Touring Toledo with a Tourist Bracelet

I had been in Madrid for 3 weeks when three of my new friends and I decided it was time to get out and explore Spain a bit. We chose to travel to Toledo for a day trip on the first Saturday in October. Toledo is only a 30ish minute train ride from Madrid, a great place to getaway for a day or two.

We didn’t research the Toledo card enough, and ended up buying the pulsera touristica (tourist bracelet) in town for the day and it ended up being a good number of places to see in one day for our group. The 8 euro bracelets include entrance into 6 popular Toledo sites and are available at tourist booths in the city. You do save money as each place is about 2.5o each.

Check out this website for detailed descriptions of the 6 sites. The videos provide info about the fascinating  history and architecture of each building. http://www.toledomonumental.com/pulsera-turistica/

We chose to eat a leisurely lunch and walk and shop a bit around the city with our extra time. However, I’m sure you could also fit the famous Toledo Cathedral and Alcazar fortress into your day trip as well, both well worth seeing. And be sure to catch a late train so that you’re able to see the sun set over the city, one of my favorite parts of the trip.

I’d advise that you check out the Toledo city discount cards available to see if one is the best deal for you. There are ones that even include the train ticket from Madrid! We only saw other price combinations discounts once we got to Toledo, and many of those included guided tours (which we weren’t interested in). So I recommend that you buy a discount card online or in Madrid before you go. http://www.toledocard.com

We booked our train tickets through www.goeuro.com for a reasonable price.

Also, if you’re interested in staying the night in town, check out this hostel. http://juventud.jccm.es/sanservando/en/index.html              I haven’t stayed there, but would like to soon. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a converted castle! And it overlooks the city so you can get great sunset and night pictures of the city.

Crossing the bridge into Toledo

Crossing the bridge into Toledo

 

        After buying our tourist bracelets at a booth in the city plaza, we followed the marked map route in order across town.  Photo post ahead!

 -Cristo de la Luz Mezquita-

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-Iglesia de los Jesuitas-

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View from upstairs

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Be sure to climb the bell tower. Lots of steps, but it’s worth it!

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-Iglesia del Salvador-  

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View from the bell tower

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-Iglesia de Santo Tomé- (unfortunately pictures weren’t allowed inside)                                                                                                                                                      

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-San Juan de los Reyes Monasterio- (my personal favorite place of the day!)

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-Santa Maria la Blanca-

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~And just a few of my favorite pics from around town~

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Goodnight Toledo!

My life here in Madrid

Alright, I’m going to answer some of the questions that were in a previous post about several aspects of my life and what they look like here in Madrid.

 

1. What will my daily schedule at the school look like? 

I work 16 hours a week, approximately from 9-2, Monday-Thursday. I work with two 4th grade teachers and their students. For a few weeks I also taught a class of 6 year olds, 2 hours a week. And the auxiliars also help with an after school English class once a week.  (more details on my life as an assistant later)

2. Which transportation system will I use?

Its about a 12 min walk from my apartment to the huge bus station of Plaza de Castilla. From there I go underground to the ALSA interurbano busses (the green ones). I catch the 8:00 am bus most days and it’s a 30-45 min trip to my school’s town north of Madrid. I use my abono transportation card,  which covers all of my transportation needs.

3. How will I budget my income? 

Now that I’m finally settled in my apartment, my expenses are starting to be more regulated. I’m still figuring out budgeting, but hope to be more disciplined with it soon. I will say that my rent, transportation pass, and food expenses are all able to be covered by my monthly income. I now plan to use my savings only for traveling costs.

4. What kind of phone will I get?

I did end up getting a Spanish phone here. I have a fairly simple android phone with a monthly prepaid plan that’s cheap.

5. Where will I live and with whom? 

I now live in the area of Chamartín, very close to Plaza de Castilla. This is in the northern part of the city of Madrid. This area is best for me because I’m close to the bus that goes to my school’s city a few minutes north of the city. It takes me about 20-30 min to get to the center of Madrid by riding the Metro. I live with two Spanish girls who work full time and also take classes. They know some English so that’s helpful. 🙂

Plaza de Castilla, Madrid

Plaza de Castilla, Madrid

6. How often will I travel?

Good question, not sure of the answer. I hope to use several 3 day weekends to explore cities in Spain. With the few 4 day weekends, I plan to see a couple of cities out of the country. I am planning to travel all during Christmas break, we get off about 2 1/2 weeks. I’ll be heading to 4 European cities during that time!

