The best of Madrid

Hey guys,
I hope everyone’s semester has been everything they expected and more! This semester has been full of adventures and many learning experiences. Arriving to Spain was quite possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever been through because it was my first time traveling alone and my first time in Europe. When I arrived in Getafe, which is where Universidad Carlos III de Madrid is located, I was very surprised to see that it wasn’t a big buzzing area. Getafe is a smaller suburb outside of the center of Madrid and it is where I lived during my stay in Madrid. After spending four months in Spain and traveling around Europe, I’ve learned a few things. I will list them in categories.
Madrid, Spain
Living arrangements
The first thing I would recommend is about living arrangements is that you look at your budget. Living on campus dorms can be a great way to meet people easily, but it is also very expensive. You can find a decent place to rent in Getafe for about 230 euros. Living in Getafe is great if you want to be near the University, but if you want to be in the city and go out, I suggest you look into living in Sol. Going to the city from Getafe takes about 20 minutes on the train and the last train to Sol and back to Getafe runs at 11:50 PM, so if you think you want to stay closer to all the buzzling center it might be better to live there, but it is expensive and rent can be up to 500 euros a month.
Places to eat
1. El Eskinazo It is a very cheap and good place to eat near the University. You get a free tapa with any beverage purchase.
2. 100 Montaditos A great place for tapas. Every Wednesday and Sunday they have euro tapas.
3. La Bicicleta A wonderful café in Malasana that serves a great breakfast. If you’re looking for a place to study besides the library this is a great place to do so.
4. La Malquerida If you like Mexican food, this place has great tacos and on Wednesdays they have tacos for a euro. Be sure to make a reservation because on Wednesdays they only do seatings if you have a reservation.
5. Lavapies If you’re looking for Indian food, this area of Madrid is lined with them and they are also very cheap.

Things you must do
1. Attend a soccer game or do a stadium tour. It is an amazing experience and you really get to feel the love for the sport. You can attend a Real Madrid game or an Atletico Madrid game. Tickets can be as low as 15 euros. The picture below was taken at the Real Madrid vs Shakthtar match.
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2. Go to El Rastro. El Rastro is a market that happen every Sunday in La Latina. It is a great experience and a great place to get cheap artisan items.
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3. Try hiking outside Madrid. I wish I would’ve hiked in more places outside Madrid, but it’s a great experience to see outside the city. I hiked in Cercedillas, but Navacerrada is also a good hiking spot.
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4. Attend an event in Madrid. I attended the Holi Run, which is much like the color run and it was a great event. I suggest you try to keep an eye out for any events that may interest you.
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Traveling tips
1. Book your tickets as early as possible. If you can, plan your travels early because tickets can get pretty expensive. I’ve found tickets starting at 15 euros, but I’ve also payed 200 euros for a plane ticket.
2. Try different methods of transportation. While the most common ways to travel are by plane or train, I discovered BlaBla car is a great and cheap way to travel. BlaBla car is a safer version of hitchhiking. A person may be traveling to a different city and has extra seats in their car so they put it up on a website and you can reserve the seat. I used it travel within Spain and I also used it to travel to Portugal. It is safe but I wouldn’t recommend you go alone
3. Don’t be afraid to travel alone. I took my first trip alone to Paris and it was amazing. I didn’t I was going to have fun because I was alone, but I was surprised to learn that many people travel alone and you can easily make friends anywhere you go. I also loved that it was empowering.

Celebrating in Germany!

Studying abroad in Germany turned out to be a fun-filled, exciting experience! Especially in the States, Germans are stereotyped as being strict and very business-like. Since I’ve been in Germany, I have definitely changed my opinion. Germans are always partying! That’s one major reason this experience has been so much fun.

Every weekend there is a new festival or celebration to attend—all over the country, so there are literally hundreds of festivals to attend in Germany. We all know about Oktoberfest, Carnival, and the various Christmas markets. But there are many others, such as various wine festivals, food festivals, the festival of lights, and even museum festivals. Germans always have a reason to celebrate something!

