tarragona

las aventuras de ESPAÑA

Back in America… for now

After being back in the States for a few days, there are definitely a lot things that I took for granted such as:

ice

chipotle

five guys

tap water

english

Air Conditioning

and a few others.

However; despite not having the previously stated things, I absolutely love my Study Abroad. Even though, I had the privilege of going to Salamanca with my high school, I didn’t understand or appreciate all the culture that was available to me. Not to mention my Spanish was severely lacking compared to what it is now. I am still processing my experience but now I definitely know that I loved the opportunities I was presented everyday in Spain. I definitely lucked out living with a host family with Chad. Bibiana and Salvatore were the best host family I could’ve asked for. Not to mention the food was beyond incredible.

Every single night after we would finish eating, we would stay at the dinner table and have the most incredible conversations with each other completely in spanish mind you. That was another thing! Neither Bibi or Salvatore spoke a word of English or Catalán (thank jesus) but it required Chad and myself to use our skills and not cop out of the opportunity to have a conversation. They weren’t basic conversations either. Most nights we would talk about our cultures, the US, our life goals, what we were studying, life at JMU, politics, movies, our families, hobbies, past experiences, pretty much everything. I was even impressed with myself. 

My hope is that as I start getting accustomed back to life back in the States that I don’t lose my Spanish skills that I acquired. Definitely my listening comprehension has improved dramatically. And after a few more opportunities of speaking, I was having conversations left and right with my host family and with my professors as well.

Coming to Spain of course gave me the opportunity to learn about another culture and open my mind. It gave me an appreciation for Catalunya and the language spoken here as well as the many traditions and history that go unnoticed by the rest of the world. I’m sure I will add onto this later after I’ve had the time to internally process everything thoroughly.

I do know this for sure, after living abroad for a month, I can definitely see myself living in europe sometime in my life. I also know now more than ever that the Peace Corps is calling my name. Now that I have Spain checked off the list, I can only hope for another adventure sometime very soon.

Next stop Africa!

acacia tree

¡Al Final!

With exams done, presentations over, projects turned in, and classes officially over, we had completed our Study Abroad in Tarragona. We went to a formal dinner at the Hotel and received our certificates. We listened to a few speeches and after a few hours we said our goodbyes to our professors and headed out the door. The group wanted to spend our last weekend in Barcelona. Everyone agreed and we split our separate ways til later that evening.

We hopped on the train in search of one more adventure together in Spain. The night was a blast. The only set back was that the first train didn’t come until 6am… so we were up all night enjoying ourselves. By some act of God we all got back safely and most of us were on the same train despite being separated most the night. As soon as I got back to the house and my head hit the pillow, I was out. I woke up around 2pm and started packing. By this time Sunday, I will be on a plane bound for America. I couldn’t believe that my Spanish experience was finally over.

After rearranging my suitcase about 5 times, the scale finally read 49.6 lbs. Success! Chad was staying for the extension with 11 other students but unfortunately, he would have to leave Bibi and Salvatore as well. Our last dinner together was very delicious as always. We surprised our padres with gifts from the US of A. After one more dinner conversation and one more toast for safe travels, we took a family photo.

Now all that’s left is my flight home, wish me safe travels.

I’m finally coming back to America!

¡Ciao!

Flamenco y cupitos

Had my last day of classes on Thursday despite our final being on Friday. We had a special event later that evening. After a disappointing dinner that supposed to be more tapas, we ended up receiving finger foods that were all deep-fried. Apparently the restaurant we went to thought that the group of 30 students were going to be 12 year olds from France, and as apparent from my experience with my French host brothers, they don’t eat a lot. We finished dinner and headed towards Flamenco! We had no idea what to expect but we got pretty excited when we say the set up. It was the most intense dance I’ve pretty much ever seen. With a combination of tap and salsa, they moved very fast and commanded the room. It was incredible. Afterwards we had a chance to learn a few moves. A few students were more brave than others. Regardless it was a great time for all.

Afterwards a few of us headed to a local bar that had some pretty incredible deals. We toasted to a great night and great 4 weeks in Spain. Our adventure was coming to final close. With exams in the morning, I called it a night and finished my presentation.

¡Salud!

Wait, I actually have to do school work?

      Despite what y’all might be thinking. Yes, I am doing school work and I am earning every single one of my six credits. Wednesday I worked on my presentation on els Castells, finished my group project on Gaudí, and studied for my final on civilization and culture. So majority of my day was spent in my room on my computer. I can’t believe my experience is almost over.

Tapas al Tiberri

We had one more final tapas night. At lunch our professor specifically warned us to save room for this one. A few of us wanted to go to the beach one last time so as soon as we got back I was very hungry. We eagerly awaited the feast before us. Brace yourselves! 

It was a tapas buffet that never ended! It was glorious, let me assure you! Kevin told us to get smaller portions to make sure we didn’t end up overeating. So I listened to him and got 4 or 5 plates of food instead.

