Doing the Audrey Thing

This one time, I went to Europe.

(I like to start my stories this way because my roomie Kim rolls her eyes. She says I reference everything with this introduction. I could be telling a story about eating at Subway last week and I would start it with “This one time, about a year after I got back from Europe…” See? It’s fun.)

I digress.

So I went to Europe. While in Rome, everyone in our little tour group got to pick one thing they wanted to see. Obviously we went to the Colosseum and the Vatican and the Trevvi Fountain and ate at this fabulous little Italian restaurant…

I digress.

But what I really wanted to see was the Spanish Steps. Everyone knows that undercover princess Audrey Hepburn was eating ice cream in that very spot when the dashing young Gregory Peck came and picked her up and showed her the town before falling madly in love with her. And so, on our last night there, we ran across town so I could have my moment. When somebody started complaining about the trek, my Spanish roomie Audi would say, “Hey, we’re just going so Rylee can do her Audrey thing.”



Another time, I went to New York.

(This is my other roommate Jeehee’s favorite story because I went with the boy who she ended up marrying. Oh, good times.)

While I originally went to New York to get my Psych on, there was obviously a stop I had to make the next day as the wonderful sister of Max’s sister-in-law showed us the sights.

Yup. We took a stop at Tiffany’s. Sadly, it was before breakfast. But that’s ok, because then the moment would have been absolutely TOO perfect for me to handle. So I did my best Audrey thing with a cheesy smile on my face.





This week, it was Halloween.

I usually hate Halloween. I can never decide what to be and end up dressing up in some lame costume just so I can wear jeans to work. I had a burst of inspiration at the beginning of the month and couldn’t believe I hadn’t ever though of this genius plan before.

I would do the Audrey thing.

Oh, you know. Just doing the Audrey thing.

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I don’t think we’re in Spain anymore

This week’s adventure–Pais Vasco! We received an email from our professor earlier in the week in which he reminded us to NOT refer to the places we were going to as Spain. The native residents of Pais Vasco aren’t related to the rest of Spain and speak a totally different language–Basque. Because it has no connection to Spanish or any other language in the area, experts believe that the natives are the original inhabitants of the Iberian region. Apparently this gives the people there an excuse to consider themselves a totally different nation, even though they are within the Spanish border. I don’t get it either, but I didn’t want to offend anyone, so I kept my little Spanish comments to myself.

Our first stop was Bilbao, home of one of the Guggenheim museums.


Confession about museums: I usually enjoy museums. A lot. I loved the Prado. I loved the Louvre (you can tell how late I am in writing this post) But contemporary art=not my thing. A lot of the themes were kind of disturbing, and I left with a yucky feeling. But we boarded the buses afterwards to head to one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen–San Sebastian.
After spending some time with the group, eating dinner, eating a double scoop of ice cream (on the program, heh heh) taking a rather unexpected dip in the ocean (Thanks, Aubrey) and spending the night in a 4 star hotel, we got back on the buses to take a nice trip to France. No big deal.

Erin and I being French on a French beach

Kylie and I eating French Fries in a French Bistro. Note my French braid πŸ™‚
The rest of the time we spent in Pais Vasco was spent lounging on the beach, shopping for yellow shoes, and eating Nutella. Not a bad way to spend time in one of the most beautiful parts of the world πŸ™‚

Barcelona Games

This weekend’s trip: Barcelona! In honor of the Olympics that Barcelona hosted in 1992, we’re going to talk about the fun games you can play in Barcelona.
Picasso Relay–You only have one hour to see the museum devoted to one of the world’s most famous painters. First one to get to his interpretation of Las Meninas at the end of the museum wins. Extra points if you can get past the guards without your leader (because clearly all a bunch of responsible college-aged students want to do at such a famous art museum is touch things)
Museum Miss-Outs–Drive right past the Barcelona Museum of Chocolate. Park right in front of it. Get out and drool a little bit. But then walk past it and go to another museum. (Sometimes I hate my life. But only because I miss out on chocolate)
Water Searches–Water in Barcelona is non-potable, as they say, so the award goes to the person who can find water for cheap. Unfortunately, when you are dying of thirst, sometimes you have to use the tiny water bottle in the mini bar for 2 euro (displayed on the right) before you can get the economy size the next night for 1.50 (the bottle on the left)

Gaudi Marathon–tour as many buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi as possible within two days. Disqualification if you miss his famous cathedral Sagrada Familia.

