Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy Birthday Uncle Gary

Hola everyone,

No, this post is not about a recent travel experience or spanish language debocal, but rather an opportunity for me to wish a very Happy 50th Birthday to one of my biggest supporters!

Happy Birthday Uncle Gary! Thank you so much for always supporting me and encouraging me in life. I wish I were home to wish you a Happy Birthday but I hope this transatlantic electronic message does the trick. Have an incredible birthday, you deserve it!

Love Jennie Bells

Thank you for always being there! 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prague, Praga, Praha

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have my first travel experience outside of España. Myself and three of my favorite people packed up and went to PRAGUE for the weekend!

I did not know much about Prague or what to expect from our trip, but I had been told repeatedly that it was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Despite these warnings, I was completely blown away by how beautiful the city was! Coming from Granada in Southern Spain, I felt like I was magically thrown into a snow globe winter wonderland. Unfortunately, because of the spontaneous snow storm that arrived just as we did, I do not have many pictures to share of our travels. You'll have to just take my word for how incredible this city truly was!

As for site seeing, we managed to accomplish almost all the sites of Prague that my travel book recommended in ONE DAY! Lennon Wall, the Castle, Charles Bridge, and the Astronomical Clock.

 John Lenon Wall - A statement of peace in Prague 

The Charles Bridge

The Astronomical Clock

All in all, despite our flight home being cancelled due to snow, our time in Prague was an amazing success! I would recommend this city to anyone interested in traveling around central Europe.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Barcelona: The Weekend of Winning

Hola amigos!

Sorry for being so behind on my posts, I know you are all dying to read about my adventures in Barcelona two weeks ago! (For those of you that are friends with my father, I know he has been playing up my travel blog so I greatly apologize for the delay!) Seeing as I will be heading to Prague this weekend, I thought I should get up-to-date before I fall behind again.

Our trip to Barcelona was nothing short of incredible! After hearing my host-brothers discuss their favorite team, Real Madrid, and the political implications of Cataluña, I wasn't sure what to expect; however, I was amazed! 

From the moment we got to Barcelona, my small group of friends and fellow BC students made a pact to take in all that Barca had to offer culturally before we gave in to the crazy nightlife we had heard so much about! 

Culturally this included ... 
  1. The Picasso Museum
  2. The Miro Museum
  3. La Sagrada Familia 
  4. Park Güell 
  5. And, of course, the beach! 
Here are a quick sampling of pictures of this stunning ciudad

We were told by our host-madre that we HAD to try the paella in Barca, and she was right, it was to die for!

This is the view from the top of the Miro Museo

Me and the perpetually under construction Sagrada Familia 

On our way to Park Güell, there was an incredible series of escalators that were just begging to be photographed!

Throughout Park Güell, there were engraved cactuses so we made sure that BC left its mark!

Just enjoying the Barcelona beaches


All in all, I think we did a fantastic job of squeezing the amazing city of Barcelona into a wonderful three day trip!

Hasta luego!

A Collection of Funny Moments, Take 2

As my study abroad journey reaches the month and a half point (I can hardly believe it), here is another recap of the hilarious, uncomfortable, and memorable moments that our broken spanish get us into ...

1. Urged by host mom for weeks to adventure down Calle Navas to go tapa-hopping (the Spanish version of a bar crawl), myself and 5 other willing BC friends sat down for a botella de vino blanco, some free calamari tapitas, y good conversation. While all three of those things happened, we were also visited by none other than ... ELVIS PRESLEY! Needless to say, it was a great night.

2. In that same night, we also learned a Spanish line dance! Though I could not recreate the steps if my life depended on it, a very nice Spaniard tried her hardest to instruct us! 

3. This weekend I experienced the Once-in-a-Lifetime lunacy that is CARNAVAL! While I cannot even begin to summarize the absurdity that occured (details for a later post!), trust me that it was an incredible night that I am not sure I could have experienced anywhere else but Spain. For just a little taste of what my 24 hrs of Carnaval included, here is a photo of my oh so flattering costume and a link to an incredible accurate depiction of what Cadiz was like this weekend. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Do As the Madrilleños Do

Hola Amigos!

This past weekend my program travelled together to Escorial, Madrid and Toledo ... Three beautiful places in only three days!

Escorial was more of a pit-stop on our journey to Madrid but was breathtaking none the less. We visited what used to be the Monastery de Escorial but today is instead used as a museum, and as a perfect example of Renaissance Architecture in Spain. (Not to mention, a site that my art history teacher recommended!)

Unfortunately, we weren't permitted to take photos inside the monastery, but here is the outside of the building.

After finishing up in Escorial, the thirty of us climbed back into the bus with our trusty driver Paco and geared up for a memorable weekend in Madrid.

Lucky for me, this BC-sponsored (and paid for!) roadtrip to Madrid coincided perfectly with one of my best friends, Christine, 21st birthday! I was so happy and so lucky to be able to meet up with her to celebrate, and she was a HUGE help in finding fun places to enjoy our brief stay in Madrid.

In addition experiencing the one and only Kapital, a unique 7 floor discoteca in Madrid, our coordinator Amalia ensured that we saw all Madrid had to offer, even if we only had one day to see it. This meant a lot of walking, a lot of site seeing, and a lot of culture to process -- we visited the Palacio Real, El Prado, and El Museo de la Reina Sofia. Once again, no pictures allowed in any of these places, but you'll have to take my world that they are amazing.

Try to ignore my scarf in this picture, but behind us is the Cathedral in Madrid. 

These are all the lovely ladies in the GRIIS program in front of the Palacio Real.

