Costa Brava and Girona

So, as far as my internships go nothing has changed. And I've accepted that at this point. That's how they started and that's how they finished. But you know, when life gives you lemons nobody said you had to squeeze them in your eyes or really do anything with them, go buy some chocolate instead and ignore them. Just think about that. So I've only got the rest of the week left and I finally get to be with my wife again and that's all I really care about after ten weeks.

You can't really tell but my toes are really wrinkly in the picture I'm so wet.

You can't really tell but my toes are really wrinkly in the picture I'm so wet.

But this last weekend I had an awesome adventure with my roommates and a new Italian friend of mine. Me, Jimmy, Sarah, and Lidia all took the train on the 25 euro half hour trip to Girona, a common sight for some Game of Thrones locations (don't ask, I don't know which) and we explored the city while torrential rains poured down upon us. The only one prepared for the event? Lidia. The Italian was the only one with enough common sense to bring an umbrella. That's fine, we were 'Mericans and we didn't melt.  

Girona was pretty fun. It is a city with a larger medieval section than most older European cities and it's quite small. We all spent the night in our hostel where it was nice enough as a place to rest our heads but nothing to get too excited about.

The next day was probably one of the best trips that I have yet to take while here in Spain. We took yet another over priced ticket to the small town of Cadaques on the Costa Brava. Now if you have never heard of the Costa Brava to give you some perspective this place is where the natives of Barcelona like to go to "get their beach on". So if you come here you are getting El Mejor beach experience.

Behold, a sqinty James that took his sunglasses off... for some reason, but the rest of it is still nice.

Behold, a sqinty James that took his sunglasses off... for some reason, but the rest of it is still nice.

While Cadaques does not have the largest beaches it also has shallow rock shelves that jut out into the water that can be used for sunbathing and also provide some very cool places to snorkel and you can bet your Fourth of July that I brought all of my snorkel gear.

But I didn't start snorkeling until we all went on a hike to an out of commission lighthouse that honestly looked better from a distance than up close. One of the nicest things about the hike was finding a few secluded bays that we ended up visiting. One of the not so nice thing about finding secluded bays is finding the other people that like secluede bays... The nudists. So if any of the pictures seem "overexposed" I'm sorry. But I am not sorry about the pun, cuz that's comedy. 

Lovely views, lovely water and an overall lovely time with my new friends. But you know, they can't replace the person that I want to see most this next weekend. My wife is coming to spend a week in Spain with me and I'm so excited to see her because I've missed her so much. And you know, who could blame me?

My lovely wife Katie. And yes the thing on her shoulder is supposed to be there, his name is Winston and he's holding a gummy bear, i miss him too.

My lovely wife Katie. And yes the thing on her shoulder is supposed to be there, his name is Winston and he's holding a gummy bear, i miss him too.

 

 

 

Friends. Better than any selfie stick.

On the work front I don't have much to share. I finished my blog post on visiting Iran. And maybe they'll publish one of the six that I've written this week. So far they've published a total of two over the past six weeks out of the seven that are ready for consumption. I've requested that the internship program provide me with another option as far as work goes to help supplement my experience. I feel bad since I did sign on saying that I would work for them so I'll soon be splitting my time between Gomio and working at a hostel it seems. I sure hope I get to interact with people more often now. 

On to the fun part.

The BIG fun part.

The BIG fun part.

To anyone that knows me they are aware that I have a lot of love for the country of Italy. Having spent two years in the country serving a mission for the LDS church how could I not fall in love with the place and make some great friends along the way? 

My good friend Wagner

My good friend Wagner

Well I put together a plan with my friends, Wagner Quiroz and Kyoto Tinoco, both of them Peruvian by the way who live in Italy. I had some time in Milan so I met Wagner in Milan after nearly freezing to death in the airport in Barcelona, when I arrived in Bergamo,  and on the train from Bergamo to Milan. We visited the main sites, Duomo, Castle, and an arch dedicated to Napoleon when he first came to "liberate" Italy. At that point he had to work and it soon started to rain so I put my bag over my head and trekked through the rain, ignoring the offers to sell me umbrellas because I was confident I wouldn't melt. 

One of the most important figures in the Italian Revolution. Giuseppe Garibaldi is one historical figure I truly look up to. Well known for his reputation as an honest and genius of Guerrilla warfare he was revered across the world. Abraham Lincoln tried to recruit him as general of the Union forces. 

One of the most important figures in the Italian Revolution. Giuseppe Garibaldi is one historical figure I truly look up to. Well known for his reputation as an honest and genius of Guerrilla warfare he was revered across the world. Abraham Lincoln tried to recruit him as general of the Union forces. 

 

I took my train from the Milan central station over to Genova of the Liguria region in Italy.(Close to France) I was excited to see my friend Kyoto even though it hadn't even been a year since I visited. I spent over half of my two year mission working with this guy, of course we've got an awesome bromance going.

