Categories
Life Travel

My Spanish Adventure

Just like that, I’m back in Charlotte after six amazing (and quick) weeks in Europe, and all I can say is Wow! We definitely tried to make the most out of our last week in Sevilla, and then I had a wonderful few days in Holland and the U.K.! Here are some highlights:

  • Monday I got to meet up with one of my friends in my sorority who was studying in Salamanca, Spain this summer. She was visiting Sevilla with her family and it was so cool to see her and compare study abroad stories.
  • Tuesday was the first day of the week where the temperature hit above 100 degrees (and would stay that way for the rest of the week). The temperatures during the week varied from 105-110 degrees at some points for the last few days that we were there, which meant a lot of staying inside and the occasional gelato to cool down!
  • Wednesday was the last day of class! It went by so fast, but both of my classes this summer were very interesting to me and helpful with practicing my Spanish! The exams went very well also and overall, my classes were successful and enjoyable.
  • Thursday we had our first exam, but after that a group of us went to this incredible cereal restaurant called Crunch Cereal Cafe. It’s an awesome cafe that has a ton of specialty and regular cereals, over 30 kinds of milk and other sweet treats. I got Cinnabon cereal with blue milk and it was delicious! I wish we would have found it earlier in the summer, because I would have definitely been a regular visitor!
  • Thursday I also visited a super cool mural that had the phrase “Sevilla Tu Casa” painted on it, which means “Sevilla is your home” which was really appropriate for how much I’ve grown to love Sevilla these past few weeks as a second home! Pictures were taken, of course. My roommate and I also went out to dinner with our host family to celebrate our last few days together and we had yummy tapas!
  • Friday was our second and final exam and our group goodbye dinner! They took us to a restaurant called Bar Pelayo and the food was amazing! It was nice to have dinner as a group one more time and be able to say goodbye to everyone. We all somehow kept forgetting that we go to the same school, so we’ll all be able to hang out in the fall! After dinner some of us went to a rooftop bar that had an awesome view of La Giralda and the Sevilla cathedral. We also had to say goodbye to our host family, which was really hard.
  • Saturday I got up at 5:30 AM and took a train to Madrid, and flew out of there into Amsterdam where my family was waiting for me! My cousins picked me up from the airport and I got to spend the rest of the weekend with them! We had a delicious barbecue Saturday night and a nice walk around West-Graftdijk where they live. Sunday we went into Alkmaar for a boat ride on the canals around the town, a nice lunch and a climb up to the top of St. Laurence Cathedral. The view was so beautiful, we could see the entire town and surrounding towns as well! We also got to see a mural inside the cathedral that depicted the Final Judgment scene from the Bible. The visit was short but very sweet, and I feel so lucky that I got to see them for a weekend because it’s rare!
  • Monday I flew to London and met up with my friend Dan! Dan studied at UNC this past year as part of an exchange program and quickly became one of my close friends. He was my official tour guide for this trip and he definitely didn’t disappoint. The first day we only had a few hours left in the day, but we visited Kings Cross (the Harry Potter geek in me was very happy), Tower of London, London Bridge and the Shard. We also walked along the Thames River and saw a lot of the city by doing that.
  • Tuesday was the day for our official “See All of London in a Day” which wasn’t an understatement! We got an early start and ended up visiting Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, M&M World London, Oxford Circus, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace! (I got tired from just writing that all out.) I also had fish and chips for lunch (authentic British cuisine) and tried Nando’s, a delicious chicken restaurant that is super popular in the U.K. We finished off the day with gelato and then I checked my step count for the day: I had walked over 32,000 steps and 14.9 miles! The best part was that the day flew by and we didn’t even notice we were walking that much because we got to see so many cool places. Touring a city in one day is definitely an interesting thing to say I’ve done, and it was so worth it! Dan was a wonderful tour guide and it was so good to see him for a few days.
  • Wednesday I made the long journey home! I will miss Europe so much but it felt so great to hug my parents, see my dog and sleep in my own bed. Now I only have one week left of summer vacation before I go back to school for my junior year! (Crazy)

Here are some photo highlights from the last little bit of my time in Europe (fun fact: I took over 2,000 pictures during my trip!):

I can’t believe my time abroad is over already. It went by so fast but was truly one of the best experiences of my life! I tried new foods, became more independent, explored new places, made new friends, learned a lot and existed outside of my comfort zone. Studying abroad is something I would recommend to everyone and I cannot thank my parents enough for making this possible for me!

