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Gap Year Abroad

153 posts categorized "Spain"

09/26/2016

Day 10/11 because it's 1:26 am and that's normal

Domingo/Lunes, el 25/26 de Septiembre, 2016
I've spent 10 whole days here in Seville already and am only now starting a blog but whatever. Here I am.
Calle Betis along the Guadalquivir
I've written precisely three days worth of journal entries in my travel journal, the one I've had since 2011, and I'm more than a little disappointed in myself. Here's the problem, though, and it's going to make even me roll my eyes once I type it out- I'm just having too much fun. (Fact: I didn't even make it to the end of that sentence before rolling my eyes. Fact: I've rolled my eyes every time I've reread that sentence to edit.) I've done so many things. I honestly don't even know where to start. On top of having too much fun to sit and rehash my gap year so far (eye roll again), I haven't taken nearly enough photos. When I was in the UK with my family this summer, I was also not so great at keeping my journal up to date. But, I relied heavily on the fact that my amazing 13 MP not-iPhone phone took incredible photos and I could easily look through them to remember what I did every day. However, I've been so bad at taking photos here that I've got no clue what I've been doing on which days which makes it a little bit hard to pull my general thoughts on each day together into a two page, hand written blurb for myself to laugh at a few years down the road. I just skip a week and complain about it in the next day's entry when I get around to doing it, though, and everything is fine again.
Flamenco dancers in Puerta de Jerez
I'm in love with Seville. Really in love with it. I'm in love with Spain in general, I think, but I've only really seen the Madrid airport and train station and whatever I wasn't asleep for on the train to Seville. I'm so in love, though. I love the people and the food and the culture and the traditions and the everything. I love siesta, I love Cruzcampo, I love the Guadalquivir, I love how everyone waits when the cross walk light says wait because everyone's got all the time in the world and why wouldn't you, I love how I can't sleep at night sometimes because it's too hot, I love sitting on a bench eating gelato at 11:30 at night with a toddler playing with my hair behind me because it's curly and that's normal, I love the flamenco dancers in thestreets busking for those 2€ coins, I love the misters up in the awnings that go off every thirty seconds to cool those sitting below, I love how cheap taxis are and the 2€ shots at practically every bar and "discoteca" (of which there are many) and I love the hundreds of stray cats that I've all nicknamed Gatata (because gato and patata). I love this city. I even love hating the parades for Vrigin Mary that go right by my apartment's window what has so far been every Friday and Saturday night.
La Giralda (on la Catedral de Sevilla
From the train to Sevilla
 
If I were to change one thing about anything so far, it would be the bull fights. We toured the plaza de toros the other day and, although gorgeous and satiated in history and culture, I did not like it much. It doesn't feel right, how these gorgeous, albeit deadly, creatures are raised, mated and forced to really just get mad until they're stabbed to death. Yes, it's an art meant to inspire people and show the beauty of movement and color. And yes, it's a very important part of Spanish culture and history that should not be overlooked. But, I still feel wrong about supporting it. Maybe it's just because I grew up reading Ferdinand the Bull, who knows. I respect those who enjoy it and express themselves through it as an art form, and I'm happy to be educated about it, but I have no intention of attending a bullfight in Spain. Sue me.
A fellow CIEEer at la plaza de toros
As for my living quarters (living quarters? Beckey, who are you?) I am happy. I am eating well and have a lovely room in a great apartment with a cool family who doesn't understand what I'm saying most of the time (and vice versa) and I could not complain. Things are, understandably, a little bit awkward. I've never met these people before and all of a sudden I am in their home lives all the damn time with minimal communication abilities at best. But day 10 is considerably better than day 1 and even more relaxed than day 5 so I expect it to continue becoming more normal as time goes by and my Spanish skills improve.
I've watched Friends and Star Wars and Shrek 2 and The Big Bang Theory all in Spanish and let me tell you it is so weird to watch Rachel Green talk without hearing Jennifer Aniston's voice. And Sheldon sans Jim Parsons? It's hardly even worth the watch anymore.
They eat a lot of bread here and I am not one to object. They have good bread.
I have not yet had a churro nor tapas which are basically just appetizers that don't precede a meal and are frequently accompanied by beer (here it's mainly Cruzcampo.) I hope to change this soon.

Hasta luego
Sunset over Triana

02/12/2016

Dealing with Stress and Exhaustion in a Foreign Country

A particular phenomenon has been brought to my attention recently. Normally I’d only heard it used to describe relationships, but apparently the so-called “honeymoon phase” applies to living in new places as well. You know, the feeling of suddenly being irrationally disenchanted with the object in question after approximately two weeks of unabashed affection. Last week, I found myself struggling to keep up with an admittedly light and uncomplicated schedule despite being enamored with my situation just days prior. Fortunately for me, I’m on the way out of this slump, but I figured it could serve as an example for others. Most importantly, though: don’t worry, Seville. I still love you.

For many people dealing with problems of anxiety or mood swings, the best remedy is often a strong, consistent support group. Now, my friends here - bless their hearts - did a wonderful job helping me through some difficult days and I love ‘em to bits; however, I don’t have exactly same tight-knit circle of kindred souls that I did back home. I had to get used to solving some very perplexing issues not only in a completely new environment, but among less familiar faces as well. In the case that one develops such problems in such a situation, here’s some sage advice I wish had been bestowed on me:

  • Do your best to maintain a schedule. You’ll likely have to dial it back to the bare bones of what’s necessary, but ensure that it’s a schedule nonetheless.
  • Eat regularly and well. Quite nearly drown yourself in vitamins, especially vitamin D. That also means getting some sun.
  • Go on walks, see the city/town/wherever. Explore. Anything, and I mean anything, but sitting in your room alone for extended periods of time. If the weather’s good, you just knocked ‘getting sun’ off the list as well.
  • Talk to people, especially any close friends at home or abroad. Try your best to be confident in the day to day as well, it really makes a difference.

