Carnaval in Cadiz!

CARNAVAL

This past weekends was one of those weekends that I think I will always look back on and be able to say “wow, I celebrated Carnaval in Cadiz”, which for those of you that don’t know, is one of the biggest Carnaval celebrations in the world.  Cadiz is a itty-bitty, teeny-tiny beach town that transforms into a HUGE party and celebration.IMG_2215

Check out those awesome costumes…a Mexican superhero, a rabbit and a bunny (so, so good), and Mother Nature.IMG_2231We have a 3 day weekend this weekend (4 day for some of us.. 😉 ) and since my roommates and friends all had plans and I didn’t want to be alone, I messaged a friend I haven’t seen in a while and asked if she wanted to go to Carnaval for 3 days.  She said yes…and the rest is history haha.

My impression of Carnaval is that it’s a really, really good excuse for men to dress like women…right….IMG_2233

Anyway, it was a whirlwind weekend and while I had fun, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.  If I am being completely honest, I’ll say that Carnaval in Cadiz was a bit………………………………….underwhelming.  That’s not to say that it isn’t an awesome party with people dressed in absolutely incredible costumes..because it is.  We saw the most creative costumes…school girls (boys), Where’s Waldo, women (men) in showers (they literally carried showers around with them), priests, terrorists (one group actually threw a small bomb that exploded and scared me half to death….not funny), and more.IMG_2239 But I was expecting to SEE more of a show?  I’m not sure…maybe a parade?  Or some acrobatics…Anything, really.  We did see a concert, which was my favorite part of the day.  No, scratch that.  My favorite part was the BEACH.  and the warm weather.IMG_2201 IMG_2199DSC_0456

And having fun with friends and making new ones!IMG_2212 IMG_2213 IMG_2220

On Friday, we took a bus alllllllllllllllllll the way from Madrid to Cadiz and while it was the cheaper way to do it…oh my gosh it was so, so hard.  We were on the bus for almost 12 hours since the bus driver got lost.  We did take a couple of breaks in the middle of no where, which made it easier.  I also slept for almost the entire time :)  Once we arrived, we quickly headed to dinner and then went back to the room to get dress and go to a “club” with the entire group.  Not exactly a club but I really, really had fun that night.  Costumes were optional, but we thought we should dress up.IMG_2190 Apparently NO ONE else did.  Hahahaha

In the morning (Saturday), we went to breakfast…IMG_2194

Got a better look at the hotel, which was actually a good 35 minutes out of Cadiz…IMG_2195

And then went right to the beach.  I absolutely CANNOT wait until summer.  I can’t wait for the sun and the beach and the warmth.IMG_2198DSC_0466DSC_0472DSC_0477DSC_0462DSC_0470

Saturday afternoon, we got dressed and then the bus took us to Carnaval where we spent the day walking around, standing, drinking, and talking to a lot of men dressed as women haha.IMG_2240

The trip itself was fun and probably the most exhausting weekend I have had since arriving in Spain, but I am so glad I went and got to be a part of it.  Will I ever go back?  Probably.  I think there are things to SEE at Carnaval, but we weren’t there at the right time.  Ya live and learn.

Anyway, if you plan on heading to Carnaval in Cadiz, here are some survival tips:

  • Bring alcohol, chasers and cups to the party.  You can buy it there from various alimentacions and chinos, but it’s cheaper to bring it.
  • Bring food.  Bring sandwiches and snacks and carry them with you.
  • Bring WATER.  You will be thirsty haha.
  • Bring something warm to wear when it gets cold later.  It’s warm during the day, but when the sun goes down, it gets windy and cold.
  • Wear comfortable shoes…you’ll be standing all day.
  • Wear a costume.
  • Have fun!

**Everything I just mentioned you should bring, you can also purchase it.  It’s just more expensive that way.

What I Ate Tuesday

Buenos dias!