Also, a special thanks to everyone who has kept up with me these past few weeks by checking in with me, liking my posts or reading my blog! I really appreciate it 🙂 More blog posts to come about upcoming events and thoughts in my life, but for now:

Hasta luego!

Cara

Categories
Life Travel

Spain Week Four!!

Hello hello! Somehow this week is my last week in Spain 😦 It has continued to be a wonderful experience and this past week was no different, including some fun travels!

  • Monday we checked out the major department store in Spain called El Corte Inglés and let me tell you, this store was incredible! It’s basically a store that could fulfill your every need. There are 6 floors, which include clothing, accessories, cosmetics, home furnishings and decor, electronics, a bookstore, school and art supplies and a full scale grocery store. There’s nothing like it in the States and I was so impressed (it’s the little things)
  • Tuesday we went to a festival by the river in a district called Triana. It lasts a few days and devotes each day to a different female saint. We walked around the food booths and tried rebujitos, which is wine and Sprite mixed together (not too shabby!) They had pretty lights set up around the festival and music playing which made for some nice ambiance! They also had a hilarious wooden pole hanging off a boat that they greased up with oil and people would try to run out to the end of it and grab a flag without slipping off. It was great free comedy!
  • Wednesday our group visited a local startup business called Glamping Hub, which is an extremely successful booking website for glamorous camping excursions around the world. It definitely made me want to book a vacation in a treehouse somewhere. Check them out at http://www.glampinghub.com!
  • Friday we took a bus to Lagos, Portugal! Another country to check off of my list 🙂 Lagos is a gorgeous beach town in the south of Portugal. We stayed in a hostel and were able to experience the nightlife right along with the Portuguese people (and lots of other travelers).
  • Saturday we got to do a kayak tour in the ocean and it was INCREDIBLE! We kayaked 2.5 miles along the beautiful coast and got to paddle between and under rocks and into caves. I’m sore from kayaking for 2 hours, but it was so fun and so worth it! We also got to take a break for awhile and snorkel. We got to see some fish but couldn’t stay in for long because the ocean was incredibly cold! (I think I still have goosebumps)
  • Sunday we had delicious fruit and waffles for breakfast (right up my alley) and then spent the rest of our day at the beach. The weather was great and we enjoyed just having some time to relax. Spending time in Lagos with my awesome friends I’ve made through this program was incredible and definitely one of the highlights of my whole experience!

Some cool pictures, as always:

 

Thank you for reading! This week we will be taking final exams (prayers please) and I will be trying to soak up every little bit of Spain possible until I have to leave. Until next week!

Hasta luego,

Cara

Categories
Life Travel

Spain Week Three!!

Another week in Spain has come and gone so fast! I feel like I wrote my week two post yesterday, but the time is flying by and I only have two full weeks left here. This week was incredibly busy as always, with new and exciting adventures 🙂