As far as Toledo, I think it may rival Rondo as being one of the most scenic places I've seen in Spain. Despite being thoroughly exhausted, the views were stunning and we got to visit one of the oldest remaining Synogogues in Spain. During the Inquistion, most places of worship of religions other than Christianity were destroyed as a statement of Christianity's power, however, this one lucky building remains and is a testament to a certain level of religious tolerance that survived in Spain despite efforts such as the Inquisition.

Lastly, in an attempt to break up the 5 hour drive back from Toledo to Granada, we stopped at Los Molinos, a famous site referenced in Cervantes' work Don Quixote. Aptly titled, this place was definitely windy but the perfect place for some beautiful pictures, although I had recently taken my extra strength Dramamine pill and I think the drowsiness was starting to set in.

Hasta luego!

PS. Familia, be on the lookout for your Madrid/Toledo postcards!! (Dawn and Grampy, too)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bullfighting and Scenic Walks in Rrrrronda

As a group, the GRIIS program recently went on our first excursion outside of Granada. The trip to Rondo was originally scheduled for Saturday, January 19 but because of ridiculously high wind and rain warnings, the trip was postponed until Sunday. Because just about everything in Granada closes on Sundays, I was okay with heading out of town.

The bus ride was through the gorgeous countryside of southern Spain. Even though we were driving on the highway for over two hours, it was genuinely stunning (as is almost everything in Spain). 

Ronda is, without question, the most scenic place we have been to thus far in our travels. Although the Alhambra has not been dethroned as my favorite place in Granada, the lush, green mountains of Ronda offered a view that cannot be found in our bustling city (although the Sierra Nevadas offer a nice alternative!). 

Rather than put words to a view that cannot be explained, here are some photos of our travels!

These views were incredible! Everywhere you looked was green hills, flowing rivers, and luckily, sunshine! 

In addition to all of the wonderful views that Ronda had to offer, we actually got to go inside a Bull Fighting arena, one of the first in Southern Spain! 

Hasta Luego! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tales of the Alhambra by Jenelle McNeill


I have been counting down the days until our excursion to the Alhambra since I arrived in Granada, (to be exact, I was waiting for 10 days). This past semester, 7 out of 8 of the BC students in Granada took a class that studied the geographical, architectural and literary history of Southern Spain. In this class we took a virtual tour of the Alhambra as a way to focus on the architectural features; including Koranic inscriptions, vegetal and florid designs, and symmetric ceramic patterns.
(Here is the link to the virtual tour! )

Since taking this class, I have dying to see all these ancient monuments up close, and this past Wednesday, I finally did!

The Alhambra was built during the Nasrid Dynasty in the 13th century to serve as a Muslim Palace for the first Nasrid King, Alhamar. The palace served as a home to every Nasrid King until Boabdil capitulated to los reyes catolicos, Isabel y Ferdinando, in 1492.

When the Christian Monarchs reclaimed Granada, they altered some of the structure and design of the Alhambra palace as a way to architecturally conquer the Muslim rulers that had previously inhabited the palace. These changes including shutting down the Arab Baths that had not only served as social space for Muslim rulers but also functioned to produce a natural heating system throughout the castle. The Christians viewed this Islamic tradition as contrary to their pure Catholic beliefs, but did not account for the tremendous cold that would set in without the baths.

These photos show the beautifully recreated Arab gardens and baths where inhabitants of  the Alhambra during the reign of Muslim Al-andalus would bathe, discuss politics, socialize, etc. These baths also served to circulate hot air throughout the Alhambra, especially warming the marble floors to  comfortable temperature somewhat higher than their current below freezing status! 

This is a photo of the facade of the Palacio of Carlos V (the grandson of Isabel and Ferdinand). The palace that he had built on site next to the Alhambra was meant as a statement of Christianity's continued dominance over Islam. In fact, shortly after commissioning the building, Carlos left Granada and never even saw the completed palace. 

Despite the Alhambra's rich political history, it experienced a period of misuse and illtreatment in the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact, it was officially "uninhabited" for much of those two centuries, with the exception of the occassional nomad that sought its shelter. However, when Washington Irving, a renowned Romanticism author, visiting Granada, he took up residence within the ancient palace. In fact, he was so inspired by the beauty and history of the building that he wrote The Tales of the Alhambra about its intricate past.

Throughout the Alhambra, from the first door we entered to the private living quarters at the end of our tour, there are remnants of Irving's stay and his memory. Above is a picture of myself and my roommate, Bridget, posing in front of Irving's private fireplace, right across from the desk at which he wrote The Tales of the Alhambra. 

For me, visiting the Alhambra was the culmination of a semester of studying medieval Islamic architecture and Islamic-Christian relations from 711 AD onward. I was amazed by the views from the top of the Alhambra defensive towers and so impressed by how detailed almost every inch of the interior walls were. I was also touched by the Islamic tradition of not expressing outwardly the riches God has granted - this means that the exterior walls of the Alhambra palace are simple and plain, but the inner areas are covered with beautiful inscriptions, carvings, ceramics, paintings, and plaster work. It is an incredible piece of history.

These photos show the impressive craftsmanship of the 13th century Muslims that toiled day and night to erect the massive palace for King Alhamar. The ability to construct such ceramic tile patterns, nevermind such serene and breathtaking reflecting pools, speaks volumes to the culture and lifestyle during Muslim reign in al-andalus! 

So far, the Alhambra has been the most incredible monument I have seen since arriving in Spain, yet, everyday this country is amazing me still.

Hasta luego!