From the moment we landed Dublin left like home…expect for the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road like in the UK. Not only was I excited because it felt like home and they spoke English (I could finally hold a conversation with someone!!!) but I was also going to stay with one of my best friends from high school, Chris, whom I hadn’t seen since August!
From the airport Kate, Tory, and I headed straight for the Guinness Factory to get our first Irish brewski. Not gunna lie–I’m not a fan. I never realized how heavy Guinness was, I only had about 3/4 and I was unbelievably full! It was an awesome view up at the Gravity bar though–it had a 180 degree view of Dublin.
After the Guinness tour I finally met up with Chris and we grabbed some lunch with the girls before seeing them off on their buses for Galway and Cork to also meet up with old high school friends. It’s so nice having friends to go visit- not only is it a free place to stay haha but it’s also a familiar face who knows the area. Chris showed me around and we visited the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Grafton St, and St. Stephan’s Green. All of which are amazing and which in walking distance of each other. His apartment couldn’t be in a better location. It’s only one block from Grafton St (biggest shopping St.) and St. Stephan’s Green!
Chris lives with 14 other kids who go to Bentley as well, then six friends were visiting including me so it was a full house but we definitely had our fun! We went to bars both nights which was a nice change from the Barcelona club nightlife. Everything was Halloween themed (also a nice touch of home cause they don’t celebrate or even acknowledge Halloween in Barcelona) so it was fun dressing up with everyone. I had a blast and would go back in a heartbeat!! I miss it already 🙂
Chris and I in St. Stephan’s Green.
PS it was SO SO nice to experience a little bit of fall and see some fall foliage! The plam trees in Barca don’t exactly change color in the fall haha
Last night we went to the FC Barcelona vs. Celtic game! Not only did we get to see Messi, one of the greatest soccer players of all time but we got to see him play at Camp Nou the largest stadium in Europe and 11th in the world. It seats 99,000, and last night almost every seat was filled! It was definitely an experience I will never forgot- when else will I get to go to a soccer game like that? When in Barcelona do as the Barcelona’s do!
Oh yeah, Barca won 2-1–scoring the winning goal with only a minute left!!
Also who knew Celtic FC wasn’t from Ireland? I was sure in shock–I assumed their green shamrock meant Ireland but I guess that represents Scotland as well!
Before coming here I never would of thought that McDonald’s “McCafe” would become my favorite coffee spot! Iced coffee is a foreign concept to people over here, you order “un cafe frio” or “un cafe con hielo” and they look at you like you have three heads (even at Starbucks who I expected to be the same as it is in America). One time I got an espresso shot with a giant ice cube...It’s just not something they don’t do here.
At Cafe Marti next to school I spotted an Iced Latte on the menu and couldn’t have been any more excited. I figured if it was on the menu they knew what it was…boy was I wrong. I spent four euro on cold whipped milk with sugar in it and no coffee or espresso what-so-ever…as she handed it to me I thought what the hell is this? I spent four euros on extra cold milk?! I knew it was a cultural difference so I didn’t say anything and I most definitely haven’t ordered it since!
Then finally last week when we were in McDonald’s I spotted the McCafe menu that clearly said in English “Iced Coffee” I was so excited, they even have soy milk (my favorite)!! Now I find myself going back everyday to get my ice coffee fix in between classes. McCafe saved me!
Saturday I went to the Torres Winery here in Barcelona. The Torres company was founded back in 1870 by Jaime and Miguel Torres and has grown over the past 140 years into a major wine and brandy leader whose products can be found in over 140 countries (including America). While Torres originated here in Catalan they have expanded their Vineyards to Chile and California-each specializing in a specific type of grape. We learned about the importance of climate and soil in grape growing, a major reason why they expanded to different areas of the world.
On our tour we got to see where everything happens. From where the grapes are harvested to where the wine ages in the dark aging cellars built below the estate. Some wines are down there for up to 18 months–I never knew wine went through such a process like this. I learned lots of new things including how to properly taste wine (pictured below). Look, smell, aerate, smell, taste.
At the end of the tour we got to try their Vina Sol made right there in Catalunya. Vina Sol is known as their freshest white wine and has a distinct fresh fruit aroma reminiscent of green apples and pineapples. After aerating the wine the aroma’s really came out. It was delicious–probably my favorite since arriving here in Spain.
We added some excitement to the day as well. We were on a tram for the tour which had sliding windows. They said if we got hot we could slide them open a little bit. They weren’t kidding when they said a little bit because when I went to slide my window open it slide right off the tracks and I was holding on with all my strength to keep it from falling! My friend Mike had to reach over and help me pull and slide the window back on track. Keep in mind this is all occurring while the tram is moving. So lets just say we left the window alone after that.
Then if that wasn’t enough excitement lets add someone passing out to the day. We had just left the aging cellars when my friend sitting in between Mike and I faintly said to Mike “I’m going to pass out” Moments later you heard a phone drop to the floor and her head fell back. It was terrifying. Mike and I tried to wake her up but she was pale as a ghost. We pushed the emergency stop button on the tram but it didn’t work typical probably just there for show…So I slide open my window (scared it was gunna fall) and yelled up to our AIFS director to stop the tram. In the end everything was okay and she’s okay but while it was happening it was a pretty scary thing to witness. It definitely added some extra drama to our day at Torres.