It was an experience to say the least. Chad and myself were feeling a little adventurous and decided to try some escargot. Believe it or not, it wasn’t too bad. Oh well, when in Spain!

El Corte Inglés y ¡PAELLA!

       This officially marks my last week in Spain. As such, our professors have jam packed our schedules to ensure that we get the optimum amount of culture that we possibly can in the next few days. Monday after lunch, a bunch of us wanted to see what kind of souvenir shops they had in Tarragona… only it was 2pm meaning everything was closed due to siesta. Are you serious!? This is probably a reason why their economy is so bad, all the shops and stores are closed when all the tourists want to spend their money. So we ended going to Corte Inglés which is a 8 story department store. Every floor has a different section of items. Chad and myself knew exactly where we wanted to go, the sporting good dept. We take a few escalators and enter what it is pure euphoria of sporting goods. You name it, they have it. Wasn’t cheap either due to most of items being named brand, American brand that is. We finally set our eyes on a set of jerseys. Authentic Catalunya jerseys as well as a few Real Madrid black jerseys. We thought we were getting the deal of a lifetime with over 40% off. Yeah, we were wrong… oh so wrong. It didn’t matter in the end because now I have some sweet memorabilia to add to my wardrobe. We headed out before we spent anymore euros and met up with the group.

        Tonight was paella night. We were going to go back to ELIT and cook our own paella. Needless to say, everyone was pretty excited. We washed our hands and were split into groups. We sat down and saw a table with various ingredients as seen here.

We got to chopping up the vegetables and squid while the instructor prepared the pot for us to start cooking. We added the peppers and squid with main important ingredient; aceite de oliva (olive oil). 

After waiting for the peppers to start sautéing, we added a secret ingredient which resembled a broth of some sort.

We waited for a bit, added the rice, and then we noticed it started to bubble and rise

We were afraid it was going to start burning but the instructor told it we were doing just fine. Okay, if you say so. She then told us to assemble our mariscos to put inside the paella.

After we decided on a final design we simply placed the clams, shrimp, prawns, and scallopes into the dish.

We were surprised to see them stay on the surface of the mixture but then the rice started to rise in its placed and before we knew it we had paella!

It was a lot easier said then done especially since I have no idea what was in that special broth. It was relatively fast to cook so if any of you want to try to cook this at home, you are more than welcome! There are various types of paella you can cook from seafood, meat, vegetables, and the combo of all three.

Happy cooking!

Eungenio Salvador Dalí, “Bigote rocococo de donde acaba el genio a donde empieza el loco”

The next morning I woke up and headed down for some complementary french breakfast. Just some croissants, coffee, and orange juice. Finally a real breakfast.

I finished my very strong coffee and headed over to the markets to see what they were selling. Crafts on crafts on crafts.

I finished my souvenir shopping for my friends and hopped back onto the bus. Next stop Figueras for the Salvador Dalí Museum. This museum was absolutely phenomenal. This man is a complete genius as he strategically planned out every single detail of his museum. Each one of his works has so many symbolic hidden messages it’s unreal!

this image can only be seen through a pixelated camera… IT’S ABRAHAM LINCOLN!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!???

The image above is another portrait by Dalí that has an unbelievably striking resemblance to yours truly. 

After the museum, myself and Irene had over 30 minutes until we had to meet back up with our group. I was feeling a little hungry so I got a cafe con leche and the all popular patatas bravas. At 1:30, the clock tower rang and we headed over to meet up with the group. It was lunch time, and what a lunch it was. We immediately received water, wine, and bread. Kevin explained how to take the bread, rub garlic, cut the tomato and rub that on the bread, then pour vinegar and olive oil on top. The result was pretty delicious.

this was so easy to make and packs a lot of flavor as well.

For our main entry we received this huge grill filled with potatoes, peppers, chicken, sausage, and steak!

For dessert we received a light strawberry ice cream. Later that night, back at the house, Chad and I had another incredible dinner with our host family. Afterwards we had an even more incredible conversation about life, american traditions, politics, and our future plans… completely in Spanish of course.

Bonjour Collioure

Saturday- With the bags packed and ready to roll, Chad and I headed out the door and met up with the group at La Plaça Imperial Tarragona. As soon as I got on that bus and my head hit that chair pillow, I passed out for the 5 hour drive. As soon as we drove through the valley of the Southern France mountains, my jaw dropped. Collioure is a relatively small town of Catalunya Nord with less than 3,000 people. It is home to Le Château Royal and the final resting place of Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

We arrived to our hotel for the night and I was shocked and excited to find out that I had my own room with a huge bed!

We had a few minutes to walk around the town and see the sights of France. Yeah, that whole language barrier thing was a big… well barrier. We met up at the Château Royal for another tour, thank goodness our tour guide spoke castellano. Within 5 minutes of walking in France, I realized why I became a SPANISH MAJOR… French is absolutely horrible to learn. With a few attempts of our professor to give a few helpful key phrases such as “Can I have a beer, Can I have some wine, Can I have some water” you know all the important questions, I tried my best to sound as french as possible. epic. fail. For now I’ll just stick to my español and my limited (limited being key word) italian.

