Monday, December 26, 2011

Madrid, Paris, St Nicolas, and CHRISTMAS!

I really am trying to write more frequently, but I've been so busy lately!! Here's what I've been up too...

P.S. photos are on facebook, it takes too long to upload them all here!
December 2-5 I went to Madrid with Kayla and stayed at my host cousins house. She lives right in the center of Madrid, and it was amazing! To fly from Brussels Charleroi to Madrid and back was only about 70 euros, and since we had someplace to stay, it wasn't that expensive. I plan on becoming a professional couch surfer, that really is the way to live life.

The day we arrived, we were kind of a disaster. We don't speak Spanish and no one would speak English with us, even though we know they know the basics. We went sightseeing a little that day and saw the Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Royal Castle, and a really impressive Cathedral. Then we went to Flamenco dancing, which is a lot more like tap dancing than I thought it would be. After that we found this American Diner that had a menu in English and served all sorts of American food, I was in Heaven!!! I had a club sandwich and Kayla had a real hot dog (they don't have hot dogs in Europe like we have hot dogs back home) and then we had Apple Pie, it was the best thing ever. After we paid they gave us a gumball. It was just like back home <3

The second day we were supposed to meet up with Kayla's friend from Argentina that lives in Valencia (about 5 hours away from Madrid), and in typical Latino fashion we didn't meet up til about 2 in the afternoon. They don't speak any French (obviously) and a little English, but we made it work and had so much fun with them. We went to Parc Retiro and saw the Crystal Palace and all sorts of cool parks, then we ate tapas for lunch (they normally eat lunch at 3-3:30 here and dinner at about 10) and then we went back to Puerto del Sol and shopped at this massive place called Cortes Ingles. After that we left Kayla's friends and went to find somewhere to eat, and then we went bar hopping. The first bar we went to we paid 8 euros for a daiquiri. We decided pretty quick that wasn't going to happen all night long, but luckily for us, we're girls. In Madrid if you're just with other girls, people that work at the bars will give you coupons to entice you to spend time at their bar and bring the boys with you. Someone told us we could get two drinks for 5 euros. Then after that, the bartender made us another drink. And then they gave us two more. It was ridiculous. Then we heard about this club that apparently was really good, so at about 2 AM we headed to the club. It was 7 stories, and each story had a different theme. There were dance floors, bars, smoking rooms, hookah rooms, and even half naked go-go dancers on the stage. IT WAS SO COOL. We ended up getting home at about 5 AM, but it was definitely a night to remember!

The next day we wanted to get an early-ish start to go to Toledo (really old city just outside of Madrid) but that plan completely failed. We got there at about 3 and looked around the city (more like hiked around the city, it's super hilly) and got tickets for the train at 8. At about 7 we had a panic attack because we didn't know where the train station was, and let me remind you WE DON'T SPEAK SPANISH, so we started full out sprinting to get there in time. We got there with about 5 minutes to spare, but our tickets wouldn't work and we got kicked out of the line. They didn't work because our original tickets were for the train at 10 but we didn't want to get home that late so we changed them. The ticket person finally got it figured out so we made the train but it was a very, very stressful time.

Our last day there we went shopping!! My host cousin showed us this street with a bunch of cool shops and we bought Christmas presents and purses and then ate a long lunch and ended up running in the airport to make our plane. Kayla and I end up running a lot. We need to learn better time management skills. Overall Madrid was an awesome trip where we met lots of cool people and learned enough Spanish to get around! I can't wait to go back for Easter Break :)

The parents and brothers of the host cousin I stayed with in Madrid invited me to come stay with them in Paris two weeks after I got back from Madrid. I appreciate the fact that my host family lives in awesome cities and invites me to come visit.

The first day I got there we went to Galeries Lafayette to see this AMAZING Christmas tree, and then we walked over to Printemps and went to the top of the building for an incredible view of Paris. You could see La Defense, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and Montmarte, it was indescribable. Then we went to look at the Christmas Markets at Montmartre and see Sacre Coeur. I love the area of Montmartre but everything at the Christmas Market was super expensive! Then we went on a walk through Paris and ate cake and drank tea at this super cute little restaurant that had the best cake EVER! After that we went shopping and I bought shoes for the Christmas Dance at school and a purse.