7. Will it be easy to make friends?

I’m going to go ahead and say no, it hasn’t been easy. In some sense I’ve met lots of people at my school and other auxiliars in the program, but as far as a steady friend base, still working on that one. I think being in a city this huge, where we’re all spread out so much, doesn’t help the situation.

8. What church & ministry opportunities will be available?

So far I’ve visited a couple of English speaking churches and a Spanish speaking one as well. I went to a missional living retreat last weekend with a church here. We talked about the definition of culture, what is culture shock and dealing with it, the missional lifestyle, prayer, our social groups, “mapping” where we live, and service opportunities. It was a great weekend of learning.

9. How quickly will my Spanish improve?

Yeah, I’m not sure there is an answer to this question… I’ve been fairly pleased so far with my survival skills in Spanish, especially during the housing hunt. And strangers will come up to me speaking Spanish, so I guess I look like a native speaker here, haha. But I want to continue to improve my Spanish skills, especially those verbs and tenses. I’m hoping to do some intercambios (language exchanges) soon and crack open that Spanish grammar book that I brought with me.

2 months in Spain!

Yeah, it’s time for an update! Here’s a timeline of a few highlights of my time here so far.

 

September 13th – Arrived in Madrid

September 14th – Moved into temporary housing #1

September 26th – Moved into temporary housing #2

September 29th – Found an apartment room & made decision to stay in temporary housing until room became available Oct 31st

October 1st – First day at work/school as an Auxiliar de Conversación

October 4th – Day trip to Toledo, Spain

San Juan de los Reyes Monastery in Toledo, Spain

San Juan de los Reyes Monastery in Toledo, Spain

October 5th – Moved into temporary housing #3

October 6th – Signed a contract for an apartment room (lease to begin on 31st)

October 18th – Scavenger hunt in Madrid

October 20th – Evan Craft concert

October 25th – Day trip to Segovia, Spain

Cathedral in Segovia, Spain

Cathedral in Segovia, Spain

October 26th – Moved into temporary housing #4

October 31st – Finally moved into my apartment room!

The 2 week countdown!

2 weeks till I leave for Spain. What?! That’s crazy! After dreaming and planning this move for at least a year it’s now only 14 days away!

It truly feels like I’m stepping into so much unknown. There are lots of things to take care of these last few days and to get set up during my first few days there. I’m about ready to start focusing on packing.

 

So many questions about what my life will be like once I’m there. I’m looking forward to seeing what the answers will be.

 

What will my daily schedule at the school look like?

Which transportation system will I use?

How will I budget my income?

What kind of phone will I get?

Where will I live and with whom?

How often will I travel?

Will it be easy to make friends?

What church & ministry opportunities will be available?

How quickly will my Spanish improve?

 

I tend to be on the perfectionist side so I struggle some with letting go of things that I can’t control or plan out. Being a teacher for the last 3 years has helped me understand that it’s okay to just go with the flow at times. I had to learn that God is ultimately in charge and I can’t control everything. I have a feeling I’ll be doing some more of that learning real soon.

Also, as an introvert, I hate awkward situations. I’m sure I’ll be having those on a daily basis dealing with some culture shock at first. Having conversations in a foreign language is kinda intimidating. Yes, it may turn out to be nerve wracking, but I guess that’s the thrill of it all. The highs and lows of so many emotions and experiences will prove to be quite the interesting year I’m sure. So here’s to counting down the days.

Now pardon me while I go work on my seemingly never ending to-do list. I’m liking how my excitement grows as my to-do list shrinks. 😀

 

Why Spain? Why now? Why not?

So why am I going to Spain?    Why leave my town and teaching job after 3 whole years?

Here are some of the reasons I’ve come up with to explain:

#1 It’s Spain (need I say more?)

I think that the Spanish language is pretty awesome otherwise I wouldn’t have majored in it or decided to teach it! But there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world, and I’ve only been to 3 of them. Turns out I’m really excited about getting a chance to improve my language skills in the place where Spanish originated, the mother land of the language! And I’ll be able to see for myself many of the things I studied about in my culture and literature classes in college. Spain has so much to offer, including history, architecture, art, and beautiful scenery!

#2 It will help my career and my worldview.

Being in Spain will obviously help my Spanish fluency. This would of course make me a better Spanish teacher if I decide to come back to that. There is a really high need for foreign language and bilingual teachers, especially in Texas. But it’s my hope that I’m eventually able to work in the study abroad field. I’d specifically like to help college students go abroad. So the more experience I have abroad, especially long term, the better.

