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Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is the other city we went to visit during our stay in Scotland.  It was very much more a city with awesome architecture and a lot of modern things, the number one being shopping.  The city was packed with shopping centers, streets and stores all offering the best and newest in the shopping and merchandise world.  They had a very impressive cathedral and the Glasgow University was very impressive.  It made me think that after all there are so many colleges and universities much older than any in the U.S.

Overall however, the city provided us with a lot of walk, every thing was spread out and us poor students decided to walk everywhere.  We were very tried by the end and finished the day with drinks and appetizers in a local pub and a walk another walk along the river.  One of the best parts of the city was our hostel.  While they were a little away from the center, they were very friendly, offered advice and tips and served us an awesome breakfast.  Cheers to them!

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After traveling across some of Europe I have to say that the Celtic isle have been my favorite.  The people are friendly, the travel was easy, the landscape was gorgeous and the food was delicious.  I might even go as far as to say the Edinburgh was my FAVORITE city that I’ve been too.

Anywho, more adventures to come. I head to northern spain the following week and then my parents and aunt come to visit and travel for a month, I can’t wait!


Edinburgh, Scotland

So I wrote this a few days ago but lacked internet and so I’m posting this and then adding photos later:

Scotland has been amazing, get here was another story, but actually being here is so cool.  To get here we had to connect to another flight from London.  We were on perfect time with only a hour layover in between.  The problem came when our flight leaving Madrid was an hour delayed and that turned into a mad sprint through London customs, airport security and finally down the long hallway to our flight which we got to wait for us.  I’ve never run through an airport quite like this and I’d like never to repeat it.  We technically got off our plan from Madrid when our other flight was suppose to close the gate.  We successfully turned an average 30-minute experience of customs and security to a 15-minute mad dash!  Long story short, we survived, made our plan and safely found our lodgings for the night with not further problems.

We spent all of Sunday walking around Edinburgh. We took a walking tour guide to all the historic areas of town and hear really fun and interesting stories.  Then we headed up to the castle and strolled through the many museums and exhibits as well as the castle, royal jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny used in crowning the kings and queens of the UK.  We met up with some friends of my travel companion and wandered the city, climbs some hills, tried some Scottish Whiskey and ate some Haggis (ground up leftovers of sheep and cow baked in the stomach of a sheep; it kinda tasted like meatloaf).

One of the most fun parts of our trip was venturing into the café where J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, first began writing here novels.  We even went and had coffee and cake and looked onto the Edinburgh castle as we relaxed like she did.  We also saw the school that gave her the inspiration for Hogwarts and many a gravestone that may or may not represent character names from the book.  IT was so cool to be in the place where HP all started, the café was called the Elephant house.

In the evening we took a ghost tour of the city venturing across the river and stomping through the graveyards and haunted areas of Edinburgh, on of the most haunted cities in the world.  After hearing some creepy tales and spooky legends we headed to the pubs to try some Scottish beers and enjoy some live music.

Edinburgh has to be the most cozy, wonderfully overcast little city with a bundle up and try our soup kinda feel. I love exploring the streets and as always the people where more than friendly!  I think I like the northern countries more and more.  I could even picture myself living in Edinburgh.

I’m currently writing this on the bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow our next and final city in Scotland. As the very green landscape passes with the unique, but not all together different array of buses and trees I can’t help but say I do indeed love this country.  I look forward to our day and a half in Glasgow and I’m sure I’ll have more stories to come!

I know there are a lot of photos, but I didn’t want to sort them all so maybe take a break and then come back to the amazing photos present! 🙂

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Just a quick update

Hello everyone. Yep I’m still in Spain, it’s been 6 months and 5 days that I’ve been here! Crazy right?

I just wanted to update you on my doings and give you a heads up for my next adventures.  This past week was spent coming back from Ireland, taking my FINAL test (EVER!!!) at least for school, and then relaxing.  I did a little spring cleaning and got rid of a bunch of junk I’d been keeping around for school. It’s amazing I didn’t need some things right (sarcasm).  It’s crazy how much junk can pile up!

