A Travellerspoint blog


..arrival and other details

sunny 33 °C

SATURDAY 09.03.05: So today i had to say goodbye to Nicole as i dropped her off at the airport and boarded my train to Cordoba. The 4 1/2 hour bus ride sounded awful in the heat so i opted for the faster and more expensive train. I arrive in Cordoba 2 hours later to a swealtering desert, literally, in the middle of Andalucia. Cordoba is a historical town where Christianity, Islam and Judaism all intersected at one point or another, so the town is a melting pot of architecture and cultural influence from all 3. The city of Cordoba itself looks a lot like Petaluma or Santa Rosa, it has the small town feel but 300,000 inhabitants. The hills around the city are reminicint of the ones around Santa Rosa or in Novato. They are all tree covered but are more rocky as it is too hot here for grass to grow now.

When i finally arrived the tourist office was closed for siesta so i had to go on the little info i had from the travel book and take the #3 bus to the area where the hostels are. By the time i got off the bus and looked for any one of the 3 listed in my book i was hot, tired, sweaty, frustrated, and ready to settle somewhere. So, i found the hotel i was going to be staying at the next night and where i was supposed to meet for my program and forked over the extra dough for nice night to myself in an air conditioned room...ahh sweet luxury!

After settling in, I decided to stroll the town a little and find a supermercado to get some food for the rest of the weekend because EVERYTHING is closed on sunday, except for church and 2, 24 hour markets. El Corte Ingles is the department store of all dept. stores and aside from having everything you could ever want from a Sears Roebuck catalogue, the grocery store is on the 5th floor. Dinner was fresh fruit, turkey (a rarity here in this part where Ham is a staple) and whole wheat bread (calle pan integral). Dinner, a little spanish dubbed TV, some soccer (called futbol) in every language and a long hot shower put this baby to bed in no time.

SUNDAY 09.04.05: Today the rest of the program arrived. I awoke to a beautiful morning and took my time getting up and around. I went for a walk to see the city all locked up, as things are on sundays, and headed back to the hotel where the rest of the students in my program arrived. The day was basically a meet and greet/ eat and drink for all the students to get to know each other and chat. Not too eventful but a nice way to start off the program together.

MONDAY 09.06.05: Today we met our families. After a short orientation about Cordoba, Spain and what to expect from our families and culturally from the experience we were greeted by our host families. Finally my family arrived to pick me up and I was greeted by my host ´mom´ Carmen, and my younger host siblings, Carmen, 10, and Diego, 8. We went back to thier flat which is on hte 4th floor of a beautiful building about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the University. There i have my own room with a great balcony overlooking the neighborhood. There is even a cute yellow and white striped awning covering the balcony, how european, i love it! The rest of the flat is very cute as well. The two kids have thier own rooms. Diego´s is covered wall to wall in toys and action figures and Carmen´s walls, which are the same baby yellow with rocking paper wallpaper from when she was born, are covered in her artwork and awards. Both kids are very lively, but because thier family has hosted 3 others before me, they are also very respectful of my space. Carmen, their mother, is also very welcoming in opening up her home (and kitchen) to me. It is a very welcoming environment and I am looking forward to getting to know my family here.

Tomorrow we take placement tests and hopefully find my way around the university. The other kids in my program seem really cool, and everyone is really into the whole experience and ready to dive into stuff which is a good motivation to go out and learn new things.

I am definintely feeling the homesickness set in, or mayve some culture shock, probably both. There is always that weird getting settled stage and i dont think i like it but soon things will start to feel normal, and by then it will be time to leave. So im going to enjoy the ups and downs and live it up!

Posted by tuffchix 10:22 Archived in Spain Comments (0)


...a short and sweet visit!

sunny 33 °C

[/b]So Nicole and I managed to drag ourselves to the Nice airport. We had to do our last night in Cote d'Azur right so we hit up every place we knew of (rounding the nights number of bars, clubs and caves, yeah thatr right, caves, to 5) before heading back to Saint Euxpery for what we can call a power nap.

We got to Madrid, and easily found the luggage storage for my ridiculously large backpack and navigated the metro into the heart of the city. Finding no room at the inn, we frustratedly (is that a word??) found an internet cafe and researched a hostel that did have vacancy. Two hours later we had ridden yet another metro line and arrived at the creepiest building EVER: our hostel in the just off of Atoche. The place was dim save for a small entry hall light and was a combination of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, down to the elevator in which you could barely fit me and a backpack, let alone Nicole and I and all our stuff! Finally we arrived at la tercera planta (3rd floor) and were given our own room with our own bathroom!!!!! We decided to make the most of the night and headed out for a stroll on the real city that never sleeps (Madrid-ians get an average of 1 hour less sleep than the rest of Europe). By midnight we were ready to turn in (baby bedtime by Madrid standards).

