¡Viva España!

a semester abroad

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The week after Amsterdam, Ellen made her last and final trip out of Ireland to come and visit me in Madrid! I decided to stay with her in a hostel because I live with a host family and we aren’t allowed to have guests. I picked her up from the airport and we went to set our stuff down in the hostel and get some food! For some reason I was craving a kebab (something I will definitely miss back at home) so I decided to take her to a place by school. I showed her where we have classes and we ran into a few people from USD which was surprising for both of us because 1. I never really see people just walking around outside of school and 2. in comparison to the Madrid program, the Cork program is really small so she thought it was so weird bumping into so many people in that short amount of time. After we ate I took her to Retiro where we got a boat and saw the Palacio de Cristal which really isn’t a palace but it’s pretty nonetheless…

I was dead from so much walking so we returned to the hostel and I took a quick nap. For dinner that night we went next door so Ellen could try out some paella… I’m usually not a fan but this one was really yummy and they served us chips that were cut like waffle fries, so delicious! We went to bed early so that we could explore the city the next morning…

Usually I take the metro everywhere so it was kind of cool walking everywhere… almost everything is all connected! We walked around and hit up Plaza del Sol, the Palacio Real, Templo de Debod, Mercado de San Miguel, Plaza Mayor, and Grand Via. We stopped for lunch at Café y Te, a really yummy restaurant chain here and we hopped on the metro to explore the bull fighting ring. Unfortunately, the free tours are only for like 2hours a day so that was a bummer but it was cool seeing the outside. 

Mercado de San Miguel

Behind the Palacio Real

Templo de Debod

Friday night was Ellen’s last night in Madrid so we went out! We met up with our friend Amanda (who also goes to USD) and we hit up Calle Huertas, recommended by my roommate Laura who told me about all the free drinks all the promoters entice you with to get you in their bar or club. We got a few chupitos (shots) and some glasses of free beer and sangria. We made our way over to PACHA where one of our friends works as a promoter, he was able to get us in for free as long as we arrived to get a hand stamp by 1:30a. We got there, got our stamps and headed to a bar near by to pregame some more. We went back to Pacha and it wasn’t really crowded yet so it was weird. What’s even more weird is that up on the second level they have those binocular things so you can see people on the bottom floor… talk about awksauce. After awhile things picked up and we danced all night, trying to make it a 6am night. What sucks about waiting for the metro to re-open is that it is absolutely no problem until around 4:30am, then you just hit a wall… at least I do, it gets so hard and time goes so slow! We only made it till 5:30 and we cabbed it back to our hostel because Ellen had to be at the airport in about 3 hours…

Last weekend was the last European escapade for me and Ellen together. On Thursday (Thanksgiving) I headed for Cork, Ireland! I had to fly into Dublin and take a 4hr bus ride to get to Cork. It wasn’t too terrible because I was able to sleep most of the way and the bus had free wifi (score!). I noticed how early it gets dark in Ireland! Around 5p it was already pitch black… We pulled into Cork around 7p and Ellen met me at the bus station. It was pretty cold, windy, and rainy so we took the bus to her apartment where she and 2 other girls, Katherine and Mara (also from USD), had prepared a lovely Thanksgiving feast. I was so happy to be able to spend the holiday with friends

That night we went out and hit up The Bailey which is a bar/club. The irish girls dress reallllllyyy different, they hardly wear clothes! I was so cold and bundled in my boots, peacoat and jeans and these girls had on teeny dresses and heels, I’m not sure how they do it! Apparently, there was some Christmas party going on so it was really packed and people were dressed up.. some guys had on santa suits. The Irish are all really nice but the Cork accent was almost impossible for me to understand! This guy asked me “Do you want a hug?” and I had to have Ellen translate! He kept pronouncing ‘hug’ like ‘hoag’… I don’t even know. Anyways, later this other drunk Irishman came up to me and was like so perplexed by my color (“Where are you from?…she doesn’t look like the others….”), he asked if I was black (no), complimented my smile (thanks!), and told me to tell my parents that he says hello (uhhh..). Also, the Irish girls are all so nice, apparently they all love America.


The next day Ellen showed me around Cork. It’s such a cute little town… it’s Ireland’s second largest city after Dublin but there is still only around 100,000 people if I remember correctly. We first stopped at University College Cork, where Ellen has class. I’m so jealous because it’s such a gorgeous campus! Our campus here is Madrid is spread out in the city so we only have classes in this one building that blends in with the rest on the block. We hit up lots of shops and we had yummy food all day! We got delicious hot chocolate and later that night the city had a ceremony to turn on all of the Christmas lights! It was kind of by chance that we got to see this, a old man approached us to ask if we wanted him to take a picture of all 4 of us and told us that in about an hour the lights would be turned on. It was so cute seeing all the little kids so excited and filled with holiday cheer. After the “Lord Mayor” lit the city, he directed people over to a big christmas tree where school children would sing some Christmas carols. 

