jueves, 23 de abril de 2009
miércoles, 22 de abril de 2009
It was a lot more romantic than it looks, I swear.
Another personal highlight for me, SURPRISE!, involves food. Yes, I realized beforehand that 5 hours without a snack would be quite the challenge, so I opted to buy a nice bag of German pretzel rods before our voyage. They ended up being quite the hit. I fed them to literally everyone in our group, including Andy, who was still a bit under the weather after a journey into the original Dirty South, Morocco. At the time, I was sure this was a good remedy, but now I just feel like an ass hole while typing it.
Time literally flew by on this amazing night. Before I knew it, it was almost 5 am. I gathered with a few of my fellow shipmates on the little stage just before we had to get off. We got to witness a few more awkward situations before we had to get off our lovely cruise ship and face the fact that it was over. It was a tough reality (for about 12 seconds).
We got off the boat & realized that a) it was about 5:30 am and b) Carolyn, Elle & Coop had already booked it home. So, that left little old me to walk in the presence of two studly and able-bodied guards - Vincent & Andy. The walk home might have been equally as unreal as the cruise itself. Right off the bat, Vincent starts using a voice very similar to Heath Ledger's Joker or something. At the time, it scared the living shit out of me. Later, I jaywalked against my will, running and screaming across streets without any cars in sight. We also faced several Spanish low riders who wanted to holla. Andy defended my honor by screaming at them to leave me alone (in English, but who can think at Spanish at 6 am? nobody).
The boys also insisted on stopping for a quick pizza at the gas station in Nervion, the only establishment open at this hour (I miss you, Harris Teeter & every 24-hour drive-thru!). There, we met two presumably gay Italian-Spaniards who kept asking us where to get breakfast. Dude, it's still dark out, chill out with the breakfast idea. They ended up getting pizza and chatting for a bit about why they like Viapol clubs better than others: the maturity of the patrons. It felt a bit ironic that they were talking about chill clubs with adults to 3 people who had just finished raging on a booze cruise, but that's cool.
The rest of the walk consisted of Andy warning me of puddles in my path and me proceeding to jump and splash in each and every one of them. I walked into my building at 6:20 am, passed out in bed, and stayed there all day Saturday. I wasn't hungover, really; I just didn't want to do shit. It was rainy out, in my defense. After exhausting so much time and energy on the cruise, there was no other way to spend Saturday.
I hope this blog has given you a taste of the absurdity that was the Booze Cruise. If you are my friend on Facebook (if not, you absolutely SHOULD NOT be reading this), take a gander at my freshly tagged pics from the night. Like an idiot, I forgot my camera, but others captured some very telling images. I, however, feel that I revealed a wealth of information in this blog, and am crossing my fingers that my parents and/or my extended family never EVER read this.
martes, 14 de abril de 2009
After a rousing conversation about women's and men's pain thresholds (women have scientifically higher ones; the guys couldn't handle the facts), we finally arrived at Nervion and had to make a decis regarding which movie we wanted to see. And there were some winners to choose from: Fast & the Furious 4, Dragonball Evolution (Dragonballz, as I like to call it), Hotel for Dogs, Some movie about a Streetfighter... the decision was tough. However, we widdled it down to two choices: Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D or Mentiras y Gordas, a Spanish film. After much discussion, we settled for Mentiras y Gordas because none of us really wanted to watch a film dubbed in Spanish... it's the worst. Also, we had all seen the following trailer, so we knew which choice was the right one:
You're not ready for this
Yes, AFTER seeing that trailer, we decided to see the movie. As we go to buy our tickets, another shocking development: over HALF of the group bitched out. I probably offended some by quoting Superbad ("You bitched out on me, you Judas"), but that's only because I assume that everyone can quote the movie in its entirety. In reality, it just hurt that people would turn down sex and drugs like that. But four soldiers continued on into the theater with expectations only of a very awkward night ahead: Hamilton, Andy, Olivia and me.
