Thursday, May 21, 2009


Sorry for such a delay for those of you who are still reading my blog, I've been quite busy since my return to the States and now I finally have a chance to sit down and write a blog post for the final trip I took during my Semester Abroad.

First of all, I would like to thank for their great podcast of Barcelona. The content covered the major sights to see in the city and it gave great history and background of each place. From all of Gaudi's work throughout Barcelona to the Camp Nou Estadio, where the famed Football Club Barcelona plays, the iAudioguide podcast gave me much more insight and understanding of each place, allowing me to appreciate the sights of Barcelona even more. One thing I would suggest to improve the audioguide is to provide greater detail about the interior of some buildings, but other than that it was a great audioguide. There are many cities (European and American) to choose from at iAudioguide. To learn more information visit

Thursday: my flight left at 18:10 from Madrid so right after school I had to eat a quick lunch and then make sure I had everything ready. I got to the airport just before the plane boarded - perfect timing. We got into Barcelona and arrived at our hostel around 10ish. We got into our room and put our baggage away and decided to plan out what we wanted to do for the next few days.

Friday: We woke up at 0800 in order to take advantage of the free breakfast and get ready to go explore Barcelona. We were going to take a free tour of the city but we got lost on the way so we ended up not making it there and we decided to get back to the hostel and then go to the beach. However, on the way to the beach it started raining and instead of trying to wait it out the group decided to go back to the hostel - essentially wasting half of the day doing nothing. After adjusting our plan of action and eating lunch we headed to the Montjuic park (where most of the 1992 Olympic games took place) and got a great panoramic view of the city! After that I met up with a friend I met in Ireland who has lived in Barcelona his whole life for a drink. He suggested some places for me to see and explained some things about Barcelona that the guide books don't explain. Once I was done meeting up with my friend, I headed to the magic fountains of Montjuic to meet up with the group of people I traveled here with. The magic fountains are one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It is a huge fountain with mechanized water spouts that shoot water off synchronized with music and as the sun went down, lights began to illuminate the water - it was spectacular. We were all tired after the show so we went back to the hostel to get some sleep.

Saturday: Once again, we enjoyed our free breakfast at the hostel in the morning and then had to change rooms for our last night. After that was out of the way, we went and visited a few of the more famous places in Barcelona, most notably the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. The Sagarada Familia (meaning Holy Family in Catalan) is the most visited construction site in the world. It started in 1882 by the famous Catalan artist Antonio Gaudi but he died before it was finished and it is still being continued today with an expected completion date of 2026 (read the Wikipedia article for more information). Parc Guell was also designed by Gaudi and has a very Dr. Suess feel to it with bright colors and strange architecture. Originally it was planned to be a neighborhood for the wealthy but that fell through because it was too far away from the city center of Barcelona. It eventually was opened as a public park and now it is a very popular tourist attraction and it even houses an elementary school. After those two famous sights, we looked at some other minor Gaudi designed buildings and then headed down to the beach (even though it was a very overcast day). We spent some time laying on the grass next to the beach (we didn't want to get all sandy, of course) and after a while we headed home so we could beat the approaching rain clouds. Dinner included sandwiches we made after buying supplies at the local grocery store (much cheaper than eating out) and we just took it easy until later. We had heard about a supposed "Stock Market" bar in Barcelona, so we ventured out to see if it existed -- and to our surprise it did! This very unique bar ("Dow Jones Bar") has a different way of selling its drinks. The prices are displayed on monitors above the bar just like stocks are and when a drink is purchased, the price will rise a few cents and when no one has bought a particular drink in a while, the price will fall. Quite an interesting concept and they even had ESPN America which was a great relief for my friends and I.

Sunday: I woke up, ate breakfast and split off from the group because I wanted to tour my church (AKA Camp Nou Estadio). It was amazing to be inside the biggest stadium in Europe, making my way from the locker rooms to field level, up through the stands, in the press box and through an amazing museum and trophy display. The stadium was absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to go back someday to watch my believed Blaugrana play a game. After spending about 3 hours at the stadium, I headed back into the city center and wandered around the main street, Las Ramblas and got a good view of some more of Gaudi's famous architecture. I met back up with the group and we eventually headed to the bus station to catch our night bus that left at 11PM and we arrived in Madrid at about 6AM. It was quite a long trip back but we all made it to class and didn't fall asleep (at least not too many times).

Barcelona is a magnificent Mediterranean coastal city, with wonderful art, architecture, beaches, and football. What more could you ask for. I would rate this in the top 5 places I've ever visited (my list isn't that long yet, so take it with a grain of salt) and I would recommend a trip for everyone if you get a chance.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Semana Santa -- Rome

Photo Albums:

We landed in Rome in the mid afternoon and paid 11 € (ouch) for the train into Rome. When we got to the main station, Termini, we had no idea where we were but we had directions to the hostel and we walked around the station for about 30 minutes until we found the street we needed. Finally we arrived at the hostel, checked in to our room and then got a little rest before heading out to walk around the city.

The weather was fairly good so we just decided to walk around the city for a while looking at some of the more "touristy" things in the city. We saw a bunch of really cool monuments but didn't have any idea what they were or what they symbolized but we finally saw something we knew about -- the Spanish Steps. As we were walking down the steps, we ran into my friends from Alcala just by chance! We all decided to grab some dinner together and then go to the Colosseum for the Stations of the Cross -- to see the Pope! The program was quite long, about an hour and a half, but it was quite worth it to see "Il Papa" even though I am not Catholic.

The next day, my friend Liz and I, got up very early to get out to Vatican City to avoid the long lines at St. Peter's Basilica. Our plan worked and we only were in line for about 30 minutes. We got into the Basilica and WOW it was absolutely amazing. The structure on the inside was beautiful with intricate sculptures and memorials for past Popes. After walking around the interior of the Basilica, we took an elevator then what seemed like a million steps to the top of the dome for an epic (yes, epic) view of Vatican City and Rome.

Next up--the Vatican Museum. The World's Richest Art museum does not fail to impress guests, with art from all over and it's centerpiece -- The Sistine Chapel. There was mainly religious art -- obviously, but I even saw a mummy! With so many different things, it's better if you just check out the link to pictures at the top of this page.

