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Monday, November 18, 2013

Ten Things I'm Going to Miss About Sevilla

The realization has finally hit me... I have less than 4 weeks left to live and study in Sevilla, Spain. When my program ends, I will have to pack my bags, head back to America, and face the realities of reverse culture-shock. Now that just sounds like a good, jolly ole time. Awesome.

But instead of being a complete downer about saying "Adios" to my favorite Spanish city on this planet and all of the friends that have forever changed my life, I decided to compile a list of ten things I'm going to miss about this fantastic experience; ten things that have truly left a mark on my time here (although some of these ten things may be a tad silly).

Disclaimer: These are not listed in any particular order.

1. The microscopic spoons at the McDonald's in La Campana. 

They're probably like that at every McDonald's in Europe, but I've grown strangely attached to my insanely small ice cream spoons. They help trick my mind into eating less (or so I'd like to think) and now when I go back to the monster spoons they have at the McDonald's in America it just won't be the same. Neither will the flavors of ice cream and McFlurry's, because Spain definitely had a lot of cool options going on like white chocolate. That has been my go to flavor this semester. Yum.

2. Milka chocolate and Kinder eggs.

These will forever have a place in my heart. Not only did I become attached to them when I lived in Germany as a kid, I have managed to re-addict myself every time I visit Europe. This will be one of the main reasons behind my reverse culture-shock and I don't know how to prepare myself for a world where there is no Milka chocolate or Kinder eggs...they have literally gotten me through all of my up's and down's while I've been living here. 

3. Tea and coffee dates.

I'm sorry, but America just isn't the place for cute tea and coffee dates with your best gals. You can take a quick ten minute stroll in any direction and stumble upon the cutest coffee shop with bold flavored coffee and croissants and end up spending two hours just chatting about life with your friends. These have also been the location of some of the deepest heart-to-hearts I've had while abroad, so I am going to miss these little buggers so very much when I go home, as well as the conversations that occurred. Coffee and tea dates are the best when you need some life advice.

4. My walk to class.

I stare at this picture and think, "Wow." I'm simply in awe of the beauty I pass everyday on my way to la Universidad de Sevilla, and sometimes I take it for granted. I look back at pictures I quickly snap while walking to class and realize that I need to stop and smell the rose petals more (not literally... there aren't rose bushes here). I'm in love with my city, my beautiful Sevilla, and I will be devastated when I have to say goodbye.

5. Bad ass wine tasting excursions.

Word of advice: if your professor ever asks if anyone wants to take a class trip to a vineyard for wine tasting, you go. End of story. One of my favorite days while in Sevilla so far has been the day I decided to wake up early on one of my days off and go with my friends and my teacher from my "Literatura y Cocina" class to taste some awesome wine. Such a funny, intriguing, and wild day! One I surely won't forget. 

6. Peggy Sue's: Food From America

To me, it's funny because I passed Peggy Sue's every day for so long before finally going with my friend Tori. Also, I could only get one item on the menu because it was the only thing without meat: Nachos and cheese. "Homemade nachos" was what was advertised. What did I get? Some stale tortilla chips with cheese from a can. It was pretty disgusting, but I was in love with the 50's style diner that I didn't mind too much that the food was absolutely horrible. My dessert, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. They should really specialize in American desserts, because in my opinion the food was spot on. 

7. Bi Frutas.

Bi Frutas is honestly the best fruit juice you will ever have. And no straw is needed! Just peel back the little silver flap and start chugging away! They are also very cheap, so picking up a quick pick-me-upper (see what I did there?) in between classes was always easy, and Bi Frutas was just the perfect treat to make my day perfect. I don't know how I'm going to make it through the day without a Bi Frutas in America...I may have to find a way to ship these little guys. 

8. Traveling art selfies.

There is so much artwork and statues to be found in Spain and in Europe in general, and I am going to miss seeing them firsthand while travelling. I am also going to miss taking ugly selfies/solo-pics with all artwork and statues I encountered. It was really quite magical, and definitely left me with some unfortunate looking photos from my time abroad. So I would like to take this time to say thank you, artwork of Europe, for getting me addicted to taking ugly selfies. 

9. Partidos de Fútbol.

Pretty self explanatory. I went to a Betis soccer game while living here in Sevilla, just one game, and now I'm addicted. It's like cigarettes, only soccer games don't cause you cancer. It was so much fun and the crowd was so enthusiastic and I have my bocadillo and I was with my friend Hannah and it was on Halloween. I couldn't have asked for a better Halloween night! Minus missing the bus and walking 4 miles back home...that I could have done without.

