A Travellerspoint blog

Cultural Trip Day 1


sunny 24 °C



• Plaza Mayor
• Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral), Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral)
• University of Salamanca—Escuela Mayores, Escuela Menores
• Pontifical University of Salamanca
• Casa de las Conchas

Our cultural trip started last Friday, we are going to 9 cities in 8 days.

The moment we arrived in Salamanca, all my worries disappeared. I think this whole trip means more for me than for anybody else. Sonia said trip has to be perfect, so it can cover the mess I got from my last trip. Yes, that’s true but the other reason that it means more is that I’m actually taking an art class right now and what the professor has talked about in class is the stuff that I’m going to see. How exciting it is!!!

We had some free time before the actual tour and a couple of us wandered around together. Well, on the way of the wandering, we found this shop that sells different kinds of dresses. So...... yeah, I bought a dress. We also wandered to a Roman bridge. Anyway, our tour started around 2pm in Plaza Mayor. Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor was constructed between 1729 and 1755 (Baroque style), it’s considered among the most beautiful plazas in all of Spain. It’s very big, and that’s where most people hang out. We saw students studying, eating, chatting or just enjoying the sun there. The weather in Salamanca was very nice, very sunny. After Plaza Mayor were the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral. The New Cathedral is together with the Old Cathedral, it was constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries in two styles: late Gothic and Baroque. The Old was founded in the 12th century and completed in Romanesque/Gothic style in the 14th century. One of the characteristics of Baroque style is that there are a lot of decorations on the façade. There is a fun fact of the façade of the New Cathedral, the material of the façade has iron ion in it so it changed to red after hundreds of years. A couple of years of ago, people redid part of the façade but in order to distinguish the year of it’s made (because after a long time, it’ll turn red again), guess what they put on the façade???? An astronaut!!! The New Cathedral is the only cathedral that has an astronaut!! Also there is a lion that is eating ice-cream, how interesting it is!!

Plaza Mayor



the New Church

The astronaut and lion

Then we went to see University of Salamanca, it is the forth-oldest European university in continuous operations. Everyone goes there to see the façade of Escuela Mayores. Do you guys know about the skull with the frog on?? My art professor has talked about it. It’s really hard to find it since the façade has tons of decorations. Well, I turned out to be the first one of my group to find out where the skull is!!!! They said people who find it would have good luck especially for students. The meaning of the skull and the frog is that back in the years the frog means lust, the skull means death; so for students if they have lust they will end up with death (the students back then were all males). I really really like University of Salamanca; maybe someday I’ll study there. There is also another university in Salamanca—Pontifical University of Salamanca, it’s found pretty late around 1940. It is also right next to Casa de las Conchas, in Spanish casa means house; concha means shell. It’s built from 1493 to 1517, mixing late Gothic and Plateresque style, decorated with more than 300 shells, symbols of the order of Santiago. It currently houses a public library.


the skull and the frog

Casa de las Conchas

I learned so much and there is so much to say. I enjoyed the sun a lot, I wish that someday I could lie down in Plaza Mayor and enjoy the nature or just do some homework. At the end of the tour, I told my friends that if I want to pursue a master degree in Spanish I would definitely come to University of Salamanca!!

