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5 posts from January 2014

01/30/2014

Around Mallorca and back, by Kathleen Davin, CIEE Palma de Mallorca, fall 2013

Kathleen davinName: Kathleen Davin

Semester: Fall 2013

School: Cornell University

What a week! I’ve been here for over a month now, but this was the first week where I felt like I finally spent longer than a week in Mallorca. Now that I feel more settled, it was so great to do some island exploring and catch up on some much needed R&R. 

Going back to Wednesday, we finally got to see the inside of La Catedral, Palma’s most recognizable landmark. The cathedral sits on the Meditteranean and dates back to the 13th Century (but wasn’t completed until 1601). It was full of history, and in my opinion was one of the most interesting Cathedrals I have seen thus far in Spain because it mixes so many different architectural influences from across the centuries. After the Cathedral we went next door to take a guided tour of the Royal Palace of Almudaina.

The picture below shows some of the restoration of La Catedral from the 1900s in which Antoni Gaudi was the principal architect. 

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Friday afternoon our group attended a cooking class where we made and ate paella and panellets (a typical Mallorcan almond cookie made for Halloween). The best part of the class was that I finally got to meet my abuela! She’s a Mallorcan chef and teaches cooking classes when she’s not spoiling me with an endless supply of food.

The next day we literally spent the entire day exploring the island. A private van took us through La Sierra de Tramuntana, a mountain range that forms the northern coast of the island and is scattered with great lookouts of the Meditteranean and cute seaside villages. We started the day in Esporles, visiting La Granja, a historic farm with barnyard animals, living quarters, a chapel, and the creepiest part, a torture chamber in the basement. It was an interesting way to see how a farm like that worked hundreds of years ago. 

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After half a day at the farm, the van took us up through the mountains which was quite a winding ride, but worth it in the end. We stopped at a couple lookout points, La Torre de las Almas, Deía, and Estellencs where my host family actually has a vacation house that they go to every weekend. 

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Torre de las Almas, where we climbed to the top

After an exhausting day seeing the sites, I joined a couple friends for a night at the theater to see a play called “Yo me bajo en la próxima, ¿y usted?” It was a two man show and though a lot of the jokes went completely over my head it was really awesome to see a play in a completely different language and still be able to enjoy it.

And speaking of Spanish going completely over my head, tonight I went to mass with my host family to hear my brother sing in the choir. The church was incredibly beautiful and although it was difficult to understand the majority of the mass, it was familiar enough that I could follow along. Afterwords we went to a fantastic café where they had handmade ice creams and local Mallorcan pastries. It was so great to have some bonding time with my host family–the kids are too cute and even my abuela joined.

Definitely a great week on the island, with even more adventures to come! Hasta luego!

01/23/2014

Madrid, by Kathleen Davin, CIEE Palma de Mallorca, fall 2013

Kathleen davinName: Kathleen Davin

Semester: Fall 2013

School: Cornell University

Hey there!

This weekend marked my 4th weekend in Spain and my first solo trip abroad! Where better to go than Madrid! One of my best friends, Saroja has been studying in Madrid this semester and it was so fun to catch up with her plus have a local expert to show me the city! And it was the weekend after her birthday, so we got to do some celebrating.

I arrived Thursday night, had a drink with Saroja, and then went to dinner at her homestay and met her adorable Spanish mother who cooked us some delicious empanadas. Qué ricas! Then it was off to the discotecas. Madrid has an incredible nightlife. It definitely wore me out this weekend, but it was a ton of fun!

Friday we gathered up as much energy as we could to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was El Parque de Buen Retiro, basically the “Central Park” of Madrid. We enjoyed seeing some of the gorgeous buildings and fountains in the park and people watching. We then headed over to El Museo del Prado, one of the most famous museums in Spain. It was overwhelming–we could have spent days in there without seeing everything! But one of the highlights was Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” which was pretty surreal seeing in person. That night we went out for a huge tapas dinner and later on to Kapital, Madrid’s infamous seven floor club. Each floor has a different theme from karaoke to hip hop and we had an incredible time dancing the whole night.

After squeezing in a few hours of sleep, we took advantage of my last day in Madrid and spent the day wandering the streets, visiting the Cathedral, and attempting to get into the Palacio Real (unfortunately it was roped off all day). We also found an incredible authentic Mexican restaurant and I finally had some guacamole (you have no idea how highly anticipated this discovery was). All in all a successful trip!

Back in Palma, today a few friends and I went to some beautiful cliffs called Porto Pi. The brave ones went cliff diving into the Meditteranean; I was more of a scaredy cat and climbed down the rocks and slid into the water. I did skin my knee and bear some battle scars from the rocks though!

Definitely a weekend full of adventures!

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Discoteca time, a beautiful Chapel we visited where we ran into a wedding party outside, and El Parque de Buen Retiro

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El Palacio Real being strictly guarded by a police officer

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Madrid’s Cathedral

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And some of the gorgeous cliffs from today!

Buenas noches!

01/16/2014

Pomegranate, by Kathleen Davin, CIEE Palma de Mallorca, Fall 2013

Kathleen davinName: Kathleen Davin

Semester: Fall 2013

School: Cornell University

Did you know that in English, Granada translates to pomegranate? Well, we spent this weekend in the “pomegranate” city, a beautiful, culturally diverse place that is over a thousand years old. Our weekend was jam-packed with as much touring as we could possibly fit in. Granada was such an incredible place to experience mainland Spain for the first time and I would love to return someday.

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We arrived in Granada on Friday morning and quickly dropped our bags at a fantastic hostel (owned by such an adorable and hospitable Spanish couple). We had a fantastic guide as soon as we arrived. Antonia, our director, had a friend who is originally from Palma, but has been living in Granada for some time and so she gave us a great tour of the city, sharing some of the history and notable landmarks. We saw Granada’s Catedral and Capilla Real–several Spanish monarchs have tombs in the chapel including Ferdinand and Isabella!