Later that night we got kebabs (which are about 453245 times better than the ones here in Spain!) and some yummy cider, which reminded me a lot of Andre (my favorite cheap champagne). We didn’t end up going out because the next morning Ellen, Mara, and I were going to take a trip to Kinsale, about 45min bus ride away, to get some fish ‘n’ chips! We caught the bus at 11am and when we arrived it was very chilly and misty so we went straight to Fishy Fishy Café… with that name we expected some hole in the wall place with cheap food but it ended up being really classy and pricy but we decided to go for it because, hey, when was the last time we paid 18euro for some fish? Better yet, when have we ever spent that much on one meal while abroad? The food was delish and we even got bread and butter! I tried soda bread which I really liked because of it’s unique texture. After we finished our fine meal we explored the town a bit. Apparently it was “off season” so a lot of things were closed like the Wine Museum, but it was a quaint little place… 

Fish ‘n’ Chips

Fishy Fishy Café

When we got back to Cork we walked past this park that was decorated like a little Christmas village, it was beyond adorable! Of course we stopped in and took some pictures! Next to it there was some type of fair going on with lots of food vendors, live band, and some rides. It was so nice getting into the holiday spirit! Later that night we went to a bar and I tried some Guinness…


The next morning I caught the 7am bus out of Cork to Dublin so that I could arrive at the airport on time for my 2pm flight… so much traveling! Cork is such a cute little town, a nice change of pace from the big city vibe of Madrid…

Filed under madrid hostel retiro abroad spain ireland cork kinsale christmas time

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time for an update (1/2)

My time here is Madrid is rapidly coming to an end… In exactly weeks I will be making the trip back to Southern California and as much as I miss my family, I am already starting to miss Spain! I didn’t realize it was possible to miss something before it’s gone.

I guess this is probably a great time to update you all on everything thats been going on since it’s been about a million years since my last post! About 3 weeks ago I went to Amsterdam to meet up with Ellen and Katherine (both studying in Cork, Ireland). Obviously, this meant another trip to the airport by myself which was fine because I’ve gotten comfortable with the one here in Madrid. I flew Royal Dutch and got fed! Super exciting because airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair literally just get you from point A to point B with a seat that doesn’t recline and the entirety of their flights are one huge advertisement… like, NO I actually do not want to buy smokeless cigs or your dumb scratchers, but thanks anyway!

I landed in Amsterdam and I still had to make my way to the hostel, still by myself… I had to take a train and then a tram and I made it all on my own!!! I only had to ask 2 questions, this is a big deal because 1. I get really nervous doing things on my own unless it’s shopping, duh. and 2. I HATE asking questions. So needless to say, I was really proud of myself!!! I arrived at our hostel which I was very skeptical about because we booked at 10-person mixed room and if you’ve been following my posts, you know how much I absolutely grossed out I am by the hostel concept. I was not a fan of the man at the front desk but other than that, the room was fine! I think there was all guys in there besides me and Ellen (Katherine got “upgraded” to another room) but it didn’t matter because it was literally just a place to rest our heads at night. I called Ellen to let her know I had arrived and her and Katherine showed up about 30 minutes later (during which I managed to electrocute myself… awkward). They had been there all day and had already partaken in the liberal culture that Amsterdam is famous for, hehe…. We grabbed dinner at this place called Asian Kitchen and it was sooooooooo goooooood! I’ve missed food with flavor!  We made our way to the Van Gogh Museum. It was interesting but nothing to go into detail about because to be honest I found it a little boring. Later we grabbed some hot chocolate because it was really chilly out

Hot Chocolate and Cookies! a little blurry but you get the idea…

We made our way back to the hostel and called it an early night. Ellen and I got up early to go to the Anne Frank house. On our way we stopped at Starbucks and I was so happy to see that they had their holiday drinks! (At that point, Spain still hadn’t gotten them) We got there and only had to wait about 10 minutes which was great because everyone we knew who had planned on going had purchased their tickets beforehand online. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside but it was really interesting. I think was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was crazy that I was in the same rooms that Anne and her family hid in for 2 years! I never read her diary (in 8th grade, our teacher told us “Okay, I don’t think the boys want to read about some girl getting her period so we’re going to read Night by Elie Wiesel…” like um okay, cool lady. but whatever…) but after watching Freedom Writers I have a deep love and admiration for Miep Gies, the lady who helped hide them, her part in the movie makes me cry everytime! The families (Anne’s and one other family) had to keep shades drawn all day and keep as quiet as possible so that people on the bottom floor did not hear their footsteps. I would definitely recommend visiting if you ever stop by Amsterdam