IMG_4209It also helps when your city is absolutely gorgeous. Across from Calle Betis, along the Guadalquivir.

I'm very glad that I've begun to rebound so quickly, and I honestly can't remember much of how I was feeling because it was so brief. What really pushed me through was simply spending valuable time with friends; as it turns out, people usually stay friends with you because they like you. By extension, trying to be who I know my friends enjoy being around made my recovery substantially faster. Fake it 'til you make it, they say.

Now, I feel particularly guilty that I've been taking all these wonderful pictures of my everyday environment and there's hardly a soul who I've shared any with. These are some of my favorites so far. Enjoy, I'll see you next time.

 

IMG_4180One façade of the incomprehensibly large Cathedral of Seville. Featuring oranges.

 

IMG_4217Interior of the Parliament of Andalusia, the place to go in southern Spain for... government, I guess?

 

IMG_4176   The interior of the royal Alcázar once more. That's the throne room dead ahead.

 

IMG_4188Lastly, the view from the magnificent Giralda tower, the tallest building in all of Seville.

01/27/2016

Where 2 Weeks Feel Like a Lifetime

I feel that losing track of time can often be a sign of comfort. Over the past two weeks, settling into what is essentially a brand new life has gone better than I could possibly have expected. Every person I see on a daily or weekly basis is a person whom I had no idea existed before I arrived, but I could swear that I’ve known them for ages. I have a routine that’s been ironed out over a few days, but those are days I could’ve mistaken for months. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve realized that my life in Seville hasn’t even been two weeks long.

For some bizarre reason, I’ve also evaded any sort of bad experiences whatsoever in this short time. Everything that has happened so far has been absolutely stellar. I’m actually somewhat concerned, this kind of good fortune isn’t like me. Who would expect an 18 year-old to begin living in a foreign country with next to no preparation and have not a single major problem? I certainly didn’t. Several months ago I’d already decided that college would have to wait because it was simply too much to think about. Why is this so effortless, then?

I’m think I’m finally piecing the answer together, maybe. Possibly. It’s not certain. There’s a very special quality that Seville has. It is simultaneously otherworldly and intensely comforting, a duality I’ve never once encountered. Oftentimes, during my daily commute that is entirely ordinary and without fanfare, I will occasionally realize that everything around me is strikingly gorgeous. Paradise doesn’t usually look like paradise when you see it every day.

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Above: the lush interior gardens of Seville's royal Alcázar, a Moorish palace built in the 1360's

Aside from the city itself, the feeling of independence is exhilarating. It’s almost like I’m an adult! Mostly! Being in an environment where I have more resources than ever before to either strive for success or fail miserably requires an immense amount of self-confidence and trust. Not only do others have to trust my best judgment, I have to expect myself to use my best judgment. Going out for the night has yet to end in death, maiming, or other serious injuries, so I must be doing something right. Speaking of nightlife, Seville’s is thriving. Most excursions end up in the area of Plaza de la Alfalfa, an area packed with bars and clubs filled with Sevillans and expats alike. As far as nightclubs go, my friends and I have made runs through Tokyo, Abril, and Uthopia. I can’t say I have a preference; everything is equally exciting.

One moment in particular from the past few nights has remained at the front of my mind. We were all sitting beside the Guadalquivir, and, once again, we could've sworn that we'd been here for far longer than a mere week. In that spot, beneath the lights shining from bridges and vistas all around, time seemed to stand still. In a period where time moves very slowly, it slowed down to the point of stopping completely. I could've gotten used to that.

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Above: The Puente de Isabel II (aka Triana Bridge) on the Guadalquivir

05/01/2015

Wrap Up

“It’s so brown here.”

 

That was my first thought when I first set foot in Spain this past September. During the eight months to follow, I grew to love the country, its culture, and all that it has to offer.

 

I cannot believe that my gap year is coming to a close. I feel as if I am waking up from a dream.  It has been an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I was immersed in a new culture rich with history, learned to write/read/speak a language, and made life-long friendships with both young and old.

 

I learned how to cook delicious Spanish dishes, can give directions to tourists, and became a professional at packing a week’s worth of clothing in a backpack. :)  But more importantly, I became a more independent, cultured, global citizen. This is something that I will have for the rest of my life.  I have a new appreciation now for other cultures and want to go discover more of them in the future.

 

I’m now counting down the days until I come back to my second home!

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04/24/2015

Feria de Abril

 ¡Ha empezado la Feria!  The Feria has started! The second most well known festival in Seville is underway and so far a huge success. Many years ago, the Feria was a different gathering - people from surrounding cities and towns came to Seville to buy and sell livestock. Over the years, it has conformed into more of a festival than a business gathering. Now, people gather to dance, eat, drink, and enjoy each other’s company. 

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The Feria grounds are situated right behind the neighborhoods of Triana and Los Remedios, fortunately very close to where my friends and I live.   The grounds are bare all year long, except for this one week. The streets are lined up with public or private tents, called “casetas”.  Friends and family spend the whole day here-until the wee hours of the night, enjoying the lively atmosphere of dancing and laughing.

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There are public casetas and private ones. Obviously for the private ones you need an invitation or know someone to enter. Usually families, clubs, and even political groups have private casetas. In the back of the normally small space, there is a bar with typical food and drink for the Feria (pescado, jamón, rebujito….) In the front, there are areas to sit and dance.

