Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm.... really full.

Air action in front of the Notre Dame

There's just simply too much to tell. Too much. So I'm going to let the bumbling idiot next to me attempt to capture the essence of the last few weeks in one simple post... Here he is:

HIiiiIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!! This is BENKO, reporting live, from Barcelona. It's been quite the journey so far, with twists and turns rivaling Lombard street. Let's recap from the beginning.

Thursday night of Finals week, Neo and I try to leave the warm heart of San Diego (La Jolla) and journey to the treacherous port known as LAX. Leaving many crying friends, we drove up during the late night, arriving at Neo's house to a pair of flapping penguins, welcoming us for a longer stay than we had anticipated. 3 pieces of sushi and half a box of chocolates later, we had fallen asleep, in preparation for long plane flights and deep butt imprints in our seats ahead. Planning on an 8am departure from the house to catch our 11am flight, we woke up abruptly to my phone alarm. 8 am it was already... not to be distraught, we took nice long warm showers, and even stopped for breakfast close to King's bakery. Once at the airport, things took a turn for the worse.

HORSES WERE EVERYWHERE! I don't have words to describe the horrors unfolding in front of us at the airport, but I was... frankly terrified. Determined not to let this natural disaster derail our plans to visit our friends, we braved the clouds of dust and the flurry of hooves to reach the ticket counter. Unfortunately, we were unable to check-in bags for our flight, and were booked on another flight the next day. Neo and I paused for a moment to pray for those that had been mauled by the horses, and also to make a quick suggestion to God to keep horses out of airports. The rest of that day was filled with all sorts of interesting pizazz that you can ask us about later, but mostly fashioning ourselves some cow/horse prods to use in case of emergency the next day.

Eventually we got to Spain. Could've been by plane... could've been by canoe. We don't remember much of it. When we did get there, we had to immediately re-prepare for the bull ride to Rome. I'm not sure why Spaniards enjoy such unorthodox methods of transportation... but they do... they really do. Our bull shepherding guides dropped us off somewhere near Termini train station, and we were then at the mercy of the cobblestones of Rome.

And cobblestones there were. Everywhere. That's pretty much all we saw in Rome was cobblestones. And some large pillars here and there. Pfft. Rome. Whatever. Oh yeah, we also went to Vatican City... a few things of interest there, like St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Pope... and some chapel painted with tons of naked people. Real cheeky. Beautiful cheeks though. We have a few pictures here and there, feel free to check Facebook, if you know us through such venues, or I'll be leaving a few links at the bottom. I know you're all dying to know what we ate, so let me tell you, the lasagna is to die for. Literally. Lauren killed about three people fighting for our pasta and cheese dishes. Note to self: don't fight Lauren for anything. Stampeding horses were scary, Lauren... a-whole-nother level. Anyhow, pizza and calzone were also quite yummers. Better than home for sure... we even cooked a meal at our hostel. Traveling by hostel is excellent, for those of you interested in following our trailblazing steps. Our original hostel was overbooked so we ended up being transfered to Gulliver's House, a little hostel with three bedrooms, and carwash style showers. Every morning we had to get up, sit down on the moving walkway, and put ourselves in neutral. Then we'd go through the various cycles of their crazy showers. Distressing, yes, but effective. I might have lost a little skin in the process, but I did smell nice. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are wrong. Our first full budget traveling experience in Rome was quite enlightening, after getting lost many times and walking countless miles, we ended up in Venice by sheer chance...

Venice (or Venezia) was quite a transition from Rome. The constantly bustling streets of Rome had a certain grand aura to it. Venice had me at hello. Swept me off my feet right into bed. Or that's what they told me, after our first night wandering San Marcos square, and paying the paltry price of nine euros for gourmet microwaved vittles, I managed to conk out and snore the night away. Well, the night, my friends, and apparently our neighbors. Oops. Truthfully though, Venice was perhaps my favorite stop out of our three cities. The maze of canals in addition to the charming and rustic facades of the various homes and churches lining the footpaths just begs the visitor to get lost. We tried our best to get lost amongst the bridges and narrow alleyways, and enjoyed every second of it. From the fish market just steps away from our Hostel, the 50 cent tra-ghetto gondola rides, to the seriously infinite churches in Venice, we roamed and roamed for an entire day. And roamed. and roamed. Echo.... echo.... anyhow. The food in Venice leaves much to be desired, but we made up for it with Gelato. 1 Euro gelato is absolutely divine. Once again, pictures and Sierra will tell the story much better than I, so to facebook you shall go. We had an extremely short stint in Venice, but we managed to hit up the majority of what we wanted to see. We proceeded to rent a gondola, and rowed ourselves to the airport, and caught our discount flight to Paris.

