Monday, April 26, 2010

In love with a little city called Sevilla.

So my last blog post may/may not have been a little cranky and sleep deprived, silly me. I can't believe I spent so much time freaking out about my trip, when really it was prrrrobably the five best consecutive days of my travels to date.

So when I was in the train station in Madrid, I met a charming woman who spoke English and was able to help me navigate my way through the various confusing lines. As previously mentioned, I had missed my 12:00 train and had to get into an obnoxiously long line to get a new ticket and pay another exorbitant fee. I was upset and alone, and I'm convinced she was an angel specifically put there by God to help me. Anyway, I hopped on the lovely AVE train and enjoyed the views of the Spanish countryside as we sped towards our destination, Sevilla.

Even though my Spanish came in handily enough--Donde estas [fill in the blank] Calle?--I couldn't understand the various passerby's responses and decided to straight up call the hostel to figure out where they were located. The hostel is right on the Alameda de Hercules, a nifty little square with a sort of "alternative, hippie" crowd. That night there was a large party sorta thang going on, complete with a band, DJ and girls dressed up in flamenco dresses who later stripped down to booty shorts and tank tops. But I met lots of really interesting people from my hostel, including a bat biologist from Germany, many Kiwis, Brits, French and Italians. It was a most enjoyable night. Then we all headed over to a bar and a few of us went to La Feria afterwards. I don't know how to explain the Feria...I've never experienced anything quite like it. Basically, we walked 40 minutes to a large fair grounds that had all the normal sort of rides you'd expect, but the main attractions were the "casetas," or tents. Families from Sevilla put up these massive tents and serve food and drinks, but you have to be on the guest list to get in. Luckily there were a few public tents that we managed to hang out in. The women looked so beautiful, dressed up in either fancy cocktail dresses or their amazing flamenco dresses. Seriously, regardless of their shape or size, they looked HOT. I wish I had had money to buy one/enough room in my little carry on. Which, let me remind you, contained enough outfits for 4 days...not 11. Needless to say I wore the same dress every other day. Anyway we returned home around 4am and I woke up 3 hours later for my bus tour through Andalucia., which was fantastic and left me very sunburnt!

Wednesday I slept in much later than I usually do, but I didn't even care! I was traveling by myself and didn't have to feel guilty about sleeping in or trying to get somewhere early in the morning. I absolutely loved being by myself--it was so much easier to meet people and do whatever I wanted, whenever. Don't get me wrong, I adore my friends and traveling with them, but it was such a unique experience! Anyway I walked to the Cathedral and climbed the bell tower--such amazing views, and strolled through the Alcazar, the old palace. I honestly don't know much about it because I didn't understand all the Spanish signs and didn't get an audio guide, but it was beautiful and the architecture was fascinating. AND THE GARDENS. I've come to the conclusion I'm in love with nature and beautiful things. I spent most of my time in the gardens, wandering around them and taking awkward self timer pics. Wa wahh. But seriously they were so beautiful and grand. I also got some delicious apple cake at the little cafe overlooking the gardens. So quaint! That night I made dinner and met up with a friend I had met at my hostel. We did a bar crawl with his hostel and had a really fun night, where I met even more people from around the world. It was super enjoyable, and we all got to have some rebujito, a traditional Feria drink that consists of sickeningly sweet white wine and Sprite--it tasted better as you drank more of it. After a few bars we headed to a public caseta at the Feria and danced the night away. I tried to learn the special dance they were all doing--the Sevillania? and asked a nice Spanish man to teach me--"Yo quiero bailar la Sevillania pero yo no se como!" ...or something like that. Anyway it was a great night..and I randomly ran into a high school friend studying there. Such a small world!

Thursday I slept in again after getting home in the wee wee hours of the morning--so early/late that people were heading to work when I was heading back to the hostel. Oops! But I headed to the Belles Artes art museum, hung around the Maria Luisa park and shopped around for souvenirs. I bought a poster and a flamenco dress-inspired apron. Love ittttt. The charming young Spaniard working there chatted me up and gave me his number--he said he noticed my eyes from across the room and commented that my smile is "simpatico." What a charmer! Too bad I couldn't get another euro knocked off the apron, but I did get an invitation into a private caseta ;) My friends joke that I am good at making new friends/getting discounts/things for free by tilting my head and smiling at prospective friends/helpers/whomever. I don't know if it's true or not, but hey!..if being smiley and charming gets me ahead in life, I'll take it. I had an early night in after getting sub-par paella and sangria--I think I went to bed around 11pm!