Pictures from outside the Anne Frank House

After this lovely cultural experience we met up with Katherine to hopefully take a free walking tour of the city. When we got there the tour guides were very rude and straight up ignored Ellen when she tried to ask them a question. They told us people with reservations had priority which makes sense but we didn’t make reservations because Ellen was told (in another city that she took the a free tour through the same company) that making reservations was not ever necessary. Apparently in Amsterdam, a crowd of 30 people or more is considered a parade and therefore not allowed… We decided to get some bikes and explore the city while we waited for the second tour. This would have been a lot more fun for me if my legs were just an inch longer. I couldn’t touch the ground! So embarrassing and very uncomfortable. Other than that, it was really cute biking through the city! The people there use bikes as a legitimate form of transportation and they have these little carts that they put their kids in, its soo adorable! Amsterdam is such a gorgeous place, I really can’t get over it! It’s a very typical European city, like when I close my eyes and picture Europe this is what I picture: a city with canals running through, lovely architecture, sweet people, sun and crisp air. I really hope I can make it back here again! 

Of course, the second time slot for the tour was full as well so we decided to take advantage of the light hours (it got dark around 5p) and have a quick photoshoot at the I AMsterdam sign and later take part in some cultural activities. We took a quick spin around the Red Light District. It was still pretty early so it wasn’t poppin’ yet. It was really strange just seeing girls in full-length windows. If you want one, you literally just walk up and go in, close the curtain and do yo’ thang… barf. I kind of felt bad for some of the girls because they looked drugged out and it reminded me of Taken. We stopped at another delicious asian place for dinner called Wok to Walk (get it?) that Ellen’s big had visited last year and highly recommended. We didn’t stay out too late because we all had early flights the next day…

Very proud of this panoramic shot

What they cart their children around in 

Wok to Walk! They give it to you in a container so you can take it to-go

Filed under amsterdam the netherlands holland travel abroad spain anne frank bikes

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It’s been awhile since my last post… I’ve been busy with school so whoever said abroad was “like oh my god SOOO EASYYY!!!!” well ha. ha., false, it is not. I’m only taking 4 classes this semester but with class only 2 days a week I’m there all day on Mondays and Wednesdays. Also, around midterms I got super homesick in case you couldn’t tell from my last post but I’m doing a lot better now, especially since starting this coming weekend I will see my best friend/roommate (who’s studying in Cork, Ireland) for 3 whole weekends in a row!!! WOO HOOO!!! 

Me and my BFFL Ellen… freshman year.

Last weekend Heather and I went to Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve never thought about visiting this country, it just doesn’t seem like a real place, no one ever really talks about it… it’s just there chillin’ next to Spain. I only ever remember it because in Princess Diaries Julie Andrews is “…late for a meeting with Spain and Portugal!!!” and refuses to put up with Anne Hathway’s hissy fit about not wanting to be a princess…. totally kidding but moving on…

We decided to go for Heather’s 21st birthday and everyone from our program who visited previously LOVED it! We left for Lisbon on Thursday night and arrived no problem. When we arrived I noticed how weird Portuguese is, I had absolutely NO clue what anyone was saying! Written out on signs, advertisements, etc I could make out some words but if someone were to speak to me, forget it! We took a taxi to our hostel and we fell in LOVE! If you read my previous post about Barcelona you know that I absolutely HATED it, the hostel concept just seriously disturbs me but the place we got here was adorable! It’s a newer hostel that’s a renovated mansion! Heather and I decided to pay a little extra to get a private room which worked out perfectly! We still had to share bathrooms and showers but it was all really clean so I didn’t mind at all. The people at the reception were super nice, this guy named Daniel was cracking jokes left and right and spoke really good English (if you ever stop by Lisbon, check it out! It’s called Go Hostel Lisbon). It was really awkward because when he found out we were American he asked “How’s Obama?” At first I thought he said “How’s the women?” because his accent was still pretty strong so I was seriously confused. I finally figured out he was asking about our president. Okay so just a warning, feel free to judge me as much as possible because my following statements will make me sound like a complete idiot. I was honestly just so taken back by the fact that he asked us this. I am completely clueless when it comes to politics, it’s just something that doesn’t interest me… I hate that people get so heated about it, the whole thing just really annoys me. I just feel so dumb when I’m here, people in Europe know more about/are more interested my country’s government than I am… guess I’ll have to work on that one… The first night we decided to stay in because we arrived after dark and our place seemed a little out of the touristy area of the city. We grabbed some yummy sandwiches and sangria from the little bar inside the hostel and made a game plan for the next day.

