Travel

Thoughts from Back Home

I can’t believe I have been home for just a few weeks already.  It’s weird, because all at once, I feel like it was just yesterday and also months ago. My life there was so completely different than it is here, that is almost impossible to understand how I could have just been there. I know that I need to write this blog post, but I have been dragging my feet about it, because once this is written, I’ll know this adventure is really over. I don’t really know what I want to say in this post,so I think I will just try my best to sum up what I want to say about my trip in general.

First, I want to talk about Oviedo. I have taken to calling it “my home very far away from home.” The precious jewel of a city, nestled between the mountains and the Cantabrian Sea with bright green parks, obsessively clean streets,and astounding amounts of history. I already miss the cozy beauty of the city. Don’t get me wrong, I live by some beautiful beachy scenes, but I will miss being surrounded by mountains, historic cathedrals, and rolling green countryside. The city itself is beautiful too. The colors of the buildings and streets are amazing, especially when lit up by Christmas lights. I loved walking at night after the rain when there were lights up, because the slick streets would reflect the lights above them and the whole street seemed to be shining. I will miss the vibrancy of Oviedo’s streets. Just walking home from an English class in the afternoon was a fun experience. There are street musicians, people sitting en terraza eating churros or drinking wine, little kids chasing pigeons, old people sitting on benches and gossiping, people watching their dogs play in the park. (Vignette: I was walking through the center of town, and I passed the old man who plays his violin in that area nearly every day. He is very talented. I noticed a family watching him, two parents with a 7 or 8-year-old daughter. Her parents stood on either side of her, each with a hand on her back, where she was wearing a violin case. They watched from a little ways away, and the little girl’s face was filled with such admiration and aspiration. The look in her eyes so clearly said, “I want to do that. I want to sound like that.” And the old man was playing right to her, showing her how it’s done. This doesn’t really fit into what I’m talking about, but it was such a sweet and picture perfect moment that I wanted to record it.) I will miss having that vibe in the streets of my city. It was unlike anything I’d experienced before and I really loved it.
I will miss lots of other things about Oviedo and Spain too. Like the food! While I did miss a lot of my favorite foods while I was gone (Southern food, Asian food, Mexican food, health foods, anything my mom makes), I really enjoyed Spanish foods and drinks. American espresso cannot hold a candle to Spanish (or Italian) espresso. I will miss being able to pop into a cafe or bar and order a coffee for €1. It is the perfect little recharging break. I will also miss their sweet croissants. Why aren’t we topping our croissants with sugar? We’re really missing a huge opportunity on that one. Also, I already miss all the delicious fresh sea food I had. Everything was more fresh over there: fish, meat, bread, produce. It was great. It’s not hard to see how I gained a couple pounds this semester! Although despite that, I still feel healthier than I have in a long time, because I had very little processed food the whole time I was there. We could take some notes from the Spanish on that one too.

I will miss the mobility I had this semester. I already miss living in a place where I can walk wherever I want to go in the city, and I can get a bus or train to wherever I want to go outside the city. In Spain, I could decide during the week that I wanted to go somewhere across the country that weekend, book the hostel and buy a bus or train ticket (or book a BlaBlaCar) and I was off. I will miss having that sort of mobility. I’m not even old enough to rent a hotel room most places in the US by myself. That being said, even though it’s more difficult and expensive than it is in Europe, I do want to start traveling around the US. This country is so massive and diverse, and there’s so much of it I haven’t seen. (High on my list are New York City, Chicago, the Painted Desert, Portland, the Grand Canyon, Maine). Of course, there are so many places outside of the US I want to see too. As I predicted, I have been bitten by the traveling bug.

I learned a lot this semester, both about the world and about myself. Before September, I had never traveled anywhere without my family, nor had I left the country. Now I have traveled to four countries, and upwards of 20 different cities, without them. Now, this was not a completely independent trip. I was still living with a family (who did practically everything for me), and I had an amazing coordinator who was there for whatever I needed her for. But my friends and I handled pretty much all of our travel on our own. I learned that I can plan and prepare well enough to have an enjoyable trip, but still be flexible enough to deal with whatever problems arise without getting all bent out of shape. I learned that hostels can be scary, but usually they’re not. I learned that eating out is really expensive, and buying food from the grocery store is much cheaper. I learned that if you try to speak people’s language a little, they will be much more willing to switch to English (or Spanish) for you. I learned not to believe everything you hear about a place; you just have to see it for yourself to know how it is. I learned not to entertain stereotypes about people from different countries (even though they are sometimes very accurate.) I learned that oftentimes it is better to cut corners and skimp to save money, but sometimes spending a little extra can make your day way, way better (ie getting the occasional taxi, especially when you have luggage, or eating at a little bit more expensive restaurant because it will get you out of the cold and rain faster). I learned never to be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I learned to take a lot of pictures, but not to care about getting the “perfect shot.” I learned that I need a lot less things than I think I do. I learned that wine is awesome. I learned never to leave without having a water bottle, a snack, and tissues. I learned there is a beauty to going to mass in a language you don’t understand. I learned sometimes it’s okay to skip class if it means you get to see the Pope. I learned that people will assume things about you because you’re American. I learned that I’m both better and worse at Spanish than I think I am( I can communicate better that I think I can, but I still make a lot of mistakes and have a lot more to learn.) I learned that good travelling partners are invaluable. I learned that no matter where I am, sometimes the only thing I need to feel better is to talk to my mom. I learned that just texting my parents (almost) every day makes a world of difference to them. I learned that I am so little and the world is so big. I learned that if I want to do something, I can figure out how to make it work. I learned that I still feel a child-like joy whenever I get the chance to see something new and amazing. I learned not to sweat the small stuff so I can get on to enjoying the big stuff. I learned A LOT!

On top of all that stuff, I also gained a deep understanding of Spanish culture, especially Northern Spanish culture, for which I am very grateful. No amount of reading and learning about a place can compare to living there when it comes to understanding the people and culture. I fell in love with this rich, passionate, complicated country, and there is so much of it I still need to see. I will be back. I left a piece of my heart in Asturias.

