Battle with Customs

Before I get into the title of this post, I wanted to discuss something not quite as depressing… In the image above, you will get a mild glimpse of the raucous crowd outside of Vicente Calderon Stadium, home of the beloved La Liga football club, Atletico Madrid. The stakes were very high in this matchup, for it was a Champions League game against one of the premiere football clubs in all of Germany, if not the entire world, Bayern Munich. Now I’ve been to my fair share of sporting events in the United States, from playoff games at Yankee Stadium, to star-studded battles at Madison Square Garden.

However, I can easily say I have never been to any sporting event quite like this one. People were dancing and singing in the streets with reckless abandon prior to the game and the police couldn’t seem to care less. Inside the stadium was even more surreal. In sporting stadiums in the United States they constantly are playing music, trying to start chants, having performances between every little break in the action. From the second the referee blew the whistle every fan in the stadium was locked in, no stoppage in play, no music, just the well synchronized songs and chants of the crowd. It felt so much more cultural, so much more embedded into the fabric of their society, and it was truly amazing to be a part of.

Now to the depressing part I was talking about. Never and I repeat never send medication from the United States to Spain. Ever. I don’t know if this is how they do it in the rest of Europe, but it is truly a nightmare. My parents tried sending me some medication about a month ago and customs seized it without us knowing. Eventually I got a letter from them outlining what I had to do, which ended up being a very bureaucratic and tedious process that no one wants to deal with. After completing these steps and submitting the required documents I received an email from them saying that in order to acquire my medication I would need a Spanish citizen to go to the airport for me, pay the customs tax for me, and sign off on it for me. The worst part was they told me I would need to submit a photocopy of this Spanish citizens ID with their signature on it within 72 hours of the email. After frantically going to the international office at my school, speaking with the US embassy in Madrid, and making a variety of other calls, they all agreed with me that this was a bizarre request and alas I was not able to make the deadline, losing the battle and my medication to customs.

The two biggest takeaways one should take after reading this post: 1. If you’re in Spain, try to go to as many soccer games as you can. 2. Make sure before you come to Spain that you have enough medication to last you for the duration of your stay.

PS: The beaches in Valencia and Barcelona are beautiful, but be careful with your phone if you go to Barcelona! (I got my phone stolen on my second night there, another hassle not worth getting into).

Next stop: Halloween weekend in Amsterdam!

Real Life Cheetah Girl

New Paltz takes on Barcelona

New Paltz takes on Barcelona!

Hola!  From one adventure to the next.  This past weekend I embarked on a journey to Barcelona with fellow New Paltz student, Kara.  The truth is we didn’t really have expectations for the trip, it was kind of spur of the moment planning.  I never really thought about visiting Spain before, I think mostly because I’ve always associated Spanish speaking countries with my older sister.  But I never thought about it for myself, till now that is.  I know someone living in Spain right now, although I wasn’t sure where.  I just assumed she lived in Barcelona, so without hesitating I texted Kara, and the rest was history.

The view from the plane

The view from the plane

This was my first study abroad, out of country trip which required an airplane.  I met Kara at the airport, and the truth is I was impressed that I made it there on time, in one piece.  The independence one obtains while studying abroad is simply mind-blowing.  Even growing up in New York City, everyday I still push my own boundaries of independence living abroad.  I am always proud of myself even if I just accomplish simple tasks.

I truly consider Kara and I to be blessed to have made it to Barcelona.  We waited in the airport, and every five minutes I would check the departure board for our gate.  However, every time I would check the board it would say, “check back in five minutes.”  This was very disheartening, Kara was pretty sure we were not going to be leaving Milan.  I really tried to stay positive, as hard as it may have been.  I figured it wasn’t over till the fat lady sang!  Eventually a man sitting next to us informed us that our flight had been delayed.  He showed us on our computer, something that had not even appeared on the departure board.  Kara and I knew about the ground crew going on strike that day, but I really didn’t know the extent to which it affected people.  The man told us that almost every flight from Malpensa airport was canceled.  So when Kara and I eventually boarded our flight, I was beyond grateful.  I felt so fortunate, and lucky to be Barcelona bound.

YUM!

YUM!

When Kara and I landed, we headed straight to our airbnb.  We weren’t going to let any time get wasted, so we met up with fellow New Paltz abroad student, Hannah.  Hannah is studying in London, and just happened to be Barcelona bound when we were as well.  New Paltz ate quite a delicious meal.  I was especially happy because I got guacamole, something I almost never can find in Milan.  Avocado is one of the number one foods I miss while abroad, my mom and I eat entire avocados as a snack.  So anytime I find anything avocado related, I pounce.  It is so funny how difficult I find it to eat dinner on Italian time, most places don’t open till 7:30ish.  But Spanish dinner begins at like 10.  We finished dinner our first night after midnight!  Man was it worth it for that delicious food!

