Monday, December 20, 2010

Granada Mágica

I don't know if I am making clear how deeply I am in love with Granada. This magical city blows my mind regularly. By now, most of us just walk the streets like it's nothing. Alex made the point that we look down often, and with good reason--so as to not trip over a jagged cobblestone or short pylon. But once in a while, you have to risk tripping and twisting your ankle, or worse, stepping in dog poop, to look UP. This place is literally ancient. Islamic and Catholic kingdoms have lived and died here over and over again.

Natasha's brother and parents are here visiting and it's really refreshing for all of us. It gives us a chance to look at Granada again with new eyes. They visited the famous Granada Catedral:

We gave them a tour of "El Mirador" (the "looker", or "place to look") up in the Albaicín and walked them down through the narrow, windy Arab neighborhood of the Albaicín (where they kindly bought us a round of tapas). The view is incredible. It boasts the back of the Alhambra and much of the more urban and suburban parts of Granada:

The family, minus Brandon who's currently traveling with his dad. Myself, Chelsea, Alex, Natasha and her brother, Dane:

And I suddenly realized that I didn't have a photo of myself in front of the most famous part of Granada-The Alhambra. So this is for the family. Yep, I love you guys.

With those lovely views of my city, I now am doing the final packing for my epic Paris/Brussels/London trip. Here's hoping I don't have a delayed flight from here to Paris. But, I'd be moderately okay with a delay from London back to Spain (excuse to stay longer!). Keep your fingers crossed for smooth traveling! I will upload a million photos once I return on January 2 in the new year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I am getting INCREDIBLY excited for my trip to Paris, Brussels and London! I recently bought some boots, a new coat, earmuffs and leggings (to slide under my jeans) in preparation for the trip. Here I am testing out my "Paris look." I am getting so excited, that I'm trying on stuff like it's the night before the first day of high school.

This is about a million layers of clothing--weather proof boots, two pairs of socks, leggings, jeans, shirt, sweater, hoodie, scarf, huge coat, beanie, earmuffs and gloves:

And let me tell you! Before I came to Spain, I was proud of my boot find in the States. If you recall, I snagged a pair of Ralph Lauren leather riding boots for $100 when they were originally $300. I am a fashion, but more importantly, a sale FIEND. However, I have outdone myself this time. Those black riding boots you see above are a French brand known as Aigle. They are faux leather, but their company prides themselves in making them look dang authentic. The point is: they're water proof, insulated and have soles with grip. They are amazingly comfortable, in my annoyingly huge size, and fitted. They were MADE for traveling through freezing Europe.

I was willing to throw down like 200 euro on a good pair of boots. I picked up these bad boys for 65 euro. Yes. Sixty-five euro. That's about $86. Yes. I win. Also, I picked up that adorable Zara coat for 60 euro. God, I love the clothes in Europe.


Christmas Spirit

It's a little hard to get all Christmas-ed out when my family isn't around. I'm so used to seeing three trees regularly: ours, Grandma and Papa's, and Ladda's. Also, there is a lack of homes with the crazy lights and what not. But the streets are pretty lit up here. There are poinsettia's on the street lamps and nativity scenes galore. Everywhere you go, you'll see signs saying "Belén," or "Bethlehem."

But I did just have my finals, so Christmas has been in the very back of my brain for a couple weeks. But I am ready now! I have put all five finals behind me with confidence that I did pretty dang well. Booyah.

Grandma and Papa sent me a super sweet Christmas package this week though. It was filled with goodies and decorations, a treat from Sephora, homemade cookies and SOCKS!

I opened and consumed about four cookies before I could even take the picture. Thank you Grandma and Papa! :)

And to all of my loved ones, I swear I am acquiring Christmas gifts and souvenir goodies for you, but you might have to wait until I come home for all of your little presents. Postage is AWFUL. But you're on my mind! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010


Thanksgiving and my birthday have slipped away all too fast and Christmas is approaching rapidly. Every year flies by faster. I'm done growing up now, Father Time. Thanks for the 21 years, but I'm solid now. I don't really feel like getting older now.

When I was a freshman at San Francisco, it was weird enough being 500 miles away from home for the majority of December, but I always went home for the actual day. Not so this year. This year, I am spending the holidays with my new family of friends whom I adore and care for so incredibly much. But I sure do miss my family and friends in California, the feasts I am missing out on, the atmosphere. It's strange not having that. I feel like it's not even happening. I feel like my American life is on pause and I am over here in Europe living a life I was destined to, that just happens to occur simultaneously.

That being said, I have booked/bought/reserved quite a lot of activities to distract myself from missing home too much. I am 100% booked for my Christmas trip and as Chelsea and I like to say, "We are pot-committed to this trip." Meaning, in poker terms, we've forked over too much dough to NOT have an amazing time.

On December 22, I will be flying into Paris, France with Alex, Chelsea and Arisa. We are staying 4 nights and spending Christmas at Paris Disney Land!

On December 26, we are taking a train from Paris to Brussels, Belgium to spend 3 nights and generally explore the city. I actually had to look up a website for things to do there "besides drink beer." Haha.