Posted by pennyxinru 16:08 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

This was supposed to be for Carnival

sunny 22 °C


Arrive around 10:30am.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Staying at an airport overnight is never fun but thinking about going to Tenerife made things a lot better. Tenerife is the largest and most populous of the seven Canary Islands. We arrived in Tenerife Northern Airport but our hostel is in the south by La playa (beach) de Las Américas , it took us 2 buses around 2 hours to get there. The only thing about south is that it’s too touristy, not exotic enough. We saw burger king, McDonald (of course, it’s everywhere) and even Hooter’s! The guys are actually kind of disappointed that there are so many things that they are familiar with. We got to our private apartment (the hostel) but since we have 5 people, one of us booked a double room but it turned that 5 of us could all stay in the apartment, which is supposed to be for 4 people. So Yan (she is the girl that I met in Spain but who is also from Dalian and study in Oviedo University, she’s also teaching Chinese in the university) and I stayed in the other room for the first two nights then we moved to the apartment for the rest of the trip. Anyway, complicated enough, we got most information about Carnival in Tenerife from the brother of the owner of our hostel. He told us that the parade in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, capital of Tenerife, also is located in the north, doesn’t start until 8pm and there are only kids, grandparents and tourists; local people don’t go. But people do dress up later and go out around midnight, it’s like the whole island is going to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. After settled down, Yan and I went to a travel agency and asked about different stuff we could do on the island. Then we decided to see the Volcano and whales.

Finally it was nighttime. It takes us an hour and a half to get to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Ryan, Mike and me all had costumes but I was the only one that wore it at the beginning. When I first got on the bus in Las Américas, not many people dressed up and I felt like I was the only one but until we got to La Playa de Los Cristianos, we saw more younger people with costumes. I was so happy to see everyone in costume. Unfortunately we were late for the parade, the truth is it started at 7pm. But we could definitely feel that it was Carnival, everyone dressed up and there is a big amusement park in front of the bus station. We just walked along the street (they blocked it for the parade) and enjoy the festival with other people. We didn’t go out either, we were all tired from the overnight layover in Madrid plus we didn’t where to go in Santa Cruz either. We actually never went out in Tenerife.

Yan and I had a good dinner before hand. There is really nothing much typical in Tenerife or I would say Canary Islands. We had mojo con papas as a side dish. Mojo is a typical sauce of the Canary Islands, and is used for seasoning dishes, meats, fish, vegetables, potatoes, bread etc. There is also some special drink on this Island, one is Ronmiel and the other one is basically banana liquor (also a popular brand of this liquor is called “Gobana”). We ordered Ronmiel for dinner. Ron is Rom, miel in English means honey, so this drink is Ron and honey. It tastes very good; I guess I just found another way to drink Rom in the future.



the Carnival Crew


Beach, pictures

It’s Saturday again. This Saturday is very very relaxed. Yan and I first went to Mercadona—a national supermarket in Spain, we bought food for the trip (so we don’t have to pay more later for food) then we basically just walked along the beach and took lots of pictures. The sky is so blue; the sea is so blue too. Later at night we met up with the others and went for dinner.

Sorry Yan likes to take pictures very very much, thus i also have lots of pictures.
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Volcano -- El Teide

On Sunday four of us went to see the volcano—El Teide that locates in Teide National Park. El Teide is the highest elevation in Spain and the islands of the Atlantic. We had to be at one place to catch the bus for El Teide at 8:05 in the morning, that’s one of the reasons that we didn’t go out on Saturday. Yan and I also had to check out in the morning because we were moving to the apartment, it was a busy morning.
It felt warm but windy by the beach, but as we were going up higher and higher toward the volcano, we started to see snow. We can only get to a certain point by bus then we took a cable car to get to the top. There was a sign says temperature -6 °C, so we basically experienced -6 °C to almost 26 °C in one day. It was windy up there as well, but with the temperature and spring clothes it was even worse. The view was awesome. I felt so close to the nature.
On the way back we stopped by a store to taste some local food and drinks from Tenerife. I bought mojo and Cactus jelly. Dinner was nothing special; it was hard to find typical Canarian food. But we tried some special drinks. There is one called “Barraquitos”, it is a coffee specialty from the Canary Islands. It consists of three layers: sweet condensed milk, espresso and milk froth. Sometimes you will find barraquito with a lacing of Tia Maria or Licor 43 and some lemon zest, which is usually called barraquito especial or barraquito completo. I think the one I ordered had Licor 43 and Lemon zest in it. It was really really good, I am going to try to make it someday.

El Teide--you can see how much we wore, it was sooo cold.

Cactus Jelly, I don't know why it is dark red.


