17 October 2014


Valencia was the first out-of-Alicante trip that the Spanish Studies Abroad program made.  It's about two hours from Alicante, and they chartered a bus to take us there.

The above photo is a panorama I took of the "City of Arts and Sciences," a relatively new addition to the City.  It's a large photo and quite interesting, so please do full-view.

The City of Arts and Sciences is based on a lot of new age-y ideas, like including pools and gardens wherever possible.  There's an enormous pool for various water activities:

I don't think you can swim or anything, but there are kayaks and...let's look closer at those clear orbs...could it be...

You can actually go INSIDE those orbs and roll around in the water.  It looks super fun.  Would be even more so if they weren't tethered to the side of the pool, but I guess you can't have everything.

Among other things nearby was this expansive garden area.

Now, I am perversely amused by things that were planned out carefully with some idealistic notion, but then failed miserably.  Do you see those white lattices above the garden?  They're supposed to be covered by ivy, sort of a green source of shade.  But they don't look very covered, do they?  Let's see, after ten years, just how much HAS grown in...?

Oh...that's not very much ivy.  Oops.  Well, I guess we'll just stick with the bare lattice for now.  I mean...for the next two hundred years.  Oopsies.

For some reason the City of Arts and Sciences also really liked these slightly terrifying octopus-sucker-looking things:


The next stop was a cathedral in the center of Valencia (whose name I can't remember right now).  It's got a claim to fame too:  this is the very cathedral in which resides the legendary...

No, wait I mean the real one.

Yep, that gold blur in the center in the cup that Jesus supposedly drank out of at the Last Supper...which would be a whole lot more impressive if there weren't three other holy grails in the possession of other cathedrals.  Well, one of them must be real.  Unless, of course, they're not.  I have no doubt that it's as old as they say, and that someone drank out of it at some time, but Jesus?  Hrm.

The cathedral also had this super cool withered arm from some saint who died a long time ago:

I enjoy religious artifacts.  It's not that I believe their biblical provenance, even though they may be as old as they say, it's that there's something ludicrous about believing that someone had the foresight to hold onto Jesus' cup or the...er...arm of a dead guy just in case they might be famous someday.  Whatever.

The cathedral visit was followed shortly with a lunch break during which our group was permitted to go off on our own to explore.  Most stuff was closed for siesta (and let me say, there's a REASON the Spanish have siesta...it was freaking HOT), but I spotted some quirky artwork and stuff.

ahorra agua, bebe vino = Save water, drink wine
This...this is probably the awesomest thing I've ever seen.  It combines all my feelings about the world into one beautiful and hard to understand image.  The best part of it all was that this featured prominently on a wall near the center of Valencia...and I didn't even question its presence.

Wanting to cool off a little, my companion and I went to an outdoor restaurant and I ordered the local beer.

It was awful, by the way.  Cool art, bad taste.

Finally we visited the Museum of Fine Arts, which I didn't photograph, then boarded the bus back to Alicante.  Arriving home late, I was tired and hungry and starting to catch a cold.  So I spent the rest of the weekend sleeping and feeling miserable and trying to avoid my host mother's grandchildren.  Needless to say, I'm not sure I have the best judgement when I am sick and sleep-deprived.  To escape from the noise in my host mother's apartment (due to the grandkids), I dragged myself to a nearby park and fell asleep behind a plant until lunchtime.  At least later I had the sense to just lock my door and sleep in bed.

That's all I did in Valencia!  I'm still hoping to go back there before I leave, but we will see.  There are other places I want to go too.

Next time:  Castillo de Santa Bárbara

12 October 2014

Amsterdam Part 2

The morning that my father flew out of Amsterdam was a little depressing, but I went to breakfast as usual at my hostel.  I've mentioned before that they cook breakfast there for all their lodgers, which was a major plus for me even though the food wasn't stupendously good.  It put enough in my stomach that I wasn't angry at people, and birds, and pavement like I usually am before breakfast.

It was a stroke of luck that I shared my breakfast table with two women from Munich, Germany, who were traveling before the beginning of classes at their university.  We talked for awhile then decided to rent a bicycle boat on the canal for a few hours.

