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Category Archives: Solo Time

Solo Time Italian Style

A long break from school meant travelling time so my roommates and I decided on a week in Italy. I travelled to Italy this past summer with my family for three weeks so I was excited to go back and experience these places with my friends. We spent time in Rome, Florence, and Venice. Traveling with a big group of girls is great but there were a few times when I needed a little time to myself. Two of my favorite solo times were in Florence and Venice.

We spent several days in Florence and I was surprised at how much I remembered from my time there this summer, I knew where everything was and felt very confident finding things. One afternoon we were all at the big central market where all kinds of booths were selling things, leather goods in particular. We decided on a meeting time and place and set off to shop. I didn’t really feel much need for shopping so I set off to walk through Florence a little and to my favorite place; the Ponte Vecchio. This is an amazing bridge overlooking the  Arno River. It is lined with shops and in the center offers beautiful views of the city and river. I found a little spot on the wall of the bridge to sit down and people watch. All sorts of people were coming up and taking pictures on the bridge. It was a breath of fresh air from the craziness of our trip and the bridge was even more beautiful than I remember.

We only planned 24 hours in Venice, mostly because that city can be done in a day. We had a very productive afternoon, visiting St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. Before dinner I decided to do something I loved when I was here this summer: get lost in Venice. I left the group to walk through the streets of Venice for a while before pulling out my map and finding my way back to the hostel. Venice was my favorite place this summer and I only loved it more the second time. I love the idea of the city being on water, with no cars but instead small streets and bridges. It was beautiful and different in the winter. I knew that I would be saying goodbye to Italy the next day so I spent a few extra minutes taking it all in. Italian is such a beautiful language and I loved listening to the almost musical noise as I walked passed people. Italy was a great trip with friends but I definitely loved my moments of solo time.

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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Solo Time, Travel

 

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Casa Batlló

This week I spent some solo time exploring the work of a major figure in Barcelona’s history: Antonio Gaudí. Casa Batlló was the particular work I visited, taking some time to walk along Passeig de Grácia before heading inside. The outside of the building alone is amazing and is a perfect description of Gaudí’s architecture. It is sometimes called the House of Bones because of its skeletal look from the outside. The audio guide was free with entrance and I loved taking my time travelling throughout the house and learning all I could about it. The whole building itself has so many marine influences with colors and shapes coming from the sea.

There were a few particular parts of the house that caught my attention the most; the curvy walls, the big windows looking out onto Passeig de Grácia, the lightwell with the blue tiles, and the roof. The whole building was filled with curvy walls, I don’t think there was one straight or flat wall in the whole place. It really gave the house a unique feel and you could tell you were in someplace special. The big windows in the living room on the first floor were amazing. They stretched across the whole wall giving a perfect few of one of Barcelona’s main streets below. The light well was incredible, I have never seen anything like it. The blue mosaic tiles looked beautiful when the light hit them and I was impressed with Gaudí’s creativity. My favorite part was the roof. It is designed to look like a dragon from the street with more mosaic tiles covering it. There is so much space to walk around on the roof and I spent a lot of time just sitting up there. I have been in high places several times in Barcelona but they have all been from outside the city center. This time it was different, I was in the heart of the city on that rooftop, there were buildings all around me and I could hear the hustle of the city from below. It was a perfect time to reflect on my time in Barcelona and enjoy the beautiful city.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Solo Time

 

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Thanksgiving in Barcelona

Trying to celebrate a holiday in a country that doesn’t celebrate that holiday is an interesting task, especially for a girl who really loves that holiday. Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays since I can remember, probably because the whole family gets together and there seems to be an endless amount of food. When I signed up to go abroad I knew that I would miss Thanksgiving and I’m okay with that, even though I missed home a little extra on Thanksgiving this year. This is pretty much the exact opposite of solo time but I wanted to do a post to share about the wonderful Barcelona family I have formed here.

