07 July 2011

Barcelona vs. Madrid


Sights: Barcelona
View of Placa Espanya from Mont Juic
Madrid is interesting…I couldn’t seem to brainstorm any one landmark I wanted to see before I left. Nothing that was world-renowned, infamous, or plastered all over tourist brochures. Don’t get me wrong, Madrid is beautiful and green unlike a lot of Spain, and I constantly felt like I was walking in a Pedro Almodóvar film (minus the transvestites and Penelope Cruz). But it lacked the great presentation and majesty that places in Barcelona like La Sagrada Familia and Montjuic OOZED. If I’m totally honest, Madrid really did not stand a chance in this category seeing as the view of Plaza Espanya from the top of Montjuic was my favorite view in all of Europe.

Nightlife: Madrid (Tough one!)
A couple of floors in Kapital
Well seeing as I had an acute obsession with Cirque du Soleil a couple years back, and the nightclub Kapital in Madrid catered to just that, Madrid came in with the win on this one. Kapital is nuts. 7 stories tall with a distinct atmosphere on each floor and music for every taste. About every hour they had circus-like performers come to the middle of the dance floor to show their stuff--I looooooved it! The top floor was actually more like a classy all white lounge with minimal music, while the main floor was deafening with grotesquely dressed dancers on private platforms. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the friggin JET of cold air that they blasted on the whole floor every 5 minutes!!! It literally only lasted for 3 seconds but every time I screamed bloody murder but started laughing once I realized I was scared of air. Sorry, it still always surprised me!!! It did cost 20 euro to get in but I had a blast and thought it was absolutely worth it. Barcelona has an awesome night scene too—their beaches are lined with clubs that project their lights onto the Mediterranean and invite you to take a break from your sweaty dancing to take a walk on the beach. But I suspect that this is not unlike the night scene you could find in Miami or other US cities along the coast, so Madrid wins this one!

Parks: Tie
Park Guell

Parque de Retiro
Comparing Park Guell in Barcelona to el Parque de Retiro in Madrid truly is like comparing apples to oranges. The former is like Candyland for the aesthetically-driven person with exceptional Gaudi art around every corner. Alternatively the latter is a big green paradise whose atmosphere and warmth I can only compare to falling asleep in a pile of fresh-from-the-dryer towels. Parque de Retiro had a million shaded paths with sunlight peeking through the foliage, perfect for either a leisurely stroll or a heart-pumping run. Additionally throughout it had small clearings with statues and fountains and flowerbeds. And in the middle of it all was the huuuuuge lake, that just emerged out of no where in our stroll around. It was beyond precious. On this warm day the lake was abundant with groups of people taking advantage of the reasonably priced row boat rental. The lake is surrounded with statues of water nymphs and other creatures, with people taking the opportunity to feel the coolness of the lake by lying alongside it. Brittany and I followed suit, and I had never slept so comfortable on a set of concrete stairs. It very well could have been my favorite part of Madrid next to Kapital, but it still was not enough to completely occupy my mind and make me forget about Park Guell and Barcelona!

Art Museums: Barcelona
Guernica
Well I didn’t visit El Prado like everyone in Madrid does, but quite frankly I had heard such lackluster reviews about it, it did not seem like it would be worth my time. Instead we visited Museo Reina Sofia, which sated my appetite for Picasso art, or so I thought. The museum itself was pretty confusing, Brittany and I wandered down many outdoor passageways and blank art exhibits before we finally found the one corner of the colossal building that had the Picasso art. The collection was very humble, in my opinion. The highlight was definitely seeing “Guernica” and all the sketches leading up to this final product. When I went back to Barcelona during my final week I got the chance to visit their Picasso Museum, and that filled me up with all the Picasso knowledge I could ever hope for. The pieces in this museum spanned all the way back to Picasso’s childhood. It’s so STRANGE looking at his early art, most notably that it is REALISTIC art. Haha I didn’t know that a time existed where Picasso didn’t use purely abstract shapes. So that was super neat. Oh and get this! Picasso even had one pointillist piece!!! Ahahah so that might have been my favorite and is getting me brainstorming of what the next stippling piece I wanna make should be... Overall it was a super impressive museum and despite it not having art from every era of Picasso, it had information about his whole life which I found to be endlessly fascinating.

