Friday, May 6

It all started with a postcard

Hola! I just back on Monday from a week and a half spring break trip. My roommate and I decided to tour the southern cities of Spain and hit up a little bit of Portugal. We had a great time with only a few snags here and there. We hit all types of transportation: flying, metros, bikes, walking, trains, swimming and buses. On top of the non-stop schedule we made, we lost 3 nights of sleep taking night buses and trains. I don't really recommend doing that, but it was so much fun! We did so much that I can't really do it justice in a blog. When I am home (in a week!!) I will be happy to share my thousands of pictures with everyone. For now, here is the timeline with some highlights....

Flew to Sevilla, Spain 

Bused to Faro, Portugal 
(Faro was a bit boring, but the beaches were gorgeous.
 Being in Portugal was a little nerve racking because I knew 
NO Portuguese. )

Bused to Lagos, Portugal for the day (I saw a postcard at the beach in Faro of this place called Lagos and I decided I wanted to go there. I went to the bus station the next morning and bought 10 euro tickets for a nice day trip. So my new words of advice....always go look at the postcards and then go there! After looking back at my pictures, I still can't believe this place is real. While swimming in the crystal clear Mediterranean water, I kept expecting Captain Jack Sparrow to sail around the corner and take me away.)

Bused back to Faro, Portugal

Bused back to Sevilla, Spain
(Here we saw the Cathedral which is the 3rd largest
 in Europe and the Alcazar. Pictured here is the Tower 
of Gold. This is the first stop the gold and treasures
 from the New World would make in Spain. )

...and had a little time to relax by the river...

Bused to Córdoba, Spain 
(Saw the Mezquita and all the vibrant patios around Córdoba. 
For some reason, the Mezquita was so moving- it was a very
emotional experience for me.)

...while seeing beautiful Andalucían countryside...

Bused to Granada, Spain
(Hands down my favorite Spanish city so far. AMAZING. It has a great hippy/Moroccan culture that is so inviting and fresh. We spent a whole day at the city's Alhambra which is an amazing fortress that the Moors built during their time in Spain. Breathtakingly beautiful. I recommend Granada to anyone visiting Spain. PS. You get free tapas when you order drinks! Kara and I went on a tapas crawl one night and we were very successful in our ventures.)

...Almost didn't make it....

Stayed in a treehouse of a hostel...

And finally, took a train back to Valencia.

See you all in a few days (I get back late Wednesday night and there are going to be lots of fiestas next weekend....I am an expert Sangria maker now)! Hasta Luego...

Sunday, April 24


I'm off to tour southern Spain and Portugal...the Andalucía region. Can't wait to tell you all about it when I return. Happy Easter!

Love, Katie

Friday, April 22

La Copa del Rey and Cathedrals

I am trying to post a lot this week just because I will be gone for a whole week starting Monday. My spring break officially started yesterday and I will be going to Portugal, Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada next week. Valencia has been pretty wild though.

On Wednesday Valencia hosted the King's Cup. Madrid-Real and Barcelona were fighting for the national championship! There were 2 different locations for fans to start was by the university and the other was about a mile or 2 down at the river. They had to separate the two sides so the number of fights would be a minimum. There were HUGE tents set up for people to start partying around 12 in the afternoon (on a Wednesday) and the party didn't stop until around 3 that night. I walked around after my classes a few hours before the game started and got to see King Carlos drive by heading to the stadium.

All the tickets had been sold out months in advance and I heard some people bought tickets for about 600 euros a pop. Ouch! My friends and I found a bar right behind the stadium and watched the game from there. There was a good mix of Madrid and Barcelona fans but everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Once Madrid scored the winning goal...all hell broke loose. People were shaking beer all over the crowds, they were beating drums, screaming, dancing, falling all over the ground....madness. I love how the Spanish are so passionate about soccer! It makes it so fun. There was an estimated 5 million people in the city to watch the game. (Valencia is home to 800,000 and during Fallas there were only about 3 million here)

Well that night when Madrid-Real went back to celebrate in Madrid, on the celebratory bus ride to the city plaza, one of the members dropped the trophy and the bus ran it over!! This was a huge news story in Spain. HUGE!. So here is the entertaining little video.

