Spain Fifth Week – Road Trip

This last weekend I went on a road trip with Dana, Eric, Chad, and Jonathan, and I can safely say it was one of the most if not the most amazing weekend of my life. We rented a car and saw Sevilla, Malaga, Granada, and Cordoba in 5 wonderful days. Usually on this trip when I have traveled over the weekends I was able to pick out a specific part of the trip that I enjoyed the most. Whereas this weekend was all a blur of BROmantic banter. It was a combination of the carefree attitude and the urge to explore every tiny detail of each city that allowed us to live this weekend to the fullest—pardon the cliché.

Allow me to give you a quick overview of each city in the order that we went there for future travel references or dispute settlements. Sevilla is gorgeous and has a sort of magic to it, its like Eric pointed out, “this whole city looks and feels like downtown Disney.” We stayed there for 2 nights, and then decided to head to Malaga for the day—spur of the moment idea by Chad—in order to see the beach. The weather in Malaga was perfect, we were able to sit on the beach and eat our five-person seafood paella, which is notorious for being the best in Spain. After about three or four hours of sunbathing and eating we decided it was time to leave our mark on this topless beach in Malaga with a nude picture by the Mediterranean sea. Dana and Eric wanted nothing to do with this idea so they walked about 100 feet away from us and turned their backs, while Chad was kind enough to take the picture of Jonathan and me (don’t worry mom this picture is not fully nude and its going no where but my computer).

From Malaga we headed to Granada, which is where we would spend the next few days. Granada in itself was nothing out of the ordinary like Sevilla or Barcelona, yet at the same time I do not regret going. In Granada I could easily pick my two favorite parts: the Alhambra and the Shawarma restaurant that was next door to our hotel where we ate five times during our two night stay. We thought the one employee that worked there behind the counter would start thanking us for supporting half his daily income, but he actually seemed rather disgusted at the fact that we could eat there so many times in so little time. As for Cordoba we only went to see La Mezquita on the way home, which is a mosque that has a Cathedral engulfing it.

I’m sorry for the short posting but I am in a huge rush so if you are reading this make sure you are on my case about posting more about this weekend. Seriously time of my life and I love the friends I have made to death and I wish Dana could stay longer. This makes me look forward to my future travelling adventures with the boys even more, and I want to utilize this next month and a half with them as much as possible. Love you guys.

 

And my best friends are coming in like 10 hours so I’m going to be a host for 1 more week :)

Spain Forth Week – Barcelona

In this blog I present to you, my weekend in Barcelona with most of my wonderful family. It started with an organized school trip to El Escorial and Avila and ended with me taking a train back to Salamanca from Barcelona. On Thursday, my mom and sister came to Salamanca and were waiting impatiently for me while I finished my classes. My Spanish teacher noticed how antsy I was waiting during class and she let me out early because she said that she does not want to be the reason why I do not see my family, what a sweet heart. I ran out of class with barely enough time to thank my teacher for letting me out early, and ran to the clock in the plaza where we originally planned to meet. Finally after what seemed like years I saw two people that looked like my mom and sister walking through the Plaza Mayor yet I could not seem to register that they were actually there. After the much needed bombarding of hugs and kisses we had just enough time to get some dinner and see a bit of Salamanca.

The next day I went on the school tour to El Escorial and Avila, where my parents and sister would pick me up to go to Barcelona—yes overnight my dad also joined the banter. El Escorial from what I understood was a summer home for the king and queen, seems like a pretty good time-share. The only thing I did not like about the palace was that I did not fit through any of the doors, but I managed to make it out with no major head injuries. As for Avila, the rain stopped just in time for us to get up to the walls and see the incredible walls of Avila. They reminded me of the Great Wall of China except they were in a circle around the center of the city. We were able to walk around on the walls and take terrifying pictures standing on the edge, and that’s when all of a sudden I hear my mom screaming my name from the bottom of the wall. They somehow found me in the middle of Avila with no phone or sense of direction, but I guess my mom was right, moms do know everything. We went down from the walls when my parents got to meet my friends and finally put a personality behind the pictures they have been seeing and I was relieved but not surprised that my parents loved them all. It was weird/sad saying bye to my friends because it was my first time away from any of them in a month of being here but at the same time I was extremely excited to go to Barcelona with my family.

