Spring Break in Europe

Katherine Baldwin
April 3, 2014

In France, the term “spring break” is synonymous with crazy Hollywood movies depicting alcohol, drugs, and over-the-top parties. If I ever slipped up and said to a French friend that I had my spring break planned for Greece, Rome, and Dublin, I always received a look of shock and sheer wonder. “You’re going on a Spring Break?!?!” So if you plan on taking part in the wonderful opportunity of studying abroad in France, be sure to utilize the words “spring vacation” or “holidays” unless you want to receive some strange looks and questions.

For our much needed break following midterms, my friend Sara and I decided to explore the two ancient civilizations of Athens and Rome before meeting up with my aunt and cousin in Dublin. I started my 9 day vacation from my Parisian life (which can almost be considered a vacation in and of itself other than the full course load I’m taking) in Athens. We experienced absolutely gorgeous weather and were able to explore the ancient ruins of the city with very few other tourists, which was extremely nice. The people were very friendly and accommodating. One restaurant in particular, Krasopoulio Tou Kokkora, went out of their way to make us feel welcome and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Athens! The food was absolutely incredible everywhere we went; I can’t decide whether I prefer Souvlaki or the amazing Greek pastries we tried, but my mouth was in heaven the entire time. We visited the Acropolis, several mind-blowing museums, and the amazing street markets found throughout several different neighborhoods. We also experienced some of the nightlife in Gazi, and even got to check out the harbor and beach in Pireas. While Athens was absolutely incredible, as soon as we arrived at the airport, the woman at the information desk told us we should definitely take a taxi because our hotel was in a not-so-nice area. I had done some research before which told me that all of Athens was much safer than other urban cities, so the warnings came as a surprise. During the daytime, the city was great! But at night, it was pretty much necessary to take a taxi to wherever we went; however, they never cost more than 5 euros so it wasn’t a huge inconvenience. Another thing that surprised me was that Sara and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Maybe it was because we are both blonde, or maybe because we weren’t wearing heavy winter jackets in the 70 degree weather, but people immediately knew we were tourists despite our efforts to blend in.

The next destination on our journey was Rome. Sara’s sister studied abroad in Rome and graciously made us an itinerary which included gelato after almost every destination. While I felt safer in Rome than in Athens, the men seemed to be just as aggressive and creepy, if not more! Sara and I were both sexually harassed multiple times a day, verbally and sometimes physically. Rick Steves had assured me that even women travelling alone should have no problems with harassment and the rumors of crazy Italian men weren’t true; we felt differently. One man even threatened that he had a knife to persuade me to tell him my name! Nevertheless, the city itself was magnificent! I studied Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture during this past fall semester, so it was incredible to see all the pictures from my textbooks come to life. We strolled along the cobblestone streets, saw all the sites in the guidebooks, and ate some incredible pasta, pizza, and gelato. Despite the strange men, Rome was still an amazing city. The four days we spent there passed by so quickly and I hope I will be able to visit again someday.

After Rome we flew north to Dublin. Many people have asked me “But why Dublin? That’s so random…” however, my aunt and cousin were visiting Dublin the week of spring break and I was determined to see them. We flew in late Friday night and therefore only really had two days to see the city. My aunt took us on a walking tour of several sights. We walked around the old Viking city and ate lunch at the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland. We also toured the Guinness Factory, roamed the streets of Temple Bar, and saw the Book of Kells. We were even able to meet up with my host brother who is currently living in Dublin and he gave us some great insights into the northern city. While the weather was cold and wet, the city and the people made up for it. We were strolling through the city when we bumped into a large gathering of people. The Spring Festival (Nowruz) celebrates the Iranian New Year and just so happened to be that Sunday. Sara and I were able to not only watch various acts perform, but we also were able to experience the amazing fusion of various cultures. The whole welcoming and relaxing atmosphere of Ireland made it the perfect location to end our vacation.

Overall I think I would prefer Athens to vacation in again, Rome to study abroad in if I couldn’t choose Paris, and Dublin to live in long term. I was surprised that the cities seemed so small to me, but I guess living in Paris for a few months makes every other European city feel small in comparison! My whole spring break has definitely increased my desire to travel and to experience other cultures even more. And “once you’ve got wanderlust in your blood, you’ve got it for life.” 

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Katherine Baldwin

<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! My name is Katie Baldwin. I am a junior International Business Major at Saint Joseph&#39;s University. I am a member of my school&#39;s Gaelic football team and a sister of Alpha Omicron Pi. I also work as a technician and a brand ambassador at SJU&#39;s Technology Service Center. I love travelling, painting, and dancing with my friends. I have always dreamed of studying abroad in Paris and that dream is finally coming true!</span></div>

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