It’s hard to truly say you are an American study abroad student unless you are travelling all of the time. I have done my fair share of travelling around Scotland and exploring Edinburgh, but I spent the past week in Paris and Barcelona with one of my closest friends from GW, Liz, and two of my flatmates, Gabrielle and Emily. I can say with a 100% certainty that I was a bit too anal on the trip about seeing everything I wanted to see and making sure that everything went well but I guess that is not the worst thing in the world.
Paris was a dream. Every single building was absolutely gorgeous, the streets were incredibly clean, and thanks to Gabrielle, who speaks fluent French, we had no problems with the language. Although the weather was a bit cold, we managed to walk or metro everywhere without a problem. I was the handler of the maps in both Paris and Barcelona. My sense of direction is a bit weak so I have no idea why I was given this honor, but I did manage to get us to the correct place most of the time. One of the highlights of the trip was the opera house, which was incredibly ornate and I felt uncomfortable wearing a casual pair of jeans and a sweater. And Versailles! I cant even begin to describe how absolutely amazing that palace is. First of all, it is HUGE, every single surface has a ton of gold, and the details are incredible. Not to mention the huge, well pruned gardens, and the little “peasant village” complete with a farm that looked like it was right out of a fairy tale. That night, when we went to the Eiffel Tower, I felt like it was going to be hard to beat the majestic Versailles. I was wrong. The Eiffel Tower at night was one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen in my life. We climbed to the second floor and looked out over Paris and I understood why Paris is the city of love, however corny that sounds. Plus, we ate our first crepe next to the Eiffel Tower and beautiful sights + warm nutella can make any girl’s night. In a flurry of activity we managed to hit Arc de Triumphe, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge and Musee Dorsay in the next couple of days. We stayed in a small and relatively quiet hostel in Paris and got our own room and bathroom which was quite nice. I wish that we had stayed longer but I am sure that I will go back in the future.
Tuesday night we flew to Barcelona. Paris and Barcelona could not be more different. They have completely different vibes, completely different sites, and completely different weather. And I loved both. One of the best parts of being in Barcelona was the warmth. It was in the seventies every single day and although I brought my coat everywhere with me, I seldom needed it. Barcelona also felt a lot more touristy. Walking down one of the main streets, La Rambla, it is fairly obvious who lives in the city and who is seeing it for the first time. It’s quite an experience to be harassed by multiple restaurant owners and club promoters about their deals, hear the annoying noises of the street performers, and try to clutch your bag as tightly as possible so that you do not get robbed. The architect Gaudi had an extremely strong influence on the city and for a good reason- the man is a genius. We got to see the outside of his apartment Casa Batllo, Walk around the incredible Park Guell that he designed, and stare in awe at the Sagrada Familia, the insane church that he built. All of his designs are whimsical and curious and such a pleasure to look at. We also wandered the streets of the Gothic Quarter, walked along Port Vell and the beaches of Barceloneta, visited the Picasso Museum, and walked to the Olympic Stadium on Montiuc. And of course we tried many tapas, ate lots of paella, and drank tons of sangria. The nightlife in Barcelona is absolutely amazing. We were staying in a “party hostel” which organized nightings out for the group. Although we shared a room with 6 other people (a bit of a bummer) we got to sample a couple of bars and clubs in the area and we met so many other young travellers. Liz and I also went to a bar that looked like it was in the middle of a forest as well as a bar that served over 500 different types of shots, many of them that lit on fire and involved elaborate presentations.
Overall, the trip was a ton of fun— we got to see so many attractions, eat so much food (gelato every day in Barca!) and spend time with cool people. But I will say that as much as I loved Paris and Barcelona, it just reaffirmed my belief that Edinburgh is the perfect place for me to be this semester.