Finally I was off with my parents and sister on the way to see the famous Barcelona. It was so refreshing to be around my family again, and enjoy the company of people that I knew before the trip. Yet at the same time I could not stop thinking about how I missed my friends and how hard it would be to leave them after the trip. It was a melancholy thought that I pushed to the back of my head so that I can enjoy the weekend with my family. On the drive to Barcelona the weather and time zone were not on our side. Both my parents were completely jet lagged and fighting sleep with every ounce of power they had, and the rain was coming down mercilessly. After my mom fell asleep at the wheel for a moment we realized it was in our best interest to stop in Zaragoza, get some rest, and continue on to Barcelona early the next day. Zaragoza was gorgeous and it’s a shame that we did not get to enjoy it for more than 12 hours. That night, Tal—my sister who from now on has a name on this blog—and I went out for a drink and some tapas and had a lovely time. We sat down at a nice place and sat there and talked until we were kicked out when the bar closed.

The next morning we headed to Barcelona, which is completely different from any city in Spain or any city in the world that I have ever seen. When people ask if it’s the best city in Spain I tell them that its not even comparable its just on a whole new level. Its not necessarily better than any other city in Spain, it is just special in a unique way, which it is largely due to Antoni Gaudi’s architecture. I was literally enchanted by the buildings that Gaudi designed. They were all inspired by various aspects of nature and he somehow managed to make a wall made out of tile look like a wavy ocean. He was an architectural mastermind who completely deviated from the norm in building style and you have to see the inside of the Sagrada Familia to understand just how dream like his architecture is. Last but certainly not least we saw the Parque Guel, which is where Gaudi lived and designed, which is also a place I like to call pickpocket-ville. When and if you go there do not be too distracted by the incredibly aesthetics and make sure you watch your pockets.

The weekend ended way too quickly and I did not spend nearly as much time as I would have liked to with my family. We crammed as much as we could into the short time we had together yet I still feel like we only scratched the surface. It seems like they were only here for 10 minutes and they left as quickly as they came. I’m writing this blog a week after our Barcelona trip and my parents left two days ago and I’m just realizing I wont see them until June 7th. This is the longest stretch of time I have gone without seeing my parents in my whole life and I hope it will be the last. I have never been one to not appreciate his parents, yet somehow this trip managed to make me appreciate them even more for giving me this opportunity and opening my mind to a whole new world and giving me a completely new perspective on life. And for that they have my undying gratitude, love, and respect. As for seeing Tal, every time I see her it takes a second for me to fully comprehend that she’s actually there, and with being in a foreign city for such a short period of time, I feel like we were robbed of a true sibling bromance. Sure it was amazing seeing her and we made each other laugh like we always do with our awkward unique humor that most people don’t understand, but 3 days is simply not long enough for a reunion. Don’t take this the wrong way all I’m saying is that with a sibling that lives across the world, seeing them for a weekend for the first time since summer simply does not suffice. Love you Tal and I cannot wait to see you again in Israel a month and a half from now 🙂

I guess that’s all for this blog I’m actually in Granada right now with Dana and the boys, but don’t worry you will hear all about this road trip in the next blog. We went to Sevilla, Malaga, Granada, and tomorrow Cordoba so I figure I’ll write about it when it actually ends.

So my mom, dad, and sister have come and gone, my girlfriend is here right now, and next week my best friend is coming.  Just letting you know about the stuff that you can expect to hear about 🙂

Spain 2011

And the story is still waiting to be written…

Spain Third Week – Weekend in Portugal

It looks like the main topic for this blog is going to be my trip to Portugal last weekend, but we’ll see I might be able to squeeze in the class trip to El Escorial and Avila, and maybe if we’re REALLY lucky I’ll be able to touch on the fact that I am currently with my mom, dad, and sister in Barcelona. The problem is that my mom and dad are sleeping in the hotel room—jet lag—and my sister and I are trying to rest a little bit before we go out. So we’ll see how much I can get written down in the next our or so. At any rate, here is what happened in Portugal.

