My name is Kariann Mano, and I am a junior public relations and advertising major, minoring in business management at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa. I am currently the vice president of PRSSA, the junior representative for the Honors Student Organization (not to mention a mentor to incoming freshmen involved with the program!), and the business manager/ advertising executive for Point Park’s student-run newspaper, The Globe. I am working as a social media coordinator with the Career Development Center here at the university and work with the American Red Cross (Western PA region) as their communications intern. I look forward to start my career in public relations where I’ll be able to apply my passion for writing and continue to discover the many roles and tasks public relations professionals manage. I am excited to return to Europe and learn about Spanish and Portuguese culture; I have always loved traveling and can’t wait for another adventure!
From Pittsburgh to Philly to Madrid: May 12, Day 1 in Madrid, Spain
A delayed departure made for a delayed arrival, but the International Media class was able to make it to each item on the itinerary.
Not only was our Pittsburgh flight delayed to Philadelphia, but there was a long line of planes trying to hit the runway after we boarded our Philadelphia to Madrid flight. Sighs ensued, but all was made better by the fact that each seat had a TV and new movie releases for viewing. Though wanting to watch all of the movies in an eight hour span may seem daunting, so is trying to get some sleep in one of the middle seats on the plane…next to a man who huffs, sighs, shows you a sonogram photo, and has the sniffles and sneezes throughout the night.
After getting maybe an hour and a half of sleep, we finally arrived at the Madrid airport around 8:30- 9:00 a.m. (2:30-3:00 a.m. in PA). We were greeted not only by Janet, our media visit coordinator, but Olga, who was a native to Spain herself, showed up to help us around before we met up with our official tour guide, Mauricio.
Olga taught us that the Spanish population that goes out at night are called “cool cats” and took us to the bullfighting ring just outside of the city center– “Plaza de Toros” which was built in 1929 and holds 25,000 spectators. She talked to us about the famous bullfighters and the big bullfighting event coming up on May 15. What I didn’t know was that the bulls were killed and the meat was eaten after the fight.
After we bought lunch at a small convenience/ restaurant, we headed to Retiro Park to eat (no eating on the bus!). We walked through the statues and greens until we reached the lake and split up into small groups to eat our lunches. My group vied to go to the stairs and statues behind the lake, so we walked around to get a different perspective of the park. It was beautiful. Our already short lunch had been interrupted by some soccer players who couldn’t handle the ball very well, but we made it back to the group right on time regardless.
After seeing the sights at Retiro Park, we took our bus to meet Mauricio at the Royal Palace, where we got to tour the many dining rooms and halls of King Felipe and his royal family. We also ran into a screaming peacock while outside of the walls.
After the Royal Palace, we finally got to see where we’d be staying for the next few days: Hotel Sterling. We dropped off our bags and got to freshen up before completing our night. We met with our group to discuss tomorrow’s media visit to Condé Nast and the lecture at one of Madrid’s top universities. We then toured downtown Madrid and filled our empty bellies with tapas galore at “De Don.” We were fed a variety of tapas: bread, jambon and queso, an egg and potato omelette, salad, ham and cheese croquets, fried potatoes with a garlic sauce and some sort of “spicy” one (though it was just tangy), calamari rings, chicken fingers, and grilled vegetables. It was a long meal, but incredibly delicious. We also had a classmate who was lucky enough to celebrate her birthday here, so we had chocolate cake in honor of her!
We walked right back to our hotel after stuffing ourselves and plan to make a trip back to the Mercado of San Miguel–there were lots of tasty treats on display there and we don’t want to miss out on those Spanish churros! However, a long day and a satisfied appetite really help with one thing on all of our minds: sleep. See you tomorrow!
Cultural Differences and One Adventurous Night: May 13, Day 2 in Madrid
Do you ever realize the small things that are different in other states? Although we may be in Madrid, there are a few things I picked up on today that seemed rather interesting to me.
The breakfast at the hotel stayed open until 10:30 a.m. My roommates and I made our way into the area right around that time and were surprised by the options: yes, croissants, fruit and cold cereal, but salami, ham and other assorted meats and cheeses. I’m not accustomed to eating that so early in the morning, but it is obviously part of the culture here.
After breakfast we had to make our way to the Metro, where yet again I noted another piece of interesting phenomenon. Though the way down underground smelled a bit funky (basically like a sewer), I have to say I was pleasantly to see that the actual metro themselves were clean. It looked like there were caretakers of not just the inside and outside of the train, but also the floors around the area, too. How come the T doesn’t get this kind of treatment?! I also noticed that there is a one time fee involved when going down to get to the train. Transfers don’t cost anything and I cannot believe that!
We had the great opportunity to visit a graduate school while in Madrid: the Universidad de Navarra, one of the most prestigious universities in Spain. Four things surprised me here, two of them something I learned during the lecture. First of all, there were two buildings with three rooms in the first one and one in the second. FOUR ROOMS for students?! Though they ranged in size from small (30 students) to large (over 50), that’s not a lot of room. They also had blue boards instead of black and most of their students average the age of 33 years old. The lecture, about the Spanish Media Landscape, was very informative. I learned that Spain ranks second in the world of digital piracy (they also don’t have Netflix because of this issue).
The lecture ended, sowe had lunch and headed to Condé Nast. It’s an amazing place, but what’s surprising there? Oh yeah, the fact that we got to tour not only Vogue’s photo studio, but the news room and the fitting room! I’m just a regular student looking at designer clothes in Vogue’s fitting room, don’t mind me. With all of the relationships they need to keep their business afloat, a PR major like me would be pretty busy contacting and building relationships with their clients. After that, they surprised us with an entire bag full of all of their magazines (that weighed about 20 pounds)! It was also interesting to see that young men wore suits, but businesswomen went more casual in the office.
We headed to our hotel on the metro and we were all thrilled to have dinner on our own! What a pleasant surprise. Dinner and an adventure in a new city! After freshening up, we tried navigating our way to the Mercado de San Miguel. After heading down the main street, we were confused, so we asked a girl nearby where to find this place. At first she told us questioningly to go downstairs, but then we corrected her saying street and thank you, and she smiled. What nice people! After looking at our map more closely, we finally recognized the Royal Palace and found our way to the market. There, we found a few tapas, my bill totaling 7€. I also couldn’t resist going for those pastries, so I picked up a macaron liche for 3,50€ and enjoyed one of my roommates’ four churros. Yum! After finishing, we made our way to the main square where (surprise!) there was a large symphony playing music! We enjoyed the atmosphere for a while before finding our way to the market right beside our hotel, where I bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water for 1,10€! After I drink it, I’m going to bed. Our next visit is to my dream workplace– Ketchum! Buenas noches!
You Mess With The Bull, You Get The Horns: May 14, Day 3 in Madrid
Last night our shower wasn’t working and I didn’t get too much sleep. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get up in four hours and be in the right state of mind for the media visit I was in charge of asking questions for. By some miracle, I was up and ready to eat breakfast by 8:30, and the small amount of café con leche I drank really seemed to help me stay alert. I was beyond excited to visit Ketchum (my dream workplace) in Spain!
Once again we took the pungent-smelling metro to the area near Ketchum. We arrived a few minutes early, so one of our tour leaders took our head shots for a scrapbook she was going to make. Around 10:00 a.m., we made our way through the revolving doors of the building that housed Ketchum Spain and showed our IDs to gain access. Located on the fourth floor, we made our way into the lobby area of Ketchum and were almost immediately taken to their “Training Room.” Helena Borràs, our hostess and Change Management & HR Director of Ketchum Spain, greeted us with an overview of the company. After she was done, she called in each speaker one by one. Honestly (maybe I’m biased), this was my favorite visit. Not only was each speaker efficient, but they described real cases to us, complete with campaign information. It was wonderful. I got to see how an incredible agency wrote their objectives for a PR Plan. I was able to see what PR tools and actions they took with each campaign, what events they put on, some of their budgets, the phases of their campaign and more (I could write down everything, but my notebook is full of everything they explained and I don’t want to take up too much room on my page). My favorite campaign they talked about (and ran) was the “Guti Talks Trash” social media campaign, presented by Ludi Garcia, the director of the digital department. Our other speakers included the following: Rosa Fernandez, Associate Director in Brand Marketing; Aurora Garcia of Corporate and Financial Communication; Ludi Garcia, Director of the Digital Department; Lourdes Bustamante, Senior Account Executive in Brand Marketing; Carota De Lucas, Account Supervisor and Digital Director; Teresa Garcia, CEO of Ketchum Spain; Guavaaupe Saez, Senior Account Executive in Healthcare; Lara Vilarino of Public Affairs and Lobbying and Elena Gomez of Brand Marketing. Each speaker did a superb job of explaining their case and answering questions. I wish we could have stayed there longer, even after they gave us a tour!
