spain

february 2018… basically just spain

as of february 10 we have been married one year. we decided to go to spain for our anniversary and planning the trip and anticipating showing tyler all my favorite things in spain made winter bearable.

we didn’t have much of a plan, but tyler was convinced he wanted to drive around the country and see as much as possible in nine days… and by the end, i think we were both wishing we had taken things a bit slower! we got home definitely needing a vacation from our vacation! but it was so awesome. i loved having my worlds collide by taking my husband to some of the places that had shaped me. and seeing him try to understand castillian spanish and figure out how to order food and what the hell a “bocadillo” was ended up being quite hilarious.

so! our trip. we started out in madrid. we flew in on a red eye, got wifi at the coveted mcdonald’s free wifi station, and walked around a bit. we were incredibly tired, so we got churros con chocolate from san gines, the BEST in spain, and headed out on our road trip. we spent the night halfway between madrid and barcelona and slept for about 15 hours.

the following day we drove north towards figureres, the home of dalí and his art. we stopped at montserrat, a monestary in the high spanish mountains. i wanted to see the view i had missed when i was there in 2010. it was beautiful. and by the time we were heading back the fog had rolled in and the rains come. we had made it just in time.

figueres was a town i had never been to, but ended up loving. we stayed right next to  a church in a cute apartment that overlooked el museo dalí. we spent our time there eating tapas, walking the city streets in search of coca light, and visiting the museum. it was a sensational delight, truly. i recommend it completely. here’s tyler’s “art outfit” and “art appreciation stance”

our time spent in barcelona was short and COLD. haha we made the best of things and walked around the parque guell for the view of the city, then down to city center for a tour of la sagrada familia. also, more great food and expensive parking. sagrada familia was fantastic, even better than i remembered. it is still not complete, but much different than 8 years ago when i was there. it is so beautiful and indescribable, you must go. and we will have to go again too because we accidentally watched the entire video in catalán instead of english or spanish, so we definitely missed some important parts.

our next day was a travel day in which we had to cover a lot of ground in our volkwagen polo, so we stopped in multiple cities along the way. valencia for orange juice (duh) and then alicante for the beach, sun, food, and people watching. it was actually warm there, so i was incredibly happy and my spirit renewed. and i got to take off my ugly black coat so i was happy. that night we stayed in granada and had a lovely dinner of paella for el dia de san valentín!

in the early AM the next day we piled our stuff back into the car and drove to el caminito del rey, which is a hike along sheer cliffs that tyler had wanted to do. it was scary. i like to try everything and heights usually don’t get to me, but this place took my breath away. it was beautiful country though. and tyler was happy, and we were outside, so overall good? besides the terror.

our next stop was ronda. favorite part of the trip for me! ronda is small town high in the mountains of andalucia. hemingway loved ronda, and wrote about it a lot. it is also the home of bullfighting. ronda is built up on a cliff, and there are multiple connecting bridges all around the city that are so lovely. below the city are farms and olive groves for as far as the eye can see. it was such a relaxing, beautiful stay. we explored the city by foot and by car for all the best sites. also, we found a grocery store where you could squeeze your own orange juice from the BEST oranges and i felt like i had won the lottery. from ronda we took one day trip to marbella, which is on the sea to the south. lots of boats, finery, and money clearly run the city. it was a fun trip to see how vacationing europeans live.

and on our last day in spain we drove to alcalá de henares to see my poveda familia!!! it was almost nerve wracking driving to see them! tyler said he felt like he was going home to meet my parents. haha being in alcalá was great and strange. seeing streets i had walked down a million times and places i had forgotten about was a real trip! and i only got us lost once.  🙂

we ate dinner with fernando, pilar, and the whole gang. they recently sold their house and renovated the store they owned into a house, so we spent time going through and seeing everything, right now to the closets’ interior. it was great. both their sons and their families came, so i got to see everyone and try to understand everyone’s accents. between tyler and i, we did ok. it was so great to see everyone again. they are completely the same, only fernando has a few less teeth. after dinner we went on a walk through the city, and tyler couldn’t believe the dining options we was having just then. i think he thought i was holding out on him. haha! guess we will need to take a trip back to alcalá soon.

the next morning it was back to the USA. such a great trip, i already want to go back.