The first day was mostly hanging out with him and his family which I was okay with since my inexpensive flight from Barcelona and my staunch desire to not pay an extra 25 euros for a taxi required that I pretty much skipped out on sleeping. So we did go on a bit of a walk and ate good food followed by watching the Italy Sweden Euro Cup game. It was great, Italy won, explosions were heard, tears were shed and everyone was happy. Later that evening we played some soccer with some of Kyoto's friends. Which I later regretted the following day.

Forza Italia vinci per noi!!!

Forza Italia vinci per noi!!!

 

The next day we went on an adventure to the land of Portofino al Mare. This place is a natural reserve in the region of Liguria. While it may share the same coastline and some aspects of the scenic Cinque Terre if you are familiar, it is actually much greener and is filled with dense forests and steep mountainsides. And boars apparently, but I never saw any. 

 

We arrived at St. Margherita di Liguria, and hiked through the town until we found the trailhead towards our first destination which was St. Frutuoso. (Which means fruity saint. Here's to hoping that there will be fruit galore there.) It started out fun enough as we hiked upwards and deeper into the forest. Until the young men from Kyoto's church started to complain. They soon stopped once they realized that there was little that that would change. They also learned that even though we assured them that our destination was only minutes away or that the downhill part would be soon we were as clueless as they were.

I have a much better appreciation for my scout masters now.

The uphill part was tough and by the time the sweat was condensing upon our brows and slowly dripping down our cheeks we finally had the downhill part, that was quite steep, full of hard rocks, and overall not fun, to walk down so you tried to take it at a quicker pace. We finally came upon San Frutuoso, nestled in a small valley between two peaks. We found a small abbey that was once the home to many monks over many years and a few houses that finally led to a beautiful blue beach. BUT NO FRUIT!

Here we had our lunch and took a quick respite  from the hike. I wanted to snorkel but the water was so cloudy I could hardly find anything so my underwater excursion was cut short. With some beach side grumbling we all pack up and hit the trail again. This time we had to recover the entire decent that we had to deal with when we went to Sand Frutuoso. The nice thing about it was we got some good views out of it... but that's probably the only good part about it. We finally made it to Portofino al Mare, the trail finally took us there. There's and Italian pun joke that I kept making when we finally got there but I'll just leave that one alone for now. 

The steep descent was a pretty one that took us through green gardens and vineyards that were surrounded in color. We finally made it to the port, expecting to be able to quickly rent our kayaks but we soon found out that we still had a fifteen minute walk ahead of us. We were happy to finally find the place and soon enjoyed kayaking through the open see. Luckily nobody capsized and we all had a good workout. Once we had finished all of this we were planning on taking a bus to the train station. A bus that conveniently passed by the area where we rented our kayaks. Our hopes were dashed to pieces by the sight of the word "Completo"  lit up on the front of the bus. It was "full" Apparently the bus driver had never been to Sicily because I knew that there was room on that bus. They didn't even have anyone hanging out the windows yet!

So with heavy hearts we made the fifty minute walk, on level ground, all the way back to the train station. On the way back I got into my head that this definitely merited some gelato and a pizza when we got back. I got a pistachio and straciatella gelatto when we got to St Margherita and boy was it heavenly. And one we returned to Genova I grabbed a pizza along with a fanta and once that was consumed Kyoto's mom had made Lasagna for the evening as well. It all made for a very flavorful evening, I love Italian food.

Come Sunday I had to up and go early but with some resignation. It's not the same living in a country where yeah you have people that you get along with but you don't have any actual ties with them. I spent two years in Italy and a lot of time with the Tinoko family. There is something to be said about being in a place where you know you're loved and you have some history there. 

This next week promises to be a slow one and I don't have anything planned. So hope something amazing happens so I can write about it.

Photos are forthcoming and so is more fun!

After having to deal with several days of jet lag I'm finally getting my internal clock put together. Even a week and a half in I still get sleepy during the day, but it’s nothing a two hour nap fixes, right? Don’t worry, I only did that a couple of times, but that doesn’t mean that I no longer feel the need to curl up underneath my desk and fall asleep as I write my blogs.

Arc de Triumf this was a little modified from the original picture. It's taking longer than usual to upload pictures so I will put some more up when I get to a better connection.

Arc de Triumf this was a little modified from the original picture. It's taking longer than usual to upload pictures so I will put some more up when I get to a better connection.

By the  end of the week I had finished my first blog on an “Undiscovered Destination” Cuzco, Peru, I’ll attach a link to it so you can read it. And in the past two days I was able to get two other ones done, one on ten useful items that you should carry with you when you backpack,(which I’m particularly proud of) and another on guest stays in Cuba. I thought that it would be hard to just write constantly but it’s not too bad if I care enough about the subject or I can make the article fun.

I like this city. Barcelona reminds me of Southern Italy sometimes with its narrow streets and friendly people that speak a language other than what is commonly spoken throughout the rest of the country.(In Southern Italy local dialects are extremely common and while everyone speaks Italian a lot prefer to speak local dialect with friends and family) But it’s also much cleaner and more organized than the southern parts that I’m more familiar with and I’m okay with that.

