As much as I appreciate time creeping by at a pace of a snail (ahem, sarcasm), I need the time to slow down a bit because I still need to do so much research. I can more or less confirm that I will be visiting Madrid, Malaga (studying here, actually), Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Girona, and Cervera. Of course, I will also be visiting Toledo, Ronda and Granada with my study abroad group, and also most likely Marbella and Benalmadena on my own, but I have a pretty clear idea of what to do in these four cities, or at least my study abroad program does. What I am trying to say is: I have no clue what to do in the first six cities… I have all the freedom in the world to make my own decisions, but with freedom comes an interminable list of possible activities, and, yes, travelling logistics. I’m just here to describe my dilemma, city by city.
I feel like I would need to spend at least a year here to get to know the city, not four days. I will have two days all by myself and two more with the group. As Google Earth has revealed to me, the streets of Madrid seem to be adorned with endless choices of shops… And this is going to be a problem for a thorough die-hard shopper. I have spent the past year working in retail while going to college full-time just so I could go to this city and spend some glorious days doing nothing but shopping (yes, I am that ridiculous). I will leave the sightseeing business to my study abroad group, who will provide a guided tour of the major museums, the Royal Palace, Retiro Park, etc,, etc. Before joining the group, someone (um, my mom) has advised me to visit the Embassy/Consulate for of my country to ask for advice and let them know that hey, I am in Spain. She even said that I might even have the luck of meeting the ambassador and make connections (because I am studying International Relations and Spanish and hoping to work in Foreign Affairs someday). According to her, all ambassadors from my country are very nice and helpful….But perhaps she forgets that she had met them while she was working, so it was in an official atmosphere. I, on the other hand, will show up at their doorstep like a lost dog that they will be more than happy to get rid of as fast as possible. I wonder if they will even talk to me and whether I will waste my time (and theirs) that I could have used to stay longer at the Bernabeu stadium. That would crush a Madridista’s heart. Well, since I have already digressed, congratulations to Real Madrid who has finally won the UEFA Champions League last week after a 12-year drought. I remember the last time they won pretty vividly, for it was the beginning of my alignment with the club… HALA MADRID!
Summary of dilemma(s): time constraint and visiting the Embassy for no apparent reason.
Unlike Madrid, Malaga will be my “home” for a month. I will get to study Spanish here while living with a Spanish host family. So why Malaga, of all places? Well, I want to avoid as much tourists and students from the same country (especially from the same university) as much as I can. My primary goal is to improve my verbal Spanish and get to experience the new culture and hopefully meet some new people. My university has a partner program with a university in Sevilla…gracias, but nah, no hay playa (there’s no beach), not to mention it is 1k more expensive! I knew I had to be in Andalucía, so Malaga, it is. The city may not seem as “pretty” and big as Sevilla, but hey, it is in the eyes of the beholder. I think I will like it just fine. It seems much more modern than Sevilla. By the way, did I mention that there are beaches? I have seen that they might not be world-class beaches, but I can always visit the nearby towns for better beaches, like Marbella, Fuengirola, Nerja, and Benalmadena!
Summary of dilemmas: Adapting to the new ways of living (with host family and sharing a room with fellow student, food, culture, language, and the list goes on and on), learning about the local transportations within Malaga and nearby towns, juggling school and sightseeing, socializing, partying, World Cup, and MotoGP-watching… In short, trying to gain as much new experiences as possible in a little time.
After almost booking a hotel in Las Palmas – located on the other side of Spain in the Canary Islands – I can finally confirm that I will be visiting this gorgeous Balearic Island. If the photos and videos on the Internet are nothing but true, this place is breath-taking. I repeat, it is breath-taking. I wish I could live there! So after studying in Malaga, I will leave the mainland and spend four days on Mallorca. The (main) problem is, I will not spend four days in Malaga. All flights to Palma leave in the evening. The earliest one I could find will land at 7 pm, so not much that I could do on Day 1, besides a bit of shopping, dining, and going out late (provided that I have enough energy). The departing flight will leave at 7am on Day 4…So I will probably have to wake up early and inevitably take a cab to the airport, which could be a bit expensive. I should be at the airport and hour or two before my flight…so I may have to get up and go as early as 4am… All of this means that I will only get to spend 2 full days in Palma. My other problem is the temptation to go to Menorca, another Balearic Island with gorgeous beaches that perhaps not even Palma can compete. But this little island is quite a few hours away…so I can say the Menorca trip will not be happening. I will need to make the most of Palma within the two days that I have… Also, I have heard some people calling it “Little Germany”… so I will be expecting quite a few German tourists there. Heck, there’s got to be a reason why I am flying Air Berlin from one Spanish city to the next.