If I keep talking about how much I love Spain I’m going to get all weepy, so I’m going to move on to thank yous. I want to thank Angeles and Nacho, my host parents, for everything they did for me this semester (even though they can’t read this!). I want to thank Ana, our coordinator, for being absolutely stellar and always going beyond what she needed to do for us. I want to thank everyone at the International Programs Office at Rollins for all the hard work they do to make sure everything goes as well as possible for all the students abroad. Thank you, Catey and Shannon for being the best travelling companions a girl could ask for. Thank you to my incredible family for all you did to make sure I had this amazing opportunity- this would not have happened without your support, and I cannot express my gratitude to you all enough. Thank you to everyone who wished me well, told me they missed me, and who lets me talk to them incessantly about my travels. And last but not least, thank you to all of you reading this!! I started this blog mostly for personal reasons, because I wanted a record of all the things I did this semester, but hearing how much other people were enjoying it really encouraged and motivated me to keep up with it. It has been an amazing experience to get to share all the things I’ve been doing with you all. I have really enjoyed doing all this personal writing, so I’m going to try to keep up with the blog in the coming months. Since I won’t be travelling in immediate future, I’m not sure what I’ll write about, but I’d really like to keep writing, so I’ll try to find something! Thank you again for keeping up with my travels and listening to my ramblings. It has been so fun to share everything with you all.

It is sad to see the sun set on this amazing adventure I’ve had, but I know 2018 and all the years after it hold more adventures than I can even imagine right now.
Mil gracias y hasta luego!

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Travel

Our Great Italian Adventure: Part 4: There and Back Again, or Barcelona and Epilogue

Previously on Our Great Italian Adventure:  The next morning, we had a 10am flight to Barcelona. We left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport bus and plenty of extra time at the airport too. Everything went off without a hitch, which considering the bad luck we had had with transportation, was nothing short of a miracle. We even had time for a yummy breakfast in the airport, including fresh squeezed orange juice and a last cup of Italian espresso. We flew Ryanair again, which if you read my blog about Dublin, you know my feelings about, but we had some beautiful views of snowy mountains on our flight.

Photos for Barcelona here.

We even got to the hostel without any problems. We couldn’t check in, but we left our bags before trying to see what we could of Barcelona in the short time we had. We got some bocadillos to eat on our way to the metro. Our trip to Paris really boosted my confidence with metro systems. I much, much prefer them to buses. The Barcelona one was intuitive and easy to use, and only 1€ per trip if you bought ten trips (which we could split between the three of us). We took the metro straight to the Sagrada Familia. It is stunning to see in person. Initially, we weren’t planning on going in, since it’s pretty pricey and we didn’t have much time in the city. But since they still had tickets available for 4:45 and Catey really wanted to go, we decided to buy tickets to come back and go in. In the time we had to wait before five, we went to Park Güell. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any tickets available before 4, and there was no way we could’ve gone in at 4 and been at the Sagrada Familia by 4:45. We tried to buy tickets ahead of time, but the website wasn’t working for at least 48 hours before we were there. Oh well! There is still a lot of the Park you can see without tickets (just none of the architectural stuff) and since its pretty high up, you have a great view of the city. We headed back with plenty of time to get into the Sagrada Familia. I am so glad we went inside. It is so impressive. It is unlike any other Basilica/cathedral I’ve seen. Obviously its much more modern than the other’s, and its just so different. The vibrant colors of the stained glass and the insane shapes of the ceiling are breathtaking. Since the sun was setting as we were visiting, the colors of the windows changed and it was amazing. I love Gaudi. I am a big fan of traditional art being reinterpreted in a modern way. Stained glass has been used in churches for hundreds of years, but he used it in a totally new way. Soaring ceilings can be found in many churches, but they don’t swirl and curve like Gaudi’s do. (I feel this way about all art forms: literature, theatre, music, dance, etc.) Also, I’m a big fan of bright colors (hence why I’m fan of people like Raphael and the neo-impressionists), so the crazy vibrant windows were just amazing to me.

After this amazing visit, we had to find a place to go to mass, since we wouldn’t have much time to go in the morning. Unfortunately they only celebrate one mass a week at La Sagrada Família at 9am on Sundays, which would have been cutting it close to make it to our train. We went to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pines, because masstimes.org told me they had a mass at 6:30. They did not. It was still cool to see the church though! It was very old and traditional, a great foil to the Sagrada Familia. After some more searching, we found that the Cathedral of Barcelona had mass at 7, and it is only two minutes from our hostel. We had to convince the guards to let us in. We asked, “Is there mass at 7?” (Because now we didn’t know if we could trust what church websites say) and they told us yes there was mass, and we couldn’t go in until it was over. We tried to tell them we were going to mass, and they said “Mass is 45 minutes, if you go in, you can’t leave until it’s over.” We finally got him to understand that we were actually going TO mass, and he let us in. Our Spanish didn’t deteriorate that much in a week of disuse, so I’m not sure what the confusion was. It might have been because the mass was in Catalan, although he didn’t mention anything about that. Fortunately, after traveling in France and Italy, we’ve gotten used to going to mass in a language we don’t understand (even in Spanish, I don’t understand a lot of the biblical language, although now I follow the mass parts easily). Catalan is more different from Castellano than I thought it was.  It was actually lot easier to follow mass in Italian than in Catlan. It was a nice mass, with an adorable old man cantoring. It is a beautiful cathedral, too. It reminds me a lot of the one in Oviedo. After mass, the streets were absolutely packed with people. Barcelona is always a busy city, and this week is a big travel week in Spain because the 6th and 8th are holidays (which is why were traveling).  We went back to the hostel to check in and regroup. Catey did some expert googling and found a cheap, delicious looking Mexican restaurant/bar that was only a fee minutes from the hostel. Like Chinese food, we are deprived of Mexican food in Asturias, so we were super excited. The place was packed, and the loud, friendly atmosphere let us know we were back in Spain. We had to wait for a table, but it was super worth it. We celebrated the last night of our adventure with fresh guac, frozen drinks, and giant burritos. We were back in the hostel by 10, and we were getting ready for bed as everyone else was getting up from their evening nap to get ready to go out. (Typical Spain!)  It had been a long, busy day, after a long, busy week, and we slept like logs.

And that brings us to today. I am writing this on our 10 hour train ride back from Barcelona to Oviedo. I am thankful to have the time to write about all of this, because today marks the beginning of my last week in Spain. What a wild ride it has been. I can’t believe this week I’ll be doing things here for the last time, seeing things for the last time. The last time for a while, at least. I know I’ll be back to Oviedo. This quiet little city has my heart. Anyway, a mushy post about Oviedo is going to be a different post! This about Our Great Italian Adventure! (Note: I wrote this last Sunday…today is Friday. I leave tomorrow night!).