Friday I went to the bullfighting museo pero it was CLOSED because of the fight. I would've gone to one but they were expensive, and I didn't want to watch all the gore by myself. I walked around, shopped, tried on espadrilles, got ice cream, strolled through the Maria Luisa park and visited two museums there. The museums were a little bit boring to be honest, though I enjoyed the one on Sevilla customs and art more than the archaeology. Later that night I got churros con chocolate--they were way greasy and icky--but then I saw a flamenco show with my new Kiwi friend, Ben. The show was so beautiful--the dancer was so passionate and firey! Very fierce. And the 2.50 Dos XX wasn't bad either!

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I had such a great time hanging out with my friends in Madrid and Barcelona and by my onesies in Sevilla. I feel like I learned a lot about myself and am more independent than ever! It's an empowering and very cool feeling. Woooo! Except now I have no money to travel anywhere else, but it ain't no thang. After all, I came to Ireland to study and live here, so I'll try to budget in one or two more trips within the country. Maybe a bike trip around Killarney and somewhere farther up north? We shall see.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This is why God invented credit cards.

So my flight to Dublin was cancelled because of the dumb volcano. I bought the way too expensive plane ticket to Madrid to spend some time with my friends, but I wish I had thought about a bus...oh well. Anyway we spent 2 days there in the pouring rain, which was slightly miserable. But we saw the Prado (luckily I got in for free before a bunch of people in my group were charged 4euro). I tried to call Aunt Tara´s neice who lives in Madrid but unfortunately she never picked up, boo. But I spent a fare amount of time freaking out, trying to figure stuff out, and decided to extend my vacation to Seville by myself. Hopefully my flight won´t be cancelled this Saturday, woof. I also cancelled my Scotland trip and won´t be going to London-Amsterdam-Bruges either because I have no moneyyyyyyyyyy. Anyone who wants to contribute funds to me is very welcome to do so.

Anyhow, on Monday I had an adventure getting my train ticket. I bought a ticket at 11:30, after waiting in line for 45 minutes, for a noon departure. But silly me, I didn´t bring my bags with me. So I RAN through the Metro, SPRINTED through the streets of Madrid and ran up 4 flights of stairs to grab my bag, ran back and missed the train, of course. SO I waited another hour in line to get a seat at a different time, paid another fee and waited. The train was nice though, and the country was beautiful. And, in true Teal fashion I got lost finding the hostel...the directions were VAGUE! But I made some friends, got groceries, made dinner and hung around the square last night listening to live bands where everyone was drinking litres of cheap cheap beer. Then we headed to a bar for 1euro cups and walked a good 40 minutes to the Feria, which was SO AMAZING! Ridiculously cool and crazy. Came home a few hours later than I meant to, woke up 3 hours later to shower and got ready for my bus tour!

Jenny recommended a tour through the Spanish countryside where an Australian guy takes you through some of the white towns, an olive oil mill, a winery and gives you a chance to just enjoy the scenery. It was so ridiculously beautiful--possibly moreso than Dingle¿?-and I even got burnt! My fair skin just doesn´t know how to handle the Spanish sun. But I climbed a castle, soaked up rays and ate a delicious frozen mango treat on a stick. Now I´m exhausted and must take a nap before more festivities tonight!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Espana...Barcelona Part 1

I love when the biggest decision of the day is which twisty straw to drink my sangria out of...normal sized straw or huge one?