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The horses are a big part of the Feria as well. The popular thing to do is ride to the Feria in a carriage. The horses are nicely groomed and decked out with fancy harnesses while pulling their passengers.  

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One of my favorite aspects of the Feria were the paper lanterns. They enhanced the color and uniqueness to the grounds, plus added an extra beauty at night, when they were all lit up.

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I also loved admiring all the women’s dresses. In Spanish, they are called “trajes de flamenca” All of them were stunning.  I never saw two of the same one.

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I had a great time partaking in the Feria festivities - eating, spending time with friends, intermingling with Spanish locals, and attempting to dance. ;) Hopefully I will be able to come back to Seville during Feria in the future.

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04/23/2015

Lisbon, Portugal

Berlin, London, Paris, Madrid-all are well known cities in Europe and major tourist destinations; however, I think one more city should be added to the list: Lisbon, Portugal. Lisbon is like the “San Francisco” of Europe.  Situated where the River Tejo meets the Atlantic Ocean, cobblestone streets climb up steep hills and trolley cars wind their way through the city. The city has a really unique feel to it.

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This excursion with CIEE was full of culture and interesting things to see. While touring the city, I found out that Lisbon suffered one of the biggest earthquakes in history. Practically the whole city was destroyed. But the people bounced back quickly from this casualty. From the remains of the crumbled buildings, they created the sidewalks of the new Lisbon-the same sidewalks that are in the city today. Pretty resourceful if I say so myself.

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While in the city we visited the neighborhood of Belén, the monastery, and the castle…

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After a quick 2 days in Lisbon, we started our journey back to Seville, but on the way we had one stop to make: Sintra.

Sintra is a town right outside of Lisbon, and it held a hidden gem that everyone should see when visiting Portugal.  Sintra’s castle was the most colorful, creative, and fun castle I have ever seen.  Just its bright colors never ceased to amaze me, then you add to that the gorgeous views of the valley and ocean below...

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Great trip!

 

 

Budapest

So Budapest was also amazing and in totally different ways. We got to Budapest late on Saturday night and after a slightly sketchy ride to the apartment, got settled in and everything. The apartment was super cute and worked perfectly for what we needed, and its location ended up being really good even though it looked really weird when we were coming in that first night. Here's the building, which is a pretty good representation of a lot of buildings we saw there: so beautiful but sort of falling into disrepair. The apartment was new and very nice though.

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This is the building. Obviously NOT new, but still very pretty.

One of the more shocking things was a total language barrier. There are definitely a good amount of people who speak English, and we didn't really have too much trouble because the people we needed to talk to always spoke English (tourist info people, tour guides, etc) but it did get a little complicated when buying groceries and stuff and trying to figure out what stuff is. Or trying to find your way around and the street names look like this:

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Or just the signs in general being totally illegible, like not even close to anything I've ever seen before. I think it's probably the first time in my life I've been totally at a loss as to how to communicate with some of the people. For example, I went into this little grocer to get some eggs, and the woman didn't speak English. How in the world do you convey the question, "do you have eggs here?" with hand gestures or whatever?? You cannot. It is impossible. There is no international sign for eggs that I know of. So I just sort of looked wildly around the grocer, which was just one little room packed with produce and random stuff, until I spotted eggs on a shelf behind the counter and I pointed and held up 4 so she knew how many I wanted. Also, 4 eggs costed about 50 cents, or 170 Hungarian forint. The forint is obviously not the strongest currency out there, but we learned that although Hungary is a part of the EU, the euro won't be used in Hungary until their economy gets stronger. But anyway, a new experience in the communication way for sure.

The first day we were there was Easter Sunday which made things a little tricky since a lot of stuff was closed. However, it was all good once we found the center of the city because most things were still open. We had our first Hungarian meal (Hungarian food is AMAZING-- ranked 5th in the world, according to our tour guide). And it's also so cheap. We got three course meals, that were delicious, for like 7 euros. Pretty nice. We then went on a free walking tour, which was really nice not only because it was free. The guide was really enthusiastic and we learned a lot of the really interesting history of Hungary and it was a good orientation to the city.

IMG_8988This is one of the trams that the city is famous for.

IMG_8997This is the old palace of like the Queen of England or something. Strange, I know. Maybe it wasn't the Queen of England, but it was definitely originally built for the Queen of a different country who only visited Budapest once. I think it's now a government building of some kind. The building to the right of it is a really expensive hotel that I also can't remember the name of (wow my memory is impressive). The owner of the hotel originally wanted to build it inside of the palace, but the city said no. So they gave him some land beside it instead.

IMG_9005The building looks like an owl omg.

IMG_9009St. Stephen's Cathedral

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IMG_9028 IMG_9031Not really sure what this is all about but ok. Hungarian Santa?

IMG_9053Pretty pretty

IMG_9056A lion on the Chain Bridge

IMG_9058Fierce

IMG_9062Views of the Danube River from Buda, one side of the city. Buda and Pest used to be two different cities and now they're Budapest!! So cool. We were staying in Pest, which has the center of the city as well as more residential districts. The Buda side is wealthier and has the palace and some other touristy destinations. Off to the left is the Parliament.

IMG_9080Braids 'n' beauties in Budapest

IMG_9085Faves

IMG_9088This isn't a great picture but it includes are guide, which is totally worth it. He was SO funny and spoke with a Hungarian accent and was really expressive and stuff when he talked, so he ended up sounding like Gaston or something. It was fantastic.

IMG_9095This is one of the attractions on the Buda side, a big old cathedral (or just church?). We didn't go inside but it was really incredible from the outside, anyway.

IMG_9100Spring springing into action

IMG_9102Fisherman's Bastion

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IMG_9120More Fisherman's Bastion 

We then took a round-about way home to go see the Parliament, which is one of the most famous landmarks of the city (rightly so).