I can’t believe that in the past two weeks I saw the Eiffel Tower and the Pope. What a weird life I’m living. I can’t believe how many things I am getting to do that I’ve wanted to do for so long! Seeing Rome satisfied a very old longing for me (old for a 19-year-old, anyway.) Seeing Florence was a reawakening of my love of the cultural craziness that is the Italian Renaissance. And seeing Venice was the realization that a city known for it’s sunny summer scenes is still beautiful on a drizzly December day. And seeing Barcelona was a tiny taste of a vibrant and complicated city. People are already asking me what was my favorite. I have to say that I saw my favorite things in Rome, but as far as the city overall, I loved Florence. It literally looks like a painting. The people were very friendly, it was easy and nice to walk around, and the food was fantastic and cheap.

I am super proud of this trip. Shannon, Catey and I made it through a ten day, four city trip without any of us trying to kill each other. We faced a few challenges and got through them with relative ease and only a moderate amount of whining. We avoided the famous pit-pockets of Italy, although that was luck more than anything I think. And, very importantly, we had an absolutely amazing time. I am so thankful that we were kept safe and happy during this trip, and that I have two great girls to travel with. It’s not easy to find people who will put up with you for that many days at a time! And it’s even better when they keep you up giggling like you’re at a sleepover and you turn heads at museums because you’re all laughing about something or other.

thebabes
The girls in Florence!

In the bigger memory that is my semester in Spain, I will always have this memory of my amazing trip to Italy, where I saw some of the greatest works of art in the world and explored three of the most historically important cities in Europe. The five big trips I’ve gone on: Santiago de Compostela, Sevilla, Dublin, Paris, and Italy each has it’s own distinct flavor. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, so I hope when I reread my blogs and look through the pictures I can remember the exact way these different places made me feel. I will hold the awe I felt in St Peters Basilica, the amazement I felt watching the sun set over Florence, the wonder I felt seeing the glittering ceiling of St Marks, and the joy I felt reflected in the windows of La Sagrada Familia in my heart with all the other feelings I’ve experienced here.  It was an amazing journey that I’m so incredibly thankful for. As I head back to Oviedo, my home very far away from home, I feel very blessed and very happy. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my novella. I really appreciate everyone who has read my blogs these past months! I’m going to try to post one more time before I leave, and if not, I’ll post a goodbye to Oviedo after I get home. 🙂

Travel

Two Gals in Galicia

Okay, so I went to Galicia a month ago. I wrote most of a blog post about it,  but I didn’t have my pictures organized at the time, and then I never got around to finishing it. Oops! Better late than never, I guess! Here are the pictures and here is what I already had written:

As promised, I am playing catch up and trying to fill you all in on everything that has happened in the last two weeks or so. There is so much more I want to write about- the food, my day-to-day, cultural things, cool places in Oviedo, classes I’m in- but if I wrote as much as I wanted to, I would spend all my time blogging and no time actually experiencing things. But, I do need to document and share my weekend trip to Galicia,so here it is.

Two weekends ago, we had Thursday and Friday off of class, so my friend Shannon and I decided to go to Galicia (the neighboring province) to enjoy the four free days. (My host mom says that this was a shame, because we should have used the time to go somewhere farther away in Spain. But she thinks a lot of things I do are shame, so I’m not too worried about it.) We chose Galicia primarily because I wanted to see Santiago de Compostela, which is the end of El Camino (a Christian pilgrimage, more on that later.) And when we said we were going to Santiago, everyone said we had to visit La Coruña too, because it was only thirty minutes away. And so we booked our bus tickets, a hostel for Santiago, and an Airbnb for La Coruña and away we went.

Now, the reason we had two days off was because of San Mateo. I mentioned this a few posts ago, but it is a 10 day  celebration honoring St. Matthew, the patron of Oviedo. On Wednesday night at midnight there were beautiful fireworks, and afterwards the whole city was out with music and dancing and such. One of our young teachers from our Spanish “intensive” classes took us as a group to enjoy the festivities. It was a great time. Unfortunately, as is the case whenever I stay up late or throw off my sleep schedule, I woke up Thursday morning with a cold. Perfect. Shannon and I were planning on leaving for Santiago that afternoon, and because we bought cheap tickets, it was going to take us about five hours to get there. So I sucked it up, got on the bus, and proceeded to get sicker and sicker. My head was pounding, my nose stuffed up, and my throat was super sore. I slept like a log that night, and Friday morning I got some nose spray and ibuprofen. After that,  it was manageable, even if I didn’t feel 100% the rest of the weekend. Despite my poorly timed congestion, we still had a fantastic time.

So, if you don’t know what El Camino de Santiago is, I highly suggest you look into it. I am completely fascinated with it. Long story short, it translates to The Way of Saint James. It is a very old pilgramge that has many different routes, and originally they all ended in Santiago de Compostela, which is where the remains of the apostle Saint James are interred. Pilgrims (or peregrinos in Spanish) can walk all the way from France, or start in Spain, and there are a million different ways to go. Peregrinos can stay cheaply in hostels or albergues, often get discounted meals at places along El Camino, and are generally treated with a unique level of reverence, care, and respect. Some pilgrimages last a week, others months. Many people do it for spiritual/religious reasons, others for physical or mental health, or simply to see beautiful countrysides. The Emilio Estevez/Martin Sheen movie “The Way” is a good (but sad) watch that gives a representation of El Camino that I have heard is fairly accurate. Doing El Camino (at least a short one) is on my bucket list, but for now, I am happy to have the city that ends the pilgrimage for most.

Shannon and I stayed in an albergue for peregrinos, although non-pilgrims are allowed to stay there too. It is actually a monastery that rents out the majority of their rooms. It was absolutely vast and very beautiful- not to mention super inexpensive. We decided on private rooms this time, just to ease ourselves into the hostel experience, which in retrospect I regret because everyone we met in the hostel was super, super nice. Initially we couldn’t find our room because of how huge this place is (as in, it took us about five minutes to walk from the door to our room) but a middle aged American man helped us out because his room was in the same hall as ours.  Again, I am fascinated with El Camino so to be able to see and talk to pilgrims from all over the world was super cool to me. (One day that will be me!!) Also the view from my room was incredible. It was late (and I was dead) when we got there Thursday night, so our adventure didn’t really begin until Friday morning.