After 12 hours of travel to Spain and getting lost for 45 minutes looking for our hostel, we crashed. The next day we wandered around Las Ramblas, a really crazy street full of street performers, exotic birds and flowers. We also hit of La Boqueria, an AMAZING market full of dead animals, cheese, fresh fruit juice and crazy fruit and candy. And I'm serious about the dead animals...I definitely saw a lamb's head with the eyeballs, teeth and tongue still entact. It was awesome. Then we tried to find a tapas place Aunt Tara recommended and ended up dining at a lovely, less expensive place across the street. I had FANTASTIC iberian pork with quince jam that was salty and oh so crispy. I also got fried camambert cheese with red fruit sauce. Not too shabby! Then we walked along the beach, got ridiculous hot chocolate the consistency of pudding, and headed to a market for bread, cheese and wine before dinner. Kelly, my travel buddy, and I drank the wine, ate most of the cheese and a full baguette. YUMMO. A bit later we headed to Las Ramblas for dinner, found a special with tapa, paella and dessert, got sangria *I've definitely had better* and ate waaay too much. But it was very lovely. Then we met up with some other Arcadia peeps at a cute bar that seemed like a fairy tale. It was decorated with trees and levitating people..very cool. Then we went to bed!

Yesterday Kelly and I met some of the boys to check out the soccer stadium, though little did we know how much it would cost. She opted to sit out, but I thought it might be interesting to see...with the price of admission I figured we got a tourguide and a free soccer ball or at LEAST a soccer player to take home, but nay. We got NONE of the above and just walked through the place. Succch a waste HOWEVER the museum at the end was cool. Then a few of us got picnic fixins and I embarrassed myself trying to use what little Spanish is left in my vocabulary. I tried to chat it up with the cashier-hola, como estas? and he may/may not have tried flirting with me by asking if I was on vacation but I didn't understand what he was saying so I went all catatonic on him. I turned bright red, the people in line behind me looked at me like I was a moron, someone asked me if I'm on holiday, I said yes, turned even beet redder and ran away. Traumatizing. Anyway we continued on heading to Parc Guell and just died. It was SOOOOO awesome. Gaudi is one creative dude and must've had a wicked sense of humor. We enjoyed our cheese, meat, baguettes and strawberries-olives for the ladies and pringles for the boys-and explored the park for a good four hours. The view of the city was incredible and there were so many new and exciting and different things around every corner! Then we got more pudding hot chocolate, met up with the rest of the group for dinner, found amazing sangria and then ate at a DARLING restaurant, Petra. It had silverware for chandeliers and had an excellent and inexpensive menu. I had duck magret salad with pumpkin dressing and sesame seeds and blue cheese gnocchi, of course. And we all decided to split 5 desserts and pass them around. So delightful.

Today Kelly and I wandered around La Boqueria again, got picnic fixins, but it started raining so we went back to the hostel to eat. And for me to change. Apparently I don't believe in weather forecasts, or they don't believe in me because I brought sundresses to wear. Oh well. Though I've gotten SO many weirdo looks, but ya know what? I think YOU'RE weird, lady in the down jacket that goes to your ankles. It's APRIL and you're in wool/leather with fur/whatever. It's springtime, embrace it. But yeah a lot of peple looked at my pasty American legs with confusion. Anyway I changed into my black cropped pants, we went back out and went to the Picasso Museo-coolness-and then the beach. It was beautifulll and there were 2 nudist dudes walking around...everyone else was fully dressed, weirdos. But I received a lovely text from RyanAir stating my flight home to Ireland is CANCELLED due to a little volcanic throw up in the north. Flights are cancelled until at least Monday, woof. Guess when God gives you lemons you make Sangria and extend your trip to Madrid!! Flights aren't cancelled within Spain, just EVERYWHERE ELSE in Europe. Although I am supposed to be in Scotland on Wednesday--I already bought the plane tickets and stuff. We'll see how that goes. But yeah. There's an update!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Have you seen lambs dancing in a field next to the ocean? I have.

Well I have just departed from Mom and Dad, and I must say I had a fabulous time with them. And there’s a man in front of me with wicked dreadlocks poking into my bus-seat bubble, and I kinda want to see what they feel like. But no.

