Explore
Questions/Comments?Contact Us

4 posts categorized "Nicole Blachowicz"

SEVILLA: NO8DO, You Have Not Abandoned Me

Sevilla's official motto is NO8DO, No Me Ha Dejado, which means "[Sevilla] has not abandoned me, and I finally have a complete understanding of what this means. This past weekend, I decided to go back to the place I studied abroad for the first time in three years. (I went through CIEE too!) In fact, it had been 1056 days since I left Sevilla, but it felt as if it I still lived there. To be honest, I was worried about going back since my friend, Rhea, went back about a year and half ago and said it was so different. What if I went back and nothing was the same? What if all my favorite spots were gone? What if visiting would somehow taint my favorite experience, my favorite place? Rest assured, none of the above happened, and I truly discovered that Sevilla did not abandon me. A part of it has been with me ever since I left: always with my thoughts, my worries, my happiness, my thinking. Everything. Even if I didn't realize it. It has shaped so much of who I am today and just like living there was an unforgettable experience, going back for the first time was just as special. 

 

As soon as the bus pulled up, I knew I was in for a weekend of a lifetime. Memories I hadn't thought about in three years came flooding back. I recognized the place where we bought churros the first time we went out and wanted some munchies. I remembered the time Nicole and I took an afternoon to walk around Triana; the time after class we climbed the Torre del Oro; the time at the sangria place where we booked our first trip to Rome and Paris while eating doritos from "the Boxes" or what we would call, the vending machines.

 

 
IMG_2866_edited
 
 
DSC_0892
 
 
DSC_0903
 
 
DSC_0926
 
 I'll never forget when I saw Plaza de España for the first time, I cried because of how beautiful it was and this time, I cried because it was even more beautiful than I remembered.

 

To put it simply, I have never felt a more overwhelming joy — I still knew the 45 minute walk from my university to my home through the windy streets. I recognized the jazz bar my friends and I went to that one time and all my favorite spots (my favorite restaurant, bar, kebab place). They were all untouched. Restaurants I would walk past were ones I had been to once or twice. I felt like I could pinpoint every moment, every memory. 

 

My favorite memory this weekend was visiting my host family. I had texted my host mom, Manuela, a week before coming explaining that I was living in Madrid and coming to visit and would love nothing more than to see her. I never got a text back, so I decided to bring some flowers and show up, knowing she didn't leave the house very often. After feeling extremely emotional making the walk from the plaza to my house, I rang the doorbell and opened the door to the tightest hug and Manuela's standard three kisses on the cheek. To think I was worried she wouldn't remember me! How silly of me because she remembered me AND my cute sombreros that I would always wear. My travel hats live on!

 

I spent the next hour and a half catching up with her and her new three-month-old granddaughter, Alegría (who is absolutely adorable). Later on, her daughter, Carmen and son, Pepe came over with the other grandkids, Manuela and Luis who were five and few months respectively when I lived here. It was crazy to see how much they have grown! Since they speak absolutely no English, my Spanish was pouring out of the mouth like I've lived here for three years. I was very impressed with myself to be honest. Manuela asked when my parents are coming back to visit since they got to meet each other last time, and this was one of my favorite memories of study abroad. Coming back and spending time with them was an experience so near and dear to my heart. Manuela kept trying to feed me, offered me my old bed to stay and packed me a Bocadillo for the road. Nothing had changed. I promised I would be back soon.

I can't explain the magic that is Sevilla. It's a charming, quintessential Spanish city that is so rich in culture and beauty. If you know, you know. From walks along the river to visiting the cathedral, no wonder it's Lonely Planet's #1 place to travel to in 2018. It's been mine since 2014. I plan on giving my top recommendations for Sevilla in another post but wanted to put my weekend into words first. Sevilla, you are one-of-a-kind. 

All the Pintxos!

All the Pintxos. That was our motto when visiting País Vasco. Unsure of what really a Pintxo was, I did some light exploring on the difference between a tapa and a pintxo. The only time I've ever heard of a pintxo was at my favorite Spanish restaurant in Chicago, Café Ba Ba Reeba. There, pintxos are just one, small, bite-size piece of a stuffed olive or chorizo wrapped date. At least, that's what the waiter told us on my last brunch on Chicago before heading here. Although small, they are delicious! I mean, everything there is, let's be real. But the tapas there are definitely meant to share since the portions are bigger.

 

So what are pintxos? 

Pintxos in Spain are usually small snacks eaten at northern bars so, similar to tapas, but pintxos are usually spiked with a skewer or toothpick on a piece of bread (Pinxto literally means "thorn" or "spike".) You can find croquettas or tortilla skewered onto a piece of bread as a pintxo or find more elaborate mixes of ingredients on top of it. I wouldn't consider myself a "foodie" by any means, but I am always excited to try the local cuisine of any place I visit — I was especially pumped to try pintxos in San Sebastian since this city is known for its gastronomical experience. Apparently, it has a high concentration of Michelin chefs, but you know #Ballingonabudget, so the pinxto bars would have to do. (Also, discovered what a Michelin chef was while reading and trying to curb my appetite before heading North). 

22450052_10214809658300998_5426558192638497640_n

 

The experience 

Upon entering the bar, the pintxos are usually just lined up on the counter and you pick and choose, which ones you want to try. We really took my Dad's motto, "it's a marathon, not a sprint" to heart since we went on a pintxo crawl and hopped from bar to bar eating our way through San Sebastián. Do as the basques do, right? Well, the food did not disappoint. Some favorites included a spicy meatball, goat cheese topped with caramelized onions and walnuts and a few other ones that we had no idea what they were even after asking the waitress. We (sometimes) remembered to take some pictures before devouring and indulging. Check out some pics below (thank you to my friend, Christine, for her amazing lens!) Still daydreaming about the next time I head North to have more of this amazing cuisine. 