Santiago de Compostela is unlike any place I have been before. The streets look like they were built one at a time, with no regard as to where the next one would go. They sort of ramble on and turn at weird places, and the buildings feel the same way. It creates a very interesting and beautiful effect, and I think it mostly a side of effect of being a very old city. Also, there is exposed stone walls inside nearly all of the buildings and I really enjoyed that look too. It looks very different from Asturias, even though it is only a few hours away. It is not a very big town at all, but because of the constant stream of pilgrims and  tourists, the businesses there thrive. The huge amount of international tourists changes the feel of the place too. As Shannon and I were eating breakfast Friday morning, there were two different groups of people speaking (British) English around us!, and a guy talking on the phone in what sounded like Russian. In Oviedo, nobody speaks English, especially not as a first language, so we were delighted to hear it. You wouldn’t think we’d be so excited, but when we were.

After breakfast, we went to the museum of El Camino, and then to the Pilgrims’ Mass at noon. This is held in the Catedral de Santiago, which I think is the largest cathedral I’ve been in since we’ve been here. I’m not sure how many people it can fit, but it was standing room only. We got in line to come in 25 minutes before mass started, so we at least got seats at the base of a pillar, if not a pew. Mass was actually said by the Bishop of Los Angeles, which was funny, because his Spanish pronunciation was practiced, but clearly American. We made friends with a lady from New Jersey sitting next to us, and translated the psalm for her because she didn’t speak any Spanish. Mass was cantered by an adorable nun, and she lead all the responses, which makes it a lot easier to say them in Spanish. As you might know, there is a butafumiero in the Cathedral, which is basically a giant dispenser of incense that hangs from the ceiling and requires 6 or 7 people to operate it. I thought we would get to see it, because the schedule said ” butafumiero on Friday”, but apparently it only happens on some Fridays, when a group has specifically requested ahead of time and their request has been approved. It also happens on some special holidays. Apparently it cost a lot of money to operate, which is why they don’t do it all the time. (Again, watch The Way if you’re interested.) So, we were a little disappointed we didn’t get to see that, but it will give us something to look forward to when we come back to do El Camino! After mass, we went downstairs and saw Saint James’s grave, which was interesting to say the least. It’s not often you get to visit the remains of an apostle. All in all, the mass was beautiful, and I’m so glad we got to participate in it.

Afterwards, we spent the rest of the day exploring the city. There were beautiful parks which we did a little photoshoot in, and everywhere we turned there were more churches, more plazas, more beautiful sites. Everything here is beautiful, but in such a different way than Oviedo. We stepped into an old bookstore, and it was like we had opened the portal to another world. It was damp and dusty inside, there were the exposed stone walls, full of old books. Old music was playing, and the old lady at the counter was reading and paying us no mind. I took a video of it to remember how interesting it was. I think Santiago is fulls of weird little gems like this. As the sun was getting low in the sky, and golden hour was upon us, Shannon and I found ourselves in one of the ancient parts of town, looking at a palace, at a church, at restaurants built into the bottom of old buildings. As we marveled at the Palacio de Rajoy, the sun was aggressively golden. It made an already beautiful place completely indescribable. Shannon said to me that she was glad I was with her, because otherwise no one would believe just how beautiful it was here. And as we were standing there, basking in this moment, wondering how it could be so beautiful, a harpist started playing. Like, seriously?? A harp?? Are we in a movie right now?? I went over and gave them some money because their music was the icing on the cake, making this scene almost too perfect to feel real.

I wish I could bottle the essence of Santiago de Compostela and keep it with me. Shannon said it first, but the place makes her feel completely at peace. I had this feeling too. The city has a vibe that is hard for me to put my finger on at first, but I think I have it partially figured out now. The city is full of peregrinos. These are all people who have just finished a journey that has mostly likely been a turning point in their lives. They have pushed themselves to the limit physically, mentally, and/or spiritually, and now they are here. They are all happy, all at peace with their lives, all of them are in a good place. And everyone who is not a pilgrim is treating the pilgrims with utmost respect for what they have just done. This makes for an extremely peaceful city, full of peaceful people. You can feel the spirituality of the place in the air.

And that’s all I wrote. I didn’t post it because I wanted to add something about La Coruña, but now I feel like I don’t have much to say about it. La Coruña was a bigger city than the ones we’re used to seeing here, and I didn’t find it particularly pretty. It’s a port town, but I didn’t like it as much as the seaside town of Gijon, which is only 30 minutes from Oviedo. Because we booked this trip pretty last minute, we had to stay in an Airbnb instead of a hostel, which was comfortable but poorly located and it didn’t have wifi. The old part of the city was pretty, and we got to see an old prison/fort thing that was very interesting and had a good view. We did go to a few science museums which were interesting and cheap, so that was nice. All in all, I don’t regret coming here, but it pales in comparison to the gem that is Santiago de Compostela. Again, I’m sorry for the delay in this post, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. I’m going on a very exciting trip this weekend that I can’t wait to tell you about!

Travel

Salamanca and Sevilla

BLOGGING IS HARD! Now that I am into a schedule with university classes and my English tutoring classes, finding time to write seems impossible. Once I organize my pictures from a trip, I seem to run out of time to write a blog post before I’m off to the next place. I suppose it’s not so bad a problem to have, but I apologize that I’ve been a bit absent here. I still owe you all a post about my trip to Galicia, which is almost a month ago now (oops!). I have it half-written, so it’s coming soon, I promise. As you can see by the title, I went to Salamanca and Sevilla last weekend, and I wanted to write a post about this while it was still fresh in my mind. I think Sevilla is my favorite city I’ve ever been to! So, here is a post about my trip to two beautiful cities in Spain: Salamanca and Sevilla (click for pictures.)

Since last Thursday was a holiday here, my friend Catey and I decided to hit the road and head on south for the weekend. Our first stop was the college town of Salamanca, which is about three hours south of Oviedo. We stayed in a youth hostel, and met pretty much every stereotypical person you would expect to find in such a place. Salamanca is a precious, small city with some really amazing architecture. I’ve talked a little about the ~vibes~ of different places, and this city had a very interesting vibe for me. I didn’t have déjà vu, but the city felt homey and familiar somehow. I get a similar feeling when I go to Tallahassee, which is where I lived until I was 8, or to St. Augustine, a city I’ve visited about once a year since I was little. It had that feeling of familiarity, but I didn’t feel like I had been there or seen it before. I think this might be because it reminded me of other places in Spain, and everyone was really friendly. It was weird, but pleasant.