As the theater slowly starts to fill up (and I'm talking very slowly... there were about 8 others), we realize that we are all surrounded by couples. That was JUST the beginning of the awkwardness. Within the first, say, 10 minutes of the movie, I think 3 couples had already hooked up (on screen, not counting the couple in front of me making out), and about 15 people had already done some sort of drug. Perhaps my favorite part in the opening were two girls in a bathroom stall, one of whom was peeing, the other one doing lines off of said peeing girl's thigh. WOW. That was really just the beginning, as the movie spiralled out of control from there into one giant 2-hour orgy. I guess that's how the Spanish like it, I don't know.
Also important to mention is how graphic this film was. I really felt like I was watching porno. There was one scene where you could basically see the family jewels of one guy peeking out... I seriously was in awe (not at the penis, at the fact that they could show that on screen). I know there are laws about that in the US, but Spain must not give a flying f*ck. I mean, come on -- you saw the trailer... if they can show that ON TELEVISION, just imagine what we saw.
At the end, we were all pretty silent. Several times throughout the film I had to cover my face with my coat or just scream out loud, "What the HELL?" However, it may be surprising that, behind all the dirty sex, there was some substance to the film (no, that substance wasn't cocaine). But yea, when it ended, we all just kind of sat there. I felt like I needed a cigarette (or a juice box). Hamilton felt unable to hug us goodbye afterwards, and I really couldn't blame him for avoiding human contact after that. Really, it was quite the cultural experience... and an even greater bonding experience for those of us who watched it together.
domingo, 12 de abril de 2009
No, these aren't KKK Members; these are the outfits that the Nazarenos wear. And I gotta tell you, even after a week of this going on, you don't get used to a guy (or girl) in a cloak and pointy hat walking around the city, waiting for a bus, eating a sandwich, etc. In fact, I laid by the Guadalquivir two days this week and got scared shitless each time I looked up at the Triana bridge and saw this:
Not a klansmen, not a dementor, not the devil -- they're Nazarenos, and there are thousands of them roaming Sevilla during Semana Santa.
Another weird thing about Semana Santa are the pasos, the 'Jesus pieces,' if you will. They are these absolutely ENORMOUS stage-like things with either a) Jesus or b) The Virgin Mary on top for the ride. They are also usually dripping in gold/silver, candles, flowers, etc... the Virgin's paso is also always covered by a little canopy of sorts. But yeah, these things are massive and are carried purely by the manpower of each hermandad, or church group, that is responsible for the procession. That explains why the pasos usually move about 30 feet, stop for 5 minutes, then start up again... these Jesus pieces are NOT harmless in the 'straining your back' department. It's a serious job. They also add creepy trumpet-ish music to most pasos. The good news is, though, that the pasos are gorgeous. Case in point:
I saw several pasos throughout the week, but the one that sticks out in my mind is El Silencio, part of La Madrugada, the nighttime procession that starts really early Friday morning, aka in the middle of the night. We waited over an hour in a hoard of Spanish people to see this paso, one of the best, supposedly. Well... the lights go out, everyone freaks out and starts "SHHH"-ing because it's coming... and then it doesn't come for another 45 minutes. Still, with no sign of the paso in any way, shape or form, people continue shhhhhh-ing like we are in kindergarten. Because I'm so punny, I kept saying, "Silencioooo." Then, once it started, we could literally see nothing. My honest and spoken reaction was, "There could be a freakin UNICORN out there and I wouldn't know." Finally, the Jesus paso turned the corner. Yes, it was lovely, but it lasted about 2 minutes (THAT'S what she said). That was my only real paso experience. I saw two cross the Triana bridge, and another I followed home from the airport to our house. In my opinion, once you've seen one or two, you've seen 'em all.
BACK TO THE SUMMARY OF SEMANA SANTA:
Another thing about Semana Santa to point out is the level of intensity that the Sevillanos feel about Semana Santa. They live it and breathe it for the week. For example, my senora literally was gone from lunch (done at 3 pm) til 2 am every day from Sunday til Thursday to watch pasos. When at home, she also either listened to radio coverage or caught the news feed on TV of each paso. It's unreal. I also find it unreal that the entire city is off from work because of Semana Santa. Would we ever have off for a religous holiday in the US for that long? Um, no. Finally, I find it odd how intense Spanish people are about Semana Santa because they're just not that religious anymore. Granted, the old people are usually very strong believers, but other than that, the population is just kind of ehhh about religion. But when Semana Santa rolls around, they are polishing up those pointy hats and capes to rock the streets. It's all weird to me.
