Photo of the Week

Hi guys!

I hope everybody had a good week and that you’re still getting a little sun in Portland!

This week I had a picnic at a place known as The Bunkers from the Spanish Civil War. I know it says photo of the week, but I thought you guys needed the video to really see the whole view of such a beautiful city.

 

I keep saying this everywhere I go but this is my new favorite spot and worth the 30 minute hike, easy.

I also wanted to give you guys some options for my next posts.

  1. The fresh food markets
  2. Romanesque art and architecture
  3. Fun and (mostly) free activities and places to hang out
  4. A normal day in my life here

Let me know in the comments which one(s) you’d like to see!

¡Que pases un buen fin de semana!

Friday Class From Up Above

As much as I like my normal classes and city life, this Friday really was something special.

My classmates and I got to go on a trip with a local tour guide named Jose Luis, who showed us around the old pueblo of Rupit in the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of France and Spain. I didn’t realize how much I missed the green of Portland and all the hiking there, as I’m sure a lot of you have experienced. Rupit is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen, and offers both the views as well as a rich history and authentic medieval architecture.

We started out the day with an hour and half car ride into a whole different world than the bustling atmosphere of Barcelona. Jose Luis has lived in Spain almost all his life, so we got lucky because he knows the best breakfast spots to gear us up for the trip ahead.

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They don’t eat very big breakfasts here, but meat, cheese, and tomato bread are all classics. Jose Luis said those creme pastries in the first picture have been his favorite since he was nine!

Our hike started with a little tour of the village. When you walk around here, you can really feel how old the area is, from the stone buildings and ancient carvings to the church that dates back all the way to 968! Imagine having to haul that many stones up into these mountains before cars! We don’t have anything that looks quite like that in Portland.

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We hiked up a trail into those trees not really knowing where we were going, but placing our trust in Jose Luis as he laughed while sharing stories of complaining about how hard the hike was when he first came as a kid. It was a little bit tough, especially after all the bread and cheese we’d been eating.

But when we reached the look out all of those thoughts disappeared.

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Just look at that! How’s that for Friday class?

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Here’s my friends and I enjoying the view. I think it’s safe to say the work out was well worth it.

This village was an experience that made me more aware of where I was. I get to be here in Spain and see this view that’s almost 6000 miles away from home in Portland, and I get to hear about Jose Luis’ own trips coming here at different times in his life. While the view is beautiful no matter what, having someone like him really know the area and share his connection to and memories of it brought a more personalized feeling. It’s fun to think how this is something familiar to him, and he takes people here on tours all the time for his job, so my experience is just one of many.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel small in the most rewarding way. Looking out at those mountains is a reminder of how big everything is. It makes me aware of my role in the world as one person in one place, and reminds me to be present in the moment because it won’t come again. I feel very lucky, and I hope you guys have experienced this feeling as well. if so, I’d love to hear about it!

Until next time!

Photo of the Week

Hey again!

I’m glad you were all so excited about the food here, because it’s been one of my favorite parts about the experience.

A lot of you asked if the pictures were of food that I cooked and I wish I could say it was but I’m not quite that talented in the kitchen.

So, here’s a picture of a picnic my roommate and I packed the other night!

Maybe not quite as spectacular as those other meals, but you can bet we finished the whole thing.

¡Hasta luego!

¿Tienes hambre?

Hi again!

I’m so happy that you guys have been responding to my posts and enjoying the pictures! A lot of you have been asking about the food here, so I’m going to walk you through some of my favorites so far. 

First off, we’ll start with tapas.

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Tapas are small plates of food that are generally meant to be shared. They’re kind of like appetizers in size, but here in Barcelona it’s popular to order a bunch of tapas as a meal rather than one big main dish. This is partially because mealtime here is more of a social event than in the United States. People often sit at big, long tables with strangers, so it’s fun to meet people over a family style dinner. It’s somewhat of a ritual for locals, and they even have a verb for it, tapear! Have you guys heard that word before?