Since Thanksgiving is not celebrated here, a group of us decided to make our own Thanksgiving. It was weird for all of us that we had to go to school on that day because our entire lives we have always know Thanksgiving as a day of having no school. However, we all gathered together for a big Thanksgiving meal. I volunteered to make mashed potatoes, mostly because they are one of my favorite foods, but also because how can you have a Thanksgiving meal without mashed potatoes? Since there was such a large group of us I used 42, yes forty-two, potatoes. It was quite a process but after a few hours and a bad blister all the potatoes were peeled, cut, cooked, and mashed. Luckily they turned out to be a big hit and I was able to take some leftovers home! The rest of our meal consisted of stuffing, cornbread, cranberry sauce, gravy, salad, and chicken. Unfortunately trying to find and cook a huge turkey just didn’t make sense so I will have to wait until I am back home for Christmas dinner to get my turkey fix. When we were all gathered eating together I took a moment to step back and realize how thankful I am for this opportunity to be abroad. I have had some of the best experiences of my life and I will never forget my times with these people and these places.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Food and Drink, Solo Time

 

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Escaping the city…Montserrat

I love a big city, I have spent the last three months living in one of the biggest cities in Spain and visiting some of the biggest cities in Europe. But every once and a while it’s nice to get a little break from all the craziness. My solo time this week was a little trip to a place called Montserrat, a mountain a little ways outside Barcelona. There are several options on how to get there and I decided on the cable car. First I took a train from Espanya to the bottom of the mountain, about an hour journey. From there I took a small yellow cable car up to Montserrat. It was a breathtaking ride with beautiful views and thankfully I have no fear of heights so I was able to enjoy the short trip to the top. Once at the top I just stood there for a moment looking around at all the mountains and the views surrounding me.

To me it seemed like Montserrat was a sort of mini town on top of this mountain. It was built around the monastery but there was quite a lot going on in this place. I first made my way to the lookout points. Along the way I came across a cute little market. Booths were lining the streets selling jam, honey, cheese, and a few other things. I spent some time taste testing and in the end picked up a jar of some delicious honey. The atmosphere of this market was so happy and peaceful that I took my time walking around both times I passed through it. Once I got to the lookout points I could see so much of the surrounding area; the mountains, some with snow on their peaks, and the small towns below. It was pretty cold up at the top and I wasn’t exactly prepared for that so I headed to go inside the monastery. The outside was beautiful but the inside was what really blew me away. It was completely decorated everywhere and very ornate. It was surprisingly crowded but I enjoyed sitting inside for a few minutes and relaxing. I spent the next hour walking through the shops and grabbing a bite to eat before heading down the mountain and back to Barcelona. Montserrat was such a great day trip and the perfect solo time escape.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Solo Time, Travel

 

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Peer Encounter

My solo time entry this week is not quite solo time but this peer encounter has been such an important part of my time here in Barcelona that I wanted to share. This peer encounter that I am talking about is an assignment from one of my other classes. At the beginning of the term we were paired up with a native Catalan student from the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. Throughout the term we have written papers discussing the cultural differences we notice between our peer contact and ourselves. We have covered a variety of topics including, language, social identity, extra-curricular activities, pop culture, university life, religion, and politics. Each meeting I have a set of questions to use as guidelines for interviewing my peer contact. The great thing is that most times we start of with the questions for the general topics and then carry on into discussions of our own. We both love learning about the other’s culture. I am paired up with a girl my age so it is very interesting to see how much we have in common even though we are from two different cultures.

Two major topics we continually talked about were our identities as well as the university system here compared to that of the states. When talking about identity I learned a lot from my peer contact. Her and I are similar in some ways such as we are both very open-minded and aren’t strongly associated with one particular side of politics. However, I noticed some very prominent differences in the way in which we define our identities and how they were constructed. The ways we identify with social groups, how our identities were constructed by religion and how are nationalities affect our daily lives were all differences I noticed throughout our discussion. In terms of the university systems the three major differences I found were the issue of cost, student-professor relationships, and extra-curricular activities. The cost for university in Spain was extremely less than that in the United States. I also discovered that professors here do not seem to have as much available time or focus on their relationship with students whereas in the U.S. spending time with your professor is highly encouraged. What I was most shocked about is that extra-curricular activities are basically non-existent in Spanish universities and in the states you can’t walk more than ten feet on a college campus without seeing a sign or poster for some extra-curricular activity.

