Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Beginning of the End

As I'm sitting here, I wonder where the time has gone. I've registered for my last fall classes as of yesterday and graduation is coming up faster than I could have imagined - next spring! The countdown is 15 days until I'll be back in the U.S. already too! This past weekend marked my last museum day as well. I really have enjoyed my time there and it's been strange having my weekdays free after classes. I've started studying for finals already for the week after next and it's slowly starting to set in that there isn't a lot of time left. A little last minute homework, more studying, and then it'll be finals already.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Madrid, Classes, and Two and a Half Weeks

This week pretty much can be summed up in one word: cold! That word has more than one connotation, but primarily the weather this week has been pretty cold…for Segovia. Maybe some of that wished-upon-me Michigan weather by everyone back at home has finally been sent over here for us to enjoy. We had a little bit of snow this morning that went away after classes, but it has still been a pretty cold week overall for us.


Outside - It doesn't look cold, but it is!

This past Sunday was our excursion to the Prado and Reina Sofia museums in Madrid and luckily the weather held out for us. One part of living in a different country means you get to experience new things, and that definitely happened in Madrid! When we first got to the Reina Sofia Museum, we encountered a protest – complete with police, signs, T.V. cameras, and all. We think that it was a protest against conservative government measures, but we weren’t entirely sure. It was really different to see the police guarding the area, but it’s a precautionary measure that made us feel a little safer about being in the area before going into the museum. Apparently it happens with some frequently in Madrid, but was still interesting to see. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Reina Sofia because I don’t particularly care for modern art, but I really enjoyed the Prado. Apparently the Prado is the world’s second most famous art museum, after the Louvre in Paris. It had hundreds of paintings from countless artists, and it was really something to see.

Outside the Prado

The second part of the cold is that I’ve managed to catch one. This week so far has consisted of me sleeping and sleeping a lot. Thankfully I’ve gotten most of what I needed to do done. Two and a half more weeks and then I’ll be back to the U.S. already!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Three More Weeks?

I can't believe how fast time is going by - there're only three and a half more weeks left before I'll be heading back home! It seems like now more than ever is going by even faster than before.

A little piece of spring outside my window!


This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit London! We went to Regents Park, saw the Sherlock Holmes Museum, and went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour on our first day. Our second day was the British Library, British Museum, King's Cross Station, and seeing the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar's Square. It definitely was busy, but I loved every minute of it!

London <3

This past week was getting back into the swing of things, on top of projects and homework. On Thursday we went to an archive close to our school to see medieval documents and their collection of books. I was in seventh heaven, and some of the documents dated back to the 12th century! The museum part of me went into observation mode, so it was interesting to see a Spanish archive for the first time. Yesterday we went on an excursion to La Granja, which is a palace near Segovia. It was built by a French king that was also king of Spain, so La Granja is also known as "little Versailles." The gardens were gorgeous and everything over here is starting to blossom into spring. Tomorrow we're going on another excursion to the Prado and Reina Sofia art museums in Madrid for the day!

Archive Visit

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Greek Adventure

This past week was our spring break trip to Greece! We had rain, not a lot of sleep, and spent a lot of time in airports, but it was all worth it. Our first adventure was to get through finals and make it to the airport for our flight to our layover in Rome from Madrid. We left after our last final to catch the bus from Segovia to Madrid and then had to take the metro to the airport before going through security. Our flight ended up getting delayed by an hour and a half, but we made it to Rome with an hour less of our twelve hour layover.
 Rome was interesting, or at least the airport adventure. My carry-on ended up getting placed in the checked luggage because the flight was full and I had a bigger carry-on, so I had to leave the past security area to go get it when we got to Rome. I didn’t have any problems getting my carry-on, but then we found out that security was closed to get back in since our flight got in so late at night. Three information desks, one airline attendant, three security guards, and about an hour later, I was able to get back in through the staff entrance. It was a humbling experience not being able to speak their native language, a problem I haven’t run into in Spain or any of the places I’ve visited before. I managed to get my point across in English to get through, but it was definitely a challenge and new experience for me. When I finally got back, we managed to find benches to try and get some sleep that night. Everything in the airport was closed, so it was a little strange being there with only a few other passengers and all of the cleaning people. Thankfully time seemed to go by pretty quickly and before we knew it we were on our connecting flight to Athens.

Athens!