10. Halloween donuts and cupcakes at Dunkin' Donuts and Cupcakes and Go.

The Halloween treats were seriously works of art. Dunkin' Donuts always impresses me here with their donut craft, but during the Halloween season things get turned up twenty notches. The only downfall was that the prices for these beauties went up 1 euro, but hey, it was worth it. They were so delicious and so beautiful. The Halloween holiday in general was so interesting in Sevilla, because it was more about being scary than just dressing up. All of the costumes were centered around horror -- there were no princesses in sight!

11. BONUS: Saving the best for last... my friends.

I wish I could put all of the pictures I have...but that would be way too many for a blog post. The friends I have made here are some of the most genuine and caring people I've ever encountered. They're funny, they're not afraid to be themselves, they're the best shoulders to cry on and they're the best people to roll on the ground laughing with. My experience in Sevilla, Spain would not be the same were it not for these people, and I can without a doubt say that I would never want a different mishmash group of goofy people to accompany me across the world. I didn't know a single one of these people before arriving in this foreign city, and now they're some of my best friends. I know we will keep in touch, but it will still be very bittersweet to leave our beautiful home here in Sevilla in just 4 weeks and live in completely different parts of the country when we return to America. CNMJ Group Fall 2013: I love every single one of you. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Itálica: A Quick Hop to the Roman Ruins of Santipone

Feast your eyes upon the picture above and stew in your own jealousy, because I went exploring and you did not. Well, maybe you did, but I can assure you that it was not as much fun as my exploration.
A couple of my friends and I decided that Fridays were meant for adventures, so we decided to take a quick 20 minute bus ride over to Itálica, the Roman city that currently resides in present day Santiponce, Spain. Citing the lovely Wikipedia, the city was built in 206 BC by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in order to settle Roman soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ilipa. Now, ruins of what was the city reside fairly close to where I'm currently living in Sevilla, so I had to check out them out for myself.
Casual Itálica selfie.
After a small bus mix-up and what turned out to be a 30 minute bus ride later, we hopped off to realize we were starving. We walked up and down the street that paralleled the ruins and almost everything was way out of normal price range (seriously, who wants to pay 20 euros for a tapa? Where's your humanity people??). After almost giving up hope and touring the ruins without food, we stumbled upon a little restaurant with affordable prices and a couple of vegetarian-friendly choices (score). Downfall? The hundreds of flies surrounding this restaurant. But hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, so we decided to eat there anyways. I hate flies so much. They annoyed me throughout the entire meal. But, my bocadillo de tortilla de patatas was very good and very large, so I really didn't need the patatas fritas that it came with. Womp.
Finally, it was time to head over to the ruins. After a small 1.50 euro entry fee, we realized that we were pretty much the only people touring there that day. More room for me to romp around. Only I couldn't, because a lot of the area was unfortunately blocked off due to safety hazards with falling rocks, etc. You know what Drake says? YOLO. I almost hopped the fence and snuck into the forbidden section, but then I realized that I'm only 20 and have so much more to live for, and played by the rules. 
The first part that we toured was the amphitheater, and to me that was the coolest part because there was the most to see because a lot of it was still in tact. Here are a couple of pictures of my friend Alex and I in one of the archways:

 After the amphitheater, we wandered over to a place which was once the holy place for them. They had these magnificent floors that were made with extremely small tiles. Masterpieces! I was almost in awe that they knew all of the planets back in the year 206 B.C... very smart people indeed. Check out one of the magnificent floors:
We did also manage to break a few rules, because after we were done looking at the holy place, we stumbled across a tractor and of course we just had to get on it. And yes, you heard me right, a tractor. Casually in the middle of the Roman ruins. Welcome to Spain.

Overall, it was an awesome day, but I was kind of disappointed with the ruins because they were, well, really ruined. Some of the sites were so run down they appeared more like construction sites than actual city ruins. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic Friday experience, and I can't wait for my next spontaneous adventure.
Until next time,


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Saw France, But Alas No Underpants

Just a casual night of champagne, Nutella and French cookies beneath the Eiffel Tower. No big deal.

This past weekend when I stepped off the plane onto the ground of Beauvais, I thought to myself, "I'm actually smack dab in the middle of nowhere." The newly assigned motto of Beauvais courtesy of my friends Tori and Hannah: "Welcome to Bee-vus, home of the beaver." (Disclaimer: Motto must be spoken in a southern accent in order for the full effect to sink in).

