Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hasta luego!

Well everybody, that's it.  I'm done.  I've officially complete my semester abroad in Granada, Spain.  I seriously cannot believe it's over!  I could have sworn I just got here.  These past three and a half months have been amazing!  I've made so many memories and have met so many wonderful people. 
This week I've been thinking about all the things I have done during my time here and all the things I've learned:
~ I rode a camel on the beach in Morocco, Africa!
~ I learned that, even though we may be oceans apart, I have a lot in common with people all over the world.
~ I was able to visit Dublin, Ireland!
~ I learned that I am awesome at reading maps! (Once again, thank you to my beautiful mother for teaching me this)
~ I visited London and was able to fall in love with the city all over again.
~ I was able to explore Granada and make it my home.
~ I randomly decided to go to Norway for a weekend, and it was one of the best trips!
~ I learned to ignore stereotypes. First hand experience is a much better way to learn about a culture and people.
~ I became friends with some amazing people in my program.
~ I learned that I literally have the best family, friends, and sorority sisters!! They were always there for me, supporting me and cheering me on from day one.
~ Personally, I feel like my Spanish speaking abilities have improved immensely!
~ I was able to attend an amazing school, the CLM, and meet some awesome professors.
~ And much more...
A few people have asked me how my study abroad experience has been.  Truthfully, I can't really explain it.  It's wonderful, frustrating, life changing, scary, and so many other emotions all rolled into one.  Studying abroad is different for everybody.  It's something that you have to go through to really understand.  I'm currently at this point where I'm ready to go home, but I also don't want to leave. 
Study abroad changes you.  For better or worse, you come away a different person.  Personally, study abroad has made me braver, wiser, and more accepting of the world.  I now know that I can't sit still.  I was meant to travel.  To see the world.  To discover new place and see new things.  To see the world from a different perspective.  After studying abroad, I don't really want to do the "touristy" things anymore.  I want to live the culture; be a part of it.  You really do need to walk a mile in somebody else's shoes to understand their life, their culture. 
I have one more adventure before I return to the states.  Tomorrow I leave for Austria and Germany.  I can't wait for one last European adventure before I get back to reality.  So goodbye, Granada.  Thank you for not only teaching me about myself, but about the world, as well.  Granada will always be home and will always hold a special place in my heart.  Hasta luego, Granada!
"Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." Mary Ritter Beard 
Dublin, Ireland
Madrid, Spain
Cordoba, Spain
London, England
Bergen, Norway

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Bergen, Norway!

So we started off our journey to Norway on a Wednesday. Since our flight was at 7 in the morning, we had to spend a lovely night in the Malaga Airport. My friend and I found a lovely place to sleep on the cold tile floor. Oh yes. It was just "lovely." But hey. It was a new experience. 

 As I said earlier, our flight left around 7 in the morning. So my friend and I got up around 5, got our ticket stamped, and went through security. We decided to treat ourselves to Starbucks since we were both exhausted and starving. After some breakfast we got to our gate and headed off to Norway!!!!
Our flight there wasn't too bad. I slept pretty much the entire time. But as we got closer to Norway, the worse the turbulence got. They flight attendants kept saying "Oop. Looks like we're having some slight turbulence." I really want to know what their definition of "slight" is. Personally, I felt like I was on a roller coaster in the air. There was nothing "slight" about it.
Eventually we landed. Our flight from Oslo to Bergen wasn't for another 6 hours. My friend and I were going to take a bus into Oslo, but then we looked outside......yeahhh. We decided to watch Downton Abbey instead. I'm definitely glad I brought more then my phone with because our flight ended up being 40 minutes late due to weather.
Eventually, we got up in the air. And as soon as we got into the air. We were back on the ground. While we were taking off, my friend and I decided that the pilots who fly into/in Norway have to be the best of the best because there is so much turbulence it's unreal.
Once we landed, my friend and I hopped on a bus and went to our hostel. We got off at the stop we were supposed to, I turned to my right and there....right in front of me....was a giant Christmas tree!!!!! So naturally I had to run over and take a picture.

