In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Motion.”
I must say that this week’s photo challenge is aptly chosen. Literally, the ball is in motion, and I can’t believe how fast my experience abroad has gone by! 1 week left before I return to the states… will I continue blogging on this site, or create a new blog? I have not yet decided. When inspiration strikes, I truly do enjoy sharing a post or two with you.
So, If I decided to write a post about my spring break, it would probably take as long as my vacation to write it. And let me tell you, this “break” was no vacation but a marathon of traveling. Let me paint a picture: 6 countries in 11 days. That old adage there is no sleep for the weary or wicked is true. There is no sleep (or rest) for the student traveler. Nevermind, that wherever I went, the rain came too.
That said, my immune system suffered dearly.
So, I have decided to sum my experience up for you with two photos from each city.
Prague, Czech Republic
Highlight: Easter Market in Old Town and Public Works of “Art”
Highlight: The Holocaust Memorial almost brought me to tears, and the Doner Kebab
Highlight: Van Gogh Museum, the Heinken Experience Canal Cruise, The Atmosphere and STROOPWAFEL
Highlight: With only three short hours, it would have to be the strawberry and banana waffle with warm chocolate drizzled over it. It was devoured before I remembered to take a photo.
Highlight: I return to the city of lights! Loved the Musee d’Orsay- filled with impressionist masterpieces by Claude Monet and spectacular sculptures, Versailles, and of course, the Macaroons from Laduree!
So what was my favorite city? It’s a toss up. But, I would have to say Amsterdam because it is like nothing I have ever seen before. It’s like an adult fantasyland with idyllic homes and calming canals while all sorts of debauchery and fun are encouraged. Where else in the world can you hit up a coffee shop then indulge in the secrets of the red light district? No where.
But please, I wish Spring Break 2015 never came to an end. It was long and short at the same time. An exhausting whirlwind of new experiences. I loved every minute of it!
Now, I have returned to the grind, with finals week and my return home rapidly approaching the horizon. Oh my!
Paris is for lovers. Scratch that. Paris is for rich people. Nothing in that city is affordable. I guess, I can’t expect the fashion capital of the world to be inexpensive. But, fashion of the capital of the world did Paris prove. And beautiful. Now, the real story of interest is our mode of transportation to France. My mother came to visit me for almost 2 weeks as a part of birthday celebration for me and her. We are both pisces, and somehow the same person. She decided I should experience traveling on a train. So we took the Renfe from Barcelona-Sants to a station just inside France. It was comfortable. It had a dining car; we were given headphones, and it even had charging ports. I could deal with this. We had a 45 minute wait at this station until our train to Paris came. At 8:45, an old, dilapidated sleeper train comes barreling through the track and the people go running to it. Apparently, this is our train to Paris. We spend a few minutes trying to figure out where we are going. When we find out “First Class Cabin,” we find ourselves sharing 2 bunk beds with 2 grown (smelly) men who don’t speak English. Even more, they want to go to sleep the second the train goes and there are no personal lights, or they just don’t work in our little cabin. Anyways, we do not want to go to sleep that early in the night. The train starts to roll and the train is really quiet. Everyone is tucked away in their little rooms. Only my mom and I want to explore/ find a way to change rooms. We slither our way to the Second Class Cabin (6 people squeezed into the smallest room ever to sleep) where we find a ticket taker. We explain the situation and the lady is surprised to hear that we’ve been placed in a cabin with men who we are not related to! She finds a way for us to get a new cabin, and lucky for us, we get another cabin in the same car all to ourselves. We spend the evening sipping wine from water bottles and talking about what we want to do when we get to Paris. I have a restless sleep on the train that arrives in Paris at 7:23 a.m. I spend the night looking out at the darkness, watching flashes of light pass by as we go through many different towns. Everything in Paris was very spontaneous. We both had lists of the places we wanted to visit, but didn’t do such a good job of planning everything out. After some issues finding our hotel, a Holiday Inn, we are allowed to check in hours before normal. They had a room available for us, which we were not expecting. The beds were so comfortable, I kind of fell asleep for a bit, so we didn’t start our day until around 11 am. Oops! Not sure where to go, we asked the concierge where she suggested we go. She recommended the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmarte (Sacre-Coeur) for it’s sweeping views of the city. We spend a little bit of time there before wandering the streets around it for a place to eat, as neither of us had eaten since boarding the train Thursday afternoon. We ended up eating crepes. I decided to try and be adventurous and try a flambeed-crepe with apple brandy. This is where I should stop trying to be cool and just eat a normal crepe with banana and nutella like the rest of the world.
