Posted by: jrappy | March 4, 2013

J’aime Paris!

Wow. For the past month, I have been traveling every weekend. It has been a blast…but between school work, midterms, classes, and travel, I have given up a great deal of sleep and blogging time. Sorry for the month of no blogs! I will begin with Paris in this blog!


One month ago, I embarked on my first journey outside of the Barcelona area. I flew into Paris to meet up with my friend from Babson, Kelly. She is studying abroad over there and offered to host me for the weekend. The only parts of the weekend I did not love were:

1. Not having a functioning cell phone to meet up with Kelly at the metro station I arrived at from the airport. My Spanish cell phone company promised me that the phone would work in France. However, after dialing and waiting over and over again for about 20 minutes (frantically), I was not able to connect to Kelly. Long story short, I wandered around the city streets of Paris searching for Kelly in the general area we spoke about meeting up for about 45 minutes. I could not find her OR a payphone. Everyone I asked said that payphones were long gone in the city. Finally, I wandered into a department store and made friends with the security guard. He eventually let me use his cell phone to call her and about an hour and a half after arriving in the city, I was reunited with my friend! That was one of my scarier moments abroad, as it was getting dark and had no idea where I was or if I would ever find Kelly!

2. The freezing cold weather…made me appreciate Barcelona even more! However, the light dusting of snow as I looked up at the Eiffel Tower made the city seem even more romantic!

3. The EXPENSIVE prices of everything. Paris is a much more expensive city than Barcelona.

However, besides this…I fell in love with the city!

Highlights of Paris:

1. The food! Wow…I have been deprived in Barcelona. Well, that is a lie. I actually love the food here. However, the food in Paris was just on a different level. The bread at every restaurant melted in my mouth and tasted so fresh. The crêpes and the macaroons were purely amazing!Image

2. On the note of food, Kelly took me to Angelina’s, a famous hot chocolate restaurant that usually has a line around the block that takes about an hour to get a table. However, the hot chocolate was the richest, most pure, and smooth hot chocolate I have ever tasted. After a few sips, Kelly and I had to slow down because it was so strong in our bellies! This is where things get funny:


Just a few minutes into drinking our beverages, the waitress comes up and politely asks us if we can pay now. As we had her the money, she pulls out change from her pocket. Meanwhile, as I comment on how amazing the hot chocolate is, mid-sentence, the waitress accidently loses grip of one of the Euro coins. It falls out of her palm, into my hot chocolate glass. The chocolate splashes all over my shirt, jeans, purse and the table cloth. Kelly and I look at each other and DIE laughing! However, then I realize that I’m covered in spots of chocolate. The waitress is so embarrassed. Her boss comes over to apologize and brings us a complimentary dish of macaroons. I think this might have been a “you had to be there” type of moment, however, we just could not stop laughing. Image


 3. Sacre Coeur: What a gem! This Catholic Church was built at the end of the nineteenth century. There is a beautiful green-grassy hill in front of the church. Since it is constructed on top of a steep hill, the views from the area are breath-taking! The back of the church was my favorite. It seems as though the grounds-keepers do not clean the back. As such, there are very contrasting dirty shadows on the walls.Image

4. Just a two minute walk away from the Sacre Coeur, in the same neighborhood, Montmartre, we stumbled upon the famous square where dozens of artist display their artwork and ask if they can draw your portrait.Image

5. The Love Locks Bridge! While I have seen it in dozens of movies, there were many more locks than I ever could have imagined! Both of the entire sides of the bridge were covered in locks of people who were in love. I learned that if the love ended, the couple was to go to the bridge, remove their lock, and throw it in the river below. How sad!Image

6. Just on the other side of the bridge is the famous Cathedral: Notre Dame. To be honest, it was much like many of the cathedrals I have seen while in Europe. However, it still had that Gothic beauty that I have come to appreciate very much! My art and architecture class this semester had taught me how to enjoy old churches.Image

7. The Eiffel Tower! Obviously a popular gem of the city. Unfortunately, we were unable to climb to the top, as the summit was shut down the weekend I was there. However, we went at night. Kelly surprised me, as she knew how much I would enjoy seeing the twinkling lights of the tower. I got some amazing photos and was blown away by the size and beauty of this famous landmark! I understand why this is the most romantic city in the world! Image

8. The nightlife. There is so much to do in Paris and people were so friendly. I had preconceived notions that French people were standoffish. However, I could not have been more wrong! Everyone we met was welcoming and the bars and clubs were a blast!Image

J’aime Paris!