After we were done with visiting the Vatican City, we decided to walk around Rome and visit some of the random "cool things" to see around the city. We saw the Trevi Fountains and the Pantheon -- with it's perfectly spherical dome that architects still marvel at today. At this point, we were pretty tired so we decided to head back to the hostel to get some food and rest up for the next day at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

The Colosseum, the model for stadium architecture around the World and one of the most visited cites on the globe. It was very interesting to see the place where gladiators battled for their lives and the Roman Empire put on spectacles to keep the Plebeians entertained. If only walls could talk as history was just seeping from the grounds of the great building. The Roman Forum used to be the center of all things during the Roman Empire. With the old senate building, temples to all sorts of gods, and the burial mound of Julius Caesar. It was quite the experience to see the epicenter of the ancient world first hand. That was pretty much it for the day of sightseeing and after eating dinner, I lucked out and was able to watch the final round of the Masters on the TV in the hostel.

I didn't have any problems getting to the airport in Rome and made it back to Madrid. Once I returned, it was time to finish all the homework I didn't do during the week. Next update will come very soon about my trip to Barcelona.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Semana Santa -- Paris

Since I have returned from my Spring Break travels I have had no time to sit down and write a blog but finally with a weekend of no travels I can tell the tale of my travels around Europe.

The first stop on my trip was to Paris to see the city of lights. I met up with my friend Liz from OU who is studying in the south of France. She had already been there for a few days with one of her friends from the States so when I arrived, it was time time for the the "touristy" places. The first day I was there, we went to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs Elysees then we walked up the Eiffel Tower (668 steps!!) to the second level but didn't go to the top because there was a very long line for the elevator.

The next day, we visited the Catacombs (an underground ossuary filled with millions and millons of bones of deceased Parisiens) in the morning and then the Notre Dame cathedral and some other monuments around the city. At night, we went to the Lourve because we thought there was student discounts on Wednesday nights but we found out it was only for EU students...urgh.

On Thursday, we went to the grand palace of Versailles but we had a little trouble getting there. The train system of Paris is extremely complex if you don't know what you are doing so instead of getting on the train to Versailles, we got on a train that branched to a north suburb of the city. We eventually got there but then had to wait in like for about an hour and a half just to get tickets -- the wait was well worth it though. The interior of the palace was breathtaking and the "backyard" was even better. The royalty of France had acres and acres of land at their disposal in which they could take a stroll around the man made lake or hunt for animals. It was quite impressive. When we got back to Paris, we went to the Montmarte (artsy part of town) area and saw the infamous Moulin Rouge, then walked up the giant hill to see the famous church of Sacre Coeur.

The next morning was our flight to Rome but we had a few problems getting to the airport and even getting on to the plane. First of all, the train system that runs to the Charles De Gualle airport was shut down for some reason or another so we had to go catch a cab, unfortunately so was everyone else who wanted to get to the airport. Luckily, there was a couple who had "illegaly" hailed a cab (meaning the cab driver had stopped for them even though he wasn't at the front of the line) and asked us if we wanted to go because the cabbie would only go if he had a full cab. So we reluctantly follow him to the cab but once we get in we realize everything is okay, because the guy's girlfriend is an American and she was even from Texas! We finally get to the airport, check in and get our boarding passes, and head to the gate but if you've ever been through security at CDG you know how much of a pain it is. The security gates are squeezed right in next to the gates and only one machine is operating -- by the time Liz and I got to security we had about 45 minutes until the gate closed, so we thought we would have plenty of time. Only 10 minutes before our plane left did the security people open up another gate for the about 30 people waiting in line to get on the same plane as us. Luckily we made it just in time but it was closer than I would've liked.

The plane ride was uneventful and we landed in Rome in the afternoon...that will be my next blog.

Time to study for my last final and write my last Spain paper!!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Paris and Rome

I'm in Barcelona right now, but I will try to have a blog post up from my trips to Paris and Rome this week after I get back. Sorry for the long delay, I got right back from my trip and had to start working on my school work!

Bye from Barça!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Spain vs. Turkey - World Cup Qualifying Match; Mahou (Spanish Beer) Factory

Spain vs. Turkey - 1
Spain vs. Turkey - 2

One thing I have always wanted to experience is an International Football match and last weekend I received my chance when Spain played Turkey in a 2010 World Cup Qualifying match. Since this game wasn't just a friendly game the atmosphere before, during, and after the game was electric. Spaniards have a passion for football and when "la seleccion" is playing, they get very excited for the game. Here's a video of the crowd singing the Spanish national anthem:

My friend Conner and I got to the stadium a few hours before in order to meet his friend (Russ) who came in from Granada to enjoy the match. We walked around soaking in the atmosphere and hung out in a few bars before the game. It was quite windy and cold so we decided to sit down inside Tony Roma's which was right next to the stadium. After a while, a group of Turkish fans sat down next to us and struck up a conversation with us. They were from Turkey but have been living in Boston for 15 years and they only picked up English from living there. It was really fun to talk about the match with opposing fans (in English too!) and they were extremely nice as well.

We got to our seats about 40 minutes before kick-off too get a glimpse of both teams warming up and watch the stadium fill up with crazed Spaniards (and a good portion of Turkish fans). The game was actually quite boring and defensive but there were certainly plenty of scoring chances. I got to see some of the best players in the world and my two of my favorite Spanish players (Fernando Torres and David Villa). The result ended up in the favor of Spain although I could tell the crowd wanted more goals and more action.

This is quite an experience that I will never forget and I hope I can see more International matches in the future (especially the World Cup!).


Also, on Monday I went with my business classes to visit the Mahou factory! Mahou is a Spanish beer and is very popular throughout the country. I got to see some inner workings of the factory and the production line where the cans, bottles, and kegs are all made. At the end of the tour we also got all the drinks we wanted and some very tasty tapas. We also received gifts; two cans of Mahou and two drinking glasses. All in all, I'd have to say this visit was the best field trip of the ones I have been on!

