Spring Break 2006!

Hello Boys and Girls!

I know it’s been forever. Now, in addition to not having an Internet connection I no longer have a laptop, so I really am cut off from all of civilization. I’m warning you all now that this e-mail is kinda long, so if you just want to look at the pictures, they are at http://umd.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2034729&id=5700154 it’s hosted by facebook, but you don’t have to have an account to view them…

Anyway, spring break has come and gone. It was a crazy ten days of travel to Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona…

Lisbon couldn’t have been more different from Paris. Paris was cold and rainy the morning we left, but Lisbon was absolutely GORGEOUS. Lisbon is very hilly (apparently seven hills) and our first adventure (after meeting up my friend Liz from high school) was climbing up to St. Jorges’ Castle, with an amazing view over the whole city… We also visited Jerónimos Monastery, built in an architectural style unique to Portugal, and visited the Belem Tower, which sits on Lisbon’s bay. Our last night there we saw a fado (translated it means destiny or fate) musical performance. It’s kind of sad poetry set to music and the style originated in Portugal in the 1820s. We obviously also took in the local culture at night 😉

Our craziest adventure happened our last morning in Lisbon, when my friend Beth and I decided to go to the beach before catching our flight. On the way back on train, we tried to save some money by not buying a ticket. This was all fine until the conductor came on the train to check for tickets (and give out heavy fines to those who didn’t have them) My bright idea was to go to the back of the train and hope that our stop would come up before the conductor could make his way to us. It soon became obvious that that wasn’t going to work, so my second genius plan was to get out at the next stop and run up to the front of the train where the conductor had already checked tickets. It would have been amazing if it had worked, but alas we couldn’t get back on the train fast enough… We bought tickets, got on the next train, and then HAULED ASS all over hilly Lisbon to try and catch our flight. We made it to the airport ONE MINUTE before check-in closed!

Then it was onto Madrid. I have to admit, we probably couldn’t have picked a worst time to visit – It was the week before Easter and pretty much everything was closed. Our first night there, Beth and I attended a seder at the equivalent of a Jewish Community Center. The synagogue had a guard at the door and we were interrogated before being let in. We caught the tail end of services and for the seder, met a bunch of American students… Everything was in Spanish and Hebrew, but the tunes for the songs were the same. (“Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish…”)

We visited a LOT of cultural sites in Madrid: the Royal Botannical Gardens, the Prado Museum (it contains the famous Velazquez piece, Las Meninas, as well many of the Black Paintings by Goya), the Reino Sofia Museum (modern art – it includes many Picasso pieces, including the Guernica, also has stuff by Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí, Bacon…), the Royal Palace….. and we drank a LOT of Sangria. We spent Good Friday in Madrid and there were a lot of crazy processions for Easter…. People walked around wearing the white hoods the crusaders wore (which is where the KKK got the idea from). Karen (my big sister from ZTA) met up with us and off we went to Barcelona…

Our flight to Barcelona was at 7 in the morning and when we got there, we were all dead but our hostel wouldn’t let us check-in. So I had my first sleeping-in-a-park-like-a-bum experience. At least it was sunny out…. In Barcelona, we walked down les Ramblas, which is the street in Europe where you are most likely to get pickpocketed. We also made it to the beach… our last time at the beach, Beth and I went topless. Hey, when you’re in Barcelona, do as the Barcelonians!

Barcelona is Gaudi’s city, (an architect), and I absolutely fell in love with the buildings he designed. He has a sort of Art Nouveau style and his stuff looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The Sagrada Familia is a modern church built in the style of ancient cathedrals – that’s to say that it’s very contemporary looking, but once finished, it will have taken over 100 years to build! He also planned Parc Guell and the apartment buildings named Casa Batillo and Casa Milo, which are just so cool…

So, I’m sure you are all sick of reading by now… My spring break was a lot of fun and you can bet I’m getting ready from Spring Break 2007!!

Hope finals are going well! To all you graduating seniors, congrats! Stay in touch!

see ya,

Julie