During my free time I’ve been visiting the sights around Barcelona like it’s going out of style and finding good places to eat. There is an italian pizza place that has my seal of approval, most of the staff is from Naples and the Campagnia area and I’ve eaten there twice so far, but I am having a hard time finding the right Spanish place to eat, I think that one issue that I run into is that there are a lot of tourist oriented places to eat in the areas that I frequent mostly because there are so many tourists. And that makes it hard to get something that is both inexpensive and fun.

Me eating a deep fried baby squid. Once you get over the eyes and the fact that you feel like you're eating a finding nemo character, it's not too bad.

Me eating a deep fried baby squid. Once you get over the eyes and the fact that you feel like you're eating a finding nemo character, it's not too bad.

I’ve seen several Gaudi structures, gone to Montjuic(the area where much of the Olympics were held in 1992), Arc de Triumf, walked the length of Las Ramblas, Visited Torre Agbar, Visited the Parc de la Ciutadella, and I even spent a morning/afternoon on the beach only to wake up with a better farmer’s tan. Oh well, I guess my SPF 60 is was not sufficiently applied to my arms and face.

Here's the Torre Agbar, and me in the purple for scale.

Here's the Torre Agbar, and me in the purple for scale.

Next week I start an intensive Spanish language course for two weeks straight. I’ll spend four hours a day five days a week studying Spanish and then i’ll work the rest of the day. I think I’m going to get acquainted with the nightlife of Barcelona a little bit better because that will be the only thing that I have. And my trips on the weekends will limit my distance. And because of that me, Rick Steves, and a couple of others are going to visit Seville this weekend while i still get three days to do it. I’ll keep you updated on anything that happens on the next blog.

 

Getting oriented in Barcelona

The plane flight and the arrival in the Barcelona was executed to nigh perfection, aside from the face that I can't sleep on airplanes at all so I stared bloodshot eyes at the wide selection of movies I didn't really care about and crushed my confidence trying to speak Spanish with the elderly lady next to me. My Spanish isn't bad, I knew that but I could've sworn that the words just weren't coming out. Looking back on it, she was probably more used to speaking in Catalan than Spanish because I had an easier time speaking with her daughter. But I still had to quiet the me that was freaking out about the fact that I couldn't understand  what they were saying and if that was the case with my coworkers then it would be a tough 10 weeks. But I'd say I've done fine so far. By the way Catalan is the language of the region of Catalonia which is in Spain, here's a Wikipedia page explaining it. 

Airport in Barcelona went well. Signs are written in First Catalan, Second Spanish, and third English. I quickly got my passport stamped by the agent, he was texting the entire time and I'm pretty sure he didn't even look up at my face, must have been the end of his shift. I then proceeded to wait for my luggage.

waiting for your bag on the carousel is like meeting up with a long lost friend, looking for a lost child, and Christmas Morning all rolled into one.

waiting for your bag on the carousel is like meeting up with a long lost friend, looking for a lost child, and Christmas Morning all rolled into one.

I met the people from Barcelona SAE and  a couple of girls that were in the program and they dropped me off at my host family's apartment with little more than a packet with a map of the metro and itinerary information that said be there at 3, your host mom will help you get there and see ya. I hauled my stuff up to the 7'X8' room and surprisingly everything fit! I want to take a moment to thank my wife for helping me pack said suitcase, you're da best!

So I left at 2:45 with my housemate Brittany and little help or direction from our host mom. I think that she just trusted me to be a capable human being. My internal clock was saying that it was past my bedtime and it showed as we stumbled through the rain looking for the gray road signs and building numbers plastered to the side of the buildings.

Pretty cool, right? This was taken on the first day after orientation, as you can see, the only guy there is me. maybe more will arrive? I'm thinking about working for Dreamworks.

 
This is the Barcelona Cathedral.  Gotta love those spires

This is the Barcelona Cathedral.  Gotta love those spires

Orientation was great, probably, I had a hard time keeping my head up. And I learned that I was the only guy in my group who had studied Spanish extensively (there is one girl who is a native speaker) and one of the few who had been outside of the country for an extended period of time before. So when they let us wander around the the city center afterwards I was designated the unofficial pack leader and felt responsible to keep my eyes open for everyone as tired as I was.


FIRST DAY AND ONWARDS

With my first day over I was ready to move on to my purpose. Interning for Gomio, the online hostel booking company. It's been around for about six years and I've been deemed social media/blog manager. While there are only three people there the company is very well managed and all three of them spoke Castellano (that's Spanish for Spanish apparently). While I do not have much in the way of Blog and social media experience, (my twitter account has been around as long as I have been in Barcelona and has seen one tweet) I want to make the best of this and make my money well spent while here.  

The next few days I focused on getting the requisite sleep in order to get my internal clock on track, and getting used to the new eating schedule. Most Spaniards eat lunch around 3 PM and dinner no earlier than 8. And my time at Gomio was spent trying to figure out what to write about and how to make it interesting and decided on the subject of Cuzco, Peru, a place I've been to a couple of times. It's almost complete and once it's published I'll post a link to it.

 Oh, and one of the days I popped out of the metro to look at the Sagrada Familia.

It's not as tall as it looks in person but it's still pretty darn impressive.

It's not as tall as it looks in person but it's still pretty darn impressive.

Until next week!