I leave for Paris on Tuesday and then fly to Rome on Friday for Easter weekend, it should be lots of fun!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Family's Visit to Spain!!!

Palacio Real Album

Sorry about the lack of posts, I really haven't done much so there was not much to write about, however, my family did visit last weekend and now I have a lot more material to write about!

My family flew into Madrid on Friday morning, which meant I had to wake up before the sun was up to go pick them up at the airport which is about an hours worth of train and metro rides away. Oh well, I got peanut butter and jelly out of it (which is very difficult to find here) so I guess I should not complain too much. Once I met them at the airport we hopped back on to the metro and took it to the hotel that we were staying in for the weekend.

We stayed at a hotel just a short walk from the "Plaza del Sol" which is the very heart of Madrid and is comparable to NYC's Time's Square without all of the advertisements and skyscrapers. Also, from above, the streets branching off from the plaza create the effect of the rising sun, quite cool city planning even centuries ago. After we got to the hotel, everyone decided it would be best to take showers and relax a bit before embarking on our tour of Madrid. We took a free tour (the same company as the one in Dublin) around Madrid and the tour guide was very informative and provided a lot of history of the city and country that I didn't know yet. After the tour, we were all pooped and we decided to get something for dinner and go back to the hotel and sleep... one set an alarm so we all ended up sleeping for 11 hours! I'm pretty sure everyone needed it though, so it wasn't so much of a bad thing. It did take a while for everyone to get ready to leave (about 2.5 hours) therefore we got a late start to the day. We found a pretty decent pizza place for some grub then we headed over to the Palacio Real to take a tour. When we got there we found out there was free entrance for families larger than 5! Needless to say, my dad was pretty happy with that. We spent quite a long time in the Palace and all of us took a bunch of pictures and toured the exhibits and the rooms of the palace, it was quite impressive and apparently it's the biggest in all of Europe because it has 4 levels underground. Check out my pictures on the link at the top of the post!

After the palace, we took the subway over to the Parque de Retiro, Madrid's Central Park but bigger (I think). It was quite a lovely day, so the park was filled with families and sunbathers taking in the glorious day. We spent some time there looking at a few of the wonderful views the park provided before we headed over to the Prado art museum for their free entrance hours. When we go to the museum the line was incredibly long so we decided not to get in it and just wait to see how fast it moved. To our luck, the line moved very quickly and after we saw this we decided to get in line and within 15 minutes we were in one of Europe's best art museums. We meandered around until the allotted time of the free visit was up and saw some stunning masterpieces from French, Spanish, Italian artists and ancient Roman sculptures, among other things. Once we were done visiting the Prado, it was back to the hotel after a long day of sightseeing plus we had an early wake up call to go to the largest flea market in Europe...

...El Rastro awaited us as we woke up early (it still took us quite a bit of time to get ready but nearly as bad as the day before). If you can imagine a place where basically everything you want is in one place (for pretty good prices too) the Rastro is what you are thinking of. We meandered all the booths that lined the street blocked off for foot traffic only on Sundays looking for anything that caught our eyes. I ended up getting a knock off Liverpool soccer jersey and a Holland soccer shirt for 15 euros combined (let's see how long they hold up though). After we finished shopping, the boys decided to go up to the Bernabeu Stadium to see if there were any tickets available for that afternoon's game. We took the metro packed full of fans and started walking towards the stadium after climbing four flights of stairs to ground level. Once we found the ticket window, we were informed that the only tickets remaining for the game were 60 euros and they were not together. So we grabbed a few cokes and just sat outside the stadium watching the mass of people swarm to the stadium and then once the game started there was no one to be seen except for the police. We found a place to watch the first half of the game then decided to take the Metro back early in order to avoid all the crowds and we got back to the hotel and watched Barcelona score 6 goals on an ineffective Malaga team. Dinner was next on the agenda and then we all headed to bed early for our trip to Alcala in the morning.

We took the train to Alcala and met my host mom in the plaza and she took us to a place to have chocolate with churros. Mmmm, I think everyone needs to try chocolate with churros at some point in their life, it's well worth it. After churros, we went over the main university campus and took a tour of the campus. The tour guide spoke only Spanish, so I got to translate what I could understand (most of what she said) to English for my family. Although, we did use an audio guide in English so we could get a better understanding of each place. At noon, my mom, David, and I met my host mom to go over to my host sister's school to talk with the director of English studies about setting up a pen pal program. We went to two different classes where the kids asked my mom and I questions and English. I was very impressed by there level of English and I hope my mom can set up the pen pal program because I think it could be a great experience for her kids and the kids here. Next, we visited a palace/museum building here in Alcala which was quite impressive for its small stature. Once we finished visiting the palace we returned to the hotel in Madrid, ate some dinner, picked up some souvenirs and then I returned to Alcala to finish up my homework and get some sleep before class the next day.

All in all, it was a very fun weekend and I was very glad to see my family. Tomorrow I am going to another football game but this one should be way more exciting than the other two I have been to. It is a World Cup Qualifying match between Spain (FIFA #1) and Turkey (FIFA #11). If you are having problems viewing the photo albums, let me know and I will try to correct the problems.

That's it for now.


Friday, March 13, 2009


Dublin.1, Dublin.2, Dublin.3, Dublin.4

Ireland! What a beautiful place to be!

We got into Dublin at around 10PM, got our passports stamped (woo!!), and found a bus to get us to the city center. Our hostel, Jacob's Inn, was not bad for the money and location. Once we got settled in we walked around for a little bit and found an internet cafe where we all ordered and printed off our tickets for the Guinness Storehouse tour. Everything had already closed down for the night so we decided to just call it a night and get some rest for the next morning.

