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Montpetravels: Barcelona – Ibiza – Rome

Confession: my last post was much shorter than I intended because the hostel wi-fi crapped out and deleted everything I wrote about Barcelona so I went to sleep instead of redoing it. Good thing I took notes though, right? Ha. Ha ha. None of that. I will try again though for the sake of documentation.

Barcelona
It’s all a little fuzzy and it’s only been two weeks since I was actually there. So much has happened since then! Anyway. Our flight from Paris was suuuper early, but at least we gave ourselves enough time to get to the airport, unlike London. As soon as we checked into our hostel we passed out for a bit then met Jacob at the beach for paella and walking around. Note to the general audience: if you’re going to order paella, don’t wimp out and order vegetable paella. Because they will give you a freezer bag of peas and cubed carrots thrown on top of a bed of rice. Anyone who has ever eaten a school meal knows what I’m talking about. Go ahead and get the seafood one (unless you’re vegetarian) because you’re in Barcelona and it’s way better. After dinner we walked around some and got gelato, where we watched the tragic scene of a little girl dropping her scoop on the floor. The angriest five-year-old I ever did see. She wasn’t even crying or yelling; she was just standing in the gelato shop like a statue with her face fixed in such a horrible angry expression. It took everything in us not to laugh. After gelato we walked around La Rambla, Barcelona’s main tourist strip with restaurants and gift shops. It’s under a canopy of huge trees and was beautiful, albeit crowded, at dusk.
We spent three days total in Barcelona, and the last two somewhat blend together, but I really enjoyed them. Highlights include meeting another UNC graduate at our hostel, going to Parc Guell, el mercat for jamon and fresh fruit, la Sagrada Familia, and churros and chocolate. Parc Guell is so beautiful and I would love to go back to spend a whole day there. It’s like a giant playground. Gaudi designed it, and it’s full of intricate mosaics and beautiful structures interwoven with the natural beauty of the location. It’s situated at a looking point over Barcelona, so from one of its high points you have a great view of the ocean and the city. It was one of those “and in that moment I swear we were infinite” experiences. (So shoot me for being cheesy. I loved it.)
Another thing about going from France to Spain: it confuses your brain. I took French for ten years in middle school, high school and college. At one point I was comfortably fluent, and have unfortunately since let it decline since then, however it came back in the couple of days in Paris. I also took two semesters of accelerated beginner spanish (equivalent to 101, 102, 203 and 204 at UNC) during college and became beginner’s proficient. Enough to get myself around and have basic conversations. Knowing French already made learning Spanish easy, however, it made switching languages during this trip hard. Because the two Romance languages are so similar, I found myself using two languages in one sentence so many times. “La cuenta s’il vous plait.” “Donde estan les toilettes?” The mixing struggles went away after a couple of days but the beginning was definitely rocky.

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Ibiza
Welp the internet did that “delete a section of your blog post” thing again for Ibiza. Sorry, Ibiza. WordPress just isn’t your biggest fan. But at least you aren’t alone. Barcelona understands. Anyway, Ibiza was really nice. I was a great place to lay low and recover from a few really big, busy cities and prepare for Admerica. Michelle and I spent our time wandering the island, trying a restaurant here or cafe there. We wandered down to the docks and beach a couple of times, which were beautiful. I wasn’t able to find a local landromat, so I did my laundry in the bathtub. Funny how professionalism and smelling musty/having wrinkled clothes don’t equate. I loved Ibiza and would go back in a heartbeat! Well, this is true for everywhere we visited. But it was great!
Quick note to all travelers: it’s better if your passport is with you when you go to the airport. You will have a moment of panic at the airport checking in, realizing that your passport is still at the hotel. You’ll have to run back, hoping it hasn’t been lost since you checked out. If you’re lucky like we were though, you’ll be able to go to the hotel and back and still be on time for your flight. (After missing our flight from London Luton we gave ourselves pleeeeeeeenty of time for every subsequent flight.) You would think that after I set my passport on the table by the door and thought to myself “Do not leave this. It will be right here,” I wouldn’t leave it, but I did. Hm. It all worked out though.

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Rome
I’ve been wanting to go to Rome for a couple of years, ever since I completed my Classical Archeology class at UNC. It just boggles my mind how many layers of history and civilization are in such a small area. I had less than 24 hours in the city before heading back to the states for ADMERICA, so we had to make the most of it. We checked into our hotel
and did a quick run around our area of the city, which was near the Piazza Republica and a bunch of really cool ruins. Of course, we had pizza and pasta, because Italy. I loved, loved, loved Rome. left wishing I had more time in the city, but was excited for Boca regardless!

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Next up, Rome (post-Boca), Athens and Dublin. Also, a post dedicated entirely to ADMERICA!

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Montpetravels: One Week In

I’ve made a semi-decent attempt to keep a travel journal, figuring I’d be mad at myself later if I didn’t. But it ended up being 3-5 bullet points listing the places we went, and they really don’t capture all of the little things that happen, the people we meet and stories we hear. I guess that’s part of the magic of travel. It’s something you can only experience for yourself and no matter how many photos you share on Instagram it’s something that will always be your own.

At this point, officially one week after leaving the US, Michelle and I have been to four cities and met up with two friends. You could say whirlwind.

