I was recently invited by some Spanish friends to go on a hike up a mountain called Sierra de Huétor. It was beautiful! My friend Peter and a new friend Amy came along too, and it was lovely to be one with nature. Naturally, my camera battery was dead, so I stole these pictures from other people.
Although I do quite a bit of walking around the city being sans-car and all, I was not properly in shape for a 10 km hike up and down a very steep mountain. The one thing that kept me from sitting on a rock and not moving, is that I have too much pride to be the weakling of the group (which I probably was, anyway). My drive to not look like an idiot really helped me conquer this trek. It was a 7 hour excursion…from leaving Granada to the celebratory cerveza at the end. It’s funny because it was so warm that day in the city, but at the top of the mountain there was snow!
Hey, also, I’ll stop sucking (legitimately) at writing this blog. I’ll post a couple more times this week, and then I’ll be in EASTERN EUROPE! After which you can anticipate lots of pretty photos and good stories 🙂 Let’s all cross our fingers for no surprise strikes, delays, or general travel drama.
Sorry my blog has sucked this past month. I know, it really has sucked. There were fewer pictures, and fewer anecdotes. I’d like to insert my fabulous excuse (here), however, I really don’t have one. I’ve been traveling less, and saving (well, trying to, but mostly failing) more. I’ve been sick. But mostly, I’ve had a rather boring existence this month.
Last weekend was a holiday weekend in my area of Spain (no work Monday and Tuesday). I had lofty plans in mind…The Canaries? A beach house? Malta? But none were able to come to fruition, which is probably best for me and my budget with so many trips planned in April, May and June (Eastern Europe, Gibraltar, Portugal, Greece).
I did have this little moment of clarity about it all though…I’m living in Spain. I live here. When you live somewhere, you don’t typically travel every weekend. And not every weekend is special. I can come back to Europe anytime to visit a couple of places that are still on my to-do list (granted, it might be more expensive…) but I can’t move back to this time in my life, with these people, in this apartment, in this part of Spain. This is a once-in-a-lifetime stint.
Some fun things that have happened in February, as a consequence of being around Andalusia:
- Attending a birthday party in a huge house in the most beautiful neighborhood in Granada featuring flamenco guitar and other miscellaneous instruments.
- An overnight trip to my favorite city in Andalusia, Sevilla (insert love music here) with some friends. It’s SO magical!
- A day trip to Antequerra (a little town about 1.5 hours away by bus) with a friend.
- Celebrating Dia de Andalusia at school with my students! There were oranges and ham and bread and chocolate (specialties of Andalusia) at snack time, and lots of fun games during the afternoon. They all did little presentations about the different provinces of the area, and the rivers. They made flags and buttons (they made me one too!).
- Lots of sunshine and freckle collecting in my favorite park. It’s been amazing weather!
- Random rendezvous with lots of wonderful people from various EU countries.
- Catching up on reading, sleeping, and skyping.
So really, I can’t complain. I may not be somewhere exotic right now, but I’m still living the dream, and securing my place as a Granadina.
I made this lofty goal that I would visit all of the provinces of Andalusia during my stay in Spain. There are eight: Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Huelva, Malaga, Almeria, Cordoba, and Jaen. I have been to Granada (obvi) Sevilla, Cadiz, Malaga, Almeria, and now, I can check Cordoba off the list. Woo hoo!
Not that there aren’t things to appreciate in each place, but now that I am getting to the end of this list, it’s getting a bit stale. I was concerned that Cordoba was going to look like a carbon copy of the 5 other places…similar cathedral, some sort of arab bath ruins, same well-maintained square garden. However, I was quite surprised by the beautiful Mezquita that is in this city. It felt like something new! Halleluia!
I took this short weekend excursion with my friend, Peter, and stayed with his wonderful friends there. It was such a warm welcome that I completely forgot that I didn’t know these people. We all went out to lunch on a beautiful 65 degree day and sat in the sunshine. We had MEXICAN for dinner (which was sub-par compared to the U.S.’s worst Mexican restaurant…but still good for Spanish Mexican standards), and spend the following day hitting the highlights before catching the bus back to town.
Overall, a great weekend getaway! Next weekend, I’m headed to Santiago de Compostela, a place in nothern Spain that I’ve been dying to visit. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!
I’d like to preface this post by describing the company that I had alongside me for this wonderful trip, Sean Santiago. Sean is the coolest. He’s super fashionable and fun, and I feel so lucky to have him as a friend. He’s an excellent writer and photographer. In fact, we studied the same major in school, and he taught in China for a year after he graduated. We have a lot in common, and I love getting writing feedback from him since he does a lot of travel freelancing also (he helped with this article I wrote). That said, since we hadn’t seen each other in over a year, this trip was slightly more about Annie & Sean (insert song here: “reuniteddddd and it feels so good!”) than it was about seeing Amsterdam (but that was kind of important, too).
Holland was the perfect destination for this puente because I got to take a little vacation from speaking Spanish. And no one gawked at me when I spoke English. It was really nice. The food and the culture was also very similar to the U.S. and since I won’t be making it home for another 6 months, the familiarity was appreciated. Other than the freezing weather (it was horribly cold), I loved Holland. The architecture of the houses is amazing. I love how everyone bikes everywhere! I think I was Dutch in a past life.
Here’s what Sean and I did on our vacation:
Amsterdam, what a beautiful city!
We concluded our journey by taking the train to Rotterdam. I wish I could have spent more time there, it seemed like a cool city. Much more modern with unique design.