IMG_9141Soo  incredible.

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IMG_9159:))

IMG_9176Storm's a'comin'.

IMG_9185Navigation team

IMG_9191This is so cool... It's painted onto the side of the building.

On the way home we stopped and got groceries. We were really improvising, to say the least. Our Easter dinner was chicken nuggets, sweet canned corn, and pasta all mixed together with marinara sauce. It actually was not bad at all. We also had some famous Hungarian wine. Didn't know Hungary was famous for its wine? Me neither. What our tour guide said was that Hungary is really good at making wine but really bad at marketing it. BUT kind of good news for us because that means you can get really high quality wine for around 3 euros. Pretty nice. We went out after dinner to the famous "Ruin Bars", which are bars that were converted from buildings that had fallen into ruin. They are SO cool. I couldn't really get pictures because it was too dark, but it was sort of the skeleton of the building and furnished with every cool thing you could think of that you would find at a flea market. For example, one room was decorated with old desktop computer monitors. Another had an adornment of a ton of old wine bottles stacked up in chicken wire. There were chairs hanging from the ceilings and old rocking horses and just anything you can think of. It was super cool. 

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On our second day we went to the Turkish baths, something Budapest is also known for. These are big old beautiful buildings filled with tons of different shapes and sizes of pools with all different temperatures, indoor and outdoor. We hung out there for the majority of the day because it was so cool. I obviously couldn't bring my camera into the pools so I don't have any pics:( Maddy took some with her GoPro but hasn't put them up yet. 

We then went to this really cool fair that was next to the baths. We think it was going on because of Easter. This was SO fantastic because we got to try some of the really typical Hungarian foods. It was also a really cool atmosphere and the buildings were, again, amazing.

IMG_3550So coool.

IMG_3547YUMM chimney cakes.

IMG_3546Final product

On our last day we just walked around the city a lot. Saw some pretty fantastic things.

IMG_9199I don't understand how all of these cars parked perfectly and identically but it made for a good picture so I'm ok with it.

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IMG_9215We didn't understand these at all. They're just regular busses, but for some reason are attached to cords above. Not sure.

IMG_9223This is the US Embassy. Not bad right?

IMG_9227There were a lot of monuments that we just weren't really sure what were all about because they had writing in Hungarian. But they were all really pretty.

IMG_9228Ran into Ronald Reagan while there!! Such a small world.

IMG_9240Parliament from the back

IMG_9241Another cool monument that we didn't know represented.

IMG_9265This one was, thankfully, in English.

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IMG_9291Back to St. Stephen's Cathedral

IMG_9297And this time we went inside.

IMG_9311Had to.

IMG_9321More pretty buildings

IMG_9349Thrift shops are always interesting.

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IMG_9358Russian Princess Eli.

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Overall, a really incredible trip. How lucky I am to have this opportunity in the first place?

This week is Feria and it's CRAZY. I was a little sick before and after staying out 'til 5 a couple nights in a row I'm pretty much dead. Skipped going yesterday and hoping to rally today. So beautiful out. I'll put up a Feria post soon! Xo

04/22/2015

Ireland

OK finished editing Ireland.. Here we go.

So we got to Dublin no problem but definitely felt a little shocked by crazy winds and rain drops when we stepped off the plane (after leaving 80 degree Sevilla oops). We got a little mixed up getting to the hostel but had a nice little walk around the city before arriving. Ha. But from then on everything was fine. The hostel was awesome-- a little different from other ones I've stayed in because it was a really universal one with people of all different ages, but still really cool. Had a bunch of different people in our room-- German, Croatian, English, American, etc. So that night we did a pub crawl with the hostel and met some really cool people. We also discovered how brutally cheap Sevilla is after seeing how pretty much everything in Dublin is 4 euros or more. But that's ok. Anyway. Didn't really take many pics the first day so on to the next..

Second day was kind of Dublin day in general. We did a walking tour and learned about some of the history of Ireland, which was really, really cool. It's weird how much you miss in history class in school, even if you feel like you're learning a lot. I guess it makes sense that a lot of the time we really only study things that the U.S. has been involved in, but we miss a lot of other interesting things. For example: the Irish population, as a whole, never recovered from the potato famine in the 1800s; that's to say, in the 1800s, the population was over 8 million, while today it's only about 4.5 million. There were that many people who died or emigrated. WILD. Also: only 1.8% of the population speaks Irish daily, and only 6% are fluent. Pics from the tour: 

IMG_8111This is a statue of O'Connell (important person in Irish history that I now forget given that its been like 3 weeks since I was there oops)IMG_8115Cool building

IMG_8130PIES so clever

IMG_8132Temple Bar, the main (but touristy) bar area in Dublin

IMG_8133Cool building art

IMG_8137Pretty Dublin streets in ugly Dublin weather

IMG_8152This is a historical building that's now some kind of office building complex for government officials that's SO beautiful

IMG_8160The left part of this is newer, but the tower thing on the right is the original castle (I think of Vikings?? Don't quote me on that.. We talked a lot about Vikings and can't remember where).

IMG_8166This is where Dublin got its name. It used to be a bog/pond, which in gaelic they called "dubh linn" or black pool, therefore, Dublin. 

IMG_8174Pretty colors

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IMG_8197Because it's Ireland

IMG_8200Blue walls make for good pictures sometimes

IMG_8205All of these people are waiting in line to try to be chosen as an extra on the show Vikings.. At first I was really surprised. Seemed like kind of a waste of time. But our tour guide told us that extras actually get paid really well, and sometimes don't have to do anything. They get something like 200 euros a day and sometimes that day means doing normal extra things, or sometimes they just tell you they don't need you that day and give you the money, or you have to do something sort of horrible (i.e. he told us this story about one of his friends who had to lie face-down in the mud in the rain the entire day because he was playing the part of a dead person.. Yay!!).