On December 28, we're taking an overnight bus in the Chunnel to London, England where we will spend 4 nights, New Years Eve included. Chelsea and Alex are flying home on the first, but Arisa and I are staying an extra day to explore and hit up a museum or two if we didn't have time earlier in the trip.

Should be one hell of a whirlwind, but not quite as epic as our Amsterdam/Dusseldorf trip. In any case, that is my Christmas. Send good thoughts/mojo/prayer/vibes my way that our flights don't get cancelled due to snow. If the London-Málaga flight gets cancelled, I won't be too bummed as it will be another excuse to spend an extra day in London. However, that darn Málaga-Paris better be right on time! Hah. Seriously, though, BE ON TIME.

I miss you, family and friends of the great state of California!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the light of day.

On my actual birthDAY, some of us went out for Chinese food and then an exploration of dear, dear Granada. The weather was chilly but bright and beautiful. The leaves are all changing colors and I am in love with this city.

Chelsea and I harnessing our inner awkward:

All of the following images are sites I see when I run. I run by the Río Geníl and the trails are amazing. There are views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, the aqueducts creating a soothing noise in the river, and the smells of the leaves falling around me. I feel so lucky every single day.

Chelsea decided to gather some leaves. And it was all over from there.

Some of these bad boys were HUGE. I feel so lame. This is my first real experience with this mysterious season known as, "autumn." California does not do the ecosystem of the world justice. Happy birthday to me and my big ol' leaf:

Every day I am baffled by how rich Spain is with culture, history and simple beauty. I'll leave you with some Minus the Bear lyrics:

"This light looks good on you
Morning came early
Sitting on a park bench
That's older than my country"


What a fiesta! I truly have some amazing friends/roommates/landlords here in Spain. I lucked out.

Last night was the eve of my 21st and a party was held for myself and two other Spanish roommates with November birthdays, Belén and Alberto.

My dear Californians outdid themselves and got me a lovely silver Arabic tea set as well as whole tea leaves that smell like heaven itself. They also got me a Federico Garcia Lorco poetry book. They know me entirely too well. Do I sense some Christmas break reading in my future? Yes, indeed.

My other housemates were kind and sweet and generous enough to gift me with things like bracelets from Sevilla, scarves and gloves and this hand-plated necklace Tony gave me:

We started the night off with a delicious multicultural potluck that stuffed us like no other. And this is only a fraction of the total feast. There was homemade pizza, pasta, Persian chicken, fried rice, sushi, Japanese Tortilla, Peruvian salad, sausage, and three cakes. Incredible.

We then proceeded to dig into the three desserts by blowing out three tea candles! Haha. Belén, Alberto and I doing our birthday thang:

The following photos are just of my friends and I mingling. I sure wish I could transplant a few Americans I miss with all my heart into these images. :]

Jason likes to photo-bomb from time to time. I just want everyone to see how awkward he can really be. That turd!

And to end with a family photo. I love these folks so darn much!

Twenty-one years of age!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


A few weeks ago I posted the lengthy Amsterdam and Dusseldorf entries. Well, Natasha finally uploaded her photos and I swear she has a knack for catching me at the worst candid moments. Here's a behind-the-scenes view of a few of our proudest moments traveling Europe:

Brandon, Natasha and I sleeping on the Madrid airport floor at 4 in the morning. We had quite the wait. I slept on my valuables or stuffed them down my shirt. Clever, Laura.

The five of us desperately trying to find the pancake place. Did I think she was recording video? Probably.

The hilarious beer tents of Germany. When you're too poor to sit in a classy bar, keep walking. You're sure to find a trendy but awkward beer tent at some point!

And as Brandon likes to call it, we have an infamous "pose wall." The bright blue wall in his room is victim to Natasha's photo shoots almost every weekend. We're all too smart to take our cameras to clubs, so we take photos before hand. This also keeps any sweaty, unattractive photos off Facebook as well. Here are some moments before the parties and discotequas that didn't make it in the Christmas newsletter:

Smile, Brandon!

Laura: Supplier of Sparkling Cider to all the festivities.

Then I found a Menorah. And I was happeh.

The end.

Harry freaking Potter.

I am (obviously) all about immersing myself into other cultures. I write my grocery lists in Spanish. I try and have lunch downstairs every day to chat up my Spanish roommates. I shop at Zara and Bershka with the unadulterated attempt of looking as Spanish/European as possible. But I, Laura Fennell, was NOT about to see Harry Potter dubbed in Spanish. No way. Not now. Not ever.

So we found a theatre an hour and 45 minutes away by bus in Málaga (home of H&M and our beloved Ikea). And we got our butts up early enough to get out and catch the first Friday showing. The four of us on our way:

Once there, we had some time to kill and shopped at the huge outdoor mall. We prepared ourselves with candy until we could actually enter and stock up on fountain drinks and popcorn as well:

Don't fear: that tub of popcorn was split amongst the four of us. But the fact that the size of that tub is called "Americano" is both unsurprising and hilarious.

Great day. :]

Friday, November 12, 2010

More facts you didn't know about Spain...

