The title pretty much says it all. My BIG trip is finally here! I’m traveling to eight cities, in six countries, over the course of three weeks! I will be visiting Barcelona & Madrid, Spain; Porto & Lisbon, Portugal; Prague, Czech Republic; and Geneva, Switzerland! I’ll also be spending a day in Vienna, Austria, as well as two nights in Paris, France! This will include countless metro’s, five hostels, two hotels, a condo, six flights, four trains, four buses, & a boat ride! (and a partridge in a pear tree)
Before I get too carried away, I want to talk about what I did a few weekends ago. I spent April 11-13 in Paris and participated in the Color Run! It was absolutely amazing! It was my first 5K, and I wasn’t as prepared for it as I could have been, but I had a great time! There were about thirty of my fellow classmates from France Business School that participated as well which made it so much more enjoyable!
A group of us made our way to Paris on Friday night, and spent Saturday at Versailles. It was nothing like I had expected! I was so impressed with the grounds and the gardens! Unfortunately, our group got separated in the beginning and half of us went into the palace, while the others started in the gardens. We met as we switched and were all exhausted already! Making my way to the gardens, my friends and I headed towards a grassy area near the main pond. There were many people there having picnics and taking a break so we decided to do the same thing. Within 10 minutes, all 4 of us were asleep! We napped on the palace gardens on the most perfect day for an outdoor snooze! After our rest, we started touring the gardens and were impressed beyond words. The size of the garden grounds alone are almost impossible to cover in one day! There were lots of exhibits and fountains as well! I had a blast and am so glad I was able to make it to Versailles! I highly recommend that everyone goes while they are in Paris!
Sunday was the day of the Color Run. I woke up energized and ready to rock! It started at Hotel de Ville (which is like the City Hall), so many of the students from FBS agreed to meet near a fountain there and try to all stay together during the run, (even though it didn’t last long!). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run the whole thing, especially going to Versailles and walking so much the day before! My knees, which I’ve had multiple injuries with the past few years, have been holding up well in Europe, knock-on-wood. I knew if I pushed too hard, I would be paying for it for weeks, so I took the slow & steady approach and it worked out perfectly! Kajsa was sweet enough to stick with me while the others ran ahead and got all full of color! For those of you who don’t know about the Color Run, it’s known as the “Happiest 5K on Earth!” At each kilometer, you get sprayed with a different colored powder and by the end of the race you look like a rainbow! It is a mixture of cornstarch & food coloring that is thrown at you as you cross each kilometer. The race is intended to promote happiness & healthiness, and I know it did both for me! I looked like a kaleidoscope by the finish line (which made for an interesting train ride home a few hours later!), and had a blast running through each kilometer knowing I was that much closer to the finish. It was even better that I was able to share such a fun experience with my friends! At the finish line, there is a huge party with a stage and DJ’s playing music. They hand out snacks and drinks, and you even get your own packet of colored powder to throw yourself! We had a blast and I can’t wait to get home and do it in Michigan! Any takers?
I was back in Poitiers for two and a half days before heading out again, but this time I would be gone for much longer. I would be leaving on April 16th and returning May 5th! Barcelona has always been a dream and Spain was always one of my top places to visit because of everything I’ve learned from years and years of Spanish class. There was no way I was going to come to Europe and not make it to Spain! Originally, I booked three days in Barcelona and three days in Madrid with my Swedish friend Kajsa. I told my Canadian friend Katie about our trip and she was interested and joined in as well. Kasja had to go back to Poitiers after Madrid for class, but Katie and I both had a few weeks off so we decided to keep going! From Madrid, we will head to Porto for two days, and Lisbon for four days. We thought it would be fun to fly into Nice and slowly take the train back to Poitiers, making lots of stops along the way. It was a great plan until we looked at flights and saw how insanely expensive it was to fly into Nice. We reevaluated and detoured ourselves to Prague, which we both really want to see! We will spend three days in Prague, and use one of those days to take a bus trip to Vienna, Austria! We will fly back to Paris together and spend the night there. Katie will leave to go back to Poitiers, and I will meet up with my friend/roommate Diego and we will head to Geneva, Switzerland for the weekend to close out my trip. Phew! It’s gonna be a lot, but it’s gonna be amazing!
As I’m writing this, (I’m a little behind) I’m already a week in and have seen Spain. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I wish I had spent more time there, but now I have something to look forward to when I come back!