  • I started off the week taking two midterm exams which I’m happy to say went very well! I am still quite busy with assignments but enjoying learning about business in the Spanish-speaking world.
  • Tuesday we toured the Catedral de Sevilla and it was beautiful. I’m loving all of the cathedrals I’m getting to see while I’m here, because they are decorated with such a lovely combination of religion and architecture. We also got to climb up 34 flights in the Giralda tower which offered an amazing bird’s eye view of Sevilla. My favorite kind of view!
  • Wednesday we visited Las Setas (Spanish for The Mushrooms) which is a super cool structure that you can climb to the top of and see an entire view of Sevilla. We went with our host family at sunset and the views were amazing!! Once it got dark, every single church in Sevilla was lit up.
  • Thursday we toured a winery called Bodegas Góngora as one of our business visits. They’ve been in business since 1682 and specialize in several types of sherry wines. We learned the ins and outs of the wine business and got to try a few wines as well! I enjoyed tasting them, as well as the snacks they put out to go with the wine (LOL).
  • Friday a small group of us took the train to Madrid! I found a cool hostel that was located in the theater district area which honestly resembled New York City a lot, especially the Times Square/Broadway area. We walked around and explored, and ended up at an Italian restaurant for dinner (I know what you’re thinking — we’re in Spain! But this place was delicious). I had a yummy pizza and we all split chocolate mousse that was to die for. We ended the night by checking out a rooftop bar and hanging out on the rooftop terrace of our hostel, where we met some nice people from Mexico and Australia!
  • Saturday was a FULL day of exploring Madrid! We had a delicious breakfast at a cafe and headed out immediately to check off several touristy spots. We went to a few cool plazas, including one called Puerta de Sol which had a statue of a bear and a strawberry tree (Madrid’s official symbol) called El Ozo y el Madrono. We got to see the beautiful royal palace, the Reina Sofia museum that has Dalí and Picasso works in it and the cathedral. The cathedral was probably my favorite part — it was absolutely gorgeous inside with colorful ceilings and stained glass that I couldn’t stop staring at. We also went to a market where I tried a chocolate truffle and a Spanish treat called tejas, which literally means “roof tiles” but is actually an almond biscuit treat — yum!
  • For dinner, we ended up at the same Italian place because of how much we loved it the night before (surprise surprise) and I had pesto pasta that was wonderful. I also ended up logging 22,000 steps that day — safe to say I got plenty of exercise!
  • Sunday we had another delicious breakfast at a Spanish cafe and bakery where I had a cheese omelet and a palmera de chocolate, a chocolate pastry that’s sort of like a croissant with chocolate on top (again — surprise, surprise) and rode the train home. My roommate Audrey and I went to mass at a Catholic church and struggled to understand it, but it was incredibly interesting and we’re happy we went!
  • My Spanish is a continued work in progress, and I’m learning useful slang phrases from my host family like “How cool!” is “Que guay!”
  • As far as trying new foods goes, my host mom told me that “I eat basically everything” which if you know me is a HUGE improvement to my picky taste in the U.S.! I have been adventurous with trying food and it has benefitted me well. Some of the best things she has made for us have included zucchini and pumpkin soups, eggplant casserole, broccoli and potato casserole, paella, the list goes on! I’m excited to see what else I will try before I come home 🙂

So, to sum up: more delicious food (and copious amounts of chocolate, of course), beautiful sights and some awesome people to spend it with! I am happy and still learning so much. Thank you for continuing to read about my adventures!

‘Til next week!

Adios,

Cara

Categories
Life Travel

Spain Week Two!!

Hola again! Another week in beautiful Sevilla has passed and I’m still loving it 🙂 We had another eventful and fun few days:

  • Monday, our group toured the Real Alcazar in el centro of Sevilla, which was beautiful, but SO HOT! Going during siesta time (aka 96 degrees) highlighted the cruciality of daily naps in the air conditioning, for sure. Afterwards we decided to cool down with gelato near our house (strictly for health reasons of course) which has become a frequent activity of ours to beat the heat!
  • We rented bikes this week through Sevilla’s city-wide bike system, Sevici. Every chance we had to ride them this week, we took advantage of! It’s a fun way to get around and cuts down on our morning commute to class, and makes trips around Sevilla quicker as well.
  • Tuesday, our toilet randomly broke and began flooding the bathroom (something is seriously wrong with that toilet) which happened while I was in the shower. I’m including this because you really realize the language barrier between you and your host mom when you’re trying to explain to her what/how that happened! (LOL)
  • Wednesday, a group of us tried out a Mexican restaurant in el centro (I know what you’re thinking — Mexican in Spain?) which was an opportunity to try delicious “gringa” tacos. They had pastor meat (pork), onions, cilantro and cheese. Yum!
  • Thursday our program went to tour an olive oil factory in Sevilla called Basilippo as one of our business visits. We got to see how olive oil, specifically extra virgin olive oil, is made from the very beginning of the process all the way to the end! Our tour guide told us that we would end up learning more about E.V.O.O. than we would ever want to know in our lives, and that was definitely true. I’m good for olive oil trivia now, if that ever comes up!
    • At Basilippo we also got to try some olive oils. The first one was just the normal flavor of extra virgin olive oil, which we were instructed to place on the tip of our tongues and then suck it back into the back of our mouths to get a spicy taste (which I failed at, by the way). The second kind was extra virgin olive oil infused with oranges, and we got to try that on top of chocolate ice cream. I had several thoughts about this, considering how much I love chocolate, how much I dislike oranges, and how WEIRD that sounds to combine olive oil and ice cream. However, it was delicious! Spain has brought out a new round of tastebuds in me that has made me extremely open to new foods, which, if you know me, is a big deal (I literally eat plain turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch at home).
  • Friday we tried out our first ever discoteca! We went to an outdoor dance club called Libano and it was quite an experience because it was PACKED and it was so late at night (The Spaniards don’t start partying until at least 2 a.m.) The Spanish dance music was awesome, though, and we had a lot of fun dancing with 500 of our closest friends!
  • Saturday I did some shopping and studying, because yes, I am actually here for a school program even though I’m sure it doesn’t sound like it! We have two midterm exams this upcoming week, which means we will be halfway done with the program (????)
  • Sunday we took a day trip by train to Cádiz, the oldest city in Spain! We basically hung out on the beach the whole time and it was such a happy day because the weather was perfect, we got to relax and I finished a whole book!! (f you’re wondering, it was Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, and I looooved it).