 

 

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

-madeleine l’engle

before i leave the topic of spain completely (ha who i am i kidding? i will never let that place alone) i feel like i need to give it a few words. as i was flying across the ocean on wednesday i had a lot of time to ponder my spain experience and sort out my thoughts. the one word that  kept coming to mind was vulnerability. this might sound strange, this learning vulnerability. doesn’t that mean weakness? characterize the typical damsel? doesn’t it note lack of preparation? hear me out.

my first experience with vulnerability was learned in prepping for my trip. initially, spain was just a goal. i had a dream, but i didn’t know exactly how i might accomplish it or the amount of work that getting there might entail. however, with the help of a saintly patient professor, i was able to plan, prep, and RESEARCH for six months. that period of time was not a cake walk. i had tons of setbacks due to school protocol i couldn’t control, i had to withstand the waves of loving criticism that steadily crashed over my amateur work, and there were oh so many times that i wanted to just throw in the towel and give it all up. looking back through my agenda now, i laugh at the daily affirmations i had written myself in attempt to keep everything in perspective. the pages exclaim things like ,”alyssa! breathe!” “don’t get too stressed out!” “think about the big picture: SPAIN”. i really don’t think i have ever worked harder for something scholastically… or monetarily. i was vulnerable to my research, but it taught me how to plan and work towards that big picture goal.

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the weeks leading up to going to spain were stressful for me. my project was still not completely ironed out and approved, i was unsure i had saved enough money to sustain myself for three months, and the thought of being alone in a foreign country for three months left me a little short of breath. i was extremely excited… but also overly anxious. i was jumping into the unknown and didn’t know what to expect AT ALL. in this case, vulnerability taught me faith as i prayed to God that i would make it through, and that everything would not crumble under my feet. (but i mean, at least if it did i would be in spain, right??)

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vulnerability continued to teach me lessons when arrived. in fact, my feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness grew as the days went on. there was no english white flag to raise when i had a hard time explaining myself in spanish. i occasionally felt somewhat embarrassed when i had to ask people to repeat themselves (repeatedly) and then still not have a completely clear idea of what they wanted from me. in order to make friends, i forced myself to become involved in my church’s youth group… which in the end proved to be awesome, as i met so many great people and benefited from the lessons they taught me. at first going alone was hard- being the “new girl” is never easy, but those first awkward moments, cheek kisses, and ultimately great friendships were worth it.

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vulnerability also happened with my project. meeting with mothers to have them critique my work, give me suggestions, and then me trying to craft coherent sentences dealing with health and the nutrition of their children all taught me to be open to people’s criticism. however, it was nerve-racking!  waiting on email correspondence and trying to not pull out all my hair in the process was near impossible! again, but looking back, all these experiences taught me patience, professionality… and more patience.

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before i left for spain i had these dreams of traveling all around europe, but doing it alone was not something i thought much about. however, after a stint with friends in paris, i caught the bug, and figured i might as well just go ahead and go on some adventures alone. i’ve written about this before, but i would say that traveling alone to somewhere you’ve never been with little money, little sense of direction, and no friends or family to call is kind of the essence of vulnerability… and i would say that my experience overcoming all the feelings of anxiety and unsurety came together to really form some of the best experiences of my life. by being alone, i was able to learn a little more about myself, to think on my feet when things went awry, to form street smarts and a face of confidence, and to see some pretty amazing places.

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coming back from spain in 2010 was nothing short of a tragedy for me. while i had gained some priceless experiences and opportunities a lot of people just go through life wishing to have, i longed for more time in the country i’d grown to love. between then and now there was a gaping hole in my soul where spain resided. i felt like there was something more for me across seas, but over the years i slipped back into a routine of school, work, having a quarter life crisis, dropping out, and going back. however, during all of this, in the back of my mind i continued to wonder what spain might have in store for me. i craved adventure, culture, and experience. i needed to shake up my normal life, learn a few lessons, make a few mistakes, and take a break from the byu culture that was slowly suffocating me.

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and i am hopeful that by writing this blog, you have a sense  that this was just what my soul needed. i have come back from spain with no regrets, no “what if?”s and a few good stories to tell when those inevitable byu dates get a little dull. i no longer feel the same sadness or heart wrenching longing that inundated my life before. i am at peace with my experience, my choices, and my future. i am no longer restless.

 

for now. DSC_0638all the above photos were snapped of some of my favorite places around alcalá the day before i left spain. this is a photo is of pilar, natalia, fernando, and me.when i accused fernando of not looking at the camera, he told me he looks better looking off.

HA and you wonder why i’m obsessed with them.

