International Travel

Captivating Cabrils

This weekend was full of events.  Friday after work I headed into Barcelona to find a birthday gift for the host brother, Gil.  I didn’t know what to get him, I was originally thinking something related to the Barcelona Football team.  I decided I should try taking a look at El Corte Ingles (huge department store in Catalunya with 8 floors). I rode the escalator up to each floor and browsed around.  Though, I found myself shopping for myself more than for Gil. I found a couple cute raincoats, but I couldn’t decide on one at the time. I might need to go back and buy one.  I made it to the floor with the electronics and decided a bluetooth speaker would be good for Gil. I bought that and made my way up to the top floor where there is a food court with stunning views of the city.  I had a croissant and my beloved Cacaolat drink (one of the foods I’ll miss most).

Saturday was a huge day.  I went on a hike with the host parents, their friend Gemma, and the two dogs.  We climbed the mountain that surrounds our beautiful village of Cabrils. It is quite the hike up the mountain, but once you make it to the top the views are impeccable. All the hard work pays off and you start to feel accomplished and inspired at the same time.  Cameras couldn’t even do the views justice. It was just incredible. If I get time I would love to climb it again, but take my journal with me and just sit up there and write. 

After the hike we quickly showered and then this time drove up the mountain where there is a delicious restaurant nestled in this mountainous area.  I had the best tasting sangria ever with traditional Spanish cannoles with meat, followed by a piece of mouth-watering chocolate cake. After lunch we went to see Mar play volleyball.  It was a good time, despite being overly tired from the hike. We finally arrived home to Gil and his 20 friends celebrating Gil’s 15th birthday.  As Sunday was Gil’s birthday I gave him my gift, and he lit up as he saw his new speaker.

I also met an American in my town last week!  We went out for a couple beers yesterday and made some plans together before we both head back to the states in a few weeks. It always feels nice to have another American close-by.

Next week is my last week teaching the kids.  I’ve been wrapping up this week with my last educational teaching before we play games all of next week.  It hasn’t really hit me yet that I won’t be seeing these people everyday anymore. Once I get comfortable with everyone, I have to leave.  I guess that’s how it works though, right? It’ll be a sad week, but I’m ready to move on to the next part of life. 



International Travel

A bit of American Invasion

Hola, hola. Lots has happened this past week!  I headed to London on Friday during their winter storm of the season.  After landing in the afternoon, I headed through Customs. I didn’t think I would have any troubles getting into London.  I was wrong. I was detained in London Stansted for 3 hours. I waited over an hour before I was fingerprinted, had a photograph taken of my face, and went through an extensive interview.  Turns out, I’ve overstayed my time in Europe. Being an American citizen definitely has some unfortunate consequences, not being allowed to stay in Europe for more than 90 days at a time. Being a citizen of the EU would be much easier.  Finally after three draining hours, the woman interviewing me let me go and actually felt bad that I was detained for so long over something so minimal. I had my flight details to go back to the United States, so that had me in the clear.  But, now I’m in the UK Government system…

After that chaos, I was headed into the center of London.  I checked into my hostel and treated myself to a pint of Chicago’s own Goose Island IPA.  The hostel had a great social atmosphere and a bar in the basement. I instantly made some friends within the hostel, but as we were all tired, we just stayed in the hostel bar and had a few (too many) drinks.  I had a busy weekend coming up anyway!

