Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vitoria-Capital of País Vasco (Basque Country) and a little more :)

Friday-Feb. 26, 2010 Chrissy and I have decided to start exploring more areas. On Thursday we decided to go on a day excursion to the capital of our province, Vitoria-only 45 minutes away via bus. When we got there it took us a little bit to orient ourselves on the map-but once we did we were off. The city itself is not big at all. We had made reservations at the Cathedral of Santa Maria to take a tour of it. The cathedral is under restoration currently and we were not allowed to take pictures. To give you an idea there was scaffling everywhere and support on the bottom and top of all the columns. They had uncovered people's bodies deep down in the church--between where the altar is and where the benches would have been. They were people that way back had paid a lot of money to be buried with the church. The tour guide also took us up winding steps that led us to the top of the cathedral where we could look down on the church, and then down also to a balcony that overlooked the city (picture on the left). It was really beautiful.
After the tour Chrissy and I continued to look at all the tourist spots to see on our map. We saw different churches including the newer cathedral built called Cathedral Maria Inmaculada (picture on the right), and many plazas. The pictures are on facebook in an album. In one of the plazas Chrissy and I took an hour or so break and ate delicious gelato :) We saw about 31 of the 41 places to see on the map--so we were quite busy all day. But we still ended earlier then we thought and were able to catch the 7pm bus instead of a later one.
Saturday a group of us were supposed to go on a wine tasting tour in La Rioja-a province just south of us. But--something in Bilbao came up. We were in for a wind storm-with potential winds up to 80 miles per hour. We were in for tornado winds to give you a perspective... Anyhow the metros/buses shut down in the early afternoon on Saturday before anything even started. That evening/night the wind was absolutely insane and my lights flickered quite a few times. But we managed to keep power throughout it. So we plan on going to La Rioja on a nice day, when we won't blow away (literally) or get stuck somewhere and not be able to return...
Today--Sunday---is a gorgeous day however, beautiful blue skies and a lot of sunshine :)
School is going good, I realized that mostly I just talk about my trips or excursions with the school. But school itself is going fine. I am taking 4 classes, 3 are taught in Spanish. I am taking a Spanish Business class, a Basque Culture and Language class-where I learn about the history and culture of this area I live in, and my third class in Spanish is-Culture, Politics, and Economy of Spain. Culture, Politics and Economy of Spain and my International Economy class (taught in English-my 4th class) are going towards my International Business Major, whereas the other two are for my Spanish minor. My professor are all nice, and have been welcoming since the beginning of my trip.
This upcoming weekend my program is taking us to Madrid and Segovia, so stay tuned :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Excursion to Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

Friday, February 19, 2010-We went on an all day excursion in Spain to the Urdaibai Reserve. Our first stop was at a museum called the Gernika Peace Museum. Inside we were able to read about the history of the Gernika-Lumo, the spanish Civil War, and the bombing of Gernika. Gernika
itself is in the heart of the Urdaibai Reserve. Afterward we walked to the Assembly House in Gernika. Next to the building is the Tree of Gernika-both are symbols of the history of its people, and it is the meeting place for each of the territories in the Basque Country.
We then went to lunch at a restaurant called Zallo Barri where they served seafood-and I did try some of the second dish which was fish. But the seafood on my first dish I gave to someone else in the program and just ate the rice. The dessert was a chocolate layered cake with pistachio crumbs on the side, and a very sweet berry sauce decorating the plate. And of course we ate a couple pieces of bread with our meal. Our next stop was at the beach, unfortunately due to the weather though, we headed back to the University a bit early.
When I returned back to my house that night, Raquel and Oscar had ordered Domino's Pizza for dinner...which I found pretty funny, but it was delicious. And we had chocolate ice cream for dessert...we never eat chocolate after dessert-it's always a piece of fruit, so it was a yummy surprise :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Max came to visit for the weekend :)

