Monday, March 8, 2010

Sí...I MEAN OUI: weekend in París


I got back from París yesterday...late yesterday. Our plane was unfortunately delayed 2 hours and we didn't get home until midnight or later. Luckily I survived all my classes today...only fell asleep in one! :)

I didn't journal while in París so I shall try to remember everything correctly!

We arrived in París on Thursday probably 7 pm or later, but the shuttle bus into París from the Beauvais Airport took over an hour. We could see the Eiffel Tower from our bus window so that was a good welcoming. Then we had to go to the bathroom, but got lost in a mall trying to find it because Parisians don't know how to make directional signs. Then we had to take the metro to our hostel which took about half an hour. Therefore, we arrived at our hostel about 9:30 pm. Maybe later.

We decided not to do anything that night except grab a bite to eat. Jess' cousin is studying in París. She also has a friend studying in the French country side who flew in. We met up with them both the next day. But dinner the first night was AMAZING! The food in París is so fresh and delicious. Over the course of the weekend, anywhere we walked into had delicious food. The overall quality is just so much better than Madrid's food. It wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be either. However, I was annoyed at how much coffee and wine costs in París. Madrid has them on that one!

The next day we went to the Eiffel Tower, not to the top because the line was so long. We walked around, eventually going to the Champs-Elysses, the famous street. We window shopped, saw the Arc de Triumph, and stopped at a famous café for coffee and macarons. YUMMM.

Champs-Elysses...great shopping! If only...
Arc de Triumphe...and the pidge that flew into my pic
Me and Eiffey
Then we headed to the Notre Dame. It was soooo crowded, but very pretty! I got some cool pictures, which was nice considering so many places in Europe don't allow you to take pictures. We souvenier shopped on the streets and I bought some cool posters/art.

Notre the pidgeon!

People praying at an altar...and a priest.

Then we went to the Louvre Museum. It was free for students after 6pm. Score. The building is so pretty; like a palace. I could only think of Da Vinci Code when I saw the glass dome entrance. In the movie they make it seem so much more accessible. I think he even climbs on top of it somehow. Oh Tom Hanks, how you lied to me.

Louvre glass entrance
Inside the halls
At sunset

We only walked around a little bit because we aren't huge museum people. The Mona Lisa, as always, was surrounded by people, and glass. Making the whole experience much less significant. I got to see some artifacts from the Parthenon in Athens. Brought back fond memories! From the Louvre, we watched the Eiffel Tower twinkle. Every hour on the hour, the lights twinkle for five minutes. Then we headed to dinner, delish once again!

The next day wandered around some more and eventually went to the Eiffel Tower to finally climb up it this time. The line was short, but the bitter cold made it seem longer. We went all the way to the top. It was a great view. It reminded me of the skywalk in Boston. Some districts of Boston are actually modeled after París, so it was eery how similar it looked in some directions because since I was in the number one landmark it didn't look as much like París! I believe we spent most of this day wandering and exploring.

Hola! I'm cold.
The next day we went to the catacombs. It was so freaky, yet fun. They had to dig up graveyards and store the bones down there. You walk down this tiny, concrete staircase forever until you reach a long, dimly-lit corridor, which you then walk down forever. FINALLY, you reach the catacombs. It's not anything like the Italian catacombs I went to in high school! It was like an underground dungeon/maze that went on for 45 minutes. The walls were lined with skulls and bones. It went on forever, and we didn't even walk through it all because some sections are closed off. It was crazy seeing all the bones stacked on top of eachother. Thousands of people, now just bones! And they have to be reaaaaally old for it to be all bones. It made me ponder what their lives were like. Jess' friend mentioned how someone ancient ancestor could be burried there. Creeepy. Well I'm not not mine! I saw some lady touching them too! Gross. In some parts the ceiling leaked so we ran through those sections because we were scared of the 'bone juice,' as we referred to it, dripping on us! We eventually saw the light of day and once more wandered the streets.

Bone walls!
Más paredes del huesos
"Bonjour from París!"