Dublin
We were only in Dublin for about a day and a half, but it was awesome there! We took a red-eye flight from Toronto, so when we landed we were pretty exhausted and grumpy. Achy feet from bad shoes and getting lost on the way to the hostel did not help. But we eventually checked in and got ourselves some lunch, which made everything better. We walked around for the rest of the day and explored our part of the city, which happened to have the Dublin castle. That was pretty cool. Later that night we walked over to the river to meet for a pub crawl led by a couple of very enthusiastic Irishmen who called us all their vikings. Pub crawls aren’t really my thing but it was fun talking to the other tourists and meeting Joffrey from Game of Thrones! He happened to be in Dublin at the same time so we got a quick picture together. The second day was more walking around and just hanging out until our flight for London. We didn’t make it to the Guinness storehouse, but that’s definitely in the books for the next time we’re in Dublin a few weeks from now.

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London
Okay get ready for this because I’m about to be blunt. London was not my favorite city. I had some pretty high hopes from all of my friends’ study abroad experiences and photos, and to be honest, I was kind of let down. But maybe that’s because we didn’t give ourself enough time there. To be fair, we only had one full day in London. Our hostel was kind of crappy, and I got sunburnt, so those are probably affecting my opinion of the city even though they are in no way the city’s fault. (Guess who’s a psych major over here? Overanalyzing like it’s my job. Take that fundamental attribution error!)
We landed at London’s most obscure and farthest away airport, Luton, and took a shuttle to Hyde Park. Unfortunately it dropped us at Marble Arch, and our hostel was at the far end of the park, so we walked about an hour as the sun was setting. Then we met up with Jacob and grabbed some gryos for a late dinner. PS they were amazing. We were talking to him to plan our our visit and realized, shoot, we only actually have one full day here, not three like we had though. So that compressed our plans a bit. When we woke up we all met downstairs for breakfast, which was toast and cereal. The hostel had so many people though it was a free for all and we ended up with untoasted toast. I did not win survival of the fittest that morning. Once we got going though we got a lot done. We rented bikes with Jacob and toured all around the city, starting with Buckingham Palace, working our way down the Thames for Big Ben and parliament, then the London Bridge and London Tower tour. Biking in London is a little treacherous, that’s all I’ll say. But we made it. We spent some time lounging in Hyde Park that afternoon. That part was great. It was like a mass exodus of everyone working 9-to-5. The grabbed their friends and a picnic then spent the evening outside. I loved walking around there. Then we had Indian for dinner, which was delicious, then passed out for the night.
The London part should end here with me saying “then we woke up super early and hopped on our plane to Paris.” However, we missed our plane. You would think three hours would be enough time to get from one point in London to another. It was not. So we had to pay the rebooking fee and get scheduled for the next flight to Paris that afternoon. We took turns napping since we had only slept three hours that night, and spent the next nine hours in the airport reading/staring at the wall. That’s a crap way to spend a day after traveling so far to get there amirite? FINALLY we got on our plane to Paris that afternoon.

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Paris
Paris, oh where do I begin? Paris, je t’aime. Tu me manque Paris. I didn’t ever want to leave you Paris. When was the last time I was in Paris before this? Six years ago? It’s been too long. As soon as we landed at Charles de Gualle, Michelle and I looked at each other like we had just made it home. All of my French started coming back to me, and everything felt so natural. In Dublin and London we were both flustered trying to find our way around but in Paris hopping on the train and switching Metro lines came so easily. Asking for help, even in a different language, was easier. It was just wonderful being there for so many reasons.
When we finally checked into the hostel and got settled in, our first move was dinner because it was already so late in the day. We were both excited to put our French to use and our waiter was having a lot of fun entertaining the three Americans. Michelle and I have already been to Paris a couple of times so we’ve done all the tourist attractions before, but Chelsea had never been to any of them so we walked through everything that was free (being the money-conscious travelers that we are) and ended up hitting Notre Dame, the Louvre, Les Jardins Tuileries, and the lock bridge the first full day. I loooooved seeing the lock bridge. Just thinking about the number of happy people so in love standing in the same spot and taking in the same view made my day. And that’s only since the time the locks became popular. Paris is the city of love. I love Paris. I loved walking around and seeing happy couples holding hands, young families with kids, and old couples who still have a flame after all this time. Even though the city was besieged by rainclouds for the duration of our visit, its aura was not dampened. Okay putting the sappiness aside. At the end of that day we went to Montmartre to catch the sun setting over Paris from the steps in front of the basilique Sacre Coeur. That is definitely one of my favorite spots in Paris. The view doesn’t have the Eiffel Tower or a lot of the big landmarks, but I love it anyway. It’s a great place to end the day. Then the neighborhood behind the basilica is so cute and a great place for dinner and walking around in the evening.
The second full day in Paris was a lazy day. We took our time waking up and getting out of bed. By the time we were finally ready to tackle the western half of the city, it was past lunch time. We started with a visit to France’s version of Walmart to stock up on some supplies and snacks. After dropping our goods back at the hostel we headed out again for the Place de Trocadero and Eiffel Tower, followed by Les Champs Elyees and dinner at our favorite restaurant in the world. This is a restaurant we stumbled upon last time we were in Paris for high school study abroad. Our friend who was with used to live by the Champs Elysees and this was the restaurant her family loved, so she took us there and we all fell in love with its steak-frites and famous green sauce. That was a very happy reunion. On the way back the skies gave us everything that they had been holding back and hit us with a monsoon as we wound our way through the streets back to the nearest metro station. That was our last night in Paris before an early morning flight to Barcelona.

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