Twitter / StephAntoinette

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One beautiful thing about Madrid is that love is all around. You see it everywhere you go...couples kissing, holding hands without a care in the world. I feel that we may be more reserved in the US, but why? If you love someone, you show it. The couples here want to show off their love, they do not care who is looking. Today I saw a couple on the metro that could not keep their hands off each other. You feel weird looking, but at the same time it reminds you how wonderful love really is. I'm a fool for love. Those of you who know me are smiling right now. But I think its beautiful, I think that everyone should have love in their lives.

I've been here for a month now, and I haven't seen my host parents kiss, nor hug...they have not shown the tiniest display of affection. It saddens me. They do not kiss when they arrive home from work, they do not hold hands when we go out. Their only love is for their daughters, but its truly a shame. It's a shame that what bonds you are your children and your children alone. I would never wish this upon anyone. It seems so weird to me, almost as if they were just room mates. Not even a kiss on the cheek!

My parents kiss each other and hug each other when one leaves for work, or comes home from work. I know that my sister and I are not the only things keeping them together. They have been married for 25 years, and the spark is still there. My mom could not live without my dad and my dad could not live without my mom. Their love always gives me hope that someday I will find that kind of love. Ever since I was a little girl I've had this fascination with fairy tales and Prince Charming. I guess every girl does. But others are more grounded than me. When I fall for someone I fall really hard, and I often end up hurt. Its hard not to give yourself away when you are so incredibly happy. No one ever thinks that it could end wrong. But you know what, I'd rather love fully and completely than put up walls and never get hurt. That pain you feel reminds you that you're alive. That what you felt was real. So I'll keep believing in fairy tales, and I'll wait for my Prince.

"A life without love is no life at all"


Friday, July 10, 2009

So here I am...Friday night...6 days left in Madrid.

I have not thought of a theme for this blog, nor do I have any idea what I wish to write about, so I'll call this a free writing blog.

I keep having trouble sleeping here. I'm not quite sure what it is, I can honestly say my best night of sleep was in Barcelona. All other nights I have struggled to fall asleep, I end up falling asleep around 3am every morning. I hate having to depend on sleep aids, but at times I reach for my tylenol pm. I guess during the day I do so many things, and I'm always focusing on something, that at night when my head hits the pillow I begin to think. I love thinking, but once I start I can't stop. One subject leads to another and then another. Last night I thought about my dog Cohen. He's almost 2 years old, a wonderful yellow lab that has brought me more happiness than anyone could even imagine. I thought about Cohen, and dogs in general because my mother phoned me to tell me about something that had happened to one of our dogs at home. Jazzie is a 15 year old miniature poodle. She has been with us the longest, and we love her dearly. Jazzie suffered a stroke about a week and a half ago, but my mother refrained from telling me due to the fact that I am so far away from home. Jazzie was taken to the vet, and he told my mother what had occurred. The vet said that she would be sort of paralyzed for a couple of days or even weeks, but he told my mom to please not give up on her. Some dog owners think this is the end for their dog, and choose to put them to sleep. But my loving mother has cared for Jazzie day in and day out. Trying to get her to drink water, trying to comfort her, staying awake at night to ease her pain. Well thankfully Jazzie is now drinking alone, and after about a week she finally ate! This shows that with a lot of love and patience we can endure many things. I know my mother must be going through a lot, but this act of kindness only further proves what an angel she truly is.

When I thought about my mother and Jazzie, I immediately thought of Cohen. Dogs are wonderful animals, they give you all the love in this world. You get further and further attached, but unfortunately dogs do not have long lives. This saddens me. Cohen is only 2 years old and I can not wait to have him around longer and build more memories and make him part of my life, but like Jazzie...all dogs grow old. Dog lovers are courageous, they know the canine's life span, yet they still choose to have a dog, and make them part of the family. One thing I love about Cohen is taking him out on the street. Sometimes we go to Starbucks and sit outside. You can not even begin to imagine how he tends to bring a smile upon everyone's face. I love watching this! The frustrated executives, the stressed out students, the hard core YMCA goers... they all stop for a minute and just smile. Cohen has no idea how powerful his sad puppy face can truly be.

These days it seems as though its harder to make someone smile. I ride the Madrid subway almost everyday, and I could count the smiles I've seen with the fingers on my hands. I try to smile at people as often as possible, but they can't seem to smile back. I remember a couple of years ago walking around somewhere and an old man stopped me and told me to smile. He was right, and I still think about that day. No matter what is going on, no matter how late we are running to that meeting, or how stressed we are at work...just smile. I promise it helps.

I keep wondering what Charlotte will be like when I get home. I know I've only been gone a month but I have this feeling that things will change. Maybe not because things have actually changed, but because I've changed. My family and I have so many wonderful things ahead of us. My sister and I will be living together this year. It is sort of like a second chance to relive my childhood. This is my last year of college, that is truly one thing I can not believe. And it is one more thing that proves that time really does fly.

Another one of those thoughts that came to mind last night was about the future. I have no idea what's going to happen next. Its really truly amazing when you think about it. At times I get scared, who will I be? Where will I live? Will I be happy? But you must realize that these questions will not be answered. That you must enjoy the ride and everything that comes with it. That you can only plan to a certain extent, and at times you must let go and leave things to fate. So I'll leave you with this quote:

"Life is about the journey, not the destination"


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I’m not quite sure if everyone has this sort of intuition, but you know that feeling when you meet someone and you just know if you’re going to like them or not? I can’t explain it, nor can I even begin to understand how it all works, but these sorts of intuitions always seem to occur in my life.