IMG_8211I loled at this

IMG_8212Went back to get some of those pies..

IMG_8215Waiting for pies...

IMG_8225PIES

IMG_8228Bye pies.

IMG_8229More Temple Bar

IMG_8250Trinity College, Ireland style @jillbooth

IMG_8252More Trinity College

IMG_8256And some more.. Super pretty.

IMG_8261The words that come first are in gaelic, which they just call Irish there.

IMG_8266In da park

IMG_8268More park activities

IMG_8269So much green

IMG_8277Daffodils!!

IMG_8286Cool statues

After the tour, we went to the national museum and saw some AWESOME Viking stuff and some dead bodies that were found in the famous bogs that are all over Ireland.

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IMG_8295Just some Viking knick knacks, whatever.

IMG_8297Viking ladies must've cleaned up good.

IMG_8299Real life hollowed out canoe. !!!!!

IMG_8300DEAD PEOPLE

IMG_8302Literally still has his hair.. How weird is this. Apparently, the minerals and stuff that are in the bogs where these bodies are found conserve the bodies really well.

IMG_8305Another one

That night we went to this awesome bar to listen to traditional Irish music and drink Guinness and hang out. So fun. The people in Ireland are definitely more similar to me-- much more casual style, much more laid back. Love my Sevillanos but it was nice to be among kindred spirits. 

Day 3 was museum day. We went to the wax museum which was much different than I expected but sort of better because it had a lot of historical figures that were cool to learn about. Pics. 

IMG_8307What up James Joyce.

IMG_8310Just hangin' with St. Patrick himself.

There was also a "horror" section that was legitimately scary.

IMG_8322Haha!! Fun!!!

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!!!!

IMG_8328Hangin' out with my friend Franskenstein :))

And then some famous people too. 

IMG_8331Eli's taking on Irish politics.

IMG_8332Accompanied by Maddy & co.

IMG_8337Jack and the beanstalk!!

IMG_8338UR A WIZAHD HARRY

IMG_8341Letters to Santa

IMG_8344Eli or Hermione??

IMG_8352She wishes

IMG_8356U ain't nothin' but a hound dog

IMG_8362Supermaaaaan!

IMG_8368Which one is real??

IMG_8369New Bond girl, look out world.

We then went to the Guinness Storehouse (obviously) which FUN FACT is the largest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. So funny. It was SO COOL. They really take their beer seriously.

IMG_8372Found this wall along the way and thought it wanted a little love.

IMG_8376And we arrived.

IMG_8378:))

IMG_8383Horsies

IMG_8393Guinness hops

IMG_8399Arthur Guinness!!

IMG_8401They definitely take this seriously.

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IMG_8410Yum

IMG_8411Toucans

IMG_8414Amen

IMG_8416I thought this was pretty good.

IMG_8417Explanation^^

IMG_8423There was this really cool room full of screens that showed a ton of Guinness ads (old and new) and wow it was cool.

IMG_3515It was also April Fool's Day... Ha.

Day 4 was a day trip to a couple different destinations across Ireland, the feature one being the Cliffs of Moher. So, so incredible. The pictures can't really do them justice but they're the best I can do. 

IMG_8446Irish countryside

IMG_8451THERE THEY ARE.

IMG_8476And there's me.

IMG_8484

IMG_8497Lil bit windy

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IMG_8583

IMG_8609

IMG_8615

It's weird how small Ireland actually is. It's square mileage is about 32.5 thousand, which is slightly smaller than Maine (35.4 thousand) (yes I did just Google that). So we actually went all the way across Ireland-- Dublin on the east coast and the Cliffs on the west coast-- just in one day. We also saw this AWESOME place that I can't remember the name of that was basically just rocks that went on forever and ever.

IMG_8616SO COOL

IMG_8626

IMG_8638_3

IMG_8645_3 And then we went to Galway, and small city (a little bigger than Portland), which was really cool, too. And there was a food festival going on so that was ok, too, I guess.

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IMG_8671

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IMG_8677:))

IMG_8692_3Main street in Galway

That night we unsuccessfully tried to go out; it was Good Friday and everything was closed. Oops.

On our last day we went to Howth (pronounced "Hout") which was this GORGEOUS fishing village about 20 minute by train outside of Dublin. We had such good luck with the weather and it was sunny and beautiful and reminded me a little of Portland. 

IMG_8703_3Ireland or Maine??

IMG_8707_3

IMG_8723How cool is this seriously.

IMG_8727_3:)))))

IMG_8737Celtic Fisher. So Ireland.

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IMG_8768Maddy's first seal spotting

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IMG_8788

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IMG_8824SO COOL diving boards off cliffs. How AWESOME.

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IMG_8881And then there were these flowers on the hillside when we were walking the cliffs that were 1. so beautiful, and 2. smelled SO good. Not sure what kind of flower they are but it was amazing.

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IMG_8908This was the walking path along the cliff we were on. It went all the way around the island but we didn't make it that far-- had to go back for our train.

IMG_8956Some kayakers

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IMG_8964Seriously though. So incredibly beautiful.

IMG_8969And for the finale.

Wow you made it through 128 pictures. I applaud you.

Now (quick I promise) for a list of funny things that were different:

- "Craic" is a word that I think is Irish and basically means like fun activities or parties or something. They use it all the time. 

