Au Revoir Barcelona… Oh wait, it’s Adios.

Last weekend I took a quick trip to Barcelona. I arrived at 12pm Friday night from Paris and left Sunday night at 8:00. It was not enough time to see everything. But, it was enough time to see that I want to return.

I took Spanish in high school. That was a waste of four years of my life. The basis of my vocabulary when I was in Spain was Si, Hola, Adios, Gracias, and De Nada. Barcelona, like Paris, is a big city with many tourists. So, getting by with only English was easy. The problem with me was the “French mode”that I was in. I would use Oui, Bonjour, Au Revoir, Merci, and de rien more often that the Spanish words I know. It’s like when I came back to the States I instinctively said “Pardon”(in a French accent) when passing a lady in the airport. I added the “me” because I realized I was in America now. I had now become an 80 year old southern woman. So, the whole trip was me saying, “Oui, oh Si, ugh I’m sorry.” speaking 3 languages like an idiot.

P2251283.JPGNow, enough about my horrible language skills. Let’s talk about the highlight of the trip. Sagrada Familia. Now, if you have never heard about Sagrada Familia, this is a link to their website here Sagrada Familia. Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudis masterpiece that has been under construction since the late 1800s. I have seen a lot of Cathedrals and Basilicas in Europe. However, this one is so detailed that it is going to be hard to beat in my mind. Everything was thought out and has a meaning behind it.

There is a Nativity side and a Passion side of the Basilica. On the Nativity Side there are three doors. Jesus in the middle, Joseph to the left, and Mary on the right

The Passion Side has columns that that are meant to look like muscles. The carvings are deliberately made to be more square or rough on this side because of what it represents.

 

The inside of the basilica was modeled after a forest. Gaudi made the columns on the inside look like huge trees. The side of the church where the sun rises has huge stained glass windows in cool tones. And the side where the sun sets is in warm tones. The light reflecting inside the Church is really what you notice. Colors dancing on all of the walls.

 

 

I took the lift up to the tower on the Passion Side of the Basilica. I researched when I bought my ticket and that at side is supposed to have a better view of Barcelona. The view was amazing! I also think the line was longer for the tower on the Nativity side. So, if you are going, maybe choose the Passion side. Overall Sagrada Familia was my favorite part of the trip because it just blew my mind. I just kept thinking about how Gaudi got thousands of people to commit for hundreds of years to his vision. He just designed something so ambitious and people are still trying to achieve his goal. Amazing.

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My favorite picture from Sagrada Familia

Saturday I needed to eat something. I had researched food in Barcelona before I left and discovered La Boqueria. It was was highly recommended by many websites and blogs. Mainly because of it’s fresh fruits and juices. Also the variety of vendors and food choices. This was a close call for my favorite thing in Barcelona. The atmosphere and the people were great. The juice was only 1 euro (at the small booth I found) Some were 1.50 euro. So, walk around a bit if you want to save money or find the best deal. There are so many vendors. Also, If you see something that looks good I suggest you get it at that moment. I saw a few things and thought, I’ll come back if I don’t find anything better to eat. After walking and not finding anything else, I couldn’t find those places even though I tried. I had to settle for some fried seafood that I didn’t really eat. But then I found some ice cream that was like heaven. So, overall it was a success.

The best thing about traveling by yourself and staying in a hostel is that you meet new people. Saturday night I got dressed and sat down in the common room. I was going to rest and then find a place for dinner. I ended up talking to some people and met a guy who was from Lafayette, LA. It really is a small world. I then had an invite to dinner and met three new people in the span of 10 minutes. That night we played drinking games with Sangria, and tons of people who were staying at the hostel joined.

Sunday I had a ticket to Park Güell for 10am. Waking up for a shower and everything before was tough because of the Sangria, but I made it there. If you don’t like to walk I suggest you take the bus from the Metro to Park Güell or take a taxi. The walk to Park Güell is about 15 minutes and it is not the easiest. It makes the views great but the walking includes going uphill. Although, the one thing I noticed in Barcelona is how Sagrada Familia and Park Güell would be easy for a handicapped or older person. Sagrada familia has ramps and an elevator for the towers. Park Güell has access to the front gate by taxi, and most of the going up you can do by ramp. That is very rare for Europe.

 

Park Güell was beautiful and the stone formations were very cool. The architecture of the buildings is interesting to look at and there is a great view. I don’t know if I would recommend going to Park Güell if you only have 2 days like I did. It is very time consuming and kind of out of the way. Very worth it if you have the time, though. I loved it. I also saw Casa Milà and Casa Batlló from the outside. I did not see the inside of Casa Batlló, but I wish I would have. The exterior was absolutely amazing. It was so interesting and cool.

