Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

Salzburg, Austria

Monday morning we met our pickup at our hotel lobby to take us to the Wien train station to head to our next destination…Salzburg, Austria! Known for the famous American made movie, Sound of Music. At first, the driver took us to the wrong train station (luckily we checked and we had plenty of time to get to the correct one-ALWAYS CHECK!!!).

Once we found our train, we hopped on the wrong coach thinking we could make our way to the correct one via inside the train. This was not the case. We met another lady who was in the same boat, and needed to get to the same coach as us. She was from Switzerland and she was willing to help us! We stayed and talk to her for 45 minutes until we were able to get off and switch train cars.

  • She told us that she has lived all over the world including the UK and Vietnam. She has 10 children, and I would have to guess she is only in her 50s!!! We exchanged emails, and she told us we could stay with her anytime we travel to Switzerland. She even gave us two essential oils that we could smell when we become stressed during our trip. She recommended the Sachetorte and the Mozart chocolate marzipan balls when we arrive in Salzburg. We took her advice, and they were delicious!
Festung Hohensalzburg

Festung Hohensalzburg 

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We also forgot to get our EuroRail pass stamped before getting on our first train. So technically our train ticket was NOT VALID. They let us go, and we ended up getting it stamped in Salzburg before heading back to Vienna. (ADVISE: check everything ahead of time to make sure everything is completed & valid).

Our second hotel was even better than the first! It was a rainy, cold day in Salzburg but we still did our daily walking. We walked around the city and then made the hike up to the Festung Hohensalzburg (fortress). We paid 9 euros for the basic tour pass and saw so much! We also got a great view overlooking the city from the top of the towers.

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Before making our way back to the hotel to get dry & warm, we stopped by Mozart’s House! The only thing that was left that was still the same was the doorbells which when rung, you could see it go all the way from the door up to the respective apartment.

We looked up a cheap meal for dinner and found a place on trip advisor that got great reviews. We were the only people in the restaurant the whole night (probably because we went at 6 at night). I got a beef hot dog with cabbage with a mustard/horseradish sauce. It came with lettuce and tomato and a side of fries. Kristin got a chicken dog with a mango-ketchup sauce. Each came on a toasted bun. They were both absolutely amazing and probably the best hot dogs I have ever eaten.


Next stop: Prague, Czech Republic!

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Marzipan Mozart Balls

Marzipan Mozart Balls

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Salzburg translates to “Salt Fortress” in Bavarian which is what the city is known

Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria

Birthplace of the 18th century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Setting for the musical play, The Sound of Music

Vienna, Austria

Friday we headed to Perugia to catch our train to Rome. On the train, we met a really nice Italian guy who was studying in Rome. We communicated in English and Italian so we both could practice our lesser-known languages. He helped me with my bags, and once at the station, he showed us exactly where to catch our next train.
We exchanged numbers, and I plan on keeping in touch so I can continue to use my Italian!


Danube River

Danube River

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace


We took an overnight train from Rome to Vienna that took 16 hours. The train was very cool; it was just like the Harry Potter movies. There was a tiny room where 6 people could sit (3 on each side facing each other) but then 3 beds per side could be pulled out (bunk bed style). Luckily for us, we only had one other couple sharing our room from Austria. We had some late night conversation that consisted of their thoughts of Americans. They didn’t want to comment!


Austrian Parliament

Austrian Parliament

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When we arrived there was German language everywhere!!! I can understand some Italian and Spanish, but German is very different. There were still some people we met who spoke Italian, and on Sunday night at the gelateria they spoke Italian, which made me feel right at home!

Saint Stephen's Cathedral

Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Staatsoper (State Opera)

Staatsoper (State Opera)



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Saturday and Sunday we went to a winter carnival in front of City Hall. They had a ice skating in front of the Hall, but instead of a big rink, they had it in the form of a running path! So ice skaters were skating on a path in and out of the trees. The festival had the best food! I had Raffaelo roasted nuts, Spinatspatzle, a form of bread pudding, and hot chocolate (which was said that it would be the best). I got caramel in mine and it was delicious.



