Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feliz Navidad!

Ever wonder what Christmas was like in Sevilla?

Well, I think you should come see for yourself but here is a little sneak preview...

These pictures are of lights, trees, and little nativity scenes in downtown Sevilla!

This is the view from my Balcony in my apartment. The whole street is decorated with christmas lights!

Some interesting facts I learned about how Spaniards celebrate Christmas:

- People in Spain do not celebrate Christmas like we do, they do not believe in Santa Clause, they celebrate the three kings!
- The bigger holiday for them is called " El dia de los Tres Reyes" ( The day of the three kings). This holiday is on January 6th.
-Instead of writing letters to Santa with their wish list, they write it to the three wise men.

I was talking to one of the teachers at my school and they said that families usually do not give their gifts until January 6th but they are starting to give gifts on Christmas. I asked him why and he said that its better for the kids to get their gifts at the beginning of their break because then they have all break to play with their toys. When they get their gifts on January 6th they only have a couple of day to see their toys before going back to school! Makes sense...

Even though Christmas in Sevilla seems great, I am loving being home for the Holidays! I do not regret my decision one bit :).

I hope to see you all while I am home visiting, I will be in town till January 9th!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Love Padlocks

If you can't tell I have had a pretty relaxing and non-eventful weekend considering I have had time to update my blog 3 times in the last 2 days... haha.

I wanted to share about the Love Padlocks here in Europe.

What is a Love Padlock?:

According to Wikipedia...
(also known as Love Locks) a custom by which pad locks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love.

Basically how it works is a couple who is in love will write their names on the lock and will put it in a public place where they can lock it up. They lock it up and throw away the key, this symbolizes everlasting love.

This is an example:
Sometimes the government does not like it so they start cutting off the locks. In Sevilla I heard that the police cut the locks off every couple of months, but of course people still continue to put more locks up.

This is very popular in Sevilla. There are hundreds of locks, locked up to the bridges! Even though it may seem a little tacky, I think it's cute.

So... When Brian came to visit I said, you know what, even though this may be a little high school I want to do this! We were able to use a lock that he used for his luggage, all we had to do was buy a permanent marker and we were all set.

The last night that he was here we made sure to do this. Here is how it turned out...
Truth is, I should have done my research on this before we closed our lock!...

Funny Story: We put the lock up on Sunday night and Brian left early the next morning, naturally I was sad that he left but I was keeping busy to keep my mind off of it. My roommates and I went out to dinner and I showed them the picture of our lock. THEN my roommate Shayla asked me" So did you guys throw away the key in the river after you locked it up?!". DOOH!! Yep, we screwed up and we did not know that you had to throw the key away in the river. As you can see in the picture there are three keys, so I told Brian that we should write our initials on the keys and then we can each keep a key for ourselves to just have as a memento. At the time I thought it was a great idea. Luckily at the dinner I had the key with me and my superstitious self started to take over. I was thinking to myself, " Laura, you should have known to throw the keys away, now your going to have bad luck, etc!"
I didn't know what to do so my roommates suggested that I just throw the key away into the river, even though he wasn't there with me, at least the key would be thrown away. So that's exactly what I did! On the walk back from dinner we walked over the bridge, I went to where we put our lock, I gave the key a kiss and I threw it into the river :).

I like having our lock there because its something I can walk past each day and it reminds me of Brian and how we had such a nice trip when he came to visit me.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A week hanging with Berbers, Camels, and Donkeys!

This is a pic with all the roomies/ soon to be roommie! From left to right: Kelly (Roomate who is leaving), Shayla, Audrey (new roommate), Raquel, ME!, Alice

These next two pics I loved because it shows off how colorful things are in Morocco, I love being able to capture pictures with so much color and uniqueness!

Made a stop to visit with the wild monkeys...

I Love this picture!

Feeding the Monkey a Peanut...

This is the view from the restaurant that we ate lunch at the first day... Very VERY beautiful view.