I woke up at about 830AM the next morning and took advantage of the free breakfast that the hostel offered (only toast and juice, oh well). Then we waited for the free tour to start! There is a company called New Europe Tours (link) that provides free tours in 9 of Europe's biggest cities. The tour guides work on tips only and inform you of that only once at the beginning and once at the end, besides that no more money talk. Our tour guides name was Ali from Northern Ireland (if I remember correctly) who did a wonderful job at describing the cool history of the city. He even played an Irish tune on the tin whistle for us! We saw the Dublin Castle, the Temple Bar district, Trinity College, Christ Church, and many other Dublin sites. After the tour was over we headed to find some good food to eat (for cheap, of course) and while we were walking, I SAW A GUY WEARING A STARS JERSEY!!!!!! I never thought I'd see a Dallas Stars jersey and Dublin, Ireland! Okay, sorry for that little sidebar -- after we had some (decent) pizza, we walked over to the Guinness Storehouse. It was a self guided tour through the museum which included the process of making Guinness, the history of the beer, history of Guinness advertising, and finally the Gravity Bar at the top of the Storehouse (the tallest building in Dublin) with 360 degree views of the entire city. I had never tried Guinness before, but I had a free pint in front of my so I decided not to let it waste. What a very bitter beer it is, I think I'll only be able to drink it if I am eating something or maybe I just have to get used to it. After the tour, we all did some souvenir shopping then met up with a friend of one of the people in our group who was living in Dublin. She showed us around some of the cool nightspots in Dublin but we didn't stay out late because we had a long day ahead of us.

The next morning we woke up early and headed off to the countryside of Ireland! We took a bus out to Enniskerry, which was about an hour outside of Dublin. Man was it green -- everywhere. I even got to see a Irish golf course! Then we trekked 7 Km to see this magnificent waterfall, quite worth the walk and the 4.50 to see it. I can't really say much else about the countryside because my words can not describe it's beauty, so check out the 3rd and 4th albums to see my pictures. Once we got back to Dublin, we picked up our bags and headed to the airport. Our flight didn't leave until 6:20 AM the next morning but the only way we could make the flight was to spend the night in the airport. So, we spent 7 hours in the very cold Dublin airport. The flight home was very uneventful and once I got back to Alcala, I slept for the rest of the day.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and theres still some things I want to see, so I definitely have to visit Ireland again! That's all for now!


Monday, March 02, 2009

Midterms, Cuenca, and Futbol

Cuenca Photo Album
Athletico Madrid - FC Barcelona Game

This past week, I had midterm exams for my classes and unlike classes at OU where teachers schedule their own tests, the university here has a certain week for midterms, therefore all of the midterms fall on this week. It was quite stressful! Aside from the stress of studying, I think I did pretty well on the exams, I shall find out soon enough.

Enough about class, lets talk about futbol! I joined a futbol siete (7) team through the school and we started playing games last week. We had just enough players to field a team and no substitues, so needless to say, we got our butts handed to us (5 - 0). This week we will have one sub so maybe we can get some fresher legs rotated into the game. Besides being beat so badly, it was quite a lot of fun and it was a great workout.

On Friday, I went on an excursion with the University to Cuenca, Spain which is about 2 hours away from Alcala. It is a quaint little town in the middle of Spain with some very cool art and architecture. We took a tour of the modern art museum (with some questionable looking art) and a cathedral (these are getting a little bit old, not gonna lie). Check out my pictures from the trip on the link above!

Today, (the best part of my weekend) I went with my friend Conner (a huge futbol fan like me) to see a match between Athletico Madrid and FC Barcelona. We got to our seats about an hour early to get some good pictures of a somewhat empty stadium and to catch a glimpse of our favorite players warming up. After a while, the fans started to fill the stadium and the excitement of ensuing game was building up. Our seats were right right next to "los Ultras" (they are the fanatical Athletico Fans for life) and the atmosphere was amazing for this thrilling game. In the end, Barcelona ended up losing 4 - 3 but there were some fantastic goals in this game (I will try to post a link to the highlights once they are online) and I got every cent out of the 80 Euro ticket!

Here's a video of the fans:

I also bought a few scarfs so I could act like a local when I go to games:

Of course, I had to buy a FC Barcelona scarf! The other one has a quote on it from King Juan Carlos I when he told Hugo Chavez to shut up (¿Por que no te callas?) at the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Santiago Chile (watch the video here), when he kept interrupting the Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, while he was speaking. It's become a very popular quote in Spain, obviously, it's on a scarf!

That's it for now, I must get to bed and start another week of classes. I can't belive it's already March!


Friday, February 27, 2009

Real Madrid Football Game

Pictures from the Real Madrid - Real Betis game
Even though I'm not a fan of Real Madrid, I wanted to go to a game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in order to experience the atmosphere. We went back to the American restaurant (Foster's Hollywood) we went to last weekend and got some really good American food. Woo! After the meal we headed to the stadium to pick up our tickets and buy some souvenirs (of course not me, I'd never buy Real Madrid propaganda!!!).

We headed up to our 25 Euro seats, up in the nosebleeds of course, and found out we were sitting with the opposing teams fans!! I've known that football fans in Europe are extremely devoted and fanatics but I didn't know the extent of their fanaticism till after this game. The fans were screaming and chanting throughout the whole game (even when they were losing). Of course, there were the obscenities being yelled at the players but (from what I could understand) the entire section was yelling cuss words at the players, it was rather funny! They also had a chant that went along with Frankie Valli's Can't Take My Eyes Off of You "I Want you baby" (Te quiero baby...) and it was quite enjoyable to be surrounded by these great fans. Although the game turned sour for Real Betis, to the tune of 6-1 in favor of Real Madrid, their fans kept beating the drum and chanting for their team until the finals whistle. There were fantastic goals (I do have to admit that) by Real Madrid but I hope that they slip up some and give Barcelona some space at the top of the league!

This weekend, I get to see my team! Barcelona plays Athletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid and a friend and I are going to see them play. I'm really excited and even though I spent quite a bit of money on the ticket, we got seats close to the field, so I should have some good shots of the players! I hope everything is going well with everyone back at home.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

¡Rellenos gratis! (Free Refills!) oh and some big stadium

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu album

Last Saturday I visited the northern part of Madrid with my friend Kayla (she's from Colorado State University). We were starving when we got of the subway stop at the stadium and I knew there was a Hard Rock cafe around so we asked for directions and started walking towards it. However, we ran into another American restaurant called "Foster's Hollywood" that served all the highlights of a typical menu from America. When I opened the menu I couldn't decide what I wanted because I wanted everything! I ended up getting a classic hamburger which was very good but the best thing about this restaurant was yet to come. In Spain, restaurants don't believe in free refills, so if you down that tiny Coke for 2€ you get to pay 2€ more for another drink but at American restaurants they give free refills!! I know this may seem very trivial but if you are a Coke fanatic like I am, you probably drink at least two Cokes when you eat out. Now just imagine paying 2€ (about $2.50 UD) for a 200ml (about 7 oz) bottle of coke! So these free refills (albeit Pepsi, I still took full advantage of these free drinks) we're the highlight of afternoon!

