Wednesday, May 20, 2009

~2 months left!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Well not much has happened since the last blog entry... just going to class and planning out my upcoming trips. Barcelona this weekend if we can find good prices (we´re cheapskates!)

3 weeks left of class, and then begins the month-long exam period. I have 4 classes but I am only taking 3 exams. They're all spread out pretty evenly... one a week I believe. I am hoping I can move one up a week so that I can begin traveling sooner!

I have to change apartments next month as well. The deal with this apartment was I could rent it out up until June 15th, and then the normal renters were going to return from vacation or wherever they were. Kind of a sublease deal but it was nice because it afforded me a great apartment for a very good rate (200 euros/month). So I found another apartment I'm going to rent out for the final month here in Spain. It's not too far from my current one. And the rent is almost as good (225 I believe). I'm going to go there probably tomorrow to check everything and make sure it'll work for a month.

Sunday I got up nice and early (3pm) to videochat with Grandma, Grandpa and my parents (who went to W'burg for the weekend). However they had technical difficulties, so it was 2-way audio, 1 way video (no video from them for me). So that was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon... chatting with the family, joking about the Spanish education system, the lack of warm weather, and also picking up some travel tips from some very experienced travelers. 

Right now in my trip planning I'm trying to roughly estimate the total cost on the entire trip to make sure I can afford everything we want to do. I have to change my flight date, so that means a $200 fee maybe. I had some friends change their flight for free and they were flying out via Iberia too so we´ll see. I'm trying to fly out of Madrid without going through Oviedo, so hopefully that'll save me some money... we'll see. Before I change anything however I need to figure out a way to get my luggage to Madrid (the part I don't want to travel with) so that I don't have to return to Oviedo in order to fly out of the country (flying out via Madrid). We´re thinking that instead of taking the train directly to Paris, we´ll bus to Madrid first, and then fly to Paris. This is probably the cheapest option especially if we can find someone in Madrid to hold our luggage for free! If you´ve got any contacts in Madrid let me know! 

If this isn´t possible, I'll take the bus back to Oviedo from Madrid at the end our grand trip and then fly back to Madrid (my flight home goes through Madrid and London). Sounds counterintuitive, but hey, I'm a broke college student haha. The bus ride is 5 hours. The flight back to Madrid is... about 45 minutes? :) I would rather avoid the trouble so hopefully I can get my luggage to Madrid. However, I am very excited for this trip! Overly so probably. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

España va bien

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

So I've been slacking on the blog entries. I blame Spanish cultural influence :) :)

The last 3 weeks have flown by! Usually that's a good thing but during a study abroad I would prefer that they didn't! I wish I could stay a full year but that is not the case. I've got studies to complete at VT, not to mention I'll be returning broke! Nothing much has happened the last weeks... There was a trip scheduled to Llanes, a "beach" town on the northern coast, but it was cancelled due to lack of interest (no one wants to go to the beach when its 60 degrees and overcast...). I've also been working on my essay for my History of Asturias class. It's the paper concerning Commerce between Asturias and the Americas in the 18th century. Pretty exciting huh? It's not too bad and some parts are interesting to me. Some parts. Like piracy and the exportation of wood for the Spanish armada... But as of this week that class no longer meets, and all I have to do is complete the 15 page essay and I'm done. No exam. And what have I learned? Well, let's just say I learned very extensively that, historically speaking, Asturias is possibly one of the most boring parts of Spain. I learned that there was an extreme lack of business incentive, and that the people generally preferred to be left to their own methods of self-sustainable life. Farming enough for one's own, living in small pueblos, very often without roads interconnecting them. Limited interaction with the Spanish court and very little commerce-wise. The port towns typically were composed of fishers who fished enough to feed themselves and sell to neighbors. Much of the class was comprised of comparisons to better parts of spain that were more aggressive commercially, or had developed much farther. Parts such as Galicia, especially La Coruna. Also Santander, Barcelona and the whole Cataluna area, and the Basque country as a whole. However at the same time, I only have to remember about 5 people who were historical figures in Asturian history so that's nice. 

But when you're walking around Oviedo and seeing Asturias on trips, it's not that way at all. Of course it still has all the small pueblos but the cities have modernized to the level of competition with other cities here in Spain. Oviedo is still considered a "small" city but it's got all the parts of a big city. In my population geography class we looked at the population growth in northern Spain compared to that of the South and Barcelona area since 1900 and its quite one-sided. Northern Spain has come quite a ways in 100 years. So yes my report on the commerce in Asturias is rather limited and I'm hoping to squeeze out 15 pages. It's also hard to BS a paper in another language. If it was English, no problem for sure. 

I also have yet to poison myself with my own cooking so that's proof to my mom that I can cook. barely! I have also been learning through the good graces of my friends and the all-knowing internet. In the supermarkets you can buy full pig ears which I thought were only for dogs but I guess I was wrong. Also cow tongue, a family favorite, and full baby pigs. Peanut butter is also hard to come by! My french friends were going through my food and saw my peanut butter and started giving me a hard time. "You know how I know you're American? Look here! Your secret stash of peanut butter!" The Europeans are bigger on Nutella. Ironically, my jar of peanut butter says: Capitan Mani: the original peanut butter (in english). Somehow I don't believe that. However it goes along with a similar theme here. All the t-shirts are that way too. They have some random english written on them to imitate (I guess?) shirts found in the U.S. Many shirts promote random U.S. states, or something that is "American". My favorite so far is a shirt that reads: Indiana Backup Power: America's Original Emergency Energy Source Since 1908. It makes no sense but it's in huge letters on this bright yellow shirt. I also saw a shirt once that said: Seminole Indians: Original Arizona Tribe. Or something to that nature where the tribe and state did not line up at all. But if you're bored in Spain it is definitely worth your while to wander through a clothing store to see all the random atrocities they have for t-shirts. Pretty much all contain the words/things: Authentic, Original, Established, a date, and a U.S. state. But they don't know what it says so it's like Americans who wear shirts with random Japonese/Chinese symbols on them... it's all good!