How is your week going?  Mine is flying by, just the way it should (ok, I am actually writing this post on Monday, but here’s to hoping 😉 )

I meant to write this post last week, but obviously, that did not happen.  For that reason, I am showing you what I ate Tuesday of last week but Tuesdays around here are basically the same each week.  Wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth, drink too much coffee, pack breakfast and snacks, go to school, do the Lord’s work (haaaaaaaaha), take the bus home, sit at said bus station for about an hour and drink more coffee // read // eat lunch (hiding in Dunkin Donuts… [fun fact: Dunkin Donuts here is called Dunkin Coffee.  My assumption is that Spaniards are more likely to frequent a business with the word ‘coffee’ than the word ‘donut’.  ALso!  They sell beer at Dunkin’.]), go to private English lesson for an hour and a half, eat another snack, walk an hour to Spanish class, sit through Spanish class for 1.5 hours, walk home, devour dinner, shower, pass TF out.

**I don’t usually pack my lunch, but since I don’t get home until 8:30 on Tuesdays, it’s the best option for me.  I usually take breakfast and snacks to school and then eat lunch at home.  Learned that lesson on my first day of school when I rolled up with my packed salad. #rookieteacherproblems

Anywho…

BreakfastIMG_21501/2 c oatmeal with water // peanut butter // raspberry jam

That combination makes me too happy in the morning.  The jam is so good and I definitely eat way more of it than I should…

I also don’t usually buy coffee at school (I used to every day), but on this particular day, I was way too sleepy to function so I had a little extra coffee with breakfast.

Lunch and Daily SnacksIMG_2076

Arroz con pollo with butternut squash, feta, and hummus** // apple // banana // mixed veggies // yogurt // hard-boiled egg // Trader Joe’s corn nuts // oatmeal, banana, chocolate chip bar

**When I told my mom how I defiled her arroz con pollo, she texted me saying, “Que asco!!!!”IMG_2080

(I usually only take an apple, egg, and yogurt to school and eat them between 10 and 3 pm)

Here is a lunch from last week that I had at home:IMG_2090Egg salad with hummus and paprika // rice cakes // cucumber // squash

Or…IMG_2001-001Spinach // mixed greens // pepper // mushroom // cucumber // hard-boiled egg // feta // chick peas // bread with butter

DinnerIMG_2152Cauliflower // mushrooms // spinach // 2 eggs // feta cheese // parm cheese // tomato sauce

Or, the night before:IMG_2144Sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and squash // chicken with pesto // honey mustard // feta/ parm

Snack / DessertIMG_2141Coffee with almond milk ** // crackers // Trader Joe’s Chili-Spiced Mango // Trader Joe’s Corn Nuts

**The almond milk here is on the verge of disgusting.  It’s basically water with some sugar and almond traces.  Where is the creaminess?!?!

I also usually have chocolate or a cookie for dessert.

[I also eat way more snacks between lunch and bedtime]

 

Such a Good Weekend.

Good morning and Happy Monday!

Do anything fun this weekend?  For me, this weekend was one of those weekends that went by so incredibly fast, but also felt so, so long.  It was one of those weekends where I feel like I did so much and as I type this up (Sunday afternoon), with sleepy eyes, I feel happy, relaxed, and ready (as ready as I can be…) for the week ahead.  It was one of those weekends that made me feel so lucky to be living in a big city! in Spain!  in EUROPE!

Part of (i.e. all of) my “funk” last week came from these feelings of NOT KNOWING WHAT I’M DOING here, there, now, next year, for the rest of my life.  I was ruminating over the fact that much of my life here is…existence.  I feel busy, busy, busy, but yet, I feel like I don’t do anything important.  I know, not everything has to be IMPORTANT, but I’m such a goal-oriented person.  I like lists and order and plans and accomplishment.  Anyway, I spent the majority of last week in quite a fog… feeling lost and turned-around and quite frankly, unhappy.  But all is well now!  I’ll talk more about my change in attitude in another post…

For now, let’s talk about this weekend.  You probably don’t care, but I like looking back and reading about fun weekends.  Although, I’m now realizing I have very few photos to share.  Oh well.

