Thursday, April 23, 2009
I think I just finished packing for Morocco tomorrow! I'm going for 6 days and I only have my book-bag and a small over-the-shoulder bag. You might think this is a testament to my superior packing skills, but really I think its a testament to how grungy I'm going to be the entire time I'm there. For some reason I'm sort of freaking out about going to Africa. I haven't really been too nervous before any of my trips. I've just been really excited and then sort of left without even thinking. But this one is sort of getting to me. Probably because I have literally no idea what to expect. I've heard different things from other people who went from my program. A few girls said that the poverty really got to them and it was really emotionally draining. I'm really excited, but at the moment I'm completely exhausted and just hoping everything goes ok. Mostly I'm hoping I don't get sick. We're bringing motion sickness medication, anti-diarrhea, the works. Cross your fingers for me.
More importantly though...I went to the Canary Islands last weekend! It was so so pretty:
It was me and my two friends Colleen and Casey. We were kind of nervous about our hotel because some of the reviews said that it was cockroach infested. If there is one thing I hate its cockroaches!!!!!!!! Luckily there wasn't a cockroach in site and we didn't get robbed! haha. It was in a really good location too.
- I'm used to getting harassed in Sevilla, but the Canary Islands took the pestering to a new level. You seriously could not walk ten feet down the street without some Irish or English person coming up to you asking "Hi! Are you out for a drink!? Come to [fill in name of bar] for this really awesome deal were having!". In a word: annoying. Although also kind of fun to listen to their accents.
- I got turned into a lobster. Being the health-conscious, fair-skined girl that I am, I took great pains (and by that I mean I spent the absurd amount of 9 euros) to buy sunscreen before going to the Canary Islands. Upon arrival at the airport, I went bouncing through security all ready to go! Then out of nowhere the evil secutiy guard swept down and commandeered my sun screen! I'm still a little bitter as I sit here and type this.
- I was the only one who got in the water. I'm really glad I did too because even though it wasn't clear, it was still really blue and pretty
- We got to hang out in Playa de las Americas and spent Sunday in the Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife (the island we went to)
- Oh man. Embarassing story...so on Sunday when we were exploring Santa Cruz we wanted to find a beach where you could just relax and hang on the white sand. So we were sort of aimlessly roaming around the bus station and decided to just ask a random bus driver where the free shuttle to the beach was. So Casey went up to the bus driver and asked "Esto es la autbus para la costa?" And the bus driver responds Si. So there we were, thinking we had really hit the jack-pot. A FREE shuttle to the coast and we just happened to wander upon it. We hoped on and starting talking about how incredibly easy that was. The bus takes off, I start looking around to discover that there are a lot of old people on the bus with us. A little while into it I start thinking that it really is pretty odd that we were the youngest people on the bus. Then we start embarking on our destination....
A cruise boat by the name of "La Costa".
Pretty hilarious. Eventually we did find the bus to the beach, but it wasnt free and it wasnt full of old people. Yay Canary Islands!
I went to a bull fight this week!
I'm so glad I went because it was definitely very spanish and a really good cultural experience. That being said, once was enough and I never want to go again. There was lots of blood, it was really gory and I felt really bad for the bulls (all 6 of them)
The girls totally horrified after the bull fight:
Alright, off to shower and then off to Morocco.
ps - today was our last day of classes! actually sort of depressing.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Andrea and I headed for Paris Friday afternoon. We were lucky and happy because we had a direct flight = no lay-overs! I filled my book-bag to the brim so I wouldn’t have to keep up with too much luggage. We got to Paris with no problem. However, I don’t think either of us was anticipating the sketchiness of Paris. When we got there it was 11:00 pm and we still had to get from the airport to our hotel, keeping in mind that neither of us speaks any French whatsoever, save our hilarious impressions of words like “croissant”.
So we hopped on what we hoped was the right bus for the ridiculous price of 6 euro. From the bus we had to get on the metro, where the real fun began. We were probably relatively safe, but at the time it seemed pretty scary: Two American girls with their luggage, and no idea where they’re going riding the Paris metro trying to make it their hotel. Lucky for me, Andrea has a much better sense of direction than I do so we eventually made it to our hotel, Hotel Liberty, where the staff spoke English and we headed up to our room. When we got there we discovered that the room we were in was not only very small, but very slanted. Yup – the entire room was slanted so that when you lay down on the bed all the blood would rush to your head. We quickly decided sleep with our heads at the other end of the bed. There was a hall bathroom and if you wanted to take a shower you had to go get the key from the front desk and go to the first floor. All in all, it certainly wasn’t The Ritz, but for 22 euro a night, it wasn’t too bad, plus we had our own room.
We had read up on Rick Steve’s guide to Paris and ended up doing his suggestions pretty backwards because we were planning on visiting the Eiffel tower when the weather was supposed to be the nicest. So the first day we decided to visit Versailles. We had a little bit of an adventure trying to find the right train to get on but we finally got on the right one and got there with no sweat. It was really crowded when we got there with a huge line waiting to see the palace.