After taking pictures, we walked over to what we thought was the church our hostel told us to look for. It wasn't actual a church. It was a Starbucks!!! Hallelujah!!! Hallelujah!! After finding that little slice of heaven, we walked around a bit more until we found our hostel, which was in a fabulous location!!! We were exhausted after all that traveling, so we crashed.

Friday morning we slept till 9 since that's when the sun comes up. Haha.

So we got up.
Got ready.
Walked outside.
There was snow.....everyyyywhhherrrrrrre!!!
HALLELUJAH!!!! HALLELUJAH!!!!! Literally. I was in a place beyond heaven!!! It was soooo beautiful!! It exceeded my expectations. And we hadn't even left the hostel door yet.

After this excitement, we decide to walk over to Starbucks and plan our day. Stop number one was the Gingerbread Village. It was adorable!!! All of the houses there were made by children, families, and organizations in Bergen.

After the gingerbread village we decided to walk around.

One place that was on our list of things we should see was the fish market in Bergen.  It just so happened it was right by our hostel.  So we decided to stop in.  You could definitely tell all the fish was fresh!  As we were walking around, one of the workers asked if we wanted to try a sample.  Of course we said yes!  So the lady cut us off 3 different types of salmon (two were marinated in stuff).  All of it was delicious!!! It tasted like the fish had jumped straight from the water into the market. After the fish, the lady handed us some meat that was sort of black color.  I had no idea what it was, but I took it anyway.  Before I ate it I asked what it was.  Whale.  It was whale.  I ate whale.  And I hate to say it, but it was delicious!  After the fish market, we decided to walk around some more.  We ended up stopping at a place recommended by our hostel for fish cakes, which are a big thing there, and fish soup.  It was all so yummy!! 

After we continued to walk around the city.  As we were walking starting hailing. So we decided to go back to our hostel as wait it out. 3 episodes of Downton Abbey later, it had finally calmed down enough to go outside. So my friend and I ran to the grocery store to get some dinner and stuff for lunch tomorrow. When we were in the store we found frozen pizza. Best frozen pizza ever!!! Pretty sure it was only because I haven't had it in 3+ months. Minor details. It continued to snow for the rest of the night, so we stayed in, watched some Downton Abbey, and ate pizza.

Saturday we woke up to even more snow!!! Gorgeous!! We decided today to go find the Christmas markets. Well after walking around for about an hour...we found nothing. So we just stopped in the year round Christmas shop. After shopping we walked around a bit more and found a farmers market. There we tried a pancake type thing. It was delicious!! After that, we were freezing cold, so back to the hostel we went for lunch. The night before we got some salmon and tortellini at the store. So there was lunch!!! After lunch we decided to walk around for a bit. Bergen is just beautiful!!! Later we stopped and got some coffee at a local cafe, then went back to the grocery store for dinner. Pizza round 2!!!! It was still really cold outside, so we decided to stay in since we had to get up early the next morning.

So instead of waking up to snow...we woke up to rain. Freezing. Rain. By the time we got to the train station, which was a 10 minute walk, if that, we were soaked through!!! Oh well. I figured, if this is the worst experience I'll have on a trip, this isn't at all that bad. Once it got to the train station, it was time for our 6ish hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. It may have been a long ride, but it wasn't too bad. The view the entire trip was beyond beautiful!!! All the mountains and trees were covered in snow. I was sad I wasn't able to get any pictures to give it justice. After the train ride, we had to hop on another train to take us to the airport. Once we finally got to the airport, we had about 3 hours until our flight. So we just hung around until it was time to leave. Since our flight was a night flight, I wish I could say I slept the entire flight. Sadly I didn't. Once the plane landed, it was time to settle in for another night in the airport.  This night wasn't too bad because we didn't actually get to sleep still about 2 and had to get up at 6ish.  I ended up getting up at 3 and couldn't go back to sleep.  Oh well! I finished a book during this time so that was a plus!!