Thursday

No picture, but I after a relatively fun Spanish class, I went out for drinks. Thursday is the first day of my weekend, so might as well treat it as such…

Friday

Woke up late, had a haircut, went shopping (this is a Friday habit.  Bad bad bad) but things weren’t all that expensive thanks to the rebajas.  Um what else….  I did a 40 minute NTC workout, cleaned my room (the dust bunnies were getting out of hand), showered, and went out to dinner with a bunch of people I didn’t know. UIMG_2111

More than one person was kind enough to tell me I look Asian in this dress… haa

Everyone spoke Spanish and told stories that I did my best to keep up with.  From what I understood, they were hilarious and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I will say, though, that we went to a buffet and oh my gosh, the difference between Americans in a buffet and Spaniards in a buffet is…embarrassing.  People ate “normal” portions (I mean, considering that it was a buffet).

Saturday

Woke up WAY TOO EARLY, did laundry, took a really quick nap and then met Annie for some gossip and a walk around Madrid.  Like always, we found cool new spots that I vowed to go back to, but probably won’t (ha).  Except this place!IMG_2115It was 110% my kind of place.IMG_2114What is the red stuff on those pears?  Anyone know?  Blood?

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We stopped for “juice” along the way for something a little more substantial than a coffee.IMG_2116

The juice was good, the service was atrocious.IMG_2117

After our juice, I headed home and went food shopping.  I was only going to buy like…6 things and came home with a HUGE bag full of stuff and 27 Euro poorer.  Whyyyyyyyy.  But now my shelf is stock full of fresh cut and prepped veggies because after all of this eating out, I need some sort of a detox…or intervention.  I lied on the couch for a bit and tried to start Making a Muderer, but fell asleep 15 minutes in.  Got dressed and went out for yet another dinner….burgers and fries and I need help.  I definitely wasn’t a burgers and fries person when I was in the US, but it’s become my go-to here.  Good?  Bad????

Sunday

SUNDAY BRUNCH!  Oh how I missed you.IMG_2127

I went with my roommates and the coworker/ friend of my roommate and we were all over the spectrum of completely hungover/ a little drunk to completely put together with make up done.  (Hence the lack of a photo…) Brunch is something that I can add to my relatively short list of things that I miss about the United States, but coffee and eggs helped alleviate some of that.IMG_2128

That thick slice on top of the eggs is a big, fat piece of goat cheese.  My mom is gagging as she reads that, but I loved it.

I walked home since I was feeling super full, stopped to buy some necessary costume essentials for CARNIVAL next weekend (send prayers my way), and here I am, chatting with ya’ll…trying to keep my eyes open.  I’m off to nap for a bit (post written Sunday afternoon)

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Sunday Food Prep

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I did a bit of food prep this weekend since we did so much restaurant eating.  I wanted to ensure that I had plenty of healthy food for a health(ier) week…IMG_2135Cucumbers // rice // lentil soup // roasted squash and broccoli // chopped mushrooms

IMG_2136Chopped cauliflower // chicken breast // hard boiled eggs // diced squash

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In the fridge: hummus // feta cheese // cheese wedges // parm cheese/ tomato sauce // plain yogurt

Have a great week!

Five Things That Are Making Me Happy Right Now.

Good morning and happy FRIDAY!

To say that I am happy that today is Friday would be a complete understatement.  I am over-the-moon 2x happy that today is Friday.  To be honest, I was in some kind a weird funk this whole week, which left me feeling off…not happy.  I spent the week in a bit of a daze, but I feel like I’m pulling out of it and yesterday (Thursday) definitely helped tremendously.  Anyway, despite feeling strange, there were (obviously) still good parts of the week (great parts, even- like when my students asked me to play a part in the movie they are filming for English class and I had to pretend to be super angry and it was the most embarrassing thing, ever.  Or when I played Never Have I Ever with my 16/17 year old students and it got…out of hand.  Or when the mom of one of my private students told me she got a 6 on her test (not great, but better than she normally does)).  So there were good parts to this week!  In the spirit of choosing to be positive, I am going to show/ tell you 5 things that are making me happy right now!  Yay for stupid posts on Friday 😉

Wherever you are in the world, and whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful weekend

Trader Joe’s Products!IMG_2100My parents brought me two jars of peanut butter and one jar of almond butter (and a few bags of snacks and chocolate).  I can’t stop eating the peanut butter/ almond butter straight from the jar.