22489939_10214809659461027_7996419348294935937_n
22489939_10214809659461027_7996419348294935937_n
22489939_10214809659461027_7996419348294935937_n
22489939_10214809659461027_7996419348294935937_n
22489939_10214809659461027_7996419348294935937_n
22489939_10214809659461027_7996419348294935937_n

Off the Grid?

 
 
 How to embrace the moment in this age of technology. 

 

Detoxing from social media is something, I admit, I need to do more often. How many times have you said or thought "I need to stop scrolling through my newsfeed" whether that would be right before bed, or while you're writing a blog (me) or when you should be doing work/homework and you find yourself creeping back into your friend's cousin's sister's blogger friend's Instagram and #Liketoknowit page. We've all been there. I hope. Because I have way too many times.

 

Before I came over to Madrid, I had this notion that it would be the same like when I studied abroad...(which I'll get into in another post). I wouldn't have a data plan for my phone and just use whatever Wifi (pronounced wee-fee, because Spain) was available. I remember it being so refreshing making plans beforehand and meeting up and you had a 15 minute timeframe to arrive to the predetermined destination before your group left you (hello! The good ol days!) I lived very in the moment then. Oh, the simpler times.

 

Well, I have to say that is so not how it is here. I have to have a phone plan to talk with my school, make appointments, and other logistical life problems and situations that require technology for convenience and that's totally fine with me. I get it. However, I find myself being sucked into it all sometimes, way more so than three years ago. Maybe because I'm not in my own study abroad bubble anymore. I'm really living here. I do use social media now to get recommendations, connect with people, and post as a Teach Abroad Correspondent.... While still sometimes aimlessly scrolling. Honestly, it affects and triggers a lot of my anxiety. It takes away being in the moment and reminding myself I'm in Spain... and this maybe won't last forever. TBD on whether I ever move back. 

Don't get me wrong. When I'm traveling, I don't have data and since my Spanish phones dies so fast (hi, iphone 5), I do feel "off the grid" when I'm in a different country. I usually just have my DSLR camera and snap a few pictures and for the most part take it all in with my own eyes. I love it. It's when I'm at my happiest and calmest, just being, breathing and taking it in. I think we all need to do it more often. Take your quick photos but put. it. away. I look around and people at museums and at famous monuments and they are all on their phones. Selfie photo anyone? But seriously. What are you going to do with approximately 50+ photos of the same thing? Share all 50+ photos on Facebook? Show all your friends when you get home? Highly doubtful. Is it just going to sit in your icloud library, filling up storage until you get that annoying storage almost full notification??? I hope my frustration is radiating through your screen. Even from three years ago, It seems like a completely different world to me. People are just more addicted. But then, here I am when I'm not traveling..being THAT person on their phone....so I'm a hypocrite for this.

 

Just one of my many reflections while being here: I need to incorporate my traveling habits with me in my day to day life and stop looking at the nightmare of the screen and aimlessly scrolling when it's not needed. Communicate when necessary and put it away. We'll see how this goes and if I can follow my advice in the following weeks. Now, my advice would be to leave this page, exit the browser and be off the grid for a little awhile :) It's good for the soul. 

 

Home is where...

Home to me is so much more than where you simply live. To me, it's a place that welcomes you with open arms whenever you return to it, it's a place where you grow and learn about yourself, it's a place of significance, and a place that steals your heart and a place that you give your heart to. I've liked to think I've had four homes so far with Madrid, being the fourth. 

1. Darien, IL "A nice place to live"

2. Miami University, #LoveandHonor

3. Sevilla, NO8DO, No me ha dejado 

4. Madrid, TBD, Still working on the slogan.  

 

 

From the moment I arrived, it felt like I never left Spain. Keep in mind, I had never been to Madrid, specifically before, but walking in Lavapiés and La Latina along the cobblestone drinks, stopping for some tortilla española and tinto de verano (Missed you SO MUCH!), I literally thought that I have lived here before. There are plenty of differences between Madrid and Sevilla, which I'll get into in another post, but there's just something about Spain in general. I had the same feeling arriving three years ago. The air smelled of both adventure and calmness and gave me the most comforting Déjà vu (Can Déjà vu be comforting? Usually it freaks me out, but I'm going with it this time).

Balcony

 

But it only took about 2 weeks for me to start calling it home. That happened way faster than I thought it was, but I think diving into orientation and finding an apartment on the 3rd day, things just happen at lightening speed. 

 

So when was the moment? I travelled to Palma de Mallorca with a group of  CIEE girls September 13-16 and while I loved the beach and exploring the island, I arrived home and I remember unlocking the door, stepping across the threshold with my suitcase and thinking, "Wow, it feels like I've been gone forever. It's good to be home." Then cue my roommate, Gianna, running toward me saying "You're back! You're back!" and me replying, "I'm home! I'm back home!" While it was a literal moment, it filled me with comfort and while I've been all over the place these past two weeks, I was so relaxed and happy.  There is something to be said about coming back to the familiar. Calle Magdalena looked a little brighter, a little warmer and Plaza de Antón Martín seemed serene, and the Kebab place looked more delicious than ever before. No lie. 

 

Now I guess the next step is making a list of the things the locals do, so I can actually call myself a madrileña. 

Keep Me Updated