After an hour and a half shuttle ride with a man who couldn't understand me when I said "Strasbourg," I took my first step onto the road's pavement and inhaled deeply. Yes, I was officially Parisian for a weekend. Despite being broke and having to shove all of my belongings into a backpack because of Ryanair's wonderful baggage size requirements, I was in Paris. I was in Paris, France. Wait, I'm sorry, did you not get that? Let me repeat: I was actually blessed enough to be able to take a weekend trip to France with my friends. Don't worry, it took me a while to let that sink in too.

After settling in at our hostel "Arty," a few of us took the metro downtown to the Eiffel Tower where we bought cheap champagne, three jars of Nutella, a box of French cookies and went ham underneath the beautiful piece architecture that Paris is notorious for. And though we were approached by creepy Moroccan men who asked if they could have some of my Nutella (which was an obvious and firm N-O), having a night picnic beneath the tower was surreal. Note to all men: If you ever have a lot of money in your lives, you should take your wife/girlfriend/friend/sister/mom/grandma/female to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic. It might just be more magical than Disney, and that's next to impossible to beat. 

Just having a blast with my best friend Eiffel.

We finished the night off with the Arc de Triomfe and a stroll down Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and I tried acting like a know-it-all and taught Tori and Hannah some French phrases because I obviously speak French. This was especially not my brightest idea when we stopped in a little food shop equivalent to fast food and I tried ordering in French. I had no idea what the cashier was saying, and I just stood there like a bobble head and nodded at everything he said to me even though some things weren't yes-or-no questions. When it comes to speaking foreign languages, I like to think that it's the thought that counts.

The next day was an early rise at 7 a.m. consisting of watery coffee, a very grumpy Leah, and the realization that I somehow broke my toe and now had to hobble around for the remainder of the day like grandma-meets-girl from The Ring. We still managed to metro into the city center and arrive at the Louvre right at 9 in order to avoid people traffic. The Louvre is magnificent in the morning when the crowds are thinned out, so I decided to spend the next two and a half hours taking selfies with some of the artwork. 

Here are some of my favorites:

But honestly, is Mona a boy or a girl? The world may never know...

After the Louvre it was lunch time! And what better choice when in France than to get Chinese food? I was craving vegetable rolls, so sorry but I'm not sorry. It turned out to be the best lunch decision ever, because we found *drum rolls* Ladurée Macarons! We weren't able to find their most popular location on Avenue des Champs-Élysées the night before (that location always has a line down the block), so stumbling upon a Ladurée next to the weird Chinese restaurant was pure bliss for me. Plus there were only 3 people in line ahead of us, so it was a win-win situation.

Take a look:

While we were in Ladurée our luck decided to take a break for the day and stretch its legs, because it started raining. Even better, I forgot my umbrella back at the hostel and I wasn't wearing a jacket with a hood, so I improvised and wrapped my scarf around my head like a bonnet. Thankfully no photos were taken of this shameful fashion statement, but for a good chunk of the day I strolled around Paris looking like a mixture of a pioneer and Little Bo Beep.
Life: 1, Leah: 0.
While the scarf-hat was in full effect, we went to Notre Dame (which apparently is currently celebrating 850th anniversary) and the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. Unfortunately no photos are allowed to be taken inside the bookstore, so I had to snap a quick pic of the sign and run into the shop.

By the time we left the bookstore, two things were happening. One, the rain was letting up (and to think I didn't even have to do a rain dance) and two, we had absolutely mastered the Paris metro system. Seriously, I would have zero doubts in my ability to get anywhere via metro. I felt like a pro, and it felt great. We took the metro back to the Eiffel Tower because we were going up to the top that night. Nobody goes to Paris and doesn't actually go inside the tower, it just doesn't happen.
Remember how I said I broke my toe? Well seeing as I always have such brilliant ideas, I decided that it would be grand to walk halfway up the Eiffel Tower via stairs. Luckily I wasn't insane enough to power through the whole thing via stairs, but I still trekked up 669 stairs. And that, my friends, is a lot of stairs. After shooting up to the very top via elevator, we were on top of the world. I didn't want to come back down. People say home is where the heart is, but if that were the case then I'd be making camp at the top of the Eiffel Tower for the rest of my life.
My trip to Paris was an incredible adventure that I wish could have been longer. But it's funny, because whenever I travel and come back to my beautiful Sevilla, I truly feel at home and back where I belong.
I guess home really is where the heart is.
Until next time,