So from Tuesday morning after my test until today (Saturday morning) I’ve just been relaxing, reading, cooking some good meals, sun bathing and hanging out with friends.  I suppose that’s what people in Madrid do when they’ve got nothing to do.  All my roommates are moved out now, but my landlord and I are finally talking more and he’s crazy.  In the “Wow, you talk a lot about weird things” not the “I lock my door to not talk to you” way.  He’s heading to Italy for a week, while I’m leaving for Scotland today.

A friend and I will be in Scotland from Saturday until Tuesday.  We’re staying two nights in Edinburgh and then taking a bus to Glasgow for a day stay.  It should be a really fun trip.  It’s the last trip for Karla, the girl with whom I’m going, and we might even meet up with a friend I made in Ireland, oh the world is so small!

I’m coming back Tuesday afternoon helping Karla pack up and leaving Wednesday morning and then I’m planning a trip to northern Spain (Galicia specifically) as my final adventure without the rents.

Sadly, however, I’m slowly running out of money to travel and enjoy. So my travels from here on will have to be subtle or less expense or something.  I’m looking forward to hanging with the Parents and of course my Aunt Mary Lain for a month as we travel Spain and the seas of the Mediterranean.  I can’t wait to show them Madrid!

The weather is getting warmer and then have gotten a little toasty outside.  We were in the 90’s all week long.  It’s not bad, it’s nice to have some summer like temps, but the whole no air conditioning is troublesome some times.  Luckily with the apartment to my self, I’ve been able to open every window and get a quick breeze strolling through my home sweet home in Madrid.

So in others words, not a lot happening, but I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about Scotland and Galicia. Until next post! Have a grand weekend!


Ireland Day 2+3: Incredible

So Ireland has definitely made me want to tell you all what I’ve been doing.  Look two posts in less than a week!  I have to say I simply LOVED Ireland.  The tour was great, our guide was really fun to hang out with Séan Óg and Ireland is such a natural beauty.  Overall my tour included a little of Dublin, Rock of Cashel, the Blarney Castle, Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, Coumeenole Beach, Country Clare Ennis, the Cliffs of Moher(with crazy weather), the Burren and Galway!  It was a packed 3 days, but so very much fun.  I met people from all over including: Australia, Canada, Arizona, San Diego, Florida and North Carolina.  The Americans were fun, the Canadians were interesting and the Aussies were a freakin’ blast.  In other words everyone was cool but the Aussies drank with me.

Guinness has been a favorite of mine as an average drink though I usually prefer Blue Moon on a day-to-day basis.  In Ireland though Guinness is awesomer-er…they also have a great sampling of other beers, but Guinness is my favorite.  Oh and the food is amazing I’ve had fresh fish and chips, Irish Stew and a seafood chowder.  I’m thinking I could live happy and healthy in Ireland for a while. 🙂

This was a trip that I’ve really wanted to take and it’s been a lot of fun.  I’ve had no problems getting anywhere or surprises for any of my plans.  I’m a little jealous of any one who got to study/ stay here for a while, cheers to you!

I head back to Madrid on Monday afternoon to study and take my final, final of my life maybe?  Then the next weekend I’m off to Scotland for a few days.  The funds are running low, but man was it worth the spending.  Looking back through my semester I’ve been able to check out so many cool places and see so many great things.  I’m also looking forward to the adventures with the rents.  I’m absolutely positive that memories will definitely be made and all for the better!

Check out the photos from my last two days.  I know there are a lot, but it was so beautiful and I think I got some good ones of myself.  All the best to home!

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Ireland Day 1: The Irish way of life.