For the afternoon, we hung around the Arc de Triomphe- a very impressive structure and enjoyed some more sweeping views up top. Afterwards, we decided to walk around the famous Champs-Elysee street known for its high end retail where we visited the first Louis Vuitton flagship. Never have I had to wait in line to get into a store, but I did for LV. The store was buzzing, and everything felt much more approachable in the store than when I’ve stepped inside other locations, feeling out of place and targeted in a store with more employees than customers. After I planted the idea of getting a Louis Vuitton in my mother’s mind, she played with the idea because it’s apparently cheaper to but it in Europe, but for the record, as of now, there is no Louis Vuitton monogram in my possession. Sigh. A girl can dream, right?
Somehow the day started to slip away and we rushed to the Eiffel Tower where a long line awaited us. We came from the metro station and missed out on those beautiful park photos because we came from the river side. Kind of bummed because the sun started to go down so quickly. I was going to settle for sunset photos from the top, but that didn’t happen either. It was cold and windy at the very top of the tower, but definitely a wonderful experience-seeing Paris again from that aerial view. By now it was around 8 p.m. and we were exhausted. We tried to head back to the hotel but got lost on the way from the metro to the hotel. So I wasted 7 euros on a 3 minute cab ride. life, #amiright? After the frustration of trying to find the hotel, we stuck close and ended up at this wine bar place minutes before happy hour ended. So I ordered a “sex on the beach” my staple, apparently and chicken and MASHED POTATOES! I think I ordered the meal for the potatoes. Nope, I definitely ordered the meal for the potatoes. Saturday was dedicated to the Lourve and SHOPPING. When the Turner girls travel, they must devote a large chunk of time to shopping. Again, like the Vatican, the Lourve is very impressive. Just rooms and long alley ways of artwork. After a while, it all looked the same. Romantic art seems to do that. Yet, I would like to inquire about booking the Lourve’s Italian section for my wedding ceremony for the world’s longest alley way. Also, I took a selfie with Mona. We are on a first name basis like I’m on a last name basis with Da Vinci! Next to the king/queen of department stores: Galleries Lafayatte. 7 floors of designer heaven. Some of the designer stations were roped off to limit the amount of people there at the same time. Also, the shoes covered an entire floor. Don’t get me started about the shoes. My mother decided she wanted to buy a purse in Paris for the shear reason of saying, I got it in Paris. Well, let me tell you… nothing in that store is meant for the normal person. (I’m looking at you 20,000 euro Celine Bag). Some of these items make the Louis Vuitton Purses look inexpensive. So finding an affordable, Paris based purse was task. I found a wallet that I liked by this brand called Lancaster, and decided to use some birthday money I received to purchase it since it was relatively affordable. Well, this was really the only brand in the store with affordable prices, so naturally my mother decided to purchase a bag from their limited collection. I don’t know how much she actually loved the purse rather than wanted to have a nice item from Paris. Only how often she carries the purse will tell. also for the most important part, ANTHROPOLOGIE IS COMING TO THE STORE AS OF MARCH 9! I CAN’T WAIT TO GO BACK AND BUY SOMETHING THERE OVER SPRING BREAK, I’VE BEEN DEPRIVED OF MY FAVORITE STORE! When the store closed at 8, we dashed off to our dinner reservation at a Fondue place called Chalet Savoyard. Who knew cheese and bread could be so filling! IT was delish! Sunday, our last day, was a whirlwind! We started off the day with brunch at the place I had been pining to go all weekend for Macaroons: LaDuree. I indulged in the sweetest french toast with rose, yes, rose flavored whipped cream and a berry sauce. Seeing how expensive everything was, made me think twice about the macaroons. I told myself that if at the end of the day I still wanted to buy the overpriced macaroons, I would come back. and yes i did….. After breakfast, we went to see