An Unexpected Journey

Hello all,

Apologies for the wait – this was much more difficult to get written and published than I had anticipated.  This happened mostly because … fun fact about New Zealand … there is only free limited wifi.  Every time we found wifi (including hotel rooms), we would only get a certain number of megabytes (and between my teenage brother, working father and myself – those ran out quickly).  Plus, as you will see, we were out of wifi zones most of the trip anyway.  Then once you return to the real world it is impossible to sit still for more than an hour before you gotta run and do something else.  But it did finally get done, so hope you enjoy!

Now on to the tale of our adventures …

*be warned. This tale takes a very unexpected turn at the end … 

 

Day 1 – Travel Day

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So began the +15 hour flight.  We played each other in poker on the plane AND I TOTALLY WON! (even though it is really hard to tell from the picture)

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I am the one with the $730 of course. :]

Once we got off the plane, we had to get ourselves to Hobbiton.

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This involved a lot of waiting around for buses … and sleeping …

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… a lot …

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The best part is the people standing over him don’t even seem to notice.

We also went to the grocery store for general food supplies.  Everyone got to pick out their breakfast food, and Nick picked out what we soon began to call “sawdust”:

4_grocery store

5_sawdust

97% wheat?! seriously?!

They actually weren’t that bad …

Finally, we found a car and headed to the hobbit holes!

3.0_on the road

Selfie #1

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Welcome to Hobbiton!

1_sheep

sheeeeep!

7_dont we love each other

can’t you tell we really like each other …

8_fam and the hole9_lampost

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Bag End!

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Then we found the party!

13_party time

This was actually a very fun picture to take … and we started a tradition and got others to take pictures playing with it too!

And then we ended at the bar 🙂

16_on to the bar

also known as the green dragon

17_green dragon

and there it is!

18_aka the bar

 

Day 2: Kayaking Trip

Then the crew headed to the south island.

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We then went to Abel Tasman National Park to do a three day, two night kayaking trip through the park.  The yellow dots were where we camped:

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Day 1 was a water taxi up to Onetahuti beach where we camped:

1.1_ready to kayak

ready.to.kayak.

2_ready to kayak

selfie #2!

Day 2 was kayaking the entire length of the park down to Coquille Bay campsite:

3_first morning

Our first morning 🙂

4_yakin

5_nick the navigator

Nick the navigator

Side story:

Fun fact, New Zealand people (kiwis) speak with an accent! (I bet you didn’t realize how much you were going to learn through reading this blog)  Anyway, right before we left the kayak rental office, our safety instructor told us a few ‘must visits’ along our route.  One was (now picture this being spoken in an Australian accent) “an orange boy with a water hose attached that brings down fresh spring water from the mountains”.

HOW COOL!

So the whole way kayaking down Nick and I were just sooo excited to see this orange boy hidden in the forest shore that peed out the drinking water.

To our dismay … this orange boy was actually and orange bouy

… talk about awkward …

 

6_watering hole

At least we found the water hose! (and see the orange bout on the left?)

7_second night1

My parent’s anniversary is on New Year’s Eve, and this was one way my dad wished my mom a Happy Anniversary from across the sea:

8_second night2

… talk about awkward all over again …

Day 3 ended back at the hub in Marahau.

The final day kayaking was spent finding ways to not actually have to kayak (the distance paddled the day before was supposed to be split into two days, but the campsites were already booked, so we had to make do with doing it in one day … so we were kinda tired or paddling).

Also, that morning the wind was absolutely crazy, so we grabbed some stuff out of our kayaks and turned them into sails!  And it actually worked really well:

9_final day yakin

 

Day 4: Sailing Trip

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Then we headed to Picton, a city at the foot of Marlborough Sounds, to sail around Queen Charlotte Sound for a few days.  Here was our route through the sounds:

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day 1 = yellow; day 2 = red; day 3 = blue

And some pictures:

1_the boat

2_the boat

our lovely boat

3_our captain

our captain

4_the crew

the crew

5_nick the navigator

Nick the navigator

7_nick the navigator

again

6_nick the navigator

… and again …

9_me as captain

me as captain (and captain is always right 😉

10_the boys

the boys – so cute

On the second day the boys dropped me off on one side of this island, let me hike across, and then picked me up on the other side.  It was absolutely beautiful!  And I got to see some little kiwis along the way (I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the kiwis though, I’m sorry).

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view at the top

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Nick taking the dinghy back to the sailboat.

 

Day 6: Wine Adventures

Once sailing was done, the crew drove to Blenheim (known for its wine) and took a wine bike tour.

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I really wish I could tell you that the wine was TO DIE FOR … but it just so happened to be New Years Day … and after over 18 miles of bike riding against the wind and visiting over 15 different vineyards, not a single one was open. 😥

But we took some pictures and pretended like we got to inside anyway!

1_wine and bike1

One somewhat exciting thing happened that day though – my dad lost his glasses (this plays into effect later)

 

Day 7: Now We Drive

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This part of the trip actually worked out pretty well for us. With all of the beautiful weather we had been having, it was about time to have some rain and fog and cold.  So we used it to our advantage and drove as far as we could manage.

This lead us to the cutest bed and breakfast I had ever seen and allowed us to meet some locals and learn about New Zealand.

4_bed and breakfast

Fun fact: there are literally no predators in New Zealand.  The only ones they have were introduced to their environment: house cats and stouts (these are smaller versions of ferrets and, actually, the Department of Conservation is trying to remove them all from the island).

 

Day 8: … and Drive

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Here are some pictures from this days drive:

5_selfie at lookout

selfie #3 at a nice lookout we found

6_short hike-love

what everyone thinks these trips are like

7_short hike-'love'

what actually goes on … Nick frames my dad

So we stop for the night on Lake Wanaka.

1_beautiful stopping town

selfie #4

2_near mount aspiring mountains

so cute

3_trying to philosophize

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks!”

 

Day 9: … and Drive Some More!

Finally, we reached our final destination: Te Anau

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And found a campsite along the water to stay for a few nights:

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View from our campsite – Lake Te Anau

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Camping in style.