Vienna Hot Chocolate

Vienna Hot Chocolate

City Hall

City Hall

Sunday we got up and had an amazing breakfast in our hotel. We left at 9 am and didn’t return until 8pm. We walked through this ginormous park where they were hosting a Half marathon, 10K, and a speed walking competition! I have never seen a speed walking competition and it was quite exciting! Then we exited the park and walked along the Danube river. We walked 44,000 steps/17.5 miles around the city!!! I wore boots (which I don’t advise for a 17 mile walk). We ended the night in an Austrian restaurant where we enjoyed Wiener Schnitzel and roasted potatoes.


Vienna is the capital and largest city of Austria with a population of 1.8 million (2.6 million within the metropolitan area).

It is the 7th largest city by population within city limits in the European Union.

Today it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin.

Apart from being regarded as the City of Music, it is also known as the City of dreams because it is home to the world’s first psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud.

Vienna is known for its quality of life. In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, it was ranked first (tie between Vancouver, Canada, and San Francisco) for the world’s most livable cities. Between 2011 and 2015, Vienna was ranked second behind Melbourne, Australia.

The English name Vienna is borrowed from the Italian name Vienna. The German name for it is Wien.


Next stop: Salzburg, Austria!

PT Clinical Week #8

Our last week has come to a close, and it didn’t disappoint! I was able to increase my caseload and try new things with patients!


For two afternoons, I learned how to operate and use the Lokomat (a body weight support system combined with a machine that moves the lower legs on a treadmill). It is so complicated! There are so many things that you have to do before you even get the patient! During the examination, you have to get measurements of the legs and enter it into the computer. Then every time that patient comes, you have to manually set the machine to those measurements so it fits the patient perfectly. Each patient does it for 20-30 minutes depending on how much they can tolerate. The type of patients that can use the Lokomat varies. Some patients have some movement in their legs, so the level of assistance that the Lokomat provides is less and vice versa. Even though most patients will probably never walk again, it can be good for maintaining passive range of motion and reducing spasticity. Also, if the patient has some weight-bearing on the treadmill, that is good for maintaining bone strength.

There was a big screen set up in front of the patient that they could play games. Many of the games had an avatar who performed the same movements as them. The object of the game was to catch different items on the screen. In order to turn, the patient could use what little movement they had to change directions on the screen. There were graphs on the computer monitor that showed how much assistance the patient needed, and if their movement was corresponding with the machine or not. If the patient were cognitively aware, they would be able to adjust.


One of the coolest things I saw was the “Indego”.  It was invented in Germany, but Italy is the first nation in the WORLD to get it approved and use it in their clinics. It is like the Exo-skeleton (which is also a body movement walking system) but much smaller and lighter weight. All you need to be able to use it is passive movement of your legs. The level of assistance the machine gives can vary from patient to patient. There is a computer in the hip and the knee and the total weight is 12lbs.


Our hospital/clinic was on the news because there was a patient who was getting married, and he was to use the Indego to walk down the aisle!!!! It’s amazing what technology can do. The ultimate goal is that because it’s so compact, lightweight, and easy to use, that patients will be able to use it at home. It costs about $80,000 so those who can afford it can purchase it; otherwise,  the hope is that as the price goes down, they will become more affordable.

One of the Indego patients was a 47-year-old woman who also had surgery on her spine and no longer has use of her legs. She uses the Indego almost every day. I also saw an Indego examination of an anesthesiologist who fell from a small ladder and injured C3-C5. He regained use of his arms and trunk, but not his legs.


On Wednesday, Kristin and I presented our inservice, “Mobilization with movement” (Mulligan Concept). We spoke in English incorporating some Italian, but our Powerpoint was ENTIRELY in Italian. It went awesome, and all the therapists were really impressed. We even included two demonstrations of the techniques. Normally in the US we bring in food for the inservices we present, but here they had a spread of pizza, paninis, and dessert!