I absolutely loved Athens. After we checked in to our hotel the first night there, we decided to climb this huge mountain-like hill to get a view of the city. It took forever and was quite the climb, but the view was gorgeous. The next day we went to Agora, the Acropolis, and the Acropolis Museum. Agora is basically an ancient marketplace and has an archeology museum along with all of the ruins. I loved the Temple of Hephaistos, which was built between 460-415 B.C. and is still standing. I also loved the museum, which had artifacts dating back to the 1500 B.C.! I was in history heaven the entire time. We then went to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, which made the day even better. The Acropolis contains temples and other monuments, including the Parthenon. The Acropolis Museum was interesting to visit too, and it explained more about the Acropolis and had so many artifacts. It turns out the Parthenon has lived through a cannon explosion on top of all of the other destructive periods in time it went through! Another really interesting thing that I liked was that there were several artifact restoration projects throughout the museum and explanations for each. The Erechtheion is one of the buildings in the Acropolis that has six statue columns, but five of the six original statues are located in the Acropolis Museum with replicas at the actual Acropolis. The sixth original statue is located in the British Museum. The five statues are undergoing a laser restoration process in the Acropolis Museum and we could see what exactly they were doing. The Acropolis Museum is just one of the many examples why I want to go into the museum field, and I loved every minute of being there. It may have rained on and off the entire day, but in my opinion it just meant that everything wasn’t as crowded for us. Our last day in Athens was spent at the market and the parliament building and gardens. The market was a huge flea market near Agora that sold just about everything you could imagine. I got souvenirs there, so I won’t say what exactly I bought! After the market was the parliament building, where we got to watch the changing of the guard. Next to the parliament building are the parliament gardens, where we spent the remainder of the day before leaving bright and early for the island of Mykonos!


Temple of Hephaistos

View of the Acropolis 

View of the Hill from the Acropolis 


Me with the Parthenon, Despite the Rain


Me with the Parliament Guard 

After a one-way five hour ferry ride, we spent two days in Mykonos. Since it was offseason and their winter, it felt like we had the entire island to ourselves. We explored around on our first day and ran into more rain before watching the gorgeous sunset. Our second day we went to Paradise Beach, which was completely deserted just for us. It was a wonderful beach day and we got to get some sun before heading back to leave for the island of Santorini the next day.

Windmills in Mykonos

Paradise Beach

Santorini was another incredible island. There were more people there than Mykonos, but it was still their winter and offseason. I don’t know how many people we had ask us what we were doing there then, but I was perfectly okay with not having crowds of people. We found a boat tour that took us over to the volcano and hot springs on our second day. I’ve never been to a volcano before, so it was an incredible experience. It took forever to get to the top, but the views were incredible; and yes, it did actually smell like sulfur at the top where there were steam vents. I did go in the hot springs after the volcano, but they weren’t very hot! The water was freezing and then you would hit warmer spots where the springs were, but I can at least say I went in! We also went to a black sand beach on our last day. The sand is black from the volcano, but I liked it because it was warm. It wasn’t the best beach day, but it was nice to sit, relax, and enjoy our last day on the beach before heading back.

View from the Volcano

The Stairs on the Way Back

Black Sand Beach

Something that I loved consistently throughout Greece was the food. We couldn’t believe how cheap everything was, and then we found out that it tasted wonderful too. I think I lived off of souvlaki with pita! I think I figure out the terminology – gyro describes the meat that’s sliced but that’s what they call the entire sandwich in the U.S., sticks or skewers are the meat on skewers, and souvlaki describes the entire sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, fries, and cucumber sauce called tzatziki, all wrapped in a pita. I had them with pork, beef, and chicken to mix it up a little, although I think I liked the pork the best. They are the best things ever, and generally were only around two euros. Another thing that we tried was baklava, a Greek desert with a honey and filo pastry like base. I tried it with walnuts first and then caramel and both were amazing.

My First Greek Souvlaki

Another thing I picked up were a few phrases in Greek. A really common one I used a lot was efharisto, which means thank you. Yiassas means hello and can also mean goodbye too. I used efharisto a lot and while I don’t speak any other Greek, it generally got a smile from the person I was talking to every time I used it.

Santorini Group Photo


After a seven hour layover in the Athens airport, another twelve hour layover in the Rome airport and sleeping on the same benches for a few hours, and a metro ride followed by an hour bus ride, we made it back to Segovia. Classes started back up again this week, and it’s nice to get back into the normal routine. Even though I’m not home in the U.S., I was glad to get back to my home away from home after all the travelling!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Midterms!

This week marks the half way point! With that being said, it also means it's also time for midterms. We have midterms both tomorrow and Thursday before heading off to Greece Thursday afternoon. Tomorrow I have art history and Spain and the European Union midterms, Thursday history and grammar. I'm not exactly looking forward to them, but I do enjoy my classes and I've been learning so much. It's been a little difficult to learn everything in Spanish, but I think I'm understanding everything!


I'm hoping the water in the Greek Islands will be similar to Tenerife!


Yesterday marked my third week volunteering at the museum. I really enjoy it, and this past weekend I was there Saturday and Sunday. We literally had people from all over the world come to visit, from Israel to the U.S. to Brazil to different parts of Spain. It's given me a lot of practice in speaking Spanish, with a little English mixed in.

View of the Church in Martín Muñoz

This past week we went on a mini-excursion for class to the city of Martín Muñoz in Segovia to visit the castle and the church that has a painting by El Greco. It was a fun trip and it turns they enjoyed having us there enough to put us in the paper! I found the article online at: http://www.eladelantado.com/noticia/provincia/186813/americanos_en_martin_munoz.


