On the first weekend of the semester I went to Lille, France with my new friends. This trip was so much fun to get to know another part of France, as well as to get to know the girls. Lille is a small city north east of France, very close to the border with Belgium. This small city is very different from Paris. Most of the streets are made out of cobblestone and most of the architecture is older and very simple. It has the feel of a small city, because there is no traffic or many large cars (something you rarely see in Paris), and everyone speaks French back to you even if they hear you have an accent (something that is hard to find in Paris, most likely because of the amount of tourists). It was great to spend a weekend with almost no English around and getting to know new friends.
The weekend after, I went to the South east of France with my fellow BIBer Streisanne. Early morning on Friday February 6, Streisanne and I took a train to the small town of Annecy. When we arrived we noticed how amazing this town was. It really felt like we were in Europe. The streets were very small; there was an adorable canal that ran through the town; and the houses were very tight together and small.
We stayed at an AirBNB with a very nice French couple. They took us in their home, gave use one of their rooms to use, and trusted us with the house they live in. We explored this beautiful town and discovered it had one of the most amazing views in the world. It was still winter and the mountains around the city had a lot of snow on top of them. But it was not as cold as the lake would freeze, and we could see through the transparent water. We were blessed to have a beautiful sunny day to complete the perfect picture.
Different from Lille, this town was even smaller, we walked the whole city in about 30 minutes, if not less. It was even harder to find anyone who spoke English, and even the host told us his English was not the best, so we only spoke French. We spoke a lot of French and as our room had a TV, we got to watch TV (also in French) while we were in the house. It was a great trip to practice our French and to enjoy another beautiful city outside of Paris.
From a BIB student abroad to the second year students coming to Paris or Lyon, you have to explore France! I know it is tempting to travel only to the famous European cities, but I have to tell you, you learn to much from these small towns and you get to explore beautiful cities you would never even imagine existed before. It is definitely something I am glad I am doing while I am here.
Spring Break in Europe – Hola España!!
Something else that is different from first semester is that this semester we have two breaks while last semester we did not have any.
In February we have one week off school. This is a great opportunity to visit many cities at once. Me and my fellow BIBer Streisanne decided to embark in the Spanish journey. We took a flight from Paris to Valencia where we met with our BIBer friend Joel. Valencia was a beautiful beach city, it had a very long park that ran through the city where a river used to be. This beautiful green scenery made the city full of life and happier. In Valencia, we visited the biggest European aquarium, the beach, the many squares and the park. We only had two days and I wish I had more time there. Joel brought us to eat the best Paella at this restaurant with a gorgeous view of the beach, and we had tapas. In Spain, there is this mini sandwich place called 100 montatidos. We went there once for breakfast and then dinner. At 100 montaditos, they have small sandwiches, beer, nachos, and many more things for just one euro each.
From Valencia, we took a train to Madrid to meet up with Alex, Lisa, Martina, and Brittany. It was great seeing them again while exploring Spain’s capital city. Madrid felt different from any other European city I had been (other than London). It felt modern and more westernized. The streets were large with 3 or 4 lanes, something you do not see in Paris. To get anywhere it is almost a must to take the subway, when in Paris if you wanted to, you could walk from east to west, north to south for less than 3 hours. Alex’s apartment is more in the suburbs which is something Paris does not have. Paris has the smaller cities around it, but the city of Paris is only the city center. In Madrid, we went to the coolest spots like the Retiro park, a beautiful park in the middle of the city, with a lot of trees, lakes, paths to run, bike, rollerblade, definitely somewhere I would do a picnic at. We visited the palace, the temple, and walked around the city’s large streets and the smaller streets as well. This trip was full of food! In Madrid, we had churros, tacos, 100 montaditos, pasta, pizza, ice cream and much more. It was definitely a great trip to eat, eat, eat!
After 5 days hanging out with our BIB friends, it was time to say see you later. Streisanne and I took a train to Barcelona. The funny thing about this train was that we decided to take the cheaper fare that took longer to get to Barcelona. What we didn’t know was that it went from Madrid, stopped in Valencia (and many more place but the most important was Valencia), where we had just been, and then went to Barcelona. I think this turned out to be the best route we could have taken, because on the way from Valencia to Barcelona we had the most amazing views of the Mediterranean sea.
When we arrived in Barcelona we went straight to the beach. It was a gorgeous day and we stayed there until the sun went down. Streisanne saw surfers for the first time and then we had paella again! Food in Spain is definitely a great part of your experience. Barcelona was one of my favourite cities that I have ever been to. In Barcelon,a we did the free walking tour (something I have mentioned before on my previous blog, that I would definitely recommend you do in every city you go to) to explore the gothic quarter. We had tapas for lunch and then climbed Montjuic. There we saw the Montjuic castle, the Olympic stadium, the magic fountains, plaça Espanya, and the arc de triomf of Barcelona. Later on we went to 100 montaditos (yes we went to this great student-atmosphere bar in every city we went to in Spain). The next day we explored he Sagrada Familia; what a beautiful basilica! The most elaborated and detail-oriented building I have ever seen, and if you are interested in architecture you should go check it out when you are in Barcelona.
We then went to Park Güell to explore more of Barcelona’s treasures. This park has an incredible view of the entire city with the sea as the background. It is very interesting. You have to pay to access some of the areas of the park, but the most amazing things are outside the paid area. We then took a bus to see the many architecture arts of Gaudi, including Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. Our last day in Barcelona was incredible. We took a one hour journey to Park Tibidabo, north of Barcelona. It had an even prettier view than Park Güell.
This was an interesting mountain. This mountain had a theme park on top of it, with roller coasters, ferries wheels, and water rides. At the top we had our last share of Spanish food, a good amount of fat churros with caramel. And it was time to say ‘Byecelona‘. We took a plane back to Paris with Air France, feeling so fancy getting snacks on the plane and three seats for the two of us.
After a week of amazing travels it was good to be back to my second home. As we landed in Paris I could see the Eiffel Tower as my horizon, and I had a big smile on my face. Travelling is amazing, but having Paris as your home is something you can’t never get enough.
The couple of weeks after I returned had been beautiful in Paris. It feels like spring has arrived and the sun is shining more often again. The temperature has risen and the smell of spring has arrived to (hopefully) stay.
And many of you are thinking, when does this girl ever study? She only talks about fun things and travels. But studying is a very important of this exchange, and trust me I do a lot of it here. My next blog post will talk about juggling school and travelling while on exchange.
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