Obviously, one of the best parts about studying abroad in Europe is the weekend travel – it's fairly easy and cheap to travel around France and the surrounding countries. Arles is amazing, but it was really exciting to spend two weekends in other cool cities.
A few weeks ago, four of my new friends and I jumped on a plane and traveled to Barcelona for the weekend. Although the first night of travel was exhausting, we woke up ready to explore on Saturday morning. Our first stop, La Boqueria, was my favorite part of the entire trip. I could have spent all day in the indoor market filled with fresh fish, meats and cheeses, and all the colorful fruits and veggies you can imagine. The sights and smells in the market were so exciting; it wasn't uncomfortably crowded, and the prices were super cheap. The Marché d'Arles will always be my first love, but La Boqueria made quite an impression.
The rest of the day involved a lot of walking, sightseeing and taking photos. We saw several landmarks designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí, including Casa Batllò, la Sagrada Familia and the beautiful Cascada Fountain in the Parc de la Ciutadella. We also rented a little boat and rowed it around the pond in the Parc! Then we did some shopping, stumbled across the Barcelona Pride parade and ate some of the most delicious churros that I've ever tasted.
However, no weekend trip is complete without a little bit of crisis. During our mid-afternoon nap at our hostel in Las Ramblas, I accidentally logged onto an unsecure Wifi network, and my phone and Apple ID got hacked. The subsequent stress and trip to the Apple store definitely took away from my experience in Barcelona, but it wasn't the end of the world. My friends were super supportive the whole time, and afterwards we went to a delicious fancy dinner at a restaurant called Los Caracoles, where we ate snails and paella and drank sangria!
The next day, we ate Sunday brunch (I missed brunch! They don't do brunch in Arles!) at a very hip and cool restaurant with beautiful and tasty dishes complete with edible flowers and whole avocados. Then we wandered to the beach, although we didn't go swimming, and we finished off our trip with a visit to the famous Barcelona Cathedral, where we ran into a gang of old people dancing to traditional Spanish music.
Our weekend in Barcelona was packed with beautiful architecture and impressive sights, but at times it was very exhausting and stressful. I'm glad I got to see the one-of-a-kind city, but let's just say I was extremely happy to be back in my bed in Arles on Sunday.
But just two weeks later, I was ready to travel again.
We had a five day weekend thanks to Bastille Day on July 14, so 12 students from the program rented a giant AirBNB with a pool in Montpellier, which is just a short train ride away from Arles. It had very different vibe because it's a big city, and there's a lot of universities so it's full of young people. I have to say I prefer the calmer, relaxed atmosphere of Arles, but it was so exciting to have a change of pace and to be a little bit more independent.
Our Montpellier vacation was definitely one of the best vacations I've ever been on – nothing bad happened to anyone; I shared a lot of laughs with my friends, relaxed by our pool every day, explored the town's nightlife, tried some good restaurants but also got to cook for myself, and saw some really cool sights in Montpellier, like the city's little Arc de Triomphe, the beautiful Promenade de Peyrou and the lively Place de la Comédie. Even though the fireworks were cancelled on Bastille Day because it was too windy, we all still had a great Fête Nationale hanging out at the pool and going dancing at night. My blog post would be way too long if I tried to explain everything we did during the five days, so I'll just say we made some really fun, lasting memories and leave it at that.
I love Arles, but I'm so glad I got to travel to Barcelona and Montpellier and spend time with the amazing people I've met on this program. It's so hard to believe that I only have 10 days left – I really don't want to leave!
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<p>Hi, I'm Aine! First of all, it's pronounced Anya. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'm an aspiring journalist and world traveler with a passion for food and all things French. I go to school in Chicago and I'm from Philadelphia (two cities with vibrant food scenes, of course). My dream job is to be a writer for Bon Appétit or a food magazine in France, and I'm on a mission to eat as much French food as I can in six weeks.</p>