My favorite patient was always treated in her room because she had a trach and an NG tube. In the last two weeks, we progressed to standing and walking! Her hair was always crazy when we started getting her out of bed, so I would comb it for her (one of my favorite things). The last week my therapist and I would tell her I was leaving and traveling Europe and then heading back to America. On Friday, I told her “ e stato un piacere” (It was nice to meet you), buona fortuna (good luck), and even asked her to come back to my house! After all this, she looked up at my CI and says “ill see her Monday??” We had to explain I was leaving…forever. ;(


Before leaving, one of the CI’s told us, “Buona Vita”, meaning have a “good life”. Contrary to belief, it’s a term used instead of goodbye, in the possibility of reuniting in the future even though we are a world apart. I love it, and I will be back. I promise.


PS: Next post from Vienna, Austria!

A Sunday in Retiro Park

The Parque del Buen Retiro is Madrid´s proverbial oasis in the midst of the captial´s overpopulated and semi-polluted streets. The Museo del Prado and a number of the city´s other famous monuments overlook the park, designed by felipe IV in the 17th century as a refuge for kings, queens, and the many members of their courts. Opened to the public in 1868, today the park serves as a harbor for madrileños and tourists alike. Particularly popular on Sundays, the park´s main pathways are nearly as populated as the city´s streets. Despite this, a stroll through the park provides the odd sensation of being surrounded by a flurry of activity as well as a sense of complete relaxation, calm, and peace.



The life of the park centers around its artificial lake and the adjacent El Monumento a Alfonso XII de España, a massive bronze and marble commemorative statue to the king who laid the groundwork for a stable, constitutional monarchy in Spain. An equestrian sculpture of the king, flanked by four leonian guards, stands tall among weary travelers that rest at his feet.


At periodic intervals throughout the  park, grandiose sculptures and palatial buildings sit eclipsed by the ever-present greenery. One such masterpiece is the Palacio de Velazquez.

Named for its architect, Ricardo Velazquez Bosco, el Palacio is the only surviving building of the pavilions built between 1881 and 1883 for Spain´s National Exhibition of mining, metallurgy, ceramics, and glass-making industries. The historical influence of muslo-romano culture is evident in the structural elements and the intricate tiles that adorn the front facade of the building.


Crest one of the Park’s subtle hills and catch a glimpse of a glistening luminescence; walk towards it and the trees open on one of the park’s crowning achievements, the Palacio de Cristal. Nothing matches the sight of the trees parting on the reflection of a thousand small, glittering suns–a collection of daytime stars, trapped on the earth in panes of glass. Originally built to exhibit exotic flora and fauna from the Philippines, the Palace now houses contemporary art exhibitions. Hundreds of dinosaur-like bones hang suspended from the ceiling as part of the current piece, only adding to the building’s ethereal atmosphere.


Tucked away in a one of the corners of the Park and hidden behind an unassuming brick wall sits a series of gardens reminiscence of a scene from Alice in Wonderland  with its marbled floors and whimsical gazebos.  The large trees that dominate the park center abruptly cease at the wall’s opening, flooding the symmetrical gardens with a partial illusion of expansive spaciousness and amplifying the intensity of its contrasting colors. The numerous peacocks that freely roam the gardens contribute to the fanciful environment.

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Many are familiar with American writer Ernest Hemingway’s infamous quote on the frenetic energy of Madrid after-hours: “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.” Let it be said that no one should leave Madrid without spending a leisurely afternoon exploring the wonders of Buen Retiro Park.