Though we did not have weather as good as the day before, it was a good morning for a boat trip.  One of my new German friends spoke some Dutch, so the boat rental guy treated us especially well.  So we got our boat and set out.  Turns out that none of us are particularly good with a rudder.  Or maybe the boat just didn't have a good rudder.  Yeah, that must be it.

Anyway, you really do see the city from a different perspective on the canals.  It's indescribably beautiful.  Continuing on, however, we got hopelessly lost on some small canal and some people stuck their heads out from a restaurant kitchen and laughed at us.  It was good, though.  We...er...saw parts of the city we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Parting ways for a few hours with plans to meet up for dinner, I paid a visit to two museums.

The Van Loon Museum

The Van Loon Museum is an old canal house that has belonged to several extremely rich families over the past few centuries.  It's been kept as-is with its original furniture from various eras of habitation, though some part have been modified to the modern standards of different time periods.

There was some society event going on that day, so I felt really out of place with my dumpy backpack, skinny jeans, and punk jacket.  I scuttled around the people with fancy hats (what is it with high society and stupid hats?) and tried my best to be inconspicuous.

Only two floors of the house are open.  The other two are, I assume, former servants' quarters.  They are not open, though I challenged myself to find the hidden staircase (very common in houses like this) that leads to them.  I think I found it hidden within a painting, but it is very hard to know exactly.

I didn't realize that you could take photos until I got to the carriage house.

It's a building disconnected from the rest of the house, and the facade is made to look like a temple to Apollo.  Do you see the curtains in the second floor windows?  They're not curtains at all.  They're painted on.  And there's no second floor, it's just one with a very high roof.

The high roof was to accommodate this wagon that the family would have ridden to social engagements or wherever they needed to go.  It's about eight feet tall or more at its highest point.  The highest point, in fact, is the driver's seat, for which the door to the carriage house had to be made specially so he could ride the carriage through them.

In comparison, the sleigh on the right-hand side is much smaller.

There is a photo of this sleigh being used by two of the Van Loon daughters in the early 20th century.  The driver would stand on the back of the sleigh.  That doesn't seem very comfortable.  But it is quite beautiful.  Someday I'd like to ride in a sleigh like this just to see what it's like.  They're so elegant.

The Houseboat Museum

Several thousand people in Amsterdam live in houseboats.  According to the commentary on the boat tour, this was a response to housing shortages on land.  I am skeptical, because several space for several thousand people isn't much considering the size of the city.

The Hendrika Maria was built in 1914 and served a previous life as a shipping barge.  It has since been converted into a houseboat for use by many families over the years.

The inside was cramped and hard to photograph.  My lens wasn't wide enough (let's be honest, I'm using a cell phone) to depict it well.  But I'll share the few photos I have.

This sleeping space was already a part of the barge before it became a houseboat.  The skipper and his family slept here.  It is very...er...cozy?

The middle of the boat is occupied by a living room and kitchen (where the ticket office is now).  The other end contains more sleeping spaces:

With the addition of a bed that is no longer in place on the Hendrika Maria, a good-sized family could (and probably did) live in this houseboat.  Like I say, Amsterdam makes use of every bit of space available.

I reunited with my German friends and 6PM and we went to a bar for dinner and some beer.  They introduced me to this beer called Radler, which is a low-alcohol combo of beer and lemonade.  It doesn't have the disagreeably bitter taste of most other beers, so it has since become one of my favourite drinks.  We ate food, drank, and played Yahtzee with a German scorecard.  I had to keep asking for explanations because I couldn't understand a word on the scorecards, but it's necessary to know what it says in order to formulate a strategy.

I lost the game many times that night, but it was fun.  We returned late to the hostel and went swiftly to sleep.

The German women left the next morning.  On their recommendation, I decided to spend my last day in Amsterdam touring two of the more famous museums the city has to offer.

The Van Gogh Museum

 Like I've said before, I don't like art museums very much.  This one, however, was somewhat different.  It wasn't an art overdose and it was spaced out.  For this reason, it was much easier to digest.