Wow! This trip has been crazy! Right now I am on the bus going back to Tangier so that we can take the ferry back to Tarifa. Once we are back in Tarifa we will take our bus back to Sevilla. We probably won’t get back to Sevilla until like 2:30 am! Its gonna be a late night.

This is the route that we went on this trip: I had a little fun with paint art! We took a ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier in Morocco. We then took a bus to Rabat, the Capital of Morocco, then we went to Fes and then we treked all the way down to Erfoud where we took the 4 X 4 Jeeps and Camels into the Sahara Desert.

Highlights of my trip:

1) Camping in the Sahara desert! We took a 40 minute camel ride in order to get to the camp site where we slept. Going into this we didn’t know what to expect but these were literally just tents and mattresses. They provided blankets and pillows but I was sooooo cold. I brought every single warm thing I had brought to Spain and I wore majority of it while I was sleeping. Even with all of the gloves, hats and scarves I was wearing I was still very cold. It surprised me that the Sahara desert got so cold at night, I guess I figured that it was always warmer. While we were camping they had dinner prepared for us and they had some local “Berbers” that were playing drums and live music for us. We sat around a campfire and listened to their music and danced. It was quite an experience. Unfortunately that night I did not get very much sleep because of the coldness and because my roommate Alice got sick at 3 in the morning so I got up to help her. While we were at the campfire, we were able to talk to some of the Berber townies. The man was telling us that in their culture they have arranged marriages.

Once they meet the other person they have 30 mins to decide if they would want to marry them or not. We asked him if he was happy with his life and he said yes because this is the only way he knows how to live. They live a very simple life here without very many luxuries. I will remember these people if I am ever not happy with the way life is going. Another worker we were talking to said that he has his college degree and he was able to speak very good English. He mentioned that even though he is poor and does not have much money, he still thinks life is beautiful. These people have so much joy for life even though they do not have much. Just shows that life should not be measured by the things we have. There are many rich people that have everything they need and are still not happy but this man has nothing and is just happy to be alive. That amazed me. Coming here to Africa has opened up my eyes to how other people in different cultures live and survive. It is like a whole different world.
View from the top of the sand dune, watching the sun rise!

2) My favorite part of the trip was sitting at the top of the sand dune in the desert and watching the sunrise. The worst part of the trip was climbing it haha. That was a tough workout! Even though it was rough it was well worth it. The view was amazing. We were on the tallest sand dune that was near us and we could literally see everything around us. It was weird to not see anyone( besides the people on our trip). We are so used to being surrounded by people so the fact that there was no one around us for miles seemed a bit strange.

3) Once we got to our hotel in Merzouga we had to take a jeep to get to the place where we got onto our camps. The bourgers took us for a little ride through the local city and they also went off roading a bit and went through all the hilly sand areas. They enjoyed themselves while they were whipping us around in the back! It was fun J.

4) Shopping in the Medina of Fez. Today we shopped in the Medina of Fez. This is a big shopping area where they sell everything you can think of. There were a lot of stores that sold fabrics, shoes, jewelry, spices, cosmetics, clothing, scarves, you name it. It was interesting how a lot of the stores only sold one thing. For example : one store was making shoes, sold cotton, leather, cutting wood, bread, those are just a few. It was fun to be able to bargain with them and just look at the different types of things they were selling. All of the streets are small, narrow, full of people ( and donkeys!), the sidewalks are falling apart, lots of mini stairs, and a lot of donkey poo all over the ground. So you constantly had to watch your step. Overall it was a successful shopping day! I bought a new silver ring, some scarves, a belt, and some Christmas gifts for the fam J. I won’t get into too much detail because it is a surprise of course!

Some funny comments that the Americans got while walking through the Medina( These remarks were all from men , if you cant tell):

o “ Hello sweetie, I am your husband!”

o “ I love your hair, are you selling it?”

o “Oh my god, so beautiful!”

o “Mama Mia!”

o “Your eyes, so beautiful”

o “She’s very nice”- obviously poor English

o “ Do you want a Moroccan husband?”