Bullfights:…No one.
If anything Barcelona gets the upper hand because they have outlawed these expositions altogether. Madrid, on the other hand, hosts at least one bull fight a weekend. 6 bulls getting slaughtered a weekend. Over 300 a year. Yeah, I get it, the bullfight is an integral part of Spanish culture, and that’s why I wanted so badly to go see one. But DAMN is it hard to watch, especially seeing that first bull collapse to the ground, motionless. Or even worse, to see it collapse and shudder for a minute, fighting for it’s last breaths. Man. And to make matters even worse, once the bull is dead they tie him up to the back of a carriage and drag his body out of the arena, leaving a trail of dusty blood behind. It’s a rough thing to see…but I am glad that I got to see it firsthand and make a decision based on that. Also I have to admit that when the first matador went out to fight the bull and was taken down, I was secretly cheering for the bull. And by secretly I mean I yelled 'GET EM! GET EMMM!' when the man was knocked to the ground, scrambling for his life. Oh I also want to make note of the fact that I adore all of the costumes.
video

Food: Granada.
No one does tapas like Andalusia so neither Madrid nor Barcelona win this category, lol.

Futbol:

Stadium: Camp Nou (Barcelona)
 There is something about the atmosphere surrounding Camp Nou…maybe it’s the narrow Spanish streets or maybe it’s the various pubs that border it. In either case I am convinced there is some sort of chemical in the air that arouses excitement and adrenaline for soccer… The fans are full of pride, beaming as they finish off their tubo of beer. Then, once you step inside it’s nonstop mayhem. Give it a few minutes and let Messi score and the chaos only intensifies. MESSSSSI MESSSSSSSI MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSI. Only bad part about the stadium: they sell no alcohol! Madrid's statdium, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is definitely larger and does have the practical overhanging roof (which kept us completely dry while all the fools in the front rows got soaked), but it is a colder atmosphere and lacks the extra umph that Nou has.


Sick Ass Player: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Cristiano Ronaldo is a wimpy ass, albeit GOOD looking, but mediocre at soccer douche. He didn't even play in the game we went to. My guess it that the rain would ruin his hair gel and he was not going to have that. RUDE. He does have some sick foot skills but they pale in comparison to MESSI! Messi is the sweetest, cutest, most generous, most skilled, quickest, most humble, CUTE CUTE CUTEST, (HE SWAM WITH DOLPHINS) soccer player. I hope these descriptions accurately express my sentiments toward each player. 
Irresistibly CUTE!


Team as a whole: Barcelona
They play as a cohesive unit. They one touch the ball like no other team I've ever seen. I think I have yet to see them mis-touch a ball--their first touch is impeccable. They play with patience and wait for opportunities to send their attackers. They are successfull as shit, winning the recent Championship over Manchester :) Real Madrid is so detached from each other. They have players who are individually super talented but they don't know how to put it together. Oh, and ever since I saw Casillas whiff to let in a goal I cannot look at him the same way. NO, he is not allowed to make an amateur mistake like that. He should have been super human. So that's that. No good, Real Madrid, no good.

BARCELONA WINS
After some reflecting, it appears that my decision to claim Barcelona as the winner is heavily influenced by the distinctions between the soccer teams. I see nothing wrong with this and I stand by my decision completely.

15 June 2011

...C'est La Vie


Sunset on the Alhambra
I’ve been absolutely spoiled this semester. In every sense of the word. Do people always come away from their study abroad experience feeling this priviledged? The people I met, the places I went, the things I saw. Man. I know the world is pretty dang big but now I am only starting to scratch the surface of understanding exactly HOW big it is…. 

Misery misery misery. As I took off from El Prat International in Barcelona I was in tears. Let’s be honest. I was in tears as soon as I stepped foot inside the airport. To make matters worse there was a group of obnoxious American students in front of me, saying how they couldn’t wait to get back to America. Yeah. STUPID. I was a sour puss the whole flight home really. When we landed in JFK the pilot came on the speakerphone and said “Welcome Home!” I simultaneously got teary-eyed and flicked the speaker off. Really though, him saying that didn’t seem right. Yeah, I live here in the States but I wouldn’t hesitate to consider Spain another one of my homes. I guess living somewhere for over 4 months will do that to you… That’s another thing though. It’s not just Spain I miss. It’s Europe, as a large, historic, intriguing, beautiful, entity. Nothing in the States compares.

What’s next? How do I deal with this all? First off, while I was in Europe I decided that I’d like to be a volunteer in the Peace Corps after graduation. This is very likely to not bring me back to Europe, but it will certainly allow me to travel somewhere, immerse into another culture, maybe learn another language, help a community, and find yet another home abroad. We are privileged to no end here in the States. If I can do something to help other countries that aren’t as fortunate while simultaneously seeing more of the world, well, I just don’t think I could be any happier! As for the near future…I have my last season of soccer to look forward to. So between eating myself silly to cope with my pseudo-depression and nostalgia for Europe and my extreme working out (which I’m sure will result in my weight fluctuating on an hour to hour basis) I’ve got my work cut out for me for the summer…hahahaaa. One more year of school and we’ll see where this all takes me…The only thing I know is that another trip to Europe has already secured itself on the future agenda.