Up not so early the next day, Nicole mapped out our day and we hit up many of the historical sites Madrid has to offer. We started at the Plaza de J. Buenavente named after the Nobel prize winning playwrite (prolly misspelled). Next was off the the [/b]Puerta del Sol[/b], a huge shopping district with clock tower where, at midnight on New Year's Eve you are supposed to stuff 12 grapes into your mouth by the 12th stroke. Then off to the [/b]Plaza Mayor[/b] which is a huge rectangular cobblestone plaza bordered on all 4 sides by gorgeous gothic buildings housing the municipal services officies for Madrid.

The heat finally got to us and I was forced to get ice cream! My new fav Euro trend is pistachio ice cream, its fabulous! Then after our fat break, we headed down past the Cathedral de San Isisdro which burnt down entirely in the Spanish Civil War and left only San Isidro and hist wife's remains. Then down to the gorgeous Basilica de San Fransisco where we headed north towards the [/b]Palacio Royal and Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena[/b]. The Palacio is huge and looks like a Spanish version of the Palace of Versaille down to the ornate wrought iron gates adorned with gold and the huge courtyard leading up to the daunting white palace. We didnt go inside the palace and instead headed into the cathedral for the Exposicion Inmaculada.

The Exposicion was a collection of portraits, sculptures, paintings, and replicas of the Virgin Mary from Dioceses all over the world. It was really well put together and it was interesting to see all the different depictions of Mary throughout time and from different cultures.

Heading away from the Palacio and the Cathedral we walked up to the [/b]Plaza de Espana[/b] where the monument to Cervantes stood. The sculpture of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza are particularly prideful for the Spainiards this year as it marks the 400th anniversary of Cervantes' classic satire.

Dinner that night was Tapas and Sangria and i even got adventurous eating tapas with cheese (eeiiwww) and even worse, anchovies! I could stomach more than a bite of the later, but hey, at least i tried!

That night was our last night in Madrid so we decided to rally for a little excitement and after running into a friend from High School in a freakish coincidence, we headed off to a movie to kill time before going out.

Spanish nightlife begins, apparently around 2am, and when we were finally beat we headed back at 4am with the rest of Madrid going strong.

I guess its a good thing I am not studying in Madrid because Im not sure i could hack it there.

So i dropped nicole at the airport this morning before heading off to Cordoba by train. And after a heck of a time finding a place i decided on the hotel where I will be meeting the other people in my program tomorrow for a night of relaxation and privacy.

Posted by tuffchix 11:21 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Ahhhh Nice....

...our last day on the Riviera

sunny 29 °C

On our last day in Nice we spent a relaxing morning eating and getting ready to head out on the town. We decided to skip the trip to the countryside of Provence in favor of getting a real taste of Nice. We headed down to Vieux Nice to check out the Fruit and Flower market along the cobblestone streets just beyond the boardwalk. The french have the best nectarines i have ever tasted and they make the most colorful candies and candied fruits, almost too good to eat (almost!).

Then it was lunchtime so we hit up this little Irish Pub, called Ma Nolan's in the heart of Vieux (old) Nice that was playing cheezy love ballads and served great food and beer, AND the bartender was hot rugby player. Needless to say the afternoon was off to to great start as we headed up the main drag up and down Nice. A few Euros, and many hours, later we headed back toward the hostel where I now sit typing this wonderful little update.

The plan for tonight is to head out and paint the town red for our final night in this beautiful city. It has really been amazing here, we have had the best of luck finding the places we needed to, getting around, eating well and cheaply, enjoying all the sights and smells (well maybe some of the smells not so much) and just having a jolly good time! Tomorrow we have to catch early flights back to Madrid to spend the next couple of nights, but before I leave i would like to offer these thoughts on the french riviera and thier people:

-French people have annoying dogs with obnoxiously high pitched barks, and thier children have the same pbnoxiously high pitched whine.

-Bread here IS better than anywhere else (except for NorCal sourdough).

-French people are really helpful and generally pleasant people (when they are not bowling past you on the sidewalk or spitting on you, seriously).

-Rainbow flip-flops are the only hiking boots you need to climb 1500ft and a million stairs.

-Detours from road construction will plan your route for you.

-The Meditrranean is equally gorgeous from sea level or on top of a mountain.

-and you should put Nice and its surrounding cities on your list of summer vacations (late august is hot, but best!)

Posted by tuffchix 10:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

The French Riviera...

