It has been a very long time since my last post. I got so busy with traveling, planning trips, showing my friends around Barcelona, and of course, school that I didn’t get the chance to post sooner. I will warn you now, this is going to be a lengthy post.
First off, school picked up so fast in November. It just flew by, but this might’ve been because I was so busy with other things. Toward the end of the month my semester projects were due, my classes ended, and some courses completely came to an end. Beginning December I no longer had any classes. Exams began on the 9th but mine didn’t start until the 15th so I took this opportunity to travel. Yes, I know that I should’ve spent those two weeks studying, but the way I saw it, I might never return to Europe so I had to make my time count. I returned from my travels just in time forrrrrrrrr MY BIRTHDAY!!! (the 10th). I went out for tapas and drinks with some of my closest friends that I made during my stay.
The next day I began studying and then had 3 days of hardly any sleep. Exams in Spain, or Europe I should say, are somewhat different. For one, they do guess correction like on the SAT’s, so you can’t just answer every question unless you actually have some idea of what the answer is. Second, you are encouraged, if not required to use a pen to bubble in your scantron. Lastly, the scantrons are so difficult to understand unless they are explained. Each question has two rows for you to bubble in. If you want to change your first choice, you bubble in the same letter on the second row and then bubble in your new choice on the first row.
After my exams were over I took one last trip to the south of Spain, and then came back for my last two days in Barcelona. My host family was so sweet and had a going away lunch for us in the form of a typical Catalonian Christmas meal. For my last two days I did some shopping, revisited my favorite spots, ate my favorite foods, and said goodbye to my dear friends.
After many failed attempts to visit Montserrat, we finally made it happen. Katrina and I went with Gerard, a good friend we made from Barcelona. Because we arrived later than planned, we didn’t get to do as much as we would have liked, but we still hiked a bit, saw the monastery, ate mato amb mel, and got a small history lesson from Gerard. This mountain is technically not in Barcelona but it’s an easy hour train ride away and many people from Barcelona go visit it.
There were many attractions that I hadn’t completely seen because I wanted to save them for when my friends visited. In the span of two weeks I had 3 different sets of friends visit. Planning their stay and exploring the city with them was the most exhausting thing ever, but I enjoyed it so much. During my friends’ stay I saw the inside of Sagrada Familia, the entire grounds of Park Güell, went to Castell de Montjuïc, Bunkers del Carmel, el Parc del Laberint, Palau Güell, and revisited other popular sites. I must say, after they left I felt quite homesick. I was surprised that I had already made it through the majority of my stay, and I felt homesick.
In one of my classes I met Anna, a nice and caring girl from Vienna, Austria. We became close friends and took a day trip to Colonia Güell. When I visit places I usually go informed but I hadn’t done any research on this place and I am glad I didn’t. When we got off the train we met a little old lady that gave us some history on the town, which by the way I didn’t realize that the attraction was the whole town in its entirety. Before she parted ways she made sure to tell us to have coffee at her favorite café. The audio tour took us around the entire town. I was amazed because it was such an unorthodox attraction. The colony was created to house the workers of the textile factory owned by the Güell family. Mr. Güell made sure to take good care of their workers and provided a school, a cinema, and the well-known church built by the modernist, Gaudi. Even though the town is about an hour train ride from the center of Barcelona I highly recommend it.
One thing I didn’t want to leave Europe without doing was ictiotherapy. This is the infamous fish pedicure. Now I know that it’s a kind of disturbing idea to have fish nibble at your dry skin, and that many think it is unhygienic, but it’s something I may never be able to do again. It was really awkward at first, especially because I’m highly ticklish and couldn’t help but laugh, but then it became quite relaxing. I don’t know if I would do it again, but I wouldn’t be opposed.
Christmas time in Barcelona is truly amazing. The streets are adorned with Christmas lights, and Christmas markets fill the city. In the gothic quarter you can come across beautiful nativities and different organizations caroling. They even set up a skating rink in the middle of Plaza Catalunya.
Two weeks after my friend Frankie visited Barcelona I went to visit him in Paris. Paris was very different than what I had envisioned, to say the least. I always thought it would be a quaint and peaceful town filled with beauty and romance. While I did love my visit, it was actually a very large metropolitan city that was anything but romantic. Luckily I didn’t go there with my beau looking for romance, because if I had, I’m afraid I would’ve been disappointed. I found people in Paris to be very cold and independent, which worked out just fine for me as I was exploring the city by myself for the most part. The city is really dirty in comparison to Spain and the poverty level is so high. While I was there I visited the Notre Dame, the Picasso Museum, the Orsay Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, the Royal Palace, the Rodin Museum, the Luxemburg Gardens, the Tuileries Gardens, La Saint Chapelle, the Louvre, the love lock bridge, Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur, and of course the Eiffel tower. Yes, to say I walked a lot is an understatement. In the Louvre alone I walked for 2 hours, which is actually nothing when you consider how enormous it is. Paris has so many museums and the best part is that they are free to students under 25. I never actually paid for a single thing except for food and a lock to leave behind on the bridge. What I loved the most that I could take away from this experience was to be able to order food in French. I must confess I had atleast one nutella and banana crepe every day that I was there. Before I left I told the owners of my favorite creperie that their crepes were my favorite. The pride in their smile was unforgettable.