Posted by: jrappy | February 3, 2013

Returning to Childhood

Two Sundays ago there was a holiday that honors a Saint. I honestly do not know much about this holiday as it is a very minor one. However, the way the Spaniards celebrate in Barcelona is with a parade and carnival-type games and rides for children. When we arrived, we had no idea what was coming.

First of all, we were told the parade began at 7. We rushed to the metro in order to make it to the street in time. To our surprise, when we arrived there were no signs that a parade was going to occur. The streets were not closed off. All we saw was the carnival rides. We asked a police officer and he explained that we were in fact in the right place and that the parade was supposed to start at 7. While we were waiting, we decided to wander around the parade. Two of my friends got cotton candy—it is gigantic here!


It was adorable seeing all of the little children enjoying the carnival games. This made me really miss my childhood!

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At around 7:30 we realized that this was just a typical “Spain-move.” It is very Spanish to be late to something. Since they run on Spanish time here, the parade did not begin until around 7:45. As we were lined up, we saw people holding firecrackers as they ran down the street in between marching bands. There were also pig-figures. It became scary when the people with the firecrackers started launching them in the direction of the crowds. My friends and I were crouching behind a glass bus stop in order to hide ourselves from the sparks!

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However, this is completely normal here. Parades commonly have fireworks being shot at the audiences. This is so different to me and something that would definitely never be permitted in the U.S. It was one of those nights where we all said “only in Spain would this happen!”

Posted by: jrappy | February 3, 2013

Comfort Food

Although I am LOVING Spanish food (tapas, paella, gazpacho, Spanish omelets, etc) I miss American food–or food that I can get in America. Before I arrived in Barcelona, my sister and two other friends who have studied in Barcelona both told me that I “HAD TO” try Bo-da-B. Wow! Bo-da-B is amazing. It is easily going to become one of my favorites. It is a SMALL hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Inside there are only three tables so I have not yet been able to sit down. However, you can walk up to the window and order the most DELICIOUS sandwiches. The bread is perfectly toasted, the meat is well season and cooked on the spot, and the vegetables are the most fresh I have ever tasted. The sandwiches are stuffed with the garnishings of your choice and the bread is coated with their “special” sauces (I have no idea what they put on but it’s amazing!)


The line wraps around the entire outside of the building, as primary Americans wait for some cheap comfort food…but it is totally worth the wait!

Posted by: jrappy | January 29, 2013

Fog and Rain: No Problem in Montserrat!


A while ago (I have been horrible at blogging and I am so sorry!) I went to Montserrat. This is a mountain that is about an hour and a half by train from Barcelona. The first place I visited was a beautiful monastery. It is called Santa Maria. Inside, one can see the same colorful stained glass, smooth arches, and intricate marble carvings that are seen in other famous cathedrals in and around Barcelona.


Since I visited on a Sunday morning, I got to hear the last part of mass. This was very interesting for me since I have never been in a Catholic church during services. The cathedral was packed. After the services, the choir sang. The choir is very famous and is composed of about twenty boys, all under the age of twelve. It was incredible hearing these flawless and harmonic voices evolve from such tiny children! How well behaved they must be; the children sat still the entire service and did not even look bored! People come from all around the world to hear them sing.

Afterward, I walked outside and felt the first drop of rain hit my head since I had left rainy Seattle. While it was refreshing and reminded me of home, it could not have come at a worse time. I was headed to a different part of the mountain to begin my hike up to the highest point. However, the rain didn’t stop my group! I was wearing two pairs of spandex yoga pants (layered) with a long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, and a down jacket. Nevertheless, as I climbed higher, I was freezing! Once we were almost at the top, we even felt snow!


Although it was an iceberg, the views were incredible and the hike felt amazing. After about an hour and a half, we were at the highest point.


