It’s been a while since my last update, and it is amazing to think about all that has happened between then and now, so get ready for a long update! Summer is officially over and for the first time I don’t mind because I am starting my program in Madrid!

After my weekend in Valencia I traveled to Salamanca. I studied there going into my freshman year and was overcome with happiness to return! Our program included the day trip, but because it is a city, with its main calling card being nightlife for students, a large group went a day early. I was impressed with myself because I remembered how to get to all my favorite places; the ice cream shop, restaurants, shops and discotecas!

Milan%201%5B1%5D.jpg The weekend after that I traveled with three other students to Milan, and it was everything and more than I thought it would be! To see the duomo, the Teatro alla Scala, outrageously expensive haute couture shops and everything else was definitely the highlight of my summer traveling. The four of us had to return to the duomo the next day because we had been dressed scandalously the day before: showing our shoulders and knees!

Milan%202%5B1%5D.jpg When we tried again to get in the following day we dressed accordingly and bundled ourselves up as conservatively as we could when we had packed for 90-degree weather. It was well worth the return trip! The duomo was under construction for over 600 years and everywhere you looked was an extravagant display of their power and wealth as a medieval city.

We climbed the stairs to the roof and had an impressive view of the city. This was my favorite part because we went on a Sunday and Mass was occurring at the same time. We could feel the vibrations of the organ all the way through the marble roof and hear it through some of the open windows. It was a truly special day!

The pizza, gelato and risotto alla Milanese were absolutely over-the-top good, and now I understand why Italy is considered a food capital of the world, not that I ever doubted why! I loved it so much that I cannot wait to go back. Besides, everything sounds better with an Italian accent!

Santander%201.jpg The next weekend I went to Santander and definitely had an experience. I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl, and I’ve never been camping or stayed in a communal style hostel. I was way out of my comfort zone!

Our hostel was for surfers and had a distinct odor to it. The five of us stayed in a 6-person room with only 5 beds. I shared a bed with another SMU student. After getting over the initial shock of it all, we went to the beach and just relaxed.

All in all, my summer in Valladolid was fulfilling. All my goals were accomplished: my level of Spanish is vastly higher than before, I was able to explore new parts of Spain and Europe, and I celebrated the Spanish victory in the World Cup. My host senora, Mama Carmen, is a saintly woman whom I love and am making plans to visit her again for the feria of Valladolid.

After I finished class, I met my family in Stockholm, Sweden, and began a cruise around the Baltic. It was such a wonderful experience because I could be reunited with my whole family, which doesn’t happen often when everyone lives in different states and has different schedules. We spent time in Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Copenhagen, Oslo and finished in Dover.

As wonderful as it was to see Viking ships and the Hermitage, we all agree that sometimes dinner was the most fun part. We were lucky to have two waiters who were the most delightful men. Marinko was from Croatia and Suresh was from India. Every night we would talk and laugh with them for hours. It made it a special experience, and since I am in Europe for the next four months, it is a possibility that I might see Marinko in Croatia sometime.

After we sadly parted ways, I spent a few days in London so I could get my hair done. I am a very blond girl, and I just didn’t trust the hairstylists in Spain to be able to highlight my hair how I like! I also toured the Royal Mews and Buckingham Palace. The real highlight for me was seeing the Grace Kelly exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I idolize her and am inspired by her fashion sense, so it was a dream come true to see in person the clothes that I look at in books.

Now I am in Madrid and all settled in. My host senora is also named Carmen and she is a sweet and classy woman. I live with two other girls from SMU and we are so lucky to each have our own room. I have two balconies in my room that I like to stand on at night and feel the fresh breeze. I am excited to start class and learn more about Spain and the language.

By some stroke of luck one of my roommates and I only have class on Tuesday and Thursday so we will be able to take longer excursions. So far, we have excursions figured out for one weekend in Lyon, France, and Thanksgiving break in Italy. We have six days and are going to be on a whirlwind tour of Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice!

We also have trips planned through SMU to go to Segovia, Escorial, Andalucia and Pais Vasco. We want to extend the trips to the south to possibly go to Morocco or other cities in Spain. We’ve tentatively planned to extend Pais Vasco to go to the South of France and see Nice and Monaco (more Grace Kelly!). Anyway, that is about everything that has happened since my last post! Stay tuned for more!!