- List of words/expressions they use differently:

Turn up not show up

Hectares as unit of measurement (no idea how much it is)

Cheers not thank you

Clamping instead of towing

Car park instead of parking lot 

Motorway not highway

Set down area not unload area

"Zed" instead of "zee" to pronounce the letter z

- There are lots of housing developments

- Rugby is the largest growing sport there and it's CRAZY. We saw a match on TV and it's like football but more brutal and without pads.

- There's actually toilet paper in the bathrooms. This does not happen in Sevilla.

- Less discos more pubs.

- There was a lot of emphasis on recycling-- lots of signs and different colored bins for sorting and what not.

OK YOU HAVE DONE IT. You have finished this post. Thanks for looking at it because it's taken me about a week to complete. WOO.

04/16/2015

Spanish Cuisine

Come one, come all to the land of paella, ham, olive oil, and much more! Spain is rich with delicious food in all forms-appetizers, main courses, and desserts. You will not go hungry here! In this post, I decided to share with you some of the most famous dishes in Spain/Andalusia region. I hope that you will enjoy and maybe try your hand at one of them in the future. (You bet I will!)

**I chose these recipes off of the Internet, and put the website where I got them at the very end. Feel free to look around for other recipes that you might like….these are just starting blocks!**

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Spanish class selfe! We're making torrijas-read on to learn how to make them!

Salmorejo:

This is a cold, tomato soup, normally made in the summer when it is, of course-hot! (Especially popular in Andalusia)

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 day-old country-style bread rolls, about 3 ounces each, torn into pieces and soaked into 1 cup water for 10 minutes, or 2 fresh rolls, torn into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 ounces Spanish ham, finely chopped

 

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and soaked bread and any remaining water (or fresh bread) and mix well.

Working in batches if necessary, add the tomato mixture to a blender or food processor and process at high speed until smooth. For an specially smooth texture, pass the pureed mixture through a food mill fitted with the medium plate, and then, if desired, return it to the blender or processor, add the egg yolk, and process until thoroughly incorporated.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until well chilled.

Just before serving, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with salt.  Ladle into chilled soup plates, garnish with the chopped eggs and ham, and serve.

From: http://www.spain-recipes.com/salmorejo.html

 

 

Tortilla de Patatas:

This is a thick, dense mix of potatoes and egg, usually eaten as a tapa or for dinner. (I personally have never been able to finish one-I’m full after eating half!)

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 whole yellow onion
  • 5-6 large eggs
  • 2-3 cups of olive oil for pan frying
  • Salt to taste

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 6 Servings Main Dish

Preparation:

This tortilla espanola or tortilla de patata makes 8-10 servings as an appetizer, or 6 servings as a main course.

Cut the peeled potatoes in half lengthwise. Then, with the flat side on the cutting surface, slice the potato in pieces approximately1/8" thick. If you slice them a bit thick, don’t worry – it will simply take a bit longer for them to cook.

Peel and chop the onion into 1/4" pieces. Put potatoes and onions into a bowl and mix them together. Salt the mixture.

In a large, heavy, non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Carefully place the potato and onion mixture into the frying pan, spreading them evenly over the surface. The oil should almost cover the potatoes. You may need to turn down the heat slightly, so the potatoes do not burn.

Leave in pan until the potatoes are cooked. If you can poke a piece of potato with a spatula and it easily breaks in two, your potatoes are done. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and allow oil to drain.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat by hand with a whisk or fork. Pour in the potato onion mixture. Mix together with a large spoon.

Pour 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil into a small, non-stick frying pan (aprox. 9-10”) and heat on medium heat. Be carefulnot to get the pan too hot because the oil will burn - or the tortilla will! When hot, stir the potato onion mixture once more and “pour” into the pan and spread out evenly. Allow the egg to cook around the edges. Then you can carefully lift up one side of the omelet to check if the egg has slightly “browned.” The inside of the mixture should not be completely cooked and the egg will still be runny.

When the mixture has browned on the bottom, you are ready to turn it over to cook the other side. Take the frying pan to a sink. Place a large dinner plate (12”) upside down over the frying pan. With one hand on the frying pan handle and the other on top of the plate to hold it steady, quickly turn the frying pan over and the omelet will “fall” onto the plate. Place the frying pan back on the range and put just enough oil to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Let the pan warm for 30 seconds or so. Now slide the omelet into the frying pan. Use the spatula to shape the sides of the omelet. Let the omelet cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for 2 minutes.

Slide the omelet onto a plate to serve. If eating as a main course, cut the omelet into 6-8 pieces like a pie. Serve sliced French bread on the side.

If you are serving as an appetizer, slice a baguette into pieces about 1/2 inch think. Cut the tortilla into 1.5” squares and place a piece on top of each slice of bread.

From: http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/tortilla.htm

 

Gazpacho:

This is another cold, summery, tomato soup.

Ingredients

  • 10 oz of bread
  • 21 oz. of tomato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 onions
  • 2 red and green peppers
  • 1 cucumber (optional)
  • 7 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of water
  • Cumin (optional)

Preparation

In a big mortar mash the cumin, the garlic and the soaked bread, in a plastic bowl mix the chopped onion, the chopped tomato, the oil, the vinegar, the salt and the contents of the mortar, mash it with the mixer and add very cold water to mix everything. Add salt and strain it. Keep it in the fridge until served.

Serve with the tomato, the cucumber, the pepper and the toasted bread cut to dices.

Preparation time is 30 minutes. For 4 people.

From: http://www.spain-recipes.com/gazpacho.html

 

Mantecados:

Famous cookie-like dessert eaten around Christmas time, similar to shortbread. Popular kinds are almond, chocolate, coconut, cinnamon, and lemon.