In closing, I'd like to take a quick look at how Sevillanos acknowledge Semana Santa through the ever important a) souvenirs and b) art.
This is absolutely hilarious that anyone would want to buy a piece of candy shaped like this:
I honestly want to bring them home to everyone I know. "My friend went to Spain and all I got was this lousy candy klansmen." No, but really, wouldn't you feel uncomfortable eating a lollipop in the shape of a Nazareno? The pointy cap is also unfortunate and looks to have the capacity to pierce the tongue of a small child. Also available are incense burners and plain ol' figurines in the shape of these dudes.
Probably my favorite find of the week, however, came in passing this airbrushed masterpiece in the center of town:
I mean... are you SERIOUS? This, I kid you not, is a TRASH CAN. And a large one at that. I seriously had to stop and stare for a while... would this not scare you shitless/make you a future litterer if this is what you had to face down while innocently throwing away your trash? He not only looks like he's about to stab you with his stake, but he's also clearly trapped in the fiery pits of hell. I don't know if fear is the goal of Semana Santa, but it worked for me.
Like I said before, Semana Santa is definitely a worthwhile cultural experience, but not worthy of a full week's attention. I prefer afternoons by the river and evenings in da club than hours in a mob catching only a fleeting glimpse of a blingin' paso. Maybe I'm just un-godly, but that's my take on this crazy week.
sábado, 11 de abril de 2009
So yeah, I've been thinking a lot about UNC in Sevilla and all the people here. Yes, we all hang out. We've been here for, what, 3 months and some change now... we go to school together, travel together, go out together. We've got our own little bubble over here in Spain & it's great and dandy, but I'm just wondering how it's going to translate back to UNC.
It's like that TV show "The Bachelor." At the end of every season, oh my god they're soooo in love and they're engaged and everything's perfect, blah blah blah gag me. But what happens when the cameras are turned off? It's over. The magic's gone. And as much as you try to make it translate into your real life, it doesn't. (And every season I get pissed off because I really thought it was going to work out).
So that's what I'm anxious to find out about when we get back. Will the bonds of Sevilla be broken? (Wow, that sentence was lame)... we will find out.
miércoles, 8 de abril de 2009
After the nauseating day trip that was Versailles, we spent our last 2.5 days in Paris. Wow. This city is something else. I really DO NOT want to be one of those bloggers, like I said, who just weeps at the foot of every monument and point of interest, but I will say this: Paris is absolutely gorgeous and more than I ever thought it would be. Okay, donezo with that.
The first thing we did Sunday was tour the Catacombs. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I might be one of the most squeamish people on Earth. Even movies and shows where I am 100% aware that the goriness is fake, I’m crying. Needless to say, I don’t know WHAT possessed me to want to go to the Catacombs. But we did. To get there, you have to descend very spirally steps that drop you in a dimly lit corridor. All the place was missing was an owl hooting or, like, organs playing – it was like a Goosebumps book that I couldn’t escape from (Remember those ones where you choose your fate at the end of every page? Yeah, that’s what it felt like. Death was imminent).
Anyways, the first part of the Catacombs wasn’t actually as bad as it seemed it would be– they show remnants of it as an old quarry. Besides being stuck behind a slowly moving group of Germans, it was relatively painless. Soon, however, the last signs of the quarry vanished, and we were walking into another dimly lit room. This time, however, it was filled wall-to-wall with HUMAN SKELETONS. I gotta tell you… the first time you look at these things, they look fake. It’s not just piles and piles of bones like I thought it would be. Someone took the time to stack the bones and skulls into PATTERNS along the walls. The arms/legs/whatever bones are stacked like Lincoln logs, and set inside are skulls forming shapes of things like hearts, anchors, crosses, etc. I feel sorry for the guy who had to do that.
“I heard Jacques got a new job?”
“Oh yeah, he’s making a design out of the skeletal remains of all those people who died from disease a few years back. He’s doing it underground in the old quarry.”
