Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Spring Break: Paris and Spain

 Still trying to catch up on all my spring break travels! This should be the last one from break and then I can finish up this last week and Croatia. So picking up where I left off:
The night of May 1: I could literally write an entire blog post about my flight with EasyJet from Prague to Paris, but to keep it short [warning: if you don’t like swearing please skip to the next paragraph]: EasyJet are some sick motherfucker assholes who have a bullshit carryon policy and make you stick your purse (a personal item!!!) in your carryon and even though my backpack fit in the crate thing perfectly, the sick sadistic asshole saw my purse and made me repack my bag but didn’t give me enough time to actually repack it so that it would fit right and then refused to let me push it in and insisted that it has to be a fucking “comfortable fit” and then charged me $67 (SIXTY-SEVEN MOTHERFUCKING DOLLARS) to check my backpack at the gate because they are a horrible airline and their employees need to get off the ego trip and get a real job not working for a fucking budget airline if you want to fucking rip people off and charge them 67 motherfucking dollars. So to sum up, I spent a decent hour of my flight crying due to separation anxiety with my backpack, which I haven’t checked in the entirety of my time in Europe, and being terrified that EasyJet would charge me 67 motherfucking dollars to check my backpack and then lose it.

Okay now that that rant is over, I would just like to tell the world please never fly EasyJet since 1. They only let you have one carryon because they like making their passengers uncomfortable/poor and 2. Their flights are more expensive than Ryanair anyways. If anything, it only made my eternal love for Ryanair greater, since they allow one small bag for their carryon and have never asked me to put my bag in the crate let alone charge me to check my backpack at the gate. To sum up: I did make it to Paris and was able to take the last train from Charles De Gaulle to the city and since it was 1:00am and raining, I took a cab to my hostel.

May 2: So first of all, I want to say a bit about Paris: I went to Paris basically because I’m in Europe and I feel like I should go to Paris because it’s Paris. I ended up basically falling in love. Paris is amazing. I only had 3 days there, and was going pretty hard: pulling 12ish hour days on less than 7 hours of sleep, waking up by 7:30am and walking 7-10 miles every day. I easily could have spent a week there, and by a week I mean a month or longer. I’m also super impressed with my travel efficiency skills, since I only had 2 full days in Paris and I was able to do and see everything I wanted to get done, despite having to wait in queues for ~2 hours and walking everywhere. Okay so! My first full day in Paris: I walked to Notre Dame and only had to wait about 10 minutes to get in. The mothership of all cathedrals, it was so beautiful! An amazing experience for a cathedral pro like myself. Saw Place de la Bastille, and then waited in line for 1hr 20 min for Sainte-Chapelle, which was beautiful with all the stained glass and free as well (for those of us who can produce valid proof that you are under 26 and “long-term residents of the EU”), before walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg and then waiting in line for the Catacombes for 2 hours. After being at the Ossuary in Kutna Hora the day before, it was a lot of bones to see in a 24 hour period, but it was super cool! It was pouring rain waiting outside for about half an hour, so I made friends with a nice Russian woman who offered me her umbrella (and I used my Russian in everyday life!). After that I treated myself to a Metro ride back to my hostel, a nice long shower, and mediocre kebabs.

May 3: Another super busy day! Got to the Louvre before it opened (also free!!! Holla!) and since I hate art museums, I saw the Mona Lisa and Napolean III Apartments before a beautiful walk along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Perfect weather to wait in line for an hour and a half, and climbing the stairs was pretty cheap. Saw the Arc de Triomphe, Montmarte (for Moulin Rouge), and Sacre Coeur for more beautiful views of Paris. My hostel was right by some canal, so I walked around there at night and the sunset was gorgeous.

May 4: I went to Versailles, the palace to end all palaces. There were TONS of people (even though I got there around 8:45am) and I’m going to say a secret: I cut the queue for the first time in my life. Living in England, queues are so sacred, but I just didn’t want to wait for 2 hours and since I didn’t have a ticket (all I had to do was show my passport, since it was free!) I said fuck it and cut. #sorrynotsorry. The Grand Apartments were really something I’ve never seen before, so luxurious, fancy, beautiful…but it was basically claustorphobic being crammed into such small rooms with so many other tourists shoving you around. But I saw the Hall of Mirrors, which I’ve wanted to see for years! I spent the rest of the time in the gorgeous gardens, sitting by the water, walking around and seeing the different gardens/fountains/groves, eating nutella crepes, laughing at tourists, getting sunburned, etc. It was a great day, one of the places of my dreams!

