Sunday, November 7, 2010


My fall break adventure started in Paris then on to Barcelona and ending in London.  It was an exhausting week of traveling but well worth every second!  I traveled with four friends from school, but we lost a person in each city so it ended with only three of us (this was planned...we did not actually lose anyone).
The Group!
We arrived in Paris at about 9pm and after a bus and taxi ride we made it to our hostel around 11pm.  I had only stayed in a hostel once previous to this trip, and that one was in Switzerland and was very nice, we even had a private room.  So walking into this hostel came as a slight shock.  The 3 Ducks Hostel was also a bar and partially outside.  I would compare the sleeping situation closer to camping than anything else because both the bathrooms and the shower were outside and the whole place seemed to be open to whoever happened to be at the bar that night.  I do not want to make it seem like we were too high maintenance, but we did thoroughly the beds for bed bugs before going to bed with sheets that had holes the size of my head.

Anyway, after after a surprisingly restful sleep at The 3 Ducks we started our day at the Louvre where we got in free because we are students! Wonderful surprise and saved us about 9 euro! Saw tons of art like the Mona Lisa (much smaller then I expected) and the Venus to Milo statue.  I am not a huge art person, actually I realize now that I know very little about famous artists and the work that they did, so I am sure we saw some other famous artworks that I can't remember.  Next we headed to the Notre Dame.  It was huge!  We got to walk through it (oddly while a service was going on) and see the beautiful stained glass and intricately decorated inside.  All my previous knowledge of the Notre Dame comes from a Disney movie so now I feel like I better understand the importance of the church as more then just the home of Quasimodo.  We walked along the Seine river and ate at a little restaurant just off of the main street, it was a delicious sandwich but we definitely paid for the location!  Next we headed to the Catacombs, which were basically streets under the city piled with bones of the dead (many from the plague I think).  It was cool in a grotesque kind of way...personally I thought it was really weird, especially the way the bones were arranged in perfect piles with the skulls placed on top.  I was shocked by how many young children were down there...a ten-year-old British girl could tell how nervous I was about being down there, and made it her personal mission to comfort me through most of the tour and tell me what she thought the arrangements of bones meant!  After a quick run through of the Luxemburg Gardens and a stop for crapes, we ended our day at the Eiffel Tower.  It was all lit up and we took an elevator to the top to see Paris at night.  It was super windy at the top, but we got some good pictures!

Kiley and Me at the Are de Triomph
 Day two in Paris was a little less intense.  We saw what we had missed the day before and met up with my friend from home Kiley! She is studying in Paris for the semester and was willing to show us around for the day.  First we went to the Arc de Triomph and saw another view of the city...this time during the day.  Then we walked to the house of Nicolas Flamel the guy from the first Harry Potter book (I know, I am a geek).  It was nothing terribly exciting, but there was a plaque on the wall and fortunately we had Kiley to translate for us.  The house was supposedly the oldest one in Paris, of course now it is a restaurant - haha.  We had some Quiche and a beignet (pretty much a donut) for lunch.  Kiley walked us to the Centre Pompidou museum and left us shortly after.  The museum was slightly ugly on the was supposed to be modern, but it just looked like a lot of pipes on the outside of it.  The art inside was very modern and I was not a huge fan but still worth seeing.  Our last stop of the day was to Moulin Rouge a little north of central Paris.  We took pictures of it from the outside ( should be jealous) but did not go in since you had to have a ticket, instead we enjoyed the rest of the "red light" district (haha) and had Japanese for dinner.

We left Paris early Tuesday morning and headed to Barcelona, Spain.  It was a long day of travel and once we got there the first thing we did was shower! (we had been too nervous to at the 3 Ducks)  We walked down Las Ramblas (the famous street in Barcelona) that night and to a couple of the buildings built by Antoni Gaudi.  They were very cool and supposedly built with no straight lines, so they were designed very curvy...for lack of a better descriptive word.  We also went to the Temple de la Sagrada Familia which is the cathedral that was also built by Guadi.  I learned that he was not able to finish it before he died so architects are still in the process of finishing it today.  It was huge and looked more like a castle then a church.  I heard that the inside is very cool but we did not actually go in.  Ate dinner at a restaurant on Las Ramblas that had Sangria and Tapas (which are basically little appetizers) Yum, they were delicious!