A visit to the “City of Three Cultures”

The “City of Three Cultures,” also known as Toledo, is a smaller city about an hour south of Madrid by train. Despite having already travelled to Madrid we stopped there first, on our second weekend excursion with our university. We arrived in Toledo around noon on Saturday in the picturesque train station, with ornate stained glass windows and colorful tiled walls. Alberto, our professor and guide for the weekend, suggested we take taxis in order to get closer to the city, to avoid walking up the steep hill the city is located on top of. So Olivia and I hopped in the first taxi we found and headed to La Puerta de Bisagra to begin our ascent of the ancient city. Located high above the neighboring cities, Toledo was constructed here for its geographic and military advantage. Fortified with a substantial surrounding wall and a large castle, called Alcázar, Toledo was a military stronghold for ages. As we slowly climbed higher and higher, closer to the city center, we admired the impressive view of the landscape.


Finally reaching the city, we wandered around the tight streets until we came to the cathedral, called Catedral Primada. Construction on this impressive gothic structure began in 1226 and wasn’t completed until over 200 years later in 1493. Alisha, Olivia, and I put on our headsets and enjoyed the commentary explaining each intricate part of the cathedral. Meandering through the many alcoves and small chapels located within the church, we finally came across the sacristy. We entered in complete awe. The sacristy is a huge hall adorned with religious portraits, 15 of them done by the famous El Greco who completed the majority of his paintings in Toledo during his lifetime. Even more breathtaking was the fresco that ran the entire length of the ceiling.

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The pictures taken cannot do this beautiful cathedral justice, I guess you may just have to visit for yourself! Our bellies started growling as we finished up our tour of the cathedral so we headed to a small Spanish restaurant for lunch. Most restaurants offer a daily deal called “el menu del día” which generally offers two dishes, a dessert, and a drink for one flat price. It is the best way to get a generous portion of delicious food for a decent price. We each ordered something different and tried traditional Spanish food, which we are now all fairly accustomed to. I ordered paella (a classic rice and seafood dish), pisto de verduras (similar to ratatouille which is mixed vegetables in a tomato sauce), and flan (a creamy custard-like dessert). Everything was delicious and we waddled our way out of the restaurant to Alcázar and the Jewish Quarter. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend much time in either space because we had to catch our train back to Madrid. Nonetheless, we were fortunate to see both sites and learn a little more about the history behind Toledo. Renowned for its religious tolerance, Toledo maintained a population of Christians, Jews, and Muslims for hundreds of years, a notable fact considering Spain’s tumultuous history. The influence of all three distinct religions and cultures is still quite evident today in the architecture and layout of the city. The Jewish Quarter is characterized by amazingly tight streets and a few remaining synagogues.


Additionally, Toledo has been famous for producing items of metal, specifically steel, for centuries. There is a shop on nearly every corner selling metal items made in Toledo, including swords, knives, and jewelry. I, along with the rest of the gals, could not resist the beautiful (and affordable) jewelry sold here.

As the time of our departing train loomed closer, we had to head down from the charming city, passing la Puerta de Bisagra one last time before heading back to the train station.


Visiting Toledo and Madrid once again solidified my love for Spanish cities and the deep-rooted history behind them. Thursday, after class, marks the beginning our spring break, which is about 10 days long. Rachel and I are headed for Amsterdam, Berlin, and Copenhagen on Friday to enjoy our break! I look forward to sharing our adventures with you all when we return!

Adios y gracias para leer,


Cinque Terre & Pisa (Round 2)

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This was our last weekend trip in Italy, and it was by far the best experience I have ever had. The other girls had not seen Cinque Terre, so I decided to go back with them, and I am sure glad I did. The 5 towns are nothing too spectacular individually, but we did the hike between the towns along the coast, which is a MUST DO.  It was the most amazing/beautiful hike I haven ever done. The weather was perfect, and I wore a sleeveless shirt the entire time! The views were absolutely breathtaking. Here’s a glimpse of just how much physical activity was involved:

  • 33,000 steps
  • 232 flights of stairs
  • 14 miles

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We didn’t make it to all 5 towns because we wanted to stop in the second to last one to watch the sunset. Everyone was standing around just waiting for it on the cliffs and taking pictures. There is nothing more to say…the pictures say it all.