 

photos from the week

this week was a DO or DIE kind of week. i packed a lot of things in, took a lot of photos, and got a serious cold thanks to my english travel cocktail comprising no sleep, minimal eating, cookies for dinner, and an abundance of rides on the germy tube.

spaniards have some funny superstitions about colds, cough, and sickness in general. when i started telling people i was sick, they automatically told me it was because of the cold in england. when i told pilar i thought i actually most likely got sick from being near so many people, not washing my hands often enough, and touching so much public transit, she looked at me astonished and said, “do they not have places to wash your hands in england??”

when i lost my voice, it was obviously due to the change in temperature from outside to inside (those darn frigid 52 degree days!) and one friend scolded me for drinking water with ice in it because ice is obviously off limits to those with a cough. i was told to drink warm milk with honey for my throat, wrap a heating pad around my ears to stave off an ear infection, and eat soup for every meal (which is kind of awesome, actually). all great suggestions… however all i wanted was a heavy hand of nyquil.

so mostly i spent this last week sick… and confused. and laughing. (and coughing up a lung).  let us proceed.
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a video of david beckham sleeping in the national portrait gallery! i am ashamed at how long i watched it… // just some words of affirmation from my friendly hostel staff// yoli and i went indoor skiing. and then we took this picture with a gigantic snowman.// here we are at xanadu, an overpriced indoor ski resort. it felt so good to be on skis again! // me while flying up the ski lift in my fuschia rented coat. // some tiny sandwiches as a nightcap // la catedral de los santos niños in alcalá and THOSE CLOUDS!!// the belén in my church’s foyer. you might set up a nativity, but spain sets up the entire city.Recently Updated4just some treats from the relief society. i took them home and we debated if they were homemade or store bought…// do you think pilar will notice if i take her chandeliers home with me?? // madrid temple looking goooooooood all lit up at night// me and the puerta de alcalá in madrid. in the rain. // my very favorite madrileño building// fernando looking up villiancicos (christmas songs) and singing them to me// searching for some christmas candy through mountains of turrones at the supermercado// half my face and buckingham palace.

 

some photos from the week

the weeks just fly by here. i can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that i’ve been here for three months and that my time is just about…. agotado. i love ya, spain!

Recently Updated13relief society centerpiece: fiber optic christmas tree. safe to say i was transfixed the entire hour of class. // this weekend was puente, meaning a three day weekend, and ALL OF SPAIN AND THEIR ABUELA WAS IN TOWN. i could hardly get to the metro after going running in retiro with diana. my paella was cold. i ate it anyway! // the carniceria. i love that there is a special shop for every food item here. // yoli and me at the christmas tree in alcalá! i love my intercambio buddy //my clothes drying… laundry = foresight and when you run out of socks, well… it is too late. a gigantic tortilla bocadillo and paladín after sledding // here we are hanging out in the bathroom of the train station with our backpacks.. no toilet paper or soap. hi we’re glamorous. // institute. my teacher is hard to understand and finds joy in asking me questions i don’t understand… pero bueno…

Recently Updated14i mostly put this picture in because that mom and the guy who looks like 16 years old TOTALLY KISSED when we got to our stop. weird. // europe’s equation for best dressed. i want to meet the 6 year old gentlemanly scholar who wears these loafers. // again with the specialty stores… i hope the lamp store never goes out of biz! //this is what happens when you wear your hair in a bun for about three days straight. by day four there is no ponytail holder necessary! // fhe spent watching real madrid and eating hot dogs. well… not me. // my buddy kike made a friend on the metro… then stuck up a convo with her mom in french. when she asked how he knew they knew french, he said, “oh i heard her call you mami, and that is french for grandma.” … turns out she meant spanish mami meaning mom, and mom wasn’t to pleased about that crack at her age. men. // anticipation face before sledding! // eating a little snack at rodilla… don’t mind diana’s spilled coffee. she was distraught!

alegria navideña

one of my favorite things about this town is its walkability. i live in central downtown where streets are one lane, one way, and completely impassible for half of the the american cars you see in the walmart parking lot. i mean, i guess when you start building a city in the 1500s it is kind of difficult to foresee these things… catholic priest students, you’re forgiven 😉

anyway, this week my neighborhood was transformed into a sort of christmasy haven… i mean, the place is DECKED OUT for the holidays. since i live about fifteen steps from the christmas cheer, i spent many nights this week walking around the streets. i mean, with this laughably warm weather we’ve got going for us in december, it would be a sin not to get out and enjoy a little christmas cheer. DSC_0234 Recently Updated12christmas looks good on the plaza de cervantes, no?