 

Day 10: Hiking and Exploring Fiordland National Park

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2_milford sounds

Milford Sounds

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Milford Sounds

3_traditional selfie

selfie #5

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6_tea time

tea time 🙂

After that cruise, we did some hiking!!

Hike #1: This one was part of the Routenburn Track (pronounced root-burn … don’t offend any locals by saying “rotten-burn” … learned that one the hard way)

1_part of routenburn track

2_at the top

one of the views at the top

We were pretty blown away by how spectacular that hike was, so we decided to squeeze in one more!

Hike #2: (and this is where our trip takes a very drastic turn … )

1_gertrude saddle

we should have known … “for fit and experienced trampers only”

2_the beginning

Already by the start of this hike I was blown away by the field of flowers, being surrounded by ginormous mountains, and the view of up ahead.

5_uphill begins

and so the uphill begins

6_progress made

progress made!

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and more progress made!

4_up ahead

More progress made – and I went back to that lake on the right on my way down (one of my many mistakes … )

Anyway, we kept hiking up and up and up and up and up and didn’t even look up when we stumbled upon this amazing sight:

7_best false summit ever

best false summit EVER

I then kept hiking up since that was not the true top and let my dad and brother nap in the sun by the lake.

It was soooooo worth it …

8_final spectacular summit

Once I had made it to this summit, I decided that this was the greatest day of my life.  My head was in the clouds and I knew this would always be my favorite hike EVER.

Until …

I slipped …

And feel off a small cliff …

And hit my eye a little:

1_injury

At least we washed most the blood off!

And had to go to the hospital …

2_hospital

So, here is the story:

After we made it to the top, it was about 5 o’clock in the evening, and it had taken us 2.5 – 3 hours to hike up that distance.  We were going to start getting hungry, the sun was soon to be behind the mountains, and the temperature would start to drop pretty rapidly after that. Therefore, we decided it was best to make it down the mountain in a speedy fashion.

Mistake #1

Then, Nick saw some snow (and wanted to go touch it and throw snowballs at us … typical) and I saw a small pond over in the sun (that I thought would feel really nice to wash off in).  These two locations were on opposite sides of the path, so we decided to split up, see our respective “landmarks”, and then meet back on the trail.

Mistake #2

After I had taken a dip in the pond, I realized Nick and my dad had already begun hiking back down the mountain.  Now, I am not sure you could tell from the pictures, but this hike did not really have a path or trail down the mountain.  It involved a lot of scampering over loose rocks and such.  In my hurry to catch up with the boys, I paid zero attention to where the “path” was and just tried to find the fastest way down.

Mistake #3

So I would walk down the mountain until I ran into a cliff and could not keep going down.  I would then go back up and over to a new potential path and continue that down for as long as I could.

I kept this up for a while, but I eventually got tired of having to hike back up after encountering a barrier in the trail.  Soooo … when I ran into a less treacherous incline in the trail (or so I thought), I got lazy and decided to crab crawl down the slope instead of backtracking and finding a new path down.

Mistake #4

As I was doing this, my feet slipped and I began to slide down the mountain.  (If I had been in more control, that part would have been really fun!).  Eventually the slip-and-slide ran out, and I was shot off of a small cliff/ledge/something and flew into a dome-like valley below.

In all honesty, I am not really sure what I flew off of; I just know I caught some air.  All I can remember is shutting my eyes, clenching up and saying – “God, here come some broken bones”.

The next time I opened my eyes I was laying on my back in a small puddle of water from the stream I had just taken down the mountain. The next serious of thoughts all kind of came simultaneously:

  • Thank you God that I am alive.
  • I can’t see out of my right eye … blink, blink, blink … oh well, at least I can see out of my left eye!
  • I can’t feel any broken bones … except my head … I think it’s cracked open
  • My face really hurts
  • And my hip hurts too
  • OH MY GOD THE CAMERA IS GOING TO GET WET! Take the backpack off now!
  • Let’s sit up …

Once I sat up, blood came pouring down everywhere, so I took my shirt off and placed it over my face in hopes that I could stop the bleeding.

Then I called for help.

Meanwhile … My dad is hiking down the mountain, blind without his glasses, thinking that Nick and I were hiking up ahead of him (see I told you it would come into play later).

Then he hears someone yell for help so he calls up to two random hikers and says “Shae, Nick WAIT! I think someone is hurt back there.  I’m gonna go help her!”

It was not until he was standing over me that he realized that it was his daughter who was the one bleeding everywhere. (not sure what his thoughts were at that moment of realization, but I am sure that was not a fun experience).

Anyway, my dad put his bandana around my wound to stop the bleeding and helped me climb down the rest of that treacherous trail … with one eye … and absolutely no depth perception … soooo fun ….

Meanwhile, Nick was having a glorious time with his all-too-sensitive comments:

“Shae! You can be a pirate now!!”

“We should get you an eye patch.”

“You know what might be fun to play on the drive back – Eye spy!”

(P.S. I actually did regain sight in my right eye.  I only couldn’t see out of it earlier because there was blood in it)

It was a drive back into town once we finally got back to our car, and we found a nice help phone along the road back to call the emergency line.  They gave us the number of the on-call doctor in Te Anau and he came right away to stitch me up.

That night was not too bad just with all the adrenaline rushing through my system (I did almost have a complete meltdown when I found out I might not be allowed to shower … but we solved that problem quickly), but overall I was feeling okay and really just happy to have escaped with only one serious injury.

Then came the next morning …

Day 11: Backpacking the Kepler Track

3_night one

Morning one …

Oh man … I woke up with pain in every inch of my body.  My hip had grown a third boob, my left butt cheek was black from bruising, my finger was jammed, my elbows had bruises the size of tennis balls and then there was my back … It just hurt.  Not sure what I did to it, but something tweaked the muscles in there to where it hurt to sit at certain angles.

Oh … and the whiplash in my neck.  My whole body got to turn when I wanted to look anywhere other than forwards.

On the plus side though – I could still walk and see and laugh with half of my face!  So we continued on with the itinerary (modified it a bit due to my condition), and hiked an hour in to our campsite along the Kepler Track.