So yeah, I pity the fool who had to do that, because there are multiple rooms filled with these things. And we didn’t even have access to all of the Catacombs… (thank GOD). I think the best part, though, is that when you leave the Catacombs, they check your purse to make sure you haven’t knicked any of the bones. Seriously guys, WHO DOES THAT? There was actually a table with a skull and a few bones that they must have found when other people toured earlier. Creepy. After about an hour down there, we came up to street level ready to hit up some non-depressing monuments.
After the Catacombs we went to Notre Dame. Again, not to be all mushy, but it was the most incredible cathedral I’ve ever seen. The front façade isn’t that big, but it’s deceiving - it's ENORMOUS inside. There are also gargoyles on top, a bonus. As we walked in, we were accosted by at least 3 gypsies. The one pregnant one came over and was literally HOVERING over us until I gave her 40 cents just to leave us alone. I just wanted to take a picture of me pretending to be Quasimodo (mission accomplished).
The Lourve was next on our list because it’s free on the first Sunday of every month. I’m not much of an art lover and neither is Angela, so we didn’t need all day to contemplate every painting. Instead, we spent about an hour inside taking disrespectful pictures with classic pieces of art, including the Mona Lisa. After seeing her, I believe that she IS smiling. It’s a little smirk, but it’s there. Oh Mona.
Perhaps the worst part of the Lourve was trying to take a picture of Venus de Milo, one of the more famous works in the museum. She was surrounded by what seemed to be the entire population of Asia. This display was the epitome of why people HATE Asian tourists. If you witnessed their absolute disregard for everyone around them trying to see it or take pictures, you would have no mercy like me. I was just trying to take ONE PICTURE of the damn statue, but the swarm of tourists would not let me. I was so annoyed that I just started walking in front of all of their pictures and wouldn’t move despite cries of, “EXCUSE ME” from the crowd. I really don’t even care about Venus, but just the fact that I was unable to snap one decent photo made me vigilant until the end, waiting like a hawk to capture her on film without the crowd below. After that horrible experience, we were clearly ready to leave the Lourve.
At this point, we decided to head back to our hotel. First, we stopped off at the Opera, which was lovely. I wish I could’ve toured it, but… cest la vie. We then decided to eat at this random café on the way home, complete with loopy waitress and crazy bartender. He spoke to us in French, Spanish and English. Of course, he praised our Commander-in-Chief and, upon mentioning the name ‘George W. Bush,’ did the head-chopping-off motion.
Onto Day 3 in Paris, probably THE BEST DAY EVER. When I saw how blue the sky was, I was a) very excited that we waited to hit up the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Couer, etc. til Monday, and b) sad, because I knew it was a sign that UNC would win the National Championship while I was abroad. Yes, I’m very happy we won, but a tiny part of me wishes I would’ve studied abroad in the fall so I wouldn’t have had to miss out on Franklin Street, especially because I am freakishly obsessed with UNC Basketball. Oh well… I guess being in Paris is some consolation.
First we hit up the Sacre Couer, a basilica on the highest point in Paris. It was quite lovely, although it was only about 100 years old. In European years, that’s just a baby, and therefore, a rip off. But we went in anyways (it was free), and it was pretty. The real kicker about the Sacre Couer, though, were the African men at the bottom of the hill selling what seemed to be those little friendship bracelets you’d make out of string from Michael’s in, like, third grade. As you walk up, they literally grab your arm and try and put the damn thing on, then force you to buy them. I seriously had to keep walking, grabbed Angela away from them… “It’s a tradition in our country,” they said as we ran off. I really don’t think grabbing someone’s arm is a tradition anywhere, especially for a braided piece of shit. SORRY.
After that display, we were ready to escape and head towards the oasis known as the Eiffel Tower. We ended up running into some other sights, like Hotel de Les Invalides (still not sure what that was, haha). But, like a phallic beacon, the Tower beckoned us. We grabbed some paninis and headed towards the lawn to eat them. When we turned the corner and saw the Iron Lady for the first time… wow. It was seriously a freakin post card. I’ve never seen anything like it… I am pretty sure I took, like, 30 pictures of just the Eiffel Tower and then about 16 of me with the damn thing. Oh well. The day was gorgeous (and so am I *wink), so the pictures were necessary. After laying on the lawn for a while and just soaking it all in, we decided to climb the beast.