I woke up the next morning feeling great and ready to explore!  I went with my two new friends to the main “tourist” area of London and saw the covered up Big Ben, as it was being renovated.  I then walked off on my own as I wanted to explore the city as much as possible in very little time. I didn’t want to do the main tourist stuff.  Though, I shortly found myself on Oxford Street, the main shopping area. I walked on it for 10 minutes but then felt super overwhelmed and had to get off the street, where I walked up to Regent’s Park and then to Primrose Hill.  Unfortunately, the weather was cold and the sidewalks were full of slush. But that didn’t take away from the beauty of the parks. I must go back in the Spring or Summertime. It seems like the perfect place to have a picnic and read a book.  I had messaged my friend Agne, that lives in London however she was moving this same weekend I was there. She moved to the Camden area, and I was within walking distance to her. After my visit to the parks, I walked to the Camden Market and explored that lively area for the first time since 2015.  It was CROWDED with people, everywhere. After 30 minutes, I was content. I got myself a slice of veggie pizza and walked my way to Agne’s. I arrived at her new flat, and instantly became jealous of her prime location and spacious bedroom. She was exhausted from moving all the boxes, so we just talked over some tea.  It was great to catch up and we had dinner plans for later that night. I went back to my hostel to rest a bit, before getting ready for dinner and drinks. Agne, her two friends- Louis and Chee, and I all met up at Salt n Pepper, a Pakistani fusion restaurant. We all ordered curry dishes with rice and naan. We shared it all.  It was amazing and I truly miss the spicy-ness. Spain hates spice. Following the dinner, we went out to a bar in the SoHo area of London. Always a good time getting down to the hip hop from the early 2000’s! I also have another friend, Theo, who works at Bar SoHo, the bar right next door from where we were! I had met Theo in Manchester on my weekend trip in October.  Of course I was determined to say hi to him. Theo let us in on the guest list and it was good fun too! So nice to see another traveler at work 🙂

Sunday was my last full day in London.  Upsetting, but I will be back there, no doubt.  I got up early and headed to the London Bridge tube stop.  I explored that whole area down by the river, and walked across London Bridge. I then walked to the Brick Lane market, which is one of my highlights of the trip.  I wish I would’ve spent more time at this market. I breezed through it as I had to make it to lunch with Agne far from where I was. I got really frustrated when I couldn’t figure out the tube as there were many cancelled tube lines. FINALLY.  I made it to the right place, and Agne and I had the traditional English Breakfast. We wandered around a bit in the neighborhood before heading to Tate Britain Art Museum to check out the exhibition. Following the wicked art, we were exhausted.  I headed back to my hostel and Agne headed back home. On my way home I got a doner kebab and ate in in my hostel while chatting with new people and enjoying their company. I truly love hostels.

Monday morning I left the hostel at 6am.  I had to take an hour train to the airport.  I got to the airport in a breeze for my 9:45am flight.  Though, the flight was delayed a bit. But I made it back to Spain easy.  I didn’t get questioned at Customs at all.

It feels good to be back “home” in Spain.  However, I also realize that I need to start organizing my time here in Spain.  Because in reality, I don’t have much time left! One month from today I am flying to Scotland where I will spend 5 days before flying back home.  Also within this month I’m taking a 3 night trip to Madrid, followed by a camping trip with the familia.

This weekend I’ll be staying here embracing the time with the family as a true member of the Catalan life.

Stay tuned 🙂


International Travel

“Snowy” Spain

It’s been quite the cold and wet week here in Spain.  Winters are so mild but it affects everyone here, in terms of their moods.  Everyone is so used to the sun and dry weather all the time.  When there are three continuous days of clouds and rain, you can see it shining in the attitudes of people.  Weird because it’s also somewhat similar to the SPRING is in Wisconsin, and I feel like people are in good moods, generally speaking, since the winter is coming to a close.  There was actually a snow day here yesterday.  But there wasn’t even any snow (on the ground).  HA.  People here haven’t seen snow since 2010.  It is really neat to see their faces light up when they see the snow.

I had a pretty uneventful week, just the normal routine.  Chill mornings, lunch at 2pm, and then off to work.  On Friday I headed into the city for the afternoon and did the normal walk through the city.  I went to Black Remedy, one of my favorite coffee shops, with 10 half written postcards.  I wrote up a storm and just finally yesterday dropped them in the mailbox.  I also finalized my trip to Madrid at the end of March.  Originally, I thought I would be going to Portugal for my Spring Break.  However, the host family invited me to go camping with them up in Costa Brava for a few days.  I thought about it, and the next day I was sold on the camping trip.  It seems like it will be so much fun!  So, my spring break will consist of 3 nights in Madrid, come home, and then do 3-4 nights in Costa Brava with the family.  Because when am I going to get this chance to go camping with them ever again?  My heart was just telling me to do it, even though Portugal would have been so much fun too.  