Here is us at the DOC office modifying our campsite reservations:

4_morning one

Nick found me a parrot.  Isn’t he so sweet …

Once everything was figured out, we set off to our campsite.

1_start

Nick wanted some attention … so he tried to walk like me

2_night

our campsite!

The next day we kept our stuff at the campsite and just did a day hike to the peak.  That way I didn’t have to carry my pack but we could still see the famous trek.  Here are some of the pictures from the top:

4_day hike23_day hike1

Then we found a cave!

5_cave16_cave2

 

Day 13: Head to Queenstown

After a great time along the Kepler track we packed our bags and drove to Queenstown.

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Here we got to explore the city (which is now my favorite city … sorta … they also gave us a parking ticket, which kinda sucked).  We got to try their awesome food and ride the gondola up for a view of Lake Wakatipu.

5_traditional selfie

I’ve lost count which selfie this is …

7_frodo lord of the beans

At the gondola shop they had this image of Frodo made out of JELLY BEANS!!! “Frodo Lord of the Beans” Pretty cool.

 

Day 14: Final Destination – Auckland

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The Quigley clan came full circle and returned to Auckland for one last New Zealand city adventure.

Auckland was pretty cool too – much bigger though and more difficult to get around, but the Viaduct district was spectacular.  Right on the water where all of the +100′ racing sailboats dock, live music, great food, wedding parties every way you turn, and just tons of people buzzing around the bars having a great time.

 

Day 15: Our Last Day 😥

Even though thoughts of reality kept creeping their way into our spirits, we made the most of the morning and explored city center, then had lunch at a super gorgeous park on the university campus.

1_lunch at the park

our last selfie 😥

2_birds join

and the birds want to join too

All in all it was an amazing trip!  We went across the whole country

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and got to try almost every aspect of what New Zealand has to offer: Lord of the Rings attractions, kayaking, sailing, hiking, fiords, camping, city life, healthcare …

and out of all the terrible candid shots my dad took of us

he did finally get one that captured the bonds built throughout the trip 😉

good candid

(you always gotta end with something cheesy)

Thanks for reading!  Hope it was somewhat entertaining 🙂

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The Quigs Come to Visit

Sooooooo …. a little over a month ago it was spring break for half of America, and my family decided to come and visit me in Spain 😀

On Friday afternoon, I went and met them in Madrid (it is hard to express the excitement of seeing them in that station when I got off the bus – but to help you guys picture it a bit better, I think my mom almost cried 😉

So after catching up a bit, we went out to eat the typical Spanish “tapas”.  No special place … we just chose it because it was crowded and next door to our hotel.  Turns out though, it ended up being pretty awesome!!  Every time they had a new plate of tapas ready, they would ring this loud bell and come swerving through the tables to offer everyone a taste of free, hot food.  By the end of the night, we really enjoyed the sound of that bell =]  and even throughout the week, if we heard the sound of a bell, we would always perk our heads up just like dogs do when they hear their name being called.  So by the end of it all, everyone but Nick was fully satisfied (Nick had decided to be the weirdo and order steak … not your typical Spanish dish … and turns out, it tasted nothing like steak from Texas.  Hahaha, it was hilarious — definitely a facial expression I would like to see again).

The next morning we took the train to Segovia (one of my favorite cities yet … and you are about to see why 🙂

Yep ... that is a giant aqueduct.

Yep … that is a giant aqueduct.

And it runs throughout the entire city.

And it runs throughout the entire city.

And it was built a super duper long time ago.

And it was built a super-duper long time ago.

DSC03323

And I want to be a civil engineer.

Well, as you may notice, that is the fam and me … except we are missing a child (and a very loud child at that, with vibrant red hair that’s not easily lost … his name is Miles).  Sadly (and much to Nick’s disappointment) we did not loose him, we let him take the pictures!

The camera he was using belongs to my dearest friend Nikki, so before I continue I need to clarify a few things for her:

  • One, he wore the neck-safety-strap the entire time!
  • Two, my whole family and I kept a good eye on him.  We made sure he was super careful.
  • Three, he took very good care of it 🙂 and actually took most of the pictures I have.  I am no expert in photography, but I think they turned out pretty good!

Anyway, it was great! We had a super-excited ten year old taking pictures of EVERYTHING (especially when he decided he wanted to do a presentation for his class about Spain — not his trip to Spain — but about Spain).  So the rest of the night in Segovia, Miles began taking pictures of everything in sight:

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“Hey, lookee here guys! It’s a Spanish bird!”

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“And here are Spanish shirts!!!!”

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“And Spanish hair stuff!”

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“Oh guys … I just found Spanish winter clothes!!!!”

Spanish watches

Spanish watches

Spanish plants

Spanish plants

Jewelry ... and guess where it comes from!!?!?!!?

Jewelry … and guess where it comes from!!?!?!!?

Yep ... we definitely don't have these in America

Yep … we definitely don’t have these in America

I am sure you get the point (just in case you don’t, send me a message! I have 19 more on my camera!!).  Anyway, I saved the best for last.  Ladies and gentlemen … our official photographer, Miles Quigley:

#selfie

#selfie

 

 

Back to the serious pictures … here are a few more of us with the aqueduct 🙂

Don't worry, we are pretty sure this is allowed.

Don’t worry, we are pretty sure this is allowed.

Look at that fart ;)

Look at that fart 😉

So, naturally, we kicked him out (need some mother daughter love every now and then :)

So, naturally, we kicked him out (need some mother daughter love every now and then 🙂

This is from the top of the aqueduct (mas o menos)

This is from the top of the aqueduct (mas o menos) – such a beautiful city ❤

I don't really think I look like them ...

I don’t really think I look like them …

 

Finally, after a full day of walking around the aqueduct, we settled down to have a drink at a small bar in the bustling city square 🙂

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And then we went …. SHOPPING! (be sure you do jazz hands when you read that word)

And all the boys got matching hats 🙂

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=]

 

Oh, and here is a picture from our hotel window (it was this super old, adobe-like building AND YOU COULD OPEN YOUR WINDOWS!!!!)