Just look how it melts!IMG_2094

Getting a HaircutIMG_2095

This quite literally be my first haircut in a salon in….years?  Story time- when I was little (not that little, maybe 5th or 6th grade?), my mom took me to get my haircut and convinced me that getting it cut short would be “just so cute and so much more manageable!!!” than the bees nest that I usually chose to rock.  Long story short, I left in TEARS because I had a little, curly, poofy, FRO.  No more haircuts for me EVER..  But anyway, my mother, once again, reminded me that my ends are dead and my hair looks ratty, so I went and had my first big girl haircut today.  I didn’t let them cut all that much off, but I told the guy (who was wearing a dress, covered in tattoos and piercings- dad, you guys would have gotten along nicely) to do his thing. He didn’t say much, just grunted and nodded, but I left with healthier hair and I’m happy (so far).

Arroz a la CubanaIMG_2098

Also known as: Food That Tastes Good and Can Be Made in Less Than 2 Minutes.  I come home starving… always so my big batch of rice that I keep in the fridge gets thrown in a bowl with some tomato sauce and put in the microwave while I quickly fry an egg.  By the time the egg is done, the rice is hot and ready.  I covered this bowl in hot pepper and ate the entire thing in less than a minute.  Like a lady.  But really, this is super tasty.  Try it!

A Freezer Full of Food!Food CollageThank you, thank you, thank you Mama Bear.  Of course not everything you see is mine, but there are layers under what you do see.  I have enough food in there for..ever.  And I have 12 bagels to get through!  Parents are the best.

Good Roommates, Friends, and Everyone in BetweenIMG_2064

This picture was taken last weekend before we went out (and quickly posted to IG).  But really, despite being in a funk all week, having people to come home to at the end of the day is invaluable and made my funk a little better each day.  Also the teachers at my school are great and made the days better than they would be otherwise.  And lastly, the other people that have become part of my life here in Madrid- you all, are wonderful.

What has made you happy?

Late Christmas Gift Guide for a Traveler

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Christmas 2015 is over.  Let’s just say this gift guide is a little early for Christmas 2016, right?  You’ll be so prepared!!!

I’m not a huge gift person…as everyone knows, I am actually the Grinch.  But you, YOU! are probably a nice person that likes purchasing nice things for nice people in your life.  If you know someone that is a traveler, is a wannabe traveler, or will be traveling, I compiled a bunch of things that will make awesome gifts for them, from stocking stuffers to really nice gifts.  All of these things are things that I use and love and have made my time in Madrid and traveling around easier and more comfortable. (In no particular order)  Enjoy!travel collage1

1 // Travel-size towel.  Ask me how many times I have traveled without a towel?  Twice.  Ask me how many times I rented one from the hostel?  Once.  Ask me how many showers I have taken a shower and then used toilet paper to dry myself?  You do the math.  A nice, quick-drying towel is a great gift!

2 // Quality, easy-to-use lock for a suitcase.  This goes without explaining, but I recommend buying a lock with a code as opposed to a key because keys get lost…

A quality lock to take on trips for use in hostels.  Some hostels don’t provide locks, so always bring your own.

3 // Nice toiletry bag.  I use a small plastic one (shown in #5), but a nice bag for toiletries can make a good gift…bonus if you fill it.

4 // Neck pillow.  For all that extra traveling on trains, planes and buses!  Don’t get them a cheap one with little beads, as they don’t provide enough support.  Get them a quality pillow.  Unless, of course, you don’t actually like the person.  Then go ahead and get one with beads.

5 // Complete carry-on toiletry kit.  I bought one the day before leaving the U.S and have used it on every trip.  Include: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, a disposable razor, lotion, chap stick, deodorant, face wash, a fold-able toothbrush, mini toothpaste, small comb, and anything else they may use.  Also, include an EMPTY carry-on size (3.4 oz) liquid container.  This way, they can put their favorite product in it.  I have yet to find these containers in any regular stores in Madrid, but they sell them at Bed Bath and Beyond.