We woke up and got ready for a day of sight seeing. We had to walk a little ways to make it down to a real street but it wasn’t bad. We caught a trolley that pretty famous in Lisbon… at least I think… they’re all over every type of souvenir, they remind me of the ones in San Fran except they have red AND yellow ones. We had no clue where this trolley was taking us so we just got off where a bunch of other touristy people did and we found our way to the Panteão Nacional. 

Trolley [photo cred: Heather]

Panteão Nacional. Lisbon, Portugal.

After we had NO CLUE where we were so we caught a taxi to St. George’s Castle. Lisbon is super weird in the way that you can’t just hail a cab, they all wait in a line and you have to get the next cab in line, they won’t just pick you up! We got to the castle and had a nice time checking out the gorgeous view and taking tons of pictures! I also picked up some cool postcards made out of cork…

We were getting pretty hungry at this point and we hopped on one of those big red tour buses that you see in every city, the ticket was only 15euro and was valid for 2 days which was perfect because we figured we could use it for both transportation and sight seeing. For lunch we stopped at this delicious place called Vitaminas and we both got really yummy pastas and a drink they called “Detox” which was a mix of green tea and lemon (it was so good, we ended up eating here the next day also). After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we got back on the bus and did some more of our tour. At one point we both ended up falling asleep because we were so tired and the motion of cars makes us both pass out really easily… oops haha. 

Being ultimate tourists!

Yummy lunch at Vitaminas

Later that night we met up with my friend Stevie who also goes to USD and is studying in Lisbon this semester. The next day was Heather’s 21st birthday so we decided to go out and celebrate!!! Stevie took us to this cute little restaurant by his place where Heather and I both got Salmon and Scallops on top of lime risotto, SOOOO GOOOD!!!! Scallops and salmon are my absolute faavorites! What’s nice about Lisbon is that it’s a pretty small city so everywhere Stevie took us, they knew him! The restaurant, the liquor store, etc etc. Definitely different from the big city vibe of Madrid. After dinner we went went to check out Bairro Alto which is where all the bars are located. This place is sooo cool! All of the bars are really small and most played live music and because the venues are all so tiny you usually just get your drink and hang out outside. Fortunately it wasn’t super crowded that night so we could hang out inside of the bars. We checked out a few different places and got different drinks and shots and finally settled at this reggae bar with a live band and great music! Heather and I got a taxi home around 2:30a, had a little tooo much fun and maybe one too many drinks… 

Bali Bar, first stop!

Live music at the Bali Bar

Me and the Birthday Princess at the Reggae bar

We woke the next morning not feeling super hot, haha but we got up early enough to get the free breakfast at our hostel and we went back to sleep a little longer. We finally started making moves to finish up our sightseeing tour! This time we took a different bus line and say the Torre de Belem and a bunch of other cool monuments which I honestly don’t know the names of… 

That bridge in the background was built by the same builder of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran!

Torre de Belem

After we finished up our tour Heather and I made it back to the hostel completely on our own using the bus and the metro! We were so proud of ourselves! Of course it was time to take a nap again! We decided to make it a quiet night because the next day we had to leave for the airport at 5:45a. We met up with Stevie and his friends again for dinner. We went to this port where a bunch of restaurants and discotecas are located and got some yummy italian food for dinner. As we were waiting for our bill, a magician approached us and gave us a little show and it actually ended up being impressive, we were all in awe! I would try to describe the tricks but I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to capture the “magic” in words soooo…. We said goodbye to the boys, hopped in a cab, and headed for home… We noticed right away that our cab driver spoke very good English and he proceeded to tell us that he was a political refugee from Belfast, Ireland! His story was very interesting but to be 100% honest I was a little sketched out. He told us that our hostel was in the immigrant area of the city and that the Red Light District wasn’t too far… I was thinking that he was going to capture us and sell us or something but he didn’t, duh. He was really nice and I really hope that everything works out for him! He has 19 months left in Lisbon and got a place to stay there with the help of the Catholic Church. 

Huge Lisbon-shaped pool just chillin’ down by the port.

Stevie and me

The time we spent in Lisbon went by pretty quickly but it was the perfect amount of time to do everything we wanted because it’s such a cute and small city. Apparently Lisbon is the second oldest city in Europe after Athens, Greece! 

Otras Cosas….

1. Portugal loves dates! All the plazas and all the monuments are named after important dates in their history. I really don’t understand how they can keep so many dates straight! 

