Published: January 7th 2010January 5th 2010
Rooftop of Gaudi
Back on the road…. finally! For the past 1.5 years I have been going to school in the evenings (and weekends) to get my MBA. Needless to say it has really cut into my ability to travel, among other things. So when the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Europe “studying” came…well I jumped on it! So here I am back in Europe after 8 years. My last trip here was after I graduated from William and Mary, my friend Tony and I spent a few months doing the backpacking Eurorail thing. I was eager get back here and check things out after being away for so long.
So the plan was to spend 3 weeks traveling to 4 countries in Europe [Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy] with a study abroad program called Forum-Nexus that is based out of two European Universities (Ramon Lull and Catholic University of Milan). It was a win-win situation since the credits for this program where a lot less expensive then my schools credits, so I basically got to travel through Europe for free. Just as a disclaimer - I plan on focusing more on my individual experience traveling through these countries then I
do talking about class, and the people that I met through this program.
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
So onto the travel part of the travel blog; I spent the first few days in Barcelona Spain. I saw all the main sights - the Gaudi architecture, the Gothic Quarter, and numerous churches including the impressive Cathedral of Santa Eulalia. One of the most interesting sites was a tour of Casa Batlló - a house that Gaudi created for a Spanish couple. I haven't included any photo's in this blog but the house itself (except the roof) was extremely wackie - the local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), and it definitely has a skeletal quality.
A few interesting observations:
- I was amazed by the number of lingerie stores in Barcelona! I’m not exaggerating when I say that there were 2 on every street block. What does that tell you about the Spanish Culture?
- Tapas were the name of the game as far as food goes in Barcelona. It was just about impossible to eat anything but Tapas - so I had plenty of those little suckers - ham, chicken, mussels, octopus, cheese, peppers,
New Years 2010
Happy New Years from Paris!
- In the main shopping and restaurant areas (Las Ramblas) the streets were absolutely packed every night with people just walking here and there (see image) and it’s the middle of the winter! I’m assuming it was so busy because it was around the Holidays, but I’m not sure.
- In addition to classes for school I had a chance to go on an official visit to two really interesting businesses (1) Bodages Torres Winery (2) Barcelona Stock Exchange. These visits are interesting because we typically get a chance to have a behind the scene look at places that tourists wouldn’t get to see.
- I discovered a new favorite snack in Barcelona - CHURROS. Which I believe is somewhat common in Latin countries. It is basically a long skinny doughnut that you dip in a big bowl of melted chocolate. It was pretty incredible but I can’t imagine that it was too healthy for me (Haley, I’m trying to work on that).
- The Cathedral of Santa Eulalia was a really impressive church and what was more interesting was the story of the girl the church was dedicated to: wikipedia says the following: "The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in Barcelona. One story is that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street"
- So after a few days in Spain my group took an overnight train into Paris arriving on the 31st - just in time for New Years. The time in Paris was actually somewhat uneventful due to the amount of classes that we had and the fact that I went to Bruges, Belgium for the weekend (which I’ll get to later).
- New Years was the main activity for our time in Paris (HAPPY 2010!). For the night of the 31st we had made ambitious plans to celebrate at the Eiffel Tower AND the famous street called Champ-Elyees (which was kind of similar to a Time Square type thing where everyone fills the streets). The entire Forum-Nexus group came out to party (about 30 of us) each with their
bottle of Champaign in hand!
Look how packed it is at night here!!
- The city planned a light show at the Eiffel Tower, which was actually pretty impressive (see images). After that we headed over to a traditional pizza place on the Champ-Elyees where we had reservations. After a filling meal of pizza and vino we headed out to the streets to celebrate the countdown with the 10’s of 1000’s of Frenchies.
- By this time I was on extreme bread overload - ALL the street food in Barcelona consists of only meat and cheese on baguettes - so I had a ton of those. In Paris all the street food consists of meat and cheese on baguettes - so I had a ton of those…bread, bread, bread…ugh! Everything you order comes with bread.
I didn't get a chance to see and do as much as most typical tourists in Paris so I'm really glad that this was my second time around.
So that is a very quick overview of my time in Barcelona and Paris, up next is a side trip to Brugge, Belgium and then Interlaken, Switzerland :) I hope all is well at home!
There are more photos below