In Barcelona, we stayed at the Feet Up Garden hostel. It was a bit out of the city, but was in a gorgeous neighborhood which most definitely made up for the extra travel we had to do to get to the main attractions. The hostel was great, but the people made it even more amazing (this seems to be a familiar trend wherever I go!). The employees of the hostel were great and went above and beyond for us. I also really enjoyed the rooftop terrace which provided a spectacular view of the surrounding city. While in Barcelona, we visited the Park Güell, went to see the Sagrada Família Church, and the Magic Fountain show.
We also spent a day walking down the Main Street full of shops, store, and restaurants. We found an awesome market full of fresh fruits, meats, fish, and more! We had an amazing lunch there at an organic stand and it was the best meal I had while in Barcelona! Veggie burritos, rice, and a spinach snack was nothing I would’ve picked off a menu, but it was so delicious because of all the fresh ingredients! I really enjoyed the market and was happy Katie found it when she did her Barcelona research. We also spend an afternoon at a pier off the main strip. We spent time looking at the water and boats in the harbor, and enjoyed some Paella and Bombas, and of course shared a jug of delicious Sangria! The city was amazing and I was a huge fan of the amazing architecture (which also seems to be a familiar trend).
One of my favorite times in Barcelona was spent in our hostel. Kajsa, Katie and I made dinner in the hostel kitchen to save money from constantly eating out. While eating dinner, we were joined by Erik, Kajsa’s friend from Sweden. We also met a man named Tomas. He is a politician from Brazil, and a really fun guy to hang out with. The five of us played board games and shared some wine. Things got interesting when we started playing “name all the countries of the EU” and then “name all the states in the US”. I was very proud they knew so many! The night was an absolute blast and I laughed until my stomach hurt! The company was amazing and made the night very memorable!
We took the train from Barcelona to Madrid which is about three hours. I got to experience running for the train, and barely making it. Then jumping off, because the conductor is yelling at you and making you think you are on the wrong train. It’s a miracle we made it, and another miracle I didn’t fall or lose anything!
Once in Madrid, we took the metro towards our hostel, and exiting the metro is always a fun time. You usually come up and have not a clue where you are, or what street you’re on, and in some cases, the surroundings are unexpected and you’re stuck looking at what’s around you. Madrid was no different, except for the fact that I know now what love at first sight feels like. I was immediately in love with Madrid. We found the street our hostel was on and thought it was too good to be true. It was like a scene out of a movie. The weather was perfect which made the blue skies, sunshine, and green trees add to the incredible atmosphere. We were looking for number 22 on the street buildings and couldn’t believe how beautiful our hostel was once we found it. I couldn’t even go inside, I had to stop and take a picture of this gorgeous place I would call home for three days! After checking in, we went up to our room on the 4th floor in an old, glass elevator! (Yes, we were a bit nervous.) We found our room and were thrilled to see a balcony upon entering. We also had turf, and swings hanging from the ceiling outside our room to make it look like a mini park in our hallway! The UHostel in Madrid is awesome! They also have a kitchen, a cinema room, and a great, large common area! I would definitely recommend and return!
After coming down off my cloud, we asked the receptionist at the hostel what she recommended for food in the area and wound up at a great sandwich shop. These sandwiches were 2-3 inches long and only 1€ each so you were able to order a few and try different things. We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather on this perfect day! We spent the rest of the day exploring and walking the streets. There were so many beautiful buildings it was easy to stay occupied! We found our way to a gorgeous park and casually walked through this gem inside the city. There was a large pond in the middle where you were able to rent canoes and paddle around. Slowly making our way back to the hostel, we found some great shops, and
we I did just as much looking as buying!
The next day was our only full day in Madrid (it’s just the way the flights worked), and unfortunately it was rainy and overcast. We planned on heading to the Reina Sofia museum, but never made it. We ended up just walking around all day, in and out of stores, coffee shops, markets and more. It wasn’t the best conditions, but we had a great time and I feel like I really saw much more of Madrid than I would have if I stuck with my original plan.
Spain was amazing and now that I’ve been there I can’t wait to go back! Madrid has made its way to #1 on my list of favorite European cities! I wish I could’ve spent more time in Spain, but now I will head to Porto for two days, and Lisbon for four… Stay tuned for tales from Portugal!
♥This heart of mine was made to travel the world♥