2. Portugal also has reeeeally yummy pastries!

3. On our tour they had one stop at the El Corte Ingles. There’s about one on every major street here in Madrid but it seems to me that they are harder to come by in Portugal. Anyways, Heath and I decided to stop there for some snackies. While we were there this cute girl in all white offered us a sample of a hot pink drink. She explained that it was a drink mixer and “aphrodisiac” and casually stated that it went perfectly with vodka or rum. Apparently there was a bunch of different natural ingredients like chiles and acai berries so it tasted pretty good but I’m almost 96% positive that that drink does absolutely nothing, the alcohol you mix it with the the “aphrodisiac”, let’s be real. 

4. I’m really missing the customer service in the U.S. Normally I hate talking to sales people in stores… like, if I need your help, I will ask you stop following me around and asking me a million questions! Here the people could care less! I miss going to the register and having someone asking me “Did you find everything okay miss?” or “Have a great day!” Apparently the Spanish think Americans are superficial because we smile so much but whatever, even if it is fake it makes all the difference!

5. My time here in Spain is quickly coming to an end and as much as I miss home I know that I will miss (most things) about this place! For example, being able to drink legally anywhere/ everywhere/ the metro/ Cien Montaditos etc etc. I only have 2 more trips planned and a 3rd one in the works!

¡Es todo!


Hil xox

Filed under abroad bairro alto birthday europe hostel lisbon portugal travel go hostel lisbon

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a weekend in barca

Just got back from a quick weekend trip to Barcelona. We left Friday morning and arrived with no problems. Heather, Andrea, and I stayed in a hostel called Paraiso Traveller’s Hostel and the boys stayed somewhere else. Our place was so cute! The walls were all different tropical colors, it seemed all very clean and welcoming and the woman at the reception desk was very sweet and helpful. We didn’t realize that we hadn’t requested a private room until this random boy walked in… talk about awkward. We quick dropped off our stuff and were ready to eat! In a bit of a hurry, we all quick ran down the stairs and of course I slipped (in the process of falling I was sure I would land wrong and somehow get paralyzed) and ate it so hard on the granite stairs! I landed on my tailbone and my arms… I swear I’m cursed when it comes to traveling, I always hurt myself (see last post- beer/glass shower)! Literally 2 seconds later a cleaning lady comes out to tell us that she had just mopped (oh really? thanks for that little tid bit of information… because I almost just lost my life but no worries… -_-) So after catching my breath and semi-successfully holding back tears we stopped at the pharmacy next door to get some ibuprofen and then FOOD! We just went across the street to get some kebabs which I’ve recently sort of fallen love with… We ate outside and it was noticeably cooler than Madrid because Barcelona is located on the coast. While eating I sort of noticed that we weren’t in the nicest part of town and the guys there are sooo ickky! Not in a physical appearance sort of way (although they aren’t very fortunate in that department either), but in a creepy way. Not only do you hear cat-calls while sitting and walking down the street but they also make this disgusting kissing noises…. I honestly have never felt so objectified in my entire life than I have in this past weekend. I really just wanted to kick one of them in the face but then they probably would’ve captured me and sold me away or something barbaric like that. 

Moving on… after we ate our lunch we were on a mission to find the only American Apparel in the entire country! It wasn’t too hard to find but thank goodness Andrea was good with the map! It was sooo nice stepping inside… I felt like I was back in San Diego shopping for a sorority event. I was on a quest to find the perfect white outfit of Sensation White, that was on Saturday night. Luckily I picked up the last small in this white dress that I had been wanting since I purchased my Sensation ticket. I could spend hours in that place! 

Outside of American Apparel: Barcelona… Photo Credit: Heather Alexander

We spent the next few hours browsing all the cute shops looking for other accessories/clothing for Saturday. After we returned to our hostel we napped and got ready to meet up with the boys for dinner. We got a free meal with a voucher from our place, so that was nice! All we had to do was buy a drink. Colt, Jake, and I got Coronitas and Heath and Andrea got Cerveza Clara. **Sidenote: Normally, when at home getting a Coronita its just a small Corona but here its never called Corona no matter what size, it’s just Coronita because apparently simply ‘Corona’ is offensive to the crown… weird huh?** We stopped for gelato afterward and decided to meet up with other people from school at a bar called Chupitos which is famous for having who even knows how many different types of shots…

Menu of shots at Chupitos

I got a Harry Potter shot which didn’t taste that great (it reminded my of licorice which I am not a fan of) but it was cool to watch… it involved fire, sparks, sugar, and orange. I also witnessed a Monica Lewinsky which I will NOT describe in detail but I will say that it involved a prop… barf. We decided to call it an early night because we had a big day ahead of us!

