Estella and the Sweets Tour

On October 17, the International Committee at my school put on a “Sweets Tour” in Pamplona. Essentially, they took us around to different bakeries and sweets shops in the Old Town and told us about the most popular and traditional items were. I don’t particularly love sweets myself, but I went so I could see a bit more of the city I call home! There were a lot of cool shops (A LOT! Spaniards love their sweets!). Everything from croissants, to churros, to candy, to chocolate.

After the sweets tour, three friends and I took the bus to Estella, a darling little town about an hour from Pamplona. We had lunch in the old town there, then decided to walk to Monasterio de Irache, a monastery just on the edge of town. It’s a stop on the famous Camino de Santiago and would traditionally house those doing the walk. Next to it is a winery with an actual WINE FOUNTAIN! This wine fountain was also there for those doing the Camino de Santiago, as to refresh those walking. Of course I tried it out.

Canadian Thanksgiving!!!

My roommates and I put on a Canadian Thanksgiving and invited our friends to it! My roommate Desi said she normally does American Thanksgiving, but I persuaded them to celebrate ours this year. It was so nice being able to share this holiday with people who have never celebrated before. All of my European friends were so jealous we get to celebrate Thanksgiving and eat all of the yummy food! We had dinner as a potluck style, with each person bringing a dish (but I delegated what to bring), and Julia decorated our piso with her best school teacher-esque art skills! She even made turkeys out of a hand shape. It was really a great time, each person wrote what they were thankful for on a paper leaf and we have it hung up in our living room.

This year I am thankful for all of the wonderful people who shared this holiday with me and made me feel at home! …. and for FaceTime!

More late posts… Barcelona, round 2!

On October 9, I went to Barcelona a second time with two friends of mine, Julia and Amaya. Seeing as Quincy and I didn’t do a whole lot while there, I thought it would be nice to go back and actually tour the city. We got there on the Friday and spent that night just walking around and getting acquainted with the city. We were staying in an airbnb near la Sagrada Família (the huge basilica designed by Gaudi).

On Saturday morning, we went on a free walking tour in the Old Town, and it was actually really interesting! I hadn’t been on a walking tour before, but I really enjoyed it. Our tour guide was able to tell us interesting facts about the sites, things you don’t necessarily read about in history museums. I don’t know if I can still recall anything I learned on the tour, but it was interesting nonetheless!

On Saturday afternoon, we went to Park Güell, another design of Gaudi’s. This park features a bunch of different works by Gaudi, most of it showing off his famous mosaic style. We didn’t realize, however, that to get to the park we had to walk up a mountain of a hill. Only when walking back to the metro afterward, did we realize there had been an escalator all along.

On Sunday morning/afternoon, Julia and I went to Barceloneta to go to the beach, while Amaya stayed at the apartment to do some homework. It blew my mind that it was mid October and I was at the beach in my bathing suit! The water, however, was icy cold. Julia and I got our tan on (just kidding, I’m still super white) while warding off vendors trying to sell us beers, blankets, and massages.

That evening, we went on a tapas tour with the same company that put on our walking tour. It was really fantastic – they took us around to a bunch of different bars and we were served tapas and our choice of beverage. We actually got a ton of food for our money! We also were able to meet a bunch of people while eating from around the world. In the last bar, we were each able to try drinking wine out of a traditional Spanish porron. People would traditionally use this instead of glasses, meaning that you have to pour it into your mouth without touching your lips to it. It’s a lot harder than it looks! We then got a free shot and learned the traditional way to cheers – ¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, aldentro! We spent the rest of the night at that bar playing pool and foosball with the people we met. Monday it was home again to Pamplona!

Portugal with da Parents!

Sorry sorry sorry! I am the worst at posting! Here is a post about my exploits in Portugal!

On September 18 (omg I am so behind…) I arrived in Lisbon early in the morning to see my parents! Which was SO wonderful because I missed them so much. I could barely sleep on the way I was so excited. My parents met me at the metro station, but because none of us had data on our phones, I was really worried that they wouldn’t be able to find me! But we found each other and all was well – we then went to their airbnb, which was the cutest little walk up, and I had a much needed nap!

Reunited and it feels so good!

Reunited and it feels so good!

After our nap we went on a walk to find Castelo de Sao Jorge which is the castle in Lisbon. After lots of winding our way through the streets, we got there! And there were GORGEOUS views of the city below! Apparently the castle wasn’t used to house the royals at all, but to house the military! (Mom and Dad, correct me if this is all wrong…) It was all very beautiful with lots of places for Dad and me to be afraid of heights.

Mom, forever blinking

Mom, forever blinking

On Saturday we took a train to Sintra to spend the day there. It’s a small, charming city about a 40 minute ride from Lisbon. When we got there, a bunch of people advertising tours were waiting outside the train station. Normally I would walk past these people, but mom and dad stopped to talk to one guy. He ended up being our personal tour guide for the day! He spent about 5 hours with us and showed us the different sites himself. First we went to Pena Palace and walked there through the palace gardens – which are about 200 hectares. It was so beautiful and huge.