As for my Spanish-speaking skills, they are continuing to improve! I am still trying a bunch of new foods as well and taking so many pictures and videos. Some days I feel incredibly acclimated to the way of life here and other days I miss home, but it’s all a positive experience. A few times this week, I literally felt like I had to pinch myself while walking around town because I am so lucky to be living in this incredible place and to be learning so much. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I am fully aware of it in a way that makes me so happy!

Here are some photo highlights from the week:

Again, if you made it to the end of this post, thank you! See ya again next week with another update of my adventures in Sevilla!

Adios!

Cara

Categories
Life Travel

Spain Week One!!

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Hola everybody! I have officially spent one week in Sevilla and I am having a blast so far. Since I’ve arrived, I’ve been going nonstop visiting cool sites, going to class and spending time with my host family but I’ve been loving every second of it! Here’s a recap of week one:

  • I flew into Madrid from Charlotte and then Madrid to Sevilla over two days with some of my classmates. The flights were pretty uneventful, but the time change meant the flight attendants were waking us up for breakfast when we should have been going to sleep! Needless to say I got 45 minutes of sleep during my traveling.
  • Once we made it to Sevilla, we met up with the rest of the program and got to explore a little bit in the city. I was so jet lagged but so happy to be there and look around!
  • The next day, my roommate Audrey and I went to our host family’s apartment to meet them and get settled. Our host family is amazing! They are so sweet and patient with us, considering our Spanish-speaking abilities are nowhere close to theirs (and I was rusty after not taking a Spanish class since December).
  • We ventured to Italica the first weekend, which is the site of a bunch of Roman ruins in Sevilla (and a recent filming location for Game of Thrones, so I’m told). Afterwards we went to la playa for a beach day, but unfortunately the weather was cold and rainy so we didn’t get much beach time. We redeemed the weekend later by finding a nice outdoor bar where some of us shared our first round of sangria!
  • Sunday, July 1 was Spain’s match against Russia in the World Cup. Our group went to a bar to watch the game with the locals, and it did not disappoint! Even though they lost, it was great to experience it with them.
  • Monday was the first day of class! We have two classes every weekday from 9:30-12:45. I’m taking a Spanish Business class where we’re learning all sorts of vocabulary and grammar that relate to business, and a Spanish for Professional and Community Engagement class where we’re learning all about business in the Spanish-speaking world.
  • Most days after class, we take naps (siestas) in the middle of the day before or after lunch. They have quickly become an essential part of my day! During this time, everyone takes a nap to rest and avoid the heat, and businesses close as well. It has made me question why American culture doesn’t include this!
  • This past week we’ve explored the neighborhood we live in which has a huge mall called El Nervión. It has lots of cool stores that are all having huge summer sales called “rebajas” right now. With no sales tax and discounted prices, I may have to make some room in my suitcase 🙂 We’ve also taken advantage of the heladerías (gelato shops) and the pool we are lucky to have in our apartment complex.
  • A group of us also went to El Parque de María Luisa and La Plaza España which is this huge park and plaza with gorgeous trees and flowers and beautiful monuments that I could probably stare at all day. I’ve been there twice already and I’m sure I’ll be back before I leave!
  • Friday morning we left for Córdoba, where we spent a few hours touring El Puente Romano and La Mezquita-Catedral, which was incredibly interesting. The mezquita was originally used for Muslim worship but was later converted to include a Catholic church that both had incredible architecture and design. We also got to walk around the town a little bit and explore which led to lots of picture taking and buying some souvenirs (I got a cool ring and earrings that were handmade in the typical jewelry style of Córdoba).
  • We spent the rest of the weekend in Granada, which was awesome as well! We went to Albaicín, which gave us the opportunity to see the entire city from higher up which was absolutely breathtaking! Later in the day we toured a palace and its grounds called El Alhambra, which also allowed us to see the entire city from the top of a tower and see the beautiful architecture and landscape of Granada. This morning we went to La Capilla Real in the center (el centro) of the city. It’s a huge cathedral that also serves as a mausoleum for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Very cool! We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring downtown Granada, where we bought more souvenirs and had tapas and gelato.
  • Other cool things to note:
    • My Spanish is getting better! I was stumbling a lot when I first got here and still am somewhat, but having to speak it with my host family all the time and in Sevilla has really helped me start become more comfortable speaking it. Hopefully by the time I leave I’ll feel like this has vastly improved!
    • The food so far has been GREAT! My host mom is a wonderful cook and has served us meals such as paella, several delicious casseroles with potatoes, pasta, vegetables and meat, and has introduced me to Spanish Nutella (which dare I say is better than the original) called Nocilla. Now I have it for breakfast on my toast! There are also these delicious cookies that have chocolate cream in the middle of two buttery cookies that I have become obsessed with and will be filling my suitcase with to take home in August. (My admiration for chocolate clearly has not changed since being abroad). They also eat a lot of bread, which is great because bread is also one of my favorite foods!
    • While it may seem like all I’m doing is eating here in Spain, I’ve also been walking A LOT and so I believe the two balance each other out. 16,000 steps in one day calls for a few chocolate cream cookies!
    • I’ve also learned some interesting tidbits about conversational Spanish language that I didn’t know before, and also how different things are here in general (like they typically don’t eat eggs for breakfast, sadly). They also sell crustless bread! I don’t know why this is so mesmerizing to me, but it is!

