Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mount Tibidabo

Mont Tibidabo is about 20 minutes from the school by car, and it offers a view of all of Barcelona. There is a huge cathedral at the very top and a small amusement park for kids.

La Rambla

Souvenirs, Haggling and Gaudi at La Rambla

La Rambla is a street in Barcelona that is notorious for tourism, as well as pick-pocketing. It's one of the best places to find souvenirs and post cards. You can haggle with many of the English-speaking merchants of souvenir shops to get prices up to half off. If you think an item isn't worth the tagged price, it probably isn't, and the merchants obviously know this too. Many of them expect you to haggle or will even initiate it, so paying full price can be a big waste. For example, I got a 6 euro wallet for 4 euros and my friend Christy was able to get two 12 euro T-shirts for 10 euros each, even though they were already reasonably priced. (Warning: the merchants might actually try to chase you down while shouting out their best deal if you try to leave without purchasing something).

This street gets very crowded on the weekends. Mind your money!

Antoni Gaudi is one of the most famous architects in Barcelona, and the locals love him. Some of his buildings are located near La Rambla. See the link below for more of his work.

Gaudi's curvy ingenuity. 
More Gaudi

Sculptures and other Architecture

The Cathedral

The Mayor's House

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Exploring Barcelona

I went to the mall with my host mom on the first day. This mall is huge!

L'illa Diagonal (15 minute walk from the school)

Waiting to eat at our first Spanish restaurant, Mussol!

If you go to Mussol, try the duck, chicken and avacado. The sauce they use is amazing!

This is the place to be for coffee break at the school. They have really good tapas and sandwiches!

La Playa!

This beach is about 20 minutes from the school by car. I went with my host family. There are much bigger beaches, but they're about two hours away by car. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Currency Exchange

The exchange rates and fees from dollars to euros can be killer! This is what I got for $90 at a bank in the Airport at an exchange rate of 1.44. Some banks may give lower fees if you exchange higher amounts, but of course there is greater risk in carrying around large amounts of cash.

If you plan to go abroad, do your research well in advance and consider applying for a credit card that doesn't charge any fees to use abroad. I bank with BB&T, and they charge a 3% fee on all Visa debit and credit card transactions. This does not include additional fees for ATM withdrawals, which is usually a fee charged by the bank that provides your card and the bank that owns the ATM. This seems to be pretty standard for most banks, but definitely explore your options. I waited too long to research information on credit cards to use abroad and didn't have time to apply. 

If you make ATM withdrawals using your debit card, you won't know all the fees you're charged until it posts on your bank account. However, you can determine how much you'll lose from conversion rates alone by using a currency calculator (see link below).

Gifts from Kentucky

These are the souvenirs I got for my host family and cooperating teacher. My host family has six children (all 12 and under), so candy was a must! I got all of these items from various places around Bowling Green. Here's a list of all the items and where they might be found:

Bourbon balls (Liquor Barn)
Kentucky coffee (Liquor Barn)
Bourbon Brittle (Liquor Barn)
Rock Candy (Mammoth Cave and other cave gift shops)
Maple nut candy (Cracker Barrel)
Various flavored candy sticks (Cracker Barrel)
Small knick knack toys (Cracker Barrel)
WKU silly bands (WKU Store)
WKU magnet (WKU Store)
WKU coffee mug (WKU Store)

I got the coffee mug, coffee and bourbon balls for my teacher and gave the rest to my host family. Most of these items were pretty novel to my family. None of them knew what rock candy was, the kids knew what silly bands were but they were very interested to hear why they were shaped like towels, big red blobs, etc. The parents went crazy over the maple candy. I don't think they have very many maple flavored candies in Europe. All of these items provided good conversation topics, such as where maple comes from, what Bourbon whisky is, and what rock candy is supposed to look like.

I also brought pennies for all of my students. I stole this idea from a student teacher from a previous semester, and it seems to be a popular idea this semester. It's a good, inexpensive way to ensure you have something for everybody.