Today, I took a study break to walk around and soak up of some of Valencia. Got to see the original foundations of the city when the Romans were here in 100 B.C. Amazing! (This is what Michael Gray told me to go see). Then we wondered around the all the cathedrals and stumbled upon some hidden ones, too. It is Semana Santa in Spain which is their week long Easter celebration with processions, parades and more. I think I am going to study on the beach tomorrow and catch some Mediterranean rays. See everyone in just a few weeks!

Hasta Luego.

Wednesday, April 20


Went to the *amazing* Valencia zoo on Sunday. It is a zoo that tries to hide barriers between people and animals....think "animal kingdom" because that is what it reminded me of. We saw hippos, monkeys, aardvarks, birds, fish, elephants, zebras, much fun. Here are some pictures of the zoo and also some from Peñíscola (check the last blog). I still can't believe that Peñíscola is a real place. waters...sun....pirates. Well, no pirates, but I am sure they were here at one point in history.

Tonight is the HUGE game in Spain! The finals...the King's Cup. The king of Spain will be in my backyard pretty much. There is going to be millions of people in and around the stadium and I am so excited. You should watch it! I was interviewed by an ESPN reporter yesterday about the fútbol world in Spain...he said I might have a 30 second!

Oh, yeah, and I officially do not want to leave Spain. Sorry everyone back at home...I might just be canceling my plane tickets. Miss you all! Love you!

Sunday, April 17

Adventure time

So since the days have been dwindling, my sleep schedule has as well. Its become a crazy whirlwind of school, hw, going out, walking, biking and adventuring. I just woke up from a 12 hour siesta.....

Somehow or another, where ever I seem to go, there are aways awesome friends to be had. On Wednesday nights here, some guys have been playing at a popular bar that we go to and do a couple sets. They sing fun American songs and throw some Spanish ones in the mix as well. The Spaniards eat it right up...and the performers get free cervesas!

Thursday, some chicas and I went out to a really nice cocktail bar called "la casa blanca" and got some amazing drinks. They were all fun, girly, Spanish style drinks. The place itself is really cool...which is why we wanted to go in the first place. Its in the main plaza and there are seats outside as well as in the 4-story tall white building with cool black lights outside of it. Very chill place. Then we went to an Irish pub because the guys who work there are really cool and you get free food when you order drinks. It was a very eclectic night.

Friday night, we had the school's cabaret (talent show)! Of course your's truly was in it. We wrote a little play/musical and performed it for the school. Hopefully it will be on youtube so I can share it with everyone. Other groups got little dancing numbers together with popular club songs, some people read poetry, some sang, some music groups got together again. It was a great time! All the professors got to see our crazy, American true colors. Then we went out to Foster's Hollywood, which is a famous "American" restaurant here, but it is SO very Spanish. All the American food has a Spanish twist and the place was completely packed. It was fun to see their version of our food. Then we found the COOLEST place I have ever been too. It is a little hole-in-the-wall bar about a block off the main plaza. I have no idea what it is called. It is a little place with all sorts of artifacts and pictures hanging all over. The lights were really dark and obscure and there was a loft with bean bag chairs that--of course--we sat in all night. I have to be honest though, most people would think this place is a little creepy. There was a weird soundtrack playing of "witchy" sounding music and some of the things laying around were a bit odd. For example, on our table, the candle was a little tea light with a dog lifting a leg over it.

Yesterday was Peñíscola for the day. We took about a 2 hour bus ride north of Valencia to this amazing small city. The water here...oh was Mediterranean blue. It was gorgeous! We spend about 3 hours on the beach and then we hiked up a little ways to a castle that sat right on the beach. (I will post my pictures on Facebook). The weather was hot with a nice breeze, we all ate our bocadillos on the beach, took pictures on top of the castle, got gelato on our hike down. It was amazing! This was the best excursion yet. I got a little sunburnt because we were out so long, but no pasa nada (no worries). The castle used to be home to the Pope during a dangerous time in Rome. It was a smaller castle, but we got to explore the whole thing from the top of the towers down to the dungeons below, to the Pope's reading rooms over looking the bay to the churches hidden inside. So amazing!

