Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Traveling makes me realize how absolutely amazing the human body is. How one can travel for 20 hours, eat food completely unknown to the palate, and then walk miles upon miles for the next few days is beyond me. However, I'm quite grateful for it. In fact, I've been able to make it three days before my injuries have started to really bother me--total blessing.

The past two days have been full of tourist activities, which is quite humorous to me. My mother will attest to the fact that I despise standing out anywhere and do my best to blend in. Now picture 70 Americans traipsing through the streets of Madrid, laughing and joking and unaware of the picture we make. *shakes head* I've decided it is a character building experience...

Yesterday we saw the Palacio Real, which is the Royal Palace in which the king of Spain entertains his guests. It is a gorgeous building; although we weren't allowed to take pictures of the interior, I can show a bit of the architecture.

While that was gorgeous, I far preferred El Escorial, which is both a world-famous monastery and also acts as the tombs of the past kings and queens of Spain. This is what part of the exterior looks like (again, we couldn't take pictures inside):

I'm about to nerd out for just a second, so feel free to skip this if you don't want my "fun facts." It was built in 1573 by Phillip II as a palace and is full of windows, frescos, staircases (88--the monks have to have some awesome quads..), and has a library. The library, one of my favorite places, contains thousands of books, and its oldest copy dates back to the 5th century. It was written by Saint Augustine, one of my favorite authors (although the book is called "Ceremonies for Baptizing Children," and I haven't read it...strange, huh?). 30 feet underneath is where kings from the 16th century to present day are buried. It now functions as a monastery and a school, but royalty is still buried there. Also, there is a room called "La Sala de Secretos" or the Room of Secrets. It's a small square corridor with a dome, and if you talk straight into one corner of the wall, someone listening in the corner across from you diagonally will hear what you say perfectly. Phillip did it on purpose...

My other favorite part of El Escorial were the gardens. Blond John--I think that the gardens of the Escorial are in the book of Spanish gardens you gave me! I took pictures for you, Mom, myself, and any other garden lover.

We went to El Prado as well, but by that time my knees were quite dead and my ability to correctly appreciate art quite diminished. I guess I can say I've been there, at least =)

I realized that this quite dry for anyone who hasn't seen the sites, so I'll stop there. Tomorrow we leave Madrid and bus to Sevilla, where I'll meet my host family. Keep me updated on your lives? I'd like that very much (yes, that means facebooking me--truly would make me happy).

I'll leave you with one thing I know I will dearly miss when I go home...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spain...at last

I cannot promise that this blog will be fancy or anything near those lines, but I will write. I've decided that it will be a mutually beneficial relationship for me and all of my friends: I get to share some of my experiences (namely the embarrassing moments that occur more often than not), and you can laugh at me. With me? I've laughed already. Laughter has been known to provide certain health benefits, you know.

Honestly, the flight over went as smoothly as anything could, and it was full of mini-blessings straight from God. I had the exact change for my favorite Starbucks drink in the MPLS airport, which made me smile because I had just grabbed a handful of random coins before I left. Blues music was playing, so I was the strange girl in Starbucks dancing to myself. I flew from MPLS to Dallas, and my flight was delayed there, but that was a blessing as well. An older Spanish couple was sitting next to me, and I had the opportunity to get that first awkward Spanish conversation out of the way. They knew a combined 39 words of English, and the woman was half deaf. Combine that with my gringo accent, and you get lots of blank looks, "whats?"and then my favorite facial expression when something finally clicks. But they were old and adorable, so I was content.

The flight to Madrid was better than anything I could have wished for. When I sat down in my seat, a man asked me to switch with him in a different isle. I wasn't particularly attached to my seat, and I did so. Two minutes later, a Mexican girl my age sits next to me, all smiles. She is studying abroad in Spain as well, but in Guenca instead of Sevilla. We spent all the time that we weren't asleep talking and laughing...someone felt the same excitement and fears that I did, and she shared the moment with me. What a beautiful woman she is, too. Sweet, sweet heart.

I'm now writing from my hotel in Madrid. I'm honestly surprised at how quickly I've gotten over my fear of using Spanish--or perhaps it is simply incentive mixed with necessity. I couldn't get into my room (roommate was jet lagged and sleeping) and had to get in somehow, which meant that I could either ask for a key or wait. Also, I needed a security key for the Wifi. The important things in life, right? *shakes head* So the Spanish battle begins. I have to admit, it's kind of fun. Kind of a lot of fun. Maybe I won't come home? We'll see how the first week goes.