This weekend I went to Barcelona. I rode the AVE train…Alta Velocidad. This new revolutionary train reaches speeds up to 300 km per hour…or roughly 180 mph. It was amazing. I was truly impressed by this train. A usual 9 hour ride was only two hours and forty five minutes. The AVE has impressed Obama as well, in recent articles, he has talked about trying to bring such a system to the United States. This would be incredible in my opinion. It is truly better than a plane…no need to arrive 2 hours early…you must be there at least 2 minutes before and you’re good to go. No need to pack your liquids in a small plastic bag… bring whatever you want. No identification needed, leave your passport at home. The seats are bigger and recline more, they play movies and have a cafeteria where you can buy bocadillos de jamon! It was wonderful!

I arrived in Barcelona on Saturday morning. For those of you who do not know, I was visiting Ana Reyes, one of my mother’s friends from her childhood. I had never met Ana, only through emails and short telephone calls had I gotten to know her…but none of this mattered. On the train I realized that this was sort of unusual. Arriving in a city and meeting up with someone you had never met. This had never crossed my mind…which is where the whole intuition thing comes into play. I can’t begin to express what I felt when I finally hugged Anita at the station. She has this warmth to her that would bring a smile to anyone’s face. When I was with her I felt as though anything could happen and I would be ok. Like the world could end but being with Anita would save me. She’s an angel on earth, and if you don’t believe me simply take the AVE to Barcelona and you can experience it all for yourself. I only spent two days in Barcelona with Anita, but when I left I felt like I had known her my entire life. I truly believe that people are brought into your life for a purpose…well Anita has become a second mother to me. I feel like she could keep my secrets and never judge a word I say. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky to have been able to spend time with her.

Not only is she an angel, but Anita is a wonderful tour guide! We visited the important touristy parts of Barcelona. Walking down Las Ramblas was a great experience! It was filled with tourists captivated by all Las Ramblas had to offer. Then we walked into the most amazing market. The fruits, the vegetables, the seafood…it was all so beautiful and so colorful that you could spend a day just eyeing every piece. Although the heat was miserable, we kept walking in order to gain our lunch. We walked to this harbor filled with sailboats, it was truly amazing. Finally we arrived to the restaurant which was right on the harbor. I’m glad to say Anita loves food just as much as I do. We ordered arroz negro… the most delicious meal I have ever had in my life. Arroz negro is like a type of paella, rice and seafood…expect for the negro part. The rice gets its black color from squid ink. It has the most amazing taste, that words could never describe. I do not remember exactly how long we were at lunch for, but if it had not been so hot I’m sure we could have talked until sundown. We left the restaurant with happy stomachs and walked a while more until we reached our dessert destination…GELATO! I had coconut of course, Anita had piƱa colada…both delicious. We walked through this mall and then sat on the dock to watch what Anita calls… “the rats of the sea”.

After almost melting into the dock we decided to head home for a shower and siesta so we could go out later at night. I arrived at my bed and breakfast and felt like I had just gotten home. This place is amazing. Amiga Barcelona is run by a very nice lady named Margarita. She purchased a couple of apartments and put them all together to have her beautiful bed and breakfast. This place is so cozy! Filled with books and balconies, paintings and old bottles of wine. ( ) I had a wonderful nap and took a shower to get refreshed and met up with Anita later that night.

We walked around Barcelona, which is beautiful at night. I saw Gaudi’s famous architecture, which really impressed me. Its amazing how buildings that long ago were built to such perfection. When they did not have the machinery and technology we have today. After the architecture we walked into a dangerous area of the city…yes dangerous. Louis Vuittion, Chanel, Cartier, Gucci, Prada…were all there waiting for us to drool on their window displays. We must have spent 30 minutes in front of Chanel. Anita and I have a lot in common…we love shoes, handbags, and watches…well and a lot more of course! We got a little hungry and had tapas for dinner…delicious!!!!! I’m going to miss the Spanish cuisine. Anita told me stories of her life and her travels, she is a wonderful story teller…something I must work on! Then we walked home (passed Chanel again) and right as I got to Amiga Barcelona I passed out!

The next morning I woke up to find the most amazing breakfast. Margarita prepares the breakfast area with such detail. All types of bread and cookies, 7 different types of honey, nuts, granola, jam, cereal, tea…she set the table with the cutest dinnerware. I had to try everything! I played around with the honey and loved every single one. I had a croissant with nutella and some home made granola which was delicious! After filling my face at breakfast I realized it was time to get ready to meet up with Anita.

Anita and I rode the metro a lot in Barcelona…yes it is a wonderful form of transportation BUT the most important part of the metro is the air conditioning. We even thought about spending the day just riding the metro up and down. We visited the gothic part of Barcelona, where they say Jews lived during a certain time. If Anita would not have told me this, I would have realized it by myself at the moment when we encountered Israeli tourists speaking in Hebrew and pointing out every detail of the place. We entered in every store with air conditioning…this makes everything so much better. I must have taken 200 pictures during this trip. We returned to Las Ramblas and had more tapas for lunch. This was truly a delicious trip overall…I can not complain about the meals! The best part of the meals however had to have been the company and conversation. I have learned so much about Anita, and she has learned so much about me. These meals are what bonded us even more. We grew tired and hot and decided to nap before it was time to return to the train station. I packed my things and took a little siesta and spoke with Margarita for a while. She is a wonderful lady, I did not feel like I was at some hotel, I really felt home. Anita and I met up and took the metro to the renfe station. It was sad to say goodbye, but I remembered one thing. My first day in Barcelona Anita made me drink out of this fountain in the street. I took a sip and then she told me that legend says (and it has been proven many times) that if you drink from this fountain you will return to Barcelona. So we said our goodbyes (for now) because we both know we will see each other again. It was truly an amazing trip, the highlight of my European adventure. So thank you Anita!