Friday, December 31, 2010

My Three Reasons to Travel

I am home.  In the lovely comforts of my cozy place in Utah.  It is snowing.  I have been reunited with my family and friends.  Christmas was perfect. School is coming up.  Skiing season is here.  Estoy muey contenta.

I absolutely loved my travel experience this fall.  I learned and experienced much.  It pushed me to new levels.  My perspectives have changed.  My appreciations have been reinforced.

And yet after three months of being away, in new places every weekend and seeing more than I could handle, I am already excited for another adventure.  You know the book- "1,000 Places To See Before You Die"?  It's amazing.  And sitting by my side.  As I thumb through it, page after page, I can't help but wonder which of those places I'll see one day.  Soon?  With my future family?  After retirement? Why travel?  Why leave the comforts of home and family?  Why establish a new life only to leave it shortly?  Why work 80-hour weeks all summer to spend all of the savings withing a few weeks?  Why put off school?  Why?

Because.  It has unquestionably been the best thing I could ever do for myself.  Travel has slowly shaped me into the person I have become.  It has taught me to love, to appreciate, to speak up, to laugh, to observe, to wait, to explore.  After really questioning myself, wondering why it is I continue this cycle, I realize that it's for three reasons.

1.  The culture.  The food, the language, the architecture, the customs, the traditions.  What makes Madrid the "City that Never Sleeps"?  What makes Xao Bi the typical Chinese man?  What makes her ensemble typical European? There are outstanding amounts of things to be seen and experienced.

2.  The people. The ambitious and hilarious English lad I met on my first Ryanair flight.  The Morrocan immigrant who shared her struggle to find employment.  The gorgeous Frenchwoman who was throughly amused at our (me and mama's) pronunciation of the French Metro stops. The best part is taking a little piece of them with me.  Figuring how I can carry the good parts of them and incorporate them into my personality.  And the worst part of it all is saying goodbye.  Thank goodness for technology.

3. The refinement.  So much of who I am has come from these experiences.  And with each experience I have bettered myself in so many ways.  My appreciations for family, the gospel, friends, and familiarity have grown.  My testimony of my beliefs has been strengthened.  My independence has increased, my knowledge has expanded, my perspectives have changed.  I have had more situations than I could count that have humbled me.  Travel has provided nothing but an uphill climb.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Madrid: Last Hurrah

Last night out on the town!  This is a photo of me and Elyse clear back in
September.  When we knew nothing about Madrid.  And speaking on my part,
I was completely thrilled to find a friend.  Have enjoyed eating out, traveling,
and attending Intercambios Tuesdays and Thursday nights with her.  We have
had many a good times together. I am so thankful to have been able to share
pieces of my experience in Spain with her.  Hip hip hooray.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dublin: Baile Atha Cliath

The beautiful land of Ireeeeeland.  And yes- it is as green as you'd imagine.
Decided to get to know the city initially with the lovely hop-on/hop-off bus.  

O'Connell Street.  City center in Dublin.  You see that needle "thing" in the
center? It cost 6 million Euros (8 million USD).  It also has a name: The Spire.
Wasn't quite as crowded as the other European cities I've visited (thumbs up).

This is what just about every street looked like.  Pub after pub.  Boutique after
boutique.  Very good vibes here.  Another great multi-cultural city.  They also
drive and walk on the left hand side of the road and pavement.  I struggled
with this.  I also struggled with understanding their English.  For example:
"Their muffins" might be pronounced as "Deer Moofeens."  Good strong accents.
The peeps here were super friendly, super patriotic. Super pro-Guinness.

At Trinity College:  The most prestigious school in Ireland.  Here you can
see the Book of Kells.  "A 9th century gospel manuscript."  

Also wandered around their GORGEOUS library.  Shelves of old texts placed
on beautiful shelves.  They keep the Book of Kells at the end of the hallway.
(Photo snagged from Goooooogle.)

Cobblestone streets/sidewalks/pathways everywhere.  Appropriate.

Mom found some chowhound suggestions for my trip.  Gruel was one of the
top suggestions for "cheap eats." Favorite meal(s) of the trip!  Home cooking.

First Gruel meal:  Eggs benedict, salad, and taters.  Second Gruel meal:
Bangers and Mash.  AKA: Mashed potatoes, onion jam, and pork sausages.
Yummmmy.  Very Irish.  Very nice on cold and wet winter days.

Christ Church Cathedral.  