Oh the Irish country.  Ireland is plan out right awesome.  The land is beautiful, the people are friendly and the food has flavor!  I flew in on Thursday night to chill and take in a little of Dublin.  I sampled the local fare of Irish stew and a Guinness and then explored the city a little.  The party part of the city reminds me of a small section of La Latina in Madrid, but filled with loud, fun music, Irish accents and joyful laughter (drunken might be more accurate).

I turned in semi-early as the check-in for my tour bus was at 8:15.  I woke up to a good hostel breakfast, I mean that seriously and not sarcastically, and headed to meet up for the bus.  I found the meeting place easily and check-in and getting on the bus were smooth and sweet.  I got a whole seat to myself (as in two seats to myself, better said a row) and was able to really relax.  We played get to know you games and were able to learn about some Irish history and check out the landscape.  Our first stop was a small Irish town for coffee and then we arrived at the Rock of Cashel, the throne of the Kings of Munster.  All the cities here are fun and invaiting and the people are so very nice and friendly.  The English language and the more comfortable culture might help too! J

From there we took a long drive through the countryside listening to Celtic music and song and made our way to the Blarney Castle.  I made it to the stone, leaned all the way back and gave the blessed rock a slobbery kiss.  In actuality, it was much less graceful and quite cold, but never the less fun, even if it’s super touristy.  After all I’m a tourist!  I met some new friends and spend lunch and the rest of the day with them.

After Blarney we bused over to Killarney and took a walk to the Ross Castle, a castle on the edge of a lake.  We walked through a nature preserve and had a blast getting to know each other and telling stories and experiences.  After getting back we went for dinner and came back to our hostel to rest before going out tonight.  The plan is going to see a CRAZY Irish man tell tales and then maybe some pints afterward.  I’m pumped!

Please note that yes I did get a haircut and yes I did it my self.  A first time for everything, yeah?  I hope all is well and I’m sure I’ll be telling more! Cheers!

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No excuses

Yep, I’ve got no real good excuse so I’m just gonna leave it at that and move on.  The last you knew of me was the end of Spring Break.  I’ve done several things since then.

I went to Lisbon with a bunch of friends for a weekend and we had a blast, then Kelsey (the girlfriend) was able to come for a whole 10 days and we had a blast! We took a weekend and when to the Mallorca an island owned by Spain in the middle of the Mediterranean.  We ventured back to Madrid and I spent the rest of the week going to clases and then hanging out with her.  After she left the past couple of weeks have been all about school.  We had final projects and finals the end of May and the rest of the finals are the 3rd and the 14th of June. I’ll put a random sampling of photos and activities below:

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Spring break 3/3: Barfing in Barcelona

The final leg of my spring break was a two-day tour of Barcelona, Spain.  Barcelona is known as the modern city of Spain.  It’s up beat, on the beach; modern architecture and night life make Barcelona a pretty cool place to be.

The city count: one.

Arriving by bus, an 8 hour trip.

The hostel was located and directions were printed.

Word: Vomit

We arrived in Barcelona in the afternoon.  We quickly checked into our hostel and then went right away to see the Sagrada Familia.  A famous not yet complete church started by Gaudí, one of the most famous architects in Barcelona.  The church was really amazing and had a completely different feel than the ancient Cathedrals more commonly found throughout Spain.  We met our Australian friend Pim for dinner and then walked around the city by night.  Checking out all the Gaudí buildings lit up at night.  Then the fun part starts.

We decided to head in early to rest up for the next day.  The thing with hostels is you never know what you’re going to get.  The less you pay the more risky the situation.  Our situation seemed to be okay, until 2:30 a.m.  Three of us were staying in a room of 8.  Snoring and sleepy noises filled the air until a strong cough woke everyone in the room.

The cough turned into a serious of coughs that then broke into vomiting on the bed and then on the floor.  The scariest part was not knowing from what bed it was coming.  I wasn’t sure if I’d have vomit dripping from the bed above me or pooling from the bed across from me.  The saddest thing was the bathroom was two, TWO feet from the guy’s bed.  After discovering the culprit, my sleepy mind thought that he would clean up after himself.  The clean up was more of a swirl on the floor and removal of the bed sheets.  A minute later the sound of a train running through a city erupted the room as snoring commenced again at a sonic volume.