The visit to Ketchum only took two hours, where they did have fruit and yogurt available for a snack. I opted for the non-GMO banana since GMOs are banned in Europe. It was delicious! But by the time our visit was over, we were starving. However, we still had a couple of hours before our next media visit, so we headed back to our Hotel Sterling on San Bernardo. We went to lunch coincidentally where everyone was getting lunch: Faborit, a fresh food bar located a few blocks from our hotel. I got a turkey panini-like sandwich and a green detox drink– which tasted too much like celery for my taste, but as I kept drinking it, it got better.
After lunch, we decided to take advantage of the free time and use it to go shopping! A few blocks down on the same street as our hotel was a cute, affordable shop: Mulaya. They had so many clothes: rompers, pants, shirts, bathing suits, scarves, even jewelry! Of course, I bought a dress. I also manage to find my sister something I think she’ll really enjoy. After setting off the alarm for some reason not even the cashier knew, we headed back down the street to buy stamps for our postcards we bought. We stopped at the tobacco shop where we paid 5€ for five stamps (ridiculous!). Our next stop was our hotel room to freshen up before our visit to Havas Media Group at 4:00 p.m. (or 16:00 over here).
Another early arrival! The metro didn’t take as long as we thought, so we headed through security (after we checked in with our tour guide, of course) and up to the 16th floor to Havas Media Group. We had two speakers: Niko Munoz, the Head of Global Corporate Development and Olalla Castro, the Meaningful Brands Global Insights Analyst. Both presenters explained in great detail what they do and answered a few of our questions while we were there.
Just past 18:00 (that’s 6:00 Eastern time), we had to jump into a taxi to get to the Plaza del Toro in time for the bull fight to start. (Yesterday a few of my classmates were talking about going to see a bullfight after visiting Havas Media Group. I thought there was no question in going—when would I get this chance again?!) Our tour guide Mauricio hailed us a cab and told the driver where to take us. I never would have thought of taking a taxi in a city I don’t know, but I’ve been feeling pretty safe and the taxi was the easiest way to get there. When we finally arrived at the plaza around 6:30, it was packed. We rushed to the ticket booths to see if there were any cheap tickets left. The fourth person we asked had the cheapest: 8,90€. We paid and realized we were starving, so we went to get some quick food. VIPS was out of anything substantial, so we went to a Lebanese Kitchen & Cafe, Shukran. After trying, but butchering, speaking Spanish to the cashier, we ordered. While we waited the two of them made fun of us, but we didn’t care; we were hungry and ready for this incredible chance to see a bull fight in real life. Once we got our wraps (the Pollo Picante wrap), we sat down outside and scarfed it down. The fight started at 19:00 and we finished eating at 18:59. We crossed the street and entered the arena from one of the side doors. We were told where to go, but once we got there, there was a problem. Once a fight starts, you cannot enter or come back in. Uh-oh. We were confused and upset we might not see what we just came here for. The lady didn’t understand English and we were just trying to get in, so she grabbed someone else. He didn’t understand us either, but had an idea that could only happen in the 21st century– type your questions into Google Translate and he’ll text his response so we could understand. It turned out there were five bulls, and we had to wait for them to die to go in. It takes about 15 minutes, apparently. There was a TV outside of the doors for us to watch and there was surprisingly quite a few people out there. Once the first bull died, we went in, not knowing what to expect…
Currently my roommates and I have a ton of questions to ask Mauricio, but he’s not staying at our hotel since he lives in Madrid. What we saw was very…interesting. Bullfighting is certainly an art (violent, yes). There were horses and sidekicks to the matador. The sidekicks could hide behind walls and they also pinned the horse with two sharp, knife-like objects. The men on horses seemed to spear the horse and then go away after a while. The matadors acted poised and pompous with his moves. After this happened, the matador was to stick a sword into the bull, then wait for it to die. When it was lying on the ground, the matador walked up and stuck a smaller knife into its shoulder blades and then punched the top of its head a few times to make sure it was dead! It was hard to watch, but the audience went wild, especially for a few of the matadors. After the bull was dead, a few horses came out and men loaded the bull behind the horses for it to be dragged out of the arena. The arena was scraped for a smoother, less bloody floor. The circles around the ring were also covered again to be more prominent in the next match. This went on for three more times when things got a little scary. One of the bullfighters was a little to confident and the bull ran up behind him and he had to stop, drop and roll to get out of that bull’s way. The matador ended up coming out on top in the end, but another one was not so lucky. The last matador was up. He seemed to be doing well until something happened and the bull charged at him, his horns lifting him into the air, puncturing his neck and throwing him on the ground. The bull bucked back and trampled on him. The matador got up and tried to walk away with his sidekicks, but a few moments after standing and holding his neck, his buddies had to carry him like a board out of the arena, holding his neck to stop the bleeding. Another matador came out to finish the bull fight, but no one in the audience seemed phased by what had just happened. The last matador killed the bull and cheers erupted. People started filing out, but many stayed behind, to avoid traffic or to see what was going on, I don’t know. We stayed and two men behind us saw the terrified looks on our faces during the previous match. They were workers from around the area, but didn’t support bullfighting. We asked them a few questions about what had just happened and they graciously answered. They went on their way and we headed down to floor zero (the ground level), still in shock from what we had just seen.
We stopped at the main entrance to buy souvenir picture pennies from the penny machine. After that, we had another problem. In our panic-stricken state, we knew we had to find a way home. What were we to do? Could we walk? Take the metro? Mauricio did everything before, but we were clueless. Luckily, I had a Spanish dictionary on me (thank you Point Park library book sales!) and it had a phrase we could use. While waiting in the extremely long, but efficient, line for a taxi, a lady in a Steelers shirt walked up behind us. We yelled, “Pittsburgh!” and she asked if we were from there. It turns out they lived near a few of my roommates. What a small world! The lady’s son had actually recorded the “incident” on his phone. The line quickly got shorter, so we said goodbye to our fellow Yinzers and got in the next cab. I said my line and my roommate pulled out our hotel business card so he knew where to go. It worked! Though we couldn’t speak Spanish, it really seemed like our driver understood us trying to speak it, and he was entertained by us. He dropped us off right in front of our hotel.
What an emotional end to a day. We were a bit hungry, so we ran up to our rooms to change and headed towards the main square in Madrid. Right before it, we found Mimi’s Creperie, where I got a green tea in a teapot and a honey, ricotta, nut crepe. It was huge, but delicious. After we were done, we found some souvenirs and were ready to go home.
The sweets helped us end the day, but there are still so many questions I have about bullfighting. I wrote them down in my notebook and hope I’ll have time to have a nice chat with Mauricio about them. Next stop: Segovia!
Segovia, Not Genovia: An Old Natural Fortress: May 15, Day 4 in “Madrid”
We traveled to Segovia today! It was one of our earlier starts, getting on the bus at 9:30. On the way, our tour guide Mauricio pointed out a few interest areas: the Duke of Alba’s mansion, the Arch of Triumph, the headquarters of the Spanish Air Forces, and the residence of the Prime Minister. He also told us that because of the holiday, San Isidro, there would be processions and festivals in the city. Lucky we were on our way out. We had one stop to make before we traveled to the old city of Segovia and our bus driver, Marcello, got us to our first stop, the Valley of the Fallen, very efficiently.
What an incredible tribute and breathtaking view. I have heard of the Valley of the Fallen before, but I didn’t know that it was erected after 30,000 fighters died because of the Spanish Civil War right in that same area. After taking some pictures of the cross, we made our way up the sweeping path and into the basilica, moments before a sweeping crowd of nuns poured into the church.
