We made it through security and customs and we are ready to head back to Virginia. I don’t want to go back to the real world. Our week at Ballyfin was debatably the best week of my life thus far, and this summer has been one of the best. I’ll miss shooting skeet with Lionel, our butler, my dad and my uncle. I’ll miss Malcolm the bartender’s informative stories of Irish history. I’ll always remember the undying hospitality of the staff and the culinary perfection that came from the hands of Chef Ryan. I’m so grateful for wonderful Richard and Magdalena who were so ecstatic to have baby cousin Jake there to take care of and play with. It’s hard to fully express my gratitude for all the people who made this week so flawless. I believe that by the end of the week the staff became part of the family, and that’s so special. I can’t believe my European vacation is coming to a close, but I’m so excited to start co-op in New York City.
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Were sitting in the bar listening to an Irish trio: a woman on accordion and a woman on bagpipes while a younger “lad” plays percussion beside them. Olivia, my younger cousin stands and Irish dances along with them. She does a fabulous job, and in turn my mom jokes with the younger percussionist boy to get up and dance his own jig. He stretches, prepares, and rises. All of a sudden his feet start racing, his upper half stiff and focused as his legs pick up in pace. By the end of his dance we’re all in shock. “He’s third in the world,” said the accordion player. Go figure, sure taught my mom a lesson for messing around with a young lad.
Hopefully a video to come… It’s hard to upload while I’m on my mobile. Here are some photos of the trio in the meantime.
I’m finding it hard to describe where exactly we are right now because it doesn’t seem real. We arrived in Ireland yesterday at around noon and were taken by driver from Dublin to Ballyfin, where we were greeted like royalty by three friendly servants… Is this real? I’m finding it hard to write without sounding pompous or something. I’m just trying to write it down to make sure it’s even a reality. My three little cousins ran out of the front door so excited to see us. “We picked the tapestry room for you,” said Olivia. I was overwhelmed walking into castle and still a bit groggy from jetlag, but those feelings quickly dissipated once we started the tour. The entry way is guarded by an Irish elk:
Keep walking and there’s a study-like room with a portrait and plaque honoring Ballyfin’s teen founder Sir Charles Henry Coote:
The grand staircase is in the next room. Sometime this week a historian and Ballyfin expert will come in to tell us all about the people in all these portraits and the history of the place.
A fire constantly burns in the living room which is lined with tall marble columns. As I’m walking around taking photos, I’m in shock. The outdoor terrace looks out onto this gorgeous fountain protected by a statue of a god-like Poseidon looking man.
Our bartender, Malcolm, looks exactly like the actor Denis O’hare and we’ve taken to calling him “Lloyd” like the bartender from The Shining. He’s English and a complete movie buff, so it’s been fun to sit at the bar with him and my uncle who is constantly rattling off various movie quotes. We are on the way ride horses now, but I wanted to blog quickly before we left. More to come!
In less than 24 hours I’ll be headed back to the States. I can’t believe a month has gone by this fast. I have mixed emotions surrounding the departure- on one hand I am so excited to move into my NYC apartment but I know that I will miss Madrid and Salamanca terribly. The energy in Salamanca was invigorating, infectious, perpetually cheerful. I loved that I could scale the city easily and by the end of 2 weeks I felt like I knew how to navigate everything. The cathedral was breathtaking, the plaza at night felt like a movie set. Learning about the historic Salamanca font displayed all over the city and being able to write one of my pieces on the cultural aspect of the font made me feel personally connected to the heart of the city. By the time I left Salamanca I felt that I strengthened a bond with a particular place, a particular culture…
Looking back at all of the hard work from this trip, I feel like I have grown so much personally and professionally. I feel comfortable being aggressive to get the quotes and information that I need. I feel stronger in my opinions, more confident in my writing and my talents. Conducting interviews in Spanish and through translators was frustrating at times- I felt that if I spoke better Spanish or had a translator familiar with my writing style and the quotes I would need for a stellar piece I might have written stronger articles. With that said, I think that my best effort was put into these pieces. I am incredibly thankful for Maria, Mester Maria, Arturo, Danny, Marta, and Alexia for helping me interpret my interviews and work so hard to help me build a great story.
I’ll never forget my first interview in Spain with Jose Ignacio Sanchez when I went right into Salamanca’s Deputacion and conducted a general interview about bullfighting with this gorgeous ex-matador. My heart was racing but I tried to keep my cool so as to not let him smell my fear. This interview started what would be my favorite article of the trip. I felt it right then and there… I was dealt a pretty lucky hand. After that interview it seemed like I was making all of these connections with sources despite the language barrier. I think one of the coolest aspects of this trip was that all of us were able to defeat our nerves and frustrations with the language barrier and push through our endeavors to pull story ideas out of the woodwork and end up with informative, creative stories to be really proud of.
I couldn’t have asked for a better group. After the interview of bullfighter Damian Castaño with Maria and Shandana, we all walked back to Mester just talking about how brilliant the conversation was, and how excited we were to move forward with the bullfighting package full steam ahead. Going to polling locations with Amanda and Carly for our EU Election story was the most cohesive team effort I’ve ever been a part of. The three of us worked productively together and finished the piece in a little over a day. I could not have asked for a more supportive group of talented and driven reporters. I hope that we all stay in touch and maintain our friendships after we leave Spain because I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every one of you over the last month. What a perfect way to start a truly incredible summer.
