Visiting Spain’s Neighbors

Aidan and I went to France two weeks ago for a quick weekend in Paris. Paris is one of those really iconic cities that I wanted to see for myself and see if it lived up to it’s hype. Plus my friend Maegan is living there so we got a chance to visit with her.

Our first day there I had a lot I wanted to squeeze in and see and Paris is pretty notorious for long lines to get into places but we really lucked out with short wait times everywhere. We went straight from the airport to the Paris Catacombs which is completely bizarre and creepy but also really interesting. I didn’t realized how far below ground you have to climb down on the round staircase but it’s super far down there. Then you walk through piles upon piles of human bones for way longer than I expected also. We only waited one hour in the cold to get in and it was worth it.

Next we headed see Notre Dame and walk a bit along the Seine and what used to be the locks bridge but sadly is now just a bridge (the locks were weighing it down too much so they were removed and the bridges edges were replaced with glass not long ago). I have now seen quite a few beautiful churches in various places around the world so I wasn’t sure how wowed I would be by Notre Dame but it really was quite beautiful and enormous inside. The outside is pretty nice as well and it’s cool how it is right on the river.

From Notre Dame we were able to walk to the Louvre. There was absolutely no line outside the museum and we were able to go in for free with our European youth cards! We went straight to the Mona Lisa but it’s a bit of a letdown honestly because you can’t get very close to it at all and it’s such a small painting it’s quite hard to really see. We saw a lot of other really impressive stuff and spent more time in the rest of the museum.

We met up with Maegan and some of her friends for dinner and to go see the Eiffel Tower sparkle! It was so fun to have them tell us a bit more about Paris from the perspective of people living there. It is a really cool city but also super expensive and posh.

The next day we went straight to Versaille. Unfortunately since it’s winter we did not spend much time in the gardens. I know if I get a chance to go back in the summer I would rent a bike and see a lot more. The Palace itself we also got into for free with our European youth cards! (getting them has definitely paid off). The place is pretty massive and cool to see. After what felt like forever in Versaille we headed back to Paris.

Our hostel in Paris was cheap (well for Paris anyways) and well located, but pretty grimy and we spent as little time there as possible. The second night we saw the Arc de Triompho which was pretty incredible. Then Aidan’s cousin who lives in Paris was able to come into the city to meet up with us for a drink. It was really cool to meet her and she was really sweet.

Later in the night Maegan took us to a club on a boat on the Seine with electronic music which was really fun. We slept in the next day and then back to Spain it was! It was a really quick trip but we saw a lot and I did really like Paris but next time I would love to go in the summer!

Just two days of work in Spain and then the schools had a fall break so we were off to Portugal. Unfortunately on the train to Barcelona Aidan realized he left his Passport at home in Zaragoza and had to turn around before meeting me in Portugal the next day.

I flew into Porto and made my way to a really cool hostel. The first night I met a lot of people there to hang out with and someone shared food with all of us! We chatted late into the night because the hostel had a warm wood stove in the common area.

The next day I set out alone to explore Porto. I saw a lot of the old part of the city which is absolutely gorgeous and still maintains a bit of griminess. I rented a bike for just €1.75! I biked along the water down to the beach and the big city park and then back through some nice residential areas. I ate enormous mussels and then wandered some more before going to meet Aidan at the bus terminal! It was good to have him arrive. We got a really good dinner, I had a bacalao sandwich which is a pretty fishy fish but interesting.

The next day we walked around more and walked over a famous bridge to get some good views of the river and city before taking an incredibly short flight (about 34 minutes and cost €14) to go to Lisboa. We met up with Julia at another really cool hostel and headed out to have her show us Lisboa. We went up to a neat lookout and got some rooftop views of the city. That night we went to a famous club on the water until late. Lisboa is larger than Porto and has a different vibe to it but I enjoyed both.

The next day we went out of the city to a small town to see a famous monetary, some monuments, and a new artsy neighborhood that has been developed just outside the city. Honestly I could have spent more time in Lisboa. Next time I’m in Portugal I would love to go in the summer as well and check out some beach towns!

So that was it and now I am back in Zaragoza for a bit (happily at home). Next trip will be over winter break which is actually sneaking up on us! Here are some pictures Paris and Portugal. Until next time, besos.

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Weekending

The past two weekends I had really cool getaways. First I went to Andorra, a tiny little country thats wedged between Spain and France. I took a middle of the night bus as it was the only time of day they leave from Zaragoza. I arrived early in the morning and literally nothing was open in the capital city and I didn’t want to wake my couch surfing host. Luckily a nice guy at the front desk of the holiday inn made me some coffee and gave me a muffin and I chilled until a more reasonable hour. I took an awesome hike in Andorra with two friends from couch surfing. We hiked 12 miles according to my watch. It was cold but absolutely beautiful in the Pyrenees. That night we went to a smaller Andorran town to explore and then later out to dance salsa back in Andorra La Vella. The next day I was able to walk all over the whole capital “city” of Andorra La Vella in a matter of hours. It is a funny place with a lot of stores, outlets, nice buildings, nice cars, and a small but rich population. The best part I think is that it really is a super beautiful place situated right in a mountain pass. You look up at gorgeous mountains on all sides.