Shogun Cruise—Whale and dolphin watching

So Monday four of us went on a small cruise. We were supposed to go to Los Gigantes—a resort town on the west coast of the Canary island Tenerife—to see Acantilados de Los Gigantes, the highest cliffs of the Canaries, while on the way we get to see dolphins and whales, but it was way so windy that day that our cannot make it over there. It was hard to stay stable on the boat too, because the boat moved with the waves... Now I truly know whether I get seasick. Half of the people on the boat felt really sick. But suddenly we found the whales, everyone run to see them then the sickness disappeared. Haha. These whales are pilot whale, which is a member of the dolphin family, and is second only to the killer whale in size. I was so excited to see them. I didn’t take good pictures of them but I have an awesome video of them jumping out of the water!!! It was an adventure to be on this boat, made me feel like a sailor. It’s sad that we didn’t get to the destination. Of course the cruise had food for us, and because we didn’t make it to Los Gigantes all the drinks were free. Yan and I walked back to the apartment while the guys actually took a bus to see Los Gigantes. It seems that that town is very different from the one that we stayed; there is only one hotel there but lots of apartments. Even though I didn’t go there I stole some pictures from the guys!
I got a chance to make it back to the travel agency and asked about where we can find a local restaurant, Alicia—our awesome travel agent told me about this restaurant called “El Gomero”. Alicia was very very nice to us, I feel so lucky to have her as our agent!
We went to “El Gomero”, but we found out the food local people eat has nothing different from most parts of Spain. There is a local dessert though and it’s called Bienmesabe. It’s made from of ground almonds, sugar syrup, cinnamon and lemon zest.

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Acantilados de Los Gigantes--what I stole from the guys
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with Alicia

Pilot Whale--pay more attention starting the 25th second


Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Carnival Parade

The only thing we did or Yan and I did was visiting Santa Cruz and seeing the last parade. The city is small; we didn’t have a map either. We just walked around Plaza España where the parade started. Of course I wore my costume again. Carnival is a festival for everyone in Tenerife; we saw lots of cute kids with different costume. It’s interesting to see all the costumes in the street. I changed to my costume too! I’m so glad that I got to wear it. I wish I could stay in Tenerife longer or at least long enough to see a whole parade, but too bad our flight was at 7:30pm I was only able to see the beginning of the big parade. Supposedly this parade is from 4pm to 9pm.

The Parade

See how many people there were

Tenerife Theater

By the way, Tenerife is also famous for its black sand (that's because of the volcano). Fortunately enough, Playa de Las América has black sand! My friend Mike helped me get a bottle of the black sand.
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I meant to celebrate Carnival in Tenerife but very sad we didn’t stay in the north other wise we would have experienced more. I wish we could see more of this island’s big festival.
A lot of things happened before, during and after this trip. I was exhausted by the time I got home. But every time I feel better when I look at the pictures.

It’s also a long trip, it took me a while to recall all the things we did. But it seemed to me that we didn’t do too much. Oh well, at least I know I went to Tenerife, I saw the volcano, I saw the whales and I saw the parade.

More pictures in the photo gallery.

By the way, I don’t feel that I did a good job on writing this time, sorry about that.

Posted by pennyxinru 18:31 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Oviedo, Asturias, Spain

Life in Oviedo, Spain

Up until now, I should really talk about the city that I am staying in Spain. Oviedo is a small and old city, not a metropolitan at all. I don’t really know where to start, I had a lot of feeling when I first came. Well, Oviedo reminds me of home. All the apartments, the small/private owned shops, buses and etc. Everything in Europe is smaller than those in the US, houses, apartments, streets, supermarkets, cars etc. People walk everywhere too. I didn’t know that how much the people here smoke, it feels like everyone smokes. Also I didn’t know how late the lunch and dinner is. I tell people when I was in China, I used to eat dinner at 5 or 6, then I went to the US I changed to 7 or 8 and now in Europe I gotta change to 9 or 10pm. I’m getting used to the eating hour here, like Sonia (my host family in Spain) said, this is called immersion. Oviedo is only 20 miles away from the sea, so it’s easier to get seafood here. It also has a lot of old churches and buildings, it’s famous for Cathedral of San Salvador. Another thing about Asturias is that it produces Sidra—a beverage that is made from apple. It looks and sounds like Cider but it doesn’t taste like the Cider in the US at all. Oh, it also has 6% alcohol. Typically in this region people socialize by going to Calle Gascona, drink Sidra and eat some tapas.
The University of Oviedo was created in 1574, but only inaugurated on September 21, 1608. Anyway, it’s a lot older than Miami.
Cathedral of San Salvador
Fuente Foncalada, since 9th century