6 // A DSLR.  if you really want to get a nice gift.  I love my DSLR and while it is big and bulky, the pictures and memories it captures on each adventure is worth the hassle.  Try checking Craigslist for a lightly used DSLR.  They are sold at a fraction of the retail price, but you can find them almost completely new.  My DSLR is over $700 brand new, but I bought it for less than $300.  I have a Nikon D5100.  Does not include a lens.  (Extra: if someone you know likes photography and already has a camera, you can get them camera equipment such as tripods or a fancy new lens).

7 // Quality carry-on bag.  My friends and roommates should laugh at this because my current carry-on bag situation is pretty bad, but I know a quality bag can go a long way.  Something with space, pockets, quality zippers, wheels (if that’s something they like…I prefer no wheels).  Just make sure it meets carry-on regulations.

8 // Point-and-shoot camera.  This is for the people that you actually like because a nice camera can be expensive.  A small point-and-shoot is a great option for traveling because they take nicer pictures than a phone, but is much easier to carry than a DSLR.  I don’t have one, but I wish I did.

 9 // Light. inexpensive computer.  Last year, my parents bought me a small, 2.2 pound ASUS from Best Buy.  It was just over $200 and it is AMAZING.  It’s doesn’t do any amazing tricks (except it’s touch screen, which I love), but it is probably my favorite thing I brought to Spain.  I can take it to school, to cafes, on trips, and more- since it’s so light.  I take good care of it and does everything I need it to do.  An inexpensive computer really is invaluable when traveling.  Think of it this way, I can get 5 of these computers for the price of your MacBook Pro…and they do the same thing.

10 // Travel guide book.  These books are awesome for travel information, accommodation, restaurant and tourist site information.  Recommendations: Rick Steves or Lonely Planet.  Rick Steves offers a “no frills” perspective and makes great recommendations.  My brother got me Rick Steves’ Spain 2015 book for my birthday and it has gotten plenty of use!

11 // Camera case.  To protect those expensive cameras!

12 // Passport holder.  It just protects your passport and maybe makes it easier to keep track of…especially when traveling.

Bon Voyage!!! (And Merry Chrsitmas 2016!)

*Post idea courtesy of Ollin.  Thank you!

How to Solicit a Social Security Number in Madrid

Before I moved to Spain, I planned on writing all of these “how to” posts for getting your life together here.  Guess what?!  I don’t have my life together and those posts haven’t really happened, but today, TODAY! I do have a “how to” post for you.  For whatever random reason, someone in this country might ask you to get a Spanish social security number and you’re going to be like “What???  How do I do that?  Aren’t they reserved for…citizens?”  But no, social security numbers aren’t quite the same thing as they are in the United States. Apparently, they hand out social security numbers here like the PPA hands out tickets.  With minimal effort, you’ll get your number (and a ticket, ha).

I was asked to get a social security number for a group private teaching opportunity here.  I was dreading the process and almost told them I wasn’t interested in the job, but it really wasn’t bad.

How to Get a Social Security Number in Madrid.

1.  Collect your documents.

Bring: Your passport, your visa, your TIE.  And then bring COPIES of all of these things.  I only brought the originals and they made me go get copies made.  Black and white is fine.  You can also bring your school contract or rental contract, but they were not needed in my case.  Bring it all.

2.  Fill out the TA-1 Form and then print it.

The form can be found HERE.  It looks scary, but it’s not.  Fill out your name, parents names, passport number, address, e-mail address, phone number, and that’s about it.  Include the date and your signature at the bottom.  it’s a good idea to bring an extra copy to the appointment in case you did something wrong and need to do it again.

3.  Go to a Tesoreria General de la Seguridad Social.

No appointment needed and a complete list of offices can be found HERE.  Just be aware of the hours.  The one I went to is only open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 2 pm.

