Sunday, September 21, 2014

Apple Season

Tis the season for apple picking! Fall weather is the best weather. This year we managed to picking a little earlier in the season, which meant the whole orchard was at our disposal. We ate way too many apples along the way but you have to try them all before you purchase, right? :)
We stopped for some soft-serve pumpkin ice-cream that my friends had been hyping up for 3 years now; it did not disappoint.
Jacket: Thrifted, Sweater: LF Stores (old), Leggings: H&M, Purse: Mango, Sneakers: White Chucks, Sunglasses: Mango (old)
We stopped on the side of the road for some decorative pumpkins that were only $1 and was based on the honor system. Sometimes the trust upstate is refreshing. 
We also stopped by a farm to feed the farm animals and go through a corn maze where Sarah and I did get lost in for a bit. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Study Abroad Tips: A Guide of What To Do in Barcelona

To Do:

Visit Gaudí's Works:
La Sagrada Familia
Park Güell
La Pedrera (Casa Milà)
Casa Batlló
Palau Güell

More On Gaudí:
Barcelona Tourist Guide Architecture
Museums and Theaters: Most museums have an admission price and ask for student prices, but on the first Sunday of every month most museums have free entrances. Make sure you get there early as there tends to be a long line.

Museo d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
Picasso Museum (I recommend getting tickets beforehand)
Camp Nou (Barcelona FC Museum)
Barcelona Center of Contemporary Culture
Museum d' Història de Catalunya
Maritime Museum
Catalan Museum of Archeology
Palau Güell
Palau de la Música Catalana
Teatre Nacional de Catalunya

More Museum Information:
Barcelona Tourist Guide: Museums

DSC_0104 2
Lost and Found Market
Marcat Raval
Els Encants
Flea Market BCN
La Boqueria- a food market on Las Ramblas

More Market Info:
Barcelona's Best Vintage and Flea Markets

Other Attractions:
Montjuïc Castle: At the top of the mountain there is a beautiful castle that overlooks the ports. You can see a lot of the Barcelona skyline from here too. Aparantly there is a 5 euro fee to get in, but somehow my friend and I didn't have to pay? We just walked right in. There is also a cable car that will take you to the top of the mountain and you can get incredible views of the city. For cable car information click here. More information here. Directions on how to get to Montjuïc here.

Magic Fountain of Montjïc: The fountain in front of the MNAC does beautiful light show every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Read the history here. Check timetables here.
Tibidabo: At any point in Barcelona you'll see far off in the distance what appears to be a castle in the clouds. It is actually a beautiful church and an amusement park. It can bit a bit confusing on how to get there, but it is worth it because it is the best point in which to see Barcelona. Quick tip, you can pay to take the really cute Blue Tram up to the Funicular, but there is also a city bus that goes up there and you can use your T-JOVE pass. Directions on how to get there here.
Arc de Triomf: Most European cities have an Arc, though none are comparable to the one in Paris. Directions on how to get here.

Parc de la Ciutadella: Across from the Arc there is a beautiful park that has the Barcelona Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, Catalan Parliament, and rowing on the lake. You could also have a picnic here. Information on the park here.
Catedral de Barcelona: My favorite work of architecture in the city. It is from the gothic era and has so many details. There is an entrance fee if you enter from the side but if you just walk in from the front, it is no problem. Check out the history, services, and directions here.

Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar: Catalans love this church and people who want to get married here are put on 2 year long wait-lists. It is a simple church but very Catalan-architecture. For directions click here.
Parc del Laberint d'Horta: A labyrinth park that took us a while to find our way out. It costs 2.17 euro a person. For more information click here.
La Barceloneta: We spent many days at the beach. Bring a blanket to sit on (we would always forget), you can buy alcoholic beverages from people on the beach, and remember this is a nude beach. More information here.
Go to a Barcelona FC Game: You should 100% see the famous team play at Camp Nou. Click here for directions and tickets.
Rent Bikes: Rent a bike and ride all over the city. There are bike lanes everywhere but still ride with caution. Top bike information here.