When I booked my flight to Norway, it was one of the most spontaneous decisions I have ever made.  I am so glad of this decision because Norway turned out to be one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen!!


Oh, how I love the British!!

Well hello, everybody!! So one of these lovely weekends 3 friends and I went to London, England.  Oh, the adventures we had.  The four of us left Wednesday night and arrived in London late that same night.  It wasn't too bad getting to the hostel, thank goodness.  We took a bus to some road.  I don't know, really.  My friend told me to get off, so I did.  After the bus, we decided to take a taxi to the hostel.  Well we knew that the taxis there did not look like the ones in America.  So it's like 1a.m., and we have no idea what type of car we're looking for.  As I am aimlessly looking around, my friend points at a car driving by and asks, "Is that a taxi?"  Lo-and-behold, it was!  And the taxi stopped!!  Beautiful.  So we hopped in the cab and went to our hostel, which was quite nice I might add.  Since it was late when we got there, we decided to go straight to bed. 
Our first full day in London was fabulous!  Our hostel was located a bit of a distance away from the center of London.  For this reason, we had to take the Tube into the city.  So we headed to the Tube station, which was only 5 or so minutes from our hostel.  Here we had to get Oyster cards.  So each of us tried to buy our own Oyster card.  It was a struggle, let me tell ya.  We tried to pay in pounds, but could not find the place to put it into the machine.  We looked everywhere on the machine and could not find it. That would be because there wasn't one.  This was discovered by the lovely gentleman behind us watching us struggle.  In the end, one of my friends got the cards from us, and we were off to London!!!

So we hopped on the Tube and made our first stop at a store called Primark.  We totally had a reason for  You see.  I didn't have a coat...and it's quite cold in London.  So we stopped at Primark because they have cheap clothes.  Ummmm....yehahhhh.  I did not buy a coat.  I did, however, buy 2 sweaters, a scarf, and penguin gloves.  So it all worked out in the end.  :)  After Primark we walked over to Piccadilly Circus and then stopped and got some lunch.  We just stopped at a little coffee shop.  I got a salted caramel and cream latte.  Oh yeah.  It's as good as it sounds. 
Yup. Doesn't it look delicious?!
After lunch, we went to see the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  It was awesome!!  For those of you who haven't heard of this play or book, it's about a boy who has Autism who finds his neighbors dog murdered.  He then decides he needs to solve the mystery of who murdered the dog.  Along the way he uncovers secrets about his life.  It was a phenomenal play!! The stage of the play was very interesting.  It showed what are some of the things that are going on in the boys head.  For example, when he was having a sensory overload the lights were going crazy and there was loud noises everywhere, or when he was trying to calm himself it showed the numbers he was counting in his head.  As I said, it was a phenomenal play. 
After we finished the play, it was already dark.  This meant that all of the lights were on in the streets!!! So we headed down Oxford Street.
Along the way, we ran into the toy store "Hamleys."  So we decided to go in for a bit.  A bit turned into 45 minutes.  5 floors of toys took awhile to get through! 
As we were leaving, we saw two workers dressed as elves outside.  I don't remember how, but we ended up telling them it was our friend Allie's 21st birthday.  So naturally they pulled her back into the store and had a bunch of other workers sing her Happy Birthday.  Who doesn't love getting sung to by elves for their birthday?!

On our second day in London we started out our day with a tube ride to Camden market.  We got a little lost on the way, but thanks to a lovely gentlemen, we eventually found our way.  Camden market was such a blast!! I didn’t get too much stuff.  Just kidding.  I bought a crap ton of stuff I really didn’t need. J  So we walked around Camden Market for about 2 hours or so. 
After the market, we hopped back on the tube to go to King Cross station.  Now why would we go to a train station you may ask?  Well my dear readers, the answer is quite simple: PLATFORM 9 ¾!!!!  And they it’s not real!