We saw lots of amazing places in Salamanca, like the Universidad Pontificia, the cathedral, and La Plaza Mayor. The University had a great tour which included going up to the bell towers to see the whole city, and that was an amazing view. The Cathedral in Salamanca might be my favorite one I’ve been to since I’ve been here.cathedralsalamanca.jpg

It was absolutely breathtaking inside architecturally, and featured some of the most beautiful art  and statues I’ve seen in Spain. It is a truly special place. Aside from those amazing buildings, we also thoroughly enjoyed the Plaza Mayor. This is the heart of the old city, and it is circled by tons of cafes, restaurants, and bars. We ate lunch here alfresco, and felt very fancy. We decided to return that night, just to see how it looked in the dark, and we were astounded. It was filled with people, because it was a holiday, and the plaza was not only lit up, but illuminated with the colors of the Spanish flag. It was so special!

The next day, Friday, we had the morning to complete one essential task: find the astronaut. Yes, you read that right. During restoration work on the Cathedral, some cheeky artists added a tiny astronaut in the work around the main doors, nestled in between the seraphim and cherubim. We looked and looked and thought we would never find him, until we saw a man pointing it out to his kids. We were almost out of time before we had to leave, so we were really happy that we finally found it (or rather, that man found it.) He’s hiding in this picture. 

By Friday evening, we were settled into our Airbnb in Sevilla, which is another 4+ hours south from Salamanca. By this point, we were pretty deep into southern Spain, and it was hot and dry, which is pretty much the exact opposite of Asturias. It was a nice change. Sevilla embodies exactly what I thought Spain was before I came here. There are palm trees, Arab-influenced architecture, tapas, flamenco, and everything has a slightly dramatic flare. On top of that, it was absolutely beautiful. parquemarialuisa.jpgThe colors seem more vibrant, and every detail is exquisite. That is a picture from the Parque de Maria Lusia which is gargantuan and beautiful. Other than that, the gems of Sevilla are the cathedral (obviously), the Real Alcázar , and the Plaza de Espana.  Sadly, we didn’t get to do a full tour of the cathedral because it was closed on Saturday for a ceremony, but we did get to go to mass there on Sunday. We had to wait in line to get in to the the Real Alcázar, which is a royal palace which was originally constructed by Moorish Muslim kings. Every square inch of the interior of this place is filled with detail, and the expansive gardens are meticulously cared for. By the time we were exploring the gardens, it was a hefty 94 degrees, but we enjoyed it all the same.  The Plaza de Espana feels absolutely otherworldly, so much so that it is featured in Star Wars Episode II as an exterior shot on Naboo in this scene.

plaza de espana.jpg
This was the last picture I took before my camera battery died!

It’s one of those places that’s so amazing that it’s hard to process what you’re seeing. After walking around all day, Catey and I returned here to put our feet in the water and rest, and it was one of the best feelings ever. This plaza is so amazing!

Sevilla is such an amazing place to just walk around. Everything smells like honeysuckle. Well, except for the horses. (There are tons of horse and buggy tours around the city.) But everything that doesn’t smell like horses smells like honeysuckle. The Barrio de Santa Cruz is known for its little shops and its abundance of restaurants and bars, all with lots of seating outside. After dark, it is filled with locals and tourists all enjoying tapas and the warm night air. During the day, Catey and I bought some fans and blended right in by drinking coffee in the shade while practicing our fanning skills. One night, when we were eating dinner outside, we were serenaded by a group of students raising money who were really good! And there were tons of different groups of them walking through the streets and singing. It’s literally like a fantasy world. Everything smells like flowers, and there’s minstrels, mild weather, and delicious food. Living here would be like being on vacation 24/7. For me, the “toursty-ness” of this city doesn’t not detract from it’s beauty at all, it simply adds to its vibrancy.

One of the major highlights of our trip was the flamenco show we went to Saturday night at the Flamenco Museum. If you’re ever in Sevilla, I would highly recommend this show. It is reasonably priced, especially for students, and it was so amazing! The dancers, singers, and the guitar player were incredibly talented and we had a great time. It was a sold out, intimate show and the energy of the performers was palpable. I have never seen another dance form able to portray such raw emotion so effectively. I think it appeals to me especially because of how rooted it is in improvisation. Flamenco doesn’t really exist in northern Spain so it was  great to be able to experience it. Unfortunately, no pictures or videos were allowed so I will just have to cherish that memory in my mind. It was a great way to wrap up our whirlwind trip.

On Sunday, we had an 8 hour ride home, but it was so worth it for all the amazing things we saw. Southern Spain, especially Andalusia (where Sevilla is), is so incredibly different from the part of Spain where I live, it’s hard to believe they’re only a few hours away from each other. I would love to come back and see more of this part of the country one day. The buildings are amazing, the flora is beautiful, and the people are friendly. Overall, it was a very successful weekend; Catey and I had a great time. I enjoyed Salamanca, but I fell in love with Sevilla. I will be back someday.

I promise my long overdue post about my trip to Galicia will be up soon! Thanks for staying tuned!

 

Travel

Paraíso Natural

Asturias’s tagline is “Paraíso Natural,” or Natural Paradise, because despite its small size, it has both the mountains and the ocean. In the past few weeks, I have experienced just how beautiful Asturias really is. We are lucky to have weekend excursions organized for us by our program coordinator, so we don’t miss out on all of the gems the northernmost province of Spain has to offer. Two weeks ago, the day before my birthday, we went to Los Lagos en Los Picos de Europa and Covadonga. As I said in my last post, this was without a doubt the most beautiful place I have ever seen. And just this past weekend, we visited Ribadesella, and not only did we 15,000-year-old cave paintings, we also went up to a cliff on the sea that is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. They each deserve their own post, but for now I am rolling them into one. Remember, all of my pictures are available on my flickr. You can access the individual albums for these two excursions here and here.