Jess and I had to get back to the hostel to pick up our luggage for the flight. We walked through a farmer's market on the way, so we stopped for a fresh baguette and some cheese to eat for lunch/snacking. It was soooo good and made me miss the Embarcadero farmer's market!!

We took the hour shuttle back to the airport and pretty much slept the whole way. About 3/4 into the trip, Jess and I woke up at the same time. We saw everyone anxiously looking out the window shield. I pointed it out to Jess and she's like, "Ya I noticed...they're probably late for their flight." I kept watching as everyone kept looking out and shifting in their seats. It seemed weird. Then I saw the bus crossing the highway lines crookedly. Jess asked, "Are we swerving?" To which I replied, "I think that's how they drive in France."

THEN, all of a sudden the people up front started shouting at the bus driver! "AY AY AY!" I guess the bus driver had been swerving a lot throughout the trip or at least the end of it. All of a sudden like four men jumped out of their seats and made the bus driver stop the bus! Someone yelled "Does anyone know how to drive a bus?" They were yelling back and forth and everyone on the bus was yelling or talking with eachother. From the little English I heard, and the overall commotion, basically the bus driver had been swerving, and not paying attention to the road, so there was almost a mutiny on the bus. The bus driver finished the drive. Luckily we were only ten minutes away and we were safe and sound shortly! :) No worries!

But to sum it up:

The people in París were pretty nice. On multiple occassions, people went out of their way to help us. Granted we didn't need much help usually with Jess' friend who spoke amazing French. The pidgeons...not so much. They like to fly at your head...and hit you. Luckily I only witnessed this.

We also kept answering in Spanish, or starting off our sentences in Spanish just by habit only to say, "oops, sorry, I mean, MERCI!" or "oops, sorry, I mean, BONJOUR!" But now that I'm back in Spain I kept saying 'merci' today instead of 'gracias!' Glad to be back in Madrid though. I love our metro and our nightlife and the people and my apartment! París is great for a visit, but I couldn't be happier with where I decided to study abroad. wouldn't hurt for some sun already :)

Next week: Mama y Papa!!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Madrid Sweet Madrid: Granada, Sevilla, Lisboa

I have returned from my South Spain/Portugal trip. It feels so good to be back. It looks like it's mildly sunny today; a nice welcome back.

So first comes first: GRANADA

Granada is a really cool town. It has a huge Moorish past, which is still very visible in everything. We stay down this cool street where all the teterias (tea houses) and arabic souveneir-type shops were. I bought a stitched india-inspired rug thing (You've seen them around it's just hard to explain) so I can hang on my wall because it matches my bedspread. I also looooved the teterias. They had over 50 different types of tea for really cheap!

Our hostal streets
We arrived at night the first day so we just relaxed, but the next day we went to the Alhambra. This palace/walled town had been switched from Moorish rule to Christian rule numerous times during the wars. It was HUGE and really beautiful. You could see influences from both. It was a relatively nice day so the sun felt great compared to the rain we left in Madrid. They have water ways all over the town running up from the castle all through the streets. They are still running with water, I believe as energy power.

Military area of the town
Tiny windows in a tower
Gorgeous views of the surrounding city
We had our hearts set on skiing the Sierra Nevada mountains an hour away, but unfortunately the weather conditions for that Sunday were poor and the mountains were closed. As predicted the next day was very windy with off-and-on showers. We went to the gypsy caves of Sacramonte, but since we were there during siesta hour most stuff was closed. We walked around Granada, half lost, half following the map up to a plaza with a great view of the Alhambra and some street jewelry.

The Alhambra
A plaza we went through while lost, also gray skies
Sacramonete hills
View of the Sierra Nevada mountain range from Granada

We heard about Granada's arabic bath houses and decided to go that night at 8pm. It was so worth it! There were about 3 different baths each of a different temperature. You also get a 15 minute massage. It was a lot of fun and very relaxing. It was called Baño Hammam and it was so nice and my first massage!

