Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

The Emerald Isle

One of our major goals of our study abroad was to get to Ireland and do some hiking and we have certainly accomplished our goal with three long days of traveling, hiking and Irish music. When we arrived we discovered that our hostel was situated above one of the best restaurants for traditional Irish music in all of Dublin, so of course we had to go.

1743632_445230765622938_1564706806_n

The environment was so lively and friendly. People were singing and dancing and there was a band playing with a fiddler and guitarist/singer. Fortunately we had prepared for the trip in Valladolid by laying out on the beach and listening to some traditional Irish music. So when the opportunity arose we were able to join in, singing and clapping along to songs like “Galway Girl” and “Whiskey in the Jar.” Amid the festivities we met a girl from Ohio, three guys from New York, another from Canada, and a bunch of rowdy Irish folk. Because we had to catch an early train in the morning and we thought it was 1:00am, we headed off to bed.

We arrived at the train station at 6:30am for our train to Cork at 7:00am, but upon arrival found out that we had hopped timezones and were there an hour earlier than we had thought. The train station was not even open yet, lesson learned. When we arrived in Cork at we only had 10 minutes to get to the bus station,  so we literally sprinted through the streets and thankfully caught our bus in time to travel to Kinsale. After 5 hours of planes, trains and buses we had arrived at our first destination, the quaint port town of Kinsale. We wandered through the tiny town of brightly colored buildings until we found our hostel where we met Sophie, a young Canadian girl traveling around Europe.

10013975_445231018956246_2116417161_n

Once we discovered we had similar plans for the day, we decided to explore together. First thing that we wanted to see was Charles Fort. After a hilly 40 minute walk with scenic viewpoints, we found our fort. We spent a while exploring every crack and crevice of the old, ruined fort.

10152014_445231258956222_2000084513_n

Apart from seeing the weaponry, storehouses and barracks, we were also able to see the ocean views and our next destination, James Fort. Two hours of walking later we arrived at a grassy hill and just beyond was James Fort. Just as we get to a clearing we saw a vivid, full rainbow cresting over James Fort.

1962616_445231655622849_199139098_n

We couldn’t get into the fort, but we still explored the area, got stuck on the ruins of a house, and got a beautiful view of Kinsale from afar. We walked back to town for dinner and another not quite as fun, but equally as interesting night of traditional Irish music.  We enjoyed freshly baked muffins for breakfast and saw Sophie off before going to see a castle that overlooked the town.

1506478_445232072289474_2075583345_n

After wondering back to the bus stop we discovered two things: Ireland has sporadic weather patterns with hail one minute and blue skies the next and that Ireland’s bus website is less than reliable. Although our bus tickets were bought for that specific day, at that specific time, to that specific location, the bus does not exist until summer time. When the normal bus through Kinsale arrived, an hour later, the very nice driver told us this vital information and gave us a ticket for 3 different buses to Kenmare (instead of our 1). Despite our stress and struggles, we arrived in Kenmare only a half hour later than expected.

Upon arrival, we had to navigate to our Bed and Breakfast, without a real map and with no idea where we actually were in the town. It was raining when the first short journey began and after asking 2 people for directions and finding the correct road, the sun brightened up our walk. We walked up and down the steep rolling hills and admired the mountains and scenery surrounding Kenmare, a very tiny town. We found the Bed and Breakfast, a thatched cottage in the middle of no where, only to find out they did not have a reservation for us.

1656376_445232175622797_201749090_n

Thankfully, the owner had a room for us and we had no problems with our stay. Even though we were tired and hungry, we set out to hike a part of the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’ trail. We found one of the highest peaks (on a trail) in Kenmare and were able to see the whole town and the lake beyond. However, we were not content with sticking to the road and decided to do some wandering. We hopped a fence and proceeded up a golden hill, but we soon discovered it was nothing but a swamp. With soaking and muddy feet we pressed on to the top with occasional leaping and jogging to avoid larger puddles. At the top, we had a perfect view of the surrounding landscape, where we took plenty of pictures before heading down the mountain.