Los Lagos and Covadonga

On Sunday, September 17th, the six of us and our coordinator Ana, piled into a rented van to drive to Los Picos de Europa. This is the mountain range that separates Asturias from the rest of Spain. I knew they were going to be beautiful, but I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. We stopped on the way to see El Puente Romano, which is an ancient bridge.  (The sky looks washed out here, but it was just cloud coverage.) After about an hour of driving, we began our ascent up the mountain (in the van, thankfully). The driver started to look worried, and after about twenty minutes he pulled over to let the engine cool down before we continued up. We got out and walked around while we waited. This is what we saw: covadongareinavista.jpg

I was awestruck. The colors, the staggering heights, and the lack of buildings, as far as the eye can see. I had never seen anything like it in my life. After a few minutes of letting the van cool down, we continued our ascent to Los Lagos. I had already seen enough to make my day, but the lakes took it to a different level.

loslagos1.jpg

I feel like I say this every time, but the pictures really do not do this justice. Standing here, I was surrounded by these gorgeous mountains on all sides, with two lakes. It felt like I was in another world, and like some sort of fictional creature was going to come around the bend. It literally took my breath away, and that was only partly because I was walking uphill in high altitude. Looking at the pictures, I hope you understand why I feel like this was the most beautiful place I have ever been, but you have to take my word for it. It was absolutely other worldly. I could have spent all day here. There was even snow on the mountain top!

snowymountains.jpg
I didn’t touch this photo up at all. I love the textures and depth in it!

As we walked down to meet the van, we were greeted by a herd of goats! They were absolutely adorable. Here is a video of them. So cute! If you don’t hear from me, I have probably moved to the mountains to become a goat herder.

Like I said, my mind had already been totally blown by what I had seen. I actually said out loud that my brain was having a hard time comprehending what I was seeing. It did not feel real. But we were not done! We still had to visit Covadonga, which is an unassuming little pueblo which became famous about a century ago. La Virgen de Covadonga (so, Mother Mary) appeared there 99 years ago, and there is a shrine in the side of a cave there dedicated to her. There is also an absolutely staggering cathedral. This is all just down the mountain where Los Lagos is. We walked into the shrine, and tourists and pilgrims were participating in a rosary, led by a man with a microphone. Looking around the natural cave, feeling the warmth of the wall of votive candles, and reading the prayers hung on the walls, all while hearing the Hail Mary said over and over again in Spanish was rather emotional for me. I don’t know if a place can be extra reverent, but this one was. This is the view from inside the cave.

You can see the cathedral in that picture, and that’s where we were headed next. covadonga and me.jpgThis is one of my favorite pictures from my entire time in Spain so far (thanks for taking it, Catey!). I posted it on instagram with the caption ” i feel small.” And I really, really did. Dedication to Mother Mary always makes me emotional, but this cathedral was really something else. I have already seen so many amazing cathedrals, churches, and chapels since I’ve been here, but something about this church on this day really hit me. While the art and the architecture were beautiful, it’s not that they were significantly more beautiful than the other gorgeous churches here. It was just everything combined that made this cathedral strike me in a special way.  I knelt in front of the tabernacle in the cathedral and was overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s mountains and the lakes, and the conviction and faith of the people who built the cathedral and the shrine. I got teary eyed from trying to comprehend the amazing beauty I had seen, and from realizing how even though it was the best thing I had ever witnessed, it pales unimaginably against the true beauty of heaven. (Is anyone counting how many times I’ve said beauty/beautiful?) I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around how gorgeous things can be on earth, and I am simultaneously overwhelmed by the realization of how much more there is than this. That’s not a bad problem to have, I suppose! This is an ongoing spiritual theme with me since I’ve been here, and I’m sure I will make some sort of breakthrough with it before I’m home. I will try to write about it more coherently and cohesively at some point.

So, long story short, it was an amazing day. It was one of those days where you feel like a better person at the end of it- and it wasn’t even because of anything I did, but because of things I’d seen. People told me that when I went abroad I would see things that would change me, and I’m not sure I understood what they meant until today.

Ribadesella

Honestly, that felt like a good place to stop, but these two trips fit together thematically so I’m going to keep them in one post! Just this past weekend, we went to go see cave painting in Ribadesella. In the cave Tito Bustillo, the oldest cave paintings are over 30,000 years old. The oldest ones open to the public are a 15,000 years old. Again, my brain just can’t comprehend that. I has no way of visualizing that amount of time because I have nothing to compare it to. So, to imagine people living and painting in the dark cave you are walking around in an unfathomably long time ago is pretty cool. The 5-to-7-year-old Mary inside me, who wanted to be archaeologist, was freaking out a little. We had a great tour guide, who spoke very clear Spanish, and made it feel like she was telling a story. (Also, she’s our van driver’s wife! Asturias is very small.) The cave paintings were amazing, and included reindeer, which no longer live in Asturias, and a giant purple horse. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the cave, but they have some photos on Asturias’s tourism website. It was a very cool experience.

After lunch, we took a walk up to a cliff, where there is a chapel dedicated to La Virgen de La Guia, which the Virgin Mary dedicated to mariners. (Mary is everywhere here- one of my favorite things about Spain.) I didn’t take a picture of the chapel because I couldn’t get far enough back from it to take a decent one. It was also closed so we couldn’t go inside. But oh my goodness-this cliff was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. ribadesellapan.jpg(Here for more pictures.) Water, the Cantabrian Sea, surrounds the point on both sides. On my left, I could see the town of Ribadesella, and on my right there was nothing but ocean. You would think I would be used to seeing the water, considering I have lived in Florida my entire life,  but this was different. When you are higher up, the ocean seems to stretch even further into the distance, and from where we were it seemed to go on forever in every direction. I sat on the stone wall and watched with a sense of complete calm, and I was mesmerized by the water breaking over the sharp rocks at the bottom of the cliffs. I took a video to try and capture the ~vibe~ of this amazing place. I’m so happy I have it to look back at. The thick green grass, the persistent wind, the stark black cliffs, and the complete immensity and relentlessness of the ocean created such a peacefulness in me that I didn’t want to leave. There is a very particular feeling I get when I am completely relaxed, and it washed over me as soon as I stepped foot onto the point. It is one of the places I know I cannot see only once in my life.

 

As I said when talking about Covadonga, I felt small standing in front of the cathedral. I felt small standing among the giant mountains. I felt small looking at paintings created by people who lived 150 centuries ago. I felt small facing the enormity of the Atlantic Ocean in a way I had never done before. And I love feeling small. I love being reminded that there are things much greater and grander than me, and I am blessed to live in the same world as them, and to have the chance to witness them. I get the same feeling looking up at a very starry sky. It makes me feel insignificant and important all at once. If you have seen any great work of nature or man, I think you know what I mean. It would take a more talented writer than me to precisely define it. But to feel small is to know that the world is big, and that even the most evil and hateful people in the world are also small. And in times like these, that is a very comforting thought.