A quick note on Ryan-air. I have yet to figure out who this "Ryan" is, but we thought we saw him on our first flight. He had an absolutely stunning purple, black, white and beige striped sweater on, and clapped with an unmatchable enthusiasm upon landing. As entertaining as "Ryan" was, the damn safety instructions painted on the backs of the seats are only entertaining for the first 30 minutes. And thirty minutes is stretching it. So my advice to you, if you want to buy cheap(.01 euros + tax and fees) Ryanair tickets, and pay the extra 30 euros worth of bus fees to get you from the random airports to the hearts of the big cities... bring some reading material. Or some scotch tape and blank paper. ANYTHING.

Anyhow, Paris. Fantastic city. They've got the Eiffel Tower, Quasimodo, and baguettes aplenty. Snooty French accents and art to last a lifetime. By the time we arrived in Paris, everything had shut down for the night, even the Eiffel Tower had gone to sleep. Luckily for us, it was about -7 degrees C, so we were unable to feel any of our extremities by the time we reached our hostel. AND when we attempted to access our room... there was stuff in our beds. So we were moved to a swanky private room complete with its own shower. Nice eh? The following day, we met up with a certain Petier, and had a brief history lesson on the city of Paris, from the Notre Dame to the Grand Palais. Of course, we had chosen to get lost before hand, so by the time the tour was done, we had totaled 6 full hours of walking. And then we chose to walk some more. Only because Sierra insisted on going into every store on the Champs Elysees. Oi. And then we went to some art museum, Louvre, or something like that. Saw this famous gal named Lisa, and a few other drawings. It was pretty neato. To cap our night, we headed up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and watched Sierra prance around, giddy with glee, every time the tower started to "SPARKLE". Would not be the last time either. Oh, and we got lost trying to find our hostel again. Yippee! Our next two days were filled with crepes, more visits to the Eiffel Tower, hanging out at the Musee d'Orsay, and a kickass visit to the Palais Versailles. The gardens of Versailles are absolutely beautiful at sunset. They're beautiful at anytime of year. They're just beautiful. The ponds and fountains were all frozen over, and there were even swans in one of the fountains. Couples holding hands, little kids running through the pathways, and statues hiding in cloth bags from the elements made for quite the experience. And.... yeah. I am going back in the fall, for whoever wishes to join in my escapades. Finally, we had an exquisite dinner at a little restaurant in Paris, a nice four course meal with just amazing everything, including mashed potatoes that could stretch almost a meter. That's right, the metric system.

Anywho, we're prepping to leave Barcelona, which has also been exhilarating. Late night clubbing, inappropriately used plurals, and excessive eating have become staples of the Barcelona lifestyle. And not so much walking. Iiiiiiiiiiii recommend coming and visiting! and if not, the girls also welcome shipments of cheez-its. This is BENKO, signing out. You stay classy, world.

More paris:
Eiffel Tower:
More Eiffel:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Metro morning rants cont.

Judging by the repulsive scents that never cease to waft around on metros, I'm pretty sure personal hygiene is something merely pondered at as an enigma by the Spanish. Maybe people in the United States don't shower either and I just never noticed because we all drive in our own separate cars and if someone in your car smells because they haven't bathed, that's your problem for being friends with them. I don't know.

On mornings such as these, when I have gotten about one hour of sleep (UCSD, I am trudging through muck right alongside of you) and have eaten only a tomato for breakfast (yes, one whole plain tomato; don't judge me, grocery shopping isn't happening until Saturday), finding the metro inordinately crowded does not put me in the best of moods (okay, fine, I'm never a morning person as it is) and stinkers are the LAST people with whom I would like to surround myself. This middle-aged man leaned down earlier and full-on yawned obnoxiously in. my. face. Um, WACATELAS. If I hadn't been immobilized for a solid five minutes due to the immediate deterioration of air quality, I would have socked him in the eye for not having brushed his teeth since he was born (I guess a punch in the mouth would have been more appropriate, but no way was I going near that thing again). OMG. POR FAVOR. Didn't your mother ever teach you to at least cover your mouth? Ugh.

Also, things I can't wait to regain when I come home: personal space. Apparently, there is no concept of such thing here either. I'm not sure how many times I've almost thrown a fit of harta hysteria because I can't get anywhere without at least 37 creepy old men touching me. Or when people absolutely insist on cramming onto the metro when it is already unfathomably packed, making you want to jump out a window.