For day two in Barcelona, we wanted to start early so we were up and sightseeing by 9:30am only to realize that Barcelona is on a slightly different time schedule then most places.  Most, if not all of the stores did not open until 10 or 10:30 and then many took a siesta (a midday break) from about 1-3pm.  Personally, I thought it sounded like an excellent workday...but it was not so good for sightseeing and finding a place to eat lunch.  We had heard from a friend about this juice bar called Juicy Jones.  Turns out it was a vegetarian juice bar/Indian food restaurant...sounds like an odd combination but the smoothies were wonderful.  So after we opened the place up (keep in mind it was noon already!) I had a mango, strawberry and soymilk milkshake.  Afterward we walked along the Mediterranean did I feel spoiled it was beautiful (I actually felt like I was in Paradise!)  That afternoon we took a rail car up to Montjuic, which is a hill near Barcelona that has the Montjuic castle, gardens and an amazing view of the city.  We explored the castle and then walked down the hill to meet up with two of my other roommates from Florence and go to Park Güell.  Again, the park was designed and made by Guadi.  It was very pretty but packed with tourists! 
Park Guell

Beautiful Barcelona
By our third day in Barcelona we were tired! Emily left that day to join her parents in Rome, so there were only three of us left.  We visited the big outdoor market on Las Ramblas called Marcado De San Josep.  It was all food, which I did not realize and by now I am slightly bais toward our big market in Florence.  We visited the Pablo Piccasso museum that afternoon.  I learned that he actually was a very good artist before he started doing his odd (in my opinion) cubism stuff.  Towards the end of the museum they did this cool comparison between his work and the work of was kind of funny the way that Piccasso almost seemed like he was making fun of Degas work by imitating it! Our last stop was to Park of the Ciutadella which was this huge public park near Barcelona's Arc de Triomf.  I am starting to wonder if every city has an Arc, and if so where is the one in St. Paul, Minnesota?  Anyway, the park was very tropical looking and was right next to the zoo that I was told was/is the home of MGM lion that roars at the beginning of movies.  I am not sure if that is true or if the lion is in fact still alive, so we skipped paying 15 euros to enter a zoo that might not even have a famous lion in it! That night we packed up our stuff and left for London by about 11pm.

We got into London early Friday morning after what I can confidently say was the weirdest flight of my life.  The plane was delayed, so instead of leaving at 10pm we did not leave until 12am...not really a big deal.  But, what you have to understand about Ryanair is that it is a cheap airline and not only does nobody check a bag, but nobody is given an assigned seat.  They base everything on a first come first serve basis.  So everyone was lined up by 9pm at the gate and when the gate number was switched at about 11pm everyone grabbed their things and started running to the next gate so they could be the first in line.  It was nuts! Adults were pushing and shoving to get to the gate first...I could not believe how crazy people were about getting a seat on an airplane that had only second class seats anyway! haha.

Okay, so that story was maybe a little off topic, but I thought it was important to share as it was our first encounter with English people (and a few Spanish).  Luckily all the people we actually met in London were very civil and nothing like the ones on the plane with us.  On day one in London we went to St. Paul's Cathedral, had fish and chips for lunch, and walked through Regent park.  We also visited the house of Sherlock Holmes and Bakers Street and took a walk down Abbey road (which was actually very close to the hostel we stayed at).  A cool thing about London is that all the Museums are free of charge! So after a stop at Shakespeare's Globe theater we went to the Tate Modern, a newer modern art museum right across the London bridge.  Since by now we had been to two modern art museums on the trip...Veronika and I decided to pick out the weirdest works on display.  My choice was the hexagon shaped piece of white paper glued to the wall.  That night we walked through Harrods the ritzy department store in London.  Of course we went strait to the designer section because I have such a good sense of style all the things were right in my price range. (haha)  We took the metro to see the London Eye (the new ferris wheel) and Big Ben at night.
The changing of the guards
 Day two of London was dedicated to all the classic tourist sights.  We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, walked through Green Park, Hyde Park and the Wellington Arch.  We went to Parliament Square and saw the House of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.  That afternoon we went to the National Gallery and oddly saw an NFL rally going out right outside.  I looked it up and I guess San Francisco and Denver were playing in London.  Kinda weird...I even saw a Favre jersey in the crowd! The last night we went to King's Cross to find platform 9 3/4.  Sadly, we could not find it after a lot of searching...the station is huge! Our flight back to Rome was early the next morning so we packed up and spent what I want to say was my last night sleeping at an airport/train station.
Buckingham Palace

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