4.  Be patient.

When I walked into the office, it looked like the DMV…unhappy people waiting and everyone is confused about what to do.  Make sure you take a number and pay attention to the screen that lists the numbers they are calling.  In total, I was in and out in about 45 minutes (including time to go get things copied).

Other Things I Did With My Parents. And All That Finger Lickin’ Food.

I can’t believe my parents trip to Spain has come and gone so quickly.  Seriously, it wasn’t so long ago that I was frantically SPRINTING to the metro to get them because my alarm never went off (and my computer was dead and it was dark out so I had no clue what time it was AND it was Christmas day so the metros ran every never minutes and there was not ONE person working in the stations and I was a lunatic!!!).  But here we are, almost a month later and they are back safe and sound in the U.S.  I wrote 3 posts detailing our trip to the South of Spain, but we did lots of other things while they were here.  The first week was a good balance of exploring Madrid and relaxing in my apartment.  (…and going to 100 Montaditos.  We went maybe…5 times….in two weeks.  At first it was irritating.  But then I embraced it)IMG_1679

“Tamara, where do you get that huge forehead and curly hair???”  Mystery solved.

We…

–> Went for walks.  I have never done so much walking in such a short amount of time.  But it’s a good way to see the city.

–> Went to El Retiro park to walk around.IMG_1717 IMG_1715 IMG_1706 IMG_1702

–> Went to Museums.  The Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen.

–> Went on a walking tour of Madrid.  It was free and really, really good.  If you’re ever in Madrid, I highly recommend it.IMG_1734

–>Walked to The Royal Palace.  My parents later went back and went inside.  I did not.IMG_1674

If you know my mom at all, you know this picture shows her completely in her element.  Cracks me up.

–>Went to Toledo and explored museums, Synagogues and Cathedrals.  And then went to McDonalds.IMG_1745

FOOD from Mama

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Salmon with a lemon, caper, tomato, zucchini sauce // roasted potatoes // salad

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DIY Chicken Tacos with chicken // veggies // black beans // corn // salsa // butternut squash // homemade guacamole // hot sauce

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Ground beef stuffed tomatoes // salad // bread

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Chicken Francaise // pasta // olives // salad // roasted butternut squash

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Leftover spaghetti // tomato and mushroom sauce // salad

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After our trip – Greek Salads with mixed greens // feta // roasted almonds // eggs // olives // onion // peppers // cucumber // carrots and hummus

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Arroz con pollo!  My favorite.

IMG_1970With my beautiful mama. <3

 

Best Apps to Have When You Live (or Travel) Abroad

Good morning!

I am typing this post on Christmas Day, while my parents are napping since they traveled all night.  I was late picking them up to the airport since every piece of technology I own failed me, but alas, they are here in one piece and were only a little bit angry.  I, on the other hand, was a stressed, sweaty mess once I arrived 😉  I’m not sick of them yet, but I will be checking back in over the next few days and will update that status.

I’m actually not quite sure what to do with myself since they’re sleeping and Madrid is eerily quiet on this holiday.  Seriously, the hoards of African men that swarm around my apartment and this neighborhood day in and day out are not even there!  Where is everyone??  Hopefully my parents will be up soon, so we can go exploring.  Anyway, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family and there were only minor arguments!

****OBVIOUSLY, I wrote this post weeks ago!


 

It’s actually incredible, to be living in another country…on an entirely different continent, yet many times, being here feels no different than being in any city in the United States.  I have the internet, I can talk to my friends whenever I want, I can walk and talk on the phone (cell phone OR house phone) with my parents, I can use maps, I can check my bank account.  I can do just about anything, thanks to a few apps that have made my life so much easier.

This list of the best apps to have when you’re abroad is in no particular order, except for the first one, which takes the cake.

WhatsApp

app1

WhatsApp is amazing.  Everyone and their mother uses WhatsApp in every country except the United States.  It allows you to text WhatsApp to WhatsApp using 3G or wifi.  You can also make calls WhatsApp to WhatsApp, again via 3G or wifi.  It allows you to see when messages are delivered, as well as read annnnd you can do voice messages, as opposed to just text.  It saves pictures and videos, and makes life generally so much easier.  iMessage?  What’s that?