Last but definitely not least, I went to Barceloneta Beach. The beach was very beautiful. There is a nice boardwalk that you can walk along to get there from the metro. There are restaurants and a big marina with huge sailboats. If you do not want to walk along the boardwalk, there is a bus that will take you strait to the beach. The bus stop is right by the metro, easily named Barcelonta. The walk is nice, but if you are crunched on time, the bus is a good option. After about a 20 minute walk you will make it to the beach. The beach in Barcelona was absolutely beautiful. I did not have the greatest experience because I decided to go touch the Mediterranean ocean. Well, the next thing I know, my jeans, shoes, and socks are soaked. So, I guess I have been in the Mediterranean ocean. It’s about the memories, right?

 

Overall Barcelona was an amazing trip. I discovered a new love of Gaudi and I made some new friends. I also answered the question Spain vs. France, which is better? I have no idea at this point. But Barcelona is a must visit if you are in Spain. It has the best of everything. Beautiful beaches, good food, nice people, great history, and amazing architecture. Definitely not as pretty as Paris, though. Every building is pretty here. I was asked about liking Paris because some people say it is dirty, which I have not noticed at all. I am told people love or hate Paris. My answer to this is that all big cities are dirty somewhere. Its like New Orleans. Don’t judge it based solely on Bourbon Street. FYI: Watch out for dog poop in Barcelona too. Except, it doesn’t make sense to me at all there because they actually have grass. So, It must be a European thing.

That’s all for now.

Besos,

Jolie

 

 

 

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Auf Wiedersehen Berlin…

Berlin is a beautiful city filled with history. I really did not expect to love Berlin as much as I do. I think my overall experience was made great by the people I met as much as the city itself.

First of all, If you ever plan to go there make sure you have a way to get plenty of cash. Don’t plan on relying on your credit card. Many businesses only take cash. Also, ATMs are scarce. Berlin is behind on that. However, I love that all of the trains have Wi-Fi. So, basically once you figure out the train system you can connect to the BVG Wi-Fi. The trains are more complicated than I thought they would be. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are hard to understand at first. Also, there are a lot of trams that you can take, but they are not very reliable like the metro in Paris because of traffic. So, I walked A LOT in Berlin. I found it easier and sometimes it was the faster route.

Visiting Berlin is very intense. Everything you visit is beautiful, however I had this feeling of sadness when I looked around. An example is the Brandenburg Gate. It is the most famous monument in Germany. When I picture it, I also have a picture of Hitler marching through it in my mind. Also, it is a symbol of freedom in Berlin. It is still an iconic symbol of the Berlin wall coming down.

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Another thing I noticed is the architecture of Berlin. Most of the buildings in Berlin are fairly new, which is strange for Europe. A lot was destroyed in the war. So the architecture of most of the buildings is very plain. Then you will see something like the Berliner Dom that is absolutely amazing. There is so much history in every monument that still stands.

The history of Berlin and the Holocaust was very interesting and sad to learn. It’s not easy to take in. It’s something that I think everyone should do. I visited Sachsenhausen, a Nazi Concentration camp. There are tours for this, but most of them were for 6 hours total, with two hours of travel. I like tours, but I think if I would have spent 4 hours there it would have been too much. Entrance to Sachsenhausen is free. If you have an ABC train pass you can go outside of Berlin and it is only 3 Euro for the audio guide. you can then leave whenever you are done. Walking to the Gate was very strange because there are houses right next to the gate. Picture a small town row of cute houses with Sachsenhausen as the dead end. People are living in these houses. This was unsettling to me. However, the town Oranienburg is very nice.

 

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Sachsenhausen

 

 

I took a free walking tour and that was the best thing to do. I saw things I wouldn’t have gone to and returned to some that I wanted to see again. It is a tip based service. I gave him 5 Euros, and felt like it wasn’t enough because the guide was awesome. I didn’t have anymore cash because Berlin is the city of using cash for EVERYTHING.

We visited Checkpoint Charlie which was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It was fun to learn about some American History that happened here too. There was a stand off between Soviet and U.S. Tanks over the travel documents of a U.S. diplomat. The tour guide also showed where the CIA and the KGB would have been stationed at the time to lookout at the checkpoint. There is also a place to take a picture with some “American” soldiers in uniform. It’s really just some German guys dressed up like American soldiers. It was very entertaining to watch people pay for photos with these guys.