Today is homework day yet again. We only have 5 more days of classes!! 3 this week, then 2 weeks of Spring Break, then 2 days of classes, then 3 days of exams. So nuts! I am excited for the classes to be over...but I don't want to leave Spain! I really do think that everyone should just come over here. Sound good to you? Good!

.....Actually, over the course of writing this blog, I have made plans to go to the BioPark. Think animal kingdom in Spain....tell you about it later!

Hasta Luego

Sunday, April 10

Hiking in Serra and some fútbol

Caffeine overdose. It is almost 1am here and I am waking  up in 6 hours, but I cannot fall asleep. I went to Starbucks around 5pm this afternoon and ordered a venti iced café americano....this was a mistake. I haven't been drinking much caffeine because they just drink expresso here with lots of milk and I just don't like that combo as much as the normal pot o' joe. So when I ordered a large, normal coffee....the caffeine is raging in my body right now. Crap. Oh well, I will just blog for you nice people.

I had a beautiful weekend in Valencia. The weather is now about 80 during the day with a nice breeze and 65ish during the night hours. I went on an all day hiking trip to Serra on Friday (pueblo in the Comunitat de Valencia). I took the metro as far as it could go north, then jumped on a 30 minute bus ride to the middle of the Valencia National Forest. Serra is a quaint little pueblo that only speaks Valenciano but has great hiking trails. I made my way up a mountain to a little castle that overlooked the land. The terrain here is very dry, rocky and red. My tennis shoes are a brilliant pink right now.

It was about a 4 hour hike up and down. When I got back down, I had about an hour to kill before the next bus back, so I stopped in a little café and got a cold treat. I had a nice little conversation with the owner of the café. The family had owned the café for 73 years and he tried to get me to have lunch with his son. Cute, but that whole Valenciano language barrier would never allow us to work out. haha. They all think I am blond here too. I guess anything that isn't tan and dark brown is blonde to them.

Then tonight, I went to the Valencia C.F. fútbol game! We won 5-0!! It was a great game. The weather was perfect, we had great seats, we were wearing our bright orange jerseys. Too much fun. It was my first BIG soccer game and it was a blast. Lots of drums, singing, music, clapping, screaming, jumping. The Spanish are very into their soccer. I have never seen so many obscene gestures thrown at each other. We played Villa-Real, a city close to Valencia. (Rankings: 1.Barcelona, 2.Madrid, 3.Valencia, 4.Villa-Real) It was great. I prefer these games over American football games too. There weren't drunk people everywhere, people SAT DOWN during the game until a goal was scored, and there are never commercial breaks in soccer. Amazing! I am officially hooked. Valencia C.F. fan through and through!

We have a long week of classes. 5 days! Only 10 more days of classes left for the semester though, so I think I can battle through them. Getting ready for Spring Break vacations! Hope everyone at home is doing well.

Hasta Luego

Friday, April 8

Counting down the days!

Only 33 more days left in Valencia! This number has put me in "go" mode and I am always on the move! I had a pretty good week this week. I got a little homesick after my birthday but all that cleared up after a big cup of café americano from Starbucks. It is funny when I order it, because Europeans only like to drink their coffee in little shot glasses super strong with expresso, but I am all about the big cup of joe to sip on for hours.

The weather is perfect in Valencia right now! Its about 75 to 80 everyday with a nice breeze. All the students here at UVA are sun worshippers so while they all go to the beach today, I am going to go hiking in the mountains! I didn´t realize how diverse the geography of Valencia is. We have the beach by the city, and then you take about a 30 minute bus ride out to the national park.

I have my bocadillo in hand and am about to head out! Hasta luego amigos.