I don’t think I every really got back to sleep.  One of my companions was fast asleep the whole time and the other shocked awake by the vomit and snoring was awake form 3:00 a.m. until we got up.  In the morning there was no apology, no further clean up, no “yeah, you didn’t dream that.  I threw up on my bed, the floor and my self.”  No, I had to double check I hadn’t dreamed the whole thing up.  We decided to switch rooms.

After the startling night we ventured again into the city checking out more Gaudí works, riding bikes and even went to the beach.  Our day was greatly improved as an unattractive woman proceeded to strip to her undies, frolic in the ocean (completely losing her thong and recovery at the last second) and then strolled up the beach to promptly release her bosoms to the world.  I’m all for the European style of life, I’d even understand if the weather had been better, but it was heavily overcast skies.

We were not the only ones laughing hysterically as this woman proceeded to flaunt what SHE shouldn’t have been flaunting to the world.  Multiple groups on the beach watched as the scene unfolded.  Don’t get me wrong; if you’ve got it show it.  I’m not against nudism as a whole.  I just feel this woman should have kept the bra, pants and shirt on for the afternoon.  At that point, I supposed I felt like I had experienced Europe to it’s fullest; in a weird way.

Our tour of Barcelona ended with dinner and a restful night sleep.  Overall my spring break was adventurous.  I learned a lot about traveling, about myself and about planning for the worst-case scenario.  After my finals end around the beginning of June, I hope to travel again.  The journey took a toll on soul and wallet, but the experience was well worth it.

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Spring break 2/3: Sloshing around Sevilla

The city count: one

Coming and going by overnight bus.

Hostel planned and located via Google Maps.

Word: Patience

I must confess my adventures in Sevilla, Spain where quite different from my adventures in Italy.  First, I’m back in Spain.  I should be able to speak the language and have no problems with communication.  Second, because it is Semana Santa or holy week, the city of Seville SHOULD be filled with parades, processions and all sorts of stuff Spanish Catholicism can dish out.  Third, Sevilla is known as one of the hearts of southern Spain.  In other words, you don’t get more Flamenco (Spanish dance), bull fighting and siesta than in Sevilla.

Before knowing quite the impact overnight travel would have on a weary traveler, we had decided to take over night buses.  They were much better than the trains of Italy, but you couldn’t get much worse.  Happily I was so tired I passed out and woke up in time to get off the bus.

Sevilla is a beautiful city with an architectural influence of the Moorish empire.  The city was sunny and we were able to wander the gardens of the Alcazar or Palace for the morning when we arrived.  After that things went down hill.

Rarely do I let weather ruin my plans.  In Sevilla, the weather not only ruined my plans, but also crumpled them up, stomped on them and drown them down a sewer drain.  We were there for two complete days and the only non-rain moment was the first stroll through the gardens.  From there on the weather went from downpour, to over cast, a playful gleam of sunshine that was then crushed by another downpour.  The BEST part was the random flash flood like down pours for 5 minutes; then the gentle rain for 10.  The weather was like a Magic Eight Ball being tossed around a junior-high girls sleepover.

My waterproof jacket was tested to the limit; my semi-water proof shoes flooded like Winnie the Pooh’s house in the 1968 “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.”  At one point my waterproof jacket actually “proofed” the water from my jacket onto my pants soaking me to the bone.  I’ve never wondered what it would fell like to be a fish out of water, but I can tell you I can now imagine how un-enjoyable it would be.

We walked the streets saw the sights and even tried to look at the bright side of things, until we realized with all the rain the traditional processions and celebration would not be taking place.  We sat down to eat lunch entering the place like sheep dogs caught in the rain and happen to catch the headline.  Semana Santa celebrations canceled: The first time in almost 80 years.  Really. My one chance to see these supposedly amazing processions and it gets canceled for the first time in 80 years.  80 years.  Let’s just say our spirits were mercilessly withered and we finished lunch in time to catch the downpour on the way back to our hostel.