Travel

Avilés y Gijon

As  much as I love Oviedo, it isn’t the only beautiful city in Spain. Asturias is full of gorgeous cities and towns, and I got to visit two of them this weekend. As you may remember from my last post, my Saturday was rather sub-par. However, my Friday and my Sunday were amazing. On Friday, two friends and I traveled to Avilés in the afternoon to see what there was to see, and on Sunday our entire group from Rollins went to visit Gijon with our program coordinator. Both of these gems are less than half an hour ( and €5) from Oviedo by bus.

NOTE: Apparently, WordPress only lets you upload 3GB of photos until they make you pay for it, and I’ve already used 25% of that. I want to keep sharing as many pictures as possible with you all, so I’ll be making albums on my flickr, and linking to those within my blogs. It’s annoying, but at least this way I can keep sharing photos!

Avilés

Aviles looks a lot like Oviedo, only slightly smaller. When Camille and Catey and I first arrived at the bus station, we started walking the wrong way into the outskirts of town and were disappointed. But then we turned back around and found the beautiful city center, and took a TON of pictures. (<- click hyperlink to get to my flickr)  We saw the beautiful “Iglesia Vieja de Sabugo,” but it was closed so we couldn’t go inside. However, we did get to go in the absolutely breathtaking Iglesia de Santo Tomás de Cantorbery. It is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen. The pictures of the interior really do not do it justice. aviles catedral afuera

All the stores were closed because it was a holiday, so I want to go back to Aviles when it’s busier! It is a gorgeous little city.

Gijon

On Sunday, our program coordinator, Ana, took us to her home city of Gijon. It’s actually bigger than Oviedo is, and it is a coastal city. I love the mountains of Oviedo, but it felt good to be by the ocean again! We debated on which city is prettier, Oviedo or Gijon, and although Gijon is beautiful, I think Oviedo wins out for me. Gijon doesn’t have an ancient part of the city like Oviedo does. That being said, Gijon is definitely nothing to sneeze at.  Anyway, when we arrived, I was so sad to see that I had forgotten my SIM card for my camera, so I took all of these pictures with my iPhone. They came out better than I expected, but I had to worry about battery life and storage, which I never do with my camera.

Side note: I am obsessed with the color palette of Spain. In Oviedo and in Gijon, I love how the buildings are painted, and how it blends with the landscape around it. I want to bottle those colors and put them everywhere in my life. (See the featured image on this post)

pan fave

We walked up a hill/cliff to get the best view of the water. You’d think I’d be used to coastal views, but this was really gorgeous. It felt like the color saturation was turned up- the water was the bluest blue and the grass was so green. The structure in this picture is a built to make the wind “sing.” If you stand in it, the sea breeze makes a really cool humming sound.

Whenever we go somewhere with Ana, we get meals paid for by Rollins. Since lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, we eat really well when we’re with her! “Menu del día” is very popular here, where you get your choice of first course and second course, plus a desert, bread, coffee, and a drink of a fixed menu for a fixed price. It’s an insane amount of food. The first course is not a small salad or appetizer- it is enough food for a meal all on its own. We ate in a delicious restaurant with an amazing view of the water.

We were also lucky enough to be there during a holiday for a local neighborhood, so there were all sorts of colorful decorations up- including a dragon! We also got to go to a really cool aquarium (acuario in Spanish), where we got to see all sorts of cool animals, including jellyfish, sharks, sea turtles, and a penguin. It was a great day.

 

Sorry that this post was a little delayed- I wanted to figure this whole picture thing out before I uploaded. I can’t believe that our second week of class is already over. This semester is really going to fly by, so I’m trying to take advantage of every day. The Festival of San Mateo kicked off last night, and we have another excursion tomorrow, so I will write again soon. Hasta luego 🙂

Travel

I know that I know nothing

Today was one of those days that, as my dad would say, built character. If I’m going to share how cool everything I’m doing is, I think it’s only right to share the not so cool parts too. Everything has been going pretty smoothly since I left the US, so I was due for a day of complications. And even today hasn’t been so bad, just a little frustrating. And really, I feel like it’s probably good for me to survive a day of mishaps and see that everything turned out fine in the end. I apologize for the lack of pictures today, but if you keep reading you’ll soon realize why today didn’t have many photo ops.

As I mentioned yesterday, the 8th was el Día de Asturias. Apparently, they pick a different Asturian town in which to celebrate this day each year, and it just so happens that this year it is happening in Llanera, which is only a 15 minute drive from Oviedo. According to the promotional materials, there is traditional Asturian food and drinks, dancing, live Asutrian music, demonstrations of traditional sports, and a market with Asturian goods. Well, my friends and I thought that sounded pretty fun (and very Asturian), so we decided to take the bus to Llanera. Just yesterday we went to Avilés (pictures to come) on the bus,which is about 30 minutes away, and it was super simple. So, thinking that we knew exactly what to do, my friends (Camille and Shannon) and I walked into the bus station and bought tickets to Llanera. The line was from Oviedo to Avilés with stops, which seemed simple enough. So we get on the bus, and we stop a few times in Oviedo to pick people up. And then we’re driving and driving, and I start seeing signs for Llanera. So I said to my friends, “The next time we stop, I think it’s us.” I figured there would be sign, or the bus driver would announce it something. When we went to Avilés, the bus had stopped at the station and the sign had said, “Avilés,” so I figured Llanera would be something similar. But the bus just kept driving, and driving, and I stopped seeing signs that said Llanera. So we asked the bus driver the next time he stopped and he said, “Oh no, we passed Posada de Llanera way back there. But I go to Avilés and then turn back around, so you can just stay on the bus.” We felt pretty silly, but to our credit, it wasn’t like there was a map of the stops or anything that said where we were, so unless we knew what Llanera looked like ahead of time, I don’t know how we were supposed to know where to get off. So we went to Avilés and back, and there was traffic and lots of stops, so what was supposed to be a simple 20 minute trip turned into a 2 hour journey. And for some reason, the bus driver kept apologizing to us. I guess he felt bad because he had seen our tickets, but didn’t let us know about the stop? I don’t know, but at least he was really nice about the whole thing.