...up and down (literally)

sunny 30 °C

Yes, thats right, here is the days events on the actual day it happened, i know, not my style to be so on top of it, but im trying.

So it seems that we have finally caught on to the slower paced, relaxed atmosphere here on the riviera cause we missed breakfast yet again this morning. When we finally got around to it we realized we had a lot of things to see before we left so we planned our day and hopped a bus headed east out of Nice.

Eze was the first stop on our trip. We had to take a bus down to the bus station where we caught a 'coach' (yes, there IS a difference) to Eze. Eze, pronounced eh-zz, is actually two towns, one along the water called Eze by the Sea, and the medieval village of Eze with a really old Chateau on top of the mountain. We reached Eze by the sea to find our only way to the Chateau was to climb. So with the hot sun scorching us at close to 30 degrees (thats more than 90 F) we hiked up over rocks and climbed stairs for about 1200 vertical feet to the top. It was worth it though. The view of the coastline, the harbor in Nice, the water, the towns below and of the village of Eze itself were absolutely stunning. When we reached the top we bee-lined for the vending machine to buy ridiculously overpriced water and headed up (more stairs) to the Chateau to wander around. It has been converted entirely into a tourist attraction with restaurants and shops, but walking along a cobblestone fortress with a great view of the Mediterranean was terrific (does anyone use that word anymore??!!??). We didnt wanna do the hike thing again so we found a bus that would head back down to Eze by the Sea to move on to our next locale.

Cap d'Ail was the next place we hit up on our trek East. We arrived with the intention of finding the cliffs that you can supposedly jump off and instead found the gorgeous house that Nicole and I will soon be purchasing and makeing all of you come and live in with us. So far its just named 'the house' but im sure something more suitable will come along. Anyway, we never did find the cliffs but managed to climb more stairs and hike up and over more hills in our quest only to find a great beach...real bummer huh??!! The water was so refreshing after hiking and the beach (pebbles this time) was so inviting, so we took a dip and a nap as the sun set over the hills. Real, hard life I know, the only complaint was the funky speedo trend that seems to plague the riviera, its just not the first thing you wanna see when you wake up from a nap, thats all! So we woke up, got up, and climbed more stairs up to the bus to head to Monaco for the evening.

After arriving by yet another bus, we needed to freshen up and change into something more appropriate to be seen along side the Bentelys, Ferraris, and Rolls Royces of the Casino in Monaco. Walking up to the casion is like the Its a Small World ride at Disneyland at night. Its all lit up and fountains are flowing, people are waiting around to see someone famous (although here they are not usually wearing a big felt costume) and people are blowing money on overpriced things that they will never get any use from. So, we, the frugal kids that we are, stashed our backpack in a bush, yes that is right, a bush, as to not appear too touristy, and strolled the promenade of Monaco looking for dinner. We found our spot just off the main plaza at this cute little Italian Bistro that made us get up and dance and drink really good wine while eating yummy food. The french like to take thier time with the meals, so by the time we got out of there we dashed to reclaim our bag from the bush, and run to catch our train back to Nice.

Another great day here in La France. Tomorrow is our last full day here before heading to Madrid for a couple days.

Posted by tuffchix 16:37 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Beaches of Nice...

...and not-so-sandy other places.

sunny 28 °C

After a night of grand adventure, it was only logical, and plausible, to relax on the beaches of Nice. Our late start didnt put us on the beaches in Nice until 3pm. Nice is gorgeous and the coast looks exactly like any postcard of it, but the postcards fail to tell you that the beaches are all rocks. It is slightly uncomfortable to be laying with a boulder in your back (we arent talkeing pebbles, these are full fledged rocks), but the advantage to that is that at the end of the day, you dont have to dump, wash, and shake sand from every item you own.

After a few hours in the sun, some gelato was definitely in order, and was followed by a walk along the Palais d'Anglais along the water. It is do picturesque and the city is just riddled with things to look at and make you wish you could stay forever, or at least until you got too sunburned to stay anymore. Nicole and I grabbed a drink from a local restaurant at the Port of Nice before catching the bus back to the hostel where we laid low for the night and caught up on some sleep.

So far the things I have learned in Nice are: Rocky beaches are not all bad, French women arent all that skinny, pasteries for as many meals as possible ARE a good idea, the nightlife is obviously not restricted to the hours of night, and i dont have to leave for 2 more days.......YEAH!!!!!!

Well, it off to Eze and Monaco for the day, and possibly the Cap d'Ail for some cliff jumping if we are feeling gutsy, although, nicole may have to induce it by pushing me.

Posted by tuffchix 02:37 Archived in France Comments (0)

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