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4 posts from January 2013

01/29/2013

One Way Ticket to Girona

Name: Amun
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2013
Home School: University of California, Irvine

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     This last weekend, the Language and Culture (LC) group, after being in Barcelona for 2 weeks, ambitiously decided to expand our horizons. Let’s go to Girona for a day trip, someone suggested. I did not know a thing about Girona, I mean I didn’t know it existed until like 2 days before going, but oddly I felt like I should go because, one, everyone else was going and two, I have this anxious feeling that I should travel as much as I can here (like time is running out). So I jumped on the bandwagon and planned to go to Girona on Saturday. Obviously, the 15 of us could not agree on a time, so we naturally split into two groups, an early bird group, and night owl group (the two groups kind of reflected on our different personalities). I declared I was going on the later 10:50 am train, knowing I was going out the night before and nothing is worse than site seeing while being hung-over and sleep deprived. So my lazy group and I briefly said we will call each other the next day and go from there, planning to not really have a plan.

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            Its 9:30am Saturday, we should probably leave right now, but of course I do not want to get out of bed and neither do the rest of my group. We make our sleepy calls and say we are leaving at 10am. Another 30 min go by, and again we keep postponing our departure. Anyways, we get up by 11:00 plan to get to the train station before 1:50 for the fast train to Girona.  I think we are on time, but surprise surprise, we are late. The already 2 hour late adventure to Girona is postponed by another hour. So to pass the time we get food and drink some of the overpriced wine at the train station. Oddly, the delay just added to our experience, we had a great time laughing at our situation and giggling about how typical our tardiness is.

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            Finally, we board our train, time goes by quickly though since we can never stop laughing. We arrive in Girona, it is pretty cold, but it seems like quaint, small and quiet Spanish city. As we head to the Cathedral, it being really the only monument we know of, we see the early bird group. It was hilarious because they were heading to the train station to leave with expressions of exhaustion while a bit guilty of laziness we were full of energy and laughter. We said our goodbyes and off we went to explore the city, granted we had only 5 hours for this adventure. We saw the Cathedral and it was breathtaking, it was sooo stunning and we even made friends with some random musical man. He was playing some bowl thing, I don’t know the name. But the Cathedral really was an uplifting experience.

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            Next, we explored the Jewish quarters, tried some really grossly sweat and syrupy liquors and a few of us were compiled to buy some expensive souvenirs. We walked through the streets enjoyed the sites and leisurely stumbled upon a restaurant to eat dinner.  It was ok in my opinion my meat was a bit sketch, but the ambience was nice, all these Jewish/Spanish looking people. We were planning on making the 8:30 pm train back home and left the restaurant in time, however we decide its time for cookies. And of course, we are late again. After leaving the cookie store we had 15 minutes to make the train and a man we asked on the street said the stations is at least 20 minutes away. So like any motivated American tourist we booked it. We straight sprinted the streets of Girona, got a million harsh looks and annoyed glances, but honestly we had to make the train, none of us wanted to be there for another hour. My shoes are thrashed now, but they are now a symbol of the weekend. We made the train with literally 20 seconds to spare, the ticket guy laughed at us when we said told him can make it. Fooled him. JAJAJ We were all sweating from head to toe, my hair was a mess, we looked like a poorly equipped cross country team. But it was worth it. I would say it was one of the most unplanned, unorganized, and perfect days I have had since coming to Barcelona.
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* Want to take a day trip to Girona? Check out details on how to get there and what to see.

** Most important sites: the cathedral, walk the old walls, the Arab Baths, the call and the Jewish history museum.

*** Girona and Barcelona are both settings for the film Perfume: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0396171/

Students in Girona (3)

01/17/2013

Barcelona Street Art

Name: Madeline
CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Spring 2013
Home School: University of Iowa

Madeline has started an incredible Tumblr with photos of Barcelona's street art. Check it out here: http://barcelonastreetart.tumblr.com

Just a few of the many great shots she's already posted:

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Don't forget to check out the rest of the street art she's found at http://barcelonastreetart.tumblr.com

01/16/2013

Iron and Shine

Name: Joe
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2013
Home School: Vanderbilt University

Flash Update:  I accomplished that goal…

I was looking for a particular restaurant that the guard at CIEE (my new buddy, Santo) recommended I try.  I began walking down la Rambla and then through the Real neighborhood.  Plaça Real, he said, and I said great and just started walking.  Who needs maps?  I didn’t know where it was.  At least, I didn’t know I knew.  After a 2 hour ramble I found myself in Plaça Real.  It really is a charming place and I highly recommend you stop by some time.  