Sean set-up a couchsurfing contact for us for our one night there. If you’ve never heard about couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org), it’s a website that connects travelers with people who have a couch or a spare bedroom. It’s a great way to save money, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people and allows you to see a city from a local’s perspective. Arjane was our host, and she was so great! She took us to her friend’s house for dinner, where he had prepared a special dutch meal for us! We all chatted for hours and drank Dutch beer. The perfect ending to the trip.
Now I’m back in Spain and the weather is strangely warm. 80 degrees today! No better time to go exercise, now that I have just recounted all the pastries this weekend.
Naturally, Thanksgiving in Spain wasn’t as great as Thanksgiving in America, but it was pretty darn good. In fact, I had TWO Thanksgivings!
Thanksgiving 1: On Thursday, November 25th.
After work, I put on my spandex (let’s be honest, jeans are not the preferred attire for serious eating) and walked to a British restaurant called Casa Lopez Correo with my friend, Alex (from Iowa) and a new friend Casey (from Boston).
When the first plate arrived in front of me, I thought to myself…”Have these people done ANY research on Thanksgiving?” I’d explain all the courses, but it’s much easier if you just look at the pictures:
A successful dinner! Afterward, I went home and spent some time with my friend, Peter and my roommate, and listened to Christmas music (Peter’s obsessed). I skyped my family which was amazing (I met my cousin’s newborn baby via video chat!!) and introduced them to Peter and Elias.
Thanksgiving 2: Saturday, November 27th.
I was invited to a Thanksgiving potluck at my friend Valerie’s and it was SO MUCH FUN. Everyone brought something and we had a huge spread of food and roughly 18 bottles of wine. We also were able to share Thanksgiving with a Spaniard and a Norwegian who were thoroughly impressed by the holiday.
I feel so thankful for all of the people I have met here, and all of the opportunities I have had as a consequence of this experience. While I do miss America sometimes, I am incredibly lucky to be fulfilling a dream that I had to live abroad. And to know that I am being supported by so many friends and family at home is so encouraging…especially my parents and brothers who are always the first to read my blog and continuously make me feel like I can do anything.
My dear friends and family, I am so sincerely thankful for you.
I walk home from work (approximately one hour) Tuesday-Thursday. I thoroughly enjoy these walks because I get to reflect upon my day at work, and compare and contrast my American life and my Spanish life. Obviously, there are wonderful things and not-to-so-wonderful things about both countries. The one thing that I have decided that is remarkable about Spain is the sense of community here.
My roommates treat me like family. They share everything with me. We eat every meal together. The teachers at my school invite me for tapas, to their houses, to their hometowns for the weekend…they give me phone numbers of young people to be friends with. A couple of weeks ago, the bank took a little bit of time processing my first paycheck and my boss offered to give me money if I needed it to pay my rent. Do you know many people that would offer you 200 euro after knowing them for only 2 months? I met my good friend, Marta, on the bus when she overheard that I had just moved here and she asked me if I wanted to be friends.
I feel so lucky to have come in contact with so many generous and kind human beings. It’s made my time in Spain extra special, and made me slightly less sad now that Thanksgiving is approaching and I obviously won’t be home for that.
Sending some love to everyone in America.
This past weekend, I went to Barcelona to see my Aunt Marlene and Uncle Tom as they were there visiting prior to a Mediterranean cruise. I rarely see them in the U.S. because they live in Tennessee, but it was great to see them in SPAIN and catch up! They are amazing people.
I am in love with Barcelona. It’s an incredibly beautiful city and if I could afford to live there, I totally would. It’s such a “hippie” city. Lots of organic, natural foods, lots of beautiful and unique art (a Picasso museum is there). Big and bustling, but lots of small and intimate restaurants (it was especially busy in Barce this weekend because the Pope was in town). Not to mention a zillion street performers (<–see?) and a beautiful port.
We ate a delicious vegetarian dinner Friday night when I arrived and spent Saturday at the Maritime museum (free photojournalism and Russian art exhibits!), visiting the Catedral de Barcelona, and wandering around the city!
This weekend excursion was also full of lots of firsts.
- My first flight with Ryan Air. For those of you who do not know, Ryan Air is the greyhound bus of the airplane industry. Extremely cheap, but you are only allowed ONE carry one with specific dimensions. Anything else involves lots of fees. Prior to boarding the plane, the Ryan Air employees have a box that they put on every single person’s luggage to ensure that it fits within the allotted parameters. Watching this happen was very entertaining. One lady’s suitcase didn’t fit in the box and she was not pleased.
- My first stay in a hostel. It’s so cool! And the hostel I stayed in was extra clean and swanky and not even expensive! I highly recommend Barcelona Mar if you ever take a cheap trip to the city. I was fascinated by the whole hostel experience. In fact, I made friends! Four of them from Germany! I felt encouraged to travel by myself in the future because its so easy to find company in hostels.
- I met someone from Malaysia! That’s a first for me.
- I gave my German friend his first almond. No really, I bought some almonds, and gave this lad his very first almond, because not only had he never heard of an almond, but he had never tasted one!
- My first cookie with BASIL. Yes, you read that right. Basil. The cookie was coffee, chocolate, and basil. It was surprisingly delicious.
- I had my first ever dream in Spanish! On the plane from Barcelona. Well, not the whole thing. Just part of one. But still, COOL!
A great weekend! And a big shoutout to my aunt and uncle for making it so special. 🙂