Today, me and my roommate Courtney had a nice trip planned to Amsterdam. It’s our last weekend here in Europe so we figured we would end with a bang! We woke up at 4:30am to catch the first tram before 5am to go downtown and catch the MegaBus. We made it out the apartment in 25 min. Halfway to the tram stop I ask Courtney if she has her passport…we run back to the apartment. As I wait outside for her in the distance I see a tram pass by. She comes back down and when I told her what I just saw we run back to the tram stop (that’s the most I’ve worked out this entire trip.) We get there and look at the times… indeed that was our tram and we just missed it. We were freaking out trying to find our best alternative to get downtown on time. The MegaBus was suppose to leave Brussels at 6:10am. We call the 2 taxi cab numbers that I have stored on my phone and none of them work. The likelihood of finding a taxi where we live is so slim. Fortunately, Courtney was able to stop one that was driving by. We end up getting downtown extra early and we lounge around the train station until it’s time to head to the bus stop. I kid you not we waited 1hr and 20min for this bus and it DID NOT arrive. It was ridiculously cold and we couldn’t take it anymore. After conversing with the Spaniards that were also waiting we decided to head back home. As soon as we get back home Courtney calls MegaBus to get our money refunded and turns out the bus was stuck in London and hadn’t even made it to Paris yet! Thank goodness we left and didn’t wait around any longer. All of this happened before 8am without the sun being out. What a start to our day… Can’t do much but laugh about it. Everything happens for a reason.
This past Saturday I went to Liège, Belgium with my host family. We went to go enjoy the Christmas Market. This was my first time going to a Christmas Market and it was the cutest thing! I had such a great time.
The market was filled with different stands that had all sorts of things. You could explore stands for hours. I even ended up buying a souvenir to take back home. The sweetest thing was when my host sister ended up getting me and my roommate a gift!! She’s so cute!
While there me and my roommate went sledding with our host sister. I was a tad scared… I’m not going to lie. I’ve never done something like it before. We had a small plastic shovel that we had to sit on and then slide down this small ramp. The first time going down I grabbed my roommate’s hand without meaning too. Then the second time I kept stopping myself mid-way through the sliding process that I ended up losing my shovel x_x I laughed so hard when I got to the bottom.
We also went ice skating. That made it my second time on the ice. I’m actually pretty good at it! It’s probably because I know how to rollerblade. That was horrible ice to skate on though! It was pretty dangerous because it was easy to fall. There were so many kids and a lot of teens were careless while skating trying to do all these fancy tricks .__. It really annoyed me! I met the cutest little girl and we skated together. She kept wanting me to hold her hand it was too adorable to handle!! ^_^ She had beautiful curly hair! She reminded me of myself at her age!
While there I learned that waffles come from Liège and all this time I thought they came from Brussels. I also tried Tartiflette! It’s absolutely delicious! It’s a mix of potatoes, cheese, onions, and wine! I will definitely try to make it back in the states!
It was a long but great day! So happy I got to visit the Christmas Market!
Interesting Fact: Earlier in the day we bumped into St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was accompanied by this really creepy guy! I was so disturbed because this guy painted himself dark and he had the creepiest facial expression! After some research I figured out that in some French regions St. Nicholas is accompanied by a guy called Père Fouettard who gives coal or spanks to the naughty kids. If you were to tell me a guy like that was going to give me coal or spank me for being naughty I would definitely try my hardest to be on that nice list!!!! Poor kids!
“Me enamore de Sevilla, España.” I am convinced that out of all the cities I have visited, during my study abroad experience, Sevilla has been my favorite (Vienna was second.) I fell in love with absolutely everything, the food, the music, the atmosphere, the language and accent, the people, the architecture…the culture in general consumed you to the point where leaving made you sad.
I went to Sevilla to meet up with some friends and enjoy my birthday weekend. It turned out to be a greater experience than I expected. I didn’t think I would fall in love with the city. I stayed in a single room in Hostal Florida. It was great! The room was clean, nicely organized, and had a TV. I was satisfied! I payed about 48 Euros for 2 nights. I only slept on the bed one night because Sunday my flight was at 7:45am and we stayed out till 4am partying and celebrating. It was my last time taking Ryanair to travel in Europe. Going back home was the worse experience. There was so much turbulence! I hate turbulence. I was running on no sleep just a 1.5 hour nap, and we took about 5 tequila shots to celebrate our experience that night! It was definitely worth it though.