The next week my friend Julia who is living in Portugal at the moment came over to visit us in Zaragoza. She, Aidan, and I spent the weekend in Tarragona, a city in Cataluña right on the coast. I really loved Tarragona. There are old roman ruins scattered all around the city and there is also a nice beach. The weather was nicer than it is here in Zaragoza right now. We saw an old aqueduct called Pont Del Diablo and danced in a club in a Roman underground vault.

I’m sitting here writing this but really I should actually be packing right now because I am headed to Barcelona tonight and flying to Paris tomorrow! So, that’s all for now! Here are a few pictures from Andorra and Tarragona. Next post will be about Paris and Portugal where we booked a few days in Porto and Lisbon. Stay with me 🙂

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Clases Particulares y Más Viajes

I said last time I would write a little bit about teaching private English classes and I have been at it for a while now and it’s going well! I started by making an account on a free website for tutors called tusclasesparticulares. I immediately started getting messages although it has slowed down a lot as my post gets older. I set up weekly classes with six people so far but I am ultimately trying to increase that to eight if possible because I have the time and the more money I can make the more weekend travel I can do. Teaching the classes seemed scary at first but its fun and actually really easy. For the adults that I have it is just conversation class so I either bring a list of questions to jump start conversations and get them talking or I bring a short article in English to have them read and we talk about that. I have several kids which is a bit harder because their level of English is significantly lower and they can’t really have full conversations so I usually bring some questions to get them talking and then also help them with homework or simple worksheets I find online. It’s nice to go to other parts of the city for lessons but I try not to travel too far. One of my lessons is in a cafe but most are at people’s houses. The money you can make as a native speaker is really good even if like me you don’t have any prior experience. I think it also helps with my Spanish a bit when I teach the kids because I do have to translate things and I learn new stuff all the time. So thats about it, so far it’s been easy enough and fun to get to know people.

Additionally a lot has happened since I last wrote. Halloween was really fun. We had a Halloween party and then went out and it was a big night here, downtown was packed. Then I had the day off which was nice. I went on another day trip with some auxiliars to a city nearby called Huesca. It was very small but very pretty. It has the oldest grocery store in Spain! We went to a museum and explored around. Last weekend my friend Maegan came to visit us in Zaragoza and then we went to Barcelona. I love the city of Barcelona and could spend endless amounts of time there. We went to the Joan Miro Museum, the Picasso Museum, the beach, and ate a lot of good food. Mostly we also wandered and found pretty places. The Gothic Quarter is touristy but so fun to stay in. We saw a Barcelona futbol game in a local bar which was very exciting, and they won.

Coming up on the Horizon I have booked a quick trip to the tiny Country of Andorra and also to Paris, France. Stay posted ❤ And here are a few photos of Huesca and Barcelona!

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Mis Colegios y Logroño

It’s been a few weeks now of working in my two assigned Spanish primary schools here in Zaragoza and it’s hard to believe how fast it feels like it’s going. Overall I love what I’m doing but its not without it’s challenges of course. My schools are across the street from each other which makes my life easy. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m in one and on Mondays and Wednesdays I’m in the other. I spend a total of 12 hours a week in the schools. In both schools I work with the 4th 5th and 6th grade English classes. I did finally get my Bizi card and I use the public bike share program to get to and from work quickly. I finish work around 1230 usually and have plenty of time to give private English lessons!

My students are good kids (mostly haha), really cute, and they work hard. Their English abilities do range a lot but for the most part they know a lot and are willing to work hard and try to talk in English. Most of the teachers told them I don’t speak Spanish so that it forces them to try their best to talk to me in English. It makes my day when one of them draws me a picture or gives me a hug. This week they have been learning about Halloween which is celebrated in Spain to some extent. We do get All Saints Day (Nov. 1) off from school, the day after Halloween which would be great in the US for trick or treating late and having Halloween parties. Anyways, school is mostly fun, a bit repetitive, and hopefully will continue to be rewarding.

This past weekend we got out of Zaragoza for the first time and went to Logroño, the capital of the region of La Rioja. It’s under two hours from Zaragoza and was really cool to see for a day. It’s a lot smaller than Zaragoza but it did have a large historic area. La Rioja is the smallest of Spain’s semi autonomous regions. It is a region known for it’s wine and also canned foods sold all over Spain. We toured a winery and got tapas and wine in the popular street in the historic center. The Camino de Santiago passes through Logroño and we saw some backpackers walking by which was inspiring.

Yesterday was Aidan’s birthday and we got some really good tapas in El Tubo here in Zaragoza. On Thursdays in the area of El Tubo you get cheap tapas when you buy wine or beer so it is also a good night to go out in Zaragoza. I’ve met a lot of auxiliars now and a few locals. I have begun tutoring as well but my students are mostly kids or older adults. I’ll write more about that in the next post as I have only been doing it for a week so far.

Lastly, here are a few pictures! The first is the cathedral in Logroño and then at the winery with two other auxiliars. Each of those wine barrels has 300 bottles worth of wine in it. In the last photo Aidan is coming out of the old winery.

Un Beso!