The palace was HUGE. It sort of reminded me on the white house the way it was set up, room after room, each with sort of a different theme. But it was also really different from the white house because it was sort of gaudy, for lack of a better word. It was a little much. Tons and tons of paintings were in the different rooms and lots of drapery etc. The beds these people slept in were ridiculous! But also really fun to look out, they were so excessive. I can’t imagine living in that place, it just seems really unnecessary to me, especially while the rest of Paris was living in extreme poverty. This one moment was absolutely hilarious though. Me and Andrea were about to enter a room, and we were standing around with a group of American students who appeared to be in middle school and their tour guide/teacher who was also American. The teach begins “Alright guys, we can only stay in here for about 2 minutes” And then follows up with “That’s what she said”. Me and Andrea immediately start hysterically laughing. I think the group of kids he was with was too young to appreciate the hilarity of the comment so they were staring at us as we were uncontrollably laughing. The joke itself was pretty funny, but the fact that this guy thought that THAT moment was the appropriate time to say something like that also added a lot to the moment.
After the castle we hung around for a little longer, went to see the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed and I went and got a McDonald’s ice-cream. I literally have never had McDonald’s ice-cream in the U.S., but since being in Europe I’ve realized that it’s cheap and delicious! We then headed on the train back to Paris. After our experience in the metro coming into Paris at night, we decided it was best to stay in our hotel room after it was dark so we got back and just stayed in our room. We actually never left our room after dark the whole time we were there, which I’m sure was for the best.
OMG! The catacombs are a bunch of dead people! And I do mean a BUNCH! Wow. There is a ridiculous amount of skeletons in the catacombs. And all the bones are organized into patterns. I’m not making this up. Apparently back in the day the graveyards of Paris were causing people who lived nearby to contract diseases. So they for decades they would have processions at night where priests would move the skeletons to the underground catacombs, which used to be used to be for mining. Spooky, but spectacular. We came out with limestone all over our shoes.
A really big church. With a good view of Paris. Where people harass you before you go up to buy a bracelet made of yarn.
After snapping pictures of us being hunch-backs in front of Notre Dame we headed inside to check it out. After waiting out the long line, we made it inside. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think it was something different. I guess after being in the Cathedral in Sevilla, which is the third biggest in the world, Notre Dame for some reason didn’t feel as spectacular as the one in Sevilla. Don’t get me wrong –it was awesome. The stain-glass was really cool and it reeked of incense, so the whole atmosphere was pretty cool. No hunchbacks though.
Mona Lisa, smile!! Basically the only reason I wanted to go to the Louvre was to see Mona Lisa. Again, very long lines waiting to get in and tons of people once we were in. I was actually really funny to see all the people in front of Mona Lisa trying to see her/get a picture. She has her own wall and a huge glass case in front of her. Andrea and I snapped some pretty hilarious pictures of us imitating Mona Lisa before heading off to see the Venus.
We stopped to get some French food. France is the food capital of the world, which I didn’t even fully realize until we were there. I realized so many foods originate in France. For example – omelet is a French word! Of course, I just never realized. I got spaghetti and dinner which was delicious, but also I was so hungry I would have eaten anything. The guy at the restaurant asked where we were from and when we told him the US, he like everyone else, responded by telling us how much he LOVES Obama and hates Bush.
By this point we had been hiking around Paris for a solid 8-9 hours and were really exhausted so we headed back to Hotel Liberty and passed out.
The Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel tower is absolutely amazing. The catacombs, Versailles and Mona Lisa were really cool but the Eiffel tower is absolutely spectacular. I can’t even describe it. It was such a weird feeling being there too. I guess there are some things in life that I have always just assumed that I would see someday. Like Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, things like that. The Eiffel Tower was sort of one to those things. And there I was. Me! I’m only 20 years old and I’m so lucky to be able to have this incredible experience in Europe. I mean really? What have I done to be able to see the Eiffel Tower? On the most beautiful day!! We really made the right decision to wait and go see in on the last day we were there because the sky was the perfect shade of Carolina blue (more on that later). We took about a million pictures of us posing in front of the tower before getting in line.
So you have a choice when it comes to the Eiffel tower: you can walk or you can take the elevator and pay 4 more euros. 4 euros when you’re on a budget is an entire meal. So, yup, we walked. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Hiking the Eiffel tower! There are really awesome views of Paris from the 2nd and 3rd levels. There were a lot of people up there, but I guess thats just part of Paris I. I can’t really describe the whole thing – basically it was awesome. I’m so lucky. And I’ll never forget it.
After the tower we headed over to see the Arc de Triumph – again, very cool. And very big! Then we headed down to see the Moulin Rouge. We didn't see a show cause its like 40 euro but it was still cool to see the outside. We stopped and got some ice-cream (yum!) and then headed back to Hotel Liberty and our slanted bed.
Here is the part of the whole trip that was depressing. While me and Andrea were off frolicking in Paris, our basketball team was off winning the National Championship. Very depressing. I really can’t believe I missed it. I would have given anything to fly back and be in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street for the celebration. I think I would have honestly traded a night in Paris to be in Chapel Hill for that night. UNC and school pride is such a huge part of who I am and what I love about college. I really can’t believe I missed it. Oh well...c'est la vie.
We got back on Tuesday in time to experience Semana Santa. Which deserves its own blog.