Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paris/Barcelona...TAKE TWO

For those of you who might not be able to figure it out, the "TAKE TWO" is in the title because I have done a Paris to Barcelona trip on a bus once, in the past. If you remember, I mentioned it in my very first blog entry as being the voyage that inspired me to go to Europe on exchange.
Although the trip commenced in Paris and terminated in Barcelona both times, take a look at how they differed.

March 18 - 27, 2010: arrival in Paris, departure in Barcelona
February 19 - 26, 2013; arrival in Paris, departure in Paris... we live in France after all!
Whereas all 11 kids on my first trip came from the same middle school in Oregon, take a look at some of the places where the kids on this trip currently live.

From Lille to Cannes, La Rochelle to Strasbourg
I was the only kid from District 1510 on this trip, but that didn't vex me at all because I got to meet new people from not only all over France, but all over the world! There were 48 crazy exchange students on the bus trip, and we all had the time of our lives.

This blog entry will be an ultra-condensed, day by day account of the highlights of this trip for me. With pictures, of course!

Here we go.

Day 1: Tuesday, February 19

I saw the Paris Montparnasse train station for the first time and loved it. It's like a little airport.

That's not even half of it
I met up with my friend Clay again! He is another Oregonian on exchange in France, except he lives far in the south. We first met on the San Francisco Visa trip in July, and we were on the same flight going from Portland to Paris, and I hadn't seen him since. It was good to be reunited.

Us flying in front of the Eiffel Tower 'cause we're cool
We had free time in the Latin quarter that evening, so I went to a Paul (a typical French chain café restaurant place) with Clay, Eamon (Canada), Rikki (Australia), and Paolo (Philippines).

Clay, Rikki, Eamon, and me
Paolo, Clay, and Rikki

Day 2: Wednesday, February 20

We climbed up the Eiffel Tower! Completely opposite from the first time I went, it was broad daylight. The sky was clear, and the sun shone brightly above us as if it was smiling upon our being in Paris. Or my being in Paris. I'd like to think that. 

Rikki and me on the second floor
There is a renowned bridge across the Seine River in Paris called the Pont des Arts. All across the bridge, people attach padlocks with romantic intentions scribbled on them. The locks are most commonly placed by couples as a way of sealing their love, something along those lines, I don't know. BUUUT because I am absolutely in love with my exchange, I bought a lock for five euros and decided to write things on it to represent my exchange. After all, my exchange changed my life for the better, and it will stay with me for always. 
District 5100 outbound, District 1510 inbound, 2012 - 2013. Forever! (or at least until they clear locks out of that section)

Day 3: Thursday, February 21

I went back to Versailles! 
This time, I got to go down to the Apollo Fountain. While some exchange students and I were taking pictures with flags, a Chinese man noticed and ran up to us calling out, "Hi! I'm from China! Can I take a picture with you guys?" He was so entertaining, and such a good man. He introduced himself to us, and was very happy to be in our company for the picture. He even introduced his wife and son to us. Us exchange students were very appreciative of his friendliness.

Just look at him! He was great.

Day 4: Friday, February 22

We got to visit a fortified medieval town called Carcassonne. It reminded me a lot of Parthenay, only more touristy with a larger medieval quarter.

From the ramparts

We reached Spain that night. We stayed in a 4 star hotel that was way more fancy than anyone was expecting. During the free time before dinner, I hung out with Yuto (Japan) and we did some music together. I also heard him play guitar and sing in Japanese, and it was really good! (Really sexy too)
(Okay, a parentheses, since I'm getting into the habit of this. It's a French thing. There were 7 Japanese kids on the trip, and they were ADORABLE. I didn't realize how deprived of Japanese people I was, seeing as my district doesn't have any. But I love them. I practiced the little Japanese I know, and I'm pretty sure Japanese is the new French to me, I love listening to it no matter what they are saying! They would also endearingly refer to me as Amanda-chan, which were really moments that I relished. I don't really know why, but I just love the Japanese.)

