by Katie Murphy, 2012 ISP Participant
Thursday March 9, 2012: the first day of Spring Break for us lads and lassies studying in Ireland. Some of us are exploring all of Ireland with family, others venturing down to the popular cities for a fun weekend, and then there is me who has decided, with the help of my cousin, to see all of what Europe has to offer in a weeks time. Our goal was to visit 4 cities, spending 2 days in each place. We could only imagine all the running around we would actually endure.
First stop: London, England. As we all know, London is preparing for the 2012 Olympics so it comes to no surprise that the city is under major construction preparing for it. Even with all the construction, London is a still beautiful place. Lucky for me my cousin, David, who was traveling with me, has friends all over the globe, so we got to stay with some of his friends in London as well as get the inside scoop on everything English.
On our first night, David’s friend, Felicia, took us to a lounge smack center in all of London’s nightlife. Thirty-two stories up with a 360-degree view of all of London, there is no doubt that this is the best view of the city. We also found this helpful in planning our pathway throughout the city for all the sites we wanted to see the next day. Let me tell you, it IS possible to see all things touristy in a day in London, and even have time to stop at the local street market for some fresh fish and chips.
Since not everything is right next to each other you have to cross some bridges and do a lot of walking to be able to get from place to place. On our way to see Big Ben we ran into a street full of performers, so naturally we had to stop and see. One person was dressed up and wearing a mask of the queen, another doing a magic trick, and then there was my favorite: a group of street dancers dancing to Adele’s “Someone Like You”. Only in London can you break dance to Adele… and to be perfectly honest it was actually pretty good. After making our way to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Palace and all the rest of London, it was time to take off and go to our next destination. Barcelona was, without question, my favorite place I visited out of the whole trip. It was sunny and beautiful with the greatest architecture, scenery, and beaches you could ever imagine.
While in Barcelona we decided to go on a walking tour of all the Gothic Architecture. It was actually very interesting being able to see the buildings and structures and then actually hear the back-story of it. I would absolutely recommend that anyone who visits different countries or cities to go on a tour! It’s one thing to see something and say “Oh that’s cool looking, lets take a picture!” but to know the history of it as well makes it all the more better.
Of course we didn’t want to spend our whole time in Barcelona on tours, so we wondered on our own, running into Parc Güell and Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is amazing, being the tallest church building as well as the most important landmark in Barcelona. Construction on it started in 1882 and still has a few decades to go before it will be done. It’s something you have to see to believe. Now while I’m in Spain, several people have told me I must try their churros. Upon ordering, the waiter asked if we would like some hot chocolate with our churros. I’m thinking “Sure, that sounds like a good way to wash it down afterwards,” little did I know… A few minutes later they came back over to our table with it. Only in Barcelona would “hot chocolate” mean actual hot melted chocolate in a cup. Not that I’m complaining at all, I just found the whole situation to be amusing. Now that, I would say, is the greatest way to end your night in Barcelona.
Two trips down, two to go. Paris is at the top of our list for our next adventure. When you think of Paris, the usual stereotype involves baguettes, barrettes, and snooty French people. Let me tell you, baguettes are literally everywhere you turn in Paris. If you don’t eat one while you are there, you definitely don’t fit in. As for the snooty French people, most the people I encountered were exceptionally nice. It was only on occasion I would get someone crabby but I feel as though that’s natural anywhere.
Of course since we are in Paris the first thing on our list of sights is the Eiffel Tower. We accomplished this our first evening and to our surprise got to see a light show with it all well. Incredible. This is the best way to spend your first night ever in Paris. The next day, we took another walking tour to see all of Paris, from its palaces, to the Louvre, to Notre Dame and every other important monument. Once we got on our own we ventured down Champs Elysees (the huge shopping street) all the way to the Arc De Triumph; a beautiful walk actual which was supposed to be Caesar’s walk of triumph if it was for his early death.
We ended our trip with Edinburgh, Scotland. It has a pretty similar feel to Ireland but with more castle-like structure. Unfortunately, we had the least amount of time to spend here so we didn’t get to see a whole lot. We ended up walking around on our own exploring and just taking in everything around us. It was actually a great relaxing way to end such a busy trip.
Our goal, as you can tell, wasn’t to embrace everything in