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Ingredients:

  •  2 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
  •  1 cup vegetable oil
  •  1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  •  4 egg yolks
  •  2 shot glasses of anise (see note below for substitute)
  •  1 lemon peel, grated
  •  juice from 1 lemon
  •  1/2 tsp cinnamon
  •  7 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
  •  1/2 tsp baking soda
  •  1 egg white, beaten for glaze

 

Preparation:

Substitution Note: Anise-flavored liqueur can be purchased at most liquor stores and some gourmet supermarkets. If you cannot find it in your area, substitute 2 shot glasses of vodka and 1 1/2 tsp of anise extract.

In a very large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the vegetable shortening with the oil. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Add the egg yolks, anise, lemon peel, juice and cinnamonand mix together. Add flour and baking soda to mixture, a cup at a time. Be sure to mix well. Dough should be very smooth and soft.

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a dollop of dough. Form balls about the size of walnuts, using your hands. If dough is too sticky to roll into balls, mix in additional flour (from 1/4 to 1/2 cup). Place balls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly press down on each ball to flatten slightly. Using the beaten egg white, brush on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies until they begin to turn light brown on the bottom edges - about 15-20 minutes.

Let the cookies cool 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet, as they are very delicate.

Total time: 40 minutes             Yields: 7 dozen 2.5 inch cookies

From: http://spanishfood.about.com/od/dessertssweets/r/mantecados.htm

 

Torrijas:

Basically, French toast, Spanish style. They are covered in honey and normally eaten as a dessert during Easter.

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Ingredients:

  •  4-6 slices of stale baguette or white bread*
  •  3/4 cup milk
  •  1 egg
  •  vegetable oil for frying, such as canola or corn oil, NOT olive oil
  •  1/8 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  •  sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle (optional)
  •  honey to drizzle (optional) – From what I have seen, people put more than just a “drizzle” of honey on top of the torrijas ;)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

 

Preparation:

* TIP: If you do not have stale bread on hand, lightly toast the sliced bread so that it dries out enough to soak up the milk and not turn to mush.

Pour the milk into a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the egg and beat together. Add vanilla extract, if desired. Pour enough oil into a large frying to cover the bottom and heat on medium. Be careful that the oil does not burn.

If you are using stale white bread, place one slice in the milk-egg mixture and quickly flip it over with a fork. Make sure that the bowl is next to the frying pan, so you can quickly transfer it from the bowl to the heated pan.

If you use a stale baguette, slices should be at least 1/2 inch thick. If the bread is more than a day old, you may need to soak the bread for 2-3 minutes or more, so that it softens up. Be careful that the bread does not soften so much that it crumbles when you lift it out of the bowl.

Carefully lift the bread out of the mixture and let the excess milk drain before placing the bread in the frying pan. Repeat for each of the other slices.

After 2-3 minutes, check the bottom of the bread. As the slices turn golden, turn each one. You may wish to use a nylon spatula or tongs to turn the slices over. Make sure that you have enough room in the pan to turn the slices.

Remove each piece from the pan and place on a plate. Sprinkle the top with sugar and cinnamon. If you prefer, drizzle (pour) honey over the top. Garnish with fresh fruit and serve immediately.

Note: If the torrijas cool down and you wish to heat them up, place them back in the frying pan on low heat or in a toaster oven at a low temperature. Do not place them in a microwave because this will cause the bread to become rubbery.

From: http://spanishfood.about.com/od/dessertssweets/r/torrijas.htm

 

Paella:

This is a large rice dish, which you can put practically anything in. Below is just one of the many variations…

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Herb Blend:

  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

Paella:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 (16-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 unpeeled jumbo shrimp (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 skinned, boned chicken thighs, cut in half
  • 2 links Spanish chorizo sausage (about 6 1/2 ounces) or turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 (4-ounce) slice prosciutto or 33%-less-sodium ham, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (optional)

 

Preparation:

 To prepare the herb blend, combine the first 4 ingredients, and set aside.

To prepare paella, combine water, saffron, and broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; saute 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Add sausage and prosciutto; saute 2 minutes. Remove from pan. Add shrimp, and saute 2 minutes. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion and bell pepper; saute 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, paprika, and 3 garlic cloves; cook 5 minutes. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in herb blend, broth mixture, chicken, sausage mixture, and peas. Bring to a low boil; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mussels to pan, nestling them into rice mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until shells open; discard any unopened shells. Arrange shrimp, heads down, in rice mixture, and cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup lemon juice. Remove from heat; cover with a towel, and let stand 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Serves: 8

From: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/traditional-spanish-paella-0

 

Other foods that you can’t cook but are popular in Spain:

Ham:

What would we do if I forgot to add ham to this list? Almost everywhere you look in Spain you will see ham hanging from store windows.  To eat it, you cut very thin slices off of the leg and put it on bread or eat it alone. (Fun fact: it takes 2-4 years MINIMUM for the ham to be dried.)

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Chorizo:

This is another popular meat in Spain. Many people use it as an appetizer or put it on a bocadillo for lunch.