Some of the most common ones I’ve seen here are shrimp, olives, mozzarella or goat cheese, fried calamari, the classic Spanish jamón Serrano, corn and avocado salads, skewers, and patatas bravas. So far my favorite is the cheese and olive combo, what do you think yours would be?

Next, you can’t visit Spain without trying paella.

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Paella is a Spanish dish of rice and saffron with some kind of meat. It’s cooked in a large skillet like this one, served with a huge spoon to share. Our waiter said they even have a rule you have to order for at least two people; see what I mean about the social dinners?

The dish comes from Valencia, which is the province right next to Catalonia where Barcelona is. I was lucky enough to get to try the real deal on my trip to Valencia this weekend at a restaurant that’s been around since 1957. The traditional paella Valenciana consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck, snails), beans and seasoning. As you can see, this one was a little adventurous with the full shrimps, baby lobsters, clams, and squid, but I personally really liked it.

For those of you that like to try new things, check out this classic one with rabbit and snails! The snails were definitely something a little different for me, but I’m glad I tried it for sure.

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If that’s not your thing and you’re looking for something a little more like what you’d have at home, don’t worry Barcelona has you covered.

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We went to a little pizza shop called La Finestra, where they only make one size of pizzas a little bigger than your hand. Instead of picking exactly what you wanted on top, you tell the chef if you want meat or not and he surprises you! Again, perfect sharing some slices of mini two-bite-sized pieces and trying them all. That front one had potatoes, rosemary, mozzarella, and goat cheese. Hands down my favorite, plus each one was only 1.8 euros! A big score.

As you can see, there’s quite a few options here. My roommate and I have have really been loving the tapas bars, and it’s a fun way to meet people as a foreigner. Going out to eat is basically just a hang out for people, and it’s not uncommon for them to spend two or three hours at a restaurant at a time! One of the big things I’ve had to get used to here is waiting to eat dinner until 10 or 11 pm. The main take away is that Barcelona is all about the social aspect of dining.

Let me know which of these sounds the best to you, or if you’ve tried any of them yourselves!

Photo of the Week

¡Hola amigos!

I hope you’re as excited for the weekend as I am! This was the kick off to mine, so I’d say it’s off to a good start.

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This is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, also known as the Barcelona Cathedral.

Talk soon!

A Different Set of Stars and Stripes

Hi again!

Now that I’ve had a little bit more time here in Barcelona, I’m excited to share some more of the culture with you as I start to learn too. We can start with this map of Spain, which shows the 17 regions Spain is divided into. Their regions, or “autonomous communities” as they’re often called, are similar to what the 50 states are for us in America.

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They are autonomous with their own government in each community, like state governors that we have. Just like the States and all over the world, people have different ideas about politics and what’s best for their home.

Barcelona is up in the top right corner of the map, and is the capital of Catalonia, not the biggest but the most populated region of the country. Many people here identify strongly with being Catalan, and there is conflict about Catalonia becoming an independent state. This would entirely alter politics, economics, and the overall sense of national loyalty for Spain.

One year ago, Catalonia held a referendum and the majority of people voted to make Catalonia separate from Spain. However, the national government saw it as illegal, and this is where the tension began to rise. There have been a couple protests since I’ve been here, filled with flags and people passionate about their culture.

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For a better idea, imagine if California left the United States because they didn’t feel as though the government treated them fairly for all the economic and cultural offerings it brings. This is an over simplification and they have more reasons for wanting to leave, but hopefully that idea helps you see how big of a deal this is.

The current president of Catalonia is Quim Torra, who is a Catalan separatist, meaning he supports protests in the name of the freedom of Catalonia from Spain. He has only been the president since May, but just waking around Barcelona you can see that many people agree with his desire to separate.

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The sign here says “Spanish government killed our democracy but will never shut Catalans mouth”. This flags with the white star represent those that are pro separatist, and can be found all over the city hanging from balconies.