Not far away from Oviedo is the city called Gijon. It sits right on the coast and it reminds me of Dalian even more when I saw the beach there. It just looks exactly like what I used to see. Gijon has even better seafood, very fresh. Sonia and I are going there to eat some fresh seafood someday in the future, I can’t wait! And I can’t wait when it’s warmer so I can enjoy the beach more. Sadly I lost the pictures I took in Gijon, long story about my camera memory card.

Today Sonia’s boyfriend Pedro drove me, Sonia and Raeanne to El Monte Naranco. The view is great. We can see every single part of the city. We even tried to find our apartment. On this Mountain, there is a “Touchdown Jesus”—Sagrado Corazón, a Pre-Romanesque shrine—San Miguel de Lillo and another Pre-Romanesque shrine—Santa María del Naranco. The trip was short but it was good. The weather today was kind of odd which reminds me of Ohio. It was sunny in the morning, then it rained a little bit when we were at Naranco, on the way home the sun came out then later it rained again.
Behind me is the city
Me and Sonia
Sagrado Corazón with Raeanne
San Miguel Church--Where Sonia's parents got married
Santa María del Naranco

Classes have been good, it was hard at the beginning but now I can understand most of what the professors are saying. I like my phonetics class; it helps me improve my pronunciation. A lot of Spaniards have commented on my accent, they said I have more American accent than Chinese accent but my accent is much better than most foreign students who are studying Spanish here. They said I’m easy to understand. I am always happy to hear that.

I do enjoy being in Europe but sometimes I miss the US and my family.

Posted by pennyxinru 16:56 Archived in Spain Tagged oviedo Comments (0)

Barcelona--on the Mediterranean Sea

Barcelona 2/11 Day 1:
• Sagrada Familia
• Parc Guell
• Casa Mila “Pedrera”
• Cathedral
• La Rambla
• La Boqueria
• Wax Musuem
• Monument a Colom

This past weekend, our whole group traveled to Barcelona. After an almost 12-hour train ride, we finally arrived in Barcelona Friday morning. Quickly we got to our Hotel- Barceló, it is only 5 minutes away from the beach!!!
The agency bus picked us up at 12. We first went to Sagrada Familía—Gaudí’s masterpiece, I have to say I had never seen such amazing architecture before. I loved it very much, especially inside. The stained glass is so pretty! Then we went to Park Güell, another design of Gaudí. I love all the colors and designs in the park, especially the multicolored mosaic dragon and the tiles. Then we headed to the city center. On the way there, we also saw some other buildings that designed by Gaudí—Casa Batlló, Casa Milà (as known as La Pedrera).
We were dropped off at La Rambla-the most famous street in Barcelona. It connects the Plaça de Catalunya, a busy square, to the Monument a Colom, a tall column erected in honor of Christoffel Columbus. We ate then went to Laurie’s favorite gelato place (Laurie has studied in Barcelona before). La Rambla is a great shopping place, I should’ve shopped there Friday or Saturday but so sad I waited till Sunday and didn’t realize that the shopping malls don’t open on Sundays in Europe!!! On La Rambla, there is also La Boqueria—a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, it has a very diverse selection of goods. We saw candies, fruits, seafood, and meat. I was so excited to see some fresh, alive seafood. I even saw mantis shrimp and razor-shell!! It’s been a long time since I saw them last time. Though I didn’t eat enough seafood in Barcelona, seeing them is enough for me. ☺ We then swung by the Wax Museum but didn’t go in, we did go in the café that next to it and it is pretty cool and special. Finally we got to Monument a Colom, it’s right on the port. There is a big mall on the port as well, we went in and some of us did some shopping in the Desigual store and some got coffee/drinks from the Starbucks there.
I wish I could right down every single place we went to, but it was so much for one day that I couldn’t remember everything. I was also sick right before this trip, by the end of the day I was tired and I was chugging orange juice just to hope I don’t get fever at night and luckily I didn’t.