Saturday we did some last minute shopping around town (you have, have, HAVE to wear white clothing to Sensation or else they supposedly won’t let you in). Can I just say that this place is absolutely nutty?! There is literally 6 different locations of the same stores all within walking distance… most notably, H&Ms and Zara’s. Some of the locations carry lines/products that others don’t (i.e. underwear). We finished up after a few hours and decided it was best to get some rest before the night started so we headed back to the hostel. We had a mini-fiasco with our ticket situation but I won’t go into that. Long story short, we weren’t sure if Andrea was going to be able to get in or not but we all got ready anyways and headed out!!!! Again, we had to bear the harassment of gross men while trying to meet up the boys so I felt safer once we were finally with them but that still doesn’t stop the stares and stupid comments… *le sigh* We ended up cabbing it to the venue which was up on a hill. I was soooo excited to get there and see everybody! It was kind of hassle trying to find white to wear but it looks sooooo cool to see that many people in the same color. Luckily, Andrea got in and we were all ready to dance the night away! I’m not really into the whole ‘rave’ scene or whatever but I had an awesome time being there with everybody… I did see this guy having a really terrible trip and he kept doing this weird things with his tongue and he was flopping around like a wet noodle, like he could hardly even stand which creeped me out. For some reason seeing things like that hurts my heart but I couldn’t look away. A security guard had an eye on him and ended up hauling him away, thank goodness!

We left around 4:30am and it was FREEEZING out and of course there were no taxi’s! So we walked a bit further and found a shuttle that would take us to the bottom of the hill. From there we decided to take a cab to our hostel. We fiiinally hailed a cab and 5 minutes after we hopped in this *pardon my french* complete asshole knocks on the car window while we are at a stop and attempted to convince our driver to kick us out and drive him instead for 200euro. Thankfully, our driver couldn’t understand english and he just locked all the doors and windows. I swear, some people are just so ridiculous. It was an old man too, of course there was old people at this rave, would you expect anything else from this place?

After this trip I’ve come to a few conclusions. Call me a princess or whatever you want but I am NOT a fan of hostels. This was my first experience and the place was nice and everything, I would totally recommend it anyone wanting to hang out in Barcelona for a few days but I just do not like how there’s no privacy! I hate sharing bathrooms (I brought shower shoes, I was scared of fungus… shout out to mom), I was terrified of the bed and sheets being infested with bugs (again, thanks mom for engraining that fear in me, I wore my hair in a braid every night) and just no, I do not like it. Also, I would now pick Madrid over Barcelona hands down! Madrid is so much cleaner and safer and they speak SPANISH instead of Catalan or English. I’m glad I’ve finally decided this because before I was obsessed with Barcelona and was kind of bummed that I didn’t really consider going abroad there. Next, I have a growing hatred for Iberia… our flight was delayed foreverrrr today, they are NEVER on time. Lastly, I’m so happy that in the good old USofA there is a noticeable amount of respect for women… I feel like a human being no matter where I go, thank god else I would probably go crazy… **lykeohmygod GiRLpOwEr!!!! But really though…

¡Es todo!


Hil xox

Filed under barcelona sensation palau sant jordi sensation white hostel spain abroad madrid

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beer & brats

Obviously brats as in bratwurst, not brats as in obnoxious children or the dolls (in which case it would be Bratz)… just to clear up any confusion… I arrived in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest on Thursday around noon and waited till about 2 for Jake and Colton to show up. We hopped on the train to get to our hotel which was about 30-45minutes away. We got off on the right stop but had NO clue where to go from there!!!! So we just wandered aimlessly until this German lady stopped and asked if we needed help. Jake spoke a little German but the woman said that it was fine, she spoke english… This the first time I noticed how kind and helpful Germans are! This stranger literally walked us to the door of our hotel to make sure we got there safely. We stayed outside of the city so it was really quiet and gorgeous. The air was crisp, clean, and extremely refreshing… a nice change from the city smells in Madrid.

We didn’t do much our first night there, by the time we settled in it was already dark and we were starving! We walked about 15 minutes to a little restaurant and I had my first taste of German food…. soooo yummy!!!! We were seated and must have looked reeeal confused while browsing the menu because an older couple sitting next to us asked if we needed help reading it (again, SO sweet). Our waitress ended up speaking English and brought us English menus. Obviously, we ordered some beer which was probably (read: definitely) the BEST beer I have ever had in my life, which is saying a lot because I am not the biggest beer fan. We chatted with our waitress about Oktoberfest and she told us how it worked… we had to go a bit early to get a spot at the tents and the beers come in huge mugs which “…are served around 9 or 10 and the food is not served until 11 so one of those beers will shatter you!” Needless to say, after this statement I wanted to be her friend and hang out with her, she was adorable! Our friends Paige and Kaity ended up meeting with us so it was nice just having a mellow night and sipping on some yummy beer while hearing English everywhere and eating GOOD food (also, lots of pretzels. lots and LOTS of pretzels, germans love them)