It all started on Friday morning when we had to meet at the bus station at 7 am, which means we had to wake up at 6. This normally would not be too much of a problem yet Eric, Jonathan, and I had an idea– that seemed flawless at the time—to try to stay up as late as possible so that way we would be able to sleep on the bus. This plan failed miserably as we all went to sleep at 5:30 and could not fall asleep on the bus making the entire first day extremely difficult. We got to the city of Coimbra at around 10 or 11 am and we stopped to explore for a few hours. Eric, Jonathan, Sinjun, and I decided to walk around and see as much as possible in the 3 hours of free time that we were allotted. As magnificent as the city was, it was nothing special in comparison to Lisbon. But if someone were to step off a plane from the states and see Coimbra before they saw Lisbon they would be blown away. We saw pretty views, mostly of housing or the beautiful river that runs through the city, and ate at a quaint Indian/Portuguese restaurant for lunch. At 1:30 everyone that was signed up for the trip went back on the bus and went on a guided tour of Coimbra and that left my friend Chayan and I to do some more exploring of the city on our own. We walked around for about an hour and showed each other some things that we found in the previous free time we had, but they best part was when we decided to go to the grocery store and get food and have a picnic by the river. Eventually it came time for us to wrap up our relaxing picnic and get back on the bus and head to Lisbon with the rest of the group.

We got to Lisbon around 7 or 8 I believe, and Eric, Jonathan, and I were still exhausted from the previous nights debauchery. We ended up just going out to see the nightlife a little bit and grab a bite to eat but we made sure we were in bed before 1 am so that we would be rejuvenated for the guided tour of Lisbon the next day. We woke up leisurely the next morning and got on the tour bus before 10 am. The tour guide showed us several different landmarks such as; the famous cathedral, the “white house” of Portugal—which happens to be pink, the dock that Vasco De Gama left from on his expedition, a castle looking land mark that serves some sort of purpose that remains a mystery to me, a museum that had famous pictures by Monet, Manet, and several others, and my personal favorite the castle de Jorge. Before I talk about the castle de Jorge I have to tell you about these pastries that we ate. There are these pastries in Portugal that are ubiquitous yet I cannot remember their name for the life of me but they are little cups that have some warm cinnamon-y custard, and they are to die for. If you are ever in Portugal I hope that my vague description will guide you to these delicious treats.

Anyway the castle de Jorge is known for its incredible view specifically at sunset as it overlooks all of Lisbon from the top of a hill. Most of the group was too tired to go but my friends Oscar and Jonathan agreed to go with me only so that when people tell them about a beautiful sunset they saw we would be able to say “oh really? That’s cool, I saw a sunset from a castle on top of a mountain in the capital of Portugal,” and instantly make any other sunset seem inferior. When we got up to the top of the castle and saw the view/sunset, it was even more beautiful than people made it sound. I was elated that I gave up the 3 hours of napping in order to see this view because it was like nothing I have ever seen before. Definitely the most stunning view I have seen on the trip thus far and I’ll be sure to let you know if there is anything that comes close. After the sunset we went back to nap for a few hours in order to rest up for the supposedly insane Portuguese nightlife.

After a well-deserved two-hour nap it was time to gear up and go see the nightlife for ourselves. We went to this part of town called Barrio Alto, which is basically a very condensed area that is littered with bars and young inebriated people. Literally every 4 feet there is another bar and the drunk folk in the street are shoulder to shoulder trying to get from bar to bar. The only thing I can compare it to is Isla Vista in Santa Barbara on Halloween, except every weekend. Once we were done there headed to the pier to see a concert that my friend Eric was adamant about attending. It was a dubstep concert, and normally you would not find me listening to dubstep even if you paid me. However, I decided to go for the experience and the other club we wanted to go to said it costs us 240 euro a person to get in, and no that’s not a typo. I probably stayed at the concert for a total of 30 minutes before I decided I have had enough and headed back so I can get some sleep.

Overall it was an amazing trip and I am so grateful that I was able to go on it. In fact I am going back to Porto, Portugal in a few weeks, so the Portuguese have not seen the last of me.

I have a 7 hour trip back to Salamanca tomorrow from Barcelona so I’ll tell you about El Escorial, Avila, and my Family trip. I found a valid excuse for not blogging about my family weekend, and it is because I still have one more day with them and I do not want to leave it out of the blog. So stay tuned and hear about it in the next few days J

p.s. I forgot to mention that Lisbon looks a lot like San Francisco, it even has a golden gate bridge. This is not just me being a tiny bit homesick its actually known to resemble SF, you can look it up for yourself 🙂

Spain Second Week – Toledo and Tapas

So here I am on the bus back to Salamanca from Lisbon, Portugal hoping to write this blog before I get too carsick. As promised I will tell you about the Toledo trip even though millions of new things have happened since. It was about a week and a half ago at this point when we woke up at 7am to get on a bus to Toledo, which was said to be one of the 3 most beautiful cities in Spain along with Salamanca and Granada. Seeing as how I have only been to 3 Spanish cities, I can safely say that Toledo is one of the top 3 cities I have been to. The city itself is not very big as we were able to tour most of it on foot. We spent the day walking around looking at monuments on a guided tour, and the history behind the city is remarkable.

