Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is finally the day, Thanksgiving!  It's one of my favorite holidays because A) I love food, B) I love getting together with my family and C) I love watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (like I currently am).  This year it's a big deal for me because I'm cooking half the meal myself.  My aunt is making the turkey, stuffing, and dessert while I'm cooking the appetizers and sides.  I'm really excited, it feels like my first 'adult' Thanksgiving.

But my favorite part of Thanksgiving is taking the time to think about what we are thankful for in our lives.  And this year I have a lot to be thankful for.  In the wake of Hurricane Sandy I am thankful that my home is safe, as well as my friends and family.  I am thankful for the traveling I have been able to do over the past couple of years; it's a dream come true.  I am thankful for my home, my health, having food in the fridge, and having the opportunity to work in the field that I have always dreamed of.  But most of all I am thankful for my loved ones near and far.  I am lucky to have such wonderful people in my life who consistently love and support me in all that I do.  Thank you all for being part of my life.  I am finally in a place where I know everything is going in the right direction.  I am truly happy and it's due in large part to the wonderful people I have surrounding me.

So Happy Thanksgiving everyone; I hope you have a day of great food, great family, and great friends.  And remember to count your blessings everyday! :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Summertime Adventures August, Part 3: The Finale

So for my last week/week and a half in Spain we somewhat took it easy.  It was all about spending time together as a couple and spending time together with our friends before I went home and my boyfriend went to Madrid to start his engineering Master's.

We decided to have a picnic in the Parque de la Magdalena with the delicious cheese we bought while in Asturias.  We picked a nice quiet spot overlooking the historic boat display and with a view of the lighthouse, Cabo Mayor.  It was a delicious picnic and with our cheese we had fresh bread and jamón (for those who don't know this is referring to the Spanish cured ham, I could spend my entire life just eating it).  It was a nice, relaxing picnic and afterwards we walked around the little 'zoo' they have here.  I love the animals, and in general this park is one of my favorites in Santander.

Later that weekend we went out all together for the last time.  All the girls wore dresses and we all met at our friend's apartment to spend time together before actually going out.  I definitely miss going out in Spain, it was always so fun and it was great just being able to walk around from place to place.  I miss the bar food and the different drinks they have, like vino coco (coconut wine) and calimocho (a red wine and coca-cola mix).  I also like the music they play in the clubs MUCH better, it's way more fun and dance-able.  I even almost miss the intense bar futbolín playing which I was terrible at... 

The next day some of our friends went surfing at the beach Liencres.  I watched safely from the shore since there was a red flag that day and a lot of wind.  Not being a very experienced surfer I felt that was the best choice...but you can see my boyfriend in the picture on the right enjoying the surf for me!

That Sunday instead of having lunch with his grandfather, like they do every Sunday, we took a road trip to Madrid to go apartment hunting with his new roommate.  It was my second time to Madrid and I really like it.  Madrid is huge and there's so much to see and do!  It's about a five hour drive and after trying to read in the back seat I felt unfortunately carsick :s But we finally got to Madrid and were staying in one of our friend's apartments.  In Santander the weather is pretty mild, usually not above 80 in the summer but Madrid was stifling hot and more like 90+, it even felt that hot at night!  We saw two or so apartments the first day before going out for some pizza and going to bed.  The next day however we saw about twelve or more apartments (!!) before narrowing it down to our favorite three, which actually were the same three for everyone.  It was tiring and hot but in the end they got a nice apartment, in a good location, for a decent price; not bad for an impromptu trip to Spain's capital city!

Later that week was the celebration of the founding saints of Santander, las Fiestas de los Santos Mártires.  They had a firework display and we went to the top of one of our friend's family's apartment buildings near Sardinero to watch.  We had a great view of the fireworks and thanks to a laptop a great view of La Liga, a Spanish soccer championship (which Real Madrid won).  Throughout the fireworks you could hear people everywhere cheering for the teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two most famous Spanish teams.

The next day was the birthday of my boyfriend's sister, and my last full day in Spain.  Before lunch with the family we walked around Santander where they were having a Medieval Fair with lots of gifts, jewelry, and food.  We had visited earlier that week and he had wanted a drinking horn, literally a hollowed horn of an animal that you could drink out of.  I surprised him by buying it as an early birthday gift and he thanked my by buying a creme stuffed chocolate churro; now that's what I call that fair!  We walked along the Paseo de Pereda and took pictures along the water.  He is so lucky to live in such a beautiful city!  The landscape surrounding Santander is stunning.