Our first beers

The next morning we got up pretty early to get to the tents early. At our stop another random German lady saw us looking at a map and asked us where we wanted to go so she showed us the way to Oktoberfest! When we got there it wasn’t as crowded as we thought it would be so we decided to go to another part of town to find some lederhosen (traditional clothing for Oktoberfest). I decided against spending my money on it though. When we returned to the tents, we got in with no problem and immediately met up with people from school. EVERYONE from USD was there which made it SUCH a blast, it was just a big reunion. The beer came in the massive mugs and was delish! We spent most of our day in the Schottenhamel tent… at least I think that’s what it was called…? I took a picture of it so it must be the one we were in…

Me (studying in Madrid… duh), Jr (studying in Oxford), and Katie (studying in Florence) Photo Credit: Gregg Cliffton 

Day 2 was basically the same. We got there a little bit later than the first day which was not so smart because it was a Saturday and therefore more crowded. We couldn’t get into the tent that all of our friends were in so we had to sneak in through the back… such a rebel, I know. The HB tent was SOOO much fun!!! The band played a lot of music so there was plenty of singing, chanting and “cheers”-ing which instead of saying “cheers” they say “prost”. At one point I was holding 2 mugs of beer and this Italian man clanked his glass against mine and shattered my mug in half! Needless to say I was showered in both beer and glass. Thankfully I only got a few cuts on my left hand and some of my friends helped me take the glass off my face, chest, stomach, arms, feet, and out of my hair. I was a little shaken up but other than that I was fine after about 20 minutes…. One of the craziest parts about this day was seeing this guy stand on a table rally everyone up and chug his beer in about 4 seconds… keep in mind how gigantic these mugs are! I can’t believe I witnessed something so incredibly epic. Obivously, he was American and at one point he got everyone to chant “USA, USA, USA!!!!” On another note, if you ever get the chance to go to Oktoberfest do yourself a favor and order the chicken… possibly the greatest chicken I have ever eaten in my ENTIRE life… beyond delicious. Jake and I left the tent around 4:30ish (?) and grabbed some bratswurst from outside, purchased some souvenirs, and rode the ferris wheel. After we purchased our tickets for the ferris wheel, we found ourselves in a mass of people waiting for their turn. Not a line, a mass/sea/conglomeration of people… apparently they don’t believe in lines… The view was awesome… I didn’t realize how huge of an event this was. Think of a county/state fair only about 76.4x cooler… There’s people of all ages (and I mean ALL AGES, lots of preschool kids on field trips and old people hanging out as well), carnival rides/games, lots of food, etc etc etc. 


Making America Proud… chug, chug, chug.

10 minutes later that Italian will shatter my mug of beer…

View from the ferris wheel. 

To sum it all up, this has definitely been my favorite weekend so far… the people are great, the food is yummy, the air is clean and refreshing and I could keep going but I think you get the picture. One thing that was really strange for me was truly not being able to comprehend another language. As I said, most Germans speak english (apparently they learn it in 4th grade) thank goodness else I wouldn’t have known what to do! I’ve never been so lost before… 

Also, I have found another reason why America is so obese. Europe doesn’t understand the concept of “unlimited” when in comes to food. One night in Munich we grabbed Pizza Hut for dinner (I know, sooo American but Pizza Hut’s abroad are actually nice-ish sit down restaurants) and they advertised a new “free” refill option for drinks but it cost about 2euro more to get these “free” refills…. so bizarre…

I believe that’s it for now. It’s been awhile since my last post and since I’ve returned to Madrid from Germany so I’ve probably forgotten some details… I love Germany and would totally go back one day.

Sending my love to all…


Hil xox 

Filed under munich beer oktoberfest abroad germany

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let’s go to the movies (edición española)

Today I legitimately spent the entire day at/around school (9a-7p with a break from 10:20-1:30). I only have class Mondays and Wednesdays so there has to be a downside somewhere, right? Today I had my cinema class for the first time. After looking over the syllabus it finally clicked why this class is the only 3 hour offered, each session we will be watching a movie directed by Pedro Almodóvar. We reviewed the syllabus and our professor told us that we would be spending the last portion of our class at a movie theater to watch Almodóvar’s latest movie, pretty cool, eh? We ended up watching a movie that was not so cool… I have seen ad’s for it all over Spain and from the picture I thought to myself everytime I passed one “Well that movie looks creeptastic…” I noticed the posters only because Antonio Banderas is one of the main characters in the movie…