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Politics can be a sensitive topic, but I hope you guys consider how the Catalan people feel and share your ideas with me, because it is important to understand the culture of the locals and not just travelers like me. I’m taking a sociology class about Spanish and Catalan culture, so I should have more to tell you about this as time goes on.

Laundry or Architecture?

¡Hola desde España! I have finally arrived here in Barcelona, and I couldn’t be more excited to call this city home for the next six months. I got in around 11 pm last night, and had just enough time to grab some crepes with my new roommate and take a peek at the view off my balcony before I was exhausted and ready for bed. This morning, I woke up to a 4th floor view of a sun soaked city.

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While this view is definitely something special, I might even say I like the one looking down better.

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Looking down may seem like a funny thing to focus on standing on a balcony, but there’s a couple reasons I chose to share this view with you. First, just take a minute for those buildings. Can you think of anywhere in the United States that looks like that? Let me know, cause it’s got me beat.

But that’s not even my favorite part. Believe it or not, it’s the laundry. The clothes swaying in the breeze instantly stuck out to me and made me feel more comfortable. It might sound weird, but it’s kind of like a little peak into the lives of the locals who live here. Of course I’ve never met my neighbors but it’s just a reminder that people are living their lives all across the world and doing day to day stuff just like we do, like laundry for example.

Apartment buildings are above nearly every restaurant and shop in the area I live in, and most if the city for that matter. Balconies seem to be a normal thing here, not only serving a practical function and saving the city countless dollars that a standard drier would use, but decorating the city with personal touches to the already lovely pastel architecture.

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As we wandered around some more today, I fell in love with the streets. I struggled not to get lost because I couldn’t help but look up at the countless apartment building and their balconies above me, each covered with overflowing plants, Spanish flags, and, most importantly, clothes. I definitely wasn’t complaining.

Hopefully you guys can get a little glimpse of how I felt and why I decided to talk to you about laundry of all things. It’s little things like this that make me feel connected to a place, and less like just another American tourist coming to see the more well-known, spectacular sites.

It’s 11:30 here now, so I’ve been here just over 24 hours. I start my classes tomorrow, so I’ll have more for you very soon!

¡Buenos noches!

Photo (Video) Of The Week

Hi again! First off I have to say I loved reading your comments, and it’s fun getting to know you a little better! A bunch of you said you were excited to talk to me, which is my favorite thing I could hear because I feel the same way. I’ve also realized I’m going to have to get to work on my Spanish because wow you guys are far better than I am. It’s okay though, you’re helping me learn too!

I really enjoyed hearing about all your interests in sports, food, traveling, and studying. It sounds like a lot of you are really into soccer, or fútbol as I should start calling it. We even have a couple of Barcelona fans in your class, which will be really fun because I’m trying to go to a game of Barcelona versus Madrid while I’m there. I’ll keep you all posted on that one, but are there any favorite players I should know about? I love that some of you have already been able to travel, and others have the desire to. Not only do you see what the rest of the world is like, but you also get to learn more about where you already live through comparing and contrasting.

I’m writing to you on my last day in London, England, and tomorrow I hop on my plane to Barcelona! Here’s some pictures of where I’m staying right now with my cousin at her flat, which is what they call apartments here.

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While I am excited to share my new home in Spain with you, I decided to focus on the idea of traveling in general for this week’s photo (or video in this case) to give you all a better idea of what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks. Remember how I said I went to Eastern Europe first before I begin my studies in Barcelona? Well, how do you think I got from place to place? In America, we often take planes to other states, even cities, because our country is so big. In Europe, you can take trains from not only cities, but country to country, because it’s so much closer! Plus, the views out the train windows are a big bonus if you ask me.