Needless to say, this is a better way to communicate between our two rooms: DSC03295

 

 

So! The next day we went to go and visit the castle – Alcazar 🙂

Ta-dah!!

Ta-dah!!

The inside

The inside

The view

The view

The hat kinda smelled ...

The hat kinda smelled …

He can be adorable somethings :)

He can be adorable sometimes 🙂

 

Now … it is time for y’all to hear how we made it home 🙂 Quigley style!

On Sunday, we checked the train schedule ahead of time so we knew exactly when we needed to leave the hotel to catch the bus.

Like any normal people, we were waiting at the bus stop an hour and a half before our train was supposed to leave, and saw on the schedule that our bus was arriving in 30 minutes.

30 minutes later. No bus — no worries though, nobody is ever right on time.

40 minutes later. Still no bus.

It was around 45 minutes later that we realized we had been looking at the wrong bus schedule.  There were two others to choose from.  One would get us there about 15 minutes before our train was supposed to leave and the other … would get us there 2 minutes before our scheduled departure time.

I am sure you all can guess which one was the right one … : /

We ran as fast as we could into the train station, hoping they would let us through last minute, but 2 minutes (apparently) is not enough time to board a train; so they would not let us through the ticket gate 😦  Three minutes earlier though and they would have let us board the train.  THREE MINUTES!

Well, since there were no more direct trains to Gijon, we headed to a town nearby (Valladolid) to have a 3 hour layover before our next chance back home.

Valladolid was actually a very fun city!  The center was across the street from the train station and it was just filled with people, beautiful buildings, a random carnival, lots of trees and a HUGE park/maze right next to a giant fountain.  Once inside the park area, you were completely apart from the city.  Noise from the outside world quieted and you very quickly got lost in the complicated, winding paths of the park (I am still convinced that it was originally a maze).

And the best part: THERE WERE PEACOCKS EVERYWHERE!  I was the first to go and explore the maze, and the first time I rounded a corner, there were 8 peacocks just wondering the path!!  They actually scared me!  I was not expecting there to be anything around the corner, much less 8 living things.  So later when I took Nick, I sort of “forgot” to mention it to him :]

Back to the train station!  After the layover passed, we patiently waited for our train to arrive when we received a friendly message stating there would be an hour delay.

Great.

Let’s go wait a bit more.

Long story short: Our train arrived after the hour.  We boarded.  Sat and waited 2 hours on board (without the train moving).  Were forced off the train onto a bus (pic below 🙂

All the boys wearing their new matching hats :)

All the boys wearing their new matching hats 🙂

Took the bus about 30 minutes to a nearby town, waited a little bit longer, and finally board a moving train to Gijon!!!!

Sadly though … by the time our journey was done, it was 5 am and I was just crawling into my bed … dreading my Monday classes …

 

Sooooooo for the rest of the trip

1) We did not particularly trust trains.

2) And we DEFINITELY did not trust bus schedules.

 

No worries though.  We were all able to recover, explore Gijon and have a marvelous week filled with seaside, churros, sidra and lots and lots of food (where in one particular instance Nick accidentally told the waiter he wanted “no horse” on his burger instead of asking for “no onions”) — so if any of y’all get the chance, be sure and tell Nick that he should try eating horse on his burger next time 😉

For all non-expert Spanish speakers:

caballo (pronounced ca-ba-yo) = horse

cebolla (pronounced se-bo-ya) = onion

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Taken by our famous photographer!

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If my family can ever be epic … I think this would be the moment

That, my friends, is the typical "why am I related to you???" face I witness it almost every day :)

That, my friends, is the typical “why am I related to you???” face
I witness it almost every day 🙂

 

:)

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, ladies and gentlemen, for the final adventure of the Quig-filled visit, we headed to BARCELONA!!!!!! And we added a member to our family –> Piccolina!!! 🙂

I want to apologize now, but the rest of the blog is going to be a bit sporadic … not much flow … no rhyme or reason for the order … just how the memories return to me:

To begin, this place right here, is my favorite restaurant in the world (hehe, I can actually say that now and it carries meaning).

D. licious

D. licious

The owner of the restaurant was just about the strangest person I have ever met (but seriously the nicest person ever too).  He would just talk on and on and on about how he serves food from “happy cows!” that play in “green meadows” and “eat green grass” and “hang out with other happy cows!”.

Usually I think a sales pitch like that would scare anyone away, but Nick and I decided to brave a happy-cow burger.

 

And Wow.

 

The happy-cow burger was amazing.

We also ate octopus (once again, sounds scary … but even Miles could not stop eating it) and the sangria was to die for.

2014-03-14 21.26.49

 

After a delicious dinner, we found our apartment (we were too many people to stay in a hotel, so we rented a flat), got our key, and read the terribly humiliating instructions of how to find our room.  They went something like this:

You are staying in room 1A.  

You must go to the first floor and find room A.  

Then insert your key into the door and turn.”

I promise you … I am not kidding; I was laughing as my mom read it allowed – “yes, yes we know how to find a room number!”  Anyway, I snatched the keys from her and went with the boys up the stairs (while the girls went in the elevator with the bags) and began trying to open the door …

Keep in mind it is much later in the evening by now.

Well … the key did not work.  Nick tried.  My dad tried. I tried again.  The door would not open.

Then, all of a sudden, this man in his pajamas opens the door!! At the exact same moment, I hear my mom scream from above us “Where are you guys?? Come and open our door I don’t have any more keys!”  At that moment, with our angry Spanish man staring tiredly at us from his dark apartment, we all looked up and to the left to see the letter “E” printed above the elevator (instead of the number one).  For some reason, this building had floor zero, then floor E, and then floor 1.

Maybe the instructions weren’t so stupid after all …

Poor man … we apologized, but I still don’t think he liked us very much.

 

Now to the sightseeing aspect of Barcelona 😀

Quick background … Barcelona is absolutely filled with the artwork of Antoni Gaudí … who has a very Dr. Seuss-esk technique.