1962607_445234595622555_2130149971_n1982233_445232188956129_844478688_n1981750_445234252289256_917609728_n

Our way down was even more interesting and adventurous. Again, we were not content with the makeshift mountain trail we’d taken up, so we decided to make our own trail on the way down. We jogged down the mountain side, attempting to tread lightly through the boggy water. We climbed under, through and over barbed wire and many tiny hills before arriving at a bigger obstacle in our path. Before us was a five foot deep and 3 foot across gulley with a small stream at the bottom. After a bit of mental preparation we leapt across the troublesome gap. Then we stumbled through some tall and thorny shrubbery and found a little running creek, where we jumped in to wash off our muddy shoes only to step in a puddle of mud 5 steps later. Shortly after we climbed out of the wilderness and up to the road back towards the town. All the town had was a fancy restaurant, so we tried our luck and ate pizza awkwardly surrounded by families wearing suits and dresses, doing our best to hide our muddy shoes. We were exhausted so we headed back to the B & B, along a pitch black road, with perfectly visible stars, and took nice warm showers before an early night for rest.

The following morning we had our first real Irish breakfast. Laid out for us was fruit, granola, yogurt, OJ, and then our hostess (Caremel) came out with tea, hot plates of Irish bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and toast.

1972424_445235398955808_996891697_n

Needless to say, we were stuffed, but it was the best breakfast in Europe so far. They gave us a ride to the bus stop, where once again we had a dilemma with the buses. We realized that the specific bus doesn’t run on Saturday out of Kenmare and we were stranded, with another traveler, once again. Thankfully, this man had a friend who called a cab, and going against our better judgement of walking to Killarney (only 15 miles), we took it with him so he wouldn’t have to pay the whole fare. In Killarney we were happy to find out that our train would definitely arrive later that evening. So, we set off, without worries, through on and off hailstorms to Killarney National Park. From there we took ever path and side path that we could to get amazing views of the lake and the snow capped mountains on the other side.

1456582_445236322289049_85194738_n1958322_445236148955733_743029835_n

After we tired of walking we made our way back to town to do some souvenir shopping and to eat. Later we boarded our train, to head back to Dublin, found our hostel, once again without a map, and went to sleep to prepare for a long day of traveling back to Valladolid. We both still insist that some day we will return to Ireland, but there is no way that we will do it without a car.

Juliana and Steve.

Segovia and Salamanca

We arrived in Segovia, and the first thing we saw was the gigantic Roman aqueduct. It is the most in-tact aqueduct in Spain and is quite impressive. So, obviously we had to spend some time taking pictures and admiring the architecture.

008

Then we ventured to a water fountain with water from the mountain and drank some of the refreshing water. As we walked the narrow streets we admired the cuchinillos and various pastry shops. Cuchinillo is the most famous dish of Segovia and it consists of an entire baby pig served on a platter. We then ventured to an ancient fortress on the edge of the highest part of town, el Alcazar. We looked at all of the weapons, armor, king’s bedroom, and decorated ceilings.

 

054056106

We climbed the perilous spiral staircase which opened up on the tower where you could see all of Segovia.

 

137127

We then went to the Cathedral and took pictures of everything we possibly could.

046

 

 

 

In Salamanca we toured the cathedral, finally being able to go to the upper levels and view a church from above.

019023022

We then climbed to the top of the bell tower to see a grand view of the city, and also nearly became deaf in the process.

043

We then took a brief tour of the city visiting La Casa de Conchas (a house decorated with shells), the beautiful plaza mayor and the university.

048050

Then we had time to explore. We found a nice place to bask in the sun where we listened to a violinist play pop songs and many of us gave him change because he was so talented. From there we wandered into a candy store and bought chupachups (lollipops) and were offered free cookies! We adventured into souvenir shops and then we headed back to Plaza Mayor where we waited, and studied, for the group to head back to Valladolid

Steve and Juliana

 

Barcelona!

032

7am on a dreary morning in Valladolid we embarked on a 7 hour train ride to Barcelona, a city on the Mediterranean. The ride was very long and boring, but once we arrived and stepped out from the depths of the metro station we were ecstatic.  The first thing we did was take off our jackets to feel the almost 70 degree Mediterranean air.

003

To start off our adventures we headed to the famous street Las Rambles and on our way encountered the Arco de Trion, a large arch in the heart of the city. Las Rambles is a large street lined with stores and restaurants with a wide walking path that is packed with people speaking all different languages. We stumbled upon a huge fresh food market that had almost every type of fresh food you could want: fish, vegetables, fruit, meat…everything. We all got delicious fruit juice and vegetables to make salad and we went back to our hostel to relax on the terrace because we were exhausted from traveling.

The next day was non-stop sight-seeing. We started with the Sagrada Familia, an indescribable cathedral by Antoni Gaudi. It is still under construction, but it is still an incredible building. Then we went to see some of his other works in the city, like casa Mila and casa Batllo. However, casa Mila, the one that we really wanted to see, was under construction and covered in rafters so that we could not see it at all.