Flamenco: Although Flamenco is from southern Spain, it is still worth it to see a show. My friend went with her program here.
Dia de Sant Jordi: On April 23rd, Catalans celebrate this day by men giving women a rose and women giving the men a book. It is kind-of like Valentines Day. Read up on it here.
Arenas Roof: If you go up to the roof of what was once a bullfighting ring in Barcelona (now turned shopping mall since bullfighting is illegal), you will find a beautiful views of Plaça Espanya. You could even try one of the restaurants at the top for dinner.
Cavas of Codorniu: My program took us on a cool trip to see how Cava is made in Codorniu. Here is tour information.

Av. Portal de l'Angel: Mango, Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Nike, Intimissimi, Stradivarius, and many more wonderful stores. This street was my weakness.

Passeig de Gràcia: Think 5th Ave in NYC. High end fashion designers and high street stores.

Diagonal Mar: A mall on Diagonal that has Primark and Alcampo. Take the L4 line to El Maresme Fòrum. Mall information here.

Arenas: Ex-bullfighting ring turned mall.

La Maquinista: An outdoor mall that has the only Forever21 in the city. It also has a bunch of other high street stores. Mall information here.

L'Illa Diagonal: Another mall that has a Primark along with other high street stores. Information here.

Top Shop: Carrer de Bergara, 1, 08007 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 01 53 43
A small Top Shop and the only one in the city.

Other Shopping Guides:
Barcelona Shopping Guide
Laia's Guide (recommended!)

Day Trips:
Dalí Museum: The museum isn't actually in Barcelona but in Figueres, where Dalí was born. It is really worth seeing and feeling like you're being fooled by Dalí even in death. It is smart to take a tour of the place so you know what you're looking at and why Dalí created the work. Directions on how to get there here. Museum information here.
Girona: I intended to see Girona because of the spanish film 3MSC2, but it is an absolutely beautiful city. It is much calmer than Barcelona and the people are so kind. Here is my post on Girona. We stayed at the Equity Point Hostel for one night and the staff there were so helpful. Here is some extra information: What to Do in GironaGirona Video Guide, Bus from Girona Airport to Barcelona,
Sitges: Sitges is a small town south of Barcelona that is absolutely beautiful and has a nice beach too. It is most famous for Carnival (when I went) during late February and early March. Here is some information on how to get there. Also Stoke Travel and Barcelona Trips have group tours during Carnival, but it is totally do-able to go on your own.
Tarragona: A beautiful town south of Barcelona with beautiful beaches and lots of Roman history. I only stopped here for a few hours on my way to Valencia but it was so nice. Here is some information on how to get there. Here are some posts I found helpful: The World Looks Red.
Valencia for Las Fallas: For about a week in March, Valencia celebrates Las Fallas. People build these huge wooden statues that are supposed to make fun of politicians, but many are just fun characters, and place them all over the city. On the last day they set them on fire. This was crazier than Carnival in Barcelona and so much fun. I went with Barcelona Trips but a lovely friend was studying in Valencia so she just took me around everywhere. Here is my post on Valencia. This is another girl's study abroad blog and what she did in Valencia.

Costa Brava: I didn't get the chance to go up to La Costa Brava but I had friends who rented a car and did a mini road trip and they had a blast. It is sooo beautiful up there.
Montserrat: You can take the tram car up to the seminary or you can take multiple paths to hike up this mountain. I suggest wearing layers as it does get a bit chilly up there. Also try to go early so it is less crowded. Here are directions on how to get there. Here are some other helpful links: Montserrat, A Day Trip.