But no matter what job I have in the future, even a wife and mother someday, I believe God calls us to have a global view of the world. It’s too easy to get caught up in our own little worlds wherever we live. So of course going abroad opens your eyes to seeing people and their cultures in a different light. The best way to learn about a place and its people is to go there. I’m looking forward to learning about the ways people live and getting a front row seat to their languages and culture.

#3 An opportunity is available.

This program that I’m in is such a great opportunity to go abroad. I’ll be working part time as an English language and culture assistant in a bilingual Spanish school. Teaching English is a really great way to live abroad, and I will only be working part time with a decent stipend, health insurance, and every vacation day that the school gets. Trust me, I’ve done the research, there really aren’t a lot of programs like this in Spain or in western Europe (as far as I know). And yes, I have teaching experience but plenty of others in the program don’t and are just fine. I was able to apply to the program, accept my assignment, and turn in my paperwork within a reasonable amount of time and without too much hassle. Others have not been so fortunate this year. I will be in Madrid and Spain with hundreds of other assistants, and we’re already in contact online, helping each other out with information. I’m technically going by myself but there are plenty others in the same boat.

#4 Just because I can.

I don’t mean to say that flippantly. I’m just saying that it’s a good time in my life. I’m single and unattached at this point. I have the freedom to go where my interests lead me. I’m now in my upper 20s and it already feels like the longer I wait, the harder it is to leave friends, family, and job. It’s cliché, but it really is easier to do something like this when you’re young. Countless people once they’ve heard what I’m doing, have congratulated me and said that they wished they’d done something similar before they got older and life got in the way.  I’ve even had perfect strangers say “good for you!” and “way to go!” What an encouragement to go ahead with my plans.

I’m also financially able to go at this time in my life. I made a point of paying off my school loans before going overseas for such a long period of time. I know that everyone is not able to do that, but for me it was a very smart decision that worked out. Even on a teacher’s salary, I’ve been able to save money for my move abroad. You can do it too!

So there you have it, 4 great reasons! Maybe some of these resonate with you as well. Have you always wanted to live abroad or even just take a trip? What steps could you take now to make that dream a reality? If you’re have a hard time making that decision, don’t rush it. I’d like to suggest reading this: http://newlifecs.net/stories-new-life-making-decisions/   In this article, Andrew really breaks down a lot of the thought processes that I went through while making this big decision. He recommends 4 things:  Believing the Bible, Listening to Godly counsel, Doing what you want, and Praying for faith.

And now I’ll end with some encouraging quotes.

“Someday is now.” – Gaddy Bergmann

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain

“There are only 7 days in the week & “someday” is not one of them.” – Rita Chand 

 

Spanish from my college days

 

Inspiring Travel Quotes

If you happen to search on Google or even look on Pinterest, the phrases “travel inspiration” or “travel quotes,” will show you dozens of results. There are a wide variety of quotes out there, but I’d like to share some of my favorites  with this post.

Hope you enjoy!

travel on

  •  “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”- Ibn Battuta
  • “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” – John A. Shedd
  • The world looks different from a different perspective. – Unknown
  •  “My favorite thing to do is to go to where I’ve never been.” – Diane Arbus
  •  “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

everywhere on my list

  •  “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller
  •  “We understood that if we were going to make a difference, our lives were going to be different.” – Marilee Pierce-Dunker
  •  “We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps” – Proverbs 16:9
  •  “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.” – Hillsong United
  • “We travel not to escape life, but for life to not escape us.” –Unknown
  •  “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Scott Cameron
  • “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
  • “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
  •  “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

to-travel-is-to-evolve

  •  “Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” – Francis Bacon
  • “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”             – Anthony Bourdain
  • “Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin
  • Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – Mark Twain

see the world

 

 

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog!

 In case you hadn’t heard, I will be working in Spain for the upcoming school year and plan to share on here about my experiences and travels there.

 It has been a long waiting process since my initial application in January to the North American Language and Culture Assistant program through Spain’s Ministry of Education. Things are finally starting to come together for my year as a teacher’s assistant in classes that are taught in English. I have been assigned to an elementary school in a smaller city to the north of the capital city of Madrid!

 I hope to post frequently on here with information and details about Spanish, Spain, and teaching and traveling in general.

 Thank you for reading!

 Andrea