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Like I mentioned, Guinness OWNS the town.

Hey Mom.  Remember that "medical kit" you put together for me almost
three years ago?  Well it about saved my throat, nose, and life this weekend.
Mother knows best . . .

Meet George and Deb.  Two pals from the hostel.  They
invited me to see the Wax Museum with them.  Let's get
this straight: a) I usually make fun of the people who pay
for these things, b) I really didn't have a burning desire to
see it, but c) it was fun, hilarious, and we had a good time.

Fav.  About the size of an infant however . . .

Deb is from Canada and George is from England.  They decided the "American"
Diner would be a good choice for dinner.  Tried several times explaining that
their milkshake, burger, and fries were a bit on the sub-par end.  Fun and
outgoing peeps, good conversations, good times.

"Buy a Claddagh ring." Check.  Friendship, loyalty, love.

This Christmas sign basically says "Dublin" in Gaelic, their second language.
Loved how decked they were in Christmasness.  Incredible city.  Loved it.
Great final weekend excursion to end on.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Madrid: Clases de Piano

I'm a definite believer in miracles.  Or tender mercies to say the least.  Upon arriving in Madrid, I knew that I would have ample amounts of free time.  I also knew that touching up on the piano was something I really wanted to do.  I'm currently working on a music minor at USU but even with that I never seem to have the time I need to perfect pieces and just enjoy playing whenever I like. I hoped to find a professor- someone who was qualified and actually could teach me a thing or two.  But how on earth to find a piano, let alone a qualified teacher?  Hmph. During my first week in the neighborhood my attention was caught by a flyer taped to a light post.  Piano, teacher, classes, diploma.  Basically all I could understand at the time.  It was perfect.  My host mom placed a call and before I knew it I had arranged weekly lessons and found a practice room.  I couldn't believe my luck. I was thrilled. Coincidence?  I think not.

My professor, Carmen Melero.  Such a sweet lady and incredible musician.
I loved our lessons.  I loved talking with her about odds and ends.  She was
so accommodating to my schedule and speaks excellent English. For most
of our lessons we intensively studied George Gershwin's (one of my absolute
favorite composers) Rhapsody in Blue.  For years now I've wanted to learn
the entire piece and put a lot of time into it.  Today was our last lesson . . .
 Sniff sniff.  I will miss her!

Every day (Monday thru Friday) I bussed to "Tocar" and practiced anywhere
from one to three hours.  This is Paloma.  One of the sweetest ladies I have met.
She has always been super patient with my "Spanish" and greets me with a smile
every day.  I will miss her so much as well.  Something I HATE about travel:
saying goodbye to all of the people that have meant something to you.  As you
can maybe see in the photo she is tiny!  Probably 5-foot nothing.  I love this lady.

Another benefit of practicing at Tocar: the pastelleria next door. An absolute
weakness.  These two ladies are such the best.  Always asking about my travels,
my family, life at home, and such.  More peeps to add to the "will miss" list.

Panuela.  Mi favorito de la pastelleria.  Delicious.  Ham, cheese, and tomato
all in a croissant type deal.  Hope I explained well.  This photo doesn't look
as good as it tastes.  Promise.
The piano aspect of my time in Madrid was exactly what I needed.  It has been relaxing, rewarding, and therapeutic.  I cannot imagine having been here without this part of my experience.  It was so great to have a place where I could outlet my emotions and work towards something.  Many thanks to Mama and Papa for funding the whole experience. Loved it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Madrid: This & That

Templo de Debod. Apparently this Egyptian temple was built near the Nile
during the 4th century B.C.  So when Spain helped Egypt save the "Abu
Simbel" (Egyptian archaeological site), they presented this to the country as a
gift.  Dismantled, shipped to Valencia, reconstructed, and open to public in '71.

Plaza de Espana.  Commotion.

Near Puerta del Sol.  There was a Spanish holiday the past week(end). Which
holiday it was, I know not (upon asking the eldest host sister she responded,
"I'm not sure.  Just a Spanish holiday.  Maybe something religious.").  To say
the least the whole city was a ZOO.  Kind of fun but mostly not.  

A little less-crowded part of Madrid.


Burstrackdelt monnola daitway dumschipol bulfatka.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Madrid: Moment of Truth

Let's be honest here . . .

I'm ready to go home.
It's Christmas time.
Yep, I said it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Madrid: Lately . . .

