This past week, I went on my final weekend trip with my friends. To think that just a few months ago we were dreaming about traveling through Europe together and now it’s over is slightly sad, but mostly happy because I know I have made so many lifelong memories. After four months of traveling during almost every weekend, it’s definitely going to feel weird to have my feet on the ground for more than 5 days in a row once I return to the U.S next week. However, I’ve still got one solo weekend trip left, plus the long flight back to the U.S. next Friday.
As for this past week, my friends and I visited two of Europe’s most exciting cities: London and Paris. I’ve dreamed of visiting these two cities since I was a little girl, so it was definitely the trip I was most looking forward to.
We began the trip with London where we spent the first day enjoying teatime at Harrod’s and then ice-skating in Hyde Park. Walking to Harrod’s, we all completely fell in love with London. From the fact that Aveeno lotion is available in the pharmacies (hint: it’s not in Spain) to the city’s lively New York City vibe, we felt like London was home – only with a richer history and a cooler accent. Teatime completely lived up to my expectations with an assortment of finger sandwiches, pastries, and of course, an abundance of tea. We didn’t have to wait to be seated and I honestly felt like I was the epitome of English class as I sipped tea in one of London’s most iconic spots. As for ice-skating, I’d like to thank the classic “Friday Night Skate” of my middle school days and my body’s apparent muscle memory for allowing me to stay upright on the ice. Skating in Hyde Park with Christmas lights surrounding us and a soundtrack with Paul McCartney singing “Wonderful Christmastime” may have been the most English we felt throughout the trip. Needless to say, the first day was a hit.
The next day, we got up early for a full day of sight seeing. We hit just about every important sight from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to Westminster Abbey to the London Eye to Shakespeare’s Globe and finally to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Accumulating over 25,000 steps and only using the metro once, we covered just about every historic spot in London. We finished the day with dinner at the fancy shmancy Bob Bob Ricard restaurant where there’s conveniently two “Press for Champagne” buttons at each table. We toasted the night to our last and best trip together and to many more celebratory dinners in the future.
Our final day in London consisted of a tasty brunch followed by exploring some of London’s Christmas markets and neighborhoods. My favorite neighborhood was the posh, yet quaint Marylobone. Marylobone gave me that village-within-a-huge-city feel just like Greenwich Village in New York City. Here, we wandered through the charming streets and walked in and out of the shops. At the end of the day, we packed our bags for our nighttime flight to Paris.
In our opinion, Paris is the D.C. to London’s New York. Although that’s a bit of a compliment to D.C., Paris is more spread out than London, has a large number of neighborhoods, and is filled with many museums and monuments. The gardens remind me of D.C’s parks and the classy buildings have that historically chic vibe that D.C. breathes.
We quickly learned that two days in Paris was not going to be nearly enough time to see everything, so we narrowed it down to what we could see. We started with an hour and a half at the Louvre where we really only explored one section – the 13th-15th century Italian paintings – and also caught a quick glimpse of some Spanish paintings. Our reason for looking at the Italian paintings isn’t surprising in the least, as we were being classic tourists who wanted to see the famous Mona Lisa. Although most people say they are disappointed when seeing it, I was actually impressed because my expectations were so low that the painting ended up surpassing them. I was surprised that it was as big as it was because I had heard that it was practically the size of an 8.5×11 piece of paper, which is a vast exaggeration. I’d say it’s at least the size of 4 8.5x11s combined. Regardless, I thought it was cool to see a painting I have learned so much about since my elementary school days and found that it was definitely worth it (Note: I got into the Louvre for free with my EU student card and there was absolutely no line to see the Mona Lisa, so my opinion is quite biased).
We continued the day by sharing a picnic of champagne, Brie, and a baguette on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, then making our way to Champs-Élysées to grab macaroons at Ladurée and explore the Paris Christmas markets. We ended the night in a typical French bistro where we enjoyed escargot and free tap water (Note: Water is rarely free in Europe and is definitely not free in Spain, however we were surprised with free tap water in every restaurant in France).
The next day, we headed to the Musée d’Orsay, which I’d have to say was the best museum I have been to. I absolutely loved the exhibit of the Impressionist painters, particularly Monet. The exhibit brought me back to my 8th grade art class where I chose to study Monet for my final project. Seeing his works in the flesh was definitely a cool experience. The museum also offers the stunning view of the Seine through the clock tower, which I was more than excited to see (and take a picture in front of). I found it fitting that we took one of our last pictures abroad in front of a giant clock looking out on a river and a beautiful city because that view embodies the essence of our time abroad: fleeting, yet absolutely full of adventure.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying a cruise on the Seine, visiting the famous Notre Dame, and finally finishing our trip without another fabulous meal at a French bistro.
As I currently sit in my little bedroom in my old-fashioned, quirky apartment in Barcelona, I can’t help but think about how quickly this semester has gone by. With just 10 days left in Europe, and only 6 in Barcelona, I cannot believe my semester abroad is almost over. But before I can dwell on what’s ending, I look forward to my last weekend trip and my last week in this magical city. As for my final trip, I’m going “alone” to one of the coldest countries in Europe. I’ve been there twice before, so this shouldn’t be too hard to guess. Let’s hope there’s no snowstorms that cause me to miss next week’s exams. (Well, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad…)