That night, we walked to Calle de las Teterías. A tetería is more or less an Arabic teahouse and Granada is famous for some of the best teas. As an avid tea drinker, I give my highest praises to the teterías of Granada. For dinner we went to a tetería and kebab restaurant where I had one of the best falafel sandwiches of my life (I’m also an avid falafel eater). We tried a herbaceous and minty tea that was typical of Granada. That night we saw a phenomenal flamenco show with singers, guitarists, and dancers. It was a very small theater and I sat in the front row as the dancers on stage stomped their feet with so much passion. After a long Friday exploring, I slept well that night!

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Saturday our day was entirely dedicated to seeing La Alhambra. This is one of the main attractions of Granada and I can certainly see why! The palace and fortress have been passed down through the ages between Christian and Muslim rulers alike. The Alhambra has a strategic location that looks down on the entire city of Granada and functioned as a completely self-sustaining community at one point, with orchards, farm animals, and an irrigation system. It is incredible that a monument like this has been preserved so well throughout the ages and still exists today as a testament to the diverse architecture and cultures that mingled throughout Spain through the centuries

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After the Alhambra we returned to the city and did some shopping throughout the city at some of the great spice and tea stores and vendors on the streets. After shopping, we went bar hopping and tried some delicious tapas. Halfway through our night we happened upon what ended up being a bachelor party, but to us was just a giant marching band in the streets. They played “When the Saints Go Marching In” and some other American classics and everyone came out of all the bars and restaurants to dance in the streets. We ended the night at a hookah bar and tetería where I took advantage of some great vanilla tea because I’ve had a cold for the past few days.

Unfortunately, it’s back to the grind tomorrow and hopefully I can kick this cold and clear out my popped ears from the plane ride! Hope my US friends are enjoying the fall weather (I’m pretty jealous I’m missing the leaves change)!

Til next time!

01/09/2014

Fin de semana, by Kathleen Davin, CIEE Palma de Mallorca fall 2013

Kathleen davin

Name: Kathleen Davin

Semester: Fall 2013

School: Cornell University

Hola amigos!

It really never stops feeling like I’m on vacation here! I’ve pretty much had a four day weekend with minimal tarea since it’s only been a week which has been a great chance to explore while the weather is still incredibly nice! Thursday included a trip to the discoteca, Friday we took the bus to the end of the line to go to a great beach called Illetes, Saturday we went shopping and ended the night at my new favorite cervecería and tried some local Mallorcan beers. Unfortunately our original plan to go sailing today was cancelled because of the choppy water, but instead we got to go to Valldemossa which was equally fantastic, plus we got to sleep in a bit! I’ll give you the short version of our trip today (in pictures)!

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We started the day in Valldemossa at a famous café, most well known for their cocas de patata which was pretty much a sweet roll made with potato flour. Along with a café con leche, it was the perfect start to our day!

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Some of the streets of Valldemossa. The picture in the middle is a statue of Santa Catalina who was born in the town. (Other famous people who have lived for some time in Valldemossa include Frederic Chopin and Jorge Luis Borges.) One great thing about the town was that it was about 4 degrees Celcius cooler than Palma because of the high altitude. It was so great to feel some crisp fall weather at last!

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We hiked up a narrow, winding road (and narrowly avoided being hit by a car or two) until we reached a trail up to a fantastic lookout point where we ate lunch.

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We came across a nice snack called madroños, which David explained are a type of berry that will get you slightly tipsy if you eat too many of them. They were absolutely delicious!

While we waited for the bus back to Palma we had some more coffee at a beautiful outdoor restaurant where we enjoyed watching the antics of some chickens chasing two cats around the yard.

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When we returned to the Plaza, the protesters were setting up for another demonstration. They even dressed the statue in the Plaza in their signature green shirt! We walked home through a sea of young and old alike, all in green. It’s proven to be very interesting following the news on these protests. I sat in a café the other day reading a Spanish newspaper, trying to keep up with it all.

Anyway, I hope you all had a great weekend as well! Back to reality…and an 8am class tomorrow! See y’all later!

01/02/2014

Sights of Palma, by Kathleen Davin, CIEE Palma de Mallorca Fall 2013

Kathleen davin

Name: Kathleen Davin

Semester: Fall 2013

School: Cornell University

I can’t believe it’s been a week here! I can’t decide if it’s gone fast or if I feel like I’ve been here for months, but it feels strange! These last few days have thankfully been less hectic. I have two Tuesday classes that don’t start until next week and a Thursday class that doesn’t start until mid-October, so I’ve had Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday off. Lucky me!

I’ve mostly been taking advantage of my days off to explore and find my way around the city. I always start out with a plan, but I usually just walk around until I discover something interesting. Tuesday I went to a museum close to my house, called la Fundación Juan March. I spent a few hours looking at some great works by Dalí, Picasso, Miró, and a few more famous Spanish artists. I also headed over to los Banys Árabes or the Arab Baths that date back to the 10th century and are one of the only remaining structures of Muslim culture in Palma. The baths are believed to have been part of a nobleman’s house, but today only a piece of them remains. 

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I spent this morning exploring a different part of the city. I went down to La Catedral and took a few pictures of the exterior, but the massive tour groups made me not want to stay too long. I ended up stumbling on a fantastic museum that my host mother had told me about called Palau March. The upper floors were a restored palace and the lower floors housed a huge Dalí exhibition, and my personal favorite, a Nativity exhibition. 

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 All in all, I’d call that a successful first week in Spain! Hasta luego!