Oh. I guess now I'll have time to write blogs about the last 2 months of Spain too, huh?


06 June 2011

Semana Santa 3: PRAHAHAHAHAHAH


30/6/11
I’m sitting in the Malaga airport. Said goodbye to Granada this morning. Even worse, said goodbye to my sweet Spanish Mother Inmaculada. I’m going to miss Inmaculada’s laugh. The heavy but high pitched chuckle accompanied by shoulder heaving and her large hands readjusting her glasses. I’ll miss hearing her shuffle along the corridor in her slippers, running to answer the door while yelling “QUIEN EEEEEEEE(S)?”. Oh, I’ll miss her food. I vow to never eat another Spanish tortilla unless it’s hers because nothing else even compares. I’ll miss her stories…65 and still living a life of full activity. I definitely hope to be as wonderful and vibrant as Inma when I get to be that age! Ahhh...

So many goodbyes. But that is for another blog post…this one is for PRAGUE! Aka Praha(hahahahha). It’s literally been over a month since I’ve been there, but looking back at my pictures really gets the memories flowin. We arrived late on a Wednesday night, exhausted from the bus ride. It must have been 10 or 11pm, but it might as well have been broad daylight based on the number of people that were out and about!! Insanity. Our hostel could not have been better located, literally a 2 min walk from the city center. There were a lotta young people and just a good vibrant atmosphere. What did I not like? The stairs. Yes, there was also an elevator, but you don’t wanna be That Guy who doesn’t like taking stairs…especially after the way I had been eating so far that Spring Break. The 4 of us shared a room with two Spanish-speaking guys who were super cool and generous so it was awesome to meet them!

We woke up the next morning to catch the Prague free tour…where I saw BRITTANY!! Ahahah we hadn’t planned to meet in Prague but I’m glad it worked out that way. The tour was super good, we had one of the best NewEurope tour guides I think I’ve ever had. I really knew nothing about Prague, just that everyone I talk to says they effing love it. Turns out there's a crapload of a variety of architecture and history there. Also turns out a buncha movies are filmed there BECAUSE you can get all these different styles of architecture and thus fake cities in one metropolitan area. Man I remember it being HOT out. Actually, our whole vacation was super warm. Thank you weather.com for prompting me to bring lots of pants and heavy shirts. I guess I shouldn’t complain that much…although I will say I have a disgusting tan on my feet from wearing one pair of flats pretty much the entire time. And those tans don’t go away too quick. 

Tour pictures:
An example of pretty architecture

Charles Bridge

Me, Molly, Shivani and Becca at the Astronomical Clock
ANYWAY so the tour was fun, and we decided to do the pub crawl that accompanies the tour for that same night. LOTSA fun! As you’ll see in this first picture, the entrance to the first place we drank had a buncha coffins set up. No, it wasn’t some sort of Czech Halloween. If I remember correctly it was actually just that they had filmed some sort of unimportant little thing there. Regardless, we took advantage of it. Ha super fun night, with lots of great girls and interesting guys…

Coffins!
Me and Brittany
Cool chick we met (oops dont know her name) Becca, Me Molly


The next morning we decided to explore Prague Castle, which was a bit of a walk across the river, up a large Spain-like hill, on the other side of Prague. This was all especially rough given our night before. BUUUUUT it was worth it! We explored the castle and got awesome views of Prague and it was all prettyyyyyy. I took advantage of one cathedral with a royal looking staircase to pretend that I was a queen:
After the castle we took a quick stop to the Lennon wall which was super cool, and low and behold BRAD PITT WAS WAITING THERE FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEE. 
"IN TYLER WE TRUST"

Exhausted and delirious, we went back to the hostel and passed out in order to get some rest before the night. Shivani and I had not gotten enough of the pub crawl…so we decided to do it again, HA! Another fun night, AND Brad Pitt followed me AGAIN!

Our last day we relaxed, did some shopping, ate some chocolate, ate some cinnamon sugar covered pastry things, became depressed after trying to get Mac n Cheese at KFC only to find out they don't have it, etc. Then in the afternoon we made our way to the airport, said goodbye to Becca who was taking a bus back to Denmark (:'() and made our way back to Spain. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It had been a really good Spring Break with perfect weather, awesome girls with which to be accompanied, beautiful, interesting cities, and best of all, I had a tan!!!