Other Helpful Links:
VICE Barcelona Guide
Rough Guide Barcelona
Apartime Barcelona Guide
enBarcelona (like NY Magazine)
Oh Barcelona
Laia's Guide (highly recommend!)
Unlike City Guides Barcelona
Sandeman's Free Walking Tour (for when you want some guidance getting to know the city)
Barcelona City Video (video)
Barcelona Walking Tour (video- love!)
Travel Guide to Barcelona (video)
I Who Wander Barcelona (study abroad blog)
Blogging in Barcelona (study abroad blog)
Study Abroad Guide: Barcelona (study abroad blog)
Guide to Barcelona (study abroad blog)
Barcelona Disposables
Barcelona Rush
La Playa Sol

My Barcelona Guides:
Good Things to Know
Barcelona Food & Dessert Guide
Barcelona Bar & Club Guide

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Study Abroad Tips: A Guide of What to Eat in Barcelona

To Eat:

Carrer d'Elisabets, 2, 08001 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 17 58 26
The BEST tapas in Barcelona. I honestly never cared for tapas because they were expensive and I never felt full, but this place was the best. If you manage to order off the menu special, you get about 10 different tapas and a choice of sangria or beer for 15 euro a person. Totally worth it.

C/ Fusina, 3, 08003 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 68 30 80
Wow. This place is by far my favorite restaurant in all of Barcelona. It is similar to a tapas style meal, however it is a temperature kitchen. This means that different menu items are cooked at different temperatures. It is a bit pricy, but so worth it for a fancy occasion. I recommend the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, white fish ceviche, and the chicken and rice. I also recommend making a reservation ahead of time as the place usually fills up.

Alsur Cafe
Plaza de Sant Cugat, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain +34 931 82 54 07
Another delicious tapas place. Go early or they run out of some tapas. I hear their cheesecake is divine.

Passeig de Joan de Borbó, 76, 08039 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 21 35 20
Really delicious burgers, good fries, and strong drinks. Right by the Barceloneta beach. I recommend calling for a reservation ahead of time for a large group. Also, they really don't like to give individual checks.

Brunch & Cake
Carrer Enric Granados, 19, 08007 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 00 28 72
This place is packed on the weekends and it is about a half hour wait, but it is totally worth it. They have delicious brunch choices and the best cafe-con-leche I tried. I recommend the avocado and feta appetizer, the Eggs Benedict on a waffle, and if you can fit it in, try a slice of cake!

Carrer de Gombau, 5, 08003 Barcelona, Spain +34 686 19 26 90
The BEST pizza in Barcelona and you can take it to go. A Margherita pizza costs 5.50 euro. They have annoying siesta hours, so make sure you check that they are open before you go.

La Rose Negra
Via Laietana, 46, 08003 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 10 17 98
This place has decent Mexican food and hands down the place we would go to most often (because it was just down the street). They have two other locations in the city. We would also go often to pre-game at the bar before the clubs because they have mojitos and margaritas for 3.50 euro. They also have a delicious "mexican sangria" that is sangria and carbonated lemonade.

La Taqueria
Passatge de Font, 5, 08013 Barcelona, Spain +34 931 26 13 59
The closest place to real mexican food. They even dip their handmade tortillas in the gravy. You need to call for a reservation ahead of time because the place is tiny. Also, there is another mexican restaurant on the corner on the same block- don't go into that one, just keep walking a little further in and you'll find the restaurant.
La Boqueria
Rambla, 91, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
The famous market on Las Ramblas has food stands selling fruits, veggies, chocolates, jamón, seafood, empanadas and much more. There are also a few "restaurants" inside. I suggest trying a fresh fruit smoothie but not having a full meal here. It is quite overpriced.

Carrer del Rosselló, 231 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 68 61 27
I had a program dinner here and it was absolutely delicious. Everything we ordered was great. A great place to go for a date. There are several locations around the city.

Carrer Enric Granados, 3, 08007 Barcelona, Spain +34 931 05 79 92
A cute cafe where students would go to study. They had fresh salads, delicious sandwiches, and a great tea selection. A warning- there is no wifi. Also, watch your belongings here; I had a friend who's backpack was almost stolen.

Bo d Be
Carrer de la Fusteria, 14 08002 Barcelona Spain +34 936 674 945
A famous sandwich place among American study abroad students, there is always a line out the door. They make fresh chicken or beef sandwiches and you can put any toppings you want (corn, salad, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, etc.) for only about 5 euro.
Federal Café
Carrer del Parlament, 39, 08015 Barcelona, Spain +34 931 87 36 07
Another great brunch spot. No reservation needed, but be prepared for a bit of a wait. Also, you pay downstairs at the register.