Saturday was a busy day, as I headed into Barcelona at about 7:45am to make it to Plaza Espanya by 9am.  I was headed to Montserrat, a beautiful mountain an hour and a half from the city.  I was solo on this trip of 75 people but it was all fine and dandy. I made a friend and we hiked it up together.  The weather turned out to be BEAUTIFUL.  I took many photos, which I will include at the bottom.  Once we got to the top of the mountain, we had a nice little picnic and I enjoyed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Later that night, I had met up with some friends to celebrate Conor’s 25th birthday.  We had booked a hostel room for all of us.  It’s always a special time with these amazing people.  April 8th is going to come so soon and I will leave behind some of my favorite people.  I’m just not going to think about that right now.

Sunday was the hangover day.  Though, I had only gotten three hours of sleep, I was feeling surprisingly refreshed.  The gang and I headed to Firebug for some brunch.  I had the chorizo hash with cafe con leche.  It was super flavorful once I added hot sauce to the chorizo.  My friends and I have taken note on the lack of “spicy-ness” in the foods here.  I miss Mexican food so much.  I find myself thinking of Cozumel in Whitewater often.  If anyone wants to take a trip there once I get back, I am definitely game!  After Firebug, we went to Nomad Coffee and I had a delicious coffee milkshake.  I then left the group and TRIED to go to the Palo Alto Market, an alternative style street market.  But, once I got there, I realized there was no market.  I went online to find that this market is only the first weekend of every month.  Of course, I tried on the LAST weekend.  Hopefully I’ll make it there for the market in April.  It looks like a sweet market.  I then walked up to the beach.  I had never seen this part of the coast before as it’s more north than the central part of Barceloneta.  I fell in love right away with the palm trees lining the bike bath.  Many people were riding on bikes, scooters, going on a run.  There was even a skatepark where a bunch of kids were practicing their skate skills.  I hope to rent a bike soon and do a whole path up the coast and through the city.

Tomorrow I’m headed to London.  This week is apparently the coldest and snowiest week of the winter in London, so I will be packing my warm clothes.  It’s actually pretty “bad” in London.  There have been many cancelled flights, trains, busses.  I’m going at such a wonderful time.  But regardless,  I am so excited to be back in this city, once again.  This time, I will not have missed my flight, so more time to explore this diverse city.  I have a friend there so we will be meeting up for some of the time, as she obviously knows the best parts of the city 🙂DSC02668DSC02675DSC02689DSC02713DSC02733DSC02736DSC02739DSC02740DSC02742

International Travel

End of Feb, already!

The time seems to be flying by!  I can’t believe it’s already the end of February.  I find myself so spoiled here.  The “bad”, winter days consist of no sun, and maybe rain, but still remaining in the 50’s or high 40’s.  The Spanish people have it pretty good when it comes to the weather.  Looking at the weather back home makes me cringe.  Hopefully by mid April it will be beautiful.  

I’ve been getting more active as I’ve been taking Nuk on daily walks through the beautiful paths in the mountainous town.  I also have to climb 200 stairs each day when I go to and from work.  It feels so good doing this walking as I’ve been lacking steps during the weekdays. I cannot wait until I get back home and get back into the gym routine.  That’s been one of the hardest things to deal with.  There are gyms here obviously but they are so pricey, so I’m just not bothering at this point.  But, I do genuinely miss lifting.