We ate tapas the entire time I was there. They were so delicious that every time they were placed in front of us we ate them quickly. Ordering a couple would equal to a full meal and all at a really good price! Everything I ate was less than 6 Euros! I loved chorizo it tasted delicious! I kinda wish I had more. I even orederd a tapa of Jamón ibérico “cured meat.” That was interesting. Tasted good though.
I was able to see live Flamenco! It was absolutely beautiful! The lyrics just took my breath away and the rhythm was just hypnotizing. There was so much soul in the music I could of listened to it all night! Truly an amazing experience!
On our way to Calle Betis, a street a tad similar to Delirium here in Brussels but just more open and not so narrow, we stopped by the Guadalquivir river. It had an amazing view! Gorgeous just absolutely breathtaking! We also passed by la Torre del Oro. It seriously reminded me of Rapunzel. I always pictured her dropping her hair down from a tower similar to la Torre del Oro. The bars in Calle Betis were more spacious than the bars in Delirium and you were able to dance if you wanted.
The cathedral was absolutely HUGE! It is so big you couldn’t take a picture of the entire thing unless you were taking pictures up from the sky. We had 1 Euro beers in front of la Iglesia de El Salvador. That was different. I never seen something like it! The place was packed! Full of people drinking in front of the church. Afterwards, we went inside the church with beer in our system… no big deal. The details inside the church were absolutely impressive. There were so many intricate details everywhere! It was a lot to take in.
We met so many interesting people! We had so many cheap drinks! 1.50 Euro shots! Absolutely unbelievable! My friend even got me a Birthday shot! I was so happy! Exactly what I needed to finally feel 21!
There was also this hot dog stand outside this club we went too. Seriously, best selling strategy ever. That was the best hot dog I have ever tasted in my life!!!! I don’t think I will ever taste something like it again!
Sevilla was absolutely amazing! I need to return!
It was really hard being away from home on my 21st Birthday and Thanksgiving. I decided to look on the bright side and take it as an opportunity to just appreciate the many things I have. As I start the 21st first year of my life I have many blessings: my family, friends, another year of life, and the opportunity to study in Europe. It’s important to be positive during the hard times.
It was remembering all the things I have to be grateful for that really helped me have a good Birthday. I had to write a paper but I did it with a smile on my face. The sun shined bright on a city that’s usually gloomy, wet, and cold. My host sister baked me a delicious marble cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me in French! We toasted to my 21st year and I took my first ‘legal’ drink (according to USA law.) Afterwards my roommate and I went out with some friends to have a couple of drinks at Delirium. I had a light Busch beer. I couldn’t believe the alcohol percentage in that beer. It did its job though. It was the perfect way to end a “beginning of the week birthday.”
There is no Thanksgiving in Europe because it’s an American holiday. So my roommate and I decided to bring Thanksgiving to Europe. We cooked a small dinner for our host family. We cooked things that would be traditional for our Thanksgiving meals. Thank goodness I had some saźon left over. It was all a success! Thanksgiving is about being grateful and sharing that with others and that’s exactly what I did.
I never got the chance to talk about my caving or “spelunking” experience in Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is known for its hot springs and famous thermal baths. The hot water rushing up from deep underground formed a huge cave system.
It was truly an amazing experience and one of the coolest things I have done. We were given overalls, helmets, and lights. I felt so official with my red overalls and combat boots. We had a great tour guide that helped us crawl through narrow passages, climb up and down walls, and walk through tight spaces. We even found interesting crystals, fossils, and cool shaped rocks. The ground was moist and sometimes you found drops of water hanging from the rocks. It was extremely dark without the lights. We all had to sit in the darkness and it was incredible. We couldn’t see our hands in front of us. There was also pure silence you could hear your echo. Great for singing.
My biggest challenge was crawling through this really tight hole. I was doing great until I couldn’t get my waist through the hole. My combat boots just kept digging themselves more and more into the moist ground and my helmet kept blocking my eyesight. I had to be pulled out … I wish I had the proper spelunking boots. But even getting stuck was exhilarating! The experience was a great workout! I would definitely recommend everyone to put this on their bucket list!
When I arrived to Budapest I didn’t realize how much the city has to offer. With Big Bus tours I discovered that Budapest has so much history, beautiful statues, beautiful scenery, and so many things to discover.
