Sunday, September 25, 2011

Here's to you, July.

July was a few months ago. But, what I did in July is definitely worth writing about (now that I have some down time). I like to think of July as "siempre viajandooo" because I was doing just that: always traveling. No, I'm not complaining. While it was a bit tiring as I moved out of my flat in Navalmoral, went piso hunting in Valladolid, acted like a tour guide in 7 Spanish cities, spent a week in Italy, flew home to Missouri, attended my cousin's wedding in Michigan, and turned 24.... I'm happy to have had all the experiences and to have experienced them with wonderful friends. 

Let's Start. July 4th.

Yes, I'm American. But, when you're living in Spain, July 4th is just another day... this year it was a Monday. I was probably packing my life into suitcases, at the garganta, watching online TV, or something equally as fun and non-patriotic. Anyway, that was my holiday.

House Hunters International: Valladolid

I moved out of my apartment in Navalmoral on July 12th. I packed my life into Divina's car and moved my belongings to Jarandilla for the summer. We met up with Toni and her husband Emilliano and we spent the evening at the garganta and having one last dinner together. It was a bittersweet moment, as I knew I wouldn't be going back to live in Navalmoral/Jarandilla when I returned to Spain after 40 days in the USA. I wasn't super sad though, as I knew I wasn't leaving Spain/Europe at that time - but I just knew that things wouldn't ever be the same. I was excited to know that I was going be to traveling for the next few weeks it's safe to say my thoughts were all over the place.

July 13th, I officially said goodbye to Navalmoral as my home. As I rode away in the train toward Plasencia, I saw a sign as we passed over the highway that read "Navalmoral 55km" and I knew it meant I was leaving. It was really difficult to see that, as I really felt at home. (I'm getting really shook up about it as I write this... and I'm not sure why. ughhh) 

Anyway, I finally got to Valladolid and I began looking for my new flat. I visted 5 places - all of them had their pros and cons. Some were in prime locations, others closer to my school. Some had Spanish roommates, others did not. In the end, I picked the one that was 15 minutes walking distance from my school, 15 minutes walking distance to the center, Spanish roommate, andddd it was the cutest (and had the best view.) I think I made a wonderful decision, as I am writing this from my living room, relaxing on the orange couch.

Being a "Guia".

I never though I would have the opportunity to be an "official" tour guide in Spain. While I've acted as a guide in Salamanca to fellow friends and throughout Spain to my family, I never thought a dream would come true: get paid for traveling. When my high school Spanish teacher, Kris Arthur, emailed me and told me to consider being a tour guide for her friend and MO Supreme Court Judge Mary Russell and her husband, Jim, I wasn't really sure what to think. First off, I had to made sure I could stay busy between May 31 (when my job ended) and July 15 (when I would travel with the Russells).  I decided it could work; I knew it was a cool opportunity that wouldn't come around too often.

We worked together over the next month to make our itinerary perfect, yet open for whatever we wanted to do and see. We spent one week traveling by car, train and foot to visit and explore Valladolid, La Alberca, Salamanca, Segovia, Madrid, Toledo, and Sevilla. I'll let pictures do some explaining of what we did in each city. 
Enjoying drinks in the Plaza Mayor, Valladolid.
Plaza Mayor, Al Alberca. La Alberca is a traditional village near Salamanca. Peopl come to see traditional architecture, as seen in the above picture with wood and rocks for the walls. It's also known for having a pig roam the streets. The people feed the pig and have a big celebration each spring to eat the pig and introduce a new pig to the streets. We didn't see the pig while we were there, as they said it was visiting a farm just outside town. But, the food was wonderful.... just ask Jim!
Out for drinks in Salamanca's Plaza Mayor with my friend, Jorge. Jorge came for drinks, we got tapas, and then walked around the city with us for several hours. It was such a fun night! :)
The view from across the old Roman Bridge: Salamanca! The golden City is so pretty by night!