Toledo is a city where three religions used to coexist; Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. For me it was most exciting when we visited the Jewish square, no offense to the other religious monuments, I just felt a personal connection to the 500 year old synagogue. It was a foreign feeling that I could not wrap my head around when the tour guide explained to me that it was a place of worship for Jewish people from around 1180 until 1492, and today what is left of it is exhibited in a museum. We got to the synagogue itself towards the end of the tour, and my friends could somehow tell that I was antsy to see it. The first thing the tour guide asked in front of the synagogue was if any of us were Jewish, which immediately narrowed our group of 55 to my friend Kim and I. She asked a few trivial questions about Judaism in general, like how to say Spanish in Hebrew or what you would call a Jewish person of Spanish descent etc… But when we finally got inside I was overcome by several emotions for a reason that I am yet to grasp. I was engulfed by a combination of a sense of pride, connection to the Jewish people, and a feeling of being at home. I was wondering how I could feel at home if I am so far away from both places I have ever lived, and I was surrounded by people that I have only known for a week or so. The answer is up in the air but I like to believe it has to do with an unspoken and undying bond to Judaism and what it stands for.

As I was standing at the altar (I apologize if its not called an altar but you get the point J) I was trying to read the inscriptions on the wall, and imagine what it may have been like to be at a service 500 years ago. I imagine it would be very similar to an orthodox service today, but I would love to hear from anybody if they know a difference. My friend snapped a photo of me at the alter because he is incredibly into photography and he said that out of the thousands of pictures he has taken on this trip he believed this was the most powerful moment he captured. I’ll be sure to post it as soon as I get it from him.  The rest of the synagogue outside of the main room where people prayed, was turned into a museum that held several artifacts that were preserved from the synagogue. They had old books, menorahs, and the one thing I was most enthralled by was the torah. The cover of the torah, which is always beautiful from what I’ve seen, was incredible. Not just because it was exquisite in itself, but because it is more than half a millennium years old.

The rest of the Toledo trip was also magnificent I just chose to write about my personal favorite part subjectively. If I were to set my bias aside I would say that aesthetically the cathedral itself is a must see and just the city in general. My friends and I found a view point—which was kind of dangerous to get to and we got a scolding from the tour guide—that I will also post pictures of as it was a view that is to die for. I have tons of pictures from Toledo I’ll probably post them on facebook so don’t worry you will see exactly what I’m talking about.

As for the classroom aspect of this blog, this weeks culture class revolved around the food of the Spanish people. We had a very interesting two hour lecture by a man named Augustine that basically told us the Spanish eat pork, wine, and cheese. He showed us their food pyramid and I wish I got a picture of it because it was quite comical. They have a whole section of the food pyramid for wine—a rather big one—as well as a whole section for pork and a separate one for fish. I did however write down the different combination of cheeses and wines that go together so my friends and I could try it out. So far we have tried Manchego cheese on baguettes with Rioja wine and it was indeed delicious.

However, the most interesting thing about Spanish food culture is not what they eat it is their eating style. It seems that the Spanish look at their meals from a social aspect rather than a survival aspect as when they sit down to eat it can take hours. A typical lunch—which is usually the largest meal of the day—consists of several courses that are served over an hour or so. This allows for families to eat together and create closer family bonds as well as stronger friendships. I realize that is kind of bold to say but I honestly believe its true. Another thing that I found interesting was that the Spanish people rarely invite people over for dinner. Augustine told us that this was because it seems illogical to invite people over when you can just go out for drinks and tapas at a restaurant. His exact words were “why would anyone want to do dishes for 14 people that just does not make sense.” Unfortunately his logic does not have merit in the states because people like to invite people to see their homes, as they are reflections of who we are. Where here the homes are merely a place to sleep and everything else is done in the city.

On that note I’ll post soon about the Portugal trip I just got back from I hope you guys enjoy this entry 🙂

And my parents are coming with my sister this weekend and I cannot wait to see them I miss them tons!! See you soon Ima, Bushy, and Tal you have no idea how much you’ll love it here.