No pictures were allowed, but the church was beautiful, wide, and so tall even giraffes would still have room to stand. It doubled as a tunnel as well. At the back of the main tunnel was a burial site for Jose Antonio, a political leader of Spain. In front of this stood a statue of Christ carved out of wood that was astoundingly detailed and above Him was a mosaic ceiling equally detailed. Right behind the statue of Christ was the burial site of Francisco Franco, an autocratic leader of Spain, who died on November 20, 1975. Behind the underground burial was a chamber where the monks sat to sing in the choir. The door to and from the monk’s choir led to their monastery, but it was blocked off to visitors. Mauricio led us back down the way we came, past the pews and stairs, into more of the main hall of the basilica. He shared some more history of this manmade wonder.
In the 1950s, Franco wanted a tribute to the soldiers who died, so he hired contractors and had prisoners work on this artistic piece built and carved into the mountain where the Valley lay. Originally the tunnels were supposed to by 10×10 meters, but Franco wanted them to be bigger, so they cut out another 20 meters, making the tunnels 20×20 meters. Diego Mendez, the architect behind the basilica, carved 6 chapels along the hall, one to celebrate a different Spanish virgin: Our Lady of Carmel, Our Lady of Loreta, Our Lady of Africa, Our Lady of Mercy, and Our Lady of Pilar.
These chapels are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Franco also wanted pieces that reflected the war in this church. One day, Mendez brought in eight tapestries and hung them up without telling Franco, but Franco ended up liking them so they stayed. We headed outside to take a few more pictures and got on the bus. We were able to travel to the back of the Valley of the Fallen to see the monk’s monastery, which was built by prisoners in the 1940s. After this, we were back on the bus, headed to the old city of Segovia, a natural fortress due to erosion.
Segovia is a Celtic name that means “Victorious City,” but it is a romanesque town, complete with a Roman aqueduct that was built at the end of 1 A.D. It is also built completely out of stone, no mortar or anything to hold it together. We were driven to a patch of green grass where we could see the Alcazar, a castle that housed Ferdinand and Isabella. It was truly beautiful and is rumored to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle.
We got back on the bus so we could tour the inside of the city. After we found our way to a populated area, we ate lunch. I had a potato omelette baguette, similar to the omelette we had the first night we came to Madrid. After lunch, we toured the old fortress and took pictures of the amazing view near the aqueduct, hearing an accordion as we posed and found the right light. It turns out the man playing the accordion was a native to Segovia, and played us a French song as we sat with great interest.
We saw the Church of St. Martin and saw the newest cathedral that was the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. We made our way to the entrance of the Alcazar, instead of just a view, and bought tickets at 5€ each. We had the wonderful opportunity to not only tour the castle, but to climb to the rooftop of the highest tower. We entered the courtyard of the castle….and so did a large group of kids. As Mauricio told us some history of where we were, the kids grew louder and louder and Mauricio told them to be quiet. But a few moments went by and they got louder again, so Mauricio walked over and started talking then yelling to the lady who was in charge of them. The man with her stepped in a few times, but wouldn’t let our small group pass their larger group for some reason. The scene was hilarious, but made me realize that their group was so disrespectful and we as kids would have never mocked an adult. Their group had to be split into groups, so instead of just waiting in the sunny courtyard, we turned around to start walking up the highest tower. The stairs were spirally and very steep, but somehow we made it to the top with breathtaking views. We even saw the stork nests sitting atop some of the trees! We took pictures and just stood looking at all of the beauty surrounding us for a few moments before making the trek back down to the courtyard. It didn’t take us too long before we reached the drawbridge and then the doors to the palace. We walked through many rooms, and learned the castle had been burned, so some of the rooms hadn’t been as elaborately decorated and there had been new rooms added on.
We finished the tour with a few minutes to spare before dinner, so we headed to the cute souvenir shops to find little knick knacks for our friends and family. As our half hour was up, our stomachs rumbled finding our way to the restaurant, El Bernardino. This night was a pretty big deal to over half of the class– they chose to eat suckling pig. I didn’t think I could do it, so I chose the roast beef. We sat down and quickly got started on the first course of the evening: a Castilian soup. The second course arrived and it was an interesting sight to see. I had no idea there was a routine to slicing the pig; it’s so tender they cut it into sections with a plate and then drop the plate on the floor, sweeping up the pieces right after. I was glad I chose the roast beef, but I did get to try a piece of the pig. Yes, it tasted like chicken. After the entree, I was pleasantly surprised to get dessert! I think it was stracciatella, because it was a slice of ice cream with thin strips of chocolate; it looked like a deconstructed Klondike bar. While we were enjoying dessert a band came through the street right outside our window. It was nice seeing and hearing something that seemed so spontaneous, but I think it was planned. After dinner, we had to depart by motor coach back to our hotel in Madrid. It took a few hours, in which I was in and out of sleep, but Mauricio woke us up when we neared our hotel. We were told to pack because we were leaving Madrid by train to Barcelona, after visiting Toledo in the morning.
Before we started packing, we decided to go out to say good bye to Madrid and find some food. Before heading to, as always, the Mercado de San Miguel, I wanted to get a bath bomb from LUSH because I refused to take another bath with the hotel’s body wash as my soap. I got a butterball and was ready to move on with the night. At the market, I got a red wine sangria, but couldn’t decide what to eat. After my group was done eating, we went to find some gifts for ourselves from Madrid. I landed on a bracelet saying, “I (heart) Madrid,” and got to send my postcards. I hope they make it before I come back home…
After getting home from the market, we packed our bags, ready to wake up in the few hours we had left. I used my bath bomb and never before had my skin felt so glorious! It is so smooth and I can’t wait to wake up for it to be even smoother. I’m getting the last of my packing done in the wee hours of the morning when I wake up, so I’ll see you later in Barcelona!
Madrid, Toledo, Madrid…Welcome to Barcelona! May 16, Day 5 in Barcelona
It was an early day today. We all had to get up earlier than usual not only to finish putting a few things away, but to get on the bus to tour Toledo and catch a train from Madrid at 1:30 p.m. (13:30 local time). I had just enough time to grab a croissant from the breakfast area before making it onto the bus. We left around 8:10 and arrived by 9:00 a.m. I stayed awake to look at the scenery on the way to Toledo.
Although the drive to Toledo is one of the longer bus travels we’ve had, once you reach the town’s limits, you have a gorgeous view of the entire fortress: the river, aqueduct, bridges, Alcazar (which is completely reconstructed after Mauricio said it was “blown to bits” after the Spanish Civil War), cathedrals…the list goes on. We made a stop near the northern point of the town to take pictures where we saw Arab bath ruins among the town’s scene. Mauricio told us (and it definitely showed) that there are so many people living here you cannot see the roads from the viewpoint. Many of the roads are so small, but the houses and shops are packed tightly together too.
Somehow we made it down into the city, right on time for the damascene demonstration. How very interesting! A strip of metal is taken and the blacksmith puts it into the hot coals. Once it is hot enough, he takes it out and starts to hammer out a tip and design for the sword on the anvil. The next step took us over a slope into the next area. Two men were working freehand on inlaying 24-karat gold into stones. This process looked so time consuming, but so beautiful and artfully skilled. It seemed like a gold 24-karat wire was being pressed onto the stone in a design only the artist himself knew. We were allowed to lean over them to see the process being done. Our host took us into their next room–the shop. They explained where the real gold pieces were (most expensive), second class of the objects were (made by students or less gold), and the machine made objects (third class). Everything was so beautiful and ornate, from the earrings and plates, to the swords and katanas (which I wish I could have bought one for my sister).