I bought my ticket to the museum at a good discount from the front desk at my hostel.  The benefit of doing this, other than saving money, was that I got to stand in a shorter line to enter the museum.  There were a ton of people waiting to go in that day, so I took what I could get.

After the museum visit, I like Van Gogh's art.  Even more than after watching that episode of Doctor Who.  I don't have much love for the security guards at the museum (you're too close to that painting!  Don't stand there!  What's in your pocket?!), but it was good.  They're probably uptight about having so many people in the museum.  I just don't enjoy being treated like a criminal when I paid twenty euros for my bloody ticket even at discount.

The visit was definitely worth it.

Ann Frank House

I stood in line to get in for more than forty-five minutes, but that's peanuts compared to the three-hour line from earlier in the day.  It was high tourist seas, what can I say.

Again, security guards need to take a fucking chill pill.  They first argued over whether my small backpack was too big to carry in, and then they were oddly specific about how I had to carry it while inside the museum.  Fuck.

Anyway, the museum itself is beautiful in a sad kind of way.  You can see photos of the place online or in books, of course, but there's something profound about the anticipation of seeing the place in person.  The secret annexe where Anne Frank hid for two years is unfurnished at the request of her father, but the magazine photos and postcards that Anne herself pasted to the walls are still in place.

Finally you get to the last room of the annex and, right there in the case, is the diary that has become so famous.  It's surprisingly small and understated.  I imagined that it was bigger, but I guess its real size does make sense.

The last exhibit was a presentation of recorded guest commentary about the holocaust and the importance of the museum.  There were survivors and celebrities in the presentation as well.  It's all very...sentimental.  Sad.  Emotional.

I left the museum around 9PM with a dull ache behind my eyes from looking at stuff all day.  I got a quick dinner and them stumbled back to my hostel for one last night before my departure to Alicante.

Next time:  trip to Valencia!

11 October 2014

Amsterdam Part 1

I left the United States on 26 October even though my study abroad program did not start until 30 August because my international flight stopped off in Amsterdam and that seemed like the perfect chance to do a bit of exploring.

First of all, Amsterdam is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  There's not much that could compare.  I mean, it has canals.  Second, the city is made for people.  You can walk just about anywhere, you don't have to get a bus or own a car.  Most cities I've lived in up until now are built around cars, which is great if you have one, but it means enormous thoroughfares that are extremely difficult to cross.  Sometimes in Albany, NY, I feel like there are no people living there, only cars, because you can walk great distances and never see a person outside of an automobile.

Amsterdam, over the centuries, has really learned how to use space.  Everything fits together.  Everything has a purpose.  And the less space it takes up, the better.  But it's all functional.  There are, for instance, hooks suspended from the top floor of every apartment building to assist with moving furniture.  It's practical, and I can see their benefit, having moved my stuff several times by myself from one three-story building to another.

Anyway, I was really tired when I got to Amsterdam, as you might imagine after having been on a ten-hour flight.  My father was there to meet me, as he was on his way back to the US after a business trip.  It was a stroke of luck that he could be there, and very good for me, because my flight arrived at 7:30 AM and I couldn't check into my hostel until 2 PM.  We therefore returned to his hotel and I took probably the best shower I have ever taken.  Then we ate some crackers and I tried not to fall asleep on his couch.

Several indistinct hours later (it was all very fuzzy due to lack of sleep), I changed clothing and we went to a bakery for lunch.  That goat cheese and lettuce sandwich was straight from the gods...it tasted SO good, and there was cold mint tea to boot.  It was wonderful.  I tried to take a photo before eating it, but when I went back to iPhoto later to look at it, it seems that I had my finger over the lens.

Kids, don't take photos when you're trying not to fall asleep on your lunch.

My father, reminding me that the best thing for jetlag is to stay awake until normal sleeping hours, proceeded to drag me around the city.  It was good, I guess.  We went to the royal palace:

Fun fact: yes, Netherlands still has a king.  He doesn't have any real power, though, like most other monarchs in Europe.  He's a figurehead.