Summary of dilemma(s): Being unjust by giving only a few days to this beautiful place, figuring out what to do while there (I will reiterate now that I have very little clue at the moment), running into flocks of tourists, dealing with the guilt of not being able to visit Menorca, spending so much money on taxi to and from the airport instead of using the buses.
To the surprise of many, I was not planning to come here. As I have already said, I hate touristy places (oh, the irony), and Barcelona is one of the most visited cities of the world. A friend of mine went to Barcelona last year Instagrammed a graffiti in Catalan and English that say “Tourist, go home”. So you can imagine that I can already feel quite welcomed. Also, as far as the rumors go, this place is full of pickpocketing. I am not the one to believe in rumors, but they are quite concerning. I will see if they are true once I get there. Also, visiting Barcelona may not be 100% beneficial to my Spanish, since the co-official language and for everyday use is Catalan. It has always sounds a teeny tiny bit like French to me (I mean, the word “gracias” is “gracies” or “MERCI”, hello?), and I have not been a big fan of French…But for whatever reason (ok, for Marc Marquez, mainly), I have signed up for a Catalan class in the Fall. I should have been studying the language right now when I have free time apart from working… Anyway, like Mallorca, Barcelona seems to have too many options of sights and things to do. I still need to do an extensive research, but the problem is researching is that the results are written and discovered by fellow tourists…
Summary of dilemma(s): Trying to balance a list of touristy and authentic sights and things to do; visiting rival FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou despite being a devoted Madridista; speaking Catalan; figuring out how to get to MotoGP’s Circuit of Catalunya (by train to another small city, then by a string of buses or walking 40 minutes by myself in the middle of nowhere – IF they offer to host tours on the dates that I will be in Barcelona); Learning to appreciate Modernist art and buildings; and answering myself why I am visiting this city after re-reading all of the previous dilemmas
This one is the latest city to be included in my itinerary. I didn’t want to spend all week in Barcelona before going off to Cervera (see below), so I needed to visit another small Catalan town nearby. Another option was Figueras, which is Dali’s hometown, but then I asked myself WHY should I visit a town just because of one dude? (FYI, please don’t laugh at this rhetoric question once you get to read about Cervera). So Girona it is. It’s not very far from Barcelona and is a good transportation hub – better than Figueras – that could get me to my next anticipated destination in no time. I think I first laid eyes on this city from the movie Tengo Ganas de Ti, where the lovers from Barcelona visit this town and put a lock on a bridge with their names written on it. I loved the view, and to me, it feels very “European” rather than Spanish, which is ironic because all I need to soak in from this trip is the “Spanish” feel, but I figured I should get the European feel too, because, after all, I will be in Europe…even though I refuse to travel outside of Spain for this trip, mainly because I don’t want to complicate the visa application process – but that’s for another post. Anyway, I found this Youtube video about Girona to be very inspiring that I would like to share it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYLpV_lT8ME
Summary of dilemma(s): Needing more info about what to do in this seemingly small city… That’s pretty much it! Hopeful that it will keep me entertained for a couple of days.
Like Girona, Cervera is a small university town. Unlike Girona, that’s about it. At this point in time, Cervera is still very much a mystery t me… But I know for sure that there is one attraction from this town: Marc Marquez. Besides being an avid soccer fan, I love watching MotoGP, the premier class of the motorcycle’s world. But to be completely honest, I had little interest in this sport until last year, when the then 20-year-old rookie took the season by the storm and won the championship. He really is something else, not to mention he is attractive and charismatic as h*ll. And if I dare say, he is very much the definition of my type. But fear not, I will not be visiting the city to find him… He will be in the US, racing in Indianapolis… I look forward to watching the race live with the Official Fan Club, which, unsurprisingly, I am a part of. Anyway, he deserves another post. For now, let’s go back to the city… Of course, the main attraction is Marc Marquez and everything involving him…particularly his museum. I will be able to enter the museum for just 1 euro with my membership card. Ha.
Summary of dilemma(s): Still looking for accommodations; very few options of hotels/hostals that won’t let you make online reservations so I need to call them once I’m in Spain; desperately NEED more info about other what-to-do’s, desperately; trying to get back to Madrid on time; wondering how the locals will receive one strange outsider…
Phew, that’s it for now. Any recommendations or comments are highly welcomed!