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Pilares

So I’m a bit more settled in at my schools now but I’m going to wait to write about it in the next post because here I want to write about Pilares. We have been off school since Wednesday and there has been a week long festival here just in Zaragoza called Pilares. It celebrates the patron saint of the city the virgin of Pilar so the festival is partly religious but also partly a week long festival with food, concerts, and all kinds of activities.

The first day of the festival we went to a Princess Nokia concert who is a New York rapper that we also just saw play a set at Afropunk in New York. We were right in front at the Plaza Justicia and it was really fun definitely the best music we saw during the festival.

One of the biggest days of the festival was Thursday when hundreds of thousands of people all dressed up in traditional outfits and paraded through the main Plaza Del Pilar with offerings of flowers. They made a pile of flowers the size of a building with a virgin on top. It was beautiful to see and took hours. Many groups sang and danced the traditional Jota in front of the flowers.

We also went to a bullfight. Don’t worry, I am not in favor of bullfighting but I figured I should see it once if I was going to be firm in my opinion of it. Also it seems strange to live in Spain and never see one. Turns out what they say is true, it was interesting but pretty horrible, bloody, and sad. The bullfighting arena is beautiful though and the costumes and everything are cool. Overall takeaway though was that I don’t need to see bulls slaughtered again.

This morning we went to the bullfighting arena again but this time for what they call vaquillas which means baby bulls or cows that they don’t kill. This was special for Pilares  and random people just go in the ring and run around trying to (not?) get hurt. It was really fun to watch.

Some teachers from one of my schools invited me out one night which was really nice of them and I’ve also been hanging out with several of the other Auxiliaries. It’s been a crazy and really fun little vacation and festival. Back to school on Monday, at least I have a Bici card now and can bike to work!

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My Spanish Is Latin American, Thanks

Finally getting this first post up! Hey, from Zaragoza, Spain where I have been for over a week now. The journey started in New York with Aidan and I getting some last drinks in Brooklyn with friends before our flight to Madrid, then a quick layover and a flight to Barcelona. We stayed overnight in Barcelona and it was an exciting time because of all the street protests for Independence that are happening daily. We asked our cab driver how he felt about it as we drove through crowds of people and he said, “I don’t care, I’m Pakistani.” I was like, you said you have lived inBarcelona 15 years, you really have no opinion? And he was just like, “no.” So anyways, that night we were out having dinner and there was a planned protest at 10 pm and everyone all across the city came out on their balconies and banged pots and pans yelling things like “Viva Cataluña!” So anyways it was an exciting arrival.

The next morning we took a quick train to Zaragoza. Zaragoza is the fifth largest city in Spain and yet no one in the US has really heard of it. I was pretty excited right away because it seems like a great city to live in. It’s big but really walkable and bike friendly. Tons of bike lanes and a bike share program. There’s also a good bus system and tram line. The old part of the city by the river is beautiful, Ill post a picture of the plaza.

Looking for an apartment was way more difficult than I anticipated. We spent several days running around looking at places that were all just not quite right. One was really cute but the ceilings were too low for Aidan to stand in places. We stayed in two different Airbnb’s, talked to a ton of realtors, then finally found our perfect apartment online for rent by owner and rushed over to see it. It it is located a few minutes from the train Aidan has to take to work and walking distance from where I will work. It is a new one bedroom apartment that is super nice and also has a large rooftop terrace. Ill post a picture or two of it. We went downtown to the landlords office thenext day, signed a lease and got our keys just like that. The whole apartment costs less than half of our bedroom in New York.

Dealing with everything we needed to set up has been a mission even though I already speak Spanish. I went into the electric company’s office and the water company’s office because it was too hard on the phone. We set up Spanish phones and bank accounts and the woman at the bank laughed at me because my Spanish is Latin American not Spanish. Sigh. I also really underestimated how different the Spanish is here. Foods have all different names and even some verbs are different. The first time someone texted me when they could show me an apartment they used the verb that means to teach in Latin America but they used it to mean to show. I was like thats rude, what are they teaching me? Anyways I have a lot of things to learn. We still don’t have wifi being installed until Monday but other than that we are all set and ready to start work next week!

Yesterday we met two of the other people in our program and that was really fun so I’m looking forward to meeting the rest and writing about what work is like here once I start.

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Pa’lante! I’m back

So it’s been a little while, but I am about to hit the road again and start blogging about it again (finally)! I finished school this past Spring and spent another fun summer in NYC chilling and working 4+ different jobs haha but now it is time to head out. I love this city and I will miss my apartment, friends, and general NY life but Aidan and I are moving to Zaragoza, Spain!

We applied a while ago to be English Language Teaching Assistants in Spanish public schools. We recently got our school assignments in Zaragoza, a large city situated between Madrid and Barcelona. We decided to go and applied for our visas. So here we are packing up and getting everything set for the move. We leave in about 2 weeks. I’m excited to keep you posted on what life is like working in Spain and wherever else we venture in Europe. So thanks for tuning back in 🙂 I’m excited to post pictures and stories.

Here is a picture of the city I got the other day. Use the link on the right to follow my instagram @maxineisland for my best travel pictures abroad.

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