I need some coffee.

Things that make me exceedingly happy though: cute giggly chubby little chum chums running around the office. !!!!! Ahhhh, I miss babies. I'm sad all my cousins are growing up. (How is it that I work at UNICEF and never come into contact with children? Real ones, I mean.)

Anyways. This is a dumb entry, I know, but I'm trying to pass time more quickly at work via multi-tasking. If there wasn't anything going down this weekend and I still had to go to school next week, I'm not sure I'd make it to the end of today even. C'mon, you know when there are blog entries almost everyday, things are extra ridiculous. BUT. Only three and a half days until California and Oregon land in Spain! 'Nuff said.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On being 20 in The Office

President: ¿Has probado este tipo de cava, Lorena?
(while pouring me a glass at 11AM)
Me: No.
President: ¿No?!?! ¿Cuantos años tienes?
Me: 20.
President: Ufffff!! Anda anda...tres copas más para ti.

Andrés: Cuando cumplen 20, todos los jovenes estadounidenses aprendan a patinar, ¿no? [In this case, patinar = rollerblading.]
Me: ............What in the world?! No.
Andrés: Pero lo oí en una película y creía que era verdad.
Me: Ehhhh...

Nati: ¿Estás casada, Lorena?
Me: .............!!! NO. Sólo tengo 20 años.
Nati: Ahhh! PerFECTO. Mi hijo tiene 28.
Me: .............
Nati: Ya estás de edad, reina. Debo presentarte a mi Xavi! Seguramente le gustaras.
Me: -_-

I'm getting academic credit for this.

Because I Can't Possibly Do Work Right Now...

Three things on this blustery Sunday afternoon:

1. We officially love living in Sants.
2. We officially are in possession of the scarves.
3. We officially are less than a week away.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gallivanting About Girona

"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all."-Stanley Horowitz

Thursday was yet another holiday in Barcelona meaning a delicious four-day weekend providing ample time for the continuation of the daytrip series! I went on a small viaje with Katie and Ryan to Girona, a lovely town a little over an hour outside of Barcelona. It has warmed up significantly over here (notice I have no jacket, scarf, or socks...amazing!) and autumn was in its full beautiful display; it reminded me of fall on the East Coast. Anyway, my study break is coming to a sharp close, so I shall let the pictures speak for themselves.

And so it is.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ohmymama, it's December!

Don't mind the IKEA barcode tag attached to the flowers...

I feel death lurking menacingly about, headed straight for me in these upcoming two weeks. I shake my fist at you, school! But I suppose for the glorious freedom that awaits in 12 days, I deserve to suffer a little. Before I face the dreaded doom though, a small measure of procrastination is in order. Here is a selection of rambles about life in Barce. Yupiiii.

Saturday, Sierra and I took a quick trip to IKEA. Not because we particularly needed anything, but to, well, look at the Christmas displays and decorum. Teehee. Actually, the holiday spirit is pretty apparent all over Barcelona, especially in the evening with elaborate light arrangements strung up around the city. My dinky camera doesn't do them justice, but night walks about town have been just delightful.

The past two weeks have warmed up slightly, but my my my is it chilly over here. My San Diegan snobbery absolutely glows through my now translucent skin tones and has me humbly shivering. There was a week when I would run home from work or school, put on every shirt I owned, and burrow in my bed under the covers for the rest of the night.

This afternoon I had to go over to a friend's apartment to work on a group project. Good thing she lives in the heart of exactly where everyone tells us NOT to go. Oh, Raval. YOU ARE STRAIGHT UP GHETTO. I was actually a tad bit scared. But I'm alive and we did eat some bomb Indian food.

Lastly, I'd just like to note that our landlords came to our apartment for, uh, a small chat and among the many statements delivered, one beyond emphatically mandated we smoke our 'Maria' inside the apartment ONLY. Take that as you will. [I'd also like to note that I use "we" and "our" verrrrrry loosely here.]

Lunch date on a work day.
Mojitos and a Sunday night dinner.
Now for some adventures in "Hair Follicle Park."
Frolicking among the follicles. Say that ten times fast.Slightly levitating like a delicate fairy. Ha. Album cover for the new hit I'm a pathological liar. Ahem, SIERRA.I was forced to be the man for the day."Seductful?"Burying her favorite puppy I think I killed.Embarrassing things Sierra makes me do in public parks.Flying squirrel!
Check out the beast on my head. Out of control.
She's albino.Thank God I am not pale.
Okay, pale with blonde hair and blue eyes.
I for sure would have gotten jumped tonight.
Praying for the Lee's back at home...