After we indulged ourselves with American food, we walked over and bought tickets for the self guided tour of Real Madrid's "Estadio Santiago Bernabéu" for 15€ and then walked into the stadium. The first stop was a panoramic view of the stadium and the pitch, then onto a mini-musem of the history of the team, after that we saw some more of the stadium from a lower view. We were also able to see the numerous amount of trophies the club has amassed in the last century. It was quite impressie and while I'm not quite a fan of the team (well really I hate the club) I do respect their stadium and history. The tour alo allowed us to get down on the pitch, onto the team benches, into the the team locker room, and then into the press room. Overall it was quite a fantastic tour and worth every bit of the 15€ I spent.

This weekend, I'll be going to a game at the stadium and then the weekend after that I'll be attending the Athletico Madrid - Barçelona game in the other big stadium in Madrid (Estadio de Vicente Calderon). I'm very excited about these opportunities and I'm sure I'll take plenty of pictures (when do I not?).

That's all for now, it's time for class!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Toledo, why are you so cold? -- and more.

Last Friday I went to Toledo on a group trip with the University. It seemed like it was going to be a great trip but that was before we got there and discovered the mini blizzard that was covering Toledo that day. We were taking to a viewing point to get a panoramic view of the city but we could barely see the city through the snow. The bus took us down to a plaza in the city and by the time we got down there the weather had improved, but only slightly. We visited a cathedral in they city and some other site but I couldn't really tell you the names because we didn't spend much time there. We came back early due to the weather so I don't have much to say about the trip but you can see my pictures HERE.

Tonight I am going to watch the International Football Friendly (basically an exhibition between two countries) between Spain and England. I'm hoping to go down to a bar and watch the game with some friends and maybe some Spaniards too, we'll see. This weekend I don't have any plans yet but I think I might go visit Madrid some more.



Toledo revsited album

I revisited Toledo last weekend and it was 100x better than the weekend before. The weather was gorgeous which in turn made the city fantastic. We took a high speed train from Madrid, which took about 30 min for a 55 mile trip (= average speed of 100mph) so that was a cool experience. I hope to take a high speed train somewhere else before I leave just to experience long distance traveling on a train like that. Once we got to Toledo, we climbed up the hill that the city was on and happened to stumble into a FREE musem of artifacts from the period of 1808 to 1814 ( I think that's the right time period). The musem had paintings from the time, royal dishes, navegation tools, and so much more. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take any pictures so if you want to know more about it just ask me.

After the musem, we went and had lunch at a pizza place (except the pizza here isn't close to what it is at home, so I got some pasta). Then, we explored the city some more and took picture of the Alcazar, the highest building in Toledo. It was once a royal palace for many different people but now it is being converted into a military musem. We found a nice panoramic view of the mountains, so we decided to soak in the sun for a while. That was a nice change from the cloudy weather we have had since the beginning of the semster.

Next up, we visited a small church that housed a very famous painting by the painter "El Greco". You can read up on him at Wikipedia. We saw this painting, El entierro del conde de Orgaz (the burial of the count of Orgaz). It was quite an amazing painting and I can't even imagine how much work it took to create it. He even painted himself, his son, and Cervantes into the painting. I guess he wanted to have a little fun while he was making the thing.

Overall, this trip was much better than my last trip and I would recomend a visit to anyone.

That's all for now

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Last weekend, I went to the South of Spain to visit Granada, about a 6 hour bus ride from Madrid, and see the most visited site in Spain -- the Alhambra. We took the overnight bus so we could get to Granada in the morning and have an extra day to visit the city without having to pay for another night at the hostel. The hostel we stayed at was very chill and had a hippie feel to it. It had hammocks in the courtyard and a hookah tent, plus the staff were very helpful and really laid back. There are a few pictures in one of my albums from the weekend of the hostel. Speaking of pictures, I took over 200 pictures in Granada -- I think that is some sort of record for me!

You can see the albums here: First, Second, Third and Fourth.

After we arrived in Granada, we found the local bus to take us to the city center and then from there we took a smaller bus that took us to our hostel. The streets in the hills of Granada are about ten feet wide, now imagine a small bus getting through that, it was only slightly scary. Once we checked in, we found our beds and rested for a while. After our nap, we went out and walked around the city for a little while just to see what there was to do. We shopped for a little bit and then we went back to the hostel to get ready for dinner.

Since we booked out rooms so late in the hostel, I had to sleep in a separate room from the rest of the group which actually worked out pretty well. I got to meet some people who were on a "Semester at Sea" program who had just docked at the city of Cadiz which is about 4 hours away from Granada. They told me they left from the Bahamas and had traveled across the Atlantic and this was the first country they stopped in. That is a ridiculous itinerary but they do get to go travel all over the world, not sure if I'd want to do that though. Anyways, we all got ready for dinner and went out and found a Mexican restaurant. There wasn't any free chips and queso and the food size was small, but besides that it was a good attempt at Mexican food in Spain. We went and visited some tapas bars next and had some wine and a drink called "tinto de verano" which is red wine with lemonade, it's really good. After a few more places we decided to call it a night and get some sleep for our big day tomorrow.

But before I went to bed, I watched the latest Lost episode. WOW. That show is absolutely ridiculous, I won't go into it now but if you are the fan of the show you know what I'm talking about.

The next day we woke up early and headed towards the Cathedral of Granada. This place was absolutely gorgeous -- just check out my pictures, theres really no need for descriptions after seeing them.