Barcelona 2/12 Day 2:
• Beach
• La Seu Cathedral
• Ajudament (in Catalán)= City Hall
• Parc Ciutatdella
• Plaça d'Espanya
• National Art Museum of Catalunya
• Olympic Stadium
• Magic Fountain

Day 2 started with a walk to the beach that is close to our hotel. The view was great, but it was a little windy. We found out that Santa Eulalia Festival was actually this weekend. (It is also called La Laia, this festival is held for four days. It is Barcelona’s biggest festival for children)We went to the city center to see the festival. Mike and I swung by La Seu Cathedral, it was amazing inside, as good as other Cathedrals that I’ve seen so far. The first stone of the current church was laid in the 13th center. Then the whole group went into the City Hall, which normally is not open to the public. Inside the City Hall is so artsy, the ceilings in different rooms are so-welled designed. We joked that no wonder the people there don’t want to give up the power. We then went to a place ( I don’t remember what it is called, I know it is a cathedral) where Columbus went to see the Queen when he first got back from South America. The next stop was Parc de la Ciutadella, it is Barcelona’s most central park. The view is great; it has a zoo, a lake, a large fountain and several museums. The Catalan Parliament is also seated at a building in the center of the park. We also saw Arc de Triomf, it is a triumphal arch with colorful brickwork in mudejar style and we took lots of picture there. We then took the metro to Plasa de Espanya which located at the foot of the Montjuïc. The National Art Museum of Catalonia also located on Montjuïc and so is the Olympic Stadium. We got to see both. Oh finally, the magic fountain!! They are gorgeous at night! The foot of Montjuic was blocked because of construction but I managed to take some great pictures!
Some of us went to a restaurant called Agua del Traga Luz, it seats right on the beach. The food was really good but a little bit pricy. We split all the dishes. There is one that I liked the most, rice and Lobster!
















Barcelona 2/13 Day 3:
• La Rambla
• Picasso Musuem. ☹

So my original plan was to go shopping on La Rambla, both clothing and souvenir. But like I said at the beginning, the bigger shopping malls/stores are not open on Sunday!!!! I was so sad. So I just had to move on to souvenir shopping. Oh the festival was still going on on Sunday, we ran into a parade that was going towards the City Hall. I got gelato again and bought a painting of Sagrada Familia and a stone with Gaudi’s multicolor dragon sitting on. Lauren and I split a bag of strawberry tea that we bought from The Tea Shop. The strawberry tea smells so good and it is from China. I didn’t know that there is this kind of tea in China; I guess I’m going to change from green tea to strawberry tea now. We were planning to go to Picasso Museum after 3pm because it is free after that time. But there was a long line when we got to the museum, we then gave up and decided to continue gift shopping then go back to the hotel and enjoy the beach for the rest of the day before we leave for Oviedo.






There is so much to see in Barcelona, I hope I get to come back again and go to the places that I didn’t get to see. And I need to eat Fresh seafood!!

Make sure to click on Photo Gallery, there are more pictures there.

My next trip might be Tenerife. It’s the best place to celebrate Carnival in Spain. Or if I’m not going there, I might be going to Germany then.