On the roof of one of his houses

Sagrada Familia–wow!
Beach Volleyball–Enjoy the sand, the sun, and the waves. And the nicely bronzed Spanish men playing volleyball. This is a spectator sport.
Rain Running–after you get out of the monastery at the top of a beautiful mountain, run through the rainstorm to the bus. And get soaked in the process.

(You can’t tell me this isn’t awesome)

Barcelona Jersey face-off–Gold medal (and awesome jersey) to the person who can find the best imitation of a Barcelona jersey for the cheapest price. 28 euros, baby πŸ™‚

Being Confused–Here are the rules: You spend 5 weeks getting used to reading all the Spanish signs and are finally getting the hang of it. Then you go to Barcelona, and they decided to start writing in Catalan, a dialect specific to the eastern part of Spain that’s a mix of Spanish and French, kind of. That way, they can make you feel like an idiot when you’re trying to read in Spanish and understand nothing. Gold medal to the person who can understand the most jibberish. Good game, Barcelona. Good game.

Andalusia

I usually enjoy infusing my blog with videos, but I have been unable to find the one I am looking for on YouTube. Stinking copyright laws. As a result, I plan on posting a bunch of videos that only barely relate to the things I am talking about. But here’s the thing–I need you to remember a part from one of the best movies of all time, though. Remember in Enchanted when Jodi Benson’s character is trying to get an airplane ticket for Giselle and she says something about not being able to find the place she’s looking for–a place called Andalusia? Well, it turns out such a place exists! And it turns out, it’s in Southern Spain!
We started our little adventure by going to the place (whose name I can’t seem to recall) where Don Quixote fought his legendary windmills. Eli ceremoniously read the section from his copy of Don Quixote de la Mancha, we took random pictures, and ran away. Much like Don Quixote did. (The running away part, that is)
Next stop: Cordoba, home of the famous Islamic Mosque. But first I had to cross one of the oldest surviving Roman bridges in the world.
Before crossing the bridge.
La Mezquita!
Anyone who’s anyone (or who has taken Humanities 201 at BYU) has studied these amazing arches. That happen to look like candy canes. What most people don’t know, however, is that after the Christians took over the city, they converted the mosque into a cathedral. And it is AMAZING.
The detail in the ceiling was incredible!

I thought this photo portrays the cool mix of Christian and Islamic cultures we saw all over AndalucΓ­a.
We had a couple hours of free time after the tour, so we ran down the street to the carnival they were having and rode the ferris wheel, of course. Best 2 euros I ever spent (It came out of my ice cream budget)
After Cordoba, we headed off to Sevilla, where I willingly ate seafood for the first time in my life! I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of eating squid, but after drenching it in lemon juice and ignoring the…squishiness of it…**shudder**…I found that eating things that come from the ocean are actually edible. Good thing to know if I’m ever stranded on an island.
Calamari. Yuck.
The next day, we toured some sights in Sevilla. These were cool because they were all built by Arabs back in the day, so they had a cool Arabian feel to them.



And then we toured the Cathedral of Sevilla. Of course. Because if there is a cathedral, we are going to tour it. Of course. This one was fun to see, though, because it was Spain’s first completely gothic cathedral. Well, that, and there was a tower you could climb to see the entire city. Which was beautiful.



Oh, did I forget to mention that a certain Christopher Columbus is buried there, too? That was cool, I guess.
After our little tour, Rachel and I escaped to a cute little romantic park where we rented a cute little tandem bike type thing and acted all classy and European while driving around this beautiful park.
We ended up going to the same park the next day, because apparently the building we had been driving past all afternoon was used in the second episode of Star Wars! Yes, it was a terrible movie, but I was totally where they filmed a whole 30 seconds! If you’ve been ignoring my obnoxious video clips up to now, be sure to check out this one.

Our final destination was Granada, where we visited the world famous Alhambra.
This beautiful city is the last place the Muslims had control of before they totally got kicked out of Spain. Here’s a good little piece of history for you: When the city fell to the Christians, the leader of the Muslims sat looking over the beautiful city he had just lost and started crying. His mom came up to him and told him to keep crying like a woman because he couldn’t defend his city like a man. Talk about tough love.
I absolutely LOVED the gardens here. Someday, when I have a rich and perfect Spanish husband, we are going to pool our money to buy them and move them into our backyard. Or we’ll just buy the Alhambra. I’d be cool with that too.
I even found my old American Lit pal Washington Irving in the Alhambra. He wrote a story about Alhambra using many of the old Arab legends. This plaque says that the room we were standing in was the room he wrote in–sweet! The English Nerd inside of me made me take this picture.
That night, we went and saw some more Flamenco dancing. And it was AMAZING. I’m going to include another must-see video here, because the rhythm of the clapping and the dancing is absolutely mesmerizing.