After the Cathedral, we found a bus to take us up to the top of the hill where the Alhambra is. Good thing too because it was a very steep hill, even during the bus ride. The Alhambra was orginally built by Moorish rulers in the 1300s then was later taken over by King Ferdinad II of Aragon and Queen Isabel of Castile in 1492. It is a fortress of palaces where each different ruler, Moorish or Christian, built there own to make there mark. Also, right next to the Alhambra is the gardens of Generalife. These two places are magnificent and you should look in my albums for pictures because my words will not do it justice.

After our visit, we had some pastries and then went back to the hostel. Instead of having dinner, we just decided to go to different tapas bars and get tapas when we ordered drinks. We went to about 4 different bars and ended up hanging out with some locals who showed us a few cool places and got us into a club for free. It was an excellent night and we were out till about 4AM -- still 3 hours short of what a regular night for Spaniards is, eek. The bus ride back was uneventful and we ended up in Alcala at about 8:30 PM.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and I would not mind visiting Granada again when it is warmer and the flowers are blooming. Thats it for now, have a good week everyone.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finally, an update!

First - I've been absolutely swamped with stuff to do since I last updated thus there haven't been any new updates. But now I have found some time where I can actually relax and not worry about doing my homework!

Last weekend, I went to Avila, Spain, which is about a 2 hour train ride Northwest of Madrid. We left (the group was 18 people, 2 guys and 16 girls -- interesting experience) Alcala at about 830AM and got to Madrid but didn't know where we needed to go in order to catch the connecting train to Avila, so we were confused for a little bit and we missed the early train to Avila and ended up having to wait until 11AM to leave. Nevertheless, we made it to Avila in one piece, the train ride went pretty well and when we arrived we got a rude awakening with a shot of cold mountain air.

I took about 150 pictures and you can see them HERE, HERE, and HERE

In Avila, there is a giant defense wall that surrounds the old city. It is the best kept wall in the world and it has some spectauclar views. We went up on top of the wall and walked around taking pictures. After that, we ate some lunch and drank some wine then headed out to do some more sight seeing. We visited the Cathedral of Saint Teresa which was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn't tell you what she is the saint of or anything but I do know that she is a very important religious figure in Spain. After it got dark, we had some time to kill so the girls shopped while I waited around doing, well nothing. We had some pizza (it was four cheese with blue cheese on it -- ew, I just want some good ol' American pizza) and churros, then went to the train station to wait for our train. Now, here is where the disaster begins.

Our train gets to the platform about 10 minutes late (no problem) and everyone boards, but we sit there for another 10 minutes not moving anywhere before the conductor walks down the isles and tells us that we have to switch trains (okay, lets just get back to Madrid). After we switch trains, we wait another 15 minutes before the train leaves the station! Now, at this point we are about 30 minutes behind schedule and we're cutting it close to catching our train back to Alcala.

So we get to the Charmartin station (which is in the north of Madrid) and we have no idea where the train is to Atocha (in the south of Madrid, station where we connect to Alcala) and we keep asking people and they keep telling us different things. The girls start running (for the record, I never ran in the station) to different platforms until we finally get on the right train. We get to Atocha but we realize that we missed the last train by 20 minutes or so and now we have no idea what to do.

After asking around, we realize we can take the Metro up to the bus station and take a bus back to Madrid. We take a 20 minute metro ride while enduring a bunch of drunk people on the train scaring the girls in our group and make it to the bus station. The group wanders around for 15 minutes trying to figure out where the bus leaves from and finally we catch the bus just as it's pulling up. Luckily we got on the right bus and we ended up getting back to Alcala at about 2AM.

Besides the travel disaster there at the end, it was quite a fun trip! In other news, school has been going pretty well this week, I've given two presentations and written one paper (thus the lack of updates) and I've had plenty of home(busy)work to keep me occupied.

This weekend, I'm going to Granada or Sevilla, my friends and I haven't decided yet. I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures (I always do). I hope that everyone is staying warm and enjoying your days off of school!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Second Week

Well, I've made it through the second week of my classes and the workload is starting to pick up. The only thing interesting I did this week was watching the Presidential Inauguration of Obama in a Spanish bar. It was quite interesting because I was in a bar with a bunch of Americans but the speech was dubbed in Spanish (obviously) and the voice of the translator was way to loud to hear anything Obama was saying. So, when I got back home I went online and found a video of the speech. There was quite a bit of coverage of the inauguration here, almost as much as there would be in the States. Most Spaniards seem to be excited about Obama if only for the reason that they just despised Bush. However, I think that the Spaniards (and Europeans) are putting way to much hope in Obama to change the world right away. I don't think they realize how much bureaucracy he will have to get through (in my opinion) just to change some very minor things. But, I don't want to start a political debate, that's just what I see over here.

My classes are going well, I already have presentations and papers due next week, so Sunday looks like a big homework day. Tomorrow, I am going to Avila, Spain. It's about an hour and a half to the Northwest of Madrid. I don't really know much about it except it has a huge wall surrounding the city from the occupation by the Romans. I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures and post the link to them on here tomorrow or the next day. That's all for now, take care everyone!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Second Day in Madrid

For the second day, I went and visited Madrid. I met at the train station at about 10AM and rode the train and metro to the Puerta de la Sol. First we visited the Parque del Retiro which is like Madrid's version of Central Park but is much better (in my opinion). The park had so much to see and we only saw about half of it. There were street performers all around a lake situated in the middle of the park, fountains and statues could be found in every direction of the park. Just some absolutely brilliant sights. After that, we walked around some more and just took in all the great architecture that Madrid had to offer and looked for a place to eat.

We ended up eating at a restaurant called "La Cocina de Neptuno". I split a plate of chicken fajitas with my friend, they were okay but nothing to special. When we got our bill we were very surprised to see that they charged us for EVERYTHING. They charged us for bread (which we didn't really ask for), extra tortillas, and little butter packets. It was very bizzare but now I know to ask to not get bread next time. After lucnh, we wandered around and looked at a few vendors set up in the plazas and made our way to the Plaza Mayor to meet up with some friends.

We met our friends and deicded to go take in a movie at a local theater with the original version in Enlgish with subtitles in Spanish. We saw Milk, I highly recommend, which is about the gay rights movement in the 70's in San Francisco following the life of Harvey Milk -- the first openly gay person elected to a public office.