Thursday February 11-Monday February 15
My junior year of high school we had two exchange students Dirceu and Max. Dirceu was from Brazil and Max from Germany. One of my best friends Brittany and I hung out with them all the time that year. Over the last 4 and 1/2 years Max and I have remained in contact via email. He knew that I was eventually hoping to come to Spain to study abroad and to let him know when I was. Well the day finally came where I got to see him again after all this time, and it was great to spend time with an old friend.
Unfortunately for him-the weekend he chose to visit me in Bilbao, the weather was terrible-cold and rainy. So we spent a lot of time hanging out in restaurants, the metro, or the Guggenheim Museum, and then seeing all the sights in Bilbao when it stopped raining, etc. Fortunately for him, it was the weekend of Carnaval-therefore we got to experience the activities for this holiday.
We spent majority of Friday in Casco Viejo touring around the small streets. We decided to see an Opera in the theater there. Something neither of us would normally do, but we wanted the experience. I am glad we went--we were able to see the inside of the theater and even though we paid for the cheapest tickets-we got upgraded to the front floor section (because not a lot of people were there to fill the whole place).
On Saturday we went to Plentzia-it is the last metro stop, and went and saw the bay and took pictures. It was my first time there as well so it was a lot of fun. We ate at a buffet recommended by my host 'parents' back in downtown Bilbao, that was extremely reasonable and pretty good. We then were able to see the parade for Carnaval and then when we walked to the end of the street, we saw another caraval going down a different street. There were people in all sorts of costumes: the Incredibles, a lot of pirates, chickens, clowns, etc. The first parade had floats after musicals--so that was pretty interesting. In Casco Viejo they had amusement park rides set up just like a fair back home.
Sunday we spent majority of the day in the Guggenheim (because it was warmer then walking around the city :)) And then Monday afternoon he headed back to France where he is currently studying an hour away from Paris with his girlfriend.
Like I said--it was pretty awesome to catch up with someone after all these years and still have a great friend.

South of France for the day :)

Friday February 5th our program took an all day excursion to the south of France to a small city called Bayona (picture on the left)--which is know for their chocolate :) We saw their cathedral and were able to walk around the city and enjoy the sunny day. During the beginning of our tour we also ran across a crew shooting a documentary--so that was pretty cool. After a couple hours we traveled just across the border to a restaurant in Spain and ate a good lunch. Lunch here consists of three parts. You basically get two entrees and a is a LOT of food, and pretty much every meal comes with bread. After lunch we traveled to a small city in Spain called Hondarribia (pictures on the right) where we went with some of the professors around the inner part of the city and saw some interesting sites ... many pics on facebook :)

4 day weekend---Barcelona here we come!!!

Thursday Jan. 28th - Sunday Jan. 31st
Chrissy, Linden, Ellen, Cait and I traveled to Barcelona. On Thursday our plane took off bright and early at...I believe it was 7am...anyhow it was super early. When the plane got closer to Barcelona I was able to see the sunrise from the plane--beautiful and a great way to start our trip. Once we got off the plane we began to figure out how to get out of the airport and to the hostile. Our hostel was location wise-awesome-it was off of a main street, fairly close to the metro, and about a 25 minute walk to the Mediterranean Sea. We had a hostile with 8 beds, and on the second night we were joined by three people, funny thing was they were three guys from our university program. Unfortunately the first place we ate wasn't the best, the only good part was really the dessert. But we didn't let that stop us from continuing with a good day. We stopped into the Boqueria market-the largest market in Barcelona. It was absolutely incredible with fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat, chocolates, gummy candy, you name it, it was probably there and fresh. In the fruit section they also made fresh juices for only 1 euro, and at night before they closed you could get 2 for 1 euro. Delicious :)

Afterward Ellen, Chrissy and I walked down to the Mediterranean Sea--an absolutely incredible sight. I took a lot of pictures. We first walked by a port that was completely filled with boats. Then we continued walking and found some lounge chairs (made of cement) that we just sat and relaxed on while the sun set.
Friday morning we started off early with seeing Gaudi's work, a famous architect. We began in La Pedrera-an apartment complex that has an interesting and unique design. We also visited La Sagrada Familia that is a huge cathedral with a different design in the front and in the back. Chrissy and I read through Gaudi's inspirations for the different parts of the cathedral and learned a lot. His inspiration was nature, in my facebook I took pictures of some of the explanations. I had a new appreciation for his work after I read that information, and saw things I wouldn't have seen otherwise. For example pieces of fruit in the top left corner on one side of the cathedral. La Sagrada Familia is still a work in progress, and they were working on it while we were there, on the columns and everything. It was really interesting to see something this massive and magnificent being put together as we walked through.

After La Sagrada Familia we made our way over to Park Guell. In the front entrance are two buildings designed by Gaudi that are sort of Dr. Suess like designs to put into perspective. There is also ceramic mosaic wall surrounding part of the park that overlooks the city. Chrissy and I visited his house and walked around the park for a while.