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PS:  The tower is still leanin’…

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PT Clinical Week#7

Another week down, only one more week to go! This week flew by especially because I was sick on Wednesday so I only worked 4 days.

On Monday, I completed a home exercise program for a patient who was discharged home. I included 5 exercises with pictures, descriptions, and prescriptions. Because the computer wasn’t working in time to print before he left, it will be mailed to him. And because I was in a time crunch, I used Google translator to translate from English to Italian (hehe).

The older gentleman with the stroke (that I mentioned in an earlier post) was discharged on Wednesday. On Monday, I was working with him alone, and he said something to me in Italian. I responded with, “yes” even though I didn’t fully understand what he said (never do that). The next thing I knew he was trying to go from lying down to sitting up on his own and his face was bright red! I was able to help him up, but I was not ready for that unexpected transfer. The language barrier has been tolerable thus far, but it can become really scary when you are alone and something unexpected happens. Sometimes when I am transferring this patient, he begins before I am ready. So later in the week, I tried to instruct him in terms of steps that I wanted him to complete first like “viene avanti” which means “come forward” in his chair. Then I count to three (uno, due, tre) before he begins. This method has gone a lot smoother.

We had 3 new patients this week:

  • 41 y/o incomplete SCI patient C3-T1 (motorcycle crash) also sustained 2 broken elbows & nose
  • 40 y/o TBI (fall at work) hemiplegic L side, frontal lobe signs, and has a 17 month old son
  • 77 y/o stroke patient who gets very emotional and cries several times each session.


Most therapists transfer a lot differently than we would. They transfer with their arms under the patient’s armpits instead of their hands under the patient’s butt, and it seems very unsafe.

All the therapists, nurses, and health assistants wear scrubs, but the doctors wear business casual and even some wear jeans (nicer jeans of course). I find that really cool.

PT’s go to school for a total of 3 years after HS and receive a bachelor’s degree. Nurses also go to school for 3 years after HS. The HS system is a lot better in Italy so a lot of our general education courses that are taught in undergrad in college are actually taught in HS here. They feel that PTs in the US actually have two bachelor’s degrees (undergrad and then PT) because of how the 6 years is divided by different subject matter.



Orvieto Cathedral

Facade of Orvieto Cathedral

Facade of Orvieto Cathedral


The second place we traveled to this past Saturday was Orvieto. The parking garage was located underground below the city, and we wanted to take the escalators to the top but they were broken! So we walked up 100s of stairs! After that workout, we explored some of the city, and then three of us took a 3 mile walking path that encompassed the city parameters. Because of the location of the city (see below),  the trail was extremely difficult and we were sweating by the end.

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The girls wanted to get gelati following the hike, but every gelati place was either closed or the open restaurants didn’t serve it. The season for gelato must be coming to an end until spring?? I hope not.  Before leaving the town, we headed to some underground caves. They were really cool and not what I was expecting when I thought of the word “cave”. The one we went into was founded in 1984 by people who were working on their trattoria. They began excavating the cave in that year, and the excavation still continues today!

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We were going to eat dinner in Orvieto because there were a lot of great restaurants recommended, but because most Italian restaurants don’t open until 7:30, we decided to call our landlord Paolo, who makes the best italian food known to man, and he prepared dinner for us to have when we got back.

Only one more weekend of Italian travels!

Inside the caves

Inside the caves






Situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volanic tuff. The site of the city is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost vertical faces of tuff cliffs completed by defensive walls built of the same stone called Tufa.

A major center of Entruscan civilization

Orvieto was annexed by Rome in the third century BC and was last conquered by Julius Caesar.

The city of Orvieto has long kept the secret of its labyrinth of caves and tunnels that lie underground. The underground city holds more than 1200 tunnels, galleries, wells, cellars, etc. Many of the homes of noble families used these tunnels as a means to escape times of siege. The tunnels would lead from the city of palazzo to a safe exit point some distance from the city walls.