 

009034 025

Next we went shopping, found our way to Las Rambles, and then worked our way to the ocean. We tried to find a place to eat and ended up finding a cheap little restaurant along the water. The food was wonderful; we ate a two course meal of fresh mussles, calamari, and paella with seafood. After a fulfilling lunch we set out once more for the ocean.

 

lunch- paella039

The weather was nice enough for us to consider going swimming, so we decided to take a plunge into the icy water. Besides all of the weird looks and being freezing cold, we thoroughly enjoyed our dip in the water.

056beach14what

Our next trip was to another of Gaudi’s famous works, Parque Guell. Little did we know, it was on a mountain, but you can’t get a better view of Barcelona from anywhere. We trekked to the top of a “hill” and were able to see a 360 degree view of the entire city. We spent almost 3 hours touring the park while taking in all of the nature and architecture before dragging ourselves back to the hostel.

 

barcelona J & Steve095

Finally, on our last day, we went to see the cathedral. It is a large Gothic cathedral with high pointed vaults and beautiful stained glass windows. After looking around we took a minute to admire the mini-orchestra playing outside on the steps. around the orchestra were many large circles of church members dancing to the music. Then we headed to the depths of the metro once again to make our long hard journey back to Valladolid.

-Steve and Juliana

113

Madrid!

Sorry we are so late on this post everybody, but we have two posts coming up very soon.

Two weekends ago we went on our first weekend excursion, a 3-day trip to Madrid, Spain’s capital. After a scenic and quite entertaining bus ride (there were tablets with movies and games in the seats) we arrived at our location. At the point we had to learn how to use the Metro, which was an adventure in itself because it was the first time for many of us. We finally arrived at our hostel, which was actually quite a nice place with a lot of interesting people, before we embarked on our journey around the city.

The first thing we did was go to a playground and enjoy our lunches. The playground was wonderful! We stayed there for about 20 minutes reliving our childhood days and from there we set out for more ‘mature’ adventures.

We set out for the Palacio Real, which was a grand and beautiful building overlooking most of Madrid as well as all of the surrounding gardens. We ran down into the palace gardens and ended up just hanging out and taking ridiculous photos. By the way, the weather was perfect for practically the first time since we had arrived in Spain.

 

We then wandered to the Plaza Mayor, which apparently every Spanish city has. We enjoyed looking at the painted buildings, a fat spiderman and a creepy sparkly goat. We then went to a really cool supermarket comprised of tons of different eateries, bars and pastry shops which were very similar to Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. After a well-deserved nap we decided to take a quick trip to Garet’s favorite part of Madrid, the red-light district, which was located next to the biggest and fanciest McDonald’s that we had ever seen.

198

The next day we set a goal of seeing every notable part of the center of Madrid that we could possibly see, including: an Egyptian palace, many fountains, el Museo del Prado (where we saw the famous Velazquez painting, Las Meninas), and the Buen Retiro park. The park had a huge glass palace, a couple of ponds and many musicians playing fun music.

The following day we awoke, and went off to an open air market where we bought two books from the Eragon series in Spanish for our reading pleasure. Then we headed back to the hostel for a dismal trip home to discover that there are real lollipop trees all over Spain…So for all of the art critics out there, lollipop trees do exist.

-Steve and Juliana

El Campo Grande

  1528616_408485542630794_1023146611_n  

It was five in the afternoon and Steve randomly texted Juliana to ask “Do you want to go to the park and look at the birds?” By birds he meant the pavos-reales or peacocks that live in the El Campo Grande, the main park in Valladolid. Even though we have been in Valladolid for almost a month, we still had not ventured into the center of the park to get a good look at everything. So, we brought along cameras and went for a walk on one of the nicest days since we had arrived.  The pavos-reales were everywhere and we just started chasing them around to get the best picture possible. After we got tired of the birds, we continued exploring throughout the park. We found fountains and various other sculptures.