Annnnd … by the end of seeing his works, we decided that the word “gaudy” was created in honor him 😉

 

Sagrada Familia!!

Sagrada Familia!!

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Okay, so Park Güell was really cool.  Everything was made out of the colored cement pieces; all of it was SUPER intricate, the colors very precisely chosen, and shaped into curving/curling figures.

To think that this man made the entire park that way makes my brain hurt (it must have taken him FOREVER!!!)

I just love how beautiful it is (and he made it all out of trash!)

I just love how beautiful it is (and all the colored pieces came from the trash!)

Ok ... he can be adorable sometimes too :)

Ok … he can be adorable sometimes too 🙂

DSC03487 DSC03488

We decided this would be a good idea.

We decided this would be a good idea.

Miles failed a lot.

Miles failed a lot. 

But for a split second we got it just in time for a picture!! :D

But for a split second we got it just in time for a picture!! 😀

DSC03511

GRUPO DE FOTO

Gaudi was kind of a trippy artist

Gaudi was kind of a trippy artist

Then we went and explored the city 🙂

Walked by ramblas and the beach.  Stopped every 2 hours or so to eat a snack (hmmh … Nick) or drink a beer (cough … Daddy Q) or use the restroom (… the girls 🙂

But here is what we saw:

I thought that was pretty cool ...

That guy deserved a dollar

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The arch that the soldiers march through!

The arch that the soldiers march through!

It was cold at night :)

It was cold at night, and naturally my mom was too nice to let Miles freeze.

:) :)

🙂 🙂 mi nueva hermana!

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"I'm just gonna have one I promise!!"

“I’m only gonna have one, I promise!!”

This restaurant was great fun!  We sat next to a couple Scottish guys and just shared fun stories about Spain and beer and soccer and whatever else people talk about.

I usually never find manikins with hair, much less red hair!! So naturally, I got up there with them and took a picture :)

I usually never find manikins with hair
much less red hair!!
So naturally, I got up there with them and took a picture 🙂

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One of my favorites!

One of my favorites!

So this picture above here is kind of hard to see, but there are four statues behind us (between the water fountains), and we all decided to act one out (don’t worry, we don’t usually stand like that).

 

Annnnnd … that about wraps up the pictures 🙂  Overall, we had a great time (we did get kicked out of our first floor apartment cause we forgot to schedule it for Saturday night — but the landlord lady was super nice and found us a penthouse apartment with a balcony!!!)

So our last night was spent with wine and a grocery store dinner out on our patio overlooking brightly lit Barcelona 🙂

 

Goodbye “Baby Shae”

Sorry it has been so long, but I had no idea how time-consuming a blog would be (and … I am usually pretty good at procrastinating any form of writing)  Nevertheless! I am finally here to tell y’all all about my birthday. My 20th birthday.

Goodbye baby Shae, I’m an adult now!

It all began Wednesday night (February 12th) at the international dinner (held by the Mexicans that week – this week the Germans did theirs, and I am hoping for an Italian one soon :):):).  Anyway, I was chowing down on some good ol’ Mexican food when my watched beeped … it was midnight!  Literally 3 seconds later, a giant group of people came into the living room singing happy birthday 🙂

Vanessa just loves surprises, and this was only the beginning of things she had up her sleeve for my birthday :)

Vanessa just loves surprises, and this was only the beginning of things she had up her sleeve for my birthday 🙂

Needless to say, after singing happy birthday to me in Spanish and English, each nationality decided to sing me in their language too =D.  I got the royal treatment – German, Italian, French, Hungarian, Arabic, AHHH SO EXCITING!

The rest of the night consisted mostly of a million different people giving me hugs and a couple million more giving me kisses on the cheek.

Spain/Europe tidbit for y’all: They give kisses on both cheeks here.  Before coming, I hardly gave hugs to people when saying hello : /  … Let’s just say I have grown tremendously (I am not totally used to it yet, but I am close).

 

 

Then the party really started:

Thursday morning, February 13th: my birthday 🙂

I woke up to the most beautiful breakfast display known to mankind:

Roomie love x 100000000000000

I always have the best roommates 🙂

Vanessa woke up early and prepared this entire DELICIOUS display, not allowing me in the kitchen until it was perfect 🙂

The rest of the excitement happened that night when I went out with a few friends to eat Spanish food and try the famous “sidra” (a sort of Spanish-style apple cider special to the Asturias region).  There is a very special way of pouring sidra, and I wish I had gotten a video, but if you go into youtube and type “pouring sidra” the first link gives a perfect demonstration.  Here are pictures of dinner:

This was our group :)

piccolina <3

piccolina ❤

For my birthday, they got me about 200+ sticky mustaches (as we so beautifully demonstrated) and chocolate and a picture frame and “American” marshmallows (haha, all I have to do now is show them s’mores) and an adorable card!

They know me too well

They know me too well

After dinner we joined all of the erasmus for what is usually our Thursday-night tapas …  but instead, this week, esn organized some special activities/competitions for us to play.

And my team won!! 😀

The newbies in the photo are Hector (from Spain, but we pretended like he was from Guatemala so he could stay with the erasmus) and Anita (the hilarious little Hungarian :)

The newbies in the photo are Hector (from Spain, but we pretended like he was from Guatemala so he could stay with the erasmus) and Anita (the hilarious little Hungarian 🙂

Then came out the whip cream and cake … which got about everywhere except our stomachs.

We are so attractive.

We are so attractive.

As everyone was, once again, singing happy birthday, Caro (una Mexicana loca 😉 shoved the cake into my face … thankfully it was mostly whip cream.

Thank. You. Caro.

Thank. You. Caro.

The night continued with dancing and music and some other fun games (limbo was my favorite!), but I returned home relatively early to prepare myself for the weekend … ROAD TRIP!

As always, here is a geographical view of our journey.

As always, here is a geographical view of our journey.

This time, the trip was done by ourselves without any sort of guides:

Our beautiful chauffeur

Our beautiful chauffeur

We called him Juke (yes I know, very creative).

We called him Juke (yes I know, very creative).