04/13/2015

La Semana Santa

Semana Santa was an absolutely unbelievable experience. I, unfortunately, was only there for two days, but even that was enough to see how amazing the whole week is. Technically, it's a religious holiday, but in practice, tradition and culture are equally important. The story I heard was that Semana Santa started originally after a plague a really long time ago (oops don't remember the year) wiped out a large percentage of the population, so people started to lose faith in God/the church. As a result, the church began La Semana Santa as a way to regain popularity. So obviously, it was a religious thing. It's also something that's celebrated all over the world, mostly in Spanish speaking countries. I think in Latin-American countries it's a little different, but all over Spain it's roughly the same, in format at least: all week long, there are different "cofradías" or "hermandades" ("brotherhoods", which are the religious organizations that belong to the churches) that bring their "pasos" (kind of like big parade floats but with statues of Jesus or Mary or other religious figures) around the city. These pasos are carried by a group of men called "costaleros". Most cofradías have a paso of Jesus, followed by a paso of Mary, which is usually the more important one. One whole cofradía can take hours to pass one spot because there are anywhere from hundreds to thousands of "nazarenos", which are the scary looking people in white hoods in the pictures, as well as "penitentes", which are the cross-carrying people without the pointy hood, and a band that follows the paso. The pasos usually start after lunch (3 or 4) and go until 3 or 4 the next morning-- so people who are in the cofradía as nazarenos or penitentes or costaleros are walking for 12 to 14 hour usually. CRAZY. Some of the cofradías are stricter and you're not allowed to eat or drink or talk or anything when you're marching, but the majority unofficially allow people to eat/drink/leave if they need to go to the bathroom or something. A lot of kids march as nazarenos so they obviously don't usually go for all 14 hours. And so all of the pasos leave from their churches and go to the official section of their march, which is in the center by the Giralda and what not, and then they head back to their church. Some take longer because they live farther; some are closer. Ok so that's the basic idea. My favorite paso to see was La Estrella, one that comes from a church in Triana, because we saw it on its "recogida" (on its way back into the church) at night while it was crossing the Triana Bridge. La recogida is usually the best time to see the cofradía because they're not on a time frame (like they are in the official section) so they do all kinds of cool stuff and the costaleros do cool things to make the pasos move in different ways. It was so impressive to see the paso, lit up with candles and shining and beautiful, surrounded by thousands of people, crossing the equally beautiful Triana bridge at night. It was one of those things that's just indescribable but gives you goose bumps and you sort of forget to breath for a second. We also saw a "saeta" with La Estrella, which is person who sings this specific kind of flamenco called saeta. Some of them are official and paid and some are spontaneous. The one we saw was spontaneous and it was so cool cause he was just standing in the crowd looking up at the paso and singing and AH so cool. Ok, now for pictures. 

IMG_7880On Sunday (called "Domingo de Ramos"), Elvira, Lucía and I went out to lunch before all the festivities. It was SO good.

IMG_7882I did Lucía's hair and it turned out pretty well, I think :))

IMG_7894El Domingo de Ramos is a really big day for La Semana Santa and everyone gets SUPER dressed up. Great example of that here. Makes very little sense: lots and lots of walking, and yet heels that aren't even comfortable to stand in. Help me understand, Spain.

IMG_7912NOT the KKK. Really shocking at first but these are the nazarenos. The building behind them is the parliament.

IMG_7918It was that hot.. The candle was sad. So was I.

IMG_7923More nazarenos. They walk in these two lines the whole time.

IMG_7934This is the first paso I saw and this is one of La Virgen (The Virgin, aka Mary). The pasos that have Mary on them are different in that they have the canopy thing above them, called a palio, that moves as the costaleros walk and it's SO pretty. 

IMG_7936These are the flowers that are on the side of this particular paso. All of the pasos have flowers but they can be of all different colors and kinds and what not. The funky looking ones above the regular ones are actually made of wax.

IMG_7940Most of the palos are wooden and painted with silver or gold paint, but some of them are actually solid silver or gold. This wasn't one of them, but I did see some that were like that. Those ones are obviously much heavier, which makes the movement of the paso really graceful and beautiful (although the costaleros probably don't love it too much).

IMG_7954La Gerald looking spiffy for Semana Santa

IMG_7956These are the seats that line the official section of the "parade".

IMG_7962These are some kids on their way to their cofradía. They're probably not nazarenos because they're too young, but there's another role that kids often take in the cofradía.

IMG_7974So cute

IMG_7997Hello

IMG_7998This is La Cena (which means dinner) because it's a depiction of the Last Supper.

IMG_8006Pretty palio going through a narrow Sevilla street

IMG_8009Pretty pretty

IMG_8016Lots of matching children

IMG_8027So cute

IMG_8029Killin' it.

IMG_8033Working real hard.

IMG_8036Me and Lucía :))

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IMG_8055A paso of El Cristo (Christ)

IMG_8057Just a couple of people.

IMG_8094This paso is called El Amor

My camera very sadly died after this, so I don't have pictures of the night on the bridge.

IMG_3443San Jacinto during La Semana Santa is wild.

IMG_3444Crazy

IMG_3450More San Jacinto (thx to Eli for inviting me over to her casa to see Semana Santa from her balcony)

IMG_3460La Virgen with flower petals on the palio (the shade thing on the top); people throw the petals from balconies onto the paso when it first comes out of the church, so then it goes through the city with petals on the top. So pretty.

IMG_3475Another one of the traditions of Semana Santa is that the little kids go around and when the nazarenos stop (which they do when the costaleros need a break), they ask them for wax. So by the end of the week they make balls of wax, and they save them, and over the years the ball gets bigger and bigger. It's pretty cool. Lucía has a huge one in her room from when she was little.

IMG_3495This is the nazareno that basically keeps the other nazarenos in line (head honcho nazareno) and he has to walk up and down in the middle of the two lines so he gets wax dripped all over him. I thought it looked kind of cool.

IMG_3506These are penitentes, which are like nazarenos that just carry the cross and don't have a pointy hood on.

IMG_3511Mini nazareno

More than anything, I can't thank Lucia enough for giving me the experience that I had. Although Semana Santa would be super impressive to anyone, it's best when you get to follow someone around who knows where to go, when to go, and how to explain all that's happening.

OK cool so that's Semana Santa. Thx for making it through with me. While writing this post over the last couple days I've managed to edit the Ireland pictures, but still working on Budapest. So that will be coming up soon. Xo

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