La Piel Que Habito… The Skin I Live In 

I’ll save you from all the gory details… but basically I have never seen so much sex, boobs, rape, etc on a movie/TV screen. Not going to lie, I was semi-traumatized and after that hour and a half-ish the last of my childish innocence was definitely taken from me, I was NOT expecting to see all of that… quite the experience to say the least. Oh and our professor was there with us, talk about weird/awkward (there’s only 6 of us taking the class, all girls). On another note, Antonio Banderas is HOT for an old man, in this movie the way he had his hair made him look a lot like a spanish version of George Clooney (another old man who is suuuper attractive, yum). Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure all of his movies are like this… while looking over the movies listed on our syllabus two other girls and I recognized one of the movies (the professor teaching this course taught for awhile at USD our freshman year). Thankfully it’s not as graphic but it is still shocking… 

Other things I noticed at my first time in a Spanish theater…

1. There is not stadium seating which is awkward because you’re sitting so low, thank heavens no one tall sat in front of me… 

2. The popcorn isn’t slathered with fatty butter (reason #2342 why America is obese) like it is at home but it’s still really good!

3. People actually stay for the credits, weird…

In other news, in both my Civilization of Spain and Problem of God class I learned that gay marriage is legal here in Spain (yay España!). I was a little surprised because it is a predominantly Catholic country but that made this little tid-bit of info even cooler. So far I am enjoying all of my classes. My theology and ethics professors are married and moved here from the States about 13 years ago (um, new life goal? I think YES). I think my Prob of God professor likes me because she stopped me today after class and told me I reminded her of her niece (and complimented my hairline? not quite sure about that but ok) and we had a nice little chat. My Civ of Spain class is also really small like my cinema class… there’s 7 of us girls and that’s it. I’m a fan of small classes because we all get to bond so much. 

On my way home today I felt so so happy. I’ve only actually been in Madrid for about a week but getting a routine started is just what the doctor ordered! I still need to figure out what the heck I am doing tomorrow since everyone will be in class… Maybe attempt to workout… who knows? 

¡Hasta luego!


Hil xox

P.S. If any family/friends reading this have blackberries, message me your BBM pin on Facebook [:

Filed under almodovar movies cinema cina banderas spain abroad routine

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more from yesterday

Last night I ended up staying in… I don’t think I’ve ever been soooo tired in my entire life! To make things worse, we had class at 8:30 this morning (yes, on a SUNDAY. wahh… I keep forgetting the “study” part of “study abroad” oops). Valencia is gorgeous! 

Center of Arts and Sciences. Valencia, Spain.

Oh my goodness, last night I am beyond embarrassed to say that I had McD’s for dinner!!!! UGH! I almost NEVER eat it at home but it was quick, easy, and close to the hotel at the food court in El Corte Ingles (a megastore that’s like, costco, nordie’s, and target on steriods!!!)

My profesora, Isabel is possibly the cuuutest ever! She was born in Valencia and now teaches at a university in Madrid. She young and is really fashionable. I would totally hang out with her on a weekend or something.

Today we have a free day (weeeee!) so me and a few friends are going to wander down to the beach and try the Agua de Valencia. Apparently, it’s a citrus-y drink that is native to this area. Profesora Isabel claims that the alcohol is different (read: stronger) here in Spain than in the U.S. She says she knows this because she went to school over in the states. She has warned us multiple times to be extremely careful to NEVER leave drinks alone and to watch what the bartenders pour in our drinks (don’t worry mom, I’ve been VERY vigilant) I’m also going to give paella another shot because the last time I tried it, it was WAY to salty but I guess it originated from here so maybe it will be better (?). They also have their own version of horchata here which I like a lot better than mexican horchata, it’s verrry sweet and rich. 

Tomorrow morning we have another 7 hour bus ride to Granada where I have to give a presentation about the Alhambra. I’m hoping the wifi situation there doesn’t completely suck… (we only get 30 min at a time here, bleh)

Until next time…


Hil xox

Filed under valencia spain barcelona abroad

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So close, yet so far…

This is it… the home stretch! I leave for Madrid in 16 days and it can’t come any sooner! I still feel so unprepared but I am sooo excited!!! Tonight I got together with a few friends from school and it made me realize how much I will miss seeing everyone, every single day on campus… so happy I had the opportunity to see them!

It’s kind of overwhelming to think about everything I have to do before I go… leave it up to me to wait until the last minute to get everything organized, so typical! 

I am seriously so lucky and blessed that I am able to go back to the country I feel in love with almost 4 years ago (wow, was junior year of high school THAT long ago?! YIKES!)… thanks Mom and Dad, you are seriously THE best! Can’t wait to share my Spanish/European adventures with you all! 


Hil xox

First trip to Madrid, Spain (in front of Museo del Prado)

Filed under madrid abroad spain excited europe