Last night we went to the Ice Bar, Ice Barcelona– such a cool experience!
Maybe would’ve been a little smarter to go when we first got here and wasn’t cold outside or at least when we were wearing pants instead of skirts and flip flops….so lets just say we didn’t last very long haha
Unfortunately I had midterms the week my family was visiting (yes I do actually go to school here even though it may not seem like it sometimes). It was a stressful week but it was nice having them here to take my mind off of everything for a little. It was a hectic week- I’d go from a full day of class right to their hotel (Hotel Advance near Plaza Catalunya- highly recommend it for anyone coming to stay here in Barcelona) for a glass of wine and to relax then we’d head out for dinner around 830-9 each night then after I’d go home to study. It would have been nice to hang out with everyone a little longer or even take my cousin,Todd, out but oh well at least I’m lucky enough to of had them all come visit!
Midterm’s were pretty tough–they are a large portion of our grade (average is about 25% of the course final grade) but now they’re over and it’s time to relax again! I was also lucky enough to sneak in a trip back to Sitges with my family before they left and in between studying. I loved it there when I visited back in September with my AIFS program and knew they would all love it just as much. The shopping here is amazing! It was a great place for them all to buy their presents for everyone back home.
Overall their visit was awesome! I loved every minute of it- glad you all had safe flights back, miss you already!
One of the most common Spanish traditions here in Barcelona is Tapas or “small plates” for dinner. Here you find that the Spanish eat large lunches (why they have siesta) consisting of three courses or so and then dinner is mostly tapas. It is something very different than in the US- but three nights in a row my family and I went to tapas restaurants for dinner and LOVED it. At first I didn’t think I would get full, I felt like tapas were just mini tastings but boy was I wrong! It the total opposite from America where you order a dish and receive this MASSIVE portion of food that you end up finishing even faster than it took you to order, even though you were full about halfway through. Here you take your time and truly relax and enjoy the food you order. We ordered many different types of plates from fish to mini hamburgers and by the end you are most definitely full!!
Each of the three tapas restaurants we went to had completely different atmospheres but I would go back to each in a heartbeat.
Cal Pep- was a small intimate restaurant with only about eight tables and served a set menu. The only thing you had to order and choose for yourself was the wine you wanted to drink.
Cerveseria Catalana- Was my favorite of the three (I want to bring my friends back!) this one is definitely popular among tourists and locals-there is a consist line to get in and crowd at the bar but the big seating area moves the waiting along. You get your food extremely fast after ordering but again it was delicious. Even though food came fast we never felt rushed. (picture above was taken here)
Imprevist- This was the last of the three we ate at and it was by far the most different. The décor was modern impressionist art and like the other two we really enjoyed the food. We were even given complementary Cava (Spanish champagne)!
My parents, aunt, uncle and cousin arrived last Thursday!! They couldn’t have come at a better time–I ran out of my Skippy peanut butter (which is either no where to be found here in Spain or RIDICULOUSLY $$$) last week, my good shampoo a few days ago! Now I’m all restocked thanks to Mama 🙂 But it was perfect timing, I was beginning to get a tiny bit homesick so they’re exactly what I needed right now!
We just got back from another AMAZING weekend in Southern France.
Above we are standing on the terrace of our hotel in Collioure, France–a small town that sits right on the Mediterranean. Everything about this place was quaint and relaxing (again exactly what I needed after last weekend at Oktoberfest and this upcoming week of midterms) We sat at a little cafe right on the beach upon arriving before heading to a small restaurant right in town. I haven’t had a meal that delicious in a long time! We did it as the french do and took our time turning dinner into 2.5 hours. We had delicious appetizers paired with authentic Collioure wine along with more delicious entrees.
Before Collioure we were in Montpellier, another small town about 2 hours north of Collioure (Collioure was about halfway between Barcelona and Montpellier) I also loved it there- but who wouldn’t. When we were exploring the streets (which are more like walkways) we discovered one of the secrets of Montpellier. Around the city there are bicycles mounted on the buildings like in the picture below–
The other half of the bike was on the next block. These are the only two I saw but one women said they were all over the city. It was really neat.
Overall it was an amazing weekend! and everyone’s still here until Thursday 🙂
“Can you keep dancing even when you don’t like the music”
My management services professor said this today and it really got my thinking, and the more I thought the more I liked it. Even when times get tough you have to hold it together and get through it. Almost like coming abroad. I think each and everyone of us here in Barcelona experienced some culture shock upon arrival. Things were either different from what we do back in the states or from our expectations. I know that this was definitely the case for me. For Barcelona and I it was definitely not love at first sight, but I didn’t give up on the city. Now I LOVE this place and couldn’t be any happier! I guess you could say I kept dancing even though I didn’t like Barcelona’s music until my opinion changed.
For some reason this quote/question really stuck with me (I didn’t really pay attention after he said it, oops haha) and I just wanted to share it with all of you.
Cheers or should I say Prost! To old friends and new at Oktoberfest 2012