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One of the Beer Tents at this year’s Oktoberfest

I’ve had the once-in-a-lifetime pleasure of attending several of these different festivals, and each one has been unique, and very cool. So, as you all go to the over-crowded malls to spend your holidays, I’ll be at various Christmas Markets drinking Glühwein and ice-skating!

Wiesbaden's 40th Annual Wine Festival.

Wiesbaden’s 40th Annual Wine Festival.

One of the various Christmas Markets!

One of the various Christmas Markets!

 

Study Abroad = Sweet

When you think of Europe, what comes to mind?

Maybe you picture some of the historic, beautiful cities like Paris and Rome.
Maybe you think of all the different cultures and languages overlapping in such a small area.
Maybe you even think of some of the famous dishes such as Italian Pizza or Spanish Tapas.

If you would have asked me this question before I moved to The Netherlands, I probably would have given you answers quite similar to these. But after only a couple of months, I am pleased to say that one of the top things that now comes to my mind when I tell other people about Europe is chocolate. Yes, chocolate.

The chocolate over here is SO DELICIOUS!

The grocery stores are lined with decadent assortments of chocolate – all so pure and tasty! Best of all, it isn’t even that expensive! I have tried so many different types of chocolate in Europe; here is a list just to name a few.

1. Kinder
2. Neuhaus
3. 85% cocoa
4. Milka S’mores
5. Mauxion Dark Chocolate
6. Milka Oreo
7. Milka White Chocolate
8. Cote D’Or Bon Bon Bloc Praline Wit
9. Bros Luchtige Pure Chocolate
10. Cote D’or Gout-Smaak Advocaat
11. Jumbo Chocolade Puur
12. Jumbo Wit Chocolade Tablet
13. Sprungli
14. Arthur Tuytel
15. Chocolate Amatller Blanco
16. Chocolate Amatller Con Leche
17. Droste Holland Pastilles Dark chocolate
18. Hands off My Chocolate Friendly Dark
19. Milka Carmel
20. Milka Collage

At this point you’re probably wondering how my clothes still fit, but no need to worry! As I am clearly an avid eater of chocolate, I am also an avid runner!

I bolded two of the chocolates on my list: Neuhaus and Sprungli. Neuhaus is from Belgium and Sprungli is from Switzerland. If you remember one thing from this post let it be that the countries know for their chocolate are WELL WORTH THE HYPE (Belgian chocolate and Swiss chocolate)! I tried Neuhaus my first weekend abroad and I ate all of the chocolate on my train ride back from Brussels. In the Zurich airport, I practically did the same thing and ate all of my chocolates waiting to board my flight. These two chocolates are must-tries for anyone coming to Europe!

I sincerely hope you get the opportunity to travel the world and taste many different chocolates on your journey! My trip has been fabulous so far, meeting a lot of awesome people and seeing a lot of amazing places. The chocolate has just made this experience a little sweeter!

Happy travels!

Anna Ochs
Chocolate Extraordinaire
“A chocolate bar a day, keeps the doctor away.”

The Strength of the Siesta

Living in Sevilla, Spain for the past two months has taught me one important life lesson: the power of a nap. Spain is known for their “siesta” times everyday after a heavy lunch with family and/or friends. Lunch typically begins at 2pm and siesta time goes until around 5-6pm. People in the southern parts of Spain live their days around siesta time more so than other regions because the intense heat in the middle of the day makes it uncomfortable and almost unbearable to be out and about. The rest of Spain follow siesta time in their personal, daily lives, but businesses still operate during siesta time.

Besides checking the clock, here are 5 ways to know it’s siesta time.

1. The streets become less crowded

2. Noise is concentrated in areas of restaurants and residences

3. The noise you do hear consists of the faint sound of kids playing, TVs playing, and people chattering. The loudest noise is the sound of utensils and cooking supplies at work.

