Friday, July 22, 2011

"Crepe-ing" my way through Paris

While having only been in Paris for a mere 5 days, I can safely say I have eaten enough french pastries & cheese for an entire year. So far, despite the very rainy weather, the trip has been magical. I have roamed nearly every neighborhood, took advantage of the wonderful French sales going on right now, & even made time to see Harry Potter in a quaint French theater. Even though I wake up every morning and my body is sore in every way imaginable, I love this city. With just two and a half days left, Allie and I are planning to take in a few more of the sights including the Louve, Angelina's for french hot chocolate, The Catacombes, & the infamous Parisian flea markets. Hope you all are enjoying those hot summer days while we cool off under the cloudy Parisian skies.
p.s. these pictures may seem of infinitely higher quality...that's because with Allie, also comes her Nikon DX
the top of Sacre Coeur
LaDuree French Macarons
beneath the Eiffel Tower
the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Elysses

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bon Jour

Greetings from Paris! After arriving early this morning on a surprisingly comfortable overnight train, I maneuvered through the metro system (which at one point included getting stuck in between the turn styles & having to climb back over and by another ticket) and arrived at my hotel smoother than planned. After dropping my bags off, I headed to Notre Dame to meet up with one of my friend's I met in Pamplona- however, with the chaotic crowd of people and lack of wifi connection, we were unable to find each other. Even so, I decided to do some exploring.
Following a recommendation Jenna gave me (she spent 5 weeks in Paris last summer), I landed at L'Au du Falafel for a delicious lunch. After filling my belly, I wandered for a few hours and ended up seeing many of the main sights of Paris. Including the Louve, a distant view of the Eiffel tower, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Already, I am falling in love with this city and as of yet my lack of knowledge in French has yet to be a problem.
On a more serious note, Allie and I both received some startling news about one of our dear friends. It is making it difficult in many ways to enjoy this trip knowing someone we love is going through something so difficult and we can't be there for her. Thankfully, Allie and I will finally be together (in 3 hours or so) and I am hoping we will be able to embrace this opportunity we have and realize how precious life truly is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hasta Pronto Espana (Goodbye Spain)

I never thought the time would actually come to say goodbye to my beloved Espana. I feel like I have lived here all my life. I completely immersed myself in this culture and it felt like a perfect fit. From the people to the lifestyle, it will be so strange adjusting back to life in suburbia. The more time I spend in cities, the more I realize how much of a city girl I truly am.
However, I can not complain about having to abandon Barcelona, because fortunately for me, I am not yet headed back to Arizona but in fact headed for the city of love. Oh yes, I am finally going to Paris! And better yet, I am meeting my best friend there. I do not think anything in the world could be more perfect. I will be having my own Blair & Serena moment (a la the first few episodes of season 4). Maybe I will even meet my own Louie! (This statement is HIGHLY unlikely...if not impossible)
Right now, I am headed out to enjoy my final night in Barcelona at the Montjuic park magic fountain and bask in all the beautiful things, places, and people I have met throughout my Spanish adventure.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A flurry of sights

These past 2 or 3 days (I am losing track!) have been a world wind of breath taking sights, wonderful foods, & incredible amounts of walking. I have also gotten to experience the Barcelona night life which is beyond amazing. Needless to say, my body is sore and I am exhausted. While I had plans today to spend the morning on the beach, the rain clouds that ascended on the city last night thought it would be better if I spent the morning lounging around the apartment. While I love the way the rain changes the landscape of the city, I am hoping that my last two days in Barcelona will be filled with lots of sunshine and sunscreen. Here are a few of my favorite sights I saw over the past few days.
Wonderful fresh fruit from La Boqueria
Gaudi's Casa Batallo
National Palace at Montjuic Park
Views from Olympic Stadium
Joan Miro park

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Beautiful beaches & Captivating Cathedrals

My first day in Barcelona did not go as planned. After a lovely morning spent lying on the beach, I decided I should try and venture out and get my first glimpse of the city. After getting a little lost on my way to the Museo Picasso, I stumbled upon the incredible Barcelona Cathedral. Even under construction (like nearly every cathedral here in the city) it was breathtaking to see. After my little detour, I finally found the charming neighborhood where the Museo Picasso is located. However, I was greeted by an unpleasant sight of an hour long line to enter the museum. Had I realized that, since the museum is free on Sunday afternoons, it would probably be busy, I would have arrived earlier. But alas, I did not. Instead of waiting in line to only have to rush through the exhibits, I decided to wander around. After finding the arc de triompf (and an old man, who in Spanish, advised me to watch my purse) I decided to continue my walk. Only after 10 minutes did I realize I was heading in the direction of the Sagrada Familia. Needless to say, I was more than happy to have stumble upon Gaudi's masterpiece. While I did not go inside (as there was yet another long line), just seeing the exterior was enough to make my jaw drop.
Overall, for having only been in the city for 24 hours, without a map or anyone to guide me around, I'd say I had a rather fantastic day. Here's to hoping tomorrow will go a little more as planned- or not since getting lost in Europe is what I do best!
Cube Installation at Barceoneta Beach
Barcelona Cathedral
Arc de Triompf
The Sagrada Familia