This is a video from my train ride from Prague, Czech Republic to Vienna, Austria. Since I’ve been to four countries in the past two and a half weeks, I’ve spent quite a lot of my time on these trains (personally, I like to listen to some music and munch some snacks while I look out the window). I got a lot of questions about the pretty architecture and buildings in Europe, and I think this one does a good job of showing that off.

 

Alright, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Next time we chat, I’ll be in Barcelona, and we can start the adventure from there!

!Hasta luego, hacerme preguntas, y comentar si te gusta el video!

Let me know how I did with my Spanish on that one (:

Nos vemos en España,
Joni

Hi there from Europe!

¡Hola amigos! My name is Joni, and I’m a student at Portland State University, right downtown in the city. I’m twenty years old and originally from California, but I moved to Oregon just over two years ago for school. I’m now going into my third year with the university, but from all the way across the world in Barcelona, Spain, and I get to have your class experience it with me! Here’s a picture of me, my coffee, and one of my favorite burritos (yum) at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on the PSU campus so you can get to know me a little better. I bet some of you have been to the market too!

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I’m a sociology major, which basically means I study people and how we interact with each other and the world around us. I am grateful to have the opportunity to study abroad because I love traveling and seeing what life is like in other places. It encompasses a lot of my current interests, including art and architecture, people and social relationships, nature, history, photography, and food of course, as you can see by how happy I am about that burrito.

Right now I’m actually reporting to you from London, United Kingdom. My studies in Spain don’t start until October 1st, but I’ll be moving in to my apartment on September 29th and I’ll update you with some pictures from Spain first thing. For now, I’ll show you a few I took on my trip to Eastern Europe, and maybe you’ll be able to spot some differences and similarities between the buildings in these Eastern European countries compared to Barcelona in Western Europe once I get there. Maybe think about how it compares to Portland too.

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Prague, Czech Republic
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Budapest, Hungary
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Vienna, Austria

I’ve never been to Barcelona before, but I have heard loads of good things and we can learn together. Barcelona is one of the most popular cities to visit in the whole world, number twelve in fact. It’s about one third the size of Portland, but has almost 1 million more people, so it’s pretty big! The city also looks a little different than what you and I are used to because it’s a whole lot older, and the beach is right there too, like you can see in the picture I put down below.

One of the parts I’m most excited about is the winter weather. I’m sure you guys know all about the rain in Portland, which isn’t my favorite. In Europe they use Celsius to measure the temperature instead of Fahrenheit like we’re used to. Barcelona isn’t as rainy or cold, and the average winter temperature is around 14 degrees Celsius, which is about 57 degrees Fahrenheit. It can get pretty hot in the summers, and is still 80 degrees right now in September.

Here’s a map so you can get a better idea of where I’ll be reporting to you from!

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I’m really looking forward to living in the city because although I’ve traveled to a few other countries, I’ve never gone by myself or lived abroad like I will be for the next six months. I’m hoping to improve my Spanish as well, and maybe you guys can help me with that one. The official language of Spain is Spanish, but Barcelona is a little tricky because they speak two different kinds called Castilian and Catalan. I speak a little bit of Spanish, but this should be fun for me to practice while I’m there, and I’m sure I’ll have some funny stories to tell you about my mistakes while I learn.

My program is called ALBA, and has other students from all down the West Coast who I’ll be studying with. I get to take classes in Art and Architecture, Spanish, and Sociology. I’ll be going to school Monday to Thursday, so I have three day weekends every week which, is pretty cool if you ask me. I also get to live with someone I’ve never met before sharing a Spanish apartment, which will be fun because I get to learn about her experience as well. One of the most important things to remember when you’re traveling is that everyone has a story, and sees the world in a different way. Whether we’re in Portland or Barcelona, we can learn a lot from the person right next to us.

Once I’m in Spain I’ll update you with some more pictures, but let me know what you think about traveling, school, or anything you have to ask me in the comments. Have any of you taken any fun trips? Overall, I’m excited to explore the city with you and am open to all that the experience has to offer!