After the movie, we just meandered around for a little bit more and started heading towards our Metro stop. When we got to where we were going, we saw a huge mass of people and a lot of Palestinian flags and we realized it was a protest calling for peace in Gaza. Lots of people held up signs with "Paz" (Peace) written on them and others had cut outs of bombs stating "Made in Spain, Launched in Gaza". I had never seen a protest like this with my own eyes so it was very interesting to see how the people in Madrid could gather peacefully to protest the government's involvement in the fighting. There were even people burning an Israeli flag -- intense. You can find pictures of my second day in Madrid HERE and HERE.

Now it's time to sleep and today hopefully I can sleep in! Then watch futbol all day! (and possibly work on some hw)


Friday, January 16, 2009

First trip to Madrid

What a day! We met at the school at 10 AM and then headed over to the train station and hopped on a train to Madrid. While we were waiting on the platform a high speed train came by and it didn't even slow down one bit and whizzed right on through the station. It was crazy! The train ride was about 20-25 minutes to the "Atocha" station then we got tickets for the metro and rode that to the "Plaza de la Puerta del Sol". Too bad public transportation doesn't work that well in most places in the US. Anyways, we took a two hour walking tour with one of our professors and he pointed out some of the interesting things in Madrid. I took almost 60 pictures and they are all online HERE.

After the tour, some people in the group stayed in Madrid while myself and about 9 others returned to Alcala by ourselves. Luckily we got on the right trains and made it back in one piece. We ate lunch at this Irish Bar called "La Pinta Media" (the half pint, I think). Everyone in our group got American food because we were all craving it since all we have eaten in our different houses is Spanish food. Now it is time for a siesta. Hasta luego!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

First week of school is over!

My classes are over for the first week! Woo hoo! Tomorrow I am going on a tour of Madrid with the university and I'm very excited to see the capital city of Spain! The tour was originally scheduled for last Sunday (before I was here) but there was a few inches of snow so they rescheduled it which is very good for me because now I can meet some more people and see Madrid! I will be taking a lot of pictures and I will put them up soon. Also, over the weekend I will take some pictures of the apartment I am living in so everyone can see what it looks like.

Yesterday, I went out and bought a dictionary (but of course today I left in my classroom, D'OH, hopefully it's either still in the room or someone turned it in to the office) and went to this bar called "Kingston's Pub", it was a pretty neat pub and they were even playing N*SYNC songs which was kinda weird but it made me feel like I was at home (kinda) here are some pictures (click to make them larger):

Today, during my break in classes I bought a SIM card from Vodafone and I now have a Spanish number! I also ran other errands like getting a passport picture for a student card that I need, purchased a workbook for a class, and then I went to McDonald's (I know gross) to get some American food! After lunch today, I helped Maitane ("my-taaaan-ey", my little host sister) set up her Nintendo DS to work on the internet and now she (or me) can play Mario Kart against my brother! How cool! Then, I took a 3 hour siesta, oh man that was so good.

Now, I am just getting ready for bed so I can wake up and meet at the school at 10AM for the tour. Please comment and let me know how the blog is and what else I should talk about and ask me questions about stuff you want to know!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Greetings from Alcala!

Yesterday was an interesting day. Traveling on the plane was just fine to Madrid but when I went and found a taxi, he took me to Alcala but then ripped me off and made me pay 280€ instead of 40€. I got an "official recepit" but it didn't have any sort of ID number on it and I forgot to look at the liscense plate or anything that would have ID'd the guy. The only thing I could do, according to my host mom (HM) who called her friend from the police, is to go back to the airport and look for him and then call the police while I'm there and try to get my money back. It seems dangerous but I will think it over because that is a lot of money I lost.

After the drama with the taxi, my host mom (HM) took me down to the University so I knew how to get to and from the campus. It's about a 20-25 minute walk which wouldn't be so bad except the temperature hovers around freezing all the time so I'll probably be taking the bus until it starts to get a little bit warmer. My first day of class was alright, I woke up late because my alarm clock on my phone thinks it's still in US time so my HM woke me up at 8, thankfully, and I was just about 10 minutes late to class. Today, the classes I took were "Iconos y Tradiciones de España" (Icons and Traditions of Spain) and "La globalización y la economía de española". The teacher for my Icons class is the director of the study abroad program and the teacher for my business class was the former director and speaks spanglish which actually helps me because he says what he is saying both times once in both languages.

Besides that, my day was quite plain (save for the fact that I'm in Spain). My HM marked some places on the map where I can shop and do some other things, so I might do that tomorrow, or maybe I'll just lounge around the apartment some more. Thats all I have for now, I'll put some pictures up soon of the city and my apartment so you all can know what it looks like.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Frankfurt is Freakin' Freezing

The flight over here wasn't all that bad. There were a few crying babies on board but they didn't cry for too long after take off. I wasn't able to get to sleep for some reason (not because of the babies), so I'm sitting here in the Frankfut airport about to fall asleep. At least I'm not outside where it feels like it is 5 degrees, there is snow covering the ground, and low clouds limit the visibility to -- well not much at all, it keeps changing as I look out this window. Hopefully the clouds will clear up and the precipitation will stay away so I can get to Madrid on time. If you want a post card or something leave your address in the comments or email me at saxplaya (at) gmail (dot) com. That's all for now, more when I get settled in Madrid -- and get Internet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back from Miami -- on to Spain

I didn't get to update the last few days because I was without Internet. Anyways, the game was an awesome experience, except for the awful Florida fans (before the game at least) and the fact that we lost. The stadium was very nice and the crowd was probably 75% UF fans so it was basically a home game for them -- oh well, no excuses they beat us fair and square. After the game we sat in the parking lot on the bus for at least 2 hours and we were the last people to leave the parking lot --awesome!

