Fall Break: Baking, Beaches, and Chipotle

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Grace Heaton
November 19, 2022
Fall Break: Baking, Beaches, and Chipotle

If Vienna were on the beach, it would be the perfect city for me. The combination of a super safe, clean city with access to the ocean and good weather year-round would be my ideal place. While the Danube is beautiful and I enjoy watching the changing of the seasons, I love the sea and the warmth. Both were calling my name mid-October when my friends and I started making our fall break plans. Our program includes a ten-day fall break, and I was determined to spend at least part of that time on the Mediterranean. My friends and I decided our destinations were going to be Barcelona, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal, and I was absolutely stoked. 

Before booking our tickets, though, a friend I met in Ireland this summer reached out to me and asked if I wanted to spend part of my break with her and her family, who live in the Loire Valley in France. I jumped at the opportunity to spend time with her, explore a new region of France, and practice my French. So, after my midterms were done, I boarded an evening flight to Paris, excited for what was to come. The flight was thankfully seamless, though getting from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Bercy Bus Station was a little more of a challenge. The Paris Metro system is quite complicated, and I desperately wanted to make a pitstop before hopping on the bus: Chipotle.

You would think if someone goes to Paris they would want to indulge in some french onion soup or one of the many other French delicacies for a pitstop, but I was the exception this time around. I justified stopping at Chipotle with the fact that I would be spending the weekend eating delicious French food, and satisfying my Chipotle craving was my number one priority at that moment. I got my usual, a carnitas bowl with some of their delicious chips. It was heavenly and helped to satisfy a twinge of homesickness.

I boarded the three-hour bus to Tours, France, and arrived very late in the night, around 2:00 am. My friend and her mom were very gracious and still picked me up from the bus station at such a late hour. The weekend went by in a flash, full of castle visits, exploring the city of Tours, and lots and lots of baking and delicious food. I am hoping to study abroad again in France next year, so this gave me a great taste of what French immersion would be like, and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come. 

One of the reasons why it is so important to practice your language skills in a speaking setting, and one that puts you out of your comfort zone, is that it really develops your skills. I learned quickly what mistakes I was making over and over again, and corrected them over the course of the weekend. I find that when I am speaking French, I have to turn on a second brain and try not to think of how I would phrase something in English because it is often very different from how native French speakers would say it.

In a flash, I was back on a plane that Sunday night headed to Barcelona. Some of my friends had already been in Barcelona for a few days, so this stop was more of a meeting point so we could all come together again before heading to Portugal. But, based on what I saw during the 36 hours I was in Barcelona, I definitely plan on going back. There is so much to see! We stayed in an Airbnb in Badalona, which is a neighborhood slightly outside of the city center. The metro system took a minute to figure out since there are so many different lines, but once we figured it out it wasn’t too hard. 

During my short time in Barcelona, I saw the Sagrada Familia church, which is an ongoing project of the famous architect Gaudi, whose beautiful work is sprinkled across the city. Apparently, the Sagrada Familia won’t be completely finished until 2026, so I look forward to coming back after it’s done and seeing the final product. Another fun activity we did was a Tango class. We found the activity posted on Airbnb Experiences and jumped at the chance to learn a new dance. I am someone who is always excited to learn new social dances, despite being very clumsy. 

The final leg, and the longest leg, of our trip, was in Lisbon. We spent four days in Lisbon, soaking up the sun, exploring, and eating our way through the city. The first time I visited Europe was back in 2017 when my family and I took a trip to the south of Portugal and Spain. One of my favorite desserts we tried back then was Portugal’s famous pastel de nata, a custard-filled, puff pastry cup. Controversial opinion: it is the best pastry out there.

Reminiscing the deliciousness of these pastries, I was determined to find the best one in Lisbon. We tried at least ten different places across the city and in Sintra, a small city about 45 minutes outside of Lisbon. I even took a cooking class on how to make them!

My favorite pasteis de nata were definitely the homemade ones from the cooking class, but my second favorite was the originals at Pasteis de Belem. Pasteis de Belem originated around 300 years ago, and the recipe was created by monks of the Jeronimos Monastery. I am so excited to return home and make these delicious little tarts for my family! They actually weren’t too difficult to make and turned out so good!

Fall break was my favorite trip out of the ones I’ve taken this semester, and not just because the majority of it was near the beach. This trip pushed me to take my traveling skills to another level, and I was able to connect with so many different people!

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Grace Heaton

Hi! My name is Grace Heaton. I am thrilled to be studying abroad in Nantes in Spring 2024. I am a junior at Duquesne in Pittsburgh, PA studying Marketing, French, and German. I enjoy traveling, learning languages, and adventuring with friends.

Home University:
Duquesne University
Portland, OR
French Language
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