Hey USWIB! I can’t believe how fast this semester is flying by – it seems like I wrote my last post yesterday, but it was already weeks ago. I’ve been travelling a lot more recently, so I’m focusing on checking off my whole French to-do list in the upcoming weeks! I’m packing as much as I can into everyday, so this month is going to be a balancing act between studying for finals and making sure I don’t come home thinking about that one museum I didn’t get a chance to see.
Paris is finally getting warmer and sunnier after being on the cusp of spring for a few weeks, which means that all of the flowers are finally blooming and that we can finally picnic along the Seine/in gardens! The cherry blossoms near Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower are especially beautiful, and I recently travelled outside of Paris to Parc de Sceaux, designed by the same person who did the Tuilleries gardens and Versailles, to have a picnic under the cherry blossoms there. I also went to Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny, which was beautiful and especially interesting because I learned all about his Lily Pad paintings (painted at Giverny) in Art History.
I haven’t been in Paris much over the past few weeks (except for school, of course!). I went to Iceland a month ago and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. The flight is only a few hours, so it isn’t hard to get to at all. We stayed in Reykjavik but went on tours everyday to make sure we saw everything. The day after we got there, we went horseback riding on Icelandic ponies through a lava field. They have 5 gaits that make them unique, a couple of which are especially bouncy and almost made my friends and I fall off. We then went on a tour of the Golden Circle, which included Þingvellir National Park, featuring the oldest parliament in the world and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the ridge between America and Europe, The Great Geysir, the first documented geyser, its still-active neighbor, Strokkur, and the beautiful Gullfoss Waterfall. The next day, we visited the Blue Lagoon and loved hanging out there for hours before returning back to Reykjavik to try the famous hot dogs at Baejarins Betzu Pylsur. We spent the rest of our trip exploring the city and trying interesting foods. Iceland is known for whale, fermented shark, and puffin, and I love tasting new things, so naturally, I tried all of them. Fermented shark was definitely an experience.
Over spring break, I visited Lisbon, Portugal, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Lisbon was beautiful, and every building is either a gorgeous pastel color or covered in intricate tiles. We spent a lot of time just roaming the streets and soaking it all in. Some highlights in the city include the Santa Justa Lift, an elevator that links city levels (Lisbon is basically just a series of hills), LX Factory, a really cool area with lots of shops and restaurants and a market every week, Sao Jorge Castle, ruins of a palace on top of a hill with beautiful views over the city, and the Church of Sao Roque, which is covered in intricate paintings and gold details.
Our day trips included Sintra, Belem, and Cascais (just for the beautiful beaches!). In Sintra, we spent the day wandering around the Pena National Palace. It’s painted vibrant salmon, yellow, and blue colors and is surrounded by many gardens and parks. In Belem, we went to the incredible Jeronimos Monastery, where Vasco de Gama is buried, visited the Tower of Belem, and ended the day by visiting the famous Pasteis de Belem and tasting their delicious pastels de nata, or egg tarts. They have the original recipe, and only 3 people know it! Every other pastry shop in Portugal has been trying to figure out their recipe for decades. We didn’t want to leave Portugal behind but loved being able to relax on Palma’s beaches and walk around the cute town for a few days. It was a much-needed break before the craze of finals sets in.
I don’t want to leave Paris yet, but I’m making sure I make the most out of every day! I still have a couple of exciting trips planned to Italy and other towns in France, so the fun definitely isn’t over yet. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Good luck on finals, and have a great rest of the semester!