With so little time until our train arrived, we got back on our bus to see the upper part of the town. We saw where some of the nuns live and were told how they make their living: they bake most of the breads, tuna fish pies, marzipan, and other goods to eat around Toledo. It smelled so good walking past a bakery, like bread was baking in the oven and the sweets were just taken out. We were shown a few of the cathedrals in the area, one of them being the 694th gothic cathedrals built, San Ildefonso. We saw this after walking on the narrowest street in Toledo. It is a private cathedral built in the early 1200s that took 300 years to get to where it is today, but the west facade remains unfinished. We were lucky enough to get to tour the inside. There are nine organs from the 16th century and an outstanding 3D Baroque masterpiece illuminated by the window in which the work extends to. This sculpture/painting/monument is named El Transparente and was created by Narciso Tomé. We also saw the works of El Greco, Luca Giordano and more in the Sacrisista, namely the beautiful lighted ceiling and the El Expolio painting seen as soon as entering. As we left this chamber and went back into the main part of the cathedral, we realized red hats hanging in different areas. These hats hang above the area where a bishop (who also happened to be a Cardinal) were buried. Near the end of our tour, we saw the gigantic gold Corpus Christi, which Mauricio told us cost more than one million U.S. dollars. Still on the tight schedule, we quickly walked over to the gift store where I found a penny machine (I thought these were only in the U.S.!). I put in 1,05€ for the cathedral’s stamped image. Many of us left and waited right outside, where we found a man playing the cello. It was so peaceful and relaxing until we had to get back on the bus to make sure we caught our train.
As we were weaving through the roads and up the hills of Toledo, Mauricio disappeared into a store. A few moments later he came out with a thin box– he bought us all some marzipan! In the States, I hate marzipan, but it was delicious here! Those nuns really know what they’re doing…
I fell asleep on the way back to Madrid. We made it to the train station with just enough time to find something to eat around the train station. I bought a cup of strawberries, what looked like Sixlets (but were actually European m&m’s), and a thin ham and cheese sandwich. Our group was split into three groups in three different cars. I was in car three with Helen, Mauricio, Kim, Anthony, Marissa and Courtney. I had a hard time pulling my luggage off of the platform, but I was able to get it on the rack with Mauricio’s help. We were lucky enough to be sitting in the four person area with tables. The train ride was three hours long, but I didn’t want to sleep. The scenery, weird dance movie that was playing (All Star, I believe), and my iPad kept me awake. Three hours went by like a snap of my fingers and we were all of a sudden in Barcelona!
We arrived around 4:30 but didn’t get to our bus until around 5:00 p.m. We were greeted with a pretty high-end bus (it had wood floors and leather seats that were so comfortable) and a new tour guide just until we got to our hotel. His name was Patricio and he was French, but knew Spanish and Catalan, the official language of Barcelona. Sculptures, the sea, busy streets, and balconies were much of what we saw, but we did get to see an old bullfighting arena. The last bullfight happened there in 1977, but has now been renovated as a shopping mall. We got to see the 1929 World Fair grounds and towers, the museum behind those towers. There was a car show going on as we passed, with motorcycles galore parked outside.
Our bus driver drove us passed the old Olympic stadium, up the hill until we reached Montjuic, the highest viewpoint of the city with panoramic views. You could see anything from this point: the Mediterranean and La Sagrada Familia to name some key places. We stayed here for about 15 minutes until we were ready for the next part of our tour. While making the drive down the hill, we saw a needle which we found out was the telecommunications antenna. We started reaching the end of the hill, where we saw the palm trees and wi-fi spots randomly placed all over Barcelona. We saw the only piece left of the medieval wall, which looked like a small sliver of pie.
I still wasn’t remembering much about my last trip to Barcelona– I was a freshman in high school. However, once La Sagrada Familia came into view my heart leapt; this is one of the things I was looking forward to. I wanted to see how much work had been done since the last time I saw it. Plus, we were getting a tour of it! I couldn’t wait to see the inside, but I looked at the time. It was already 6:00 and we were to be at our hotel by 6:30. I told myself it must not take too long, so I thought when Patricio said, “Okay, that’s it! We can’t get any closer,” he was kidding. I was wrong. I had been teased with a quick drive around of Gaudi’s cathedral. I told myself I had to see it again, so I was hoping when I asked later, someone would spend part of our free day tomorrow to go and have a look at La Sagrada Familia. We were taken down a popular road people shop and finally made it to another place I remember: La Rambla. I was so excited to be staying alongside this street. I had a few days to feel déjà vu!
Last night we learned our hotel had been changed due to overbooking. Our new hotel had still been booked near La Rambla, but Patricio didn’t want to take us down La Rambla because it was so busy; he didn’t want anyone stealing any piece of our luggage. Instead, we went down a different street, that in my opinion was still crowded, but I guess we didn’t have to worry about pickpockets so much. It seemed like we walked a mile and we would never get to our hotel walking down streets and turning left and right, but we made it. Just when my arm was about to fall off, we arrived. It was down a small alley not more than 30 feet from La Rambla: Hotel Petit Palace.
We were assigned our rooms. My room is in the second building of the hotel, across a terrace and garden and up on the third floor. We have a balcony with a view of the street below and building beside us, and a window that overlooks many trees and a clock tower that looks like it came from a fairy tale. The room was very nice and the bathroom had two shower heads: one handheld and the other like a normal shower head. We only had a few minutes to unpack at this point, 6:30, and to freshen up before we headed out to our group dinner at 8:00 p.m.
Our restaurant had a very seafaring vibe to it, other than the legs of jamón hanging over the bars. We were served baked hake with potatoes and bell peppers, with bread to stave off our appetite while waiting. After the fish, our waitress brought us out this delicious custard with some burnt sugar on top. I guess you could say it was kind of like a creme brûlée without most of the top on. It was so tasty and I don’t even like pudding-consistency foods.
After dinner, we walked to the nearest metro station and took the metro back, but we weren’t ready to sleep; we wanted to explore. We left our hotel and remembered what street it was on and what was surrounding it, since Mauricio got lost trying to find it on our way back from dinner. We pretty much just explored La Rambla and went to the waterfront to see the mall (that was closed except for a few restaurants). We headed back down La Rambla, passing the Christopher Columbus statue, of course.
We have a free day tomorrow, meaning we don’t meet up with the entire group, we just get to do what we want! We are super excited because we get to sleep in and don’t have to be on a schedule. We know that we want to go to the beach and go shopping, but who knows where tomorrow will take us? You’ll have to wait and see. Adios!
Up for Grabs: Day 6, May 17 in Barcelona
Six days down, six days to go! This trip is going so fast, but this free day was much needed. We had the entire day to do our own thing, no schedules, no rushing, nothing. We got to break free, break from the chains!
We started the day by sleeping in after being pretty sleep deprived from not sleeping well and staying up to blog to make sure we wouldn’t get behind. We woke up around 11:00 a.m. and although we were sad to have missed breakfast, we were happy to get some much needed sleep! We took our time getting ready and rounded up our crew around 12:30 p.m., meeting in the lobby so we could eat before going to the beach and figuring out the rest of our day.
We were tired of eating out of convenience stores, so we tried to find a more authentic-looking restaurant. We were nearing the end of La Rambla when we finally decided upon Cosmos, a restaurant not far from the Christopher Columbus statue. There wasn’t a very big collection, but I didn’t want to order another sandwich or a Spanish omelette, so I decided on the cannelloni gratin and bread, for which I paid 10
I’m not sure what was in the middle of the noodle, I think shredded chicken, but the combination of noodle, cheese and meat hit the right notes. We discussed the trip and what we wanted to do today while eating and wondered if we would get the check as an entire bill again. When that time came, we shouldn’t have been surprised we racked up a large amount, but Mauricio explained checks are never split, the party just splits it evenly at the end. We asked our waiter for separate checks, but he said no. Some of us had to go to the ATM to get the correct amount of money for what we paid for, so in the end we split it up ourselves, in our minds. We all thought it was such a hassle not being able to split a check, but hey, we’ve already learned Spain does a few things different than the U.S. and that’s okay. We took off for the beach after handing over our money, tip included.
On the way to the beach, we ran into some boardwalk festival–it reminded me of our Three Rivers’ Arts Festival, but a lot smaller. Vendors were selling old records made into clocks, headbands, baby clothes, jewelry and more. Our noses found an ice cream stand that smelled of strawberries and freshly baked waffle cones. We vowed to stop there on the way back from the beach. We continued walking a good distance until we found signs pointing us in the right direction for the beach. We made it!