the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. The stained glass was my favorite part of this gothic style building and it was interesting to see the progression of how it was built over almost a millennium. We then metro-ed to the Centre Pompidou, a wacky modern art museum that was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for something kind of off the typical tourist places. I loved the Jeff Koons exhibit. He had a diverse collection using childlike elements like giant balloon animals made out of aluminum to erotic art and advertisements. Finally, in need of some last minute shopping, we walked around the Marais Jewish Quarter where the stores were open on Sundays. Again, these weren’t affordable stores but expensive brand locations such as Karl Lagerfield and Maje. I bought some awesome teal snakeskin platform flats at this Paris store called Mellow Yellow. So cute! too bad they gave me a blister the first time I wore them… but hey… fashion is pain, baby. I loved my trip to Paris, and I can’t wait to go back! Thanks mom for taking me! xoxo Observations about France:
They make you pay to use public restrooms, even at the train station
They don’t really believe in escalators for the metro station
Window displays are a thing- not like in Spain where everything is shuttered
The men and women are impeccably dressed
People were for the most part, extremely friendly! Ignore the rumors for the most part about the French hating Americans
Asian tourists, everywhere! And THEY spend the big bucks!
No security really anywhere except occasionally soldiers carrying assault weapons. That was intimidating.
Have you missed me? I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a while, I’ve been preoccupied with life. But now, I have found a moment to stop, drop, and breathe. This post may or may not have taken a month to compose….
I thought I would recap on my trip to Rome to visit my sorority sister, Anne, and you know, explore ROMA!
So without further delay,
MY TRIP TO ROME.
Thursday night had a dramatic beginning and ending, I guess you could say. After lugging my duffel with my all day, I get to the airport, and my flight is delayed two hours. So I rushed there, breezed through security only to see my flight was delayed. While every single other flight was ONTIME!
A little peeved, I messaged Anne telling her my flight was delayed and tried to give her a new ETA. While waiting, I realized that I didn’t have some “stamp” on my boarding pass giving me the green light to board. Apparently you need it if you are not from the EU and flying RyanAir. After tracking down a RyanAir employee, she told me I had to exit through baggage, go back to check-in, go to a specific RyanAir Ticket Office, get my sign formed and go through security AGAIN. Good thing security is lax in Europe. This was a bother.
Boarding took FIVEever. As you can tell, I was already peeved with RyanAir. Luckily they didn’t weigh my suitcase though, that would have made everything slower. Nevermind the neon yellow (TACKY) and worn out navy seats of the plane, the lights were turned out for a total of 5 minutes during the night time flight, and people were just loud. Hasn’t anyone heard of airplane etiquette? There was just this constant buzz of talking. Anyways, I landed around 11 p.m. So relieved to be in Rome, I bolted from the plane and out to the arrivals in search of Anne.
Yet, I get out, and I wait, and no Anne.
AND just my luck, my phone will not connect to the wifi even though my wellbeing depended on it. I was being bombarded by taxi drivers asking if I needed a ride. After about half an hour, I started asking strangers if I could use their phone for facebook. I was instantly able to reach Anne, but she wasn’t at the airport. She missed the last train to the airport since those apparently stopped running at 10, but said something about Termini and it would cost about 50 euros to get there.
I had no idea what Termini is, but I was able to share a ride with a very petite Asian women and her Irish boyfriend who were staying at a hotel nearby the station (weird match right? but hey! love is love!)
So I got dropped off at Termini, which is basically the Grand Central Station of Rome only to realize how humungus the property was. I walked in the ticket area and it was deserted. Again, men asking me if I needed a taxi.