Slightly Blurry Group Picture with “La Crucifixión” by El Greco
It's probably about that time for me to go study, but there's a little bit about what's been happening over here. I won't be able to post next week because it's spring break, but there will be more to come when I get back!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Don't Eat the Oranges

This past weekend we had an excursion to Andalucía, which is a providence in the south of Spain. Leaving at 9 a.m. Friday morning, we had a 6 ½ to 7 hour bus ride ahead of us from Segovia to Córdoba, where we were staying for the weekend. After stopping for a lunch break, we made it to Córdoba around four or five and visited both the cathedral and the Alcázar. The cathedral of Córdoba was huge and had gorgeous architecture and the Alcázar had beautiful gardens.

Me at the Alcázar

 One of the first things that struck me about Córdoba was that it had orange trees lining the streets. There were also many lemon trees too, but the orange trees were everywhere. I asked if we could eat the oranges but it turns out that they make you sick, so I had to stick with just looking at them and wanting to eat them.

One of the Many Orange Trees

Saturday was our day trip to Granada, which is about two hours to the south of Córdoba. We visited the Alhambra, which is basically a huge area that contains many buildings and grounds. It’s one of the most visited places in Spain, so we reserved our tickets beforehand. My personal favorite was the palace, which was an Arabic palace with incredible architecture design and is known for its lion fountain. We couldn’t have asked for a better day either, the sun was shining and it was in the 60’s.

Lion Fountain

After the Alhambra, we went to the central part of Granada for our free time. The group that I was with decided to go wander around the street shops near the cathedral. It seems like every place we go has a cathedral, plaza mayor or main plaza, and a castle, which makes meeting back up with our main group pretty easy. I just love all the history here and the buildings, so different than those back in the U.S.! We ended up finding a street vendor that would write our names in Arabic for a euro or two, depending on the paper we wanted. I splurged for the two euro one, and got both my name and Spanish name in Arabic (Raquel is the equivalent of Rachel in Spanish, and it’s also what my host mom and some of my professors call me – it’s hard for them to pronounce Rachel). The guy was really nice and explained the lettering to me. I love all of the culture differences and that I was able to speak with him in Spanish with his first language being Arabic and mine English. You could really tell the Arabic influence in Granada and Córdoba from the architecture and shops alone. Sunday was a long bus ride back to Segovia, but it was worth it. After catching up on some homework, it was time to go back to classes on Monday.

View from the Alhambra of Granada 

This is also my second week volunteering at a Jewish history museum in Segovia through the tourism office. It’s a smaller museum, but I’m learning so much about the Jewish history of Segovia. The earliest record of the Jewish people in Segovia was recorded in 1215 and they were expelled in 1492. There aren't many artifacts that remain since many of their buildings were destroyed, but there are archaeological records that tell what used to be standing. The Jewish quarter of the street is marked off with signs on the streets that signify it’s the Jewish quarter. Even though it isn't a very big museum, it’s interesting to learn about the different cultures that were and are present in Segovia.

Video inside the Museum


Time just seems to be flying by over here; we have midterms and spring break (in Greece!) starting at the end of next week already! I've made it to almost the halfway point, and I can’t seem to believe how fast it’s going.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Canary Islands!

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. We couldn't have asked for a better time and the weather was wonderful! Our flight left at 10:40 Friday morning, but we had to take the bus to Madrid at 6 a.m. to have enough time to take the Metro to the airport station once we got to Madrid. Once we made it to Madrid, we had to check in and get our boarding passes stamped before boarding. It was about a three hour flight and we found out that the Canary Islands are an hour behind Spain time, so we gained an extra hour for our first day.

View from the Plane
After checking into our hotel in Santa Cruz, we spent Friday exploring the cities of San Cristobal de la Leguna and Santa Cruz. San Cristobal is more of a historic city, and of course I would find the free museum over the history of Tenerife! It was really interesting to learn a little about their history and of course it didn't hurt that it was free.

View from our Hotel Room Balcony
After getting our very American McDonald's for dinner, it was time to sleep before our busy day Saturday. We went down to the south part of the island for a whale/dolphin tour and to see the beaches for our day trip. We wanted to go see the volcano in the middle of the island, but we couldn't find a bus that goes close enough because of its high elevation. It wasn't too difficult to get to the south side of the island and to where our tour was near the Playa de las Americas. After wandering around the stores and the beach, it was time for our tour. We saw whales and dolphins off the coast of Tenerife before going to swim in the ocean. I've never been in the ocean before, and I was surprised by how salty it really is. I think that I decided that I like swimming in freshwater, but I like seeing salt water more. Our guide was extremely nice, and he spoke six different languages! What really struck me about being in south Tenerife was the amount of languages that were being spoken; there was English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and some African language, if not more. On the boat I was able to speak Spanish to a French guy that spoke Spanish to bridge our native language barrier. The culture differences alone made it worth the trip to the south, not to mention the views and weather! It hit 75 degrees when we were on the boat, so it was definitely hard to leave the beach.

The Beach
We made a snowman to remember everyone back at home :)
Somewhat reluctantly, we headed back to Segovia Sunday. We left for the airport around 10:30 in the morning and made it back to Segovia around 8:30 at night. Although it was exhausting, it was all worth it. Back to class this week for me, but more adventures to come!

Adios from Tenerife