So, to start off this epic journey, I met M&D at their hotel in Galway, where mom burst into happy tears of joy upon seeing me. We all chatted for a bit, and I showed dad around town and campus. Unfortunately we had THE rainiest week I’ve experienced yet whilst living in Ireland, but it did not damper our spirits. Anyway I suggested we go to my class on Irish lit so that I could hand in my paper and go to my lecture (I also may or may not have a major crush on my teacher). Dad thoroughly enjoyed the class and is even inspired to read On Another Man’s Wound now! We got a scrumptious dinner at La Carla, a Spanish tapas restaurant, where I got the MOST delicious duck with plum and honey glaze, decent fried calamari and not-the-most-wonderful goat cheese balls. But it was so much food, and I’m not at all used to eating that amount of stuff in one sitting. I had sort of been living on small portions of vegetables in a pita and fruit for the past two weeks to save on money and just an overall desire to eat more healthfully. It was paying off…until now. Anyway, after dinner we went to the Bierhaus where I got a Belgium Leffe—woof—and dad tried the Galway Hooker. THEN we headed to Monroe’s for Guinness and Irish dancing, though the dancing wasn’t quite what I thought it’d be; I thought it would be more interactive, but nay. Then they put me in a taxi to go home—such a luxury—and bade me goodnight.

Wednesday I picked them up for my Irish language class--which they thought was fun when they weren’t dozing off from jetlag—and headed to MacDonagh’s for fish ‘n chips! Then I finally got my claddagh ring and did a bit of shopping with mom. I had her bring me some clothes from home, and she commented that she “has no idea what I’ve been wearing at school” because all my clothes are “horrible.” I have to agree—I brought the bulk of my cute stuff here with me, but I’m so sick of it now (though I knew I would be, I just didn’t realize to what degree). So I showed them around the city more, had tea and got a few new dresses, yay! Then we went to Nimmo’s for dinner and I had steak for the first time in months, and it was lovely. After that we did a pub-crawl of Tig Coili, The King’s Head and the Quays, took a taxi home again (so exciting!) and went to bed.

Thursday we drove through Connemara (beautiful, as always) and I made, if I do say so myself, a delicious dinner of rocket salad with pear and Parmesan, mushroom risotto and chocolate biscuit cake. We stayed in that night and watched Criminal Minds (finally! I’ve found it on the telly!) after I had my international phone call interview for the Center for Talented Youth (a gifted youth camp organized through Johns Hopkins). If all goes well and my background check is clean (which it is—spotless, even), I’ve got a summer jobbbbbb. Woo!

Friday we drove to Westport, a charming neighboring town, though EVERYTHING was closed because of Good Friday. Not cool. Dad and I took a walk to the Quay and then we headed back to Galway for Italian food. I had gnocchi, yum. It was a filling meal, though the guy across from our table WOULD NOT stop staring at me in the creepiest way. Even mom and dad noticed. I can’t say I’ve ever felt like I was being hunted like that before, but whatever.

Saturday we went to the market, but Daniel my donut man wasn’t there. So sad! But his sister was getting married that weekend so I guess I can forgive him. He and I are tight, so I know these things about him. Anyway we got falafel, shopped around and got some Connemara marble jewelry and sweet bread for Easter morning. Then we got way lost on the drive to the Cliffs of Moher, but all was well. It turned into a lovely day, thank goodness, and we enjoyed our time there. Though, I must say, it was more exciting when I was on the complete opposite side in February—the part where most people don’t go. I didn’t realize how much they cut off the cliffs from the public and how many barricades are set up. I live life on the edge, and the cement slabs were cramping mah style. Anyway, we got burgers at Boogaloo, a gourmet-type burger joint and attempted to go to a few pubs, including Taaffes and Busker Browne’s, but it was waaay loud for my parental’s delicate ears and we headed home. BUT they finally got to meet some of my friends, and that was good.

Sunday I made a really tasty Spanish tortilla with lots of fresh veggies, some fruit, crispy rashers and the cake from the market for Easter brunch. Then we headed to the cathedral for mass, came home and packed, and headed to the Ring of Kerry! The weather was pretty dismal for a few days, but we drove through the Ring and stayed in Kenmare, an adorable little town. We had a delish dinner that night (I had duck breast with some duck liver, so francy) and for the next few days we relaxed, drove around, jumped around in crazy wind, and got “Ireland’s best fish n chips” (they lied, they weren’t); I also read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the 6th(?) time. I was hoping to do a boat trip across some of the lakes, too, but Dad thought the weather was too ugly to do such a thing. I think I’ll go back to Killarney in May with some friends and see about those boat/bike/hiking excursions. OH and the charming hotel we stayed at, the Landsdown Arms Inn, is a 250 year old establishment, but more importantly, had amazing porridge with thick cream and Irish whiskey. Hollla don’t think I won’t try to make it myself.