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Checkpoint Charlie

 

I also saw some Nazi Architecture. Which was not on my list to see, but I’m glad I did see it. The guide took us to the former headquarters of The Third Reich. The building is like a prison, grey and cold. He also told of us Hitler’s plans for The Grand Dome (Germania). The Dome was to be 16 times bigger than St. Peters Basilica in Rome and to fit 150,000-180,000 people. Anyways…Hitler was FN crazy and on meth towards the end. He was planning to completely destroy Berlin as it was. If the war had ended differently, Germania was his plan. Thank God there is not a Germania.

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Headquarters of the Third Reich

 

Ok, enough about Nazi’s. They suck.

Berlin was actually a lot of fun! As much as the history sucks, the city is great. This is a classic case of your past doesn’t define who you are. Berlin has taken that and ran with it. I didn’t know that Berlin is a huge party city. The clubs and nightlife are a big part of the culture. There are clubs that people wait hours to get into. I know what you’re thinking. Why? Well, these clubs are open from Friday to Monday. I met one German girl who said the longest she stayed was 20 hours.

My favorite things about Berlin were the people I met. This was my first hostel and I had the best time. I met so many people that made this trip wonderful for me. The Berliner Dom was one of the highlights also. The interior of it is amazing and the view from the top is a 360 of Berlin.

 

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Berliner Dom

 

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Inside the Berliner Dom

 

Walking along the Wall at The East Side Gallery had to be the coolest thing I did. All of the art was interesting and beautiful. I remember seeing one that was a person going over the wall. You could only see a leg with a hand holding the foot. A friend I was with said to me “Do you think the hand is pushing them or pulling them down?” I was thinking pushing, but I will remember that painting forever. I took pictures of some of my other favorites.

 

The food in Berlin is also really good. I like that it is not ridiculously expensive. We went to a Pizza restaurant in Mitte where you could get a pizza for 4Euros. The German food was very good and the best beer I had was from the Brewery at the Circus Hostel. And weirdly enough, I learned that Berlin has a big Vegan population. So, for anyone with diet constraints this is the place to go. There is a large variety of good restaurants everywhere. I had awesome German, Thai, Vietnamese, and Italian.

Overall, Berlin was amazing and I would visit again if I didn’t have a list of about 300 more places to see. Next on the list for Germany: Oktoberfest in Munich.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I am a blog slacker.

I am not good at keeping up with this blog. Mainly because I have been busy these last two weeks. Also because I have been sick and it sucks. Being sick when you live in a foreign country is horrible. Thank God one of my host dads is a doctor, because all of the medicines here are totally different. The best thing I did when packing was bring my “favorite” medicines from the US. It’s getting better everyday, until I go to Paris and walk 3-7 miles and climb 15-19 flights of stairs. 🙂 That’s my average according to my iPhone.

Anyways…

I visited the Catacombs about two weeks ago. It is very interesting because you are right in the middle of Paris and then you just walk down some stairs, and bam here are the bones of 6 million people?  It wasn’t really on my list of things to see, but some girls were going to see it, and I didn’t have anything to do. I would say if you are coming to Paris for 2-3 days put it low on your list. But if you have time it’s cool to see. If you go be prepared to walk a lot and go up and down a lot of stairs.

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I also visited La Marais to go shopping and ended up walking to Notre Dame. This was a really nice day. I went to some vintage shops and looked at ton of clothes. The resale shops in Paris are good quality and packed with clothes. The problem for me is that some of them do not have places to try things on. When I was done looking and I didn’t want to carry anything for the rest of the day I saw that Notre Dame was close by. Meaning that I could see it so I figured I would walk there. The walk is BEAUTIFUL… here are some pictures.

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This past weekend I went to Nuit Blanche, which is a really cool event in Paris where places stay open late and they have special art installations and parties. I unfortunately was still feeling crappy so I didn’t stay out all night. I did, however, go to the Musée du Luxembourg when it would normally be closed. I was there from about 10:30-12:30 pm looking at the Fantin-Latour exhibit. The flowers that he painted are so realistic. The painting of the lilies is my favorite. Also, if you want to know what the guy looks like, he painted himself almost every year. Maybe a narcissist? IDK. I took the VERY LAST train back and FaceTimed Al at 2 am.

I also started school last week. My professors name is Anne. I told my host dad C that I had professor ANN and he did not understand me because I did not pronounce it AHN.:) In class everything is in French. Even when she gives us new vocabulary it is in French. Sometimes I can understand when the describes a French word with other French words, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. Thankfully, all of the other girls are at the same level. The activities that we do in class are good. When I know I did 90% right and the 10% I’m not sure of, she will ask me to answer the 10% out loud. I think it is my face. I probably look so nervous when she gets to the 10%. Damn you ANN.

That’s about it for now.

Bonne Journée