He looks like a bug ...

He looks like a bug …

After learning how to go in reverse (yes … it is embarrassing to say, but we sat parked behind a curb for about 15 minutes reading through the manual until we figured out how to back out and begin our journey).

Finally, we set off for destination B – Santander.  For our journey, we rented a GPS (since no one had enough data left to use their phones).  By the end of this trip I could have easily smashed that TomTom into a million pieces.  It would tell us to turn on roads that did not exist, fail to tell us which way to go when the highway split or when it did split it would tell us to go on the opposite road that the overhead signs said, and … for some reason, decided to choose the least traveled, rockiest, one lane roads instead of the actual highway.

But but but but … the GPS was a blessing in disguise (not as much for Vanessa who had to drive an extra couple of hours either stuck behind dump trucks going 20 mi/hr. or on very curvy roads).  Our genius TomTom led us through some adorable towns, gorgeous untouched countryside, and through one of our detours we were able to stumble across this:

The beautiful view

The beautiful view overlooking a city I can’t remember the name of 😦

overlooking a city I can't remember the name of.

These two pictures are basically just a panorama cut in two.

So … I would like to thank the genius TomTom for showing us things we would have never had the chance to see otherwise.

And finally, we arrived in Santander:

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Two things:

One, here are the others who went on the trip [Ivan from Mexico, Simona from Italy, Gregory from Belgium and Vanessa from Germany] – ALL of us from different countries and ALL of us with different native tongues!  I don’t know if you realize awesome that was – it meant that at no point during the weekend did anyone have to sit on the side like an idiot while people talked together in German or French or Italian or any other language other than Spanish 🙂

Two, the chant “grupo de foto” is in no ways, ever, AT ALL grammatically correct.  So, please don’t try and sound intelligent or impress someone by throwing that line out there – you will look like a fool.  It is just a fun cheer all the erasmus chant when we want to take a group picture.

Of course, it was on the water :)

Of course, Santander was on the water 🙂

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with some crazy cool sand

with some crazy cool sand

Once darkness came, we hopped into the car and headed to Bilbao (destination C).

Bilbao is one of the first cities I have visited here that has not been on a beach.  That being said, there was still a river flowing through the middle of it.  Nevertheless, it was still nice to see some city life, old buildings and fun-looking museums.

GRUPO DE FOTO Our arrival in Bilbao :)

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Our arrival in Bilbao 🙂

The next morning up and awake for our self-guided tour!

That building in the background was Guggenheim!!!!

That building in the background is Guggenheim!!!!

This was the dog-flower-thing in front of Guggenheim.

This was the dog-flower-thing in front of Guggenheim.

A little bit of the city :)

A little bit of the city 🙂

I still can't get over the streets - I have seen them so many times in movies and stuff. But to see it in real life!! AH!

I still can’t get over the streets – I have seen them so many times in movies and stuff.
But to see it in real life!! AH!

This was our view from where we sat and ate lunch

This was our view from where we sat and ate lunch

More cool buildings!!

More cool buildings!!

Art ... what can I say other than W O W

Art … what can I say other than
W
O
W

We are all goofballs at heart :]

We are all goofballs at heart :]

So we found a funicular that went up a small mountain on the edge of the city.  The top had quite an impressive view (which I don’t have pictures of … they just didn’t turn out well), but here is one of the old wheels used for Bilbao’s first funicular:

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Side note: I have discovered that I have a slight obsession with little kids speaking a different language.  I always try to walk next to the children or sit near them on the bus so I could hear them speaking … super creepy, I know.  But anyway, I have a few amazingly adorable pictures of the kids we saw in Bilbao:

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THEY WERE SO CUTE
and there just had to be four of them!!

random6Okay, so this last picture was taken more for the bubbles (who has ever seen bubbles this big?!?!), and the kids popping them was an extra, adorable bonus.

Finally after a full day, we packed our bags and headed to San Sebatian! (destination D).

I am a bit tired of writing, so here are the pictures with a few descriptions 🙂

Just walkin' along the beach :)

Just walkin’ along the beach 🙂

3 musketeers!

3 musketeers!

I love sailing.

I love sailing.

=0

=0

This was only about a third of the painting once the guy finished!

This was only about a third of the painting once the guy finished!

Roooooooomie love (I don't know if that hashtag exists, but I'm gonna use it!)

Roooooooomie love (I don’t know if that hashtag exists, but I’m gonna use it!)

This was the old town hall/city council of San Sebastian.

This was the old town hall/city council of San Sebastian.

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I took a stroll through a neighborhood and saw beautiful houses (this being one of them).

I took a stroll through a neighborhood and saw beautiful houses (this being one of them).

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I REALLY rEaLLy reAllY ReALLy wanted to go to that island shown in this last picture cause I met a guy running along the beach who told me I could make it across if I wanted to, but I would get wet up to my waist (and maybe higher if a big wave came) : /

I will be back San Sebastian.  And next time in appropriate attire.

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So … there in San Sebastian our planned journey ended.  It was not until we arrived there that we realized how close we were to France.

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No big deal.

Totally normal.

Just took an afternoon drive to FRANCE!

I think I actually screamed a few times.

So, Sunday afternoon, after seeing all we needed to see of San Sebastian, we packed up our bags and hit the road for Biarritz, France.

Of course there was a beach!

Of course there was a beach

Beautiful buildings here too.

Beautiful buildings here too.

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Our view from where we ate lunch in France. =0

Our view from where we ate lunch in France.
=0

Where we actually sat and ate lunch ...

Where we actually sat and ate lunch …

We had a woman walk by and tell us “Bon Appétit” 🙂

 

Then we visited a lighthouse:

lighthouse2

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The view from the lighthouse.

The view from the lighthouse.

Last but not least, we had to make a bathroom break before driving all the way back to Gijon.  The bathrooms we found were CRAZY!  They would wash the ENTIRE room after every person used it, so you could only enter when it gave you the green light and then there would be water everywhere.

Yes ... it was sealed with a super-intense metal door.

And as you can see, it was sealed with a super-intense metal door.