The bus took us up Gellért Hill on the Buda side. The hill overlooks Budapest and the Danube River. It was named after Saint Gerard who was thrown to death from the hill. It was an absolutely beautiful view up on the hill. You don’t see something so breathtaking everyday. On the top of the hill resides the Szabadság Szobor or the Budapest Statue of Liberty. It is there in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. The statue is beautiful!
Before we embarked on our river tour we stopped by the Shoes on the Danube Promenade (on the Pest side,) a memorial that honors the Jews who were killed by the Arrow cross militiamen in Budapest during WWII. The Jews were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river, but before being shot they were asked to take off their shoes. The shoes in the memorial represent the shoes of victims left behind on the bank. It was a beautiful memorial. I really had to take a moment to take in how horrific it must of looked to have so many shoes on the promenade and dead bodies flowing on the river…a terrible image.
We were about 1.5 hours early to the river tour. After the monument and deciding to take advantage of this extremely fancy bathroom in a hotel restaurant, we went to go wait inside the boat. We got their to find out we had to wait inside this restaurant boat until it was time to board the tour boat. At this point I had the most intense headache and I was beyond exhausted. We finally board the tour boat and decide to stay inside because it was getting chilly outside. The boat ride was so soothing that we each ended up taking a small nap. The river and buildings looked amazing at night! The lights on the buildings and bridges shined so bright. Throughout the boat ride the lady talking through the voiceover or recorded (whatever it was) had the most monotone driest voice ever! No wonder we took naps! I couldn’t even pay attention. Towards the end of the tour the boring lady stopped talking and some other lady started singing Bob Marley songs. That was pretty funny because we pictures dome Hungarian lady going in on these songs. The annoying drunk couples singing along WAS NOT funny and didn’t help the ridiculous headache I had.
To be Continued….
I went to Budapest, Hungary for 4 days for a small vacation with some friends. It was quite the experience. Definitely a city I would recommend for people to visit. I had no idea where Budapest was prior to this trip. I even had to look up how to say Hungary in Spanish when my grandmother asked me where Budapest was, clearly not a city I’m talking about on a daily basis. However, I’m extremely happy I went because not only do I now know how to say Hungary in Spanish, “Hungria,” but I also learned a lot about Budapest’s history and was able to explore its beauty.
Budapest is the capital and largest city in Hungary with 23 districts. There are 2 sides to Budapest, “Buda” and “Pest,” they are divided by the Danube River, which flows into the Black Sea. The currency used in Hungary is the Forint. 275 Forint is equal to 1 Euro and 210 Forint is equal to 1 US dollar. I absolutely hated the Forint! Too much math for me! I absolutely hate calculations!
To explore the city we used Big Bus tours. We were able to visit a lot of historical sites. The first site was Heroes Square in the Pest side of the city. In the center of the square is the Millennium Monument with statues of the 7 tribal leaders who founded Hungary as well as other important people in Hungarian history.
Our trip to Budapest wouldn’t have been complete without a day in one of Budapest’s famous baths. The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. It’s also the first thermal bath of Pest. The water supply for the bath comes from a hot-spring water with calcium, magnesium, hydro-carbonate, and fluoride. The Széchenyi Thermal Bath was truly an experience. For starters the baths were filled with hairy men in speedos… that was pretty funny. We had to rent towels (we didn’t have any) and wait in a ridiculous long line because there was only 1 person working. After we changed into our bathing suits we had to walk outside to the freezing cold to get into the hot and relaxing waters. That was definitely worth the cold because it was so relaxing just being in the hot water surrounded by all the steam. It made you forget that you were outside in really cold temperature. We then decided to explore the insides of the spa. We found more baths and a sauna. I always wanted to try a sauna! However, because I had no flip flops I was pretty grossed out. The sauna was filled with old, fat, sweaty, hairy men rubbing their sweat into their bodies! I was definitely stepping on some of that sweat! But I still tried it for the experience!
Nothing was more gorgeous in Budapest than Parliament and the Grand Palace “Buda Castle.” We saw them both on the bus tour, when we visited the Castle District, and during the river tour Big Bus tours also offered. Parliament is built in Neo-Gothic style and has 691 rooms. It is located on the bank of the Danube river and serves as the permanent seat of the National Assembly. In WWII, the Buda Palace and the Castle District were the last refuge of the Germany Army, which fell under heavy siege from the invading Soviet Army. When we were up on the Castle District (Buda side) we were able to watch Hungarian soldiers change guards. It was pretty funny because at some points it looked like they were posing for the tourists as we all took pictures. We also came across this crazy old man who kept asking people if they wanted their photo taken by him. He was pretty creepy. He did let us know that the changing of guards was going to happen in a few minutes so his craziness was of some use to us. The view from the Castle District was absolutely stunning. Left you speechless as you looked at the Pest side.