So after 2 hours, we finally got off at the stop in Llanera, but the festivities were no where to be found. We asked someone where the fiesta was, and she told us that it was in Lugo de Llanera. As it turns out, we were in Posada de Llanera, and the festival was in Lugo de Llanera, which was almost 2 miles away. These are both very, very small towns. At this point, I was starting to feel like the festival was going to have to be really good to make all of this worth it. We got a coffee and discussed our options on how to get to Lugo de Llanera. We figured we could walk, because it was less than two miles, but as we were finishing our coffee it started to rain, so that was off the table. Luckily, there was a taxi sign right across from our cafe, and we were able to take the short taxi ride to Lugo without any problem.

We arrived in Lugo and it was still raining, so we zipped up our raincoats and put our hoods up and prepared to be wow-ed by this amazing festival celebrating Asturian culture. We rounded the corner and saw…. a craft fair. A cool craft fair, at least, but a craft fair all the same. It turns out that the sporting events were in a different place all together, and the dancing and other events were either only happening yesterday or not until tonight. There was a guy singing on a stage though, and he was pretty good. So at least there was that. We could have just gone home, but we had traveled over two hours to get to this craft fair so gosh darn it we were gonna enjoy it! So we poked around the various stalls selling jewelry, pastries, bread, and purses, all the while being battered by wind and intermittent bursts of rain. After a while, we pulled out the sandwiches our host moms had packed us, and ate under the overhang of a car dealership because it was dry. We tried to wander around Lugo a little more, but it was nearing the part of the day when the streets empty out because everyone goes home to rest. Plus, we were pretty soggy and tired, so we just wanted to get back home.

We had bought “open return” tickets from Posada Llenara to Oviedo, but as I said,  now we were almost two miles from Posada. We figured we could probably catch the bus here in Lugo, and then pay the difference, or  act lost enough that the bus driver would just let us use our Posada tickets to get back to Oviedo. We tried to ask a security officer lady where the bus stop was, but we said bus station on accident, and she told us the nearest one was in Posada Llenara. This left us thinking the only way to get home was to get to Posada Llenera and then catch the bus home. The sky was clearing up, so we decided to suck it up and walk the nearly two miles back, because it was a pretty walk and why not? Well, about five minutes into this journey it started to dump buckets of rain on us. And just then- we saw a bus stop! We thought this was perfect, until we realized that we have no idea what the bus schedule is, and we can’t seem to find one online. We decided to back track to Lugo because there was no way we were walking in this weather. (Keep in mind that this place is literally only 15 minutes by car from my apartment in Oviedo, so if we had been terribly stranded or lost, my host family could have come picked us up. )

So back to Lugo we went, now even soggier and more discouraged. We ducked into a cafe and got another coffee so we could ask the waitress for some help. We explained our situation and she let us know that there were a few bus stops in Lugo de Llanera, but because it was the weekend there would only be a two or three buses coming through all day, so it would be better for us to just take the train. The train station was right down the street from the cafe, and once we were on the train it would be 8 minutes to Oviedo. She clearly felt bad for us very damp, obviously foreign girls, so she even explained how it wasn’t a manned station, so we would have to buy our tickets at a machine, and she explained how to get to exactly where we needed to be in the station to catch the right train. She was great. (It also occurred to me in this moment that this valuable information could have been given to us by the security officer, and it would have saved us a lot of time. But whatever.)

So after drying off a bit and gathering our spirits, we headed to the train station, where we bought tickets and made it to where we were 80% sure our train was going to come. There was a train schedule posted, but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to any of us- even Shannon, whose Spanish is nearly perfect and who has been riding public transport all her life. We waited about thirty minutes and took some pictures around the station to kill time.

backpacktrain
Sponsor me, Vera Bradley

Luckily, some grandparents with a baby showed up and said they were going to Oviedo, so we were reassured that we were in the right place. As the station started announcing that a train was coming that we were fairly certain was ours, more and more people came to the station. As the train arrived, we asked the people next to us if they were going to Oviedo too, and they said yes. So now we were 99% sure we were in the right place. So, finally, we got on the train to come home. We almost got off on the wrong stop, but we didn’t. We made it to the Oviedo stop and managed to actually get off the train, which was definitely an improvement from our bus ride. Luckily, the train station is very close to both Camille and I’s apartments, so our long journey was over.

The funniest thing about all of this to me is that we were only trying to go fifteen minutes from home, and yet we ended up making a complete mess of it. On top of that, it wasn’t even worth the trouble, as the festival wasn’t really anything. When I got home, I told my host mom that there wasn’t really anything to do in Lugo de Llanera. I elected not to tell them about our bus mishap because I think they would probably just make fun of me, plus I really didn’t feel like trying to explain it in Spanish.  She had been the one that told me about this festival thing in the first place. When I told her that it was kind of a bust, she said we should have gone yesterday like she suggested, and gone to Avilés today instead, and then it would have been fine. So basically, “I told you so.” We went to Avilés yesterday because I didn’t want to change our plans twenty minutes before we left, but I guess I need to become more flexible and willing to do that. Switching the days of our trips probably would’ve been way better, although we would have missed our stop in Llanera regardless. Oh, well.

And so that was my disappointing and rather soggy day. Despite all the trouble, I think it was still a valuable experience. For example, I learned I made the right decision in bringing waterproof boots and a long rain coat. I learned that sometimes I don’t know as much as I think I do about a place, situation, or pubic transport system.  And as my host mom told me, any time I’m out and about here it’s good, because I’m learning the language, culture, and customs. And even more than that, today I learned that things can not go to plan (again and again and again) and no one dies or is even in danger. Sure, we were inconvenienced, but we were never in peril and we made it home just fine. So I think today was important, because difficult days are just growing pains in travelling, teaching me to be more flexible and how to roll with the punches without falling apart.  (Also shout out to Shannon and Camille for being troopers and not falling apart either. )

My host mom is confused as to why I don’t want to go out tonight. I told her that I walked ten miles yesterday, and that today was tiring, and that I’m going to be busy tomorrow too, but she told me that young people should be able to walk 8-10 hours without being tired. Maybe I just can’t keep up with the young people here, but I think I’ve done enough exploring for one day. I’ll be back at it again tomorrow.

PS: As I’m writing this, the rain is subsiding and there is one of the biggest and most vibrant rainbows I have ever seen right outside my window. Take from that what you will 🙂 look away train