On the drive home I got to sit shotgun to help Nessa stay awake and deal with our friend, the GPS, but we made the long drive fun 🙂 We sang and danced to some Spanish club music, maybe a little One Direction, and most importantly, we perfected our duet of “I’m a Barbie Girl.”

All in all, I want to say thank you to all who made my birthday weekend amazing!! I had so much fun, laughed until I cried, danced until I dropped and sang until my voice gave out.  All of which came with unforgettable memories and one hell of a way to end my teenage years 🙂

Don’t worry though, I will always be a teenager at heart.

Covadonga, Cangas de Onis & Riba de Sella

A few weekends ago a group known called ESN organized a day trip to Covadonga, Cangas de Onis and Riba de Sella for all of the erasmus (which basically means international students).  If you haven’t figured it out already … I went on the trip 🙂

Here is a “rough sketch” of the journey (all located in northern Spain, Asturias):

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It all started with an early bus ride to Covadonga (point B).  We left just as the sun was rising, and let me say … the countryside was beautiful (or the parts of it I did manage to see).  Sadly, just like every other car ride, I fell asleep 😥

I promise I tried SOOO hard to keep my eyes open, but when I have nothing to think about and no one is directly talking to me … Zzzz.  To my surprise though, as soon as we arrived and I opened my eyes, I lost my breath.  We were stopped next to a cliff with a waterfall:

waterfall2

It may not look like much from the picture, but it was just about the best way to wake up from a nap.

It may not look like much from the picture, but it was just about the best way to wake up from a nap.

It gets better.

I look out the other side of the bus and see:

Once again ... pictures don't do it justice

Once again … pictures don’t do it justice

And off in the distance, surrounded by mountains (of course?!?!?):

A beautiful and stunning

The beautiful
and stunning

iglesia :)

Basilica de Covadonga

Please don’t quote me exactly on this next part – I saw and heard a lot that day and I cannot remember exactly the history of this church and the cave and Covadonga (because when it comes to history, if I don’t write it down right away … I usually forget it).  Anyway, I do know that this was the location where Pelayo beat the Muslims in the Battle of Covadonga … and then the church was built sometime before or after that : /

On to the next part!  When we finally got out of the bus we were allowed to walk around and enjoy the area.

This first picture is Simona and me standing in front of the fountain with magical powers (supposedly, if you drink from it you will get married within the year!!! :0 )

Simona is from Italy and we like to call her piccolina (aka ... small person :)

Simona is from Italy and we like to call her piccolina (piccolo means small person 🙂

annnnnnnnnd … Sorry padres … we drank 🙂

p3 p2and then got completely soaked!

Then we visited these crosses (which were in the chapel above the waterfall):

God is good!!

God is good!!

And of course ... there's a bar.

Leave it to Spain …

After an unbelievable morning in Covadonga we hopped back on the bus and headed to Cangas de Onis (point C).

I don’t have many pictures, but here is the famous Alpha-Omega bridge that leads into the city:

bridge3

Just one more angle of the bridge to capture a little bit of the AMAZING water and pretty countryside :)

Just one more angle of the bridge to capture a little bit of the AMAZING water and pretty countryside 🙂

The view from the bridge :D

The view from the bridge 😀

On our way to the city for lunch!!

On our way to the city for lunch!!

As if we had not seen enough stunning scenery, ESN pilled us back into the bus and took us to our last, and most unbelievable location – Riba de Sella (point D):

This was just the beginning

This is just the beginning

Roomie love

Roomie love

v3

the sun was bright

So, I have developed a theory since arriving here – pictures never quite capture the majesty of what you are actually experiencing.  There is something about that gut-ringing sensation that pictures just don’t have.  (here is the theory part) – I have decided that there are some pictures than can

My last stop of my first journey gave me one of those “gut-ringing” moments:

cliff2

We hiked up along the coast and when we reached the top, this is what stood before us.  I was blown away; I did not think anything could beat the church and waterfall and beautiful bridge overlooking Rio Sella … I’m glad I was wrong 🙂

Even after the giant group headed back down to explore the rest of the city, a few of us just sat on the edge and stared off into the distance (Lord of the Rings style).

I don’t have any pictures left, but I do have one story of the bus ride home (it might be one of those had-to-be-there stories, but just try and imagine it as best you can!) :

After all of the Oviedo erasmus kids got off the bus at their stop, the five or so Gijon people still had a 30 minute drive ’til our nice warm beds, and in that time I decided to play a few songs from my phone.  Simona helped me pick out ones that she knew and could “sing along” to.  Well … we started playing the song Wannabe by Spice Girls.

Here are the lyrics, in case you haven’t heard of it:

So, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ha.

I really like this song, and started singing the words pretty loudly.  Simona reaches over, pauses the song, and then yells at me that I’m singing “como una Americana”.  She then taught me how to sing like the Italians … and lets just say it went something like this:

“Ay temewabara banazigagiza burumpata … I wanna wewewewewewe zigazigaaah”

We shouted complete gibberish all the way home, and I was crying from laughter long before that.

=)

 

I hope this wasn’t too long! Next post will be my weekdays in Gijon (I have a few fun adventures to tell 🙂 and then, hopefully, pictures from my Galicia and San Sebastian trips!!

I’ve Made Friends :D

Sorry for not writing in forever, but (as you can maybe tell from Facebook) I have FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!!  The first few days I was in Spain I did not know that there was a Facebook group for all of the international students; so when I finally joined, I was able to start meeting kids from all over the world!

The picture below was my first outing/meeting of the other students (yes we are at a bar – but I am legal here! … It is the weirdest thing, and I am definitely not used to it yet … ).  In this picture the first guy is Ivan (Mexicano! and hilarious – I have a story about him later).  The next two girls are from France, Violette and Julie (or Juju as I like to call her :).  The other guy is Raffa from Italy (he absolutely loves the San Antonio Spurs and … GINOBILI!!!!  We have had some great basketball conversations :).  The last girl is Violette’s sister visiting for a few days (I never really talked to her).

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My first “real” time in a bar!

Needless to say, my first night with all of the international students was a lot fun.