…lots of other comments I cannot remember. All of the men were in awe of the Americans walking through their town, it was a play day for them for sure.

5) The food here has been AMAZING! Better than Spain, although Spain’s food is not that great so it doesn’t mean much. We have been going to really nice restaurants, I have been very impressed. They eat healthy here. Most of my meals have consisted of chicken, vegetables and rice. And for desert they eat fruit. Today for desert we had cut up oranges with bananas on top with cinnamon. It was quite tasty. It is something I can easily make on my own too. I learned today that the cinnamon that we eat in America is not actually cinnamon, it is called Cassia. The United States and Canada sell cassia and south America and Europe sell real Cinnamon. The cinnamon we had here was actual cinnamon and the taste was not as strong. I did notice here that things are a bit more bland. A lot of people have been getting sick on this trip. It started off with the bumpy ferry ride over to Tangier. Everyone was getting sick right from the beginning. Then eating the Moroccan food did not help very much. We had to be very careful when it came to drinking water, fruit, and having ice cubes in things. Luckily I never got too sick. My stomach hurt a little bit here and there but it was nothing bad at all. I am so glad because I was worried that I would get sick!

6) Our hotel in Xaluca was AMAZING!! It was one of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed at. It is a five star hotel and it had a Moroccan theme. When you walk in they had drum and horn players sitting on the roof playing a song welcoming you into the hotel. When you walk in there are people in Moroccan clothes and swords greeting you. Then there were singers and dancers singing Moroccan music. They even had a little man making tea and giving it out to all of the guests! When you went in the back there was a really nice pool area with a swim up bar and waterfall. The first night we were there they had a camel roaming around the hotel, pretty sweet! When we went for dinner there was an amazing spread of all different types of food. They had Morrocan food, Spanish food, they even had Spaghetti! The desert spread was even better than the meal, it was to die for. Below is a picture of what the desert table looked like. Overall, it was fabulous! Later I will post a video of what some of the entertainment was like at the hotel :).

7) As we were coming home we had a set back because there was a protest on the main street that we needed to take. In order to get around the protestors we needed to drive on the land next to the road. As we were getting to the side, the protestors started to come towards our bus and they started to link together and formed a line so that we could not get through. They did not want us to get by them. So we stopped for a few minutes while our Moroccan tour guide got off the bus and shared a few words with them. That was very brave of her because there were about 30 people against her and she wasn’t able to convince them to let us through. After wards I told her that she was very brave and I asked her what she said to them. She said, “ Well, I lied, but I told them that you guys had to catch a flight back to America today” haha. Some people were not happy with us, one guy was flicking us off but in the end, we got past them! ( Sorry mom, that was not meant to make you worried, I am okay!)

8) As we were driving through Tangier about to be dropped off at the Ferry our tour guide told us “ Don’t be surprised if you see little Moroccan kids jump up on the back of the bus because they like to get a free ride into the center of town”. We thought he was kidding and we started laughing. Then a couple minutes later the girls in the back seat said “Oh my god, he wasn’t kidding! There are kids holding onto the back of the bus!”. It was the funniest thing ever. I do not know how they had a good grip on the bus because it was going pretty fast, at least 30-35 MPH. At one point there were 3 or 4 of them holding on… pretty funny!

I only have to work this next week Monday-Thursday and then the week after I work Monday and Tuesday then I am going home!! I can’t believe how soon it is that I will be going home. I am sooooo excited!! When it came down to deciding whether to come home or not it was a hard decision. But really I do not want to be anywhere else but home on Christmas. Even if it means giving up a trip going to Italy, I would rather be home with the people I love on Christmas.

Lesson learned: It’s not about where you are, it’s who you are with. I can live in the coolest place in the world but if I am not with the people I love, I will not be happy. It can go for other situations as well such as going out to a bar. You could be at the coolest bar in town but if you are not with the right crowd then you will not have a good time. Home is where the heart is and that is why I am going home for the Holidays J.