These experiences with my peer contact have been an amazing opportunity for me to get to know what life is like for students in Spain in a very direct way. It has become so much more than a class assignment, as I have been exposed to Spanish culture and formed a relationship with a great friend.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Solo Time

 

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The Capital of Spain

I couldn’t justify coming to Spain and not going to Madrid so this weekend I spent a few days in Spain’s capital. In an effort to help my bank account I took the overnight bus from Barcelona to Madrid and in hindsight would probably have paid the extra 40 euros to fly. There was a group of us from Barcelona who went for the weekend and we spent all day Friday seeing all the “touristy” parts of Madrid. We hit Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, Cathedral de la Almudena, and the Prado Museum. It was quite the day and we enjoyed seeing all we could. After a short siesta we headed to find some food. A place called El Tigre was recommended to us and it ended up being the perfect place. It was packed when we walked in and it took a while but we finally elbowed our way to a space at the bar. With each drink you order a huge plate of tapas comes with it for free. So spending 6 euros on a mojito not only quenched my thirst but after the endless tapas I was stuffed. We spent the rest of the night enjoying the nightlife of Madrid, stopping in Dubliners for a while to watch some American sports.

The next morning was a little bit of a struggle to wake up but after a short trip to the Ventas bullfighting arena we decided to head to Retiro Park. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the park, just enjoying the day. I decided to go on a little solo walk and found myself loving the sense of fall. All the trees had orange, red, and yellow leaves and the crisp air made the season feel so real.

After a beautiful afternoon in the park, I decided to head back to the Royal Palace before dinner. I walked through the gardens behind the palace and remembered one of my mom’s favorite things. She loves to people watch, so I took a seat on a bench and just observed everyone walking through the gardens. It is amazing to me how much of the world I have not seen, each person that walked by was different. Of course there were a few Americans but there were also so many other cultures represented that it made for a great experience. Sometimes I would try to guess where a certain person or group was from but at some point I just stopped and enjoyed everything going on around me. This idea of solo time has really turned into something special for me. It is so easy to go take a few moments by yourself and my time alone has been some of the most rewarding time I have spent while abroad.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Solo Time, Travel

 

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At the top of Barcelona…TIBIDABO!

This week I decided that I needed to go see more of Barcelona. I have been to Las Ramblas countless times and I have spent a lot of time walking around the downtown area of Barcelona, I wanted to do something different. Tibidabo was the perfect activity. It’s quite the journey to actually get to the top of the mountain, metro to ferrocarril to cable car to funicular…but the view alone at the top makes it all worth it, not to mention all the other excitement Tibidabo has to offer. This seems an unusual place for a person to go by themselves but I knew I wanted to see it and I do not have many free days in Barcelona. When I first got off the funicular I let all the little kids rush past me with their parents following close behind. I am usually a person that loves to be busy and going and going but I wanted to just enjoy a relaxed pace and take in the atmosphere.

I first just walked around the basic level of Tibidabo and looked out over all of Barcelona. I was so impressed with how big the city looked, I hadn’t ever seen all of Barcelona like that. The beautiful sweeping view of the city made me never want to leave that spot but I decided to venture up to the cathedral. When I got up there it was an even better view than before and I didn’t think that was possible. I spent some time trying to find the monuments I knew: Sagrada Familia, the twin towers by the beach, Montjuic and then just sat and looked over my beautiful city. I thought about going into the amusement park but when I realized it was 25 euros I decided against it, my student budget couldn’t quite handle that. Instead I opted for a coffee and found a nice little spot to sit and people watch.

One of the main things I noticed was the way parents handled their children. I was sitting in an area that was filled with kiddie rides so there were kids everywhere. I noticed that most of the parents were just sitting off to the side talking with one another. They would look up every once and a while but didn’t really seem to be overly controlling their children. This is very different from the States in that it seems like parents are always hovering over their children. I liked that the parents could enjoy themselves at the same time the kids were playing and everything was going smoothly the entire time. Maybe that’s a little something us Americans can take into consideration.

I truly enjoyed my time at Tibidabo and maybe I’ll be heading back there sometime again before I leave. As I left I got to look at this beautiful view and remember it for the rest of the day.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Solo Time

 

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