We were on the balcony for a bit, but it got too cold...

Day 5: Saturday, February 23

We went to see the Sagrada Familia. It didn't look any more finished than the last time I saw it. 

Yuto, me, Clay, and Ryohei
I made a new best friend, Nyrika from India. I'm not going to go on about how much I enjoy her company, but let's just say our outgoing and bizarre personalities go very well together.

Us being chic on the streets
Us in Park Güell 
The lunch we had that day was one of the best I have had in my LIFE! I dined with a group of 14 (the 7 Japanese kids Yuto, Ryohei, Aya, Keiko, Kazami, Aoi, Kisako; the Korean kids Hye Soo and Shin Hae; the Americans Nicole, who is actually Japanese American, Genesis, who is actually Mexican American, me, who is actually Filipino American, and Hannah, who is white American; and Nyrika). We went to a little restaurant, and since Genesis speaks Spanish, she was able to negotiate a good deal for us. Since we all wanted paella, the waiters filled two large pans with chicken or seafood paella, and we served ourselves buffet style from them. It was SUBLIME.

Here it comes!
Serve yourselves.
Oh, and I had this glass of nice refreshing sangria too.
The perfect meal!

Day 6: Sunday, February 24

Once again, we had free time for lunch. I finally got to have another one of my favorites from the last time I was in Barcelona, patatas bravas.

Otherwise known as spicy potatoes.
I also found a new favorite tapa, Pimientos de Padron.

Otherwise known as Padron peppers.
Genesis, Hye Soo, Nyrika, Shin Hae, Aoi, me, Nicole, and Hannah

Later that afternoon, we were craving ice cream. We found a nice place that served a variety of flavors, so I tried the Catalan Cream flavor. It was really good, a flavor of the region!

Genesis, Ryohei, and I sitting in front of the steps of a cathedral eating our ice cream

Day 7: Monday, February 25

We spent a few hours in a very pretty Spanish town called Girona. After a short guided visit, we had about three hours of free time spent exploring!

And there was this fantastic bag store that had huge sales going on, so we exchange students profited from it. I got this backpack for only 12€.

The upward gaze of an explorer
Once again, lunch was amazing. I had this scrumptious carbonara with water for only 6,50€.

Happy with the taste and the price
Here are some more photos of the town we took before boarding the bus.

Postcard worthy? I think so.
Ah, serenity
That night, we dined in Millau, France. Here's our dinner, I liked it a lot.

The purée is that consistency because of the cheese. Mmmm, cheese...
Almost immediately afterwards, we set off on an overnight bus ride in a Mercedes bus. Despite that luxury, I didn't get to sleep very well at all. I just couldn't believe the trip was over, and I would be heading back to Parthenay without the company of the other exchange students in amazing cities. 

That got me to realize that my life here has really become normal and routine. I am French. I can even speak English with a French accent pretty convincingly. BUUUT more on that on my 6 month anniversary entry. I'll finish up this entry for now with...

Day 8: Tuesday, February 26

That's today. 
After getting back home, unpacking my stuff, and taking a nice shower, I got on Facebook for the first time in over a week (I am very proud of that fact, thank you, normally I'm on there way more often than I would like). This is what I found:

Well aren't I loved
I am extremely sleepy since I haven't really gotten the chance to sleep in in over two weeks, but I wanted to do a quick summary of my trip. Lastly, to wrap up this blog entry, I would like to pay homage to my travel journal.

I first got this journal in 2010 for my first France/Spain trip; thus, the beginning of this journal are the entries that belong to that trip. Since then, I have documented all my travels in between that trip and this one. Since I was nearing the end of it anyway, I decided to make the journal entries for this trip the last ones that will take up space in this travel journal. For the future, my mother has acquired a new travel journal for me for the rest of my voyages this year, and I can't wait to use it. So essentially, it starts with a Paris/Barcelona trip, and it ends with a Paris/Barcelona trip.

Isn't it peculiar what life can throw at you sometimes?

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