1601199_408485555964126_1833949770_n1601316_408485532630795_1439282894_n

After an hour of wandering through the park, we found a little lake with a bridge that we wanted to go stand on. While searching for it, we found a flight of stairs; we didn’t know where they went, so naturally we started climbing. The steps were tall and difficult to climb (especially for Juliana), but somehow we made it to the top and we were quite impressed. From the top of La Cueva we could see over the entire park and all around the city surrounded by clear blue sky. Of course we had to take some nice photos…which took us some time considering we were using a phone set on a 10 second timer. After climbing down we were amazed to see that we had been standing on top of a cave, hence the name La Cueva. We set back to our original goal; searching for the bridge, however, after a couple of minutes of searching we realized we had been standing on it all along. It was quite embarrassing…

1011860_408485455964136_498255141_n.1480597_408485639297451_2094821157_n

Later that night, we decided to show our bored fellow Dutchman Erin the glorious Cave of Wonders in El Campo Grande. By the time we arrived at the park, few paths off the main boulevard were sufficiently lit to be able to venture and view what the park had in store. However, ‘twas not all in vain (said Erin), for there was one path that had a fountain and an empty small amphitheater. The three of us climbed atop the stage and began to perform for our imaginary audience, with sketches varying from Shakespeare to Disney. Right in the middle of a stirring rendition of Mulan’s music, Juliana peered from stage right and saw a man locking the gates. With a mighty shriek from all of us, Erin leapt from the stage followed by Steve and Juliana. After a brisk jog out of that section of the park we realized that the entire park was being locked, not just our personal theater. From the middle of the park we weren’t sure if the main gate was locked yet or not, but it was definitely closed. So obviously, we started to contemplate various methods of escape, such as climbing over the gates. However, the closer we got we came to the realization that the gate was slightly opened, but Valladolid’s finest was just about to close it up for the night. Erin says that their pants were not the only things that are tight; they are strict about their rules too. And so ended our journey to see the glorious peacocks knowing that as the sun rose our journey to Madrid would just be starting….(tune in next week)

-Juliana, Steve, and Erin

Churches, Chocolate and Churros

While wandering around one night with nothing better to do, we saw a door slightly cracked open in a dark alley. One of our friends, Tinsley, decided to just open it up and walk on in while the two of us and her sister, Terrill, stood in shock. And so…we had no reason to do anything but follow her. We found ourselves room with two doors, went through the right and realized that we were in a large dark church. There was an eerie silence in the air as we crept to the back pews and marveled at the glory. Nobody wanted to interrupt the people who were silently praying, but Tinsley and Terrill still ventured into the middle of the church to read a book on a pedestal, which may or may not have been the bible…we are still unsure. As we sat in pure silence a woman sitting in a pew to our left coughed and as it echoed off of the high vaulted ceilings, it sounded as if God himself was coughing. After we all took a picture of the church we tiptoed out slowly in order to not disturb the peace anymore. Although we don’t have a picture of the outside of the church from that night, we have an inside shot and some others that we have ventured into since then.

1560674_408565822622766_1910237285_n

1457455_402826853196663_671823232_n1457455_402826849863330_1694135059_n1604838_10152810864785400_515619897_n1497646_402827623196586_884062985_n

Another night 9 of us ventured out to a local chocolatería to buy the famous chocolate and churros that everyone has told us about. Once we walked through the front door, there was nothing but chocolate in sight, from gelato to pastry’s.  After the waitress attempted to create a table large enough for our group, we all sat down and read about the healing powers of chocolate. After a confusing conversation with the waitress (because they don’t split bills in Spain), we finally ordered a round of chocolate and a huge plate of churros. About 10 minutes later, she returned with piping hot tazas of steaming chocolate. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, chocolate here is essentially melted chocolate bars with just enough milk to make it drinkable, yummmmmmmm. The churros are exactly what you think they are, and you dip them into the chocolate and it is like heaven. We scarfed down these delectable treats and proceeded to pay completely in change, 27.80 € exactly. Needless to say, we were all on a pretty good sugar rush for the next couple of hours as we took a walk around Valladolid.

1457455_402826846529997_1759539782_n   1546250_600189640047429_1252960815_n

 

Dancing Penguins

Our university, if that’s what you can call it, is 3 different “buildings”, which are about a 20 minute walk from each of our apartments. Within these buildings there are 2 classrooms, a computer lab and three professors. It turns out that we only have two of them, Patricia and Sergio, but they are both awesome. So far the classes have been really interesting and we are learning a ton of Spanish and other fun things. Just the other day the last student arrived, so now we are 12 strong.

Plaza del Viejo Coso-location of Universitas Castellae

Plaza del Viejo Coso-location of Universitas Castellae

First of all, we should probably explain that the Spanish youth are used to and even expected to stay out extremely late (at least according to American standards). Around 1:30, we ventured to a discoteca close to La Plaza Mayor where we expected to see a room packed full of locals dancing like crazy. Much to our surprise, this was not the case. Although the music was bumping, hardly anyone was dancing and there were less than 20 people. However, we didn’t let that bring us down and we went in there and rocked the place. All 11 of us danced for an hour and a half, showing off our Soulja Boy dance moves (which everyone seemed to enjoy, especially the DJ).