The next day we went to Brunch at this American restaurant where every single person that worked there was from the U.S. I ate pancakes with syrup and was sooo happy. They don't eat pancakes and syrup here, they eat crepes and sugar or waffles and chocolate. I most definitely love those too, but I was missing pancakes and syrup a little bit as well. After that we went to the catacombes. Angeline (my host cousins girlfriend) was TERRIFIED. Absolutely certain that we were going to die in the catacombs. It was the weirdest experience ever. I knew we would be seeing bodies, but I thought it'd just be skeletons laying around. I was SO wrong. There are thousands of skeletons. Everywhere. But made into pretty little designs. They only use the skulls and arm and leg bones for the designs and then they shove the rest behind so you can't see them. It is a weird, weird thing. There were also really depressing quotes everywhere like "wake up each morning thinking you'll die that night, and go to bed each night thinking you'll die the next morning." It was a cheery place.

When we left, we went to Notre Dame and rode Carousels and drank Starbucks and then we went to the Champs Elysees and saw all the Christmas lights and Christmas markets, and that was a much happier place.

My last day there I heard that my parent's best friends (who live in North Carolina and we only see once a year if that) would be in Paris. I sent them an email and we met up at Notre Dame and then went to see the Saint Chapelle together. It was really good to see people from home and speak two hours of uninterrupted English. We hardly ever meet up in the States but we managed to meet up in Paris!! Then I went to a Rotary Christmas Party with my host aunt and uncle and got a really cool Mexican Nativity Set and everyone signed a piece of paper wishing me a Merry Christmas or wrote some cute little note :) I can't wait to go back to Paris in March or April to meet up with my French teacher and other kids from my high school back home!! It was such a fun weekend with wonderful Parisienne tour guides :)

St Nicolas
Every year on the 6th of December, St Nicolas comes and gives all the kids candy. It's a wonderful holiday. I got candy from my host grandparents, my host family, and my host aunt and uncle, and I'm probably going to die from a chocolate overdose soon. At school, someone dresses up in the St Nic outfit and they go around to all the classrooms and throw candy at the kids, it's a lot of fun. I might try and make my real family adopt this holiday, its just like Halloween with all the candy!

My school had a formal Christmas Ball, and everyone got all dressed up to go. They serve dinner before the dance, and dinner starts at 8 and the dance ends at 2. The weirdest part of all of this was that the teachers were selling alcohol, and the kids were drinking it with the teachers. It completely blew my mind. It was awesome, but something like that would absolutely never happen back home. I was supposed to go home at about 2:30, but stayed to help clean up and got home at 7:45 instead. At school dances back home, teachers help clean up and we always come back the morning after to do it. There were absolutely no teachers in the school during clean up and it lasted from 2:30 til about 7 AM. I was so tired I fell asleep on a table. I got home and slept all day, it was wonderful.

Christmas Eve we had maybe 15 people over for Turkey and presents. My host dad gave me one of his paintings (he's an amazing painter), I got a scarf from my host sister (my collection is RAPIDLY growing) and gloves from my other host sister, and the big present from my host parents is that they're taking us all to Disney Land tomorrow for 3 days. I AM SO EXCITED. I also got a Pandora charm from my host aunt and uncle and bathroom stuff from Mami and Papi. It was a good Christmas Eve :)

For actual Christmas all of Mami and Papi's family came to eat dinner. They have 7 kids, and each of their kids have about 3 kids, and cousins were there and it was just out of control. This family is HUGE. All the cousins did a gift exchange, I got a scarf (did I mention my collection is growing rapidly?) and I gave away an America tshirt and bag. Then we played a game like scharades but with drawing, and ate wonderful sea food and fruit and had delicious Yule Logs for dessert and did a flash mob that we had made up earlier in the day. At the end of the night (about 2 AM) we played a trivia game about the families and the winner got to take 7 bottles of wine home. The questions were things like "True or False: Mackenzie's middle name is Anne" and "True or False: So and so's anniversary is May 10th" but the family concerned couldn't answer the question. It was really fun, but I obviously didn't win because I hardly know anything about this massive family. Overall it was a great Christmas and I can't wait to go to Disneyland tomorrow with my host cousins, parents, and sisters. It should be a really fun time!!!

I live a gooood life <3

1 comment:

  1. HAHAHAHHA Great to hear you live a good life! We can't wait to see you either. We are leaving on the 30th of MArch, and will arrive on the 1st of April. So paris these 2 days, and I'll let you know the exact dates of the second time in paris soon. Have fun!