Two good things did come from the trip.  First, we met a girl, Pim,  from Australia who was traveling through Spain.  She joined our ranks and made friends.  It’s Facebook official too.  We actually ended up meeting her in Barcelona later in the week.  Second, we made our way to a Flamenco show.  It was very touristy and we didn’t have the best seats, but it was a lot of fun.  The show was in an old looking venue with the old theater kinda feel.  I felt like I could paint a picture and have a classic picture of Spain.  The evening included hooting and hollering, cheers of “¡ole!” and some fancy footwork.

Overall, Sevilla was a great learning experience and opportunity to practice ‘Patience.’  Some thing that I didn’t practice in Barcelona, ‘vomit’ was the word most used there.

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Spring break 1/3: Gelato en Italia

The really awesome part about studying abroad is the opportunity to travel and see the world.  During the week my class schedule has rarely allowed me to be the traveler I wanted.  I did, however, make up for it by my spring break.  Which also is the result of my delayed posts.  Sometimes Internet is either non-existent or merely hard to find.  The following three posts will capture my time in three places first my four-day excursion of Italy, second my experience in Sevilla during Semana Santa (holy week leading to Easter) and finally in Barcelona.  My spring break was a total of 12 days long.  I can proudly say that a beach in Florida, while fun and relaxing, will never compare with the adventure that was my spring break.

My adventures began in Italy.

The city count: three.

Arriving by plane and traveling by train everywhere else.

The hostels were all accounted for and the tickets tucked safely away.

Word: Gelato

The first city on the list was Verona.

Verona is considered a city of love being the location of the houses of Romeo and Juliet.  The small city held pizza, tourists and the famous letters to Juliet.  For all you romantics and people who’ve watched the movie “Letters to Juliet” the experience was sobering.  Juliet’s house can be spotted from a block away from the number of tourists and the graffiti/names scribbled on the walls.  The famous balcony is very much kept clean and the main wall is free from lover’s whims.  Crying lovers are far from the majority but their numbers are filled with venders selling useless love totems and frivolities.  Overall, Verona was a very nice Italian town, just not Aphrodite’s secret hideaway.

From Verona we went to Venice.  The train was very comfortable and easy.  I note this because later my experience wasn’t anywhere near this.  Venice was a beautiful city with literal streets of water.  It’s one thing to hear and city photos, but being there is truly different.

It’s very easy for me to say we “went” to Venice, but what people usually forget is the adventure of finding your hostel.  No matter how well we planned, not one of our hostels was easy to find.  Our hostel for Venice happened to be on the island of Lido, a short boat ride from Venice.  We jumped on the taxi-boat and headed out around 11:00 p.m. to find our beds for the night.

Little did I know that our hostel happened to be at the complete opposite side of the island.  We walked, we took a bus, we got off too early, we walked some more and then finally called a taxi to take us two minutes to our hostel where we woke the owner up at 1:30 in the morning, but we got our beds!  I will confess, this was my first almost break down point since coming here.  It was after getting off on the wrong bus stop and realizing that not only were we lost, but also lost on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy, in the middle of Europe.  I am still here though and what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger right?

Back to the city, we took the whole day and wondered the streets.  We floated down the canals and enjoyed the wonder of the city on the sea.  It was (pardon the 5-year-old saying) really freakin’, awesomely cool!

Lastly the city of Rome.  We took a night-train starting at 11:00 p.m. and arriving at 7:00 a.m. in Rome.  Naturally, I was expecting something similar to our earlier experience with a little more comfortable seating.  Boy was I wrong!