Puerto Chico

Venus's signature 'butt shake'
At home we spent some time with his two dogs, who I absolutely love.  While I stay with his family I literally play with them every day and even help take care of them.  I'm a total dog person and I love these two more than pretty much any other dogs.  They're my babies and every time he visits home I make sure he sends me tons of pictures and videos of the two.  Orión is a Spanish Mastiff and Venus is a boxer.  While Orión is absolutely huge, it's Venus who's the troublemaker.  I love them both dearly and while she's a cutie who likes to cuddle and give kisses, he definitely is the sweetest goofball.
With his favorite octopus

After the birthday celebration of his sister we decided to visit our friend in a nearby village called Corrales de Buelna.  That weekend they had their annual reenactment of a famous war between the Romans and the ancient Celtic tribe of the area, the Cántabras.  Each side had replica buildings, both Roman and Cantabrian and it was really cool.  Everyone participating was dressed up and there were even places to buy food, drinks, and souvenirs.  

The actual reenactment would be later in the weekend but that night they had everything set up for people to come partake.  As a history major I was pretty much in love with everything.  I have always wanted to be part of a reenactment so I absolutely appreciated all the detail the village and the participants put into the buildings and outfits.  We stayed for a few hours before driving back to Santander to say my last goodbyes before leaving the next morning.  It was bittersweet; I love and miss all my amazing friends, and boyfriend, back in Spain but I was a bit excited to start the next chapter of my life college-free.

The next day my boyfriend and his family drove me to the airport in Bilbao so I could catch my flight to Madrid and subsequently Boston.  His mom is adorable and packed me two sandwiches to eat in Madrid during my connection, even including some jamón for me!  He waited with me to make sure I got through security all right.  It's always hard saying good-bye to one another because we know it will be a few months before we can see each other again.  Thankfully though we're both really busy this year, which helps keep our minds off of it a bit.  Overall, it was a fantastic trip and I am incredibly lucky to have people kind enough to let me live with them for two months.  I'm blessed to have such great friends in such a wonderful country, I hope to get back as soon as I can!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Summertime Adventures August, Part 2

Such delay in posting!  Lost power for a few days when Hurricane Sandy hit and it took a while to get everything working again.  Anyways, this is almost the finale of my two month European vacation.

Back in Santander it was the el Festival Intercultural de Santander.  There are tons of booths set up with food and drinks from countries around the world along with goods from countries around the world, like jewelry, etc.  We visited a couple of days and tried food and drinks from Brazil, France, Germany, Cuba, and Australia.  At the France booth we had delicious crepes, of course with cheese, and wine.  With our friend Pedro we visited the Australian booth and had a kangaroo burger!  It was actually good, weird, but good...and purple... I was able to buy some cool gifts there, including some cool gifts for myself. :)

That weekend my boyfriend and I decided to take a day trip to the south of Cantabria, where his Dad's family is originally from and a part of Cantabria I had not visited yet.  First we visited Reinosa, where most of his family came from in this area, and took some coffees and typical pastries called pantortillas (which were delicious).  From there we traveled to town of Fontibre which is known for the Nacimiento del Ebro, the 'birthplace" of the Ebro River.  It was awesome to see where the most important river in Spain begins!  We walked along the river for a while and took pictures along the way.  At the head of the river is a statue of the Virgin of Pilar that shows the crests from all the provinces that the Ebro runs through.

When we left Fontibre we traveled to Julióbriga, the most important ancient Roman city in Cantabria.  It was mainly ruins, but it was still very cool as a history major to visit something so ancient.  Especially coming from the United States where very little is older than a couple hundred years.  We walked among the different ruins, of the wealthy and poor homes, along with visiting the Romanic Church where you could climb up to the bells.

Afterwards we drove around to look for special churches, iglesias rupestres, churches that are built into rocks.  This region has multiple churches like this and we went to visit some of the major ones.  They were very difficult to find because they were in very small villages or in narrow passes.  Once we found them, most were very small or were blocked off so you couldn't go inside or see inside very well.  We did go to one that was very cool though, as we tried to go up a steep road to where we thought the church could be (so steep the car couldn't make it up), we noticed an old man sitting outside.  We drove up to him and asked him for directions, turns out he is in charge of the church's key and he gave us the key to go inside and visit the church.  Inside the church was actually very big and had two floors, usually my boyfriend warns me against doing "reckless" things like climbing trees or trying to go out on the old, rickety fire escape at the hostel we stayed at in NYC...but he actually encouraged me to climb up to the second floor of this couple hundred year old church!  Of course I did...

Before heading home we drove all the way up the hills to the Observatorio Astronómico de Cantabria, where we were able to observe the Sun through special telescopes.  The road up the mountain was so steep and treacherous; we were in his mom's small car and there were parts where we were concerned about making it up.  Fortunately we did make it in one piece, though his mom was not happy to hear about her poor car on the roads down here. It was extremely cool, I've been to observatories to see the night sky before but I've never been to the observatory to view the sun.   We looked through two telescopes, the first was not as high powered but the second one you could even see the sun bursts around the sun as well as the sun spots.  It was not as detailed as you would see the night sky but it was still very impressive.  It was also cool that up near the observatory there were some wind turbines, it may seem weird, but I've never been so close to wind turbines in person.  Before heading back to Santander we stopped back in Reinosa to take a drink before the long drive home.

I was coming up on my last week in Spain and we still had a lot to do together!