We found a spot on the beach and ran to put our feet in the Mediterranean…it was freezing! Photo sessions occurred and after we took a rock or two out of the sea, we headed back to our spot. We laid down to admire the beauty, not just of the sea, but the huge city that was right behind us! It is clearly the best of both worlds. Lots of vendors were walking the beach, selling blankets, massage services, Sangria, water…anything you could think of! Once we laid down to soak up the sun, I quickly but peacefully fell asleep. I didn’t even know it until I woke up, disoriented. I was surprised my phone, which was in my hand laying on my stomach, hadn’t been stolen. My purse, which I laid my head on, had everything in it too. Relief settled into me and we all woke up within minutes of each other. We were only there for an hour and a half or so, but it felt much longer. Although we wanted to stay there longer, we knew we had more we wanted to do, so we forced ourselves to get up and went above the beach to check out the shops.
There weren’t many stores up there, so we started heading back, thinking of going to the mall since it was closed last night. Not wanting to go another day without ice cream, we all commented on that waffle/ strawberry smell and looked at all of the flavors. Some of them were strange, like marshmallow and macaron, but I settled on a pretty original flavor. I was able to get two scoops, so I got one scoop of strawberry and another scoop of vanilla chocolate cookie. I ate them separately and they seemed so fresh. We walked along the dock after that, seeing all of the puppies everyone was walking (with or without leashes; most people don’t use leashes which is interesting). When we made it to the boardwalk that leads to the mall, some of our small group just wanted to head to La Rambla. We split up, where I went to the mall with three other girls.
I fell in love with this makeup brand, Kiko, whenever I went to Venice my junior year of high school. Before I came on this trip, I wanted to make sure I would be able to go to this store again and buy more. With my luck, there was actually a Kiko store in Barcelona and it was in that mall! How convenient. Rilyn and I bought a few things there, and then went upstairs to see what else there was. Most of the stores were selling apparel and none of it was really interesting me. We met back up with two of our other friends and went to La Rambla– we wanted to find Kim, Dana, and Alicia to see if they were hungry.
We were tired of spending all of our money on expensive food we weren’t very fond of, so we did the very American thing and went to McDonald’s. There were “easy pay” computers along the one side of the restaurant, where we went to place our order. We figured instead of accidentally saying something wrong and order the wrong thing, we might as well get exactly what we ordered. I had some trouble with the whole credit card payment, but I finally got it to work. Other than my chicken McNuggets, I got something I don’t think the U.S. McDonald’s has: a Greek yogurt with mixed berries. We all ordered take out and sat outside along the tables on La Rambla. It was starting to get dark, so we headed back to our hotel. We had a group meeting planned for 10:00 p.m. anyway.
Our meeting took place in the breakfast room of the hotel with our entire class and tour director. We mainly discussed what our favorite media and cultural visits were. Most of the students loved Segovia and Condé Nast– no surprise there. The meeting ended at 11:00 p.m.
Once Kim and I got back to our room, we realized we were starving and knew we would be staying up a little later to work on our blogs. I’m so glad she wanted to go find something to eat, because I know I wouldn’t have been able to work without something in my stomach. We figured there had to be some market along La Rambla, so we headed out in our matching trip sweatshirts (what a sight to all those people who want to talk to tourists on those streets). We were getting worried when we could only find restaurants, so we turned around and headed up La Rambla. Finally, we found a market that conveniently had an international mailbox in front of it (for future reference; I still had to get postcards to send to friends and family). We weren’t too pleased with the lack of options, but we found a few things. I got, no surprise, a ham and cheese sandwich, a 1.5 liter bottle of water (I need so much water on this trip!), and some sort of packaged wheat sticks. At the counter, I saw my favorite candy bar (the Kinder Bueno bars) and bought the limited edition dark chocolate version. I spent just under 10€ and after Kim paid, we headed back to our hotel, on the side street of La Rambla to try to avoid those pesky men. Though we still managed to run into a few of them, we made it back to our hotel and happily started snacking.
We’re finishing the blogs up now and are ready for what’s in store tomorrow: a media visit to Camp Nou, the futball stadium for Barcelona (and a visit to TV3; I don’t know what to expect, so we’ll see how it goes) and the Flamenco show! We have another early start and long day ahead of us, so I need as much sleep as I can get. Hasta la vista!
You’ve Got To Strut Like You Mean It…In TV, Futbol and Flamenco: Day 7, May 18 in Barcelona
The class is back to the old grind today. An early start to the day is the only way we can pack in everything we want and need to do! Today’s media visits included TV3 and Camp Nou. We ended our last full day in Barcelona at a Flamenco show. I think I want to train to become a Flamenco dancer now. I did always love tap even though I was never in any classes…
Our class was to meet in the lobby of our Petit Palace hotel lobby at 9:00 a.m. for our TV3 media visit. From there, we walked up La Rambla to our bus and departed around 9:20 a.m. or so. Unsurprisingly, I fell asleep after we got out of Barcelona. There wasn’t any jaw-dropping scenery and the bus seats are so comfortable it’s actually hard not to fall asleep. I woke up just in time to pull into the TV3 parking lot, around 10:00 a.m., to see how huge this campus of a TV station was! I couldn’t wait to hear about what this area was about. Although I’m not a broadcast major, I was easily interested in this visit. I’ve been behind-the-scenes before, but this huge area looked like it took behind-the-scenes to a whole new level. Before we walked into one of the first buildings from the right of the main registration building, our tour guide, Adrianna, told us some snippets of information about TV3. This station is the first Catalan TV station in Barcelona, born in 1983. They have 33,000 square meters of buildings just in this space alone, but have other buildings even further from their current location. The station has five different channels that they broadcast in their studios. Adrianna guided us towards the lecture room, where she introduced Teresa Guitart, the Head of International Relations and Sales. She spoke a lot about Catalonia and the different kinds of channels they have and what is usually broadcasted on those shows. Interesting fact? TV3 had its first broadcast on September 11, 1983, the city’s national holiday. Another interesting fact she mentioned, other than putting on events, was that, although there are 30 channels, the top six hold 80% of the viewing audience. Our next speaker, Ferran Molines, is the Head of Image and Marketing and Promotions. He talked to us about the technology the designers and other workers use, what rebranding means to him, how to promote events or shows, and the history of the logo. Something he said that I really admired was when he said, “The best way is to learn together, work together.” I completely believe that! I know for a fact when I am working on a PR project or campaign in class, it is so nice being able to work with people who know what they’re doing. If you draw a blank, you can always ask and working with people is where some of your best ideas come from. After he was done speaking, around 11:20 a.m., Adrianna took us on the campus tour. I was ready to see what exactly lay ahead.
In short (for the sake of space), Adrianna was so knowledgeable and willing to get us into everything. She actually managed to get us into a live morning talk show, but when she couldn’t get us into another live show, she was a bit saddened. We saw one live show and that was more than we could ask for! She showed us the control room, all five of their studios, the garage where they keep their broadcast vans, the wardrobes, “characterization factory”, the storage and workshop area where they keep props, and the waiting room for guests who appear on their shows. Our tour ended here, where I got an individual photo with the logo and we took a photo of the group. At 12:50 p.m. the tour ended and we were all given keychains with the TV3 logo on it. They actually looked well-made, not like a cheap one you find in some of the stores.
We left TV3 around 1:00, but had to eat lunch before we traveled to Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona futbol. There was a large mall close by, but we only had about 20 minutes to find a place to eat and finish our food since we weren’t allowed to eat on the bus. Two girls and I looked around for a while, before finally settling on KFC since it was cheaper than many of the other restaurants. I had to scarf down my chicken sandwich AND fries, but somehow I made it down the escalator to the bus right on time. We departed the mall at 2:00 p.m. and arrived at Camp Nou at 2:20 p.m.
The whole area of Camp Nou was huge. They didn’t just have a stadium in the area, but a superstore, museum, practice stadium, and restaurant. It didn’t take us long to get our tickets to the “Camp Nou Experience.” Our guide, Roger, was of course filled with all the information. There are seats for 100,000 spectators and currently, Barcelona has won 26 cups, been in the Championship 22 times, and has four wins in the Champions League. They won their first trophy in 1899. Interestingly, the museum at Camp Nou doesn’t just house FC Barcelona trophies and awards, but other sports trophies as well, like handball, roller hockey, basketball, and more.