I crossed the street to a McDonalds in an attempt to use their wifi. It was the MOST COMPLICATED THING OF MY LIFE AND WOULD NOT WORK. I was starting to panic as 1 am loomed closer, lost in a city with essentially nothing to communicate with and a heavy bag on my shoulder. I decided to look at the premises again, and there by the adjacent bus station was ANNE. There were tears of sheer panic turned to joy when I found Anne. We then promptly hopped in a cab that had a base fair of 6 Euros. 6 EUROS. That’s like a meal- just to enter the damn taxi.
But, we are reunited, and all is well.
Anne takes me to her favorite coffee shop near her apartment in Trastevere where we have a cappuccino and a pastry. We spend the day roming Roma. First stop- The Roman Forum and Palatine, which is the site of the Roman Ruins.
Very interesting being on an ancient site of the city with some beautiful views included.
And then it started raining……. But we didn’t let that stop us, and continued on, umbrella’s up!
After the Forum, Anne and I stopped for my first Italian pizza (and wifi) nearby before heading to the COLISEUM! ( I may have spelled that wrong….. )
Note for those who visit in the future. The line to get into the Coliseum is very very long. your ticket also gets you into the Roman Forum so buy it at the Roman Forum first which isn’t nearly as busy! It will save you lots of time so you can actually see Rome in a day!
For dinner we hit up this amazing Italian restaurant with Anne’s 5 roommates called Old Bear. I indulged in THE BEST Gnocchi! My new favorite dish! Afterwards, we were ready for a night on the town. Anne took me to an Irish pub called the Drunken Ship where all the study abroad students hung out.
Apparently, it was THE place to be because it was crowded, and it was ladies’ night. 🙂 I loved it, until the following Wednesday when my friend in my photography class who I found in Rome (at a different bar) with a busted lip and other injuries. Some Italians decided to try and mug him outside the drunken ship the night after I was there, so that’s a super scary thought.
Day of the Vatican, or should I say, the never ending museum. I thought the Vatican would be a testament to all things Catholic and the history of Catholicism. Rather, it was a series of art galleries acquired by all the Popes over the years. There were sculpture gardens, frescoes, Egyptian art, Picassos, tapestries, maps, artifacts- the galleries never seemed to end and the mammoth size of the building itself was a true architectural feat. The main gem, however, was Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I spent vast amounts of time staring at the ceiling. The Sistine Chapel made my audio guide worth every cent as I followed the meaning of each image. One side of the room showed the story of Moses, which I was really interested in being Jewish and all. The other were frescoes of the life of Jesus. Truly magnificent. Sadly, I didn’t get to visit the basilica because there was a long line and it started to rain.
Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside of the Chapel, so to take part in what I am talking about, starting booking your flight to Rome now.
Notice how these days are getting shorter? That’s why I should have written this a lonnngggg time ago so everything would be nice in fresh in my mind. Anne and I went to a special Sunday market she heard about. It was pretty interesting but toward the end, all the items being sold were the same. Used clothes, new clothes, scarves, purses, fake designer purses, knick knacks, belts, socks, shoes, the likes. I succumbed to the likes of a pashmina scarf after I haggled the guy down 50 percent. He really wanted to make a deal.
All in all, my visit to Rome was spectacular. My only regret was not buying the Limoncello in the bottle the shape of Italy. Super kitchsy, but sometimes, I like that sort of stuff.
Four weeks. Wow. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I have been in the beautiful city of Barcelona for 4 weeks. It feels like yesterday that I arrived. I’ve done so much, but there is still so much to experience.
I would say that I have gotten into a little routine, and figured out the way of life in Barcelona. I would say that studying abroad is literally the equivalent of starting college over again as a freshman: new surroundings, new people, and even new food. I’m not going to lie, and I was surprised that I was going to admit this, but being 4,000 miles away has made me homesick for my friends and family, especially as I know they are together, and I am, well, here.
Studying abroad is not only a traveling and educational experience, but a personal one too. I can already feel myself becoming more independent and self-sufficient. I’ve even been dabbling more in the kitchen! I’m experiencing an entirely new culture, meeting people and having conversations from all over (Belguim, Greece, Austrailia, Brazil), and trying to find my place in a city that views me as a foreigner. (I totally am though, and I’m ok with that.)