The square at night
The next morning we left on a 3 hour bus to Sevilla.


We arrive in beautiful Sevilla! The weather was warm the majority of the time we were there. We took full advantage and spent at least 2 hours on our hostal's roof soaking in the sun/napping.

We saw the famous cathedral. It's supposedly the biggest gothic cathedral in Europe. That was pretty cool. Personally I like the cathedral in Toledo more because it contained more intricate designs and mural work, but it was still beautiful. My camera died shortly so I only have a couple pics.

We also went to the Alcazar, which is another palace area designed by half Catholic/half Moorish inspirations. It was absolutely gorgeous (and free for students!). My favorite part was the gardens. I could have spent hours and hours in those gardens. We went through some hedge mazes and walked down the dirt paths. There were small gazebos, ponds with bright fish, and old walls covered in vines. Unfortunately I have no pictures because my stupid camera died, but Shae got a lot that she's going to give to me.

The next day, we saw the Plaza del Toros. Bullfights don't begin until May, but we got to take a tour and go in the museum. The stadium was really pretty and bright. It was also a lot smaller than I imagine. The tour was first in Spanish, then said in English, but I only needed to hear the Spanish version to understand. I was very proud of myself. The tour woman only addressed us in Spanish because she could tell we understood. It felt good :)

Sevilla is a famous city for bullfights

The same day, our hostal provides bikes for rent. Sevilla was sunny and gorgeous and flat, so we went on a ride. It was one of my favorite things we did in Sevilla. We went through a beautiful park and lots of squares. We stopped for lunch at a cafe that was delicious.

Taking pictures while riding...skill.
El parque
I really enjoyed Sevilla. Probably the most. I could have spent more time there, not sightseeing necessarily, just walking around and enjoying the sun. We ate some amazing tapas in Sevilla! We also met up with my friend Nick from Cal Poly who is studying in Germany, so that was fun! There are sooo many Germans in Sevilla for some reason so he got to practice as well!

We also went to the arabic baths in Sevilla, but I enjoyed the smaller Granada bath more.
We left Sevilla after a delicious dinner, and took a night bus to Lisboa, Portugal. We arrived in Portugal a lot earlier than expected so the metro was closed. Luckily the cab ride was only 8 euro and took us straight to our hostal door. We were too early to check-in so we slept in the living room until Jess and Addy arrived.


Our hostal was absolutely adorable. It is an old mansion converted into a hostal, so it felt like we were at someone's house the whole time. It was very comfortable, and like all our others, served free breakfast. All our hostals were the Oasis hostals, but each was different.

The first day in Portugal we didn't do much because we were planning on taking the tour the hostal offered the next day. We ate, relaxed, and caught up on sleep.

Elevator we went on to see Lisboa skyline

The next day we spent the whole day with Bruno, a native Lisboan, who offers tours to Oasis hostalers. He takes you to all the best places in his van. It was so convenient. I couldn't imagine getting to all those places by train and bus because not everything is in Lisboa. It's very spread out. Portugal is also famous for its pastries, so we also were taken to try the 3 most famous/DELICIOUS! Lisboa is so similar, yet different from San Francisco it was eery at first! They have a bridge designed by the same architect as the Golden Gate so it looks very similar! It is also VERY hilly and trolleys are everywhere. The weather was super foggy as well...I might as well have been home!

Nope, not San Francisco... LISBOA!
My first trolley ride!
I didn't know this existed!
The symbol of Portugal
It was fun going to the beach, even in the rain
Very green! A perfect summer locale
The famous palace. Pictures don't do it justice
One of my favorite parts! The palace in Sintra
Sintra is a very cute town
The next day we didn't sightsee as much since we got so much in yesterday. We were also all very tired from traveling all week. It was difficult not knowing how to communicate in Portugal. I missed speaking Spanish and my bed in Madrid! We were all ready to go back after a long, fun week!

I tried to fit everything in this post without being overwhelming. Hopefully I summed it up well!
Miss you!
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