Just soaking up the last little bit in Madrid.  Checking off all the boxes, re-visiting
favorite places, re-tasting favorite taste-tes.  (The Metropolis building off Gran Via.)

Calamari bocadillo.  A must try for the area.  Tasty.

Churros con chocolate. Delicious. So unhealthy.  Absolutely loved this
restaurant.  I asked the waiter for a small serving of the churros and this is
what he brought me.  I laughed.  And complained (jokingly).  He basically
grunted, glanced at the plate, and helped himself.   This made my day.

More sight seeing with Elyse!  Museo Thyssen Bornemisza.  Enormous.

Also saw the new Naria film that evening.  It was . . . meh.  Anticlimactic,
boring, far-fetched, predictable.  3D glasses were the definite winners there.

More visits to the ever-so-famous tapas district: La Latina.

Also the starting grounds for Europe's largest flea market: El Rastro.
You can find anything here.  Anything.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Madrid: "December"

I saw this photo of cache valley on a album:  "December 2010".
Thoughts: I love the snow.  I love cache valley. I may or may not already
have purchased my season ski pass to the Beav.  Getting a little stoked to
go home? I think yes.  Love it here.  But also love being with the fam and
at home during the holidays.  No explanation(s) needed there. 

This is Madrid.  October weather in my mind.  Beautiful leaves everywhere.
Temperatures in the mid 40's to mid 50's.  And the people are acting like it's
a freeze over or something.  Thoughts: Less snow means less missing home.
Less snow means more tolerance when an April/May blizzard comes around.  

My street of residence (yesterday).  Gorgeous.  No weather warnings here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amsterdam: Weekend in Holland

For who knows how long I've wanted to see Amsterdam.  Ryanair ticket, a little bit of research, and whallah- I'm there.  This is Amsterdam Central, the train station and main hub for all of the trams. 

Went high class this trip and stayed in a hotel: Best Western. Woot woot.

This is the hotel neighborhood, just on the outskirts of town.
Endless beautiful neighborhoods bordered by canals. "Comfy, cozy."

Something I loved about this city: its international-ness . . . Which means good food from all sorts of everywhere.  Enjoyed yummy Italian, Chinese, plenty of Dutch sweets, and Mexican as well.  I've been missing my guacamole fix.

Van Gogh Museum.  Lots of explanation for each painting.  Also showed many examples of Van Gogh's inspirations.  Poor guy, committing suicide and all.  If only he knew how many admirers he'd have one day . . .

I made a few friends at the museum.  We explored the city for a bit together.

Another reason to love Amsterdam: Bikes.


Seeing the Anne Frank House. Something that I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do.  This was amazing.  Saw the whole building from top to bottom including the secret annex, the movable bookshelf, and several of the Frank family's paraphernalia, including Anne's diary.  I loved how the tour ended with a message of hope and encouragement in ending discrimination. The experience was very moving and was one of my favorite things I saw in the city.
[Just realizing how strange/insensitive it was of me to smile in this photo.  Sorry, Anne.] 

Another Amsterdam note: it was fuhhhhreeezing!  So cold that the outdoors were only so tolerable.  Shopping is fun. Shopping is indoors.  And Amsterdam's  new H&M just opened, which is now Europe's largest H&M.
I took a visit.

Red light district.  One of my less favorite things about Amsterdam.  Legal prostitution and relentless
 amounts of marijuana. Had a few friends tell me that I had to at least walk around to check the
area out and see what the district was like.  My advice: the opposite.  FILTH.

Amsterdam at night. On the second day it snowed, and the whole town was completely decked in Christmas lights.
Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Dessert tour item number 319.  "Oliebollen."

Translated directly as "oil ball".  Basically scones, but better.  With raisins, apples, whatever,
 all deep friend and dipped in powdered sugar.  Mmmmm.

Thanks to the young lad from California, who risked losing his fingers to take this photo for me.

The floating flower market.  They love their flowers here, especially tulips.
These bulbs are MUCH larger than they look.  We're talking softball size.

In front of the Rijksmuseum.

And lucky me that Holland is famous for its cheese.  :)  Lots of cheese tasting. Snagged a block of gouda for mother.
And now it sits on my book shelf. Just waiting for consumption day . . . 

The architecture in Amsterdam- unique, beautiful, appropriate.

Absolutely loved this trip.  The people I met were incredibly friendly, could have definitely spent more time there,
and didn't want to leave. I am glad, however, to have feeling back in my fingers and toes.