4. After 3pm, it becomes more quiet as people are actually taking their naps or resting by enjoying quiet reading time or watching TV.

5. You can’t do anything besides go to the pharmacy or grocery shop (maybe) because everything else is closed.

Most stores will open back up after siesta time is over. At around 6pm, the streets become busy. The world gets going again and people are louder than before because they are well fed and freshly rested. Shops and cafes become full of people hanging out or trying to be productive. Tapas bars are common hangout places during this time too, because people are not quite ready for dinner but are hungry enough for light food and drinks.

It’s amazing how a culture revolved can be revolved around a resting period and still function. The people are happier and life seems much more easy-going and manageable. Those of us studying abroad here have adjusted quickly to planning a siesta into our day. You can stay up as late as you want without worrying about getting little sleep because the next day you have a period cut out for a nap! It also splits up the day nicely. There are certain things you have to get done before siesta hours and other things that can wait until after. It helps you prioritize what you need to do in your day and ensure you get the rest your body needs. I have become an avid siesta-taker and hope to continue this glorious practice when I get back home.

Happy Siesta!

 

Halfway Point in The Hague

Hey everyone! This is my first post to the COB website and it is now over halfway through my study abroad experience. The Hague has been AMAZING. The places that I’ve been while in Europe are only outdone by the people that I have met. Though I do miss some things about home (Chick-fil-A, Jimmy Johns, Highland Morning), I’m not quite sure what it will be like leaving in 6 weeks.
Being immersed in a truly international environment is indescribable. I’ve learned so much about myself over these past few months and have been exposed to tons of different people who have many things to offer. Within the past week, my Korean friend helped us prepare rice the proper way, my French friends taught me basic phrases for my trip to Paris, and my Canadian friend exposed me to Aero bars. The Americans came together to expose our international friends to Yum-Yum sauce.

On a different note, here are some quotes from the UofL students’ first few months in Holland:

“It’s like the same as home… but different.”

“Things are so Dutch here.”

“It’s so weird. We can’t understand them, but they call all understand us.”

“I don’t want the Italian people to watch me cook pasta.”

“They said it was like America, but in Europe.” “Last time I checked all of the signs in America aren’t in Dutch.”

“Are there vampires here, guys? I just want to know.”

Here’s to 85 cent Albert Heijn chocolate crossiants, learning a little bit of every language, and nearly injuring myself trying to pop a wheelie on my bike this month. The Hague is awesome and I’m not sure that I’m ready to leave.

But on the same hand, I’m also excited to be home. I’m just going to not think about it.

Vaarwel!

Ashton

(Also please ignore that the majority of this post was about food. I’m really hungry right now because the grocery store closes at 8pm and I forgot to go today)

Next Stop: Sanctuary

Cinque Terre, otherwise known as The Five Lands, is situated along the coast of the Italian Riviera; a group of 5 villages, separated by alluring hillsides, sandy coasts, turquoise waters, and only reachable by train, plane, or boat. I’ve been to quite a few beaches in my lifetime; plenty of them satisfied my undeveloped idea of what a beach should be. Calling Cinque Terre a beach does not even begin to tap into the oasis that it truly is. If I were to write everything that I desire to say about Cinque Terre, I’d be doing it, and you, a disfavor. Go, discover, and be thrown back. After all, who’s stopping you?

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Once you get passed the fact that Cinque Terre is a beacon for EXTREME tourism (even on a Sunday, you will find yourself in a whirlwind of non-locals), you then begin to appreciate what you’re strolling through. The multi-colored homes, resembling a toned down pride flag, are piled atop one another in a nonsensical fashion; however, stunning. For me, it was almost an abstract work of art that just happened to be displayed amongst views of the most inconceivable hillsides and waterfronts that I’ve ever gazed upon. Don’t be afraid to hike or get lost; there’s no “wrong way” here.