Once we got to the top of the castle we got a chance to see the entire town of Collioure and what a view it was.

and as always photos just don’t do it justice.

We finished the tour and went to the grave of Antonio Machado who is the patron saint of students. Tradition has it, that every student writes a poem and reads it aloud at the grave. So, one by one we all read our poems with the themes of family, the beach, life, and death. As much as I can remember, here is my poem.

Mi Familia

Mi familia es como España

con cultura, historia, y aventuras, en cada esquina.

Mi familia es mi pasada, presente, y futuro,

mi familia es mi vida, mi familia es mi todo.

thank you, thank you, you are too much.

      Okay so with that out of the way we headed towards a trennet to take a tour of the town. There a woman who told us to hop on and said that she had reserved the last few cars for our group. We jump on in fear of being left behind… well our professors didn’t make it on in time so we head off and drive right by our professors waving at them and while seeing their puzzled faces. We start hearing french on the overcome speaker and we start laughing. “Oh great were going on a tour of the city and we’re not going to be able to understand anything.” The trennet starts going around in circles on this round-a-bout and of course the loud americans aren’t having it. After 4 or 5 circles we’ve just about had enough and were tempted to hop off. Finally we head back to the loading area and pick up our professors. The trennet takes off once again and thank goodness the tour is in english! We headed up the steep streets over the mountain and through the woods to get to the top of highest area of the valley. With my camera in hand, I seized every opportunity to take any picture I could. Here are some of my favorites.

     With the rest of night free of activities we hit the town for some real authentic french food. So you can only imagine that we americans would only settle for the finest of french cuisine… BURGERS. For some reason half of the menu at this burger joint was in english so we choose that seeing as our spanish skills were useless here. One hilarious story was that whenever we would walk around or try to buy something, people would approach us and I guess they just assumed we spoke english, but we would respond in spanish forgetting that we were in… france. However the people of Collioure do speak Catalán. Anyways back to the food. Yes burgers, but not just a burger, a bacon cheese burger complete with a side of FRENCH FRIES. For dessert we insisted on getting a crepe. Great decision! I got mine filled with white chocolate and bananas!

We finished the rest of night relaxing with a few drinks and reflecting on trip thus fair and regrettably looking ahead to the last week in Spain. 

Salou and Cambrills

      Friday morning we woke up and hit the town of Cambrills. We hopped on our bikes and hit the pedal to metal! We finally found the tourists… and no I’m not talking about us. Outside of Tarragona about 10 miles away in the towns of Cambrills and Salou, are hundreds of restaurants, hotels, bars, discoteques, and shops on shops on shops. Biking through the area we immediately noticed that so many people were speaking english. When youre in a group of 30 plus bikers, you draw a little attention. Of course, it is also incredibly hard to have a group of 30 plus bikers in on tiny bike lane. As an avid biker, I couldn’t only restrain myself to pack but anytime any of us would break off, the bike leader in the back with a bright neon flag would make a comment.

      We stopped for a few breaks to take a look around the area. There were so many people on the beaches, on the boardwalk, in pools, on playgrounds, every where. I had no idea there could be so many people just outside of Tarragona. It was clear that Salou was the Myrtle Beach of Tarragona. 

      We stopped by this incredible sand castle that had its own irrigation system complete with a reflecting pool… umm what!

       After biking through the area for a few hours we returned to the quiet area of Cambrills were we had time to grab food, check out some souvenirs shops, and relax with a few drinks. We had a few more hours of free time so I put in my headphones, sat down on bench overlooking the Med Sea, and took a little siesta.

Sounds like a good afternoon right!?

Water sports and wind surfing

       Thursday we had a surprise activity after classes; water sports! I hopped on another bus and waited for 30 mins before stopping at yet another paradise. Our professor had told us a few days ago that we would have the opportunity to go wind surfing, banana boating, kayaking, canoeing, or sailing. I wasn’t going to miss this incredible opportunity.

       I had been wind surfing once but it was a while back and there was a lot of wind to carry me. This time, things were a little different to say the least. I had no trouble hopping onto the board and getting my balance. I had no trouble pulling up the sail. I did however; find it ridiculously difficult to steer the sail with the small amount of wind that we had. Regardless, I had a blast while epically failing the process. Also the first thing I noticed when I stepped/fell into the water. Medussas were everywhere aka jellyfish. There must have been over a hundred of them around me. I was so freaked out but quickly realized that they weren’t dangerous. None of them had stingers. Thank goodness!

      The rest of the group eagerly tried out the other sports that were available. I was really excited to kayak… then I saw the kayak. I was only a sea kayak which made sense since we at the… sea.