On Saturday I went to see my host sister, Mar play in her volleyball tournament.  The atmosphere of the tournament was so great!  The Spanish parents certainly know how to cheer on their children.  The gymnasium was full of so much energy, even though the team lost.  The match ended around 10:15pm, and I thought we would be going home afterward, as I was exhausted from the night before.  Boy, was I wrong!  I went with the volleyball parents to eat dinner (at 11pm) in a local restaurant.  We eventually got kicked out at 1am.  Now I was sure we were going to be going home…. Right when I hear one of the dad’s mention a “discoteca”.  WHAT?!  Yeah, we weren’t done yet.  We went to a small-ish pub/disco.  Yes, my 23 year old self went out with a group of 12 adults.  It was fun, as we danced to some classics such as AC/DC.  My host dad was certainly having a ball singing Highway to Hell.  We stayed until they closed, made it back to home around 3am.  Spontaneous nights with this family are always a good time. 🙂

Sunday I met up with my friend Heather and we went to the Poblenou Light Show in Barcelona.  There were lights set up all through the neighborhood and it was such a neat experience.  The whole event was planned out so well, and there were TONS of people walking the streets. We went with a group on Friday night but only saw a few of the exhibits.  This time, we went all out and saw all the performances.  It was remarkable!  It was definitely one of my top highlights in Barcelona so far.

I am looking forward to this weekend!  Today is my friends birthday, so a big group of us will be celebrating Conor’s 25th birthday Saturday night. But before the celebration begins, I will be taking a day trip Saturday up to Montserrat, a beautiful mountain close to Barcelona with lots of hiking in a BEAUTIFUL area.  I will be sure to take plenty of photos!


International Travel

Content on the Coast

The amount of patience one must have when speaking to one another in another language is huge.  I find myself struggling in keeping up with the language, but am thankful that my family tries so hard until I finally understand what is being said. And the same goes for them with my English.  It might take up to five minutes to understand a few sentences.  But we will get there!

This last weekend was Carnaval in Spain.  Lots of people dressed up and celebrated.  It was similar to Halloween a bit, and Mardi Gras, but it may have been more fun. I saw some festivities in Barcelona on Friday night but had to go to sleep early as my flight Saturday was at 7am.  So at 4:30 I headed to the airport and met up with some friends as we took a 55 minute flight to Bilbao, on the Northern coast of Spain.  We were entering into the Basque country, still in Spain, but they are a whole different culture and language.  It was so beautiful. Before the flight had landed I observed how green and mountainous everything looked.  We landed in rainy Bilbao at 8am and headed to our hostel to drop the bags off.  Unfortunately, it rained the WHOLE day and my dumb self didn’t bring any rain gear.  Regardless, the city was beautiful and there was so much neat architecture. We went pintxo (small appetizers similar to tapas) hopping from bar to bar and I had the local rioja wine. Later that evening we celebrated Carnaval by finding a parade, and I met some local people dressed up as trees.  The people dressed up as trees were an activism group to support the local basque trees, as they have become recently more rare with the plantings of more foreign trees. My friends and I followed these people dressed as trees and we partied the whole night.  It was so much fun!  

The next day we explored a bit more and then headed to San Sebastian.  San Sebastian is a BEAUTIFUL city.  The beaches were breathtaking and the whole atmosphere was inspiring.  Unfortunately, once again it was raining the whole day.  This whole weekend was so wet, but we didn’t let that affect our time there.  We went on a walking tour and learned the interesting history of Donostia (Basque for San Sebastian). And of course, we all stuffed our faces with more pintxos and drank the famous kalimotxo (red wine mixed with coca-cola). I’m already planning to go back to San Sebastian at some point when the weather is better.  It seems like a great place to rent a bike and see the city.

I have less than 2 months here.  Last week I booked my flights home. I do need to get back to apply for the Irish Working Holiday Authorisation.  I need to be accepted by mid May, so it doesn’t give me much time. The 8th of April will be my last taste of Barcelona before heading to Scotland (again), and then back to the States on the 13th.  I will be spending a week back in Scotland, hoping to do some day trips, and seeing once again, the lovely palace I used to live in.