I remember being very entertained by the clusterfuck of pigeons that frequented the plaza in front of the royal palace.  People would come to feed them and get a little more than they bargained for when 1000 birds (no exaggeration, probably) swarmed around them.  These little suckers were so friendly that, if you stood still, they would come and land on you.  They know their audience, I guess.

I botched the photo of our next destination too, a used book market near the red-light district.  Anyway, it was a very interesting place.  It was sort of a half-outdoors hallway with tiny storefronts selling every kind of used book you could imagine.  The shelves inside each one were probably at least 20 feet high.  I don't know how you looked through the uppermost shelves.

One seller had a huge collection of vintage maps, which were a lot of fun to look at.  I wanted one of Spain, but the few they had weren't that interesting.  Old maps can be like works of art, but these didn't have the gold lettering or fancy compass roses, so I decided not to purchase one.  Who knows, anyway, how I would have transported it without damaging it.

Around 4 PM I checked into the hostel.  It was a Christian youth hostel called Shelter Jordan.  Despite their stated religious mission, there was no pressure to convert or anything.  It is actually kind of cool, because their staff come from all over the world to work there for a set length of time.  I guess they get free room and board for their troubles, which is a super benefit when you consider the beautiful city they get to live in.

Maybe in the future I'll shove my misgivings about religions and clean bathrooms there for a month just to be in Amsterdam.

The room was basic but adequate.  It had six bunks and a sink.

As with most hostels, the bathrooms weren't perfectly clean.  For the price, though, it was great.  And I even got free cooked breakfast, a feature I always search for because I hate looking for food in the morning when I'm tired and hungry and grouchy.

For dinner I ate a pizza (or was it pasta?) that I hardly remember.  Then I somehow made it back to the hostel (don't remember the walk) and went to bed.

The next morning was much better.  I didn't get lost finding my father's hotel room, which was more like a super tiny apartment than a hotel room.  He even had a kitchenette and this super '50s-looking fridge!  I ate all of his yogurt for breakfast.

After taking a shower, we left to find some activity for the day.  It was warm enough to not need a jacket, and people still weren't awake, so we got tickets for one of those canal boat tours.

That was our boat.  It was good to see the city, though I know from the length of the English-language informational dialogue that they were saying a lot more in Dutch and German than in English (or Spanish, when they had it).

We saw some interesting things.

For instance, it seemed kind of strange that they'd just leave a half-sunk motor/row boat in the canals:

Also, this enormous bike parking garage (three solid floors of bikes, nothin' else) exists near the train station:

Since the city isn't exactly vehicle-friendly, I guess it makes sense that they'd need a parking structure for bikes.  But it's still super strange.  An American city probably couldn't even fill one of those floors.

We also saw some more scenic things, like the Hermitage museum:

There wasn't time to go in, and I have to admit that I'm not partial to art museums, but it's a beautiful building.  The Hermitage is a satellite of the Hermitage Museum of Russia.  They have it in Amsterdam because, according to the museum information, Netherlands has a good relationship with Russia.  There are two sides of the coin, I guess:  if you have a bad relationship with Russia they send you surface-to-air missiles, but if your relationship is good they send you art museums.

Go figure.

To finish off my second day in Amsterdam, my father and I went to a super-fancy fusion Japanese restaurant.  I tried some kind of Japanese-European-style salad with hazelnuts that was very good.  I also drank legally for the first time, since I was, at the time, 20 years old and still not able to obtain alcohol legally in the US.  Europe's drinking age is 18.  Take that, US.

My father's plane left early the next morning from Schiphol airport, so I was on my own for two days until my own flight to Alicante.  Details in my next post.  Until next time!

09 October 2014

Alicante Overview

Okay, I've been bad.  It's been like six weeks since I last wrote a blog entry here, and I wasn't even in Spain yet.  Sorry.  I'll be a better blogger in the future.

But let me explain.

The first few days here I didn't really have internet access.  It turns out that the internet password is written in, like, 0.2 size font on the internet router in my host mother's house, and we didn't figure that out very quickly.  Also, the University of Alicante has this ridiculously complicated process for connecting to their internet which includes one of the following:
-downloading some possibly unsafe software
-pressing buttons until something eventually works.
But it probably won't.  And everything's written in Valenciano, so, bonus.