Now for a story from that night:

I am currently 19 years old (almost 20!!!!), but everyone else here is at least 23 years old and find it incredibly surprising that I am so young.  So naturally, I am known as “el bebé” (the baby).  Now Ivan has a different name for me.  Especially after a little bit of alcohol, he likes to try and speak in English.  So that night he ran around telling everyone that I was his “LEETAL SEISTUR”.  Since then it has kind of been a running joke, and now we even have a song to go along with it (Hey Brother by Avicii).

Since then I have been busy every single night with anything from …

Walking around Gijon:

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The famous Gijon sign that EVERYONE has to take a picture with 🙂

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I still love water.
And boats!!!(especially sailboats)

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It is kind of cold here …

Or walking along the beach (which have been having record high/crazy waves):

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Blue sky again =D

Here is a baby wave crashing against the seawall. Later in the week we had waves so big that they broke off all of this white railing and tore up some of the pavement!

Here is a baby wave crashing against the seawall.
Later in the week we had waves so big that they broke off all of this white railing and tore up some of the pavement!

Or having dinner from different nationalities [I have, thus far, eaten Mexican, Italian and French food, and tonight my roommate, Elie, is making everyone Lebanese food :]

Here are some pictures from the French food night:

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Here are most all the international kids that are studying in Gijon 🙂

Kind of my favorite picture ever

Kind of my favorite picture ever

Juju!!!!!!!! She has shown me SOOOO much music - I will be coming back an international music guru :)

Juju!!!!!!!!
She has shown be SOOOO much music – I will be coming back an international music guru 🙂

My girlies :) Vanessa - my roommie!!! from Germany, Astrig from Denmark and Simona from Italy :)

My girlies 🙂
Vanessa – my roommie!!! from Germany, Astrig from Denmark and Simona from Italy 🙂

All in all, I cannot put into words how much fun I have been having.   I have officially moved out of my landlord’s house and into my apartment/flat right in the middle of the city (I am so much closer to everything now!!).  I now live with Vanessa from Germany (she loves peanut butter too 🙂 and Elie from Lebanon (sweetest person you will ever meet, but has a lot of trouble speaking Spanish )’:

Next post will be my trip to Covadonga, Cangas de Onis and Riba de Sella (which were unbelievably breathtaking :):):)

Ciao!

Pictures!!

As promised … pictures! 🙂

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Mountains : O

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I took a trip the other day to visit the campus, register for classes, get my paperwork done, etc and was absolutely blown away by its beauty.  The campus was covered in lush, well kept, green grass, and it was completely surrounded by these mountains (that you can faintly see in the distance in one of the pictures).

Fun fact about Gijon – it rains every day here.

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The surprise creek!

Once I was finished with everything at the campus I decided to walk home instead of taking the bus, and to my amazement I found creek!!  (fun fact about me – I LOVE water … probably a little too much)  Anyway, right then and there I put away my map and walked along the creek until it ended at the ocean (which, to my luck, was right next to my landlord’s house! – shown below).

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This is the subdivision I am currently living in.

After my excitement of walking home from the school, I had to keep seeing the city.  Below are my pictures from walking along the sea wall (in case you can’t tell … I am in LOVE; so much water to see and so little time!).

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I

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absolutely

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LOVE

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L
O
V
E

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water 🙂

These pictures amount to only about 1/20th of the seashore there is to explore … and I plan to see all of it!!

The next day Armando, an old friend of Juan (who picked me up in Gijon), showed me around the older/historical side of the city.  He was quite a funny fellow; he used to teach teach Spanish at a French university, he knows Italian and German, and is currently practicing his English.  The entire day he would speak to me in English and I would speak to him in Spanish (each of us correcting the other when we didn’t know a word or said something weird).

The pictures of our day are below:

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Tapas and my first Spanish beer!

The rest of these are buildings in old Gijon:

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Last but not least, the SUN came out today!!!!!!!!!

 

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Ciao!

Where to begin …

Hello everyone!

This is my first blog post EVER! (so please bear with me … I’m an engineer – writing is not my thing 🙂

 

Well, the title says it all folks!  So much has happened, I think I will just start with a rundown and see where it takes me.

From Dallas I flew into Madrid and struggled my way through Spain with two giant rolling suitcases, a backpack, and a bag of chips (you think I am kidding about the chips; I bought Texas-shaped chips as a gift for someone here and the hardest part of the entire journey was trying NOT to let every single one get smashed into a million pieces).  After more than twenty hours of traveling and a lot of staring people, I was able to hand the bag over to my smiling recipient with a few chips still shaped like my home state. 🙂

Since my arrival, I have lived in a youth hostel on the edge of Gijon with a few Spanish students (nicest people ever but sadly, still have finals to take).  Since they spent most of their time studying, I did not venture much into the city. I did go once though to find myself a phone  – side story!:

So ……. I thought my phone would work here and just cost boatloads of money to use it.  I was quite mistaken.  No service at all.  Also! From that same non-working phone, I was supposed to text Juan, the man picking me up in Gijon, my itinerary throughout the day.  No worries though, I found a super ghetto pay phone in the Madrid train station and sent him a text through that (just my 2 cents – try to avoid ever sending a text from a pay phone; one, you look absolutely ridiculous, two, it is incredibly tedious, and three, you can’t go back and fix a mistake without erasing the entire message!!).

Back to getting a phone in Gijon:

Basically, I received directions on how to get to the phone store, but not how to get back … I tried my very best to recognize where I had gotten on, but every building looks exactly the same!(and by the time I came back, it was dark outside)  Needless to say, I rode the bus until we got to the end of the route, and the bus driver made me get off :(.  The good news though!  Since I had to walk around aimlessly, I became accustomed to the city a little bit better 😀 and did eventually find my hostel.

Now, I am living with my landlord in her beautiful house while I wait for my apartment to be vacated.  We are right on the water, and I plan to spend tomorrow walking around and taking pictures for y’all 🙂

This is where I am living until my apartment is ready :)

This is my room in their house

Sorry for writing so much, I promise to have only pictures next time!