Roger told us the cheapest tickets (when it’s not a big game) can be bought at around 40-50€, while the most expensive tickets are about 170€. For 150€, you can become one of the 150,000 members of Camp Nou, which also means you are an owner. Roger captivated us with so much information about each area of the stadium: the field, the Press Room, the main Press Conference room (where you could get and buy a picture of yourself with the cup from the Champions League), the visiting team’s locker room, the tunnel where players enter the field (along with a place for players to pray), and the Press Box. After the tour was over, the museum experience was next. It was very interactive; you could learn about different times in history by clicking on a photo on a giant white table, where it brought up a paragraph or two of information. There were also videos and trophies throughout the two floors of the museum. The museum led into the three-floor gift shop, complete with soccer balls, jerseys, hoodies, and many other knick-knacks. Around 3:30 p.m., we left to go back to our hotel.
When I found out we weren’t going to Park Guëll, I was disappointed. I learned that we were going to tour the inside of La Sagrada Familia instead and I was pretty happy about that. Feelings aside, I still wanted to see Park Guëll, so when we got off the bus, I waited behind for Mauricio. I asked how me and a few other people could get there easily, and he suggested a bus that took us straight there, but it could take a while with red lights and such. He also mentioned that there was a fee and you couldn’t see much for free; you couldn’t even see the lizard for free. I caught up with my friends and told them what Mauricio had just told me. We decided not to go there, but instead went to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. It was filled with sweets, fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. I settled on buying a natural strawberry and pineapple juice drink. After exploring that area, we went back to our hotel, after finding a box for our postcards, and got ready for our Flamenco show dinner. At 7:00 p.m., we headed towards the metro to get to Palacio del Flamenco.
We arrived at 7:30 p.m., but weren’t able to get in until 8:00 p.m. When we finally entered, we sat at the long, middle table in the room, where there was already two bread rolls waiting for us. After we sat down, it wasn’t long until the waiters brought out salad, chicken and potatoes, and paella all at once. After a while, the lights dimmed and went out, and the band started to play. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after the two girls and two guys came out, the tapping began…and it was loud! The women wore flowy dresses and then men wore suits, but their tap dancing was incredibly loud. There were about seven different dancers, one of the last men looking like he was over 50– and he could move, no worries! Flamenco has to be very tiring and I have a lot of respect for every one of those dancers. It looks so fun, but very athletic. I would still want to go take a class to learn a few moves though. Around 10:30 p.m. we headed back to our hotel, by foot but then ended up taking the metro.
When we got to our hotel room, we started packing up everything because we are moving on in to Lisbon, Portugal! I’m sad we’re leaving, but excited to see what Portugal has in store for us. I’m just surprised my suitcase doesn’t feel as heavy as it did and everything fits everywhere without a problem. I hope it stays like this after souvenir shopping in Lisbon (I need tile and cork products!). Until tomorrow…
Hasta la vista, Barcelona and Olá Lisboa! Day 8, May 19 in Lisbon
There’s not much time left in Barcelona, so we have to make the most of it! Today we had our last media visit in this unique, Catalan city. I was finally able to see the inside of La Sagrada Familia (after thinking I had been cheated out of it) and somehow made it to another country: Portugal. I didn’t know what to expect in Lisbon, but it looks much different from Spain, at least at nighttime when we got here.
It was just like any other morning except last night I decided to set an alarm on my iPad instead of my phone, as it was on the desk charging since there aren’t very many outlets. My alarms must have been set too low in volume because I woke at up 8:30 a.m. without hearing anything, when we were leaving at 9:00 a.m.! Thank goodness I had packed the night before and chose what I was going to wear; I had to rush like a chicken with my head cut off to get ready and collect all my bags. By some miracle, my roommates and I made it to the lobby by 9. There was hardly anytime for breakfast, so I grabbed a pastry and ran back to our group. We left to catch our bus and drag our belongings up La Rambla since we wouldn’t be coming back to our Barcelona hotel.
Today we headed to LaVanguardia, Spain’s oldest, family-owned newspaper. Miguel Molina, the editor of the paper, and Ishmael Nafria, the digital innovation director, welcomed us, handing out both the Catalan and Spanish type newspapers to us. He was an amazing speaker, giving us the history of the paper and some problems they are facing with their audiences, such as their website, problems with digital news subscribers, and social media followers. It was interesting to hear not only their thoughts to what is going on at LaVanguardia, but hearing all of their passionate answers to all of the students’ questions made me feel genuinely impressed with them. One thing I found astounding is that this newspaper has lost 70% of its advertisers since 2008, when Spain’s economic crisis took off. I thought about what I would do during that time with The Globe, being the Business Manager and Advertising Executive. I couldn’t imagine losing that much money from advertisers, but they have been lucky enough to not be in debt with everything that has been going on in Spain.
After talking with us, they gave us a tour of their newsrooms, TV studio, and other paper, El Mondo Portivo, which focuses on sports. I noticed their newsrooms didn’t vary too much from the ones that I have been too in Pittsburgh– many people working in an open area at desks, waiting for their interview or typing away an article. At noon our visit ended and it was finally time to see the beautiful Sagrada Familia cathedral.
Rain was forecasted for that day, which was one of the reasons our visit to Park Guëll was canceled. Our bus driver couldn’t drop us off very close to La Sagrada Familia, so we had to walk, but it was so worth it. Being able to be caught off guard and seeing the church from a corner of the street you were just on is absolutely breathtaking. The lines to get tickets for the tour were incredibly long, but we had gotten our tickets ahead of time. We stood in the rain for a few minutes while Mauricio went to go claim them and then we headed towards the audio kiosk; the tour was self-guided from an audio radio. We got our headphones and took off. The closer you got to the cathedral the more detailed it had gotten and the more excited I got to seeing the inside.
When I went to Barcelona my freshman year of high school, all I got to see was the outside, from one of the plazas surrounding the cathedral. The construction of course was going on, but I could tell what had been added on from the last time I was here because of the color of the stone. It was beautiful on the inside. The audio was so interesting, informing you of every piece of architecture that went in to the construction. I thought it was interesting how they mentioned the pillars started out as stars on the bottom on the ground, but as they became higher they became as smooth as a cylindrical pillar could be. The western side of the cathedral (outside) with the nativity scene was gorgeous; the doors leading to that area were filled with words, Jesus inlaid with gold. We walked around admiring everything we saw and headed towards the gift shop.
Though we didn’t find anything that caught out interest, it was interesting to see what was being sold in them and the design. Most of the designs were orange and blue and wasn’t as “Gaudi” as I thought would be in a souvenir shop. Our meeting time at 4:00 p.m. was nearing, so we headed to the front of the cathedral after dropping off our headphones and audio radio.
Since all of our luggage was already loaded onto the bus, we made our way to the Barcelona airport, not far from where we were. It turned out we were a bit too early arriving at the airport to find out which gate we were at, but we turned in our checked bags and went through security to wait. Since security didn’t go as smoothly as hoped (we weren’t sure if laptops had to be taken out of your bags, so you had to take your entire carry-on back to the line before you went through the security gate again), we didn’t wait very long before heading to the area below the gates. We wouldn’t know which gate our flight was at until around 7, so we had one hour and 45 minutes to look around and get dinner. We would meet at the bottom of the escalator at 6:45 p.m.
We had to carry our purses and carry-ons around the airport, so we looked into a few shops that were there, but were ready to sit down and eat dinner in a matter of minutes. Sick of spending so much money already, we decided, once again, on McDonald’s. I had chicken bites, apple slices and water for under 4€. Kim, Marissa, Courtney and I just sat there talking until it was time to meet up with the rest of our group to find out which gate we were departing from.
It turned out that meeting at 6:45 was perfect because we found out that we departed from Gate B. We headed down to the gates and boarded at 7:30 p.m., taking off at 8:00 p.m. I didn’t know if I wanted to sleep or what, but after taking a short nap, I decided to stay up on my blogging once again. It was very sunny in the sky, but I finished my blog and knew we would be getting to Lisbon soon. Land was becoming clearer and there weren’t many clouds. When an actual city came into view, I knew we would be landing soon. I was fortunately in a window seat, so I got to see the suspension bridge and Christ welcoming Lisbon from the air! It was beautiful. Our landing was a little rough, but we made it to Lisbon at 10:00 p.m. and met our tour guide, Odette.