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Goodbye Pamplona

What an incredible, incredible week. By far, Pamplona has been my favorite part of my trip so far. And not because of how much fun I had at San Fermin (which was in many ways TOO much fun) but because of the wonderful people I met along the way. With everyone in town for the festival, there was an incredible sense of camaraderie. I even have plans for when I arrive in Paris next Sunday to reunite with one of my Aussie friends and have a baguette under the Eiffel tower.
To be able to describe the San Fermin festival would be an impossible fete. While the running of the bulls itself does not seem to be all that thrilling to watch, the energy before and after the race makes those hours of waiting for a 2 minute race all worth while. After the Chipunazo on Wednesday, we spent the rest of the day in the park soaking up sun and drinking tinto de verano. We made it an early night so we could get up early to see the first encierro. After getting a fairly decent spot for how late we arrived, we got our first glimpse at the infamous running of the bulls. It was very anti-climatic since the bulls were in no one angry or terrifying but gentle creatures being chased by a bunch of drunken idiots. After the race we got the traditional San Fermin breakfast of chocolate y churros from this incredible Churreria. While it took a half an hour and 8 euro to get them, they were more than worth it. Quickly afterwards we caught the procesion where 100 year old "gigantes" dance through the streets as the San Fermin statue is carried around town. However, after this, we were all exhausted and headed back home for a siesta.
Thursday night we experienced all the "marcha" San Fermin had to offer. After literally dancing the entire night away, we arrived at the infamous Dead Man's Corner at 5am in order to get front row seats. This area of the run is well known because often the bulls loose control at this turn and slide into the gate, which often times means running into people as well. After buying a San Fermin jumper (or sweatshirt for my American friends, I have been hanging with too many Aussies!) and a cup of cafe con leche, I settled in to wait for the run to begin. We were the first ones there so we had some of the best seats in the house. It was pure comedy watching so many drunk tourists getting dragged out of the run by the (incredibly attractive) police officers. Some even snuck back in by scrabbling under the gates. However, I unfortunately saw no fatal injuries or any injuries for the matter. While MANY have occurred, most people only hear about them on the news and rarely see them.
After spending the entire night out, we somehow managed to drag ourselves to the nearby seaside town of San Sebastian. Close to the French border, San Sebastian was one of the most beautiful cities I have seen in Spain. I wish I could have spent more time there but alas, there are only so many hours in the day.
I finally arrived in Barcelona and am looking forward to my last week in Spain. I can not believe how fast these past 3 weeks have gone by.
Plaza Consistorial
Chocolate y Churros
Los Gigantes and El Procesion
Dead Man's Corner The beautiful beach of San Sebastian

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

San Fermin

"Todo el mundo está invitado y a todo el mundo le gustaría venir, pero solo unos pocos son los elegidos"
Translation: All the world is invited, and all the world wants to come, but few are elected

And so the madness known as San Fermin finally begins. It is only 9 am here and already the shops and streets are filled with people preparing for the opening ceremony, El Chupinazo. At noon, everyone heads to the town center to put on their "pañuelo" (a red scarf) to symbolize the beginning of San Fermin. While I am not wearing the customery attire, almost everyone else is decked out in all white outfits with red belts. For the next 9 days, Pamplona is the party capital of the world. Tomorrow is the first "encierro" (or running of the bulls are we call it in the States) and I plan on having a front row seat- even if that means getting there at 6am. It has been amazing seeing the city transform in a matter of days.
On Monday when I toured the city, it seemed like a quiet, tranquil place.While there were people, it was nothing to the magnitude of the business of Madrid. However, yesterday the city transformed. Everywhere I looked I saw groups of young people (mostly Australians) heading to set up their camp. Even though the festivites do not officially begin until today,last night thousands of people were sitting in the streets drinking beer. Already on my walk to school this morning I saw people sleeping in the park. And this is only supposed to get worse. Luckily, I am actually here during one of the least crazy times. This weekend will be pure madness and most Pamplonicas actually leave town because they hate being bombared with all the tourists. I have a feeling 3 days of San Fermin will be more than sufficient.