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!