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Gaudí lamp in Plaça Real

The restaurant had “quince” and “nit” in its name.  It didn’t take me long to find it, and when I did I just started laughing: it was the first place where we ate as a group of students.  I sat on the rim of a humble fountain smiling at the mystery restaurant I had already discovered, loving the many ironies of life and the ornate lampost also of iron which was Guadí’s first and final work commisioned by the city of Barçelona (they didn’t pay him all that they said they would and the 19 year said, ok then, and proceeded to work soley for private contractors; the city of Barçelona has retrospectively said, whoops).  Anyway, I was totally thrilled that something so coincidental and hilarious had happened.  

Then I heard someone singing.  To my right, against a column, in the square and the sun and the center of things.  

She looked my age and Spanish, dark hair and dark skin and a dark guitar.  Her words were in our language and from our songs and I began to think, life is really something.  I mean really, life is absolutely staggering and gut-wrenchingly beautiful sometimes.  So someone builds a plaza one day where we can enjoy it for many more.  And sometimes life is crushing and cruel and breaks everything and everyone you’ve ever loved.  So someone writes a song that lets the bad blood out and someone else sings it in that plaza so we can enjoy it.  And there I was, composed by a fountain in the middle of so much sun and so many stories.  Just…being there.  

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The fountain in plaça real, a perfect meeting point

And then I decided to be there a little further to the right, somehwere where I could say hello and tell her she had a lovely voice and played very well.  Where I could say I was an American studying here and hear that she was a Parisian, a fact I added to my rapidly accumulating pile of iron, if such a thing can be placed in a pile.  Her name was, and I would imagine still is, Fanny.  We talked briefly and said nice to meet you and then I walked around the plaza, about to leave and find somewhere else to eat.  

And then this whisper fluttered from the fountain carrying something else I hadn’t known that I knew: there was more to the story.  Ah, I said, yes, and walked a bit more, gathering myself and as many Spanish words as I could.  I exhaled.  I inhaled.  I repeated this like I have my entire life but in much lofiter state of respiratory awareness.  I returned to the scene of the sound, one column over, where Sofie 7 and Austin 5 had congregated all the way from Australia to hear her play and chat with me about airplanes and how big the world is and I wished I could show them that no, it’s even bigger, even bigger than all that and right here with you at the same time.  They laughed and lived in a way we must all aspire to.  Father called them to eat.  I asked Fanny if she would like to have a coffee with me.  She said of course.  So that’s what we did, except a little differently, with a beer/lemonade in place I would never have noticed and probably have walked past three times already, a place which only the pros and bums and singers and proud dads and store clerks and waitresses and pickpockets know, and now I know, having never known I would know that either.

And we just talked.  In Spanish, in English.  Of school, of places.  Of here, of home, and the little differences that dot the way between the two.  She was cool and probably still is.  Casual conversation and a kindred spirit of being in a new land with no motives inbetween the two.  She has friends here from Germany and Chicago and I have a number to call and maybe we’ll all hang out sometime.  That would be fun.  Maybe we won’t.  That would be fine.  The ending is still opening.

One day I will know what I don’t know now.

* CHECK OUT JOE'S BLOG!! http://josephscottblog.wordpress.com/

** CIEE TIP: Looking to check out Plaça Real? This is a great video with 10 best things to do in and around the Plaça, including some very secret finds:

01/02/2013

el fin del semestre ha llegado

Name: Tara
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Fall 2012
Home School: Vanderbilt University

Anoche, tuve que completar la evaluación del programa que podría significar solo una cosa-, el fin del semestre ha llegado. Hay muchas reacciones típicas de los estudiantes. La más popular de no solo los estudiantes, pero también los profesores y, incluso, los padres es, “¿como paso el tiempo?” Después, la mayoría no quieren ir y dejar la ciudad bonita, Barcelona, y todos los nuevos amigos detrás. No creo que incluso los exámenes puedan forzarnos para querer salir. Hay mucha estresa como tenemos prisa para cruzar las actividades de sus listas quehaceres conjuntos estudiando para los exámenes y haciendo las maletas. En valoración, hay una mezcla de los sentimientos-, triste, emocionada para reunir con amigos y familia, y indeciso entre los dos. En mi opinión, el peor de todo esto es hacer las maletas. Como mucho no quiero salir Barcelona por un tiempo largo, no quiero más para tener que limpiar mi cuatro completamente y, de algún modo, meter todo en mis maletas. Ya estoy preocupado que tenga demasiado muchas cosas de ir de compras para los regalos y recuerdos. No es un trabajo fácil. ¡Buena suerte a todos los estudiantes que están terminando sus exámenes y haciendo las maletas! ¡No recuerdes disfrutar sus últimos días en Barcelona!

Tara