To be continued…
I really enjoyed today because it was such a simple yet productive day. The day started out cold and wet, the usual Brussels weather, but in the afternoon the sun came out and was shining bright!
I spent the afternoon with my host mom. She took me to a bookstore called filiber very similar to Barnes & Nobles. I was very pleased because I love Barnes & Nobles so exploring the store was fun. There were so many people and French books everywhere. There was even a small section in the middle to eat and drink coffee/tea while reading books. We had quiches for lunch at the store. After my host mom showed me around the store and we ate lunch, I ended up spending most of my time in the history section. I browsed through the Mythology and Cleopatra books. It was interesting browsing through books in French about subjects that interest me.
Afterwards we went to go see a French movie. This time I experienced a new theater called UGC. This theater felt more old school than Kinepolis. The seats were ridiculously comfy though. We went to see the movie Dans La Maison “In The House.” The movie is directed by François Ozon and it is based off the Spanish play by Juan Mayorga, “El chico de la última fila.” The movie is about a 16 year old boy, Claude Garcia, and his passion for writing. Claude uses his classmate’s, Rapha Artole, family as the main characters in a series of essays he writes for his French teacher, M.Germain. The teacher becomes very intrigued by the boy and his essays and persuades him to continue to write. This leads to a series of events that makes it impossible for the audience and the teacher to decipher what is fiction and what is reality. It is truly a movie that plays with your head and leads to an ending no one expects. You are left with a series of questions and left to write your own ending.
The movie only had subtitles in Dutch. I had to depend on my French listening skills and surprisingly I understood a lot of the dialogue! I was extremely proud of myself! French movies never cease to amaze me though. They always take a step further. The intense sex scenes, the sensitive subjects they cover, they just aren’t scared to cross the line. The movie was very good and it was hard to not pay attention.
I can’t believe my study abroad experience is almost over! I sit here writing this realizing how much I’ve experienced and how much I have grown as a person. The days are quickly flying and December is around the corner. Each day I experience something new.
For instance, Friday I had my first digestif. My host mom took my host sister and I to an Italian restaurant named Phenix. I ordered this delicious pasta that had a creamy orange sauce, peas, mushrooms, and this italian pork, lardo. Afterwards, my host mom insisted I tried Limoncello. It is an Italian lemon liquor mainly produced in Southern Italy. It was a pretty strong drink. Definitely after 3 Limoncello’s the capacity to function normally lowers because the one shot of Limoncello I had made me so tired. You don’t see people drinking digestifs in America after a meal. Interesting to know that in some cultures that is completely normal.
So far I’ve visited Antwerp, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Austria and I have a trip planned for Budapest, Hungary this upcoming weekend! I love that I’m visiting places I never would of even imagined myself in. Most of these places I didn’t even know of! This experience has shown me how much there is to see in the world! How the world is just filled with opportunities! Dreams and determination can take you a long way!
The sense of relief I feel truly feels amazing!
Today, I took the second part of my French midterm and handed in my annual report assignment (we made up a company) for my Business Writing and Social Networking class. All I have left is a French presentation on Wednesday. After that I have no big assignments due until November! I just hope I get good grades on all my midterms and assignments.
My French exam was inside the actual VUB school. Since VeCo is just a partner school with VUB we have classes in a building next to Citi Bank across the street from one of the exits of the VUB campus. The building is shared with other institutions so we only use 2 floors in the entire building. It felt nice to actually walk around a campus building. The classroom was in the E building and it was a lecture room. When I walked inside I was reminded of Rutgers! I have always had at least one lecture class every semester since my Freshman year. I’m not used to a small school at all! It felt nicebeing in a big room with seats and desks.
Side note: No idea why there was a random sink in the room
I also decided to get myself one of the famous European “snack subs…” I felt I deserved it. I usually get a Kaas when I buy them at school (cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded carrots, lettuce, and honey mustard.) This time I decided to try the Mona Lisa (Italian ham, parmesan cheese, lettuce, and dressing.) To drink I ordered an ice tea. Once I take a sip I realized the ice tea is made with carbonated water! Seriously everything here has carbonated water! I don’t mind it but the ice tea!!! Really? .__.