This past week was my spring vacation and it was fantastic! It was way more relaxing than I thought it would've been, which was definitely needed after almost 4 straight weeks of midterms and essays. This time on vacation it was just me and my friend Erin. We started off in Paris Friday-Monday, staying at a family friend's apartment. Since we arrived a little later in the evening, Friday was spent relaxing and grabbing groceries. Saturday, we went to Sacré-cœur, a huge and beautiful cathedral. Next, we walked along le jardin des Tuileries, at the bottom of the Champs-élysées until it ended at l'Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-élysées is seriously amazing. It seemed endless, the street was crowded with people and random street performers, and each side of the street was lined with parks. This was the first part of Paris where I understood what people meant when they said it was one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Sunday was dedicated to museums, specifically the Louvre, where I finally got to see all the classic paintings we've been studying in our art history class. The Louvre is immense:it's impossible to go through every single room in one day. And honestly, we skipped a bunch of stuff that wasn't particularly interesting (which I kind of regret now). Also, the Code of Hammurabi is there! Unbelievable!! After that was Musée d'Orsay, a much smaller museum but still incredible. Most of the impressionists and post-impressionist paintings are here. And let me tell you, seeing the paintings of, for example, Van Gogh is COMPLETELY different in person and through a picture. They're so different, it's like seeing a completely new paining. I can't reiterate this enough. Going to Musée d'Orsay is a must to truly understand the importance of the actual act of painting to the comprehension of the painting.
In these two museums, we learned something incredibly cool: if you have a long-stay visa (I think that means for more than 3 months), or a student visa, which means that you are a resident of France, also means you are a resident of the European Union. Now, residents of the EU get deals: like free admission to many museums and attractions! Individually, the museums were €15. We didn't have to pay that thanks to your visas! If you have this kind of visa, be sure to use its benefits while you can!
On Monday, we only had half a day, so we went to the biggest cemetery in Paris (sounds morbid but it was very cool), Père Lachaise. Numerous authors, musicians, politicians, athletes, and other notable members of society are buried here. Most of them are French or lived in France for the majority of their lives. The one person that was buried there that really surprised me was Jim Morrison, of the Doors. I honestly haven't done any research as to why he is there, but it's evident that many go there to remember him. His grave is gated off, and the gates are covered in pieces of gum, stickers, and old hair ties. When we went, someone was playing the Doors on their phone. I think we visited around 30 graves, and I'll post a picture below so you can see who exactly is buried there.
After that, we went to the Eiffel Tower! Since it was my first time actually spending time in Paris, it was a must. It was a lot less crowded than I expected but still just as amazing and wonderful. That night we caught a flight to Dublin! Unfortunately it was delayed about an hour, so we arrived at our hostel around 2am. After getting a late start on Tuesday, we did a little shopping to relax, and then went to the Jameson whiskey distillery for a tour and tasting. The tour was fantastic (and so were the drinks). Then we wandered around the city, went to Trinity College (the oldest in Ireland I believe), and then found some statues (James Joyce and Molly Malone).
Wednesday, we went on a walking tour on Dublin, where we met some other young people vacationing there. We ate lunch with them after, and then went to the Guinness Storehouse for another tour and tasting! We all had a blast and now I know how to properly pour a true pint of Guinness!
Early Thursday morning we caught a train to Galway, a city on the west coast of Ireland, famous for the Cliffs of Moher. Thursday was a relaxing and walking around the city kind of day. We found a little park with beach access, and we saw a dolphin! Friday we were gone all day on a bus tour to Galway. We passed many famous monuments, like the dolmen (ancient burial grounds), some old castles and towers, and then the Cliffs of Moher, looking over the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliffs were extraordinary, and very different from anything you'd see in the US. Interestingly enough, parts of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and the Princess Bride were filmed here! It's an amazing piece of Mother Nature, and nothing can compare.
After, we took a late train back to Dublin, just for the night. Saturday was a day of traveling: flight to Paris then train to Nantes. We left For the airport around 5am and got back to Nantes around 5:30pm. This vacation was absolutely amazing! I think my favorite part was Galway; I had the opportunity to hike a little bit (those paths to the cliffs can be really tricky, steep, and generally unstable), and I got to see the coast of Ireland. I have and always will love the beach, and I think that's evident in almost every vacation I've been on. Ireland and Paris are incredibly beautiful and everyone should experience them!!
My next post (maybe?) will be about travel tips I've learned while being abroad! Hopefully some of you can learn a thing or two from that!
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<p>I'm Iggy Takahashi, a junior studying biochemistry and French studies at the University of Portland and studying abroad in Nantes, France. I love baking, cooking, travelling, exploring, and of course spending time with my family and cats. I have traveled to Spain, China, and throughout the United States, and I hope to continue to do so after graduating!</p>