Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I returned to Madrid last night after a weeks worth of traveling to Portugal, Scotland, and a 7 hour trip to the Guinness factory in Dublin--had to do it!

Lisbon, Portugal is an amazing city, situated right on the ocean, the majority of the city has tiled streets and awesome weather. We arrived in Lisbon on the 28th after a 1 hour flight from Madrid, and quickly checked into the Travelers House Hostel-- one of the 10 top rated hostels in all of Europe in 2008. The staff at the Travelers House was first class, and staying here was extremely pleasant. The night we arrived, we ate dinner at the hostel and headed out to the bar area of Lisbon called Bairro Alto. In Lisbon, you are permitted to drink on the street as long as it is out of a plastic cup, and this took the concept of bar hopping to a whole new level. The bar scene was split equally between the street and the inside of the bars, and this allowed for us to meet some cool locals.

The next morning, we woke up, ate a home cooked breakfast of eggs, toast, and cereal (all of which was included in our hostel stay of 16 Euro a night) and headed to the train station for a 40 min train ride to Sintra where the Palacio Pena, Castelo dos Mouros, and the Palacio National rests. It was absolutely amazing to find this small town of Sintra with three different castles/ palaces to explore. The Palacio National is located in the middle of the town, and although it was not as glamorous at the Palacio Pena, it was still extremely impressive. After visiting the Palacio National, we went on a 2 hour hike up the mountain to the Castle of Moors and the Palacio Pena. In hindsight, it would have been much smarter to simply take a bus to the top of the mountain, but the inner Dick Fike in me kicked it and my friends and I spent the next 2 hours walking along side the road in the pouring rain--the girls were not too happy with that decision. Anyways, once we reached the top, the Castle of Moors was the first area we explored, and was by far my favorite. The Castle of Moors was built between the 9th and 10th centuries out of stone, and at the top I could see the entire town of Sintra and all the way to the ocean. I cannot describe this place as anything other than mystical, and as I stood on top of the highest point of the castle, I was completely in awe of my surroundings. From the Moorish Castle, we walked a little further up the road and visited the Palacio Pena. The Palacio Pena was similar to the Palaces one might see in the movies. It was inspired by European Romanticism and everything inside the Palace is simply royal. Unfortuanately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the Palace, and the rain started to pour down once we got there so we did not spend as much time as we would have liked exploring this palace. After our long day in Sintra, we headed back on the train to Lisbon where a keg crawl with the hostel awaited!

The next morning, we woke up and decided to get on a tram to Belem-- a small town 30 min outside of Lisbon. In Belem, we went to the Jeronimos Monastery which was built in the 16th century, and contains the tomb of the famous explorer Vasco de Gama. The monastery was an extremely spititual place, and I felt like I could have sat down in there for hours. After walking around the monastery, we headed across the street to the Modern Art Museum, and then to the local pastery shop to try some of the famous Pasteles de Belem-- essentially mini cheesecake pasteries wrapped in filo dough and topped with powered sugar and cinnamon- I had about 3! While in Belem, we seemed to lose track of time, and had to rush back to the hostel, gather out belongings, and get to the airport before we missed our flight back to Madrid. Luckily we made it on time and arrived in Madrid at 11pm, where we slept for 5 hours, and boarded a flight the next morning to Scotland, which I will write about in my next post.

Friday, January 23, 2009

2 More Trips Booked

This week I booked two more trips, one to Barcelona in the end of February and another to London in the middle of March. Each trip, including rooming and board, is less than $150 Euro and I am staying in both places for at least 3 nights. It is incredible how cheap traveling is here! Some websites that I have been using to find low-cost travel are,,, and There are a ton of resources online for student travel, and hopefully I will have the rest of my trips booked within the next week--I'll keep you all updated!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beer and Burger King

The Madrileños love their alcohol, so much that it is even served at the fast food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King. Yesterday a group of my friends and I went to the local Burger King to take our token "tourist" photos with our burgers and beer. Unfortunately, after consuming a value meal and beer I was up all night sick from the food... last time I'll be eating fast food abroad that's for sure.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Booked my first of many trips...

I booked my first of what I hope will be many trips while I am over here in Europe. We have a break coming up from January 28th until February 4th, so a group of my friends and I booked a flight to Lisbon, Portugal for 3 nights we are planning on going on a wine train through the country and taking a couple of free city tours--the guides work off tips. From Portugal we are flying to Edinburgh, Scotland for three more nights and then on the way back to Madrid from Scotland, we are stopping in Dublin on a 9 hour layover and are hoping to take a tour of the Guinness factory. In all with airfare and lodging, the trip will cost under $200! Flights are ridiculously cheap here, and I hope to take full advantage of this luxury and explore whenever possible.

It is warmer here now (in the high 40's) and the more and more I walk around city, the more I am impressed with it. I have met a good group of people and am very blessed. Love you all and hope all is well in the States!

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's Snowing in Madrid

I woke up this morning to find that there was over 5 inches of snow outside covering Madrid. Madrileños (people from Madrid) were out running around everywhere and acting like little kids. according to my teachers, snow never sticks in Madrid, so being able to be here while this is happening is awesome. For the first 3 weeks that I am here, I am enrolled in an intensive Spanish class 4 hours a day 5 days a week, and then in February my classes begin--I am taking International Business, International Marketing, Advanced Spanish, and Spanish Cinema, and my program doesn't offer classes on Friday so that everyone can travel on the weekends. It is amazing how beautiful Madrid is, I have yet to see a single piece of trash on the ground for three reasons 1. There are street cleaners on nearly everycorner picking up anything and everything on the ground 2. Every Madrileño takes such great pride in this city that no one dares to disrespect their city by littering 3. There is a trash can attached to every light pole. Another amazing thing that I learned today about Madrid is that everyone who works full time, is guarenteed by the government at least 1 month of paid vacation per year. This translates into roughly 1 vacation day per 11 work days-- maybe my Dad should move his practice here ehh? Anyways, I am attaching some pictures that I took today in el Parque Retiro of the snow so I hope you all enjoy. The first picture of what looks like an angel is actually one of the only sculptures of the devil in the entire world, it is called "The Fallen Angel." Miss you all and hope you are doing well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

First Week in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid 3 days ago, but do not have internet at my apartamento until the 8th. After only being here for 3 days, I have already fallen in love with this gorgeous city. It is incredible to be able to look at a sculpture in el Parque Retiro (2 blocks from where I live) or a building in Sol and know that it is older than my home country. My apartamento is a 15 min walk through the park to the CEA Global Campus and the Parque Retiro is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. I am living with a guy named Oliver from Miami, and a couple named Kyle and Shannon that are here together from Minnesota. I have my own room that is approximately 7ft by 12 feet (big for Madrid standards) and our apartamento has a kitchen, 1 bathroom, and a living room. See the pics below. I will be posting again tomorrow with an update on my explorations today, and am looking forward to hearing from all my family and friends. I miss and love you all.