Gijón, Ice-cream Lemons, and the Crash of Waves

Things are pretty crazy here in Oviedo right now. The festival of San Mateo just began. It lasts about a week and each night there’s new activities, movies and concerts. I’m hoping that I can try to Karaoke at some point, but we’ll have to see. Anyways, I haven’t had time to blog for awhile, so I’m finally writing about my trip last weekend.

Last weekend I went on a excursion to Gijón, the largest of the three main cities in Asturias. Despite being only about half an hour apart, the two cities of Gijón and Oviedo feel very different. When I first got off the bus at the Gijón bus station, I will admit I wasn’t very impressed. The city just seemed like a larger, more crowded version of Oviedo without all of the old, small town charm. That all changed however, after I saw the beach. The beach in Gijón is awesome. There’s a walkway the that runs right along side it, and allows you to look down on all the sun tanners and surfers enjoying the sand and waves. Sitting on one of the many benches along the edge of the walkway, was an accordion player, filling the air around him with music. With the sun shining brightly over my head, accordion music wafting through the air and the steady crash of the waves, I felt as though I had stepped into a scene from a romantic movie, all I needed was a glorious sunset.

After leaving the beach behind, Ana, our trip director and native Gijonion (a completely made-up word FYI), took us on a grand tour of the city. We saw the ruins of Roman baths, a small art museum, a sculpture of Gijón’s symbol on top of a beautiful, rolling green hill, and a bustling marketplace. For lunch, we ate at a sea-side cafe with a perfect view of the beach. Ana had called ahead and had reserved a table for us on the top floor. It was, hands down, one of the most beautiful and relaxing places to eat that I’ve ever been to. For desert, I had ice-cream stuffed in a lemon. If any of you are ever lucky enough to have the chance to try ice-cream in a lemon, take it. I’m not sure what kind of magical witch craft is used on this dessert, but it’s 100 times better than it’s regular ice cream counterpart.

After lunch, we headed to the aquarium (the entrance fee is a bit pricey, but I didn’t have to pay so I didn’t really mind). From the entrance, the aquarium looks kind of small, but the exhibit goes on and on, showcasing tons of different fish and amphibians. If you have the time, or an interest in weird, water-dwelling creatures, I recommend the Gijón aquarium. If you don’t make it however, don’t freak out, it’s very similar to all the other aquariums I’ve seen. After going through the entire aquarium, my friend Catey and I decided to head back to Oviedo ahead of the others.

All in all, Gijón was pretty incredible. I’m definitely planning on returning to see a sunset over the beach.

Hola todos, que tal? Espero que estéis bien. En este blog no hay un sección en Español. Lo siento mucho, pero la cosa es que ahora mismo tengo mucho que hacer (tarea, San Mateo,…etc) y mi cerebro no esta funcionado lo suficientemente bien para escribir en Español. Pero prometo que el proximo blog tendrá un sección en Español.

 

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The beach

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PC: Catey

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The symbol of Gijón

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PC: John

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Messing around in the marketplace PC: Catey

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For all you fish-lovers out there

 

Have you ever been really excited about something, started doing it and then immediately regretted your decision to do it, but because you already started, you decide to keep going until the end? That’s basically every activity that Catey and I do together. Take the photo booth incident for example. It began when we were waiting for the bus to come and take us back to Oviedo. We had been waiting for a couple of minutes, when I spotted what I thought was a photo-booth. We thought it would be fun to have a little photo shoot session in the booth to pass the time. Up close, the photo-booth didn’t really look like a photo-booth, but I was so excited to have my picture taken that I didn’t really care. I paid the two euros, and when nothing happened, Catey paid four more. After that, I was really hoping that the pictures would turn out super cute. Unfortunately, as the screen lit up, there was only room for one head in the photo. I thought that was rather strange, but simply flattened myself against the wall to make room for Catey. We were so squished together that we couldn’t close the photo-booth curtain, so everyone waiting in the bus stop had a clear view of us. Many of them were watching us with amused and also rather confused looks on their faces. Trying to ignore their stares and the fact that I was being smushed alive, I tried to look cute for the camera. We took four pictures, each one worse than the last, but we had to choose the best amongst them and make due. After hitting print and going to the outside of the photo-booth to retrieve our photos, I finally realized that the photo-booth was, in fact, not meant for taking funky, cute photos with your friends, it was meant for passport photos and the like. It suddenly dawned on me that the entire bus station had just witnessed Catey and me primp and pose for a passport photo. In hindsight, I should have realized what it was from the start, but in that moment I guess it just slipped my mind. Here’s the lovely photo (we look like an add for toothpaste)21743170_1092847894179353_6335381875860928397_n.jpg

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New City, New Hairstyle

 

So I’ve decided to cut my hair…(English in fourth paragraph)

He decidido cortar mi pelo. Tengo tres razones principales para esto. La primera es debido al clima. Cada día tengo que caminar hasta la academia donde me enseñan español, y el camino es mas o menos 30 minutos. En Oviedo la clima no es tan caloroso (en realidad cambia mucho como en Chicago) pero cada día después de caminar estoy sudando. Entonces voy a cortar mi pelo para no sentir tanto calor. La segunda razón es que soy perezosa y no quiero cepillarlo cada día y la tercera razón es que creo que es la hora de cambiar mi imagen. Bueno, puedes ver fotos de mi pelo al final de la pagina pero ahora tengo que contarte un poquito sobre Oviedo.