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Aside from the landscapes, remember to satisfy your hunger! The seafood here is fresh, some of the best, and the area is renowned for its pesto…try it on focaccia (a specialty, local bread – chewy, thick, and almost sweet) with some melted mozzarella. If that hits your carb-conscious bone a bit too much, perhaps a seafood cone is more up your alley. Succulent, sweet, and hinting of the waters; all sorts of poor little critters fried until their demise screams heaven to you. Squeeze some fresh lemon over the top and I guarantee that you won’t speak a word until it’s done. This is not your average fare from the Eastern coasts of home; this is true, uncensored seafood.IMG_1059

As difficult as it might be, I would recommend not spending your entire day lazily slouched under an umbrella on the sand. Although I do love a refreshing cocktail, people watching, and tanning (*queue laughter*) as much as the rest, you will be doing a disservice to yourself. Go get lost! A large regret is that I only spent a single day here, resulting in much of the area to be undiscovered. As cliché and exhaustive as it may be to type this, Cinque Terre is what you’d refer to as a hidden gem. If you ever find yourself in Italy, do not be hesitant to venture outside of the typical travel grounds. Who knows, you may uncover your own little oasis, whether it be waterside or in a town square.

Next stop, Croatia! Will be in touch.

Croatia-Prague Summer Trip

This summer we went to Croatia and Prague. The things that I like the most was the preservation of nature.

botanical garden

In the middle of Croatia there was a gorgeous botanical garden and parks all around the city. The reason I couldn’t say that the nature was my all time favorite thing is because the cuisine was DELICIOUS!!!

Before

After

I loved the language and I even picked up some things while we were there(: I ate so much but all the walking off set that lol. We were able to hang out and get to know natives which was amazing and made the experience all the more exciting. I always have know I would like to live abroad but this showed my indefinitely that is something that I want to do. I hope that if anyone who is on the fence about going abroad reads this. It’s a once in a lifetime experience have a blast!!!

 

Mirogoj Cemetery

Plitvicka National Park Croatia

Greetings from The Hague

I have been here for a little over a month now so I thought I would post something to keep you all updated on my study abroad adventures.(If you don’t know me and are reading this you should know that I have a weird sense of humor and am pretty weird but back to blogging) I am totally in love with my new home. Before I left I was feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness, but now I realize I was worried for no reason. The Netherlands and the Hague are both amazing. I have completely adapted to the biking city lifestyle. It’s really different here because the bikes have the priority on the road over pedestrians and cars, I’m not sure if that is really the law but everyone seems to abide by that. The city is amazing, it is quite a bit larger than Louisville but the atmosphere is really neat. Everyone was enjoying the nice weather during August and there are quite a few places to eat and socialize outside. Even though it has cooled down quite a bit people still eat and socialize outside, they have warming lights under the tents and umbrellas so it is still comfortable. On our first day here Ashton and I took the tram to the beach; apparently our tram cards did not scan properly and we got yelled at but we have overcame that and can work them properly now haha. It has definitely been a learning experience so far and will continue to be but I look forward to it. I do miss some things about America like free refills, ice in drinks and Jimmy Johns (sorry Steph you didn’t make top 3 this time) but overall I am adapting well. Planning trips and weekend adventures has taken up a lot of my spare time but I am so excited, so far we have trips planned to Budapest, Paris, Italy, Prague and Germany planned. Last weekend we went to Ireland and explored Dublin, Galway, the Cliffs and Cork. We actually had really great weather (I forgot to mention it rains quite a bit here) to hike the cliffs so that was great. We got some really great pictures (check out my IG @h_loughran you won’t be disappointed ahahaha) and ate some great Irish food. It was a trip I was looking forward to because my family heritage is Irish so it was really neat to explore my “homeland” and I wish we had more time there because there is so much to do. School here is very different, we don’t have a lot of homework and only one or 2 exams in most of my classes so it will be interesting to see how that fares but I’m keeping a positive attitude and trying to balance my studies and fun as much as I can. I cannot believe that one month has already passed and that just showed me how valuable my time is here, it is going to fly by and I am trying to relish in each moment because this amazing opportunity does not come very often.
Xoxo
Gossip Girl jk its Haley