Posted by pennyxinru 15:58 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Fall in love with Lisboa, Portugal

Someday I will go back to Portugal

Hi everyone, finally I decided to open up a blog. Now it’ll be so much easier to update my life in Europe. I need catch up with what has happened in this past month. Hopefully I will finish all this weekend. I’m not going anywhere this weekend, just stay in Oviedo and catch up with shopping. ☺ It’s sales season here!

Ok, back to Portugal. Ahh, I love, love this country very much. My crew left on a Friday morning. The flight was at 7:35am, yeah really early. We met up at school around 5:30am and headed to the bus station. We almost missed the bus that goes to the airport because we had no idea where to buy the bus tickets. I like Raeanne’s expression -- we were like chicken with head cut off at the bus station. Haha. Well, we eventually made it to the airport. The layover was 5 hours, not fun. But I slept for the most part. I was up to 2am the night before since I was making traveling plan for the crew and got at 5 in the morning. We finally got to Lisboa in the afternoon. I like our hostel a lot, we had our own room even though it was supposed to be for 8 people. We went to a famous Miradouro (viewpoint) and I was super excited. This is one of the reasons that I love Lisbon, Portugal--I can overlook the entire city, I love that feeling. Friday night we also went to a really fancy dinner and had Bacalhau—cod fish, it’s Portugal’s national fish. Another reason that I love Lisbon, there is seafood! We also listened to Fado—traditional Portuguese music, I really like it.
miradouro de são pedro de alcântara

miradouro de são pedro de alcântara

One of the Fado performer in the restaurant

One of the Fado performer in the restaurant

my Bacalhau

my Bacalhau

Amália Rodrigues--Queen of Fado. I bought her CD!!!

Saturday was full of adventure. We went to the flea market in Alfama and all of us got some goodies. I bought Fado CD, I think the art of a country never dies. Some of us bought scarves. Oh, the tiles!!! Portugal is famous for their tiles. Of course I can’t miss it. My goal of going to the market was to get Fado CD and tiles! We explored Alfama and found another great miradouro. After Alfama we went to St. George Castle, I think it’s one of the most oldest castle in Portugal.
a little part of Alfama

a little part of Alfama

at another Miradouro

at another Miradouro

another one!

another one!

in the castle

in the castle

Portugal’s public transportation is really good and I guess so are other European countries. We took tram to our next destination--Tower Belém. Near where Belém is is the famous pastry shop—Pasteis de Belém. We joked that we went to Portugal just for the pastry. There Pasteis de nata is amazing, I should have ordered more! We were all tired after this so we went back to our hostel and took a nap! Then headed to Bairro Alto—where everyone in Lisbon goes at night. So sad we couldn’t find a place to dance, we learned that the European style of going out is completely different from that in the US (I should realize it when I’m in Spain). Everyone was drinking on the street and the clubs are not going to open until 2am. People don’t go home until 6am. We couldn’t stay up that late even though we really wanted to see the real nightlife in Lisbon.
in front of Belém with the crew!

in front of Belém with the crew!

Sunday was short because we had to catch a flight in the afternoon. We went to this park that is close to the airport, it’s called Parque Das Nações. It sits right on the coast, and the sea is so beautiful. There were so many things in the park that we couldn’t see all. There is an oceanarium, too bad we didn’t have time to see it. Guess what we did in the park, we got more pastries and ice cream! After all these wonderful trips, we headed to the airport.
pasteis de nata with cinnamon and powder suger

pasteis de nata with cinnamon and powder suger

It was not hard to get around in Portugal, most things have English translation and a lot of people can speak English. But knowing Spanish definitely helps, Portuguese still prefers Spanish than English! By the way, I’m impressed by how well I can read the map. I took my crew to all the places, I think I was a pretty good leader for this trip. This is the first time for me (and I believe for most of us as well) to travel with our own plan. It was a good experience and with a lot of freedom. I’ll continue doing it for my trips in the future.

Pictures are coming this weekend.

Chinese version is coming soon.

Next Trip: Feb 10th-14th Barcelona, Spain.


Posted by pennyxinru 13:34 Archived in Portugal Tagged lisbon Comments (2)

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