On a similar note, I forgot to include in my Semana Santa entry this awesome menu translation that we found in a restaurant in Burgos:  "The client who asks for the "Menu of the House" will be forced to the integral payment of he himself, although she resigned to consume some of the components of he himself." Word for word. I took a picture if you don't believe me. At first I had no idea what it said, but I believe it means to say that if you order the House Menu (which includes Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert and drink) you have to pay for the whole thing even if you don't want certain parts. 

Oh also big news (for my dad at least). I was sitting in my History of Asturias class (of 2-4 people, depending on attendance of the Asturians in the class), bored out of my mind, looking at a map of Oviedo when I saw marked: Old city wall! So knowing that my dad would probably be interested, immediately after class I headed to where the city wall was on the map and lo and behold, city wall. Well at least a section that runs about 300 yards or so. I took pictures :) 

As the time to travel through Europe gets closer, my plans are becoming more concrete! However the trip to Barcelona next weekend (May 22nd) may or may not happen. Only 3 people want to go, and the prices aren't as low as we thought they'd be. Alternatively, I have a couple other friends who are backpacking the picos de Europa, a mountain range East of Oviedo which is supposed to be breathtakingly awesome. So... I may ditch Barcelona and go backpacking. We'll see on that one. I do like backpacking...

Speaking of mountains, I started running with my friend Mathieu from Brussels just to be less lazy than normal, and we decided to run to the top of el naranco where the statue of christ is. Twice we've done this and it is absolutely painful and awesome at the same time. You kill yourself on the way up, but then the view is awesome and you get to fly down with relatively no effort whatsoever.

In mid-June I'm going to Toulouse, France with Angelica. Just for a weekend because it's during the exam period. We're going to take the train that runs through Oviedo to Paris. We'll be getting off before Paris, but it's a relatively cheap trip which is always good! Although I've been to Toulouse before, I hardly remember it, and I am a big time fan of southern France after our trip last Summer, so going again in June will be awesome!

Finally, the big trip through Europe has come together! I am not traveling with my European buddies because, well, they live here and have seen most of it and my American friends are going to Andalucia (Southern Spain) and Morocco. However, my Brazilian friends are setting up a trip through Europe because this trip to Europe is pretty much the only opportunity they have to visit the major parts of Europe. 

So we're going to: Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, London, Rome, Ibiza, possibly Lisboa, and Madrid. Yes I've already been to Paris, London, Rome and Madrid but unless I want to travel alone (which does not sound fun) I have to go again. I'm sure I won't mind.. I'm in Europe after all! I do have the option to leave them at certain points and meet up with other friends, but I would only want to do that to visit my Belgian friends who live in Brussels. Also Danielle (the other Hokie here) wants to go to Denmark to visit a friend of ours, who invited us to visit, so I'll see about that too!

The big trip will last just short of 3 weeks, which I might make shorter because the last couple nights are in Madrid, and I feel that I've covered Madrid pretty well. Although we will be there on a Sunday which means... Bullfight!!! So I might stay for that! 

Pamplona running of the bulls is out of the picture now because of this trip, but that's ok. I feel like I'm spending my time better traveling in this manner.

Naturally we're staying in Hostels all along the way and taking the cheapest form of transportation. I might even make it official and wear a backpack like I'm truly backpacking through Europe! haha. The order above is the order we're going to the cities, starting with Paris finishing with Madrid. It's pretty much trains all the way with flights for the longer trips between cities. But it's very possible that I might skip out on the 3 days in Paris and continue on to Brussels to visit my friends and then meet the Brazilians again in Amsterdam. I'm not about to go up the Eiffel tower for a 3rd time ;). I would classify that as a no-dice situation. I heard Budapest can be a bit rough. But if it's rough on European standards (our tour guide thought Spain was rought), then it's not biggie. We're only spending one day there anyways. And Ibiza is one of the Spanish Islands to the east of Spain. Known for a younger tourist crowd this is not too interested in visiting cathedrals but much rather prefer beaches and sick sunburns.

So it's rather hectic, but we're covering a lot of Europe!

 I'm also looking to get my flight changed to leaving from Madrid instead of Oviedo so I can avoid an unnecessary 4 hour bus ride back to Oviedo. We're still working on how to get our luggage sent to Madrid ahead of us so we can arrive in Madrid, pick up the rest of our luggage and head home. I'm sure there's a way!

I'm still really wanting to visit Switzerland and Germany but I think I'll be back soon enough (skiing in the Alps anyone?). 

The Europe trip is set for June 30th-July 20th(or so). And then I get back to the U.S., and 3-4 weeks later I'm in Blacskburg! 

That's all I've got for now... 

current weather: 65 degrees and overcast. Starting tomorrow it'll be more around 58-60 and rainy. woohoo! One day I might wear shorts. That would be cool.