Monday, June 29, 2009

Week 1 (Big update)

Flickr link:

I haven´t updated since Wednesday, So I´ll have to make a huge list


I went to the Royal Palace in Spain with the school and when we arrived at Plaza Oriental (where the palace is located) I felt like wandering through the entire plaza to see all the statues and architecture. Unfortunately I didn´t want to lose the tour group so I´ll have to go sometime later, explore, and take photos of the gardens exploding with all kinds of flora, unique and often bizarre street performers in front of the Palace, and the beautiful architecture.
Statue dedicated to the Arts in Plaza Oriental

Eventually we got to the gate and went into the main courtyard where the Palace, The Cathedral de la Almudena, and Campo del Moro all were just waiting to be seen. We only paid for the tour of the palace so I didn´t get to see inside the Cathedral, and since we arrived about half an hour early we got to see the view of the Campo, and check out the Royal Museum of Arms by the palace. Unfortunately there was no photography allowed within the Museum so I can't show you the antique swords and armors in the museum.

A shot of the Cathedral in the Courtyard

We then exited the museum and from there we found the breathtaking view of El Campo del Moro. Green land that just seemed to stretch out for an eternity and I always wish I had a nicer camera to capture the lush green forest and the perpetual landscape.

Campo del Moro

After all that, we went to the Royal Palace with the guide. Every single room had such attention to detail: frescos, furniture from all over the world; you could just feel the history in the 22 rooms we visited (over a thousand rooms in total).

And there was no photography allowed...

So here is a photo of outside the palace with my fellow classmates!

Thursday: There is a park in Madrid known as El Parque del Buen Retiro (best known as just El Retiro) I quickly passed through it one day and I think it is by far the best place within Madrid. Acres and acres of trees, flowers, statues, small stands, and a lake all just exploding with colors, life, and an aura of grandness that makes you hate leaving it. I was only there for about an hour or so, but during that hour I was in something that Ansel Adams must have done, pure nature meshing perfectly with the statues and people to give you a calming and relaxed feel. Words are not enough... go check out the Flickr feed (link above).

Estudio Sampere had a get together that night at a bar in Madrid. There we all got to hang out and I got to know my fellow classmates. Unfortunately a lot of them were either from the French group (a large group of elderly people on vacation) who most were just learning Spanish or who were leaving in a few days. So I hung out, watched the South Africa v Brazil game and had some sangria (great stuff).

Friday: I had a trip to Segovia Saturday morning, I needed as much sleep as I could, I couldn't afford to miss it.

Motorcycles and Mopeds are really big in Spain...

Saturday: I looked at the partied out crowd as they slumped onto the 9 AM bus, Segovia was only an hour away from Madrid. It had the old Spanish village air around it but not the exact look. There were old historical buildings such as Roman churches, La Casa de los Picos, and the Aqueduct next to shoe stores and restaurants that served "American" food.

The aqueduct from below

After a coffee break we got to see the Gothic Cathedral in Segovia. Unfortunately there were no photos allowed so the interior isn´t up on Flickr. Honestly it felt like walking through a museum; old artifacts from the Cathedral, tools from making the aqueduct, Spanish coin collections, even a sarcophagus.

Photo of the Cathedral´s Exterior

After walking through the twisting winding alleys filled with shops (bought myself a souvenir) we went to see El Alcazar de Segovia (Castle of Segovia ). It was a castle perched on top of a huge cliff, with an amazing view of the countryside. There's a legend that Walt Disney came to visit once and based his Castle in Disneyland off of El Alcazar de Segovia.
El Alcazar de Segovia
Within the Castle there was beautiful artwork, ceilings that were made in designs that could only be described as amazing, and at the top, there was a view that would rival the Duquesne incline.

The view from the top of Alcazar de Segovia

We then ate a restaurant and after a long day of walking and taking photos headed back to Madrid. That night I went out to Sol with Cristian and Stephanie (Fellow CMU students) and we walked around where the tourists go, being offered multiple shiny objects to wear during the night by street vendors, listening to the playing of the street performers, all while relaxing in the warm Madrid night.

There are at least one of these pharmacies on every city block...