Traveling with mi Amor :)


I know that I should have blogged about this a couple weeks ago but I figured better late than never! I have been so busy traveling that I have not had much time to blog. Right now I am on the bus taking a trip to Morocco. Even though I went with Brian I decided to go again for a 5 day trip with a group to the Sahara Desert. So far we have done a lot of traveling more so than sightseeing because it is a hike to get to the Sahara. So far the food has been AMAZING here. The morocco food has been very healthy with lots of vegetables, fruit, and rice with chicken. Today for lunch we ate chicken and kous kous (Sp?) which is a typical morocco dish. I have been trying to be very careful with not drinking the water here. Last night when I brushed my teeth I realized afterwards that I used the water from the sink, I didn’t even think about not using the water so I had a minor freak out!

Right now we are back on the bus and we are heading to Merzouga where we will get on 4X 4 jeeps to get deeper inside the desert. The jeeps will then take us to go onto our camels which will take us to our campsites in the desert. The “berbers”, the people who live in the area” will then cook us dinner. At 6am we will wake up and climb up the sand dune so that we can watch the sun rise, I heard it’s the coolest thing ever!

So now about my trip with Brian….

First of all, it was SOOO great to have him here! Even just having someone from home to be able to share with them where I have been for the last 4 months was wonderful. When Brian first got here I met him at the airport. Luckily he came on a Wednesday and I only had one class to go to so I was done with work by 9:15. After my one class I ran to the train so that I could make the next train. When I was waiting for him at the airport it was torture because I was not allowed to go into the baggage claim area. I saw that his plane had landed and I knew that he was right behind the door getting his luggage but I was not able to go in and see him, it was the worst! Finally, I saw from far away a “Chicago Bears” hooded sweatshirt and I knew it was him J. It was one of the best feelings ever, to be reunited with him after those 2.5 months. I can’t even imagine how it will when we have to go 5 months without seeing each other. That is going to be ROUGH. Not looking forward to it one bit.


When Brian first came we spent a few days in Sevilla while I finished up working. Then on Friday morning at 7am we had a flight to go to Paris. That was not fun getting up at 3:45 in the morning. In Paris we saw all, or mostly all, of the touristy attractions. Our hotel was less than a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel tower so of course we went there at least once or twice a day. On the last night we climbed the stairs ( to the second level, that was a workout!) and then we took an elevator the rest of the way up. That was awesome to see at night with all of the lights from the city and everything. In Paris we also saw the Notre dame, Arc of triumph, went inside the Louve but didn’t see the Mona Lisa, we went to the Palace of Versailles, and we did some shopping of course. I actually did not buy anything in Paris, I was quite impressed with myself. One night we went out to eat and there were a few little mice that were running around. It was pretty bizzare. They were coming in through a little hole in the ground between the wall leading outside and the floor. So we got a little Ratatouille action in Paris, its not just in the movies! Overall Paris was beautiful but

Brian and I both agreed that it is a little overrated. Regardless, I am so glad we went because its something that yo

u want to see at least once in your lifetime. The people were just not very friendly which kind of put a damper on the time there. Plus, not knowing French made it a little bit more difficult to communicate.


(We saw this on Abby Rode, had to take a picture of it!)