May 5: Woke up at 5am to get a insanely painfully expensive taxi to this random parking lot where the buses leave for Beauvais Airport to catch a 5:55am bus to the airport to get my flight to Barcelona. I didn’t have a whole lot of “touristy” things to do in Barcelona, I just wanted to be there, see the city, be in the sun, and go to the beach. First I walked and saw two of Gaudi’s famous houses (one of them was under construction) before seeing the Columbus monument, and then sitting by the water and chatting with some guy who looked exactly like Daniel Radcliffe. I saw the beach and walked in the ocean for the first time in 10 years!!! The water was so blue and so beautiful. Then I got back to the hostel and realized the extent of my sunburn. It was one of the worst sunburns I’ve ever had (and I’ve had some BAD sunburns). It looked like I was wearing red footless tights. You know you’re sunburned when some girl walks into the hostel bathroom, looks at you, and just goes “oh my god.”

May 6: Due to the fact that I could barely walk from my sunburn, I did NOT go to the beach as I had planned. I saw the Catedral, which was free and beautiful, and La Sagrada Familia. That one was really more of a work of art, as opposed to a cathedral/church, but it was fascinating to be there. Weird towers/pillars, stained glass, strange curves and shapes… not easy to describe! I walked to Parc Güell (another of Gaudi’s places) but the guy said the park was full and they weren’t letting people in until 4:30pm—it was 1:30 and ain’t nobody got time fo dat. So I wandered around the free places of the park, had a rest period at the hostel, and then found Barcelona’s Kebab Road for a very good, but very interesting and different kebab! This one had corn, couscous, and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. Nothing on my boy in Wrocław of course, but surprisingly good.

May 7: Again, I was unable to go to the beach due to The Sunburn. But I spent more time exploring the city, saw the Synagogue Major (one of the oldest in Spain/Europe, from the 3rd/4th century), Barca’s Arc de Triumph, and walked around this very lovely park that had a really pretty fountain (by Gaudi, of course). I made one of the greatest decisions of my life by getting dulce de leche crepes (SERIOUSLY. DO. IT.), spent a few hours people watching across the city, and then going to a different kebab place on Kebab Road and getting some bus candy on my way back to the hostel. I hung out for a few hours with some really nice Aussie girls I met before leaving to catch my 10:15pm bus to Madrid! It was a long time of traveling, a lot of time on the bus (16/24 hours!), but I got from Barcelona to Sevilla with a stopover in Alcalá de Henares all in one day.

May 8: I rolled up to the bus station in Madrid around 6:00am, and eventually figured out where the regional buses to Alcalá de Henares were—the bus ride from Madrid was a little less than an hour and I am positive that I was the only tourist showing up at 7:15 in the morning. The main reason I was going there was because my girl Katherine of Aragon was born there, and I wasn’t about to go to Spain and not try to see her birthplace! I wandered around the town (again, basically the only one outside) and I can’t even believe it, but they had a statue of her outside of (what I think was) the Archbishop’s Palace where she was born!!! A statue!!!!! Made my entire shitty trip worth it! The plaque on the statue read: Catalina de Aragón, Infanta de España, Reina de Inglaterra. Perfect. Since nothing else was open (it was now 7:45 in the morning) I got the bus back to Madrid, switched to a different bus station via the Metro, waited for 3 hours, then sat on a bus for 6.5 hours to go to Sevilla. The good news: I was rewarded for my day on the bus by getting to see one of my best friends, Tia, who was waiting for me at the bus station in Sevilla! She’s studying there for the semester and it was SO awesome to be able to meet up with her. I was exhausted from my 16 hours on the bus, so we had an early night made complete with kebabs and I fell asleep as soon as I was in my bed.