Ronda de la Universitat, 31 08007 Barcelona +34 932 68 95 48
The burgers here are so huge that they even come with a foldable burger holder. The fries are also delicious. They have locations all around the city.
La República
Carrer de Pujades, 120, 08005 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 66 88 00
An Argentinian bar and parilla in El Bario Gotico. I only went in with a friend to get drinks one day, but they looked like they had a decent menu.
100 Montaditos
Rambla de Catalunya, 11 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 04 05 04
Montaditos are small sandwiches, filled with practically anything. I suggest a serving of 4 to satisfy or hold back hunger. They are more of a tapa or snack than meal. They have locations all over the city. You write down your order on a piece of paper provided to you and then you bring it up to the counter and they'll call your name when it is ready. On Mondays montaditos only cost .50 centimos each and on certain days beer and sangria are on sale for 1 euro.
Carrer de Carme, 3BarcelonaSpain
A chocolate shop with literally a wall full of donuts. They also make pretty incredible kronuts.

Carrer de Provença, 233, 08008 Barcelona, Spain +34 934 67 45 42
A bakery that makes delicious doughy-donuts. Their famous bolduman was my favorite. They also make fresh salads to go and I highly recommend the chicken-legume one.

Granja La Pallerasa
Calle Petritxol, 11, 08002 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 02 20 36
They have been selling churros since 1947. I recommend only buying one cup of chocolate to dip your churros in as it is a lot that they serve you. You should also go before closing time because they ran out of churros the first time I went.

La Cremona
Carrer Sant Pere mes Baix 14BarcelonaSpain
OMG. This gelato place was the BEST. It is so creamy and all made in the store. The owners are wonderful people (and I got a bit embarrassed after they started to recognize me for going so often). My favorite flavor was the Baileys.

Places I Heard About:

Carrer d'En Gignàs, 21, 08002 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 68 09 22
Another highly recommended brunch spot.

C/ Torrent de l'Olla, 169, 08012 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 18 23 75
A bakery who's donuts are pretty famous.

Pim Pam Burger
c/ Sabateret 4 (off c/ del Rec) +34 933 152 093
A burger joint that everyone loved.

Can Paixano (La Champaneria)
Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7, 08003 Barcelona, Spain +34 933 10 08 39
A raved about tapas bar that sells really cheap Cava (basically champagne). A friend of mine brought some Cava she bought there to our apartment and it was absolutely delicious.

Cantina Machito
Calle Torrijos, 47, 08012 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 17 34 14
I passed by this place trying to find another food joint and noted it down but never got the chance to go. It looked like really delicious Mexican food.

For More Food Options:
VICE Barcelona Guide
IES Abroad Barcelona: Part Two
Laia's Barcelona Guide (Great Guide!)
Good Eats Barcelona
Barcelona's Top Street Foods
enBarcelona Restaurants
Unlike City Guides: Food

My Study Abroad Tips:
Barcelona: Good Things to Know
Barcelona: Things to Do
Barcelona: Bars & Clubs

Friday, August 15, 2014

Study Abroad Tips: A Guide to "Studying" in Barcelona

Good Things to Know:

Cell Phone Plan: International cell phone plans tend to be quite expensive and roaming charges are absolutely ridiculous, so while abroad most people keep their phones on airplane mode, turn their data off, and hope to find wifi. I personally did not have that problem because T-Mobile has a Simple Choice Plan where data coverage and texting is unlimited internationally and calls are .20 cents a minute. You could also buy a cheap Spanish phone and have a as-you-go plan from: Vodafone, Orange, or Movistar.

Travel Advisor Offline City Guides App: A friend who studied abroad in Italy downloaded this app onto my phone before I headed off to Barcelona. This app can function without wifi or data and it will give you a list of nearby restaurants, attractions, maps, hotels, and more. There are many city guides for European cities so I downloaded a new city guide for each city I visited.