Our 7-hour trip turned into a prolonged sleeping torment of wrong seats, illegal travelers, loud snoring and cramped space.  It was a low point in our Italy journey.  Instead of arriving in Rome refreshed and ready to go we emerged from the train cabins more like dying wasps shot by Raid, but still struggling to live.  What more, we had trouble finding our hostel AGAIN.

After a quick nap and a splash of water on the face we ventured into Rome.  We walked the city and discovered as many hidden and famous treasures over the next two days as possible.  We tasted the oldest gelato of Rome, wandered the Vatican, climbed the Coliseum steps and wished upon fountains.  Rome was historically rich, antiquely wonderful and culturally informative.  Rome was a blast!

The Italy trip ended with a mad dash for airplane seats and a long metro ride home.  While the trip only lasted for 4 days, my body told me it was a 12-day rollercoaster ride of fun highs and worrisome lows.  It was a lot of fun to zoom through the sites of a country.  We toured, took photos, ate lots of pizza and pasta and really enjoyed ourselves.  The best part, I still have 8 more days to tell you about.  More to come.

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My bullfighting experience in Spain

Here is my lastest from the Exponent, I leave for my Italy trip in less than an hour!

Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2011 10:00 am | Updated: 12:03 pm, Thu Apr 14, 2011.

GRANT MILLS | Staff Blogger

My brother and his girlfriend came to visit for a week and left this past Tuesday. They thoroughly enjoyed their time here and I had a blast showing them around. We were able to check everything off his list. From visiting surrounding cities to walking around the parks, we quickly made our way through all of the things they wished to do and to see. Living here in Madrid, however, has made the touristic areas boring. My brother lives in New York, so he completely understood my feelings. For the most part I’ve already visited the biggest tourist traps, which are always filled with people who don’t know how things work. It’s like the tour groups who come into the back of Class of ’50. Yeah, sure it’s fun to stare and look at all the little “going-to-be” freshman, but at some point it gets obnoxious that they’re always walking into the middle of your class.

Lucky for me, they wanted to see a few things I still had on my list of things to do. Our most interesting experience together was The Bullfight. Bullfighting in Spain is controversial. While part of the Spanish people want to keep it as a culturally rich aspect of Spain, the other half would love to be rid of the issue. The reason being that at the end of the day the matadors and helpers kill the bull. So deciding that a bullfight was something to see before we die, we went knowing full well the end result.

With open minds, we settled in our seats ready to watch the event. The matadors and assembly come into the arena in a slight procession, like a parade. They march into the sanded arena and then head to their prospective areas. There are three main stages to bullfighting. First the bull comes into the arena and they test his aggression and a spearman on horse punctures two holes into the bull’s back. The next stage is a process of the matador’s fellows known as banderilleros, spearing the bull with barbs near the already open wound. The final stage is the Matador with traditional red cape and sword to wear the bull down and then finally strike the bull in the heart with the sword. We saw all of that.

It’s one thing to read this on paper or to experience it even in film and quite another to experience it in real life. The word for the first bullfight I saw would be brutal. I wasn’t prepared for the bluntness or the graphic nature of the fight. I will say that I sadly got more accustomed to the fight as we watched 4 bulls in totality and left early. It was an extremely cultural event, I’ve never seen anything like it and we even had one matador that did such a good job that he was awarded the bull’s ear, a prize for a good performance.

While this kind of thing isn’t my cup of tea, it was very interesting and I’m glad I went. One thing that made me feel better was that we had two good matadors and two bad ones. The crowd was happy to applaud the good matadors, who went through the stages and cleanly killed the bulls. The other two were not as good and the crowd let them know. It was clear to me that while bullfighting is still very much alive, the crowd wasn’t fooling around. As a matador, if you go into the ring, you had better know what you are doing. The crowd wasn’t supportive of amateur matadors struggling to kill the bull. You either know what you’re doing and do it, or get out of the arena.

The end result: the experience was culturally intriguing. I can check it off my bucket-list and confidently say I’m probably never going back.

See the article and photos here:

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