No time to waste!

International Travel

Coming around in Catalonia

What an amazing week!  I have done so many things this past week.  I feel so positive and am finally, for the first time really enjoying my time at “home”.  It’s such a great feeling when you start to enjoy something you should’ve been enjoying four months ago.  I am so thankful for this host family:  Esther (mom), Santi (dad), Mar (16 year old daughter), Gil (14 year old son), and their 6 year old dog, Nuk.

On Tuesday night we had a family dinner around the TV and watched a movie in English (with Spanish subtitles).  It was just adorable.  On Friday night I was just chilling in the living room on my laptop and Santi, sat down next to me and we shared our favorite music back and forth.  Santi told me that he used to go by “Freddie” back in the day because he reminded his friends of Freddie Mercury from Queen.  I shared my favorites with him, and he seemed to really like the sound of The Arctic Monkeys and the reggae vibe of Rebelution.  He also was impressed with the skills of Tash Sultana.  I watched the live performances of Queen on the TV with Santi, and reminisced over his past.  

On Saturday I walked with Esther and Nuk up a BIG mountain.  It was such a climb but worth every second as I was exposed to some of the most beautiful parts of Spain.  After that successful hike, we went to see Gil play football.  It was a tough loss to the best team in the league, but regardless it was fun to experience a youth football game.  And then that night we were all invited to have a dinner at a friend’s house.  The mom, dad, brother and I went to the dinner and it was such a great time.  All 7 of us sat around the table and shared stories, and I attempted to speak in Spanish to explain where I come from.  I learned about the typical Catalan desserts and had quite a bit of wine.  Basically:  I’m so glad I decided to stay in Spain rather than going back to the United States.

I’ve fallen in love with Nuk. He and I have become best friends.  I take him on walks, feed him peanut butter, and he is always next to me no matter where I am in the house. He’s standing right next to me as I type this.  Even though I’m more of a cat person, I’ve recently begun to really love dogs.

This weekend is a holiday here, Carnaval, similar to Mardi Gras.  This means there’s no school on Monday, an extra day to explore!  I will be heading to the North of Spain with three other friends to visit the Basque area of Bilbao and San Sebastian.  We will be spending one night in each place.  I cannot way to see what this weekend brings! 

International Travel

Finally flourishing :)

So much has happened in the past week.  On Monday I moved in with a new family.  I’ve only been here a short time, but dang.  This family is so sweet, and they all have such a personality.  I cannot wait to keep on getting closer with them, as well as improving my Catalan.  The house is a little bit further away to my job, but it’s okay.  Walking is good for me!  My hours of work have shifted a bit, and I am no longer free on Friday’s which is unfortunate.  But hey, it’ll all be okay.

This past weekend I went to Tarragona with some friends and we adventured around the old Roman remains.  There were about 16 of us all in one small hostel, so we made the party.  We had lunch in the main square of the city, and all had delicious meals.  I ordered the salmon and cream cheese toastie, and the portion was a lot bigger than I expected!  It was so, so good.  We walked around the city and saw all the main touristy sights.  Later on that night, we went into an Irish Bar, which I originally thought was going to be a chill, quiet place.  However, this Irish Bar was like the club of Tarragona.  We stayed there for the majority of the night before heading back to the hostel.  I love getting together with these people and sharing memories.

This week I also re-applied to TGI Friday’s at Cedar Point.  I think one more summer might be ideal before going off to Ireland (If I apply, which I’m determined to do).  It’s crazy to think that my time here in Spain is going so fast!  There’s still SO much I want to see/do.

I’m looking into planning 4 more trips before my time is done here.  Hopefully a few weekend trips to the north of Spain (Bilbao and San Sebastian), to London, and then Madrid.  Hopefully if all goes as planned possibly Portugal for a week (Spring Break) before heading back to the United States.

I am just so thankful for this opportunity for the second chance here.  A fresh start is much needed.  I’ve already learned so much in this week.