Every year in Valladolid there is a huge festival of pinguinos, which are not actually penguins…they are motorcycles. Hundreds of motorcycles line the streets as people flock from all corners of the world to partake in this festival. Everyone walks around in full leather gear, carrying helmets and admiring the other bikes. These bikers stay in a large field outside of the city, and come into the city every day to see the churches and cathedrals. On the last day, everyone gathers in a large park, campo grande, to see a show in which professionals ride quads and dirt bikes around in circles popping wheelies and doing crazy stunts. People were climbing trees and statues and trashcans in order to see the event. Juliana had to stand on a longboard just to see over the people in front of us (short people problems).

1473821_406072612872087_308551114_n

First Couple of Days In Spain

After almost a week of packing, and unpacking, we finally had suitcases that weighed less than 50 pounds. So the journey began with the customary drive down to the Philadelphia Airport where we said goodbye to our parents and went off to meet eachother. We decided that even though we were at the airport, going to Spain still seemed like a dream. Normal airport events transpired and we ended up sitting at our gate for about an hour before the flight was delayed. By this time we had met up with Jake, and after buying our last American McDonald’s for the next four months and sitting around for a while we were finally allowed to board the plane. This is when we realized that people aren’t going to fully understand us and we are not going to fully understand them for the next couple months. Almost everyone on the flight only spoke Spanish, except for a couple of other students who appeared to be there for study abroad as well. After about 20 minutes on the plane, the pilot announced another delay so that we could wait for a connecting plane. After that hour or so, we headed to the de-icing platform and ended up being there for an hour (which is just “several minutes,” according to the pilot). By around 10pm, we were finally on our way to Spain, and very worried that we wouldn’t make it in time to meet the rest of the students before heading off to Valladolid from Madrid. Oh, by the way, Steve’s fear of flying is unrivaled, so at take-off, landing and every hint of turbulence he could be seen desperately clutching the seat to prepare himself for the inevitable crash. However, we made it safely to Madrid after 7 or so hours of nothing but boredom and watching other people sleep. After the journey through the airport (with no sign of escalators or elevators), the man at customs stamped our passports, and thankfully none of our bags had been misplaced. The journey through the airports had been an utter success. As we navigated our way to Terminal One, a tall, dark-haired man came up to us with a folder that said “Universitas Castellae.” This was Alberto, and he was our contact to the university.IMG_9563IMG_9573IMG_9574

We hopped on a bus where we met up with Erin and 6 other students from the school. After the scenic and WINDY ride to Valladolid, we were each dropped off at our respective bus stops to meet our host parents. Valladolid is a beautiful city. There are grand, ornate churches and cathedrals on almost every block. Even our university is located in an awesome building. The building is La Plaza Viejo Coso and it is one of the only octagonal plazas in the city. It also used to be home to el corrido de los toros, or bullfighting. We met Sergio, one of the teachers at the university, and went on a tour of the inner city to see all of the main landmarks, monuments and churches.

Next we went to the parade for Three Kings Day. Basically, it’s like the Christmas that we celebrate in America. The three kings that visited baby Jesus come to Spain on January 6th to give gifts to everybody.   There were tons of people lining the streets in La Plaza Mayor and it was near impossible to find a spot in which we could actually see the parade. However, we managed to locate a spot where we had a decent view of the parade. The floats all were designed around Disney movies. From Aladdin to Peter Pan, these floats covered everything Disney.  Upon three floats were the kings for which the holiday is named. They rose from their floats and walked down a raised platform to a government building in the plaza and stood on a balcony above the on-looking crowd. And boom! Fireworks erupted from the building in brilliant and dazzling colors, all just 20 or 30 feet above our heads.

IMG_9593 IMG_9609 IMG_9617 IMG_9639

Later that night, there were a lot of fiestas to celebrate. All of the locals go out on the 5th to bars and cafes to enjoy the festivities. We decided to go to La Negra Flor, which is owned by a friend of Alberto. The place was packed shoulder to shoulder. After about an hour one of the “kings” (in a cheesy costume) stepped out of the back door and everyone went crazy. For the next hour he walked in and out, throwing out different “gifts” each time. There was everything from party hats to clown noses and each time he returned the shouting got louder and louder, but the best part was when he came out with a pocket English dictionary and the crowd just erupted!

-Steve and Juliana