Aubrey and I being all Flamenco-y before the show
All of the girls with the attractive Flamenco dancers/singers/guitarists after the show
Unfortunately, I woke up sick on Saturday morning. So when we went to the famous Spanish poet Lorca’s house, I wasn’t terribly interested or excited. I did learn, however, that Lorca wasn’t just a great writer–he played the piano, drew, and acted extremely well also. A true artistic genius. But it felt oh-so-good to come home at last and take a nap after our amazing trip to Andalusia. Which, it turns out, is awesome.

Things I’ve Learned in Spain-5

16. Air actually blows in those little air vent things in the ground here in Spain. So don’t walk over them when you’re wearing your new purple dress or you will have a legit Marilyn Monroe moment in the streets of Madrid. Oopsies…

17. When you go to the temple without your Spanish professor, everyone will talk to you in English. Even the extremely attractive Portuguese man who spoke perfect English without ever having set foot in the United States. Unfortunately, he was attached to a very cute Portuguese girl. Dang it….
18. When the temple president comes in to greet you and thank you personally for coming to the temple, you should probably wake up your roommate who’s dozing next to you. Or else she’ll be mad. Also, all the nice people in the world are from Arizona. Including the cute old man checking temple recommends at the front desk.
19. If you come to Spain to be immersed in the Spanish culture, be prepared for lots of American music.
20. The only deodorant available in Spain is the rolly kind and the spray kind. Both are way more fun than the regular American kind–so either way, you win.

Salamanca and other Grand Adventures

Sidenote: (You know it’s going to be bad when I START with a sidenote) I am in love with the Spanish countryside. We’re driving along in our big happy bus of wonderfulness, watching beautiful green fields rush past, when out of nowhere, a blanket of red poppies overtakes the entire field. I learned in my BritLit class that poppies are supposed to be representative of death and gloom and such and such, but I cannot tell you how happy these little flowers make me.
Now, our featured presentation:
First stop of the weekend–Avila! Avila is most famous for their big, old wall. (And no, Mom, it’s not the Great Wall of China. Nice try, though)
These suckers surround the entire city, and they’re awesome.

Everywhere we go, they tell us how old all of these buildings are. However, I found these workers building one of the towers right in front of my eyes! They can tell me they’re “just restoring it,” but I know the truth πŸ™‚
After running around there for awhile, we drove over to Salamanca, a university city super close to Portugal.
Yeah, I know. It’s fantastic πŸ™‚
Our awesome tour guide first took us to the University of Salamanca, the 4th oldest university in the world. It was amazing. And very old.
This is the original building. They don’t use it anymore for educational purposes, but it was fun to look at. Our next stop was–surprise!–the Cathedral. I’m having a harder time appreciating the cathedrals, now. After the 12th one, they all start looking the same. Some pretty sweet highlights from this though came when we took a peek at the back door.

This is a lion. Eating an ice cream cone. Rachel and I were totally jealous.

This is an astronaut.
It turns out the facade over the back door had to be redone at some point in the 20th century, so the architects decided to have some fun and include Space Men and Ice Cream in their designs. Oh, those Spaniards and their sense of humor!
We had a blast that night. We spent the first little while wandering around to different shops, comparing ice cream prices, and just chilling in the Plaza Mayor.
This is the Plaza Mayor. It’s a beautiful centro with tons of cute shops and apartments upstairs. Someday when I move back here with my Perfect Spanish Husband, we’re going to own an apartment upstairs so we can make everyone sitting in the middle of the plaza jealous.

Oh, we’re just chilling in the Plaza Mayor. No biggie.
We then spent the next half of the night trying to find a dance club that would let us in without buying alcohol. (Oh, the sad sorry life of a BYU student) Unfortunately we had no luck there, so we found a political protest and hung out with those guys before the police showed up. While the dancing was kind of a flop, how many people can say they got lost in the streets of Salamanca for half of a Friday night?
The next morning, we all went and had breakfast in the Plaza Mayor (ah, the day in the life of a Spaniard) before a few of us went to mass in the cathedral. Well, we attempted to go to Mass. When there weren’t any actual Catholics there, we just hung out until we could talk to the Priest. He was adorable, and I’m probably going to adopt him. Highlight of that conversation: he showed us a chair that one of the popes sat in when he visited in the 80’s. And I sat in it.

Proof.
We hit a couple other cities on our way home, with no special details to mention. You know how it goes here–visit some cathedrals, eat bocadillos de tortillas in open plazas, visit with the viejitos (old Spanish men)…just a day in the life πŸ™‚