View of Pena Palace from gardens

View of Pena Palace from gardens

The palace itself was amazing, it looked like something out of a Disney movie. It turns out it was the Portuguese King’s summer home and you could see all of the furniture and stuff still in the rooms. The best part was the views! You could see soooo far from all the way up there! (it was on a hill, that we had to climb just so you know)

View from Pena Palace

View from Pena Palace

Selfie!

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We then went to Quinta da Regaleira which is an estate in Sintra with a large amount of land around that has plants, courtyards, and wells that take you to the tunnels below! The tunnels were really cool and all interconnected underground – our tour guide was telling us how the tunnels and the wells all had their own meanings (earth, air, etc).

View from underground

View from underground

Looking down into the well

Looking down into the well

That night we sat outside at a restaurant to listen to Fado music while we dined. It was really lovely and very cultural sounding. They even gave each of us a blanket to have while we sat outside and ate.

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Boys jumping off the bridge

The next day we took the train to go to Porto. Our airbnb was this adorable bachelor suite up a GIANT hill we had to walk everyday to go home. But the view from our balcony was stunning! You could see over the whole city it felt like! We spent the rest of the day there just wandering around and found a place to eat lunch. We wandered and looked at the shops, then next to the canal and watched some local boys jumping off one of the bridges (they’d then ask the tourist for money). We ended up just eating bread and cheese at the flat for dinner and mom and dad attempted to help me study Spanish. IMG_2776 IMG_2779 IMG_2784 IMG_2834

The next day we went on a hop on hop off tour around the city which was the first time I’ve done one of those. It was really good! I like that you get to hear about each location as you pass by. Then Dad and I visited the Harry Potter bookstore! 🙂 It’s actually called Livraria Lello Bookshop and it’s supposedly where JK Rowling got some inspiration for Harry Potter. She worked in Porto for 10 years teaching English.

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Bilbao

On September 11, a big group of us went to Bilbao, which is a bigger city about 2 hours north of Pamplona. We all decided it would be a good idea to all rent cars and drive up, as opposed to taking the bus. Lucky me, being above 21 and knowing how to drive stick, I got to drive one of the cars! …. which was the most nerve wracking thing I’ve done here! The highways were okay (minus all of the tolls) but in Pamplona and Bilbao there are pedestrians everywhere, narrow streets, a million roundabouts, tons of hills which are scary in a manual, etc. We got there safe and sound though, and first we went to the Guggenheim, the famous modern art museum. There is also a Guggenheim in New York, not to be confused. It was pretty cool, but I kept finding myself thinking this doesn’t look that hard… I don’t think I fully appreciate modern art. We then just wandered around the city and explored the shops! All in all, it was a nice day away with all of the girls!

Structures in the Guggenheim

Structures in the Guggenheim

Giant spider at the Guggenheim

Giant spider at the Guggenheim

All of the girls!

All of the girls!

Petting the giant flower dog

Petting the giant flower dog

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Apparently this is art....

Apparently this is art….

San Sebastián and First Weeks at School

The International Welcoming Committee organized a trip to San Sebastián, a beach town an hour and a half away, on August 29. It was a really beautiful city, and my first time at the Atlantic Ocean! We got a brief tour of where to go, then they left us to spend the day how we wanted. I decided to spend my day at the beach with a few girls I met, and set foot in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I haven’t been in an ocean in so long, I forgot that it was salt water! I also forgot there was a tide… we luckily were high enough up that the tide didn’t reach us. But I fell asleep for an hour, and when I woke up I realized half of the beach had disappeared. Before we went home, we stopped to get churros con chocolate which is essentially churros you dip in hot chocolate. Delish!

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

The first few weeks at school were pretty good. I was still figuring out which classes I wanted to take and I ended up liking most of them. I’m taking a mix of Business and Communications classes. Business Ethics, Quality Management, Sports and Brands, Multimedia Communication, Sociology, and of course, Spanish! Unfortunately for me, I spend my first couple of weeks at school very, very sick. I had two different, awful colds – one of which gave me viral conjunctivitis! Yup, I got pink eye. Here’s a nice pic for all of you to enjoy.

You have my permission to laugh

You have my permission to laugh

Yes, I know it looks miserable. My roommate took me to the hospital here (the same hospital the King of Spain goes to!) and I got some eye drops. Other than those sicknesses, I’ve really enjoyed classes and meeting a ton of new people!

La Tomatina

I arrived in Pamplona on August 20, and had a nice few days to settle into my new flat and get accustomed to my new surroundings. Then, on August 26 I went to La Tomatina! It was the most incredible experience. I took the train to Madrid the night before which is where my tour left from. The tour bus left Madrid at 3 in the morning and arrived in Buñol at 8 AM, which is where La Tomatina is held. Then, for the next hour we had a sangria party (only in Spain will you drink sangria at 8 in the morning…) where they had buckets of sangria and you just dipped your cup in. Then, we were herded down into the heart of Buñol (which is actually quite a small town) to prepare for the tomato fight! Buñol is a town of 10,000 people usually, but the streets are filled with approximately 50,000 people during La Tomatina! The two people I traveled with wanted to get right into the heart of it, so we pushed our way through the crowds to the very center, where people try and reach a ham on the top of a greased pole before the fight starts. You heard me right, a ham, hanging from the top of a greased pole. It was the most hilarious thing to watch people form human pyramids to try and reach it. In the end, no one was able to get it.