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

The next day we met up again with Hannah for some brunch.  I am a big brunch girl.  I miss Main Street Bistro pretty much everyday, whether I am in Italy, New York City, or anywhere else in between.  Milan isn’t really a popular brunch place.  The breakfast foods I am accustomed to aren’t big in Milan.  One thing I love to eat, and never eat in Milan is eggs.  It is so simple, but pretty much all the time I crave a bowl of scrambled eggs.  So I was definitely on board to get some brunch.  I had the hues rancheros, as well as the cafe con leche.  Milan has amazing coffee, but it is pretty much all espresso.  So I was also excited for some yummy Spanish coffee!  Again, another successful meal!

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

Kara and I were also beyond excited with all of the American places we stumbled upon in Barcelona.  Getting off the bus to see Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Subway excited us probably more then anything.  It’s the little things you know?  Don’t get me wrong, Milan has AMAZING food, but shockingly enough the only American establishments we have are McDonalds & Burger King, two fast food places I do not eat.  To see these familiar places really made Barcelona feel like home.

NPsocial:  Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

NPsocial: Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

Viva España!

Viva España!

After brunch Kara, Hannah, and I went on a free walking tour of Barcelona, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact comparatively, I liked it even more than the free walking tour I took in Rome.  We also lucked out with the weather!  Another Tamara travel tip is to ALWAYS pack an umbrella.  Weather is so unpredictable.  I so far have not had the best luck, experiencing rain in Milan, Rome, Lugano, and now Barcelona.  The rain hasn’t stopped me, but it is always an unavoidable inconvenience.  Of course, I did not bring an umbrella to Spain, because I looked at the weather before I left and thought I would be safe.  But alas I was not.  Our airbnb host was so incredibly welcoming, he told me to help himself to any of his umbrellas.  We did luck out though to not have rain during our walking tour, or for most of our time in Barcelona.

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

After the walking tour, we were very hungry, so we took to the tapas bar near the airbnb Kara & I were staying at.  The tapas were unreal.  Out of all the incredible things I ate in Barcelona, I must say the tapas were probably my all time favorite.  Sure, they weren’t cheap.  But it was so worth.  It was the best way to sample everything.  We made sure to have the traditional Catalan tappa of tomato bread.  But all of the tappas I ordered were yummy in my tummy.

Horta Maze

Horta Maze

Staying the extra day really made the difference.  Our last day in Barcelona, Sunday, Kara and I made sure to not slow down, so we took to the metro and embarked on some parks.  I have a friend studying in Copenhagen who visited Barcelona recently, and she recommended a maze for me to check out.  Let me tell you, this place was aMAZEing (pun intended).  It was so beautiful, we made sure to take lots of pictures.

Started from the bottom, now we're here

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

After the maze, Kara wanted to find the balcony the Cheetah Girls 2 shot at.  I being down for anything, was up for the trip.  We walked more than I probably have walked in my life, my legs hurt to say the least.  But, the view overlooking Barcelona was breathtaking.  Plus we did eventually find the balcony, because we were determined beyond belief!

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

The rest of the day was spent buying some beautiful souvenirs for our loved ones, petting an adorable black cat, and sampling some more local cuisine.  We felt we couldn’t leave Spain without having Paella, and churros.  So we crossed both of those noms off our list later that evening.  Like I said, when Kara and I are determined, we do not take no for an answer.  Our minds were set on churros and paella and we would be damned if we hadn’t eaten our fill!

Churros & chocolate sauce

Churros & chocolate sauce

Las Ramblas

La Rambla after the soccer game

After our meal we walked down La Rambla for one last time, and found ourselves amidst a celebration for the soccer game from earlier that day.  Personally, this reasoning really was why las ramblas was one of my favorite places.  Las Ramblas may be very touristy, but it was also just so action packed, I looked forward to every trip we had to it.

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Barcelona truly took our breath away.  It is so incredibly alive, and the energy is so contagious.  For a place that neither of us were really dying to do, we probably would have killed to stay!  I am so, so glad we made it to Barcelona, despite everything.  There is no place like it, and no way to describe it.  But we both said this was the first place we could actually see ourselves moving.  I don’t know if it was the American establishments, the fact everyone spoke English, the AMAZING food, the accessibility of everything (we almost never took the metro), or just the friendly people we met, but Barcelona really did steal both of our hearts.  Don’t worry mom & dad I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, but it was truly one of the greatest trips of my life.  I love Milan so much, but I would have not minded if our flight had been delayed a few days 😉

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Kara and I slept two hours, since Barcelona never sleeps.  We returned to Milan, and went straight to our dramaturgy class.  Sure, we were exhausted, but nothing would ever seem more worth it.

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Till next time, thanks for reading! Adios <3

Tamara

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