Yes, it's that time again. Laura has discovered (with good or embarrassing methods) new things about her host country.

1.) In California, liquor is not sold after 2 a.m. In Spain, the cut-off time is 10 p.m. Which I find ironic and funny as the nightlife here ends at 6-7 a.m. and the nightlife in California ends promptly at 2 a.m. Hah.

2.) There is an extremely low, often nonexistent tax on groceries and retail items. However, if you work in Spain, your paychecks are heavily taxed. The good news: the system is socialized. Primary and Secondary School is free as well as University. Also, Healthcare is socialized and Spain seems to be doing just fine. In fact, this country is extremely healthy and often relies on the Farmacías for at-home remedies, thus saving the system thousands each month. Also, Eastern Mediterranean areas of Spain are amongst the healthiest places in the world to live, a fact endorsed by the World Health Organization. :]

3.) Spaniards sleep, on average, an hour less per night than other European countries. Also, contrary to popular belief, they don't take siestas to sleep in the middle of the day. They go home to have lunch with their families and to spend time with their loved ones in general. We've been told through a friend that a Spanish man once said the perfect siesta is sitting in your most comfortable chair with your keys in your hand on the arm of the chair. Once you get just relaxed enough to drop your keys and floor to jolt you back awake--that is the perfect siesta.

4.) Mothers don't call their children a Spanish version of, "Sweetheart," or, "Honey." The most common term of endearment is, "Mi Vida." Yes--"My Life." And they will use it casually. For example, if they are picking of their child from a friend's house and the children are off playing, they will say, "Donde está mi vida?" I think it's so beautiful.

5.) Dos Besos (two kisses) really is NO joke. They will plant one on you if you're having a good day, a bad day, a Wednesday, if they haven't seen you in 48 hours. Yeah. Example: I had been in Nerja for 3 days. When we got back, Alex and I were playing cards in the upstairs lounge one evening. Fernando saw us and said, "Hola, Laura," and proceeded to lean around me. There was a sock left over from someone's laundry on the chair next to me so I figured he was reaching for that. OH NO! He was going for dos besos and when I said, "Espera, que pasa?" He laughed and said (in Spanish) that he was trying to kiss me. I felt like a MORON. But I kissed him and we all had a great laugh. I literally kiss upwards of ten cheeks a day here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trip to Córdoba

This Sunday, we had a group excursion to Córdoba, Spain. En route, I spotted this lovely little castle in the hills:

We stopped outside the city at an architectural museum called Conjunto Arqueológico Madinat Al-Zahra. If I had had a guide, I would have understood more of the symbolism behind the artifacts I was viewing. But I did gather that many of the dishes and pottery I saw were from the X-XIII centuries. Yeah, that's like the 900s to the 1200s. Incredilbe.

The panel I am standing in front of has ataurique decoration and is made of limestone between 953-947 AD. Yeah. OLD.

Once in the city of Córdoba, we went to a very old synagogue that, like the famous mosque in Córdoba, has toggled between faiths over the years. It was a church, then became a Jewish synagogue.

After that, we had some free time to find food and explore the city. Cheetoh, Kira, Christina, and Natasha and I found some tapas where I tried blood sausage. Yeah, I, Laura Fennell, tried blood sausage. And it wasn't bad. I will be honest. Haha. But that wasn't the high of our break, the city itself is just spectacular.

I look so little compared to that beastly fountain.

However, Córdoba is most famous for its vastly huge and ancient mosque/church or mezquita-catedral. It is so rich in history and culture, it is a World Heritage Site. The site was originally a pagan temple, than a Visigothic Christian church, before the Umayyad Moors converted the building into a mosque, and later built a new mosque on the site. Currently, it is a beautiful fusion of the Islamic faith and the Christian faith. And I loved it! This is part of the outside:

Then we entered and were blown away. I will try to explain as much as I can after the photos.

These arches are a combination of stone and clay which prevents them from crumbling or deteriorating over time. The clay is moist and more flexible, so it gives more. Also, all of the pillars are recycled from other archeological sites in Spain, Europe and Middle East. The other sites were deteriorating, so the pillars were salvaged. Very Islamic style.

Now you can see the Christian influence on this enormous building as well. The change is so abrupt. One minute you're looking at a golden arch that looks like it's straight out of an Arabic country, and then you see this big Catholic mural. So incredible.

This is one of my favorite photos. The majority of the photo looks so Arabic, until you peek in the bottom left and see Christ on the cross.

That is very much real gold and very much a statue for God.

This area was my favorite. First of all, that ceiling will keep you staring for hours. Secondly the cathedral is so full of minute details, I couldn't believe parts of it were real. I could take a semester course on this room alone and still not understand all of the symbolism of the arches, the saints, the angels, the angles, the number of pillars and lines, the molding, why some is stone, marble, wood or gold. It was all so overwhelming. I encourage you to zoom in on this picture and just study it. I couldn't count all of the cherubs and holy helpers. I can't imagine going to mass here and hearing the organs on either side of the pews with 50+ stops. Incredible.

And that's our group walking across the famous Roman bridge out of the city and back into the less-ornate every day life. :]