Okay, from the beginning.

I started the day, as you might remember, in Amsterdam.  I spent four nights in a hostel there (my next post will cover this) to recover from the international flight and see a part of what is, arguably, one of the most beautiful cities in existence.  My airline was Vueling, a fact that I did not actually know until I arrived at the airport because I booked my ticket through Iberia.  I lost a lot of time wandering around the airport, which was slightly unenjoyable with a backback that weighs close to fifty pounds.

I will point out that this is the only luggage I brought with me:

And I was high-fiving myself on bringing so little stuff until I had to carry the damn thing myself through customs, through the streets of Amsterdam, through three different airports...

Finally relieved of my luggage, I proceeded with anxiety towards security.  In the US, it's like you're entering a maximum-security prison.  I hate it.  It's probably the worst thing about traveling.  But in Amsterdam, it was like, put your stuff here, okay cool, have a nice day.  What?  I didn't even have to walk through barefoot on some nasty linoleum floor with fake-skid-mark tiles.

I got to the airport super early because I wasn't quite sure how to buy a train ticket (from Amsterdam to the airport), so I got to spend about three hours waiting at the gate.  I bought a sandwich.  It was good.  And not too expensive.  But there were also these window shades that went up and down at random intervals:

For what reason they went up and down randomly, I have no idea.  But they were cool.

The only thing I thought about the airport when I disembarked in Alicante was: this is small.  And it was.  There are only a few gates, and all of the airplanes on the tarmac look like children's toys.  I guess it's kind of out of the way, so the adult-sized airplanes don't fly here very often.  The bag claim took like forty-five minutes for unknown reasons.  There are five or six bag claims in this enormous, needlessly dark room which for some reason seems to be designed to take prisoners, because I spent another fifteen minutes, with my heavy bag in tow, searching for the exit.

I arrived at my host mother's house, tired and sweaty, at 6 PM.  Alicante, unlike Amsterdam where I was wearing a freaking JACKET, was very hot when I arrived.  I was overdressed and carrying a backpack.  So I was relieved to put it all down and change.

The night finished off with a meet and greet over tapas with the Spanish Studies Abroad staff, Pepa and Marisa.  It was an orientation of sorts, I suppose, and I was surprised at how much English they spoke.  But I guess it make sense since there were students who were not yet fluent in Spanish.  Plus, it was the first night.

The food was good, and the wine was sweet, otherwise I was so tired that I don't remember everything that happened.

Mmkay, bookkeeping announcements:

-At the end of every blog post, I'm going to go ahead and put a photo gallery of images I didn't work into the text.  I already have like 700 photos, so expect lots.

-Later tonight I will go ahead and make up a new banner for this blog utilizing photos from Spain.

-The internet connection in my room is so slow that I cannot use Blogger.  For this reason, when I can, I am going to write a bunch of posts and schedule them a week or so apart.  The time between schedules could be more or less time, it just depends.  But this way I won't have to worry so much about falling behind on posts as I have these past few weeks.

EDITED to add:  There are three posts scheduled behind this one...enjoy! :D

Okay, photo gallery!

Restaurant on a replica sail ship near the docks.  We walked past here after the orientation the first night.
What I can see through the window in my room
Alicante from (slightly) above, in one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city.  This photos is actually from about a week after I arrived, but it seemed like a good way to end this post.
Until next time!

18 August 2014

An observation about camping in Spain...

At this time next week I should be at my hostel in Amsterdam!  That date seems awfully close when you consider that all the stuff I need to pack is still stacked in a disorganized pile in the other room chiding me for taking so long to get organized.  I anticipate throwing everything together in a blind rush on Saturday and Sunday.  Whatever.

Right now I'm actually trying to distract myself.  Some brain leaked next week's premier of Doctor Who season eight, and I'm trying very hard to be a good girl and avoid watching it before Saturday.  I needed something to get my mind off that.