Climbing to reach the ham

Climbing to reach the ham

Then the fight started at 11! It was one hour long, which may not sound like a long time, but it feels like a long time when you’re in the midst of it. I very much regretted not having goggles. Tomato juice in your eyes does not feel nice. The tomatoes were dumped/thrown at us from trucks that drove through the middle of the crowd and by the end, I was up to my ankles in tomatoes and tomato juice. It was an indescribable experience – the only thing I hated was trying to get all of the tomato off of me afterward!

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Dublin to Barcelona

I’m SO SO SO sorry that I’m so terrible at keeping you all updated on my life here. So here’s what I’m going to do. One blog post on Dublin to Barcelona (with pictures!) and one long blog post on the past month of my life here. Then I promise I’ll try and update it weekly! P.s. this first post is basically the first and only email I sent out.

I’ll start with our flights to Dublin from Edmonton… I will no longer “let” Quincy have the window seat. I sat in the middle seat the entire way to Europe and on every flight, the person in the aisle seat would not let me have any of the arm rest (which contained MY TV remote…). Also I was unable to really sleep at all so when we landed in Dublin at 7:30 am, I was tired and cranky while Quincy was very refreshed.
 
We were too early to check into our hotel so we dropped off our luggage and decided to walk along River LIffey to the Guinness Storehouse. It was awesome! It was so cool to learn about my favourite beer – from how it’s made to the history of its advertising. The best part was the complimentary pint at the top in the 360 degree view Gravity Bar.
Quincy and I, a little tired at the Gravity Bar in Guinness Storehouse

Quincy and I, a little tired at the Gravity Bar in Guinness Storehouse

Guinness!

Guinness!

Words of wisdom at the Guinness Storehouse

Words of wisdom at the Guinness Storehouse

Afterward, we walked to our hotel to lay down for a two hour nap… and woke up five hours later. Oops! The next day we woke up super early to catch a bus for our day tour to Cork and Blarney. Our first stop was Rock of Cashel (St. Patrick’s Rock) which was where St. Patrick did his baptisms. After, we went to Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. The gardens were extremely beautiful and the castle was very old. We had to climb up this really narrow winding staircase to reach the top where the stone was (also, I cannot imagine how Grandma Bowers did this – it was a reeeeally steep staircase). Quincy and I both kissed the stone, and now we both have the gift of eloquence – haha yeah right! Our last stop was Cork, which was pretty similar to Dublin. We were both really tired so we just sat in a coffee shop and people watched. The best way I can describe Dublin is dirty, but charming. Also, a lot of guys wear sweatpants. 
Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Quincy and I at Blarney Castle

Quincy and I at Blarney Castle

Quincy kissing the Blarney Stone

Quincy kissing the Blarney Stone

 
Prague was next. The day we arrived we just wandered around the main city a bit and grabbed a bite to eat. Our hotel room was beautiful and had a great view of the canal. Prague is a really beautiful city and the architecture of the buildings is so cool – nothing has been very modernized so it’s all of the old architecture and cobblestone streets. The next day we slept in… until 12:30. Oops again! We then took the metro to Old Town and found a place on the main square to have drinks. We ended up sitting there and people watching for 4 hours. 16 beers and 2 meals later, our bill was less than $80 CAN! The beer there was literally cheaper than water. After, we walked to the canal and rented a paddleboat for an hour, then bought a few beers and sat on the canal while we drank them. We’re not entirely sure if it was legal, but it seemed everyone did it. Our last day there we took the metro to Prague Castle. The views from there were incredible and the castle itself was magnificent. It’s the largest ancient castle in the world. We didn’t end up going into any of the buildings because they were closing earlier than we anticipated, but we were able to sneak into St. Vitus Cathedral which had amazing stained glass windows. Finally, we went on a nighttime boat ride that included dinner for a beautiful and romantic way to end our time there.
Old Town in Prague

Old Town in Prague

Paddleboating!

Paddleboating!

Prague

Prague

View from Prague Castle

View from Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

 

Vienna next. Vienna wasn’t the most eventful city for us. It involved a lot of eating and people watching. Our second day just involved us walking around the downtown area and down to the canal. That night we went to Travelshack, which is an international party bar. It was actually really fun, and we met a group of Australians there who we ended up drinking with all night. The next day we lounged around in our hotel room all day reading, then went to Prater, an amusement park, to walk around and go on some rides.

We arrived in Barcelona yesterday, and went out for dinner then walked down to the ocean for a bit. We’ve been really enjoying sharing tapas and sangria. I think Barcelona has the best food so far!! I even have tried some olives and didn’t mind them. Today we went to MUHBA which is the museum of Barcelona’s history. It was pretty interesting, and they had remains of the ancient city in the lower part of the museum. Afterward, more tapas and sangria, then we sat by the pool for a bit. It was raining most of today, which unfortunately put a damper in our all-day pool plans, but we are hoping it will be nicer tomorrow!