makes for a more festive atmosphere.

Another thing about crossing the boarder is suddenly I either had to be able to understand Spanish or accept feeling like an idiot. Since I speak no Spanish, I had to settle for the second option. It is kind of amazing how much you can do with English, hand gestures, and a few Spanish words. For example, I had a little difficulty finding the hostel after arriving at the train station. The road I ended up wandering onto was not on my map. So I stopped the first nice looking person I saw and said, “Senora por favor,” pointed to the map and just generally looked confused. She said what I assumed was “you are here” in Spanish, pointed at the map, pointed down the street and up on the map. “Sagrada Familia?” I asked, because my hostel was at that metro stop. She held up 5 fingers for tram line five, then pointed me toward the nearest metro stop. “Gracias,” I said and found my way to the hostel. With all the Spanish names of places , I’m pretty sure I murdered the language. So Mom, Dad, this is me being humbled. When you come, I will not make fun of your French (in front of you).

To understand Barcelona you have to understand a bit of the history of the region of Catalonia. Like Alsace on the border of France and Germany, Catalonia benefits from both French and Spanish influences: they have their own language, customs, and culture.  Though technically in Spain, the Catalonians do not consider themselves Spanish.  To the left you can see the Catalan flag and the Spanish flag flying side by side. The Catalan flag is kind of folded so you can’t really see it, but is four red stripes on a gold background. The story goes, while fighting off the Moorish invasion, the Count of Barcelona, Wilfred the Hairy was wounded. Charles the Bald of the Holy Roman Empire pressed his hand against the wound to stop the bleeding. After it had stopped, he wiped his hand across Wilfred’s golden shield. The flag recreates this act in gratitude for King Charles.

Wilfred the Hairy, as well as being the Count of Barcelona, is known for his dragon slaying. Unlike the typical knights we think of using a sword to kill the beasts, Wilfred used a club.

Due to the influence of Catholicism, Barcelona adopted Wilfred’s Catholic counterpart as their patron saint: St. George. With his white shield and red cross, he killed dragons the way we normally picture such adventurers, with a sword.

In addition to St. George, Barcelona has a second patron saint, St. Eulalia. Eulalia was a 13-year-old girl when Christianity was still in its infancy in Spain. She was not only a believer in Christianity but she tried to spread the word of God. The Roman emperor did not like this bratty little girl challenging his authority and thus subjected her to public humiliation. Stripped naked in a public square, God produced a light snowfall around her to cover her and preserve her purity. This miracle, of course did not sit well with the townspeople who wanted to prove that her god did not exist so they put her in a barrel of knives and rolled her down the street. Here, she was martyred for her beliefs and became a saint. Today, Barcelona’s women still keep a shrine devoted to her on a street called Baixada de Santa Eulalia, “Eulalia’s Descent.”

Below is the former Roman limit of the city. There used to be a drawbridge and water, but those two features are long gone. You can still see one of the Roman arches on the left of the photo.

During the Age of Exploration, Spain commissioned an adventurous young explorer to find a faster route to the Orient. This statue is in honor of that man and he points toward the Americas, the land he discovered.

Upon Columbus’ return, be brought with him all the riches of the New World including foods, animals, and people. It was in the Placa del Rei where he was received. Here is where the Old World met the New.

In addition to their rich history, Barcelona is also known for their art. The two pictures below have a bit of a funny story attached. First of all, that building is the city’s school of architecture. That probably wasn’t your first guess; moi non plus. A couple decades ago, they decided they wanted their building to be less of an eyesore so they created a new facade. According to the story, Picasso and Miro were rivals. One night after a Miro exhibition, Picasso was sitting in his favorite pub, Els Quatro Gats, probably getting a little bit drunk/trippy off absinthe. Everyone in the bar was going on about how great Miro is. Finally, Picasso had had enough and says ”Miro’s work looks like child’s work, anyone can do a Miro.”  He then proceeds to get out a marker draws the first sketch on the bar’s tablecloth to prove it. The people in the bar have to admit, his sketch could be a Miro.  Someone at the bar that night was smart enough to save the tablecloth

Some days later, Miro hears about Picasso’s slight against him and retaliates with his rendition of a Picasso. Today, the products of this artist’s quarrel serve to mask possibly the ugliest building in Barcelona.

As you may have guessed, Picasso studied and worked in Barcelona. At the age of 14, the Picasso family moved to Barcelona where Pablo was enrolled in La Llotja, the local art school (pictured below). Unbeknown to his father, La Llotja is in the middle of what was then, Barcelona’s red light district. There are those who say that it is from this early exposure to sexuality that Picasso became quite the ladies’ man. Being a world renowned artist probably didn’t hurt either. This street, the Career d’Avinyo, is where Picasso drew his inspiration for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Next to the La Llotja is the Placa George Orwell. Somewhat poetically, this was the first square in Barcelona to be put under 24 hour video surveillance. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Eric: Salve!

March 6, 2011

So I have been sort of lazy recently and fallen into a routine here in Rome, but finally with a couple days worth of rest I am back and have some catching up do.  So I suppose I can start where I left off.  So Marley and I went to our interview and got the job!  Alessandro is our immediate boss and contact, and he is incredible!  He is only 29, but has accomplished quite a bit in his lifetime.  He studied law and practiced business law for a while until he came to the conclusion that as a lawyer you have to be, uh, devoid of morals to put it politely.  So he and his best friends Mateo and Antonio decided to open up a magazine that is geared toward English speaking tourists, students and expats.  The magazine is meant to highlight lesser known parts of the city, and help people unravel the tight knit roman “underground” social events.

Marley and I so far have spent most of our time developing a survey with Alessandro in order to gather information on the development and improvement of the magazine as well as demographic information to be used in ad space sales.  We work for three hours on Mondays and Thursdays at the Romeing office on the Northern edge of the city, but we have fun and get into lively discussions about people, music, and life.  In addition to discussing the survey we were given the opportunity to write a restaurant overview that will be featured in the March issue.  We were treated to dinner at Antica Taverna, a classic Italian restaurant near our school, and had to write a short blurb about the food and ambiance of the location.

Our group also did a weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain which was fun, but sort of set me back in my Italian studies.  The trip was sort of a blur because we only had half Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and half of Sunday to see Barcelona.  Thursday when we got off the plane it was raining and cold and it stayed that way the whole day.  We went for a walking tour in the rain which was interesting, but the weather prevented us from being fully engaged when we had our introduction to the city.  On the first day we saw some of Gaudi’s best works and went for a tapas dinner after the tour at around nine which was pretty incredible!  Some of the highlight dishes were the seared potatoes with aioli and the calamari. Before the dinner we had a guest speaker from the Cataluña separatist movement. He gave us an overview of the political situation in Barcelona which is exceptionally complicated even if the turmoil is undetectable to the casual tourist.  The feud between Catalonians and Spanish is a delicate issue involving a historical tradition of racism against the Catalan people who retain a culture of their own despite being technically speaking Spanish.  The feud is ultimately about finances and language.  The Spanish is apparently taxing the economically advantaged Catalan region in order to subsidize other regions in which the local economies are not as developed.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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