Student Metro Pass: If you think you'll use the metro a lot for getting around the city, I suggest buying the student metro pass T-JOVE (if you are under the age of 25) for 105 EURO and it will last you for a total of 3 months. You can buy this pass at any ticket machine in the station, but you have to enter an identification number, this can be your ID card number from your drivers license or your passport number, just make sure you always have that identification on you because the police can stop you to check your ID and make sure you are under the age of 25. Your other options include walking to get around the city, which is possible since it is a smaller city (compared to NYC), or to buy the T-10 which is 10.30 EURO for 10 trips. Click on the links for more information on the metro and a map. Also check out the timetables for the metro because it does shut down at midnight most nights.

Drinking and Drug Laws: According to Barcelona Law, public drinking is illegal and you can be fined on the spot- even though men are selling beers in the streets (more on that in a bit). Public consumption of drugs is also illegal. Read more on Spanish Law here. With all this being said, it is totally okay to drink on the beach, even at night, with friends. Obviously you and your group don't want to be rowdy, so just keep it cool and the police won't bother you. Also- remember to clean up after yourselves! About the men selling beers- on the beach there are men walking with coolers selling beer and mojitos. It's your choice if you want to make business with them. On the streets, especially at night, men are also selling beer. What you should know, is that most of these men hide their beer packs under sewers or under the dirt for when they sell it at night- so again, its your choice. Also, they tend to be a bit more expensive than just buying your own at the store.

Pick-Pockets: This is a HUGE problem in Barcelona. Many people I know got pick-pocketed by people on the metro, in the street, or on the beach- and they never even knew it. These guys are slick. For men, do not put your wallets and phones in your back pockets. Keep them close and make sure you are not letting yourself become a victim. Just be aware of your surroundings. For women- DO NOT USE THOSE FLAP BAGS with a magnetic close. Please, please, please invest (and you don't even have to spend big bucks) on a bag with a good zipper. Keep your purse in front of you at all times and when in crowded areas keep your hand on your bag. I suggest using a purse like this one from H&M because the zipper goes all the way around so it is not easy to open. Be SUPER CAREFUL while on the beach in Barcelona because scam artists will try to come up to you and pretend to drop something on your belongings and next think you know, they're off with your phone or passport. Also while at the clubs, for both guys and girls, watch your pockets and purses. Since it can get really crowded indoors you never know who's hand may slip and steal your money. This being said, I used a backpack and rode the metro to class and I never had any issues, but I was also always aware of my surroundings. I am proud to say that because I was careful in Barcelona and while traveling to other European cities, I never once lost anything or was robbed.

Siesta: Ahh, the beloved siesta or nap time. The siesta usually starts at 2 PM until 4 PM because it is the lunch hour. The siesta means that you too will get to enjoy (and love) napping for two hours during the day. The siesta also means that many restaurants and places of business will close during those hours or even later, so always check the hours of operation for any business. On Sundays most stores including shopping stores, malls, and supermarkets are closed, so buy your groceries in advance. I promise you, it stinks being hungry on a Sunday because you have no food in the fridge.

The Bank: There are many banks in Barcelona: La Caixa, Catalunya Caixa, Santander, HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and many more. Bank hours are reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally inconvenient. This does not mean that ATMs are closed, but the tellers are not available for the most of the day. Most banks are open only Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 2 PM. Now, I suggest taking out the maximum amount of cash your bank allows on your debit card. You will be charged a fee from your bank and a fee for using an international ATM, so taking out the largest amount makes more sense than paying $12 each time you want to take out 100 EURO. Call your bank before you study abroad and let them know you will be traveling and ask what their policies are.

You HAVE to know Catalan: Almost every person I spoke to about studying abroad in Barcelona wanted to scare me into thinking that I would not be able to communicate with people or find my way around the city because I HAD to know Catalan. Everyone who told me that was full of it. Sure, signs are written in Catalan and if you leave Barcelona for smaller towns most people only speak Catalan, but I was perfectly fine. Knowing Spanish helps because when written, Catalan is like Spanish. However, if you don't know Spanish that well either you will be just fine. Signs are written in Catalan, Spanish, and English and most people know both Castellano (Spain-Spanish) and English.