South Korea – second semester

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South Korea so far has been a great experience, everything that I imagined it would be plus more before arriving. I have just started my second semester here in Seoul and time is surely flying bye.  Living in Korea is sometimes difficult as it is so different and fast pace compared to Louisville but at the same time enjoyable, so many things to do with friends at all hours of the day.  So far I have seen many beautiful places, ate a lot of delicious Korean cuisines, been able to make great friends (international and native), and have made experiences that I will never forget.  Korea is awesome, I regret not blogging until now, I really should have sent in some blog post earlier to let people to know about this great city and culture.  I was going to upload my own pics and videos, but I found a great video from buzzfeed that really summarizes Korea and my experiences here. I will be uploading my own pictures in later post!

 

 

Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti alla carbonara: hot spaghetti is immediately mixed with proscuitto (ham-y bacon) and raw egg which slightly cooks to create a rich, creamy sauce.
Spaghetti alla carbonara: hot spaghetti is immediately mixed with proscuitto (ham-y bacon) and raw egg which slightly cooks to create a rich, creamy sauce.

To anyone who wishes to hear about pizza, unfortunately, I will not go into depth about the pies. Don’t get me wrong; the pizza here is wonderful and makes me question if Papa John has committed some heinous act of treason. I suppose that when you’re around a crowd who practically wishes to eat the stuff for every meal, well…you get a bit tired of it.

Gelato: ice cream's much more sophisticated cousin.
Gelato: ice cream’s much more sophisticated cousin.
Another version of carbonara.
Another version of carbonara.

Needless to say, the food here is the real deal. This is not your neighborhood Olive Garden that attempts to pawn off chicken parmesan as an authentic Italian dish. The eats here are honest, paying tribute to the naturally tasteful bounties that are produced using nothing but patience and a bit of science. Food is not seen as big business here, meaning that the manufacturing and processing of ingredients is virtually non-existent. Everything is fresh, really fresh; and you can taste the difference.

Basically an Italian quesadilla with tomato, eggplant, and parmesan. The tomatos are unparalelled here.
Basically an Italian quesadilla with tomato, eggplant, and parmesan. The tomatos are unparalelled here.

It should not come as a surprise that Italians, just as they live, tend to cook simply. Meals are prepared using few ingredients, intending to highlight the natural flavors that frankly cannot be harnessed using packaged, frozen, or sealed products. The pasta is prepared al dente (slightly chewy) and is typically rolled that morning. The sauces are rich, full-bodied, and taste of the local gardens. The cheese…oh my. I’m going to be humble here and accept the fact that anything I could possibly type will not sufficiently describe the cheese; only through taste can you understand it.

Cacio e Pepe: pasta tossed with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and pepper. Simple, yet perfect.
Cacio e Pepe: pasta tossed with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and pepper. Simple, yet perfect.

There is an extreme passion (understatement) for dining here. The other day, I sat down at a small café to grab lunch and noticed the server setting the tables. Everything from the napkins to the chairs was placed using extraordinary precision. After watching him obsessively shift the plates 5-6 times until reaching a point of irrefutable satisfaction, I could not help but childishly squirm around in my seat due to eagerness for my food. Just as expected, it was a symphony of flavors.

Pasta al norma: pasta tossed in a tomato sauce with eggplant and ricotta.
Pasta alla norma: pasta tossed in a tomato sauce with eggplant, ricotta, and basil.

Describing anything that is perfect is an arduous task. In all honesty, I’ve read through this post dozens of times, trying to decide if I’ve done Italian food justice…likely not. What I do know is that there is something commendable about showing an intense care for anything. There is nothing complex about the food here; the Italians simply care. Perhaps we all need to reflect on a few things that we could show greater care towards and maybe, just maybe, we will discover the hidden perfections that surround us every day.

Have a wonderful week!