Our weather the whole weekend was really nice, sun shined the whole time. :)
That afternoon Chrissy, Ellen, Ariel and I visited the Cathedral of Barcelona and later met up with Cait to see a Flamenco show. The Flamenco show was a lot of fun and very interesting, I took a video of one of the dances so that my family could experience it--but have yet to put it up.
One place we ate at twice that weekend for dinner was Travel Bar, if you bought one drink, you could have a plate of food for 1 euro=excellent deal. We loved that place :)
Saturday was a little more laid back because we had seen majority of what we wanted to on Friday. Chrissy, Ellen, Ariel, and I went on a walking tour of the Gothic Neighborhood. Afterward, we joined up with Linden and Cait to eat at the Attic, recommended by our friend Grace (who had been to Barcelona for a high school trip) the food was great and reasonably priced for us, so yumm :) Once we finished dinner we took a funicular to see the Olympic Stadium. (Which I loved seeing :)) We then continued on to see the National Museum of Catalan Art that in the summer has a fountain show at night (it's near the Olympic Stadium). It's high on a mountain, and the view of the city was-once again-incredible. We could see La Sagrada Familia, and the mountains were pretty.

Sunday we headed back home :)

San Sebastian for the day

On Saturday, Jan. 23rd a bunch of people from our program in the University (called CIDE) went to San Sebastian--and it was beautiful even with the gray over-cast sky. When we first arrived we went to the Information center for a map and then split into groups--and we covered a lot of ground. We climbed Monte Urgull and saw the Statue of Sagrado Corazon. At the top of this mountain was several incredible views of the city and the bay--there are pictures on facebook of them. We saw two beautiful cathedrals. On the other side of the bay (across from Monte Urgull) was a funicular that took us to the top of Monte Igueldo. Another place with gorgeous views of the city. In the middle of the bay is an island that is shaped like a turtle--even though the trees and such weren't green on it--it was still a beautiful sight.

Universidad de Deusto

The first day of class Oscar went with me and showed me the ropes for getting to school and back via bus. I'm not going to lie, I woke up thinking what have I gotten myself into. I was very nervous the entire morning. Having someone help me find my way to school definitely helped relieve some of the stress, now I know the way like the back of my hand--it's only about a 10 min bus ride. (But don't ask me to get you anywhere besides school and back via bus from where I live, the metro or walking is much better in my eyes anywhere else:)) My university is right across the river from the Guggenheim Museum = very awesome. The school is huge, but we only have classes in one of the wings. On our first day we met in the auditorium and they introduced the staff and talked to us in English and made us feel welcome. Chrissy, James, Ashlyn, Linden and I all stuck together since we were all from GVSU, and there is where we met another good friend Cait. After introductions they took us to a lunch in a nice hotel and gave us a quick tour of Bilbao. Good news is that evening I found my way back via bus, and was definitely relieved. It is quite an experience to be in a new environment, new country, culture, and living somewhere brand new. And getting home is always a good thing :)
On Jan. 13th we met again at the university and had a tour of it. I still need to post those pictures on facebook I believe...
On Thursday, Jan. 14th we had our first excursion to the historical towns of Biscay. And it rained like you wouldn't believe for the entire day. We ended up staying on the bus and then having lunch at a restaurant. Not many pictures that day, just very cold and wet.
On Friday, Jan. 15 we had our first encounter with the Guggenheim Museum. Cait, Chrissy, Linden, Ashlyn, James and I walked around and saw the exhibition for Frank Lloyd Wright and also a variety of paintings from famous artists.
:) So it was a busy but great first week :)

The Beginning...

So I have been studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain for a month and a half now, and time has been going so fast! After seeing a lot of people that have created blogs or are writing about their trip, I decided it was an important thing to start. That way I can share with my family and friends and have these memories a long time from now.
So first things first, I arrived in Bilbao on Jan. 11th 2010 completely exhausted and thankful that my luggage made it safely to Bilbao. The trip had started off a little rough when the Cleveland airport had a power outage and my entire plane had to be re-booked. I flew from Detroit to Frankfurt, Germany to Bilbao. In Frankfurt the airport was a little overwhelming. But luckily they spoke English at the desk and I was able to make it safely to my terminal.
When I arrived in the Bilbao airport the University of Deusto representatives were there to meet us and if we were staying with families, then they were there to pick us up. My host 'dad' Oscar helped me put all my luggage in his car. The day was actually beautiful on the drive back to where I would be saying. the sun was shining, the grass was so green, and the mountains were beautiful. It typically rains in Bilbao, so it's important to appreciate the sunshine :)
When Oscar and I arrived at his apartment we lugged all my things up 5 stories....quite the work-out--no elevator. But luckily like Matt, my boyfriend, told me before I left-you only have to get your luggage there and then take it home. And I am glad I brought all that I do have.
Once inside I met Beatrice, Raquel's sister. Raquel is Oscar's wife. Their apartment is small but cute, there is one hallway in which all the rooms branch off of. There are 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, 1 dining room and then the tv room. I met Raquel later that night after Oscar picked her up from work at Ikea. She is an interior designer there, and Oscar is an interior designer through his own business.
Alrighty, for your sake and for some organization I think I will break up some of the topics :) School is next :)