Cuando llegue a Oviedo con Mary y mi papa, me recuerda un poco de Seattle porque el cielo estaba nublado y la ciudad esta rodeada de montañas. Después de caminar un tiempo, mi padre me dijo que Oviedo es muy similar a Irlanda. Yo solo he ido a Irlanda una vez pero estoy de acuerdo, los dos tienen el mismo sentido de un lugar cómodo y amistoso. Muchas de las calles son peatonales, y es muy difícil saber donde la acera termina y la calle empieza. La ciudad parece pequeña pero es mas grande lo que pensaba (ya me he perdido muchas veces). En el centro de la ciudad hay una plaza donde hay una escultura. Su nombre real es “L a Maternidad” pero todo el mundo la llama “La Gorda” y eso es donde nosotros (los de Rollins) siempre nos encontramos.

Bueno, hay mucho mas que contar sobre Oviedo, por ejemplo el hecho de que los niños pequeños siempre llevan ropa de moda, o la manera en que un camarero escancia la sidra (una bebida típica de Oviedo), pero sería demasiado largo para escribir ahora porque no tengo tiempo. Entonces, ojalá que te guste y te contaré mas en el próximo blog. Ciao!

I want shorter hair for three reasons. The first is that the weather here in Oviedo is very similar to that of Chicago, which is to say that it changes every ten minutes. Every day I have to walk 30 minutes to my language classes and throughout the walk I experience everything from freezing my butt off to overheating like a lobster in a pot. Having shorter hair will hopefully make this temperature change less dramatic and less of a hassle. The second reason is that I really don’t want to brush my hair every day. I shed like a sheep dog in the summer and my hair always ends up everywhere, so cutting it shorter will make it easier to control. Finally, I feel like it’s time for a change, new city, new hairstyle. But enough of my hair (there’s pictures at the end of the blog), I must tell you a little bit about Oviedo.

When we first arrived in Oviedo, it reminded me a bit of Seattle. The sky was overcast and gray and we were surrounded on all sides by beautiful, soaring mountains. After walking around the town to find our hotel, my dad told me that the city reminded him of Ireland. Turns out, there’s a very good reason for that. Apparently, because of the mountains, one of the places that actually had the most influence on Oviedo in the past was Ireland. Thus, the music here is full of bagpipes and the buildings have an old, comfortable feeling, like that of a small town. Most of the streets in the center of Oviedo are full of restaurants and cafes with beautiful outdoor seating. The streets themselves are all paved with stone, so it’s rather difficult  to tell where the streets end and the sidewalks begin. At first, the city seems small, with maybe one or two main plazas, but after exploring for a bit you realize it’s a lot bigger than it appears. It reminds me of a beautiful maze, every street is surrounded by tall, majestic buildings, but if you’re brave enough to explore all the little side streets and hidden pathways there’s always something to find. I went walking around the city the other day with my friends Camille and Mary, and we stumbled upon a tiny little cobble-stone square and had a little photo shoot. The next day we found out that the tiny square was actually where the existence of Oviedo began. Apparently two monks stood at that spot and decided to build a church, this attracted the attention of surrounding villages and even a king, who decided to move his kingdom here and thus Oviedo was born.

The main plaza of Oviedo is called “La Plaza de Escandalera”, and in the plaza is a statue of a women and her child. The actual name of the statue is “La Maternidad” but everyone here just calls it “La Gorda” (the fat woman). Around the edge of the plaza are rainbow colored benches that show support for the gay community and right across the street is a giant park called Campo de San Francisco. It’s like a tiny version of New York’s central park and it’s full of cool statues and busy vendors.

There is so much to tell about Oviedo, like for example, how stylish all the little kids are (seriously, I’ve seen a toddler in a full blown suit and tie), or how the waiters pour la sidra (a typical Oviedo drink made from apples) from above their  heads and into the glass without looking, but right now I’m afraid I don’t have time. I’m about to leave to see a silent Charlie Chaplin movie in the plaza. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this tiny glimpse of Oviedo, thanks for reading!