DSC_0244DSC_0255DSC_0256and all these pretty lights above the streets are great until you hear a news report of the weight of one not only coming unhinged from a balcony and pulling the railing off with it, but in turn causing the death of an elderly man who walked out onto his nonexistent balcony to wave goodbye to his son and fell to his death. and that, my friends, is the spanish news for you.

DSC_0261this picture stinks but i love it: two guys window shopping a jewelry store window. i have a feeling the same thoughts are running through their heads.

Recently Updated11the blurry trombone shows just how hard he was going. man, he was IN IT.

DSC_0265 DSC_0281 Recently Updated10DSC_0284 DSC_0290 DSC_0294all the lights, the music, the christmas markets, and the bargain shopping have really been bringing a lot of people out… but then again, spaniards don’t really get too phased by crowds. in fact, i think they kind of live for them, especially during this weekend of “puente”, or spain’s version of a four day weekend. leaving downtown madrid this afternoon was absolutely ridiculous! imagine all the streets, sidewalks, restaurants, and shops full of people body to body and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what sol looked like. i was worried someone was going to get trampled or lose a child. i think they were just worried about spilling their beers.

and that, folks, is the spanish life. feliz navidad

a breath of mountain air

DSC_0354DSC_0341DSC_0350DSC_0323DSC_0327DSC_0346 Recently Updated9DSC_0347Recently Updated8DSC_0356this weekend is puente. that means it is a holiday and NO SCHOOL! (but then again, i don’t go to school any day, so i guess we’ve got that going for us.) the being said, diana text me in the morning to see if i wanted to go pounce in the snow up in the mountains past cercedilla in castilla de leon. pouncing is just what we do.

we rode the train 4 hours round trip to get to the white stuff, one train of which can only be described as a rickety cattle car periodically braking and screeching up the very peak, and as we went around hairpin turns at frightening speeds i couldn’t help but wonder what exactly was holding us onto this track… getting to the top however was amazing!  there was great snow on top of the mountain, yet it was warm and sunny and wonderful. please admire our 5 euro plastic dustpan-esque sleds we bought from the cafe specializing in larger than life sandwiches and plastic toboggans.  they caused for some good times and some seriously wet butts… we didn’t exactly bring snow pants to europe.

nevertheless, we rode, screamed, crashed, screamed some more, and ended the day with some seriously delicious hot chocolate and a gigantic tortilla sandwich. as we sat there chomping down on that eggy goodness and laughing at the fact that diana’s amsterdam just says “TERD” in all her pics, i couldn’t help but just sit and think one thing.

this is the life.

some photos from last week

before i leave the topic of vienna and austria completely, i better share a few photos from my iphone that have slipped beneath the cracks. it really is my favorite way to capture random moments that happen in the day to day, so here are a few of my favorites from my trip, along with some glimpses of the week in spain. 2012-12-03cold churros and watery chocolate from oh la la… at least the conversation at my intercambio with yoli and marta was awesome! // roasted chestnuts and i am in love. // pilar sometimes whips me up full on restaurant style meals for dinner. curried peppers and cous cous! spain has a strange obsession with cous cous… // this is a nuskin advertisement in the budapest airport. what?? utah is everywhere // this is me in my fleabag hostel. remind me to wash my clothes // the metro in budapest. i never knew where to go exactly… // forints! don’t be fooled, 10000 forints is like 45 USD. // the streets of austria with huge pretty chandeliers??

Recently Updated6cheers to myself with my mocktail in a catholic cellar // the library at vienna university. so scholarly // mozart chocolates! i can’t get enough // heavenly smelling sugared almonds at the christmas market in vienna // merry CHEESEMAS from hungary // i spent a lot of time at the ubonn station // what good are mirrors in elevators if not take self portraits? // empress sisi’s creepy hair at shonbrunn

Recently Updated7270 euro eye cream. i mean, why not? i’m pretty sure that i spent less money traveling for four days // metro in budapest. they were lightning fast // my favorite advert in spain. evidently this cologne has magical powers that get you the girl, let you ride elephants, AND joy ride on motorcycles in the sahara desert. i hope it is still in stock… // i found the abominable snoman in austria!! // oops. merry cheesemas again! // people really like handing me strange liquids in europe… most of which i dispose of when they’re not looking// chocolate croissant in the metro in budapest and my alpaca gloves // BEST COCONUT WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE  from “california coffee co” in budapest. dreaming about it.