If you’ve made it to the end of this post and you’re still reading, wow! Thank you for being interested in my travels this summer. I have several fun things coming up in the next few weeks and will be sure to document them all here. I am loving my time in Sevilla so far and can’t wait to continue sharing it all with you!

Hasta luego! (See you later)

Cara

Categories
Life Travel

A Weekend in Wilmington

Recently, my mom and I took some time off of work and ventured to Wilmington, NC/Wrightsville Beach to visit our family, and we left wishing we could have stayed longer! It was such a wonderful weekend filled with quality family time and relaxation on the beach. Here are some of the best parts!

IMG_3207The beach weather was perfect! We spent a lot of time jumping over waves, suntanning and reading (this is one of my favorite beach activities — I was reading Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, which I highly recommend!)

We had a delicious dinner at Landfall on Sunday night. Apart from being delicious, it was also just nice to spend time all together as a family! There were 12 of us there, including Reid (who loves to make silly faces in every single picture.) When we left the sun was beginning to set, and this is one of several sunset pictures I took on the trip!

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The trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the iconic Boombalatti’s ice cream shop in Wilmington. We’ve been coming here for years and the ice cream gets better every time! I got my usual, chocolate fudge brownie with sprinkles (yes, sprinkles) on a cake cone. Yum!

Monday night we walked on the beach during sunset and some of us took these awesome family photos. The beach was a great backdrop for them and I’m so glad we have these to look back on from our trip! Of course, I had to get a “cousins” picture with my favorite boys. They are growing up (really fast, by the way. Am I old?) and I love getting to witness it, because they truly are the sweetest and funniest!

And last but not least, some of the pictures of the beautiful sunsets we saw on our trip (some taken by me, some by my family.) Lately, I’ve been documenting every pretty sunset I can, and these were a happy addition!

This trip was so needed and so appreciated. I got to spend quality time with my family (a sure way to make my heart happy), hang out at the beach (my skin is no longer ghostly pale!) and relax a little bit. ‘Til next time, Wilmington!