So last week I thought, now, wouldn't it be cool if I could go backpacking in Spain and maybe try some wild camping?  My internet research turned up a ton of forums frequented by expats living in Spain, and their resounding answer is that you're liable to be woken up at dead o'clock in the morning with a gun pointed at your face if you camp outside the designated camping sites.  This delightful fact discovered, I think I'll leave my tent at home.  Camping seems rather...er...hazardous.

Thoroughly disappointed that camping is mostly illegal across Europe, I decided to go ahead and try to find out why.  Unfortunately there's no consensus, but there are a lot of theories floating about the expat community.  Here are some of the saner ones:

-Theory #1:  A lot of land holdings in Europe have been owned by the same families for hundreds of years, some going back half a millennium or more.  The owners are understandably possessive of their land.  Most of the stories I've read of warm welcomes at the muzzle of a gun come from these land holdings.  One expat speculated that people in Spain were particularly possessive of their land in the aftermath of Franco's rule.  Though I could not confirm this about Spain, it seems that the Irish government requires private land owners to open up their land to hikers, but they don't have to allow camping.

-Theory #2:  Valencia seems to have had a lot of problems with inconsiderate campers, mostly ones toting mobile homes, parking along the ocean and blocking out the views of the water to other visitors.  They also apparently leave behind a lot of garbage, so the authorities decided to heavily restrict camping.

-Theory (FACT) #3:  Individual provinces have the right to outlaw camping within their borders.  Most have.  The Balearic Islands outlaw it completely, as does Alicante.  Others handle it on a case-by-case basis, but the resounding answer is NO.

It's too bad, really, that camping is illegal--there's some beautiful scenery to be appreciated in Europe.  Most conscientious backpackers know that it's extremely bad manners to leave a bloody mess behind, but I guess a few idiots ruin it for the rest of us.  Otherwise it's just a matter of ancestral land ownership, and you can't really do anything about that.

Whatever the truth may be, it doesn't seem like a good idea to try camping in Spain, or, indeed, anywhere in Europe without first doing some thorough research into its legality.

The GOOD news here is that the options are hardly limited if you're looking for a cheap place to stay. Hostels of varying quality are available across Europe and if you find the right place you're only going to pay 10-20 euros per night for the cheapest room option.  I mean, you might end up sleeping next to a guy with a bad case of BO (FACT...this happened to me in New York City), but whatever.  Save your money for experiencing the local cuisine and only go back to your hostel when you're so tired that you honestly couldn't care less.  Anyway, I already checked the Balearic Islands of Mallorca and Ibiza for hostels.  Both have easy options available, and you can book those with your credit card through hostelworld.com.  No big deal.

The one thing I would mention concerning hostels, however, is to make sure you read the fine print thoroughly.  Some hostels can charge you so little because all you get is a mattress and bathroom privileges.  You're getting the absolute base level of service, so unless you want to be air drying in the nude and sleeping wrapped in tomorrow's clean clothes, come prepared.  Bring your own towel (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference for the win!) and sleeping bag to cover all possibilities.

I might also recommend bringing ear plugs and an eye mask so you don't hear the guy next to you snore or wake up to see him stripping naked.

Some things are best left to the imagination.

29 July 2014

El Comienzo

About four weeks from now, I will be on my way to study in Spain at the Universidad de Alicante for a semester.  This is a huge undertaking when one considers that I've never spoken Spanish as my primary language.  One of the greatest failings of the United States education system, in my opinion, is that it does not encourage students to learn another language.  It's a crucial step in the education system, and we have, for some reason, talked ourselves out of (I'll write an editorial about that later).  I spent the past six or seven years, depending on how you count, studying Spanish without the benefit of a child's natural ability to acquire new language skills.  I am sure my communication once I get to Spain will be full of terrible mistakes and awkward speechless moments (I have trouble memorizing nouns, and often mix them up with humorous results), but this wasn't an opportunity to pass up, nope!

This blog almost didn't happen.  It seemed like a good idea at first, then the initial deadline passed and I hadn't written anything, so I sighed and went back to my Star Trek marathons.  A deadline extension gave me a second chance at this blogging thing, and it should be much easier now that most of the formatting is done.  The next few months will be full of complimentary trivia facts and lame humor attempts, and maybe also some interesting information about my experiences in Spain and other places.