El Raval at Night: Raval is a neighborhood just to left of Las Ramblas and during the day it is totally fine to walk through there. At night though, I would be careful. The area is known prostitution. Crime in Barcelona does not really include muggings or murder but there is a high chance that you will be robbed. The area is especially unsafe for women walking alone at night. To avoid any problems it is best to just not go there at night. Click here for a map of the different neighborhoods in Barcelona.

Is the Water Safe?: Yes. I drank from the tap in my apartment without any problems, but it certainly does not taste like the greatest water in the world. You could buy bottled water if it makes you feel safer, but that was an expense I didn't want to have. Also, you should know at restaurants if you ask for water they will only give you bottled water. It sometimes costs more than alcohol. Tap water at most restaurants doesn't exist in Spain.

Electric Volts: Electric supply is 220 Volts with 2 pin wall sockets. You should buy a converter/adapter to use your electronics in Spain. I bought two adapters from Conair at Target. They worked great!

Living: Depending on your program you may or may not have the choice to live with a host family, in a dorm, or find your own apartment housing. I chose to live on my own because it just made me feel more comfortable.
  • Host Families: Some people on my program chose to live with a host family and they enjoyed it. You just have to get used to: short showers (water and electricity is privatized in Spain so it is expensive), eating a light breakfast (the Spanish just eat some bread and coffee for breakfast), eating a late dinner (the Spanish tend to eat dinner at 8PM), and having someone else do your laundry (maybe not a problem for some people). Living with a family also means you really get to practice your Castellano or Catalan and get a richer experience of the Spanish and Catalan culture. I do want to put out a word of warning- I had many friends who were a part of the ISA program in Barcelona and their host family housing was less than ideal. Host families fed them very little, or were not around, or fed them but students suffered from food poisoning, and/or homes were not in the greatest shape.
  • Dorms: For my program girls had to live in a separate dormitory from the boys, and it was very far away from the school. Now I hear that building will go co-ed but the girls in my program did not enjoy it. Some options for dorm housing in Barcelona are: Roca (where the girls in my program stayed), Balmes (where the boys in my program stayed), Melon District, Onix, RESA, and RESA. For other dorm options click here.
  • Apartments: I am not going to lie. It was VERY hard for me to find an apartment. I suggest looking for an apartment once you know that you are definitely going to study in Barcelona, maybe even when you send in your study abroad application; because by the time I started looking, all the apartments had filled up. I used Barna Students Place and stayed in the apartment Jonqueres 6, Apt. 3. Rent for my room cost 405 EURO a month. I had to pay a hefty 900 EURO deposit for the first months rent and to pay for water, electricity, and internet. There were two toilets and one shower for 6 people, a kitchen, a washing machine (there are no dryers in Spain- it is too expensive so you have to hang-dry your clothes), a living room, and a balcony. I chose to look at student flats because I wanted to be with other students who were also studying abroad. I enjoyed my apartment just fine, but it is hard to make sure you are getting the best deal when you can't go ahead of time to visit the apartments. Some other places that have student apartments are: Student Flats BCN, Sant Jordi Pisos, Pisos Estudiantes Barcelona, and LLogoBCN.
Food Shopping: First off- always bring reusable bags with you to the supermarket because in Spain you have to pay for each plastic bag you use. Depending on where you live in Barcelona, there are different supermarkets you can go to for food. Mercadona is the cheapest, but it didn't always have everything I was looking for. Carrefour prices also aren't too bad, and this is where I tended to do most of my shopping. El Corte Ingles in Plaça Catalunya has a supermarket downstairs but it is very expensive so I would only shop there for the wine and speciality goods like hummus. It's also good to know that El Corte Ingles does accept American Express credit cards. Bonpreu is a smaller supermarket with higher prices but for smaller purchases it is fine. Alcampo is a hyper-supermarket in the Diagonal Mar Mall and it has fair prices and it is the closet market to resemble Walmart. If you're missing home check out Taste of America for American goods- just be aware food is expensive. Be aware that all supermarkets are closed on Sundays. For more information on supermarkets click here and here. Now, I wouldn't buy my fruits and vegetables from these supermarkets because they aren't very fresh and they are overpriced. I went to a small fruit and vegetable store near my apartment because the fruits were fresh and cheap- I would buy two-weeks worth of fruits and veggies for only 10 euro. I specifically went to this one (Carrer de Sant Pere Mes Baix, 23-31 08003 Barcelona, Spain) she always had fresh veggies, but there are so many of these all over the city that you are sure to have one nearby.