I also made a day trip to the city of Versailles to see the palace. The palace was huge beyond words and had an even bigger garden. I walked around the garden with my friend and enjoyed a Panini by the pond. My only regret was not being able to spend more time there, so I recommend you arrive early and stay until close.
My most spontaneous trip was that to the province of Girona. My friend Anna I spoke about earlier invited me to join her on a day trip to the city of Girona, Besalú, and Figueres. Girona is a historic town once known as Girona the gray because of all the old gray buildings. It was later renovated and made colorful with historic colonial colors. Figueres is the birth town of the great Salvador Dali, and home to the Dali Museum. The town has a really relaxing atmosphere and the museum is so bizarre & interesting. Besalú is an extremely small yet beautiful town rich with culture. It is the perfect little town to get lost in.
My most awaited for trip was the one to Rome, and Florence. I would be staying in both cities for 3 days. In Rome I saw all the popular sites, Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’’Angelo, Piazza Spagna, Villa Borghese, Galleria Borghese, Capitoline Hill, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Venezia, the Imperial Forum, the Roman Forum, the Colossuem, you name it. I admit my favorite part was meeting strangers in St. Peter’s and having pizza for dinner with them. I also had some of the best lasagna in my life, right in front of the Vatican Museum. Villa Borghese was also amazing. It is the largest public landscape park in Rome, covering 148 acres. I wish there was something like it in Texas.
Next up was Florence, to visit my friend Valeria a month after she had visited me in Barcelona. On my first night there she and her roommates had a small get together at their flat with some of their closest friends. I had a blast with them and they were so welcoming. My friend was kind enough to plan my whole stay and showed me the Battistero, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Campanile di Giotto, the Galleria dell’Accademia, Santa Croce, the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Pitti, the Giardino Boboli, the San Miniato al Monte basilica, and the Piazzale Michelangiolo. We started off the day with great pastries, had some of the best pizza for only 7 euros right by Palazzo Pitti, and strolled through the Christmas market enjoying some mouth-watering gelato. Some of her friends were kind enough to have us over for an Italian/Nigerian mashup dinner. The best part of the trip, she planned for us to take a fiat and vespa tour around the town and to the heart of the Chianti wine region. It was so relaxing and liberating to be on a vespa. It was the most amazing feeling. For dinner we went to a really popular restaurant, where I had a steak sampler that included a blueberry steak, a regular steak, and a balsamic steak followed by tiramisu and accompanied by wine. It was by far my favorite meal in Europe. Then later that night we went to secret bakery. Some bakeries start baking in the middle of the night to make pastries that will fill up the shelves of the city’s cafés the next day. If you can find them you can buy fresh pastries for 1 euro. The next day we went to the leather market and then headed for Pisa to see the leaning tower. Before leaving I made sure to grab a panino at my friends favorite spot.
South of Spain:
As my last trip, and a trip I thought I was not going to be able to do, I went to Sevilla and Granada. From the very start I wanted to go to Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for the latter. Sevilla was quite small and the main attractions were the Cathedral along with the Giralda tower, the Alcazar, the Metropol Parasol, Plaza de España, the Basilica de la Macarena, and the neighborhood of Santa Cruz. Although at first I thought that this town would be my favorite of the three, because of its small size, it was not.
To my surprise I liked Granada, the biggest of them, the best. In the very first attraction, the Cathedral, I met a girl from Colombia named Andrea. We got along great and decided to explore the city together. We saw the Monestario de San Jeronimo, went to the silk market of Alcaiceria, and walked through the streets of the Albaycin and Sacromonte neighborhoods. These two neighborhoods are rich with Moorish culture and have many viewing points of the city and the Sierra Nevada. We stopped for lunch there at a famous restaurant known for their snails. Yes, that’s right. I ate snails. They actually weren’t bad and reminded me of shrimp, or maybe crawfish. Before it got dark, we bumped into a group of maybe 10 guys that were having drinks with a bar owner right outside the bar. We began talking to them and before you know it we spent the entire night having drinks and tapas in different spots around the city. The next day I finally go tot see the long awaited for, Alhambra. You have to purchase tickets to this world heritage site at least two weeks before, and maybe even a month if it’s tourist season. Andrea had already planned to go to Sierra Nevada that day so I went alone, but before leaving I met two guys from Mallorca. I joined them to have tapas for dinner, and then off I was to catch a plane back to Barcelona.
I had an amazing time in Barcelona, and in Europe in general. The only thing I did not like was the university. They are not very well organized and so I struggled with things that I don’t think I should’ve or would have under different circumstances. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to travel abroad and meet such wonderful people. It definitely opened my eyes and sparked in me the desire to travel more and discover the world. Goodbye Europe! Adéu Barcelona! We shall be reunited some day, I am sure of it.
I will provide the link to my dropbox again.