The itinerary for this trip is weird and sure to change at random intervals, but here is the general idea:
  • August 25th: depart from the United States at oh-dark-thirty in the morning (seriously nothing should be alive this early)
  • August 26th: arrive in Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • August 26-30: Amsterdam
    • This period of time is unplanned, because I like living life on the edge.  I am also lazy.  Maybe I'll visit the Anne Frank House.  That would be cool.  Also, some things are legal in Amsterdam that remain stubbornly illegal in the United States.  Opportunities abound, if you know what I mean!
    • I have hostel reservations for four nights, for which I paid a little over $120.  It's a six-bed women's dorm room.  I am somewhat wary of stalkers over the interwebs, so I will hold off talking about that in more detail until I arrive in Amsterdam.
  • August 30: flight from Amsterdam to Alicante, Spain
    • This flight gets in at 16:30, then I have to get to my homestay location and magically get to a CCCS-sponsored social function by, like, 20:00.  I will sacrifice regularly to the Gods of the Airport and Airplane Travel so that I have enough time to complete the aforementioned tasks in a timely manner.
  • August 31: Integrated Studies program begins
  • December 20: Final day at the CCCS!  I will fly from Alicante to Lisbon, Portugal for a few days in that dashing country
    • While I do not celebrate Christmas (as such), I will be spending that time in Lisbon, where I have heard that the festivities and decorations are beautiful.  More on that as I do further research.  Most places are likely to be closed Christmas day, though, so I'll probably be spending the day in my hostel sleeping and eating whatever non-perishable food I managed to stockpile beforehand.
  • December 26: Fly out from Lisbon, via Amsterdam, back to the United States
A bit of housekeeping and an explanation about the current blog format...
  • The Title: I suck at coming up with titles, but I do enjoy alliteration.  There, that's your literary term education of the day.  Anyway, I picked up a Spanish dictionary and found a cool word in the A section and used it.
  • Background:  Rest assured that the stock background photo will soon be banished in favour of something a little nicer.
  • Top Banner:  The photos I used are from a recent backpacking trip in the Pecos Mountains of New Mexico.  No, they're not from Spain.  They're a place holder.  Since I (tragically) can't travel into the future and bring back photos, that'll all have to wait until I'm actually there
  • Comments Section: You can comment on this blog, and I would love to hear from you!  Unfortunately, I do have to take some precautions based on my experience with the comments section on my other blog.  You will NEVER have to input a CAPTCHA (these are annoying and I hate them and I am sure you do too), but all comments will be put into a moderation queue.  Do not worry, this is usual, and I should allow them to be published within a day or so.
  • Advertising:  I will never advertise on this blog, however I will try to give mentions to things that I tried of my own volition and thought were awesome enough to share.
  • Reviews:  This goes along with advertising, to some degree, but part of my purpose here is to try things out and tell you whether or not you should try them too.  This is ideally going to include goods, services, hostels, tourist attractions, non-tourist attractions, donuts, ostriches, and many other things.
  • Language:  I want this blog to be accessible to as many people as possible.  I will probably transition to writing primarily in Spanish, but I will also translate everything into English for non-Spanish speakers.  Other languages I'll handle as I encounter them--Spanish and English are the only two languages I really know, though.
  • Other links on the right-hand sidebar: These are things that I like, not necessarily related to Spain or Alicante.  They make me laugh, or think, or possibly both.  A lot of them are webcomics, but there are also photography blogs and art blogs.  All of them are run by extremely talented people and are worth a look.
  • What is to come?  This blog will detail my experiences in Europe, particularly Spain.  I have some good music lists, Spanish-language videos and movies, and Spanish literature that I'd like to talk about before the conclusion of this blog on or around 26 December..  The right-hand sidebar will eventually include links to things about Spain, though that idea is still in the development stage.  
What else would you like to see?  Talk to me in the comments section!  As for me, these Star Trek episodes aren't going to watch themselves.