MagicApp

app2

MagicApp allows you to call any United States landline (or cell phone, apparently) for free via 3G or wifi.  This is awesome because I can call my house, my doctors office, my dad’s office, and many places that I need to call in Spain have an “international number” ie, a number in the US so I can call them and tell them I am in Madrid.  Now you have NO excuse to not call Grandma because she doesn’t use WhatsApp or Facetime or Facebook Messenger!  Just call her house 😉  I think there is a way to adjust the settings so people can reach you through the app, but I have not done this.  The downside is that you cannot call Spanish landlines.

Nike Training Clubapp3

I have professed my love for this workout app in the past, but here I am again, saying that I LOVE Nike Training Club.  Especially now that I don’t have a gym membership and running gets old.  NTC gives me quick 20 or 30 high intensity workouts that get the job done.  And there are always new workouts to try.  Usually, I do them in my room/ our apartment, but sometimes I run to the park and do them there like a lunatic.

Banking App

app4

So in my case, I have an app for Firstrust Bank (my bank at home) which, especially when I arrived, allowed me to monitor the charges on my card, as well as ATM fees I was incurring.  Now, I also have an app for EVO (my bank in Madrid) which allows me to monitor my income and spending.  I check both weekly.

Spotifyapp8

I had to re-download and re-register for Spotify in Spain so that I am able to continue using it for free.  If you use your American account, after 2 weeks of your “free trial”, the app will tell you that you have to pay for the international version.  If you make a new account, you can be Spanish and continue listening to all the Viva Latino that you want 😉

Netflixapp9

This one needs no explanation, other than the fact that I lie in bed a few nights a week and watch my favorite shows/ movies, as well as some new Spanish entertainment that I have never seen.

Madrid Specific Apps

MetroMadrid

app5

This is an app to let you figure out the best route to take via metro, but I only use it as a map.  I have tried to screen shot the Madrid Metro map, but it comes out pixelated and blurry, so having this app lets me use the map.

Madrid-MBC

app6

This app lets you see schedules and plan trips with Metro, Bus, and Cercanias (the train).  I use it when I’m at school because it lets you input the bus stop code and see when the next bus is coming.  This is helpful in the winter, so I don’t have to stand outside too long!

Ke Buena

app7

Good Spanish music!  They also have a radio station, but for us radio-less, car-less folk, the app is a good option.  I use it on the way to school everyday, as well as when I go running, but I’m sure it’s a data sucker.  The downside to this app is that during the afternoon, it’s alllllll talking and no music.

Other apps to use for calling:

FaceTime

Facebook Messenger

I hope you find this post helpful!  Am I missing any?  *Crickets*

Our Trip Down South: Granada

If you’re just catching up, you can read Part I (Seville) here and Part II (Cordoba) here.

The last leg of our journey!

Granada!DSC_0629 This was not only the city in which we spent the most time (3 nights, 3.5 days), but also my favorite city of the three.  I liked Sevilla for it’s charm and mid evil feel, but I liked Granada for the things we did and for the feeling that it was an actual city and not a tiny little town.

Our first day in Granada, we didn’t do too much- only got situated at the hotel and then walked around the city a bit before parking it in a cafe while we watched bits and pieces of the 3 Reyes Magos parade that was going by. It was pouring rain (again…) so I was more interested in the thick hot cocoa and tea that were on the table than what was going on outside.DSC_0614

The next morning, the sun came out from hiding and this was, by far, my favorite day of the trip!  DSC_0694We went to the Alhambra, which is an absolutely breathtaking palace built in the 9th century.

Alhambra tickets have to be booked in advance (and in the peak season, booked months in advance).  It was busy, but not too, too busy.  We wandered our way through the palace and then through the grounds, garden, and other structures on the property.  For your viewing pleasure…DSC_0613 DSC_0627 DSC_0634 DSC_0652 DSC_0649 DSC_0656 DSC_0669 DSC_0677

And some with actual humans:DSC_0644

My mom’s way of getting people to smile is by pinching them.  It works…apparently..DSC_0658

After lots and lots of walking (do you sense a theme here?), we walked some more and headed to the Cathedral where Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand are buried…

And then we had dinner at a Turkish place.  All I wanted was salad and hummus and I was a happy camper (even though they gave me a plate of iceberg lettuce and onions…).