I truly appreciate the diverse beauty of Barcelona. It is crazy how varied the geography is: densely populated city life, coastal beaches, forest land, mountains, country fields. Barcelona has everything! I am so thankful to be here.


Posted by: jrappy | January 15, 2013

Fresh, Delicious

This past weekend I visited La Boqueria, an outdoor market that has existed since the mid-1800s. The colors and smells were incredible. The very first stand I saw as I walked in was covered in every single type of chewy, sweet, and sour candy. It seemed like a child’s haven:Image

The next booth was my heaven: every kind of Spanish chocolate!


The Spanish nuts and dried fruit:


The most fresh and colorful fruit and freshly blended fruit juices:


And Veggies!


And unfortunately, the skinned bunny rabbit 😦


Some fresh seafood:


And some hanging dead animals (apparently the meat is supposed to be incredible–although I was a little freaked out):


Posted by: jrappy | January 15, 2013


Last week, a few friends and I ventured to La Sagrada Familia. I can honestly say this is the most spectacular man-made landmark I have ever seen. From the outside, there are billions of small crevices that are carefully sculpted.


When finished around year 2028, the church will have eighteen towers. What amazed me most was that as Gaudi made every single design decision, he had an analytical reason for it. For example, none of the towers are to exceed 170 meters since Gaudi believed people need a constant reminder that Jesus is greater than them.


Here is a view from the top:


And the stairwell down one of the highest towers:



Once inside, there is the most colorful stained glass all along the walls.



The church is huge– 60 meters by 90 meters! As I looked up, I saw the most stunning arches supported by gigantic marble engraved polls.


Everywhere I looked, I saw a different architecture technique that created a variety shapes, reflections, and slants in the structure that provoked my curiosity.


I honestly feel like there are no words to describe the beauty.

Gaudi was incredible. He spent 43 years designing and building La Sagrada Familia. He died unexpectedly as he was not even a quarter done with the building of the church. In current days, the government, Catholic Church, and private funds are helping finish the structure up. It amazes me how one person could have enough ambition to spend almost half a century on a project! I guess that is what passion truly is.

On Monday, I had my first day of class. I was able to find my way around from my study abroad school all the way to my university all by myself. Catherine (a new friend) and I made it to class early and had enough time to treat ourselves to a delicious cafe con leche at a local cafe.



I am loving all of the walking we are doing here. One of my schools is about a 25 minute walk, and the other is about 15 minutes. The views on the way over are incredible; I am lucky enough to pass some of the most amazing buildings on the way to school. These sites are nothing like I would ever get to see back in the U.S. In fact, we made a wrong turn walking back from classes yesterday. Instead of being annoyed that it took us almost a half an hour longer to return home, I was so grateful. I got to see this beautiful building:


(picture is not the best quality) and I learned how close my residencia is to La Sagrada Familia and the other beautiful structures. Plus, the weather was almost 70 degrees yesterday, which was an awesome bonus!

Oh, I forgot to mention, after class on Monday, I decided to embark on a “Rebajas” adventure. Since the Spanish holiday of the Three Kings was on Sunday, Monday-Wednesday is called “Rebajas.” Think Black Friday. But even more extreme since in Barcelona you cannot expect customer service and the shops are not very big. This made for a crowded mess. However, I was able to find a jacket on clearance for just 20 Euros! Success! After that, I was ready for a nap.


Finally, today me and some friends embarked on an adventure through the Gothic District. I had NO idea what I was in for. This is by far the most beautiful part of Barca that I have seen and I know I am going to go back there many times. There are adorable little shops with many local items and hand crafted/artsy items. The buildings are all very old and intricate. One of my favorite parts of this neighborhoods is the cathedral. The outside is breath-taking. Imagine a sculpture-looking building.  The inside is like nothing I have ever seen before. Imagine engraved stone, an array of colors in stained glass, tomb stones of important royalty members, and high archway ceilings.  I don’t think I have ever appreciated the beauty of buildings this much. (The two pictures below do not have ANY Instagram filter–they are naturally that amazing!)