Civita di Bagnoregio

This past weekend we decided to do two places on Saturday and spend Sunday at home in Umbertide. The first place we went to on Saturday morning was Civita di Bagnoregio. This town perched high on a small cliff surrounded by a valley. There is literally only one road/bridge that you can take to get there. You park at the edge of the bridge and then walk up to the town. The entire walk across the bridge was absolutely incredible and filled with great views.IMG_3543
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It was supposed to rain all day, but that morning when we checked the weather, it said it was going to be clear all day! We really lucked out. We walked the city and did a tour of a small house that was built into the side of the mountain. Shortly after we were informed that it was used in the film “Pinocchio” here in Italy.  We also went through a tunnel that cut through the mountain (it was off limits to tourists, but the fence was kicked over, so we went through anyway. It was a rather large tunnel, but centuries ago it was just big enough for women to hold their water jugs on their head to transport place to place. It was one of the only tunnels used to go from one side of town to the other…and later they widened it so farmers could go through with their equipment.   

Cliff house

Cliff house

Cliff house

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Civita was founded by Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago

At the end of the 17th century, the bishop and the municipal gov’t were forced to move to Bagnoregio (former suburb) because of the major earthquake that accelerated the old town’s decline.

In the 19th century, Civita’s location was turning into an island (as seen in pictures), and the pace of the erosion quickenend as the layer of clay below the stone was reached in the area where today’as bridge is situated (the only way to get into the city from the mainland).

Civita became known in Italian as “il paese che muore” (the town that is dying).



Rainy Saturday in Segovia

This Saturday was our first excursion with our university to a small, but beautiful city about an hour southeast of Valladolid called Segovia. As we approached, we could spot the city, protected by brick walls and situated above all the neighboring towns. Upon arrival we could not miss the massive aqueduct that straddled what used to be the road to enter the city (cars are no longer able to drive under it).IMG_3342

This impressive landmark was most likely constructed in the first century by the Romans; however the exact year of construction remains a mystery. The huge granite blocks that comprise the aqueduct are unmortared, meaning this entire structure is held together solely by the weight and placement of the blocks! While a few spots have been restored, the majority of the aqueduct is original and it is considered one of the best preserved structures in Europe.

After climbing to the top of the aqueduct, we took a walk around the city guided by our professor, Patricia. She explained the many legends associated with Segovia; it seems every place in the city has an entertaining story behind it!

Additionally, Segovia haIMG_3375s a colorful religious history with a few remaining Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues (notable because almost all Jews were expelled from Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries). As we walked around the city, we admired the the tight streets, old brick buildings, and quaint shops. As lunch time appraoched, we were granted free time to eat and explore the city on our own before moving onto our final tour of the day.


After eating and, of course, doing a little shopping, Rachel, Sam and I decided to check out the massive cathedral, located right off of Plaza Mayor. Beginning in the 16th century, the construction of Segovia’s cathedral continued for over 200 years until it was finally completed and consecrated in 1768. This Gothic cathedral is breathtaking, not only for its sheer size but also for its grandeur visible in every detail. Difficult to put into words or capture in a picture, the cathedral silenced us all upon entering. It was astonishing.

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After about an hour in the cathedral, we met up with the rest of our group to move onto our final tour of the day: Alcázar. Originally built by the Moors, this castle exemplifies mudéjar architecture characterized by the use of brick, elaborate tile and IMG_3460woodwork, geometric shapes, and vegetal images. Interestingly, images of humans or animals are never used in this style. The massive castle, with its many tall spires, felt a bit familiar upon first glance. As it turns out, Alcázar was the inspiration for the castle in Walt Disney’s Cinderella. Completed in the 13th century, this castle is yet another spectacular historical structure of Segovia. Unfortunately, part of the castle is currently under renovation so we were unable to get a good view of the castle in its entirety or climb the tower. Nonetheless, visiting Alcázar was a great exerience! Despite the unpredictable rain and chilly wind, Saturday’s trip to Segovia was another enjoyable and eye-opening day in Spain.

¡Hasta luego!