Sunday: There were shops everywhere, rows and rows of stands that just seemed to have popped up out of nowhere and set up in the bustling area of La Latina. This was El Rastro, the Sunday marketplace when people set up shop and sell goods at low price. I went here to buy my souvenirs, but I did not want to bring my camera because of the large crowd. The items sold there were so diverse it seemed like some sort of world market...
  • Katana: 60€
  • T shirt that said España: 5 €
  • Garden gnome 10 €
  • Teashade sunglasses 7 €
  • Finding them all in the same stand: Priceless
Afterwards I went home, and after Cristian moved in, we decided to explore La Chueca (district in Madrid) and then called it a day.

Yup, they´re here too...

Well that´s it for now, I can conclude that a weekly update is far too long of a time span to update. Once every two or three days could be a good start.

Anyways the Flickr feed is full for the month, Until Wednesday I can´t upload anymore photos unless I do something about it. If I do then I´ll let you all know what I´ll be doing for 3 more weeks in Madrid and 2 in Alicante.



Time goes, you say? Ah no, alas, time stays, we go.

-Henry Austin Dobson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Flickr and an Update

A photo of Estudio Sampere from the outside.

I finally got enough photos to show them off in a Flickr set (link below). The good news is that with Flickr I can show off my photos easily and in a nicely presented form, the bad news is that I´m limited to uploading 100 MB a month. Seeing as how I plan to take around a thousand photos, each photo is about a megabyte each, and I am strictly against lowering the quality of my photos, this presents a problem.

What I might have to do is pick the cream of the crop and upload those and the other ones who unfortunately did not get chosen will either have to be uploaded later... in a ten month period. And I need to remember to organize them all, right now I´m just uploading them by date the photo was taken. I still need to add tags and descriptions and I will have to do that whenever I have time.

Other than that today I will visit the Palacio Real and watch the USA v Spain soccer game tonight (I´d hate to pick a side). I´ll take photos and talk about them in my next post.

Classes so far are great, they move at a bit of a fast pace but I learn a lot in the time I´m there. It´s about four and a half hours of study a day, three hours studying the language, and an hour and a half on optional classes where you learn things such as: culture, basic ecomomics in Spanish, Spanish food, and other subjects where I can learn all the terms in Spanish.

Until later,
Guillermo :D

We do not remember days; we remember moments.
-Cesare Pavese

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 1

My host family has no internet, the plugs in Europe are different than the USA´s, and my laptop is dead, which all mixes together to me not posting on the day I arrived :P

As I got off the plane, disoriented from my flight, on that warm Madrid morning I felt like I was in a dream. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was just the jet lag kicking in, but there was this air of disbelief... that I was in Madrid! I met my host, Pilar, not too long after I arrived, and the rest of the family later on at night. I took a quick tour of the barrio (district) of Prosperidad, found the Metro and how to get to Estudio Sampere from there. After a nap (that flight was brutal :P) I woke to find the rest of the family: Pliar´s daughter Belen and her grandson Javier.

We then talked about her previous experiences with hosting, family she has here in Spain, the city of Madrid and the usual universal topics. Pilar told stories of how she had students from all over the US. I watched the soccer (I should be saying football) game with Javier and saw firsthand how strong the sport really is on the rest of the world. Javier broke out into song when they scored a goal: "¡Yo soy español, español!" (I am Spanish, Spanish!) We all had dinner at 9 and then I finished unpacking, making sure I had everything planned out for my first day of classes and slept.

I´ll keep this updated at least once a week, I´ll upload photos as soon as I get them, I'll get a flickr feed to upload them to and put up the link as soon as I can.


The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream -Jack Kerouac

Friday, June 19, 2009


Today I started my packing:

  • 10 days of clothing
  • Light jacket
  • Towel
  • Cologne
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Other small things

And of course... this!

I decided to bring something from the Pittsburgh area to Spain and what else but The Terrible Towel?

My flight leaves Saturday morning at 7:30 am at the LAX. I have to get up at 3 am, and pray that the LA traffic doesn't end up murderous.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions!

What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

-Jack Kerouac