Next, we decided to walk over to see where my friend lived when she studied abroad in London last semester.  Along the way we passed by the British Museum and British Library.  We only had time for one, so we decided to run into the library. 

Once we finished looking around the library, it was time to go to a Tea Party.  You read that right…a Tea Party.  With British tea and British food.  It was heaven!! We had this tea party with the Central College program (that’s what my study abroad is through) that is in London. We all had a wonderful time!!!

Next we decided to head over to see Big Ben and the London Eye at night.  As we were walking by there, it was hard to imagine that it has only been 3 years since I was last in London.  Thankfully, London was still as beautiful as I remember it.

While we were walking around near the London Eye….WE FOUND A CHRISTMAS MARKET!!! Thank you to my friend Alyssa for telling me about this!  It was gorgeous!! There were Christmas lights and music everywhere!  I was in Christmas heaven, especially since Granada didn’t have anything Christmasy up during this time.

After the market, we decided to hit up a pub to celebrate my friend Allie’s 21st birthday.  We didn’t stay for too long since the kitchen was closed by the time we got there.  Luckily, there was a grocery store across the street.  So we ran over there and got some dinner to take back to the hostel.

So we get our food.
Walk to the tube station.
See the tube is there.
One of us gets on the tube.
The doors close.
Three are left behind.
That happened.
My friend on the tube just looked at us, like oops!
My other friend was telling her to get off at our stop and stay there.
While these two were being calm, another one of my friends and I were staring after the train with our mouths open wondering….did that really just happen.
Luckily, my friend got off at the right stop and all was well that second day in London.

On our final day in London, we started off with a visit to Buckingham Palace.  My friend Kaity, who lived in London last semester, went to go pick something up a store.  So my two friends and I took the tube and walked to Buckingham Palace by ourselves.  I am unbelievably proud to say that I figured out the tube and got us there without being lost once!!! I would also like to take this time to thank my mother for teaching me how to read a map.  You go, momma!!

Next, we got back on the tube and met our friend at Harrods.  So we walk in.  I look around, taking in the splendor of the place.  I continue walking in, not looking or talking to anybody.  I do notice, however, that a mother and her little boy, about 4, are walking towards me.  Next thing I know, the little boy rears his leg and kicks me as hard as he can in the shin!!! I seriously could not believe what just happened! I turned around, open-mouthed and hear the mother go, “Now that’s not very nice.”  And they leave.
I was so confused as to what just happened.  I turned to my friend, Allie, who was busting out laughing. 
I seriously could not make up this story even if I tried.
After this whole ordeal, we entered into the great unknown of Harrods.  It was chaotic!! Kids were everywhere; adults were shoving their way to try and grab things.  My goal was find some reusable bags and leave.  It took a good 45 minutes….but I found them. I was singing some Hallelujah in my head at that point.

After Harrods, we went to go hop on a bus.  While looking for a bus we saw Hyde Park.  I’m so glad we went in because it was beautiful!!!!  

Next, we went and grabbed some lunch at a cafĂ© across from Trafalgar Square. 

Then, we decided to walk back to Big Ben since it was right there.

We then attempted to find Tower Bridge, but after walking for about 30 minutes, we decided to head back to the hostel.
So we got back to our hostel and attempted to pack.  You could say I bought too much stuff, and I’m pretty sure everybody who came to London with me, my mother, and my roommate would agree.  In order to get everything back, I had to wear a tank top, a long sleeve, 3 sweaters, a hat, a pair of gloves, and 2 scarfs.  I also had to put some stuff in my friend’s bags.  Oops!! Here’s a lovely picture of me wearing all of my clothes:

Once we had all packed, we walked to a fish and chips place near our hostel.  We all got our fish and chips and headed back to enjoy them while watching the movie Love Actually.
And that, everybody, was my adventure in London.  The first time I went there, I fell in love with the city.  This time, I fell even more in love.  Even though I’ve only visited for short amounts of time, I think London will always be one of my favorite cities.