In order to save 5 euro, we took the stairs up to the first and second observation decks. I can’t complain though – 668 steps seemed like hell at the time, but the views were definitely worth it. I think we must’ve spent 5 hours at the Tower, between our picnic and picture taking and hellacious climb to the top, but I loved it all.
We then headed towards the Arc de Triomphe, a short walk from the tower. Little Napoleon Bonaparte really outdid himself with this one. Again, maybe it was just the weather, but the thing is beautiful. We came up to the huge traffic circle that goes around the Arc and really didn’t believe we had made it because it looked nothing like it did in pictures. I guess we didn’t realize that we had taken a side street up to the Arc, therefore we were only seeing a SIDE of it. It’s enormous… a lot bigger than I expected (that’s what she said). After harassing it with pictures, we walked the Champs – Elysses for a bit. I ended up grabbing another crepe (believe me, crepes are THE BEST thing that’s ever happened to me) before taking the metro to check out the Moulin Rouge.
Moulin Rouge = Red Windmill in English, and that’s about all it was. It was cool to see it, though. We didn’t have tickets or anything to see the show (which I’ve heard is just a lot of boobs), so we just checked out the outside and took pictures of us pretending to be burlesque dancers. The area surrounding Moulin Rouge is quite interesting. And by interesting, I mean it’s all sex shops. As we walked through giggling at the name of stores (my favorite being “Pussy’s”), I heard a voice next to us on a bench. A man called out, “How much?” Can you BELIEVE that? It wasn’t Borat, either, so it wasn’t okay. I was asked HOW MUCH? And I thought I had dressed cute that day (clearly I had). Aah, it’s actually pretty funny. Definitely a story for the parents. And the grandkids.
So, that about wraps up our visit to Paree. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone with any respect for history, architecture, art… but for those of you without taste, like me, you’ll enjoy it, too.
domingo, 5 de abril de 2009
Getting here was relatively painless (that’s what she said). We left Sevilla at 8:30 p.m. on Friday. Our flight, despite a field trip of screaming French middle schoolers, went by quickly and we headed into the night towards our hotel on literally the other side of Paris.
Boy, was getting there fun.
We first took a bus from the airport to a metro station, a seemingly non-sketch option for heading into the heart of Paree. Oh huh huh (fat Frenchman laughing), we were in for a surprise. Upon reaching Gare du Nord (pronounced Gaww doo neuuu), the metro station at which we had to change trains, we were thrust into an underground station that could have passed as one of the top layers of hell. Not only was it dark, sketchy, and covered in grafitti, it was filled with every stereotype of a dangerous city dweller: homeless person, possible terrorist, punk, gypsy, batshit crazy… the whole gang was in this dimly lit train station. We just about ran onto our next metro and towards our hotel, a shining beacon known as the Hotel Liberty.
This “hotel” is quite the interesting find. Don’t get me wrong, either, because I’m all ABOUT a good deal & finding one in Paris was pretty hard. And for 22 euro a night, I really cannot complain. However, Angela and I were quite shocked when, upon arriving in our room, we realized the floor & bed are literally SLANTED. I am not 100 years old, Hotel Liberty, and I do not require one of those reclining infomercial beds (anyone with me on this metaphor?). Rather than allowing all of the blood from our legs to rush to our heads and kill us overnight, Angela & I, being the UNC geniuses that we are, switched the linens to the other side. Still, it’s hard to sleep in a room that’s a fucking funhouse. I feel like I’m at the Neverland Ranch. Heehee (Michael Jackson style).
So today, we decided to go a bit out of order and stick it to the man (Rick Steeves) and head to Versailles first. (This is actually because tomorrow all the museums are free and Versailles will be closed Monday, but I just wanted to feel bad ass for a sec.) This morning, we headed down towards the famous Chateau, which is a good bit outside of Paris. We clearly had to take trains to get there. Our first ride, of course, included quite the creeper. As I stood by the door, minding my business, I realize a short Middle Eastern-ish looking man dressed in all black standing right near us. With bloodshot eyes peering from beneath his horribly gelled Caesar cut (remember those?), he looked at Angela and I as a lion would a plate of t-bones… dude was SEARING us with his stares. But did it end there? No. I started feeling uncomfortable standing next to this guy because he was, yep, staring at me. So I switched poles (that’s what she said) in the subway. Well, wouldn’t you know that the dude followed me. And not once, but SEVERAL TIMES. I whispered to Angela, “hey, this guy is following me.” Then she watched me switch from one metal bar to another just to have him follow like a GD lemming. She just laughed as the process continued. He finally got off, and later, so did we.