This morning we visited the RNE, Spain’s national radio, which is pretty much the NPR of Spain. We watched a lively male radio talk show, visited control rooms, and smaller radio rooms which lined the corridors of RNE’s massive building. It was fascinating to see how many different stations and programs were being worked on and how many people were working on these programs. Radio seems to thrive in Madrid in comparison to Salamanca, where we visited a near-empty city radio station. The RNE was much more established and felt like a really great place to work.
TV stations ranging from news talk shows to Spain’s version of E! News were attached to the RNE. We were lucky enough to watch a bit of some of the segments and take photos on the Spanish equivalent of the US E! News set. I really enjoyed this visit… It made me miss my co-op at MSNBC and got me excited to possibly dabble in radio in the future.
Three more full days in Spain… so sad. This time has gone by so fast, I can’t believe that on Tuesday we will all part ways and go on with our summers back in the US. It feels like an alternate universe here- I think it’s going to be difficult to adjust back to US customs and being able to have my iPhone all the time again. I have loved being disconnected from life back home. Experiencing a new place with new friends has been really good for me, I feel like a more confident journalist and person in general. Spain has been comfortable, relaxed, and at the same time perpetually exciting. I’m sad to end my time here with all of my new friends, but I know that going home will allow for a whole new slew of amazing opportunities… And I’ll have this experience to reference and take along with me through all my new adventures.
I cannot believe it- I’ve been published on the Boston Globe!!! When I saw Carlene’s email pop up on my phone saying that the whole bullfighter package made it up on the Travel section of the Globe, I was speechless and jumping up and down in the “real world” apartment with other people in the group. Shandana, Maria and Gina were all there too and we were completely ecstatic. I called my parents to tell them the good news- I couldn’t stop smiling. I feel so lucky and so proud that my work has been recognized. Thanks to Dylan, Carlene and Geoff, the editing process was a breeze and helped IMMENSELY. I am so proud of everyone- we did it!!!!! Check it all out here:
Today we visited Prisa, the largest radio station in Madrid. We sat in on a radio show about recent issues on the streets of Madrid and met Christina who runs the Top 40 station. She was a fashionable young bubbly radio host who was willing to answer questions for Shandana and Carly about their articles having to do with the music industry. Her office overlooked the city and she seemed quite in love with her career. The whole visit inspired me to consider radio as a possible career path. The news radio seemed much more stressful than the Top 40 station… at one point a woman who was just on the air left in an angry rush to fight with the producer in the control room.
Last night we went to El Tigre, an authentic small tapas place where you can get a massive drink and plates of tapas for 6 euros. The croquettes… Sangria… Jamon… Mojitos…. Droooool. I definitely want to go back soon seeing as food has been breaking my bank way too much.
I’m leaving in a few minutes to help Shandana interview a young Spanish rocker from an underground rock group. I’m excited to be able to run around with people and help with their stories now that I’m done with mine. I’m here if anyone needs me!!
I’ve listened to Lana del Rey’s new song >75 times since it came out on May 25th. I know every word now and I sing it all day long which is probably really obnoxious but I don’t really care. There’s something about the ambience that fits effortlessly with my surroundings, the ’50s-esque croon of her voice mimicking the beauty of Madrid. I really didn’t know exactly what to blog about so I decided to start with ‘Shades of Cool’. On Saturday we went to El Escorial, a small old town characterized by an ancient monastery. My favorite parts about the monastery were the catacombs and tombs of past rulers. An underground room made entirely of marble was lined with tombs. I decided to wander away from the group for awhile until Maria met up with me and we explored together. It was nice to take everything in by myself for a bit. I wish we could have taken pictures, but I found some on the internet:
On Saturday night we went to Kapital, this incredible multi-story club. What a blast.
I am finished with all of my pieces! The bullfighting package should be done very soon, we’ve been working so hard on it and I think it’s going to be pretty phenomenal. Maria’s photos are really well done, and what I’ve read of Shandana’s piece is a really wonderful narrative of Spanish bullfights. I’m so proud to say that I’ve been a part of this project, and I can’t wait to show everyone from home once it’s all done!
I fell in love with the Royal Palace of Madrid yesterday. Room after room of extravagant chandeliers, high ceilings painted with intricate frescoes by famous Spanish painters, and ancient clocks made by King Charles the IVth… unbelievable. My favorite room was Asian-themed- the ceiling was covered in purple, green and deep red porcelain vines. The walls were patterned with the same colors… the vibe was sensual and warm. We could not take pictures there, but here are some that I found online.
The dining room could seat 150 at its long rectangular table. The King and Queen would usually pack the entire table.
The throne room, the last stop on our tour, was everything I expected from royalty: large, gold lions protecting red velvet upholstered chairs and gold accents all over the room.
Many of the frescoes were based on mythological sins and such, which I thought was interesting since Spain has a primarily Catholic history. I loved the Royal Palace, and I love Madrid. I can’t wait to continue exploring!