She gave us some information about Lisbon and Portugal, but understood we were tired so she didn’t push a lot of information on us. One of the first things I noticed about Lisbon were the abandoned buildings or office spaces. I had no idea the crisis was this bad that people had to abandon their shops. Our hotel is located in the Business District, right next to the statue of António José de Almeida, a political leader.
We’ve been told we get to sleep in tomorrow, so I will be taking advantage of the extra sleep! We are meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the lobby for a guided orientation tour of Lisbon, then we’re headed to a local university to hear a lecture. I’m ready for Lisbon to show me what it’s got! Boa noite!
First Day in Lisbon Made An Impact, but Free Time for Dinner Made Us Second Guess Our Time Here: Day 9, May 20 in Lisbon
What a day to sleep in! As always, we had a busy day ahead of us: we had a guided tour of Lisbon in the morning and then had a few hours of lecture at the New University of Lisbon’s Research Center in Media and Journalism. Today was our first full day in Lisbon, so I was excited to see what this under-rated city was all about. Without knowing Portuguese, would I be able to navigate Europe’s San Francisco, with the vernaculars and the 25 de Abril Bridge that looks like the Golden Gate Bridge, both created by the American Steel Corporation?
After breakfast we stepped onto the bus and began our tour. Odette gave us some key information about Lisboa and Portugal:
-There are three million inhabitants in Lisbon.
-There are seven thousand buildings that need restoration in Lisbon, due to abandonment or vandalism.
-The pastel is a custard-filled pastry and the country’s famous dessert.
-The unemployment rate is at 30.7%.
-Portugal has the lowest birth rate in the world.
-250 million people speak Portuguese and it is the sixth most spoken language in the world.
-On November 1, 1755, All Saint’s Day in Portugal, an 8.9 earthquake hit Lisbon and
surrounding areas, known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake. A tsunami followed as well.
Our first stop included a nice view of parts of Lisbon. We got off at Edward VII Park, a small square with a view looking down on parts of Lisbon. There were some vendors selling jewelry on the side of the square. We got on the bus and made our way into Downtown Lisbon.
While learning about Lisbon and Portugal, Odette noted a man in an accident on a sidewalk on the road. A group of people circled around him as he lay on the ground, still in his motorcycle helmet. One was trying to see what was going on, but it seemed like it was a casual happening, especially the way Odette said it. What is with the casual shrugs about death in these countries??? (See May 14 bullfight entry.) I guess it is a regular way of life.
A fun fact I learned was that Lisbon has a Liberty Avenue. Though it probably is common, I thought of Pittsburgh instantly. I’ll be home soon!
We passed the 25 de Abril Bridge, the suspension bridge created by the same company that built the Golden Gate Bridge. Across the river, we could see Christ opening his arms to the city of Lisbon, an exact replica from the statue in Rio de Janeiro. If I had been to San Francisco before, I would think I was there! We made our next stops at the Belem Tower and Monument of Discoveries, where we could feel the sea wind on our faces. I saw a Vespa food truck, selling pastels. What a sight! I had no idea those little scooters could hold a truck around it. So interesting!
It was back to the hotel for lunch before we headed to our next lecture at the New University of Lisbon’s Research Center in Media and Journalism. We were greeted around 3:00 p.m., with a small reception of port wine and pastries (if I knew we were getting snacks I would have skipped lunch!). Shortly after, we heard from Dr. Paolo Faustino, who teaches media management, economics and marketing. He spoke to us about the media systems, strategies and industry trends in Portugal, plus business challenges. I learned about the main media groups in Portugal, RTP among one of them (our media visit tomorrow) and even saw a case study about them!
Our next speaker was Lara Alameh, an American who has been living in Portugal for 10 months! She works in international affairs and it was very interesting hearing what she did. She works for a nonprofit to promote the development of Portugal. She says the relationship between the U.S. and Portugal is “stable, predictable,” although it could always be stronger. Portugal was one of the first countries to recognize the United States’ independence and the oldest running embassy. I never knew other countries recognized our independence, so it was nice to hear this and I felt a little more love for Portugal; they appreciated America. There was a small intermission here and we were led to the reception area for more pastries! This is my kind of country….
Next and last speaker was João Palmeîro, president of the Portuguese Press Association, who spoke to us about European media policies and industry challenges. He spoke to us about Portuguese history and the struggles with Google Europe is having. There is very rarely a free market for citizens and cookies are forbidden in the European Union. They also have to pay roaming charges between countries! He taught us a history lesson about China and its Baieu system. This lecture was very informational. I think he was added to our lecture and I’m glad he was because everything he said was amazing!
We left for our hotel around 6:30 and were on our own for dinner.
We turned left out of the Holiday Inn. We decided to walk since our bus ride seemed promising that there were things outside of our hotel. Whenever we got to a main road, it seemed a lot of things were closed. We even walked into a shop to look for accessories, but when we left the owner told us she locked the door because we came in after hours! We were completely unaware. We left and started looking for a restaurant. Down the road we went and each restaurant was closing. Where would we go? After about 20 minutes of walking, we finally found something that was open: a Chinese restaurant. We were just happy something was open, so we walked in. It looked okay, but after some insulting comments were made, we were all miserable to be here; even the food wasn’t that great. Every waiter stared at us. We silently ate our way through our meals and paid at the end. We were never eating there again!
We made our way back to our hotel. It was time for bed after that rough night. We’re hoping tomorrow is much better. So far, Lisbon is like Downtown Pittsburgh with it closing so early!
Last Day for Media Visits and a Free Evening: Day 10, May 21 in Lisbon
It’s our last day for the media visits! We’re going to two companies today: RTP (Radio and Television of Portugal) and Global Media Group. Our day is filled with those visits and then we have a free night for dinner ourselves! Tonight we have a group meeting, so we have to be back by 10:00 p.m.
We started the day at 10:00 a.m. at RTP. We were greeted, once again, by pastries, and orange juice and coffee. We entered what seemed like a small movie theater and met Jose Lopes de Araujo, Director of Legal, Public and International Affairs at RTP. He was a jolly fellow that was very excited to see a group of students from the States–he said it’s not very common for the United States to visit.
Though his lecture seemed short, it was interesting and long enough to give us the details of RTP, which started in Portugal in 1957. Radio and TV were then two separate companies, but in 2005 they both merged. They have six satellites. This broadcast company is owned 100% by Portugal, paid for by the citizens through their electric bill. Every month, 2,65€ is taken from those electric bills for RTP. Obviously, RTP is a public service, so in order for them to have a public service, they need popular programs to achieve that audience.
The RTP news channel runs 24 hours a day, a show I have seen either at a restaurant (like last night) or even in our hotel, in Portugal. They have eight TV channels and eight radio channels. One of their specialties/ values they offer, is that they broadcast contents for people with special needs, like deafness, in the bottom right corner of their TV screen. I really enjoyed this concept as I have never seen it used in the U.S., besides closed captioning. They have a sign language interpreter instead of closed captioning. De Araujo showed us some of the challenges RTP is facing and needs to change.
In order to attract younger audiences, they now present a “Late Night Show” with different comedians that has really taken off. It starts at 8:00 p.m. Another interesting takeaway is that they used to air “The Price Is Right” in the past, but it was not popular. Now, to understand the Euro, they air it again and it is much popular. This goes to show that timing is so important when trying out something new.
After learning that 80% of their shows are produced in-house, we were off on our tour, where an intern from France followed.
We headed first to the News Studio, where a live show was happening. We learned earlier there are two of these in the same room, with no wall separating them. They can both be used at the same time though, with no interference of one another. We got to actually go down into this second studio and have our picture taken as a class. We were then introduced to the radio director, who gave us an incredible tour of the 20+ radio studios, seeing a famous Fado singer and how a classical station runs out of RTP.