May 9: Tia gave me a wonderful tour of Sevilla—it was so beautiful and I could definitely understand why she loves it so much. We walked along the river, saw the beautiful Plaza de España (where they filmed part of Star Wars Episode II!), saw the Catedral (potentially the resting place of Christopher Columbus and one of the tallest cathedrals in Spain/Europe since it used to be a mosque), began my love affair with tinto de verano (like sangria but usually cheaper), enjoyed the view of all of Sevilla from this architecture thing that you can takethe elevator up, and then got out of the sun since it was too damn hot. That night we went to La Feria, which was SO much fun!!! It’s basically like this huge fair for a week, everyone looks nice (women wear their feria dresses, which are all beautiful), and you just hang out eating and drinking and dancing all night long. I feel so lucky that I was in Sevilla during the best weekend of the year! It is such a huge part of Spanish culture and I never would have gotten that as an average tourist in Sevilla during any other time of the year. Tia and I got tapas and drinks and watched everyone dancing. It was so much fun.

May 10: We made one of the greatest decisions of our lives in eating lunch that day, in a nice café where I got paella and sangria, and we each got these amazing pastry things called palmera? It was literally one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten. We saw Real Alcazar (the castle), which was super cool since it was really a bunch of different palaces in different styles built on top of each other. Parts of it reminded a lot of the Alhambra in Granada. We trekked across the city to see the Roman columns, and were drenched in sweat by the time we got there. It was so hot in Sevilla, between 95-100˚F in the afternoon about the whole time I was there. Later that night we went to La Feria and I got to meet a bunch of Tia’s friends there! We pre-gamed (hacer un botellon!) in the street, ran away from the popo (#fuckdapolice), and went to La Feria for food and dancing until we went home  “early” at 4:00 in the morning since we had an early train.

May 11: I got back to my hostel around 4:30 and woke up at 8:10 to get to the train station for our train to Cádiz. Rough times… we got to Cádiz around 11:30 and walked around the city center—it’s a pretty small place, but super crowded with tourists from cruise ships. We saw the cathedral, which was magnificent, got beach snacks, and then vamos a la playa! I managed not to get horrifically sunburned (always a rare feat for me) and swam in the ocean for the first time in 10 years!!! It was so much fun to ride the waves and saltwater and to be in the ocean, and it felt super refreshing since it was hot as hell. I went topless at the beach for the first time because when in Spain! Eventually we decided we needed to get out of the sun so we got some ice cream (another solid decision, since it was some of the most refreshing ice cream I’ve ever had), and then hung out and got our train back to Sevilla, where we rewarded our trip with kebabs again.

May 12: My last day! I started it off by throwing out my favorite pair of jeans—they’ve been with me to almost every single place I’ve gone in England, and over 10 countries this year. But sometimes when you rip giant holes in the crotch of your jeans and you’re flying Ryanair with only a carryon…you gotta do what you gotta do. RIP to my jeans. Tia and I got breakfast a little before noon (in Spain they usually serve breakfast until 1:00pm) complete with tinto de verano, and then she went to class and I chilled at my hostel on the rooftop terrace with pool (this involved more tinto). Tia met me and we got more food at this good café place (and more tinto) and sat around chatting since it was too fucking hot to walk anywhere. I got some bus/plane/bus candy, Tia got me to the bus station and we said bye and I got to the airport and on my plane no problem! I was really glad to be going home, sleep in my own bed, do laundry, etc. I made it back to London Stansted and then got a bus to Nottingham, and got home around 4:30am.

 Then I went to bed and then by the time I woke up I had 24 hours to study for my Polish oral exam…

Overall, this trip was amazing. It was the longest I’ve ever traveled (33 days) with the least amount of stuff I’ve taken with me for a trip (since I had only a carryon. Fuck you EasyJet.). I am so fortunate that I was able to have all these opportunities to travel and see the world! It was so much fun traveling and meeting up with friends in various places, and of course making new friends from all over the world. More than anything, it really showed me just how diverse the world is and how much of it I have to explore. And this is all only in Europe! And the world is so much bigger than just Europe! This year really has been the year of all my dreams :)

Notre Dame
Eiffel Tower
Hall of Mirrors in Versailles!
The ocean in Barcelona, this picture was taken during The Sunburn
La Sagrada Familia
Statue of my girl Katherine of Aragon in Alcalá de Henares!!!
Paella y sangria!
Plaza de España
RIP to my favorite jeans :(

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