Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A weekend in Valencia

Valencia is a gorgeous city located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Even though they speak Spanish in Spain, the official language here is "Valencian" which has a lot of French and Spanish mixed into it. Lucky for us, all the important signs were in both Valencian and Spanish. 

Valencia has...

Gorgeous cathedrals-- There were quite a few that were open for people to step in and out of. We also saw many wedding parties in and near the cathedrals. In one of the cathedrals we walked up a long and steep spiral staircase. We all decided we needed to start going to the gym! The bell tower, however, brought us to: 

A wonderful view of Valencia! So the workout was definitely worth it :) 

Vast beaches: 

Yummy food:
This is paella, which is a rice dish that is cooked in a huge pan and then served right out of the pan! In fact, the name paella originated from the old French word "paelle" which means "pan." Many tourists consider paella to be a dish of Spain. However, Spaniards consider it to be a regional dish of Valencia, as that is where it originated. Paella And in case you were wondering, I did not eat that all by myself! 3 of my friends ordered the same dish so it came all together. 

Each paella is made with rice, oil, veggies, garlic, paprika, saffron, and and tomatoes. After that, you can choose what you would like to add (chicken, meat, veggies, seafood). 

...and finally: oodles of palm trees!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My First Three Weeks

So far I have been here three weeks but it feels like it has been three months! When I first landed I had to find my way to my suitcases and you are not going to believe this but, I had to take a train IN the airport to the baggage claim area. Madrid airport is by far the largest one I have been to. After collecting my two very large suitcases, I headed to the hotel and met up with the rest of the George Washington University group. The first three days were spent learning about Spanish culture as well as learning about our classes, how to get around in Spain, and so on. 

Here are some interesting cultural differences I learned during my first weekend: 

  • Spaniards rarely ever use their hands, not even to eat an apple! They use a knife to cut off the skin and then eat it with a fork and knife. 
    • Here is proof: I got an apple at the school cafĂ©, expecting to eat it while on my way back to the apartment, and this is how it was given to me:
  • In the US, most people do not walk around their houses with their shoes on ALL the time. However, in Spain, it is actually considered rude to walk around the house barefoot. I had to go out and buy some "chanclas" (flip-flops) for this purpose. 
  • Spanish children usually meet up and play in the parks. It is unusual to invite a friend over for a play-date.
  • It is polite to eat meals with both hands on the table and is impolite to put your hands in your lap. Today at lunch, Paulo had one and in his lap and was using his fork with the other. His mother scolded him, told him to put his hand on the table, and then said "No seas Americano" (Don't be American). 
    • Yes, that is the other thing, my family for some reason thinks if they speak quickly enough I won't understand, but I do. Hehe :)