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It’s like my head lost five pounds! (weight loss tip: cut your hair)

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Mary and me eating pastries before I cut my hair PC: Camille

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PC: Mary

 

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The little cobblestone square where the Oviedo began PC: Camille

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It was hard trying to get my message across in Spanish. The hairdresser kept saying ‘segura?’ (are you sure?). PC: Catey

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One of the bigger streets, no cobblestone 😦 PC: Mary

La Belleza de España

  • *English begins in fourth paragraph*

Estaba tan cansada después del vuelo y lo que sucedió con mi equipaje que, por un momento, me olvide mi español casi completamente. Cuando llegue al hostel donde me quedaría por dos días en Madrid, la recepcionista me pregunto para mi reserva. Yo, pensaba que ella estaba ofreciéndome una cerveza, dije ‘No gracias, a mi no me gusta alcohol.’ …Soy una genia.

Pero después mi suerte cambio drásticamente, porque en eso momento mi amiga Mary llego. Ella no había tenido un problema con el equipaje como yo, pero yo había tomado una taxi y ella había tomado el bus entonces yo había llegado antes que ella. Después de saludarnos, Mary, mi papa, y yo, fuimos a ver la ciudad y a almorzar.

Madrid me recuerda de una mezcla entre Nueva York y Grecia. Hay los anuncios cubriendo las ventanas de las cuadras mas grandes como NY, pero también tiene la arquitectura vieja y elegante como en Grecia. Es una mezcla perfecta entre lo viejo y lo nuevo. Solo era un jueves pero La Plaza del Sol ya estaba muy repleta. Vi todos los tipos de personas en la calle; turistas como yo, empresarios caminando con prisa, ancianas sonriendo, niños gritando con risas, pobres pidiendo dinero, todo.

The last couple of days have been a blur. I am currently sitting in my new bedroom in Oviedo, trying not to give in to the call of the bed behind me (I must finish blogging!). For those who couldn’t read the above paragraphs, I’ll give you the run down. I was pretty tired after the flight and mix-up with my baggage so my Spanish was not at its prime. When I got to the hostel where we would be staying for two days in Madrid, the receptionist asked me for my reservation. Unfortunately, the Spanish word for reservation is ‘reserva’ and the Spanish word for a beer is ‘cerveza’. In my befuddled state those two words sounded exactly the same, so when the kind lady asked  for my reservation, I responded with ‘No thank you, I don’t like alcohol.’ Yeah, I’m off to a great start…

Madrid itself is quite beautiful. It reminds me of a mix between New York and Athens, Greece. There are advertisements all over the biggest squares just like New York, but among the modern day structures there are many buildings with beautiful Greek-like architecture that invoke feelings of ancientness and solemnity. Walking among Madrid, you feel the bustle of modern-day city life but also the insignificance of all of it compared to the ancient structures and civilizations of the past. Madrid is the perfect mix of the old and the new.

Although it was only a Thursday, the Plaza del Sol (which happened to be right outside my hostel) was already quite crowded. I was quite surprised by the level of diversity I saw. There were people from all over the world and from every walk of life; tourists like myself, businessmen and women talking loudly on their phones, old ladies smiling at passersby, young kids shouting with laughter and homeless sitting in darkened doorways. During the day, there was a feeling of busyness and a little chaos but during the night, things slowed down and almost everyone outside was dressed up and smiling.

The food situation in Madrid is quite interesting. The first restaurant we ate in was right off of the Plaza del Sol. The food from this particular restaurant was, in all honesty, quite disappointing. The pile of the sandwiches on display were made with a white, wonder-like bread that had no crusts and looked so processed that the pile looked like a cake with different layers of frosting. Later in the day, however, we found a Greek restaurant that was quite delicious and fairly priced (we got free chicken too, although I claim it was because our waiter was hitting on Mary). For dinner, we found another restaurant and had the chef’s choice of turkey with cheese sauce, which was quite good. The first after-dinner ice-cream was so delicious that Dad decided to get more at another place, but the second was so disappointing that he threw it away after a couple of bites. Thus, the food situation in Madrid is a mixed bag. Here are some of my observations: most of the food near really touristy areas is very expensive and not that good (definitely explore!), coffee here is actually more of an espresso with milk, and water isn’t a given drink during the meal so you must ask for it.

So there you have it! I hope y’all enjoyed reading and found the tips helpful. I gotta go now and figure out how to walk from my host mom’s house to the University tomorrow so I’m not late for class. Also, I just wanted to let everyone know that my suitcase was found and returned to me so I finally have a change of clothes!

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That architecture though!

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The Greek restaurant where Mary’s admirer gave us free chicken. The city is surprisingly clean!