Those who know me are aware that I am a planner. I live by what my agenda says and plan around that. Thus far I’ve learned to be spontaneous! I’ve tried to make use of my afternoons twice a week after class by visiting a museum or walking around the city instead of coming home to take a nap from my “exhausting” day.
On my second Wedensday, I decided to check out a little photography exhibit at this place called Fundacio Foto Colectania in the Gracia neighborhood. I paid the 2 Euro entrance fee and pondered around the small photo exhibit that featured 6 photographers of artwork taken in the 1970s of life in Spain. Very Interesting to few, and there were some that really made me ponder.
The museum was very modern and had a small library upstairs of hundreds of photo books that I couldn’t help but peruse through.
The next day after my long Spanish class, I headed over to my friend Rebecca’s for tacos and “Margaritas” aka tequila and orange fanta, but still delicious. Her roommates made homemade guacamole, so I may be moving in. Afterwards, we decided to splurge for a spontaneous trip to the club. We ended up at a place called Shoko. It was fun, very smoky, I came home reeking of it the next day. However, I was so mesmerized by the fashion week catwalk videos a screen played to the music
The following Monday I had a UMD Community Meeting so I spent the two hours walking around the city. I found this awesome home goods/ stationary type store called Tiger that reminded me of a 5 Below, Target without the clothes and cleaning supplies, and a HomeGoods. I couldn’t resist a little berry colored mirror for 2 euros because I didn’t have one in my room. And I found pretzel sticks here! Let’s just say, I was so excited about the salty treat that it didn’t make it home.
Afterwards I found the bookstore called Come In, which is where I had to buy my Spanish textbook. It’s an all English bookstore, so if I ever find myself craving a new read, I will definitely check it out! Then, wandering the streets of Barcelona until I was near Ryan, the program director’s office.
Last Wednesday was my best adventure day, I must say. My Creative Economy class visited a museum of design, that I had also visited on my own with my Spanish roommate Christina and Kenia. We had to complete a short assignment and could do what we wanted when we were done. Well, since I arrived early, I decided to check out this market that was across the street.
One of the most interesting places of my life. It’s like one big flea market where people sell their old antiques, clothes, and purses. Electronics, fabric, shoes and lingerie were also big sellers at this place. So random, so crowded. And, I walked away with nothing, meaning I did something right.
After class I hopped on the metro to see Arc di Trompf, which was constructed for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. This beautiful monument near Parc de la Ciutadella. I spent a good amount of time taking photos as we walked down the avenue to get to the park entrance.
While walking toward the park, there was a man making bubble art. I was so excited, I got a little snap happy. I probably should have given the guy a tip for all the photos I got from him. But, next time……
In my photography class that same day we practiced “freezing objects”- think water spraying in mid-air, so you know I had to try that out with the bubbles.
And the balloons from class.
My favorite part of the afternoon was just gawking at the magnificent fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella.
I want to look at that masterpiece every single day. Apparently spanish children get to have recess there. Right when I went to start taking pictures of the fountain, these school aged children started bombarding me! They were so excited, but at first I was wary of their moves, clutching my bag tightly against my body. They were so excited to speak to an American, and spoke better English than I do spanish. As I moved back, they came closer. Must be a Spanish thing- no personal space.
Anyways, the girls were adorable and entertaining, and I enjoyed talking with them. I asked them the best places to visit, and they said the zoo and chocolate museum, so I know where I have to go next!
After this little excursion and lots of walking, I lunched at this fabulous Mexican restaurant called Rosa Negra with delish chicken and pineapple quesadillas and 3.50 euro MARGARITAS. I’m ready to go back. Who wants to go?
Well, I have plenty more to say, but I want to get ready for a short amount of super bowl viewing on my laptop!
Also, uploading photos on to this blog is a pain…. sooooo slow, but I think it’s worth it in the end.
All in all, can’t believe 4 weeks has passed. Time to start traveling and continuing to make the most of EVERYTHING!