Our second train was equally as fun. First, a heartwarming story for all of you who think I am just an angry and cold devil-woman: an old French couple shuffled down the station towards the bench that Angela and I were sitting on, waiting for the VICK train. I noticed that the old man was forced to stand because there was only one seat, so I stood up to offer him mine like the respectful young woman that I am (14% of the time). Clearly taken aback, the man and his wife looked at me with the same gaze with which one might look at Gandhi or Mother Teresa. They both seemed to compliment me in French, but the old man refused to take the seat of such a kindhearted human being. He pointed to another empty seat, presumably saying that he could sit there and that I didn’t have to give up my seat. Oooh old people. They really know how to brighten my day.
Another great incident in the train station involved an Asian family also in search of Versailles. I guess they didn’t realize that the trains spend about 5-10 minutes in the station before heading out towards Versailles so all of the passengers can board. The wrong train showed up in the station, but the Asian family wanted to double-check, I guess, if it went to Versailles. After hearing ‘no,’ they disembarked the train faster than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. I swear the dad did some sort of roundhouse kick/ ninja move as well just to solidify their Asian-ness. It was the most unreal thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
We finally got to Versailles about 1 hour later and then proceeded to spend the next 1 hour in line waiting to buy tickets. This went by pretty quickly, as we entertained ourselves with games like, “Which of our friends is most likely to be a murderer?” We really know how to kill time.
Versailles was one of the most unreal things I think I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely OUTLANDISH. I really don’t know how it wasn’t nauseating for French royalty to go from one room, dripping in tapestries, gold, and oil paintings, onto the next room, similarly decked out, to the next room, which is, shocker!, covered in the same stuff as the room before. I think the French Royal Family is collectively reincarnated in Flavor Flav or MC Hammer – tacky, gaudy, and GOLD. The whole thing was just too much. They also had the Hall of Mirrors, with about 10000 chandeliers (approx. estimation), a huge-ass gallery, their very own cathedral, gardens out the ying yang… the place is absurd. But despite the lines and the sickening number of creepy-faced Frenchman’s portraits on every inch of wall space, it was clearly worth the visit.
Random thought: Speaking of those portraits, can we agree that people in the 18th and 19th centuries were FUGGGG? I mean, all of them looked diseased. Another creepy aspect: all the paintings of kids showed them with gray hair. What the HELL, France?
We got back to Paris around 5:30, missing entry to the Catacombs (tomorrow, hopefully!)… so instead we took a lovely stroll down the Seine, catching a quick glimpse of the Notre-Dame Cathedral (tomorrow, hopefully!), and some insane street performers. Favorites included a rollerblading brigade, who was doing some crazy, gumby-looking shiz with their legs, and a band made of old people singing some sweet blues & other classic songs in ENGLISH.
HOLY SHIT--- how could I have forgotten? Perhaps the best part of my day (and probably the best part of my life in recent years) was having my first CREPE. OH.DEAR.GOD. I got Nutella & Banana, and it was like the first time I heard the Beatles. I have never felt more alive than when I took the first bite of my first Parisian crepe. I told Angela that it was probably in the “top 5 best things I’ve ever eaten in m’life” list. If you come to Paris, your first stop should be the crepe stand. I.am.in.love.
So, I guess that’s all for today. Hopefully I’ll be able to update tomorrow on the likes of the Lourve, the Orsay, the Catacombs… oh what a life I lead.
P.S. The only reason I remember ‘au revoir’ is from a Pee Wee movie when he has a French girlfriend who uses ‘au revoir’ when she says goodbye. And no, I’m not a child molester, I just used to find Pee Wee extremely hilarious as a young lass.
Au revoir x 2!