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The highway outside the train station

Airports and Their Lost Magic

When I was little, I loved flying. I loved the airports with their magical moving walkways, the planes with their brightly dressed flight attendants and, most importantly, the little pair of plastic wings I used to be given which basically made me the captain of the flight. Unfortunately, with many repeated years of traveling, the novelty and magic I used to find in airports has almost vanished entirely. I still like the moving walkways (there’s something so satisfying about moving fast with practically no effort) but the big cushy plane seats I remember from my childhood have been replaced with narrow seats that give me absolutely no room for my legs. I am no longer given any plastic wings, so it has been years since I was last a captain, and I now must carry my own baggage (except when my lovely father does it for me). I know, it’s gotten pretty rough.

With all that being said, however, my seven hour flight from Chicago to Dublin (my final stop before Madrid), was pretty A O.K. There was a variety of in-flight entertainment and the irish accents of the flight crew were a delight to listen to. Thus, even though my stomach is currently full of cramps (quick shout out to all the ladies who can relate), I’ve had a pretty painless day.

As for Spain, I must admit that I’m a little nervous. The settings of my brain are firmly set on ‘English’ currently, and although I tried to review all my spanish books on the flight, it’s clear that I have a long way to go. Thus, dear friends, my subsequent blogs about Spain will always begin with a few paragraphs in Spanish. If you know Spanish, kudos to you and please look kindly upon my mistakes (corrections are always appreciated!!!) If you are not familiar with that particular romance language, not to fear, I will also have paragraphs in English at the bottom. I will note, however, that while I hope I can convey similar stories and ideas in both languages, they will definitely not be direct translations of each other!

So bye for now! The next time I compose a blog, I imagine I will be sitting in a small cafe in Madrid or Oviedo, thinking in Spanish and sipping coffee out of my very stylish mug, that’s the plan anyway.

Really quick—if any of you have any suggestions on places I should visit please let me know!

A new development has just occurred. As I am not officially out of the Spain airport yet, I think I’m still allowed to write in English. It turns out that the exceptionally good flight came at the cost of an exceptionally painful baggage mix-up. My luggage, I am told, is still somewhere near Dublin and should arrive in a couple days (if I’m lucky). The whole thing is pretty inconvenient but at least I now have an excuse to spend a fortune on cute European clothes. Hurray for baggage troubles! But seriously, If any of you could send me lucky vibes so I don’t have to spend my whole time here replacing what I lost, that would be awesome. IMG_4796.jpg

New York, baby

I thought my years of living in Chicago would have prepared me for New York City and yet I was still surprised. It wasn’t that New York is that much different from Chicago on an individual street level, it’s just that it’s so much bigger. Chicago city ends, it has boundaries; if you walk for a good hour in any direction from the center of the city, you’ll be out of the jungle of buildings. The concrete and metal of New York, on the other hand, seem infinite. Even when we reached Central Park, a beautiful grass oasis in a sea of metal, I knew that we were still surrounded by the city. IMG_9062 The only time the city faded a little into the background was when we headed down to the southern tip of Manhattan to see Governors Island and the statue of Liberty. There I felt more of a balance between man-made structures and nature. IMG_9165

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Although I had been a little overwhelmed by the city in the daylight, that was nothing compared to the city at night. Following my younger brother’s desire, we decided to visit Times Square after the sun went down. When we got there, the lights from the advertisements were so bright that it didn’t feel like nighttime anymore. My ears were bombarded with sounds ranging from car horns and blaring music to laughter and shouts. There were so many different and interesting people that I could have people watched for a century and never have gotten bored. IMG_9403Every twenty feet there was a new street performer or artist showcasing themselves and their work to the world. Crossing the street was like a game. A crowd would gather at the edge of the pavement and when we got big enough, one person would brave the street. As soon as their feet touched the tarmac, everyone else scrambled to follow. It was like a small human dam breaking. No one wanted to be left alone when the cars came, blaring their horns.

The noise, the smells, the people, the bustle, the pulsing lights, were all utterly overwhelming. My brain kept switching between wistfully thinking of a quiet, dark room and jumping in delight when I saw something really cool or unique. It was hard to keep following my family. My brain kept focusing on street performers and vendors and somehow my body would take me there of its own accord. I often found myself watching a performance or asking the price of food with my family nowhere in sight (thank goodness for cell phones).

After staying for no more than two hours, we left for Penn Station. Even after leaving the lights of Times Square, I could still feel their pulsing glow, like it had been imprinted on the insides of my eyelids. The entire train ride back to Long Island (where we were staying with relatives) I desired nothing more than darkness, silence and contact solution.

Overall, my experience of New York City was wonderful. In my limited time interacting with it, the city felt like it was the crazy, fun uncle to Chicago. It was bigger and more intense, great for a short visit but I would think rather maddening after a long while. New York City is a loud, screeching, bustling, diverse, beautiful jungle of madness that I hope to return to someday.