Aerobus: The easiest way to get from the airport to the city center. The Barcelona airport has two terminals and each one has its own Aerobus. The bus from Terminal 1 is called T1 and the bus from Terminal 2 is called T2. The buses run every 5 minutes and you can get them from the main stop in front of El Corte Ingles in Plaça Catalunya. The buses cost 5.90 for a one way ticket or 10.20 euro for a round trip. I suggest using the bus because it is much cheaper than paying for a taxi. Click the link for fares, schedules, and stops.

Taxi: Cabs in Barcelona are easy to find- they are black and yellow in color. All cabs charge based on a meter system. Cabs are a bit pricy, but if you split it between friends for a night out to a club, depending where you live it can cost as little as 6 euro a person. I definitely would not depend on the cabs as your go-to mode of transportation for the city because it is so costly. I never had a problem or felt afraid in any cab, so you should be safe.

Tipping: I never tipped waiters or cab drivers in Barcelona. The reason for this is because service is either nonexistent or incredibly slow in restaurants. Waitstaff tend to be paid higher salaries than in the US and therefore service is not the best since they are not working for tips. Only at really fancy restaurants do I recommend leaving maybe 5 euro.

Sitting on the "Terrace": If you dreamt of sitting outside a cafe or restaurant just reading a book or people watching, it is going to cost you. The "terrace," as referred to by many establishments, is really just the sidewalk with outside seating. It costs an extra 5-10% to sit outside.

Ordering Coffee: In Europe, and especially in Spain, you cannot just order a coffee like you would at Dunkin' Donuts. And a to-go coffee? Fuhgeddaboudit. What I would typically do is just order a cafe-con-leche or coffee with milk. Here is a full tutorial on how to order coffee in Spain.

Manifestations: Protests are part of the every day life in Barcelona. Every night I walked home from school and every night there was a protest in the streets. These protests are peaceful and mostly it is people marching and yelling about some social, economic, and/or political issue they want to change. Only once was I warned by my school to not go near an area because they heard that it could be dangerous, but nothing ever happened.

Gyms: I had a really hard time trying to find a cheap gym in Barcelona because most of them are Spas so you're paying for a steam room, pool, etc. I used Duet Fit because it didn't have those extras and therefore costs were low and I could have a membership for 3 months. Other gyms (that are a bit more expensive are): Homes Place, DiR, Fronto Colom.

For More Tips:
VICE Barcelona Guide
Barcelona Basic Information
ESEC Guide
Students Gone Global Barcelona Tips
Cristy's Ultimate Barcelona Study Abroad Guide
Serennia Barcelona Basics

My Study Abroad Tips:
Barcelona Food Guide
Barcelona Bar & Club Guide
Barcelona Things to Do Guide

Friday, August 1, 2014

Postcards from Chiapas

I recently went to visit family, that I missed so much, in Chiapas, Mexico. I took few photos, mostly because I wanted to be present and enjoy quality family time. A few shots are from Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital, and others are from San Cristobal de las Casas, one of my favorite places in Mexico. The weather there is cool, it has so much culture, and life is slower there than in the capital. 
Amazing how terrible the government is organized (or rather unorganized) or infrastructure is in a state capital. Garbage piled up, under the blazing sun, in front of a butcher. 
Most of the indigenous people live up in the mountains and they sell their handmade products. They don't usually like to have their picture taken.
My beautiful cousins.