The next day we left Miami, stopped in Tallahassee where we had dinner provided to us by the OU Tallahassee club which was very awesome. There is a little write up and some pictures about our stop here : LINK. Then somehow we got off schedule by 4 hours (!!!!!) and instead of getting home at 12:30 PM, I ended up not getting home till closer till 5:00 PM (ugh!). All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip but now I must repack and get ready to leave for Spain tomorrow!! (scary)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Only a Day Before the Game – Day 4

11:34 PM

Phew, quite a long day. Early morning practice at Barry University (where the football team practiced), then drum major auditions, and crappy quiznos sandwiches for lunch. When we got back to the hotel, I relaxed for a little bit then went and sat on the beach for a little while. Then at night we went to a lame "fan fest" and waited around for like 20 minutes only to play like 10 minutes worth of music – it was so much fun. When we finally got back to the hotel, I headed back down to South Beach and went to the "Nexxt" restaurant then picked up some more souvenirs. Now we're less than a day away from being in Dolphin stadium and I am so excited!!!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Livin’ the SoBe life (sorta) – Day 3

8:27 AM
Early wakeup call this morning in order to fight through traffic to get to our practice site today. We’re practicing at “da U” today, apparently the current Athletic Director used to work at OU so he pulled some strings for us and we get to use their football practice facility for free. We’ll have a 3 hour rehearsal (gag), lunch, and then the rest of the afternoon/night will be free. Last night, Andrew paid the $10 to get internet which is good because we are all addicted to it, but hopefully when we get to the campus there will be free WiFi so I can update my blog.
On a side note: the build up to this game is getting kind of ridiculous and I wish we could just play the damn game already. The media is over exaggerating every little thing a player or coach says but I guess the media has to make their own news from time to time. Hopefully we can get away from the trash talk and settle everything on the field

1:02 PM
We just got done with our rehearsal at the University of Miami and it is very warm – at least for January. I guess I shouldn’t complain since it is apparently cold and rainy back home. Rehearsal was pretty typical but it seemed like it lasted forever. After rehearsal we picked up our uniforms and some KFC for lunch. Now it’s time to take a nap and then go down to the beach!!

11:37 PM
I took a nap earlier today instead of going to the beach; I think that was a very good choice and it made the rest of the night much better. Tonight was very fun – yet very expensive – we ate at an Italian restaurant where the food cost about as much as I would eat in two weeks in Norman. We then went to a gift shop and I got another shot glass to add to my collection. When we headed to the bus stop, we ran into this guy rambling about who knows what and then he found out that we were from Oklahoma he started talking about “The Game of the Century” and about how he was going to break our backs? Crazy south beach vagrants…when we got back to the hotel the Arkansas – Texas game was on and we got to see at least one team from Texas lose! Another long day ahead of us, with more rehearsals and pep gigs to get all the drunken fans even more excited for the game.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

On the road - Day 2

8:24 AM

Through the night we traveled through Mississippi and some of Alabama. I picked up a shot glass from Mississippi last night for my collection. I wasn’t awake for much of the ride but when I did look out the window all I could see was a dense fog, so I had no idea where we were. From what I could tell, we arrived in Tallahassee – our breakfast stop – around 4 AM this morning, way ahead of schedule so we ended up driving through to Lake City, FL to eat breakfast. There’s nothing like eating McDonald’s in the back of a Wal-Mart while looking for outlets to charge your phone.

"Smile when ya say MISSISSIPPI"

12:22 PM

Quick lunch stop in St. Cloud, FL, just south of Orlando, now on to Miami – about 4 hours away. It is very warm here but then again when is Florida not warm? At least we’re not in the cold like it is back in Texas and Oklahoma!

5:15 PM

We’re in Miami Beach! The views are beautiful and the hotel is pretty nice, although the Internet is $10/day which is absolutely ridiculous!!! So, I’ll have to go hunt for free Wi-Fi around Miami Beach and then I’ll be able to upload my blog posts! Tonight, we’re going to go find a place to watch the Ohio St. / Texass game. I don’t know who to root for…on one hand I don’t like Texass at all but then again I’m not a fan of Ohio St. / the Big 10. Hopefully it’ll be a good game and not another Big 10 suckfest.

11:52 PM

So, Texas won in a thriller – I guess it’s good for the Big 12 but how in the hell can Mack think no one in the country can beat them when they only beat Ohio St. by 3 points!!! So, we went down to South Beach tonight and ate dinner at Jerry’s Old Fashioned Diner (where the menu was really big and the choices were a plenty) to watch the game. I ended up splitting a large pizza with a few people and I had a cannoli while we watched the first half of the Ohio St. /Texass game which was actually kind of boring. So we left at halftime to go walk around South Beach which was pretty cool, but we didn’t really find anything just a bunch of shops which were way too expensive for me. Time to get to bed now because we have rehearsal at the butt crack of dawn.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

We’re going to Miami! – Day 1

9:39 AM
The day has finally arrived and the band is off on its 30-something hour bus ride to Miami to support the OU football team and to have some relaxing time off in South Beach. I am mostly packed but I think I will do one last look-through to make sure I have everything before I leave in 20 minutes. I'll try to update the blog at least once a day because I'm sure there will be plenty of stuff to write about while I am gone.

2:04 PM
Riding the bus is soooo much fun but we did get our per diem of $40 today and a personalized BCS National Championship luggage tags. They are pretty cool and I’ll have pictures attached later. Right now we’re stopped outside of Shreveport for a driver stop/bathroom break. It’s always interesting to figure out the logistics of moving 300 some-odd people halfway across the nation – in busses. Everything we do is planned down to an exact science but the question is, how well will we stay on schedule—I’ll keep you up to date on all the drama that unfolds…

6:35 PM
First food stop of the ride – West Monroe, LA. I went with a group of seven people to an IHOP that was painfully slow. The waitress was a female version of the Soup Nazi and it didn’t make the service any better. Apparently there was only one cook on duty when we arrived and some of the Pride kids didn’t even get their food until 10 minutes before the busses left. Somehow, my table was the first table served even though we were not the first to be seated. A cold front seems to be following us – when we got off the bus here it was warm and humid but by the time we left IHOP it was cold and windy – feels kind of like the weather in Oklahoma! We have a long drive left in front of us, about 24 hours or so until we get to Miami but our next stop is Tallahassee, FL. Oh and by the way, we are actually a bit ahead of schedule—for now at least.