From Paris we took the underground train to London. London was amazing! It was so incredibly nice to be in a place where English was the spoken language. I did not realize how much I missed living in a English speaking country until I came to London. Even though I love Spanish and I am trying my best to learn the language, it was so nice to be able to speak English everywhere. Being able to know what people are saying around you and being able to say whatever you want to whomever you want is the best feeling. Not only that but I love the British accent and the phrases that they use. A highlight of mine was when Brian and I got there for the first night and we were looking for our hotel, we asked the worker at the train station if he knew where our bed and breakfast was. We had a late train and our B &B was a little bit outside of the center so it took a while to get to our hotel. It was about 10:30 at night and it was raining out, we had no idea where we were. When we asked the worker where our B&B was he said “ Just follow your nose up this street here and you will find it on your left.” We got a kick out of that phrase and started to use it throughout the trip. We finally found our place but still had yet to eat dinner. By the time we got checked in it was already 11pm and the only place that was open was the gas station so being our only choice we went and got some snacky foods, which didn’t fill us up but it we had no other options. In London we were very busy, going to as many touristy places as we could. While we were there a protest was taking place in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. They were protesting about the banks and how they have control over their money. We also went on the London Eye at night, this was the most expensive ferris wheel ride I have ever and will ever pay for. Regardless of the price it was well worth it. When we went to Westminster abby there was a meeting that was taking place with their government and the public was allowed to go in and watch the meeting take place. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we wanted to be able to go inside and take a look. In order to do that we needed to seem interested in the London politics. It was quite funny actually. Right when we got in we went through a security check and they took our pictures and everything, it was intense. Besides doing all of the touristy things we were able to find some time to go shopping! Funny story: before going I was told by some friends to go shopping at Primark, It is this big store that sells cheap and nice clothes. After my roommate Alice ranted and raved about this place I knew that I had to go once I got there. The first full day we were there we were able to find some time to go to Primark. Brian was not happy. He is not a fan of shopping and when we got in the store it was infested with women walking/ shopping in all different directions. He found a seat and said “ Just do your shopping and I will meet you here once you are done.” I looked around a bit and tried on some coats but I couldn’t find anything. I convinced Brian to look around while I looked at some shoes. When I met up with him I still had nothing in my hands and he had found about 5 things we wanted to buy! It ended up that he bought more things and spent more money at Primark than I did. It’s funny how that works out but it turns out that the boy did enjoy himself J. I think one of my favorite things about London was going to some of the parks and walking around. The weather was really nice and we were able to just stroll through the park and take in some of the “Londoness”,


I Looooved Amsterdam! Even though I did like London a lot I think that Amsterdam was my favorite city. I liked Amsterdam because it is just so different than what we are used to. All of the social norms that we are used to in the United States are just the opposite in Amsterdam. The Red light district was crazy, nothing like I have ever seen before. Just to give you a picture of what the red light district was like: there were prostitutes in windows just trying to get business from men. Weirdest thing ever. Amsterdam was just so pretty. They have the old buildings with a lot of little rivers that go throughout the city. I heard that there are more rivers in Amsterdam than there are in little towns in Italy. Also the people in Amsterdam just seemed very happy. They ALL ride bikes. ( The first picture is just a glimpse of the the bikes in Amstersdam).Everyone and their mothers rode bikes. When crossing the streets you equally had to look for bikes on the bike paths than cars on the road. The people there have no reason not to be happy. It’s a small town so they are able to ride their bikes everywhere and get exercise. The drinking age is 18, your able to smoke, get prostitues, you name it! There are just no limits and everything is so liberal. In Amsterdam we were able to see the Anne Frank house ( Really cool!), the Heineken Museum ( Also very fun!), and the Van Gogh museum. We were lucky and went on a special weekend where you could buy a wrist band and get to go into all of the museums and free transportation. At some of the museums they had parties with drink specials, so that was pretty sweet!

Overall the trip was an amazing experience and I am so happy that I was able to share all these experiences with Brian, mi amor :).


1) Make sure you do your research on how much time you need at a place. For example: We did not need a full 4 days in Paris, but we could have used an extra day or two in London, If we would have done more research we would have planned it out better.

2) Try to avoid 7am flights. You don’t get much sleep on the plane and end up not enjoying the rest of your day without a nap.

3) Even though going out and experiencing the night life is fun, you gotta get sleep to enjoy yourself the next day!

4) Always try using your student ID cards, It saved me about $30 by bringing it!

NEXT UP: Blog about my trip to Morocco!

P.S. To see all of the pics from the trip look at my Facebook photo albums!