Here is a riddle:  How many ways can you say “pork” in Spain?!DSC_0704

Then bedtime…

On our final full day in Granada, we started with big totilla bocadillos (huge sandwich with egg/ cheese) and coffee and then another walking tour.  Side note- I am walking toured out for the foreseeable future…DSC_0739DSC_0709

Again, the walking tour was beneficial in that it took us to places we wouldn’t have otherwise seen and allowed those of us that were paying attention to learn something new.DSC_0749

After the walking tour, we did our own walking tour of the Albayzin, which is the Moorish quarter of Granada…basically a huge mountain that we climbed.  And then we rested for awhile with awesome views..DSC_0713 DSC_0725

Once we found our way back down, we went for beers and tapas, did a bit more walking, and then went and had the best meal we had all week at a Syrian restaurant.  I wish I knew the name of it because it was incredible food, totally affordable prices, and definitely not a tourist trap. (Edited to add: We think this meal gave all 3 of us food poisoning. Fun stuff…)

Then we took the long walk back up the mountain to head to our hotel.  We estimated that we probably walked somewhere between 10 and 15 miles that day, and seeing as I fell asleep almost immediately, that’s probably accurate.

On the day of our trip home, my mom did ANOTHER walking tour while my dad rested and I went shopping.  We were all so thrilled to be back in Madrid and home and to finally have vegetables (haha).IMG_1964 I am so, so thankful that I am able to travel with my parents, that they were able to come visit me, and that they are the two best people in the world.DSC_0692 I am very, very lucky- and they’re still here!  I am off to spend the afternoon with my mom (writing this on Sunday).DSC_0701

If you have any questions about our trip, let me know!

 

Our Trip Down South: Cordoba (accent on the o)

Buenos dias amigos!

If you are just checking in, start with Part I of Our Trip Down South- Sevilla.

After two nights in Seville, we hop, skipped, and jumped our way over to Cordoba, a small town worth seeing, even just for a day.  We didn’t realize when we planned (really, my mom didn’t realize when she planned) that most things are closed in Cordoba on Mondays, which happened to be the one day we spent there, but we made it work and I think we got a ton done in just a few short hours in the city.

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My first impression of Cordoba was similar to that of Sevilla- a small town, with narrow, cobblestone streets that are lined with bitter orange trees.DSC_0563

The main attraction in Cordoba is the Mezquita, which is a huge, huge, huge mosque. It’s large enough to fit 20,000 people at a time!  The site was originally built by the Visigothsas the Catholic Basilicaof Saint Vincent of Lerins.  When Muslims conquered Spain in 711, the church was first divided into Muslim and Christian halves. This sharing arrangement of the site lasted until 784.DSC_0573IMG_1850

When my parents said we were going to a mosque, I never pictured that it would be anything like it was, from the grand pillars throughout, to the preserved artifacts and sculptures.DSC_0578

Actually, backing up a bit…Before going to the Mezquita, we went to the Casa de Sepharad museum in Cordoba.  I wasn’t feeling well that day, but the museum was still interesting, especially the tour we did there where we learned more about the Spanish Inquisition…something that I really didn’t know much about before this trip.  I don’t have any pictures to share from there, so moving along….

After the Mezquita, I wanted to take a nap to see if it would help me feel better.  It did and I woke up to my parents returning to the hotel room from their adventures.  Within minutes, we were out the door for dinner, which ended up being a delicious mix of middle eastern cuisine (Tajine, kebap, hummus, etc).  We finished it all and I left dinner super, super stuffed.IMG_1860-001

We ended the night with a walk through the quiet streets and some ice cream.  Then it was bed time before a morning train ride to our last city- Granada!  My parents actually went out to see the palace that morning, but I wasn’t getting up before the sun.  Nope.

Up next- Granada (my favorite!)