Winter (Not Yet Spring) Break!

Gwen Lee
March 15, 2016

Hola! Ciao Ciao! Bonjour!

Spring break came early for our program! Je suis alléé en Espagne et en Italie. Here are some of my favorite experiences in these wonderful (and closeby) countries.

Hellena (also in the Paris program) and I started our trip in Madrid with the amazing Gina Vo who is currently studying abroad there. She was the best tour guide one could ask for. She also got this beautiful photo of us at the Crystal Palace. I will forever be in debt to Gina for bringing us to a fancy restaurant that charged us a grand total of 11(a little over $12) for two huge main dishes, a tasty dessert, and a drink of our choice. In Paris, it would have cost way over 25 for the same meal. Madrid is wonderful.



View of Madrid from up top

Madrid is known for their churros (bigger than the ones in the US, sans the cinnamon powder, and a bit more chewy on the inside), served hot with a cup of chocolate syrup. It was delicious.

We took a quick train to Barcelona and we were welcomed by the street art of scrambled eggs as we walked to our hostel. I believe this was a sign, an omen meaning that this voyage would be filled with really good food (and it was!).

View of Barcelona by some local houses on a mountain. When we couldn't find the touristy path to Park Guell (a park on the mountain that is notorious for being the spot where the Cheetah Girls filmed), we climbed a dangerous rocky uphill unpaved path by the houses to see this magnificent sight.


We took a two-hour plane ride to Rome and our first stop was to the Colosseum. It was amazing to be at the place we've seen in pictures for all our lives. Tourist tip: we bought a ticket, to both the Forum and the Colosseum, at the Forum because the line there is nonexistent whereas the line at the Colosseum wraps around the Colosseum multiple times.

Mandarin flavored gelato!

Funny story, we had just missed climbing up Saint Peter's Basilica on the first day we arrived in Rome because the dome closes early, 5pm. We were set on seeing the top so we set up another time. On our third day in Italy, we took a bus to Vatican City (a completely separate country from Italy) and we planned on arriving at the Basilica at 4:30. As per usual, we got lost and distracted by souvenirs so we ended up arriving around 4:45. Upon our arrival, the man at the ticket booth said that the dome was again closed. We were stumped. Not only were we there 15 minutes before the closing time; we had somehow been late for a second time in a row. Luckily, a couple in front of us bugged the security guards a bit and we were allowed in! It. Was. Amazing. After climbing a never-ending spiral staircase that curves sideways and isn't meant for claustrophobic people, we were greeted by this incredible view at sunset. As cliched as it sounds, this was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Speaking of the perfect day, we spent most of the morning at a cat cafe. It's called, wait for it, Romeow! Thank you Hellena for giving such a different experience. It was great to have a "relax day" in the middle of our 10 day travel. We really needed a day where we didn't schedule touristic attraction after attraction. Here I am, in the middle of a beautiful and historical country, coloring a book and sipping on a hazelnut cappuccino while a bunch of cats kept me occupied. I love Rome! 

Spaghetti with seafood: one of the major reasons why I love Rome. Also, if you greet people with "Ciao" and "Bongiorno", everyone is extra friendly.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

We took another speedy train to Florence for the arts (David's perfect body) and their amazing tiramisu. 

Our last stop was Venice! These balloons are all made of Murano glass. They looked so real that we passed by a bunch before we finally realized.

I will always remember Venice, but not because of day we spent there. Although the city was lovely, the day was a blur because of the dark weather and the repetition of walking into glass stores and churches. What I will remember is the struggle we faced trying to leave Venice.

Have you ever heard of "acqua alta", or high water? Because we hadn't. Hellena and I were about to go back to the hostel to grab our luggage before leaving the city by train. It was around 6pm then, and it started drizzling. Soon, it started to pour. Next thing you know, the river (behind me in the photo above) had overflown into the streets: high water.

The streets became flooded. At one point, we stood on a raised platform in front a hotel, shocked. We looked at the foot-and-a-half of water in front of us as we tried to come up with a way to get to the hostel, or some higher ground. We decided to run for it. I bought neon-orange garbage bags to put over my rain boots because the puddles on the street had turned into mini rivers that were so high, the water got into my waterproof boots. It was comical to see all of us tourists trudging along the streets in our neon bagged legs as the locals watched knowingly. We eventually got to the hostel and ended up carrying our suitcases to a nearby water taxi which took us to the train station. 

It was quite the experience leaving Venice. On the bright side, it ended our trip on an exciting note. I loved being able to travel in Europe affordably. Transportation is not as pricey because all of these amazing countries are right next to the one that I am so glad to call home right now: Paris.

Since our spring break was early, it is technically a winter break, and hopefully I am posting this in time to say:

Have an amazing spring break!


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Gwen Lee

<p>Salut! Je m&#39;appelle Gwen. I am a sophomore at Babson College and currently about 11% fluent in French. I hope to remedy that while wining and dining in the beautiful city of Paris. I am majoring in Business with a focus in Marketing. Follow along my stories to experience the ups and downs of studying abroad à Paris!</p>

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