After seeing or visiting these studios, we were taken down to see a live morning show: Agora Nós, where a young comic was hosting a gameshow with the infamous rooster of Lisbon. There was a live audience. We got to see a somber interview with a lady, who was talking about a divorce from her husband, where men usually get custody of the kids since they are the main breadwinner. She was wondering how to pay for their education.
The tour was wonderful and it was incredible being able to see how studios from both Spain and Portugal run. We went to lunch at The Park of Nations for not more than a half hour before we had to be at our second and final media visit. It was time for the Diario de Noticias.
We went straight to the top with our speaker: Vitor Ribiero, CEO of Global Media Group. He divulged the entire 2015-2017 Strategy with us—in Portuguese, how clever. He passed around the quad fold brochure of the strategy, a summary that can be easily distributed to the team. I really enjoyed him discussing this strategy for the company because in PR you have to come up with many different strategies. It was great to see what his objectives were and the timeline in which he wanted things to happen. The brochure was a nice touch, too. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future!
After discussing the firm having two travel magazines, a daily newspaper and a sports newspaper, two regional newspapers, and two printing companies, he started discussing more of the strategy. One of GMG’s radio stations, TSF, is a superbrand, which means it is a brand that people really trust. Without divulging too much of the strategy, there are three pillars linked to it. He talked about strategic initiatives and the problems the company faces. He told us that 74% of the Portuguese are not willing to pay for digital news, something that we have consistently been told, even in Spain.
We were offered a tour after the lecture was over. We saw the archives, the Newspaper Art Gallery, the newsroom, magazine newsroom, and the newsroom of dinheirovivo– one of their most influential newspapers.
We were allowed to be dropped off at one of the main squares to explore during our free time. It was 4:00 p.m., so we had five hours to do what we wanted in order to get a taxi and be ready for the group meeting. As always we spent the afternoon at all the shops, exploring the landscape and buildings, even the live statues. As it neared 6:00, we went to get dinner, a much better experience from last night! I had a tropical salad that had various fruits and a yogurt dressing. We spent our night in Lisbon near the sea, reflecting on how much our views had changed from our dinner last night. Our waiter was nice, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was friendly. After dinner we shopped around for a while more, before walking up to Edward VII Park, our first visit in Lisbon, until we realized we couldn’t walk back to our hotel. We walked around to find a taxi, coming across many other statues and magnificent views. Within a half hour, we found a taxi, who crazily drove us back to the Holiday Inn.
As I sit here with just a few minutes to spare before our meeting, I can’t believe this time has gone by so quick. Tomorrow will be exciting. We get to go to Sintra and the beach! Until tomorrow!
Sintra and a Seafaring Life: Day 11, May 22 in Lisbon
We’re headed to the west coast of Portugal today! Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long– about an hour with traffic. Our first stop was the town of Sintra, followed by panoramic views in Cabo de Roca, and a free afternoon in Cascais, a town along the Portuguese Riviera that inspired one of the old 007 movies.
After eating a fruitful breakfast at 9:00 a.m., pun intended, our bus driver, Jesus, took the wheel to lead our bus into Sintra. He took every turn quickly and sharply, but we made it there safely, just after 10:00 a.m. We were able to have free time for a few hours separate from our big group. I spent the morning exploring the cute shops and finding some last minute souvenirs for friends and family. There was a large palace and breathtaking views, and there seemed to be castles all over but I think they were just houses, at least most of them. We left around noon to drive to what our tour guide said was one of the most panoramic views and close to the most western point of Europe.
To say that Cabo de Roca was breathtaking would be an understatement. Although it was windy and cold, the view of the Atlantic Ocean was incredible beyond words. Odette told us you could see Washington, D.C. from there, but I didn’t have binoculars to look and it seemed a bit misty over a few miles. The waves splashed over the rocks below; Odette had told us the fences had been set up because there have been a few deaths over the cliff and warned us to not climb over them. The area was small but the view was clearly what people came for. There was a lighthouse to guide the ships at night, a small tourism shop, and a souvenir shop. We took advantage of the photo opps and just looked at the view for about a half hour to take in all the beauty. The ocean stretched for miles and was much bluer than the Atlantic Ocean we see in the U.S. We all needed the peaceful and serene scene for a few minutes after some of the hectic days we’ve had.
It was time to leave for our beach excursion at Cascais. We took some sharp, fast turns back the way we came from Sintra and found ourselves in the luxurious seaside town. The beach had been a favorite for the Portuguese royal family. Now the beach is almost covered with tourists. It was a bit too windy to sit on the beach, but the sand was so fine it felt great on our feet just walking around.
Once again, I spent most of the time we had there shopping, but we did stop at a restaurant close to the beach that had some fresh catches of the day. I decided to splurge on the last day, so I ordered a grilled Atlantic swordfish with vegetables for 11€. We were also brought bread, some salty, but good, cheese, and various olives with pits (the Kalamatas that were on the table had just the right amount of olive oil and herbs). The swordfish was delicious; honestly it didn’t even taste like fish, it tasted a bit like chicken. It didn’t fall apart like most fish you ordered, it stuck together like when you cut a piece of meat. The charred areas were my favorite part of the fish, but it was all so good, I almost cleared the plate. The fish was also served with boiled potatoes and other vegetables as well that were cooked perfectly.
After lunch, we went looking for some more gifts for our friends and family, but didn’t have much luck. I was looking for a scarf for my sister, but they were either made in China or designed in Spain but made in India. I knew she would understand why I didn’t get her one. Some of the shops were local boutiques and were happy someone was in there looking around.
Right before we had to meet up to leave with our class, we headed to the beach to watch the waves crash and sink our feet in the sand. We sat to watch the boats that were moored around the docks and cover our feet in the sand.
We left at 4:00 p.m. to arrive at our hotel near 5:00 p.m. My roommates and I went straight up to our room to crash; the day and the few late nights had just taken their toll on us, so we fell asleep until an hour before we had to leave for a Portuguese specialty: a Fado show. At 8:00 p.m. we got on the bus to hear what Fado was on our way to the restaurant.
Fado means fate in Portuguese. The show is all about listening as the singer tells us a story, usually something somber. When women sing, they are normally dressed in a darker color and a shawl, so understand that we show respect to them. You should not talk during the Fado show, but there are breaks (in this case, at least) during each set so our waiters can set our table. There is a food for each section of the show. There is also a portion of the show dedicated to folklore.
When we arrived, we were already greeted with bread and wine at our table. Normally I don’t use butter on my bread, but this time it felt like the right thing to do. It was good bread (I haven’t had any bread that didn’t taste good on this trip) and the butter just brought out the flavor of the bread. The folklore portion of the show began, with a group of men and women dancing around jollily with each other. After this was over, we were served an appetizer of olives, ham, meat, sausage and cheese. There was some sort of burnt meat on the plate that I couldn’t bring myself to eat, but everything else had tasted great. It was on to the singing of Fado next, a man telling us his story in Portuguese. Our next course was brough to us: a bean soup with few vegetables. It was good, but had the light consistency of mashed beans. The show went back and forth with folklore and singing, our entree consisting of three pieces of tender chicken, potatoes and boiled vegetables. I couldn’t believe the portions we were getting; I thought Europe believed in small portions! Regardless to say, I did not finish my entree, but of course I finished the next course: dessert. We were served flan over a lemon sauce and it was just gelatinous enough to be good. I finished that just as my two roommates and two other classmates were invited onstage to participate in the “wedding” of the folklore story. Their pictures were taken with their individual arches and bought them after they sat down. How fun these girls got to go onstage during our last night in Portugal, with a memory they can have forever!
The show ended at 10:30 p.m., and our tour guide had our bus driver pick us up in one of the districts with the most nightlife in Lisbon. On our way home, Odette told us that more women in Portugal smoke than men. What a statistic! That is actually one of the things I have also noticed, both Portugal and Spain, is that everyone smokes! There is hardly a place you can go outside without smelling smoke.
Once we got back to the hotel, we went right back to sleep, almost picking up where we left off before we went to the Fado show. I can’t believe our trip ends tomorrow morning. I’ve had a wonderful experience, meeting new people, learning new things culturally and academically, and finding out about the wonderful companies that are here in Portugal and Spain. It’s been life changing and I couldn’t thank the people enough who helped me get to take this trip. Thank you!