I feel like there is nothing that can not be found in the city. As we were walking through this Gothic District, we stumbled upon a quiet street. The plaza we had just been in was filled with the hustle and bustle of  both tourists and locals alike, shuffling from shop to restaurant to metro. However, upon entering this street, the noise seemed to almost completely subside. There was an elderly man playing his guitar. Behind him was a building that was open to the public. It was the corridor to the History Museum. This courtyard boasted many trees with very ripe-looking oranges, a water fountain, adorable benches, and intricate rock engraved designs. It amazed me how we were dead in the center of the city but came across such a quiet and beautiful little spot. I could go on and on about how much this part of Barcelona left an impression on me and made me grateful to be there.



Above: The orange trees and fountain



Above: The Gothic District from a distance




Above: Traditional Gothic District Buildings

One more thing worth mentioning: I tried some seafood today–for those of you who know me, know that I refuse to eat anything that lives in the sea. Well today, my friend was eating paella with seafood in it and I tried a bite! Pretty huge deal for me. However, by the time I leave this country, I want to be able to say I tried most of the traditional seafood dishes and get over my irrational fear!


Loving this place more and more every day!


Posted by: jrappy | January 6, 2013

I never want to leave!

Alright, so it took me four days to post…but here goes!

I arrived Thursday morning. After almost 20 hours in airports, I was finally outside in what I quickly realized is the most beautiful city! Since I have to cram four PACKED days into one post, I will just list a few highlights and put in some pictures.

Highlight number one:

First night out with Melissa: I have never been more exhausted. Still managed to share a delicious meal of Chicken Paella. Image

After dinner, the waiter brought out a sketchy surprise for us…an unmarked bottle of some neon substance…don’t worry we didn’t drink it! He also brought us cake squares (even after we told him MANY times we didn’t want anything) and roses. Interesting culture here!


(Melissa’s look of disapproval!)

Highlight number 2:

For the past few months, everyone has been warning me that Barcelona will be colder than I think. So I packed lots of sweaters and a down jacket. my first full day in the city, and this is what I was exposed to:


…Clear skies, 65 degree weather, and a breath-taking beach! I think it is funny how many of the locals think this is cold weather and they are bundled up in ski-coats!

Oh, and the palm trees:


Ya, this place is heaven.

On the beach there were these amazing sand castles and sand figures that were even lit on fire:




In Spain, the 25th of December isn’t a big deal. They do not have a huge Christmas celebration. Instead, they celebrate twelve days of Christmas. Today was the last day and is the most important celebration of the holiday. It is called El Dia de Reyes (The Three Magical Kings Day.) Instead of Santa, the children wait for the three kings to arrive by camel and deliver presents to them. Instead of leaving out milk and cookies for Santa, some children here leave out beer and cigarettes for the kings! Oh, such cultural differences there are.

To celebrate this holiday, last night some local Spanish students that will be studying at our university took us out for chocolate dipped churros. Afterward, we watched the parade.


(Not a great picture, but my camera wasn’t really working at this point.) The people in the parade throw candy out for the children to catch. It was cute to see how happy and excited the children were for this holiday.

Final Highlight:

Today was our last free day before classes begin tomorrow. So we decided to be classic/embarrassing tourists and hopped on a double decker tour bus! It was great to briefly see all that we have to look forward to touring over the next four months.


I can’t wait to see more of this incredible architecture. I have never really been one to notice buildings. However, the structures here are so amazing and I am loving it!


And the coffee! In Barcelona, it is not very common for people to get coffee in “to go” glasses and is almost thought of as rude to bring it to class. I am excited to spend time sitting in cafes and savoring my coffee–something I have not ever been able to do in the US.

I never want to leave!

Posted by: jrappy | January 1, 2013

How is it already January?

As I said in the website description, I really do not like writing/blogging. However, since many of my friends and family have requested I “keep them updated” I thought this would be an easy way to share my adventures. I will try to put in as many pictures as I can!


Since it is now January (Happy New Year) I guess it’s time to start the journey! I leave Seattle tomorrow morning–of course, it always is sunnyright when I am leaving. I will arrive in Barcelona on January 3 around noon and will be living in a residencia (basically a dorm not on the college campus but right in the city.) I will update once I am settled in.