Karen is a junior math and geology major from Albequerque, New Mexico. She is spending spring 2007 in Madrid at the SMU-in-Spain program.
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Barcelona: water, architecture, art, and fruit. We spent close to a week in Barcelona exploring and enjoying the city’s most famous sights. The weather was amazing while we were there and we hardly ever had to take jackets into the city though at times the wind was a bit of a killer. For lunch one day, we joined the crowd and picked a nice little restaurant along the port to eat at after being enticed by the reasonably priced Menú al día. All of us started our meal with cannelloni. For the second course, Katie and I had seafood paella which was amazing and Robin ate bacalao or cod. After that we took a stroll on the port, stopping periodically to check out some of the vendors on the waterfront.
Best View in Town
Seeing some of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture was something that I found to be completely captivating. I had seen only a few of Gaudi’s works in books in passing but being able to see it first hand was great. Casa Batlló stands out among the fairly traditional houses around it and is an absolute wonder inside and out complete with its own elevator, outdoor patio, and rooftop view. The same can be said for the Sagrada Familia which is actually still being built with no distinct end in sight. The building itself is huge and stands tall above the surrounding buildings. My favorite part was being able to see the designs and to scale models and all of the construction actually going on.
Gaudi’s Park Güell was definitely one of our favorite sights in Barcelona and it warranted two visits. The park is built on the side of a mountain beginning with two gingerbread-looking houses at the entrance. Sitting along the stairs is a mosaic gecko that was extremely popular with all of the tourists there. Although we did not explore the flower gardens much we were determined to make it to the top of the park where we had heard there was an incredible view of Barcelona. It was true and being at the top was well worth the climb. In the midst of the park winds the longest park bench in the world and also gives a great view of the city.
Dalí’s Fun House
We were able to visit the Joan Miró Foundation and the Picasso Museum but my favorite by far was the Dalí Museum in the town of Figueres. Once a theatre, Dalí personally constructed his own museum and, that being said, it is extremely eclectic with hidden surprises everywhere making it seem more like a Fun House at a fair than a museum. The paintings themselves were amazing and we ended up spending close to four hours walking through the twenty-some rooms. After our visit we ate lunch and had one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten since I’ve been in Spain. Our last few minutes in Figueres, however, were spent running through the town to get back to the station in time to catch our train back to Barcelona.
Shopping on La Rambla
No trip to Barcelona can be complete without visiting one of the city’s most famous streets, La Rambla. The street is full of vendors, performers and tons of tourists. Right in the middle of La Rambla on a side street is the famous market where they sell various kinds of food but is most well known for its huge selection of fruit. After walking all around the market we opted to buy fruit drinks and a variety pack, a total of 2,50 euros spent. From there we walked back down to the port and ate our fruit over the water while watching the sunset behind the buildings of the city.
The only thing that was somewhat disheartening about Barcelona was all of the tourists. I don’t know if I can actually say that though since I was a tourist myself but we heard more English there than during our entire trip in Spain. Also, the people there were not nearly as friendly as the Madrileños we were used to. Barcelona was an absolute blast but I think it is safe to say that I’m glad to be back in Madrid.
When I first came to SMU I was absolutely positive that I was going to study abroad in Australia during the second semester of my junior year. Like so many people do with their majors, I changed my mind. Now, I find myself in Madrid, the capital of Spain, having the time of my life. I finally decided that I would go to Spain instead of Australia after taking several Spanish classes at SMU and talking to people that had already gone to Spain and absolutely adored it. I filled out all of the paperwork, completed two interviews, drove to Houston to get my student visa, and then came the hard part, leaving. I never imagined how difficult it would be to say goodbye to all of my friends and family, pack for four months, and get on a plane headed to an entirely different country.
Being from New Mexico, I was used to leaving home and making the 10 hour drive to Dallas but I was not ready for the 18 hours of travel time that I had to endure on my trip from Albuquerque to Madrid. Luckily, jet lag was never a big issue and I settled in quickly after a few days of orientation in Toledo. Classes began soon after and it has been an incredible adventure ever since!
Out and About in Madrid
So far, we have been to Toledo, Segovia, Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada with the SMU-in-Spain program. Individually, I have also been to Marbella, Ronda, Boadilla del Monte, and Cádiz for Carnaval (the third largest party in the world). Of course, most of our time is spent in Madrid where we have classes Monday through Thursday. We try to spend our three-day weekends exploring different parts of the city and doing as much as we can. So far, we have visited the Plaza del Sol, the center of the city and home to “Kilometer 0”, the point from which everything else in the city extends, Plaza de España with Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and their creator, Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia that houses “Guernica”, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, the Rastro flea market where thousands of shoppers go every Sunday, the Archaeological Museum, the Plaza Mayor, and Retiro Park.
So much to do, so little time
One of the hardest things so far has been reserving time to really do all of the things that we want to do. There is so much in Spain to see and experience and often it is difficult to take a step back and choose the things that are most important. Even though we have an entire semester, there are still some things that we won’t be able to experience. I have had so much fun traveling to different parts of the country but I have also loved just hanging out in Madrid. We have been relying on tips from friends, professors, and guidebooks for advice on things to do in different parts of the country. For a more historical view of different regions, I have used the book I received as a Christmas present, “Spain” by Eyewitness Travel. It has a lot of background information on the different areas. Lonely Planet’s “Western Europe” and “Let’s Go Spain and Portugal on a Budget” have been extremely helpful for finding out, in detail, places to go, things to eat, places to stay, and what to eat.
Off to Barcelona
We have just finished with midterms and are off to Barcelona for just under a week and I can’t believe how fast my time here has gone. I feel like I have only been here for a few days but I have seen more amazing things than I could have possibly imagined. I am thrilled to see what new adventures lay ahead in the second half of the semester and can’t wait to experience more of Spain.