Anyway we drove to Dingle on Tuesday and were blessed with some beautiful weather while there. Dingle is so insanely beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s real. Beautiful, beautiful clear blue-green (or teal, ok) water, rocky cliffs, ridiculously green grass, SO many sheep, and lovely sloping hills. The most beautiful and peaceful place I’ve been to yet. We drove around the Peninsula a bit, took an amazing walk (listed in a book as being among the top 14 most beautiful walks) along some cliffs, visited a 2500 year old ring fort, a famine cottage, saw baby lambies dancing around and having a rave, and also checked out a really cool pottery shop/factory. I splurged and bought a lovely single stem vase and an olive oil container (?) and got a free tea candle holder! Wooo holla for the free stuff. The B&B we stayed at was so lovely, and had amazing breakfasts, too. Ya’ll know me, I love food. Dad and I also went horseback riding! His horse, named Guinness, was “the least spirited horse” he’d ever been on, and mine was worse. I could barely get her to move, and all she wanted to do was munch on grass, the big turd. I would pull and pull on her reigns but to no avail! It was also interesting to ride in the English saddle—I think I prefer the Western; it’s a little more comfortable and has the horn to hold on to. Needless to say I was prrretty sore the next day and a half.

Next, we stayed in Kilkenny for a night before heading to Dublin. Kilkenny is a quintessential Irish town, with great shops, restaurants and a huge castle. I had the 2nd best dinner of my trip—rare tuna rolled in sesame seeds—and dad and I went on a really nice run the next morning. The weather was beautiful again, and we ran through the grounds of the castle. It felt awesome to stretch my legs and run again. I definitely need to get back into it. Then we showered, checked out and shopped a bit before driving to Dublin.

Our time in Dublin was fun, though short-lived. We stayed in a really nice townhouse/hotel/B&B kinda thang and got comped free drinks and a delicious selection of cheese for mixing up our reservations and giving us the wrong room. Then we got a nice dinner, and dad and I headed into town for a walk. Yesterday we had a super full day! We started on the hop-on, hop-off tour (which dad affectionately refers to the “ho-ho” bus) and went to Kilmainham Gaol. It was soooo cool, and sort of spooky. I learned about the penopticon (the shape of the more ”modern” gaol) in one of my lit courses, so it was neat to see that applied to real life and see it in person. I can’t exactly remember the context of learning it, but something about literary theory. Anyway, then we headed to the Jameson distillery where dad and I were selected as whiskey taste-test volunteers, yeah boiii. We sampled Johnny Walker Black label (Jameson said they might be a little cocky for having us taste this particularly aged label), Jameson, of course, and Jack Daniels. I have to admit, the Jameson was smooth, but I preferred the taste of Jack Daniels. The tour guide had everyone push forward the shot glass of the whiskey they preferred and dad and I, with two others, pushed forward the Jack Daniels. Haha, oops! She teased us and told us our punishment would be to take the tour over and over again until we changed our minds. However, she gave us a second chance to choose our next favorite; I chose Jameson and dad was “wrong again” with choosing Johnny Walker! Wa wahhh. Afterwards we got certificates and a glass of Jameson (with cranberry and lime for me, on the rocks for dad) and browsed the collection of ridiculously expensive bottles of vintage whiskey. My favorite was the bargain price of 50,000euro for 13 bottles of whatever special kind it was. What is this?! Then after a seriously immediate buzz, we took the bus to the Irish writer’s museum, and I saw the first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula! That was pretty cool, fo sho. And some old editions of other writers’ stuff too. Then we got dinner, went to the hotel packed up and hung out a bit.

It was suchhhhh a lovely treat to have them come, and I’m so grateful to be able to share a little bit of my Ireland experience with them. Thank you again for coming, ma and pa! Love youu.

Also, I promise not to let these blog posts get so out of hand anymore. That is just way too much to read, if anyone does read it. Wa wahh. Up next: BARCELONA!

Stay tuned…