I finally saw the inside of the University of Salamanca!!! This is where Christopher Columbus studied before he left to discover America! La Universidad de Salamanca is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest in Spain!
The Roman Acqueduct in Segovia. We had lunch just to the left of the wall to really take time to look it over! There is no mortar between the blocks, it's all been cut by precision! (See the people at the bottom? It's huge!!!!)
The castle in Segovia. It's where Walt Disney got the idea for his Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland. It's all alone at the end of town, totally worth the walk through Segovia's tiny streets. While we were in Segovia, we stayed in a B&B in the countryside. It was a nice get-a-way from in-town hotels.
Overlooking Toledo with Mary and Jim. We went on a day trip from Madrid to visit the town where the Jews, Moors, and Christians all lived together in harmony in Spain's history.
Inside Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue, Toledo.
Flamenco Show live at Las Tablas, Madrid. We had front row seating!
Plaza Espana, Sevilla. This beautiful plaza was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. There are sections for each region in Spain and also buildings for other North/South/Latin American countries on the grounds nearby.
In Sevilla, we went on a walking tour of the center and a bus tour to explore the outskirts of town.
I am happy to say I have met friends for life; Mary and Jim will always be on my "list of people to tell when something important happens in my life."  Thank you for this experience! I will never forget all our fun times together! (I'll even remember the times Wendy was around...)

Fontechiari, Italy: The Adventures on Mute Street.

I spent two weeks in Fontechiari with my friend Gina and her family in 2009. I never really thought I'd have the opportunity to go back (ok, I did.) but I didn't really know it was going to be in July. I booked a ticket just a few weeks before I showed up, which made it even more fun! I hadn't seen Gina since March 2010, when she came to Missouri. It was time for another reunion. 

We went out late. Woke up to eating pasta. I lost to Anthony (Gina's brother) in video games. We watched Disney movies. We rocked out to Papette Beach Compilation in the car. Drove on tiny streets. Attended White Nights. Visited the Island. Nancy (Gina's sister), Gina and I took a new "notebook" photo in the middle of the street. I attended a soap-box derby. And, I had an Italian boyfriend again (ok, that's kind of a joke...but not really.) It was a repeat of July 2009. 
"Brooklyn Bridge" - Gina and I went walking to town one afternoon. It's not as scary going through this tiny space walking, but in car, it's a bit scary - good thing the cars are tiny!
Afternoon visit to a church on top of a hill. The view was incredible!
Visiting an old castle with Gina.
Gina, Cristian, Me, Enrico - enjoying Notte Bianca in a nearby town. Way too many vodka/limons later...
Soap box derby. Gina's cousin was riding in it. It was a fun, yet long afternoon. But, seriously, a very cool opportunity to see this in a small town in Italy. :)
The Italy gang! Gina, Nancy, Marco, Alessandra, Mirco, Me, Enrico, Cristian.
My second family! Saying goodbye...until the next visit! :) Love you!
Wedding Bells.

My cousin Michelle got married in Ann Arbor, Michigan! I'm sure my family was happy she picked July 30th for the date, as it ensured I would be back in the States in time to celebrate my birthday with them (July 29th!) I had just arrived to Missouri on July 28th, which meant my birthday was spent in the car. I wasn't sure what time it was or even what day it was; I was so jet-lagged. I was happy to spend the weekend with my family though.  My cousin looked beautiful and we got to meet her new husband, Matt, for the first time. 
Cutting the cake! Michelle and Matt - July 30th, 2011!
We had a little downtime between the ceremony and reception so a big group of us went to a bar to spend our time. Well. I guess you know you've been out of the USA for too long when you put "all of the important things you'll need today" in your purse... and forget your ID. Yeah -- that happened again. I'm use to not needing an ID; as long as you look 16, you are never carded in Spain/Europe. I ordered a summer shandy (still on the beer/lemon kick) and was then asked for ID. Wellllll, I didn't even open my purse, I just stared at him and laughed at myself...then had the hard time of convincing him that I was actually 24 and my birthday was the day before. He still didn't want to serve me (I was with my parents, aunt, cousins, and grandparents....) so my parents went to the hotel to get my ID. Ok, hopefully next July when I get back, I'll remember that you need your ID to drink alcohol and that the USA has tax. Again, in Europe, I'm use to paying the price that is shown, not having to worry about tax being added. (I forgot about this when I got back in 2009.)

Before driving back to Missouri, so I could finally go home home, my grandparents, my aunt, and I drove to visit a friend of mine in Michigan, Rachel. Rachel and I met in Salamanca in 2009, and we've been able to keep up with each other via Facebook. It only made sense to visit her, as Ann Arbor was only a few hours drive to her house. She and I spent the afternoon catching up, swapping stories from Spain, etc. It was such a nice visit, I wish it could have lasted longer, but I'm happy for the time we spent together! 
Rachel and I!
Home Sweet Home. 

I finally got to my house on August 1. It was nice to sleep in my own bed, walk on carpet, eat my mom's and grandma's food, watch TV, play with my cat, drive my car, going to the cinema... all the little things I had been missing. I went out for countless lunches and dinners with friends and family to eat all the cultural foods I had been missing - buffalo wings, sushi, endless salad bar, free refills, Mexican food... I think we counted that I ate at over 20 restaurants (some of them multiple times!) in my 40 days in the USA.  But, everyone has to eat - so catching up with friends/family over a meal was the easiest way to catch up on lost time.
Ok, so this isn't a meal I can't get in Spain - but these are my birthday churros! To celebrate with my family, we went to dinner at Modesto's on the Hill in St. Louis. We had a very Spanish meal - tapas! It was nice to be at home with my family, but still be reminded of Spain!
I spent a weekend in Kansas City visiting friends from grade school, high school, and college. It was such a fun weekend get-a-way! 
Out for drinks: AJ, Jesse, Brian, Ciara, Me, Kristi at KC Power and Light!
I had a girl's weekend at the lake to celebrate my birthday. Also, it was more than just celebrating my birthday. It was a time to catch up with my good friends from Westminster, as we are all at different stages of our lives. When I go back at Christmas, Markie will be married and in January, Whitney will have a baby girl! I'm excited for both of them! I'm happy to have spent the night with all of my friends - out in style - at the Lake. We spent the day lounging at my Uncle's house, out on the boat, in the pool... by night, we were out in the limo to go to dinner, play 10cent skee-ball on The Strip, and dance (and drink!) the night away at Topsider. The next morning, we all piled onto the bed talking and recapping the night by looking at pictures. It was such a fun weekend. I think it's always important to make time for friends, and I'm happy my friends made time for me during my short time back. :) 
My friends and I before going out! Kasie, Lydia, Brittney, Heather, Me, Whitney, Markie
Woooo! Skee-ball! :)
We started the dance party at Topsider... we brought out the "basketball dance".
I had the cool opportunity to visit Mary at the Supreme Court, twice. Once with my mom and Congressman Luetkemeyer, another time with my whole family. We received a private tour, got to act like the judges, and my grandma actually put on the robe! :)
Visiting Mary!
My family of judges! Grandma looks like she is taking the role a little too serious... haha
Mom and I went to the State Fair to watch my dad compete with the horse.  It had been a few years since we had gone, so I'm happy to have had the time to go this year.  While we watched my dad ride, we also found our way to the beer stand and wine tastings! We tried out massage chairs, bought smelly candles, and a new lent roller! Seriously, the fair has some awesome things. (But it doesn't have El Toro Loco Ride...)
Hanging with my dad at the fair!
Missouri State Fair - sunset!
A few other things that were worth mentioning in my time home in the USA... my mom and I went to St. Louis to visit my aunt and uncle. We went to the Festival of Nations - and wow! it was so cool! There was food, shops, and music from all over the world. We had a wonderful day! We also went to the Zoo and had lunch at the Boat House - where we later rented a paddle boat. I relaxed while my mom and aunt paddled me around. :)
Henna tattoo! Loved it!
Scottish Meal! Thinking of Maria!!!! Mince & Taties and an Iron Bru!
Visiting the elephants at the zoooo!
Relaxing on the paddle boat - the Boat House in the back!
View from the back of the boat, near the Art Museum!
I feel like I'm always ending my blogs with a thank you or a goodbye to some group of people in my life, well, this one is for all my friends and family in the USA.  I am thankful for all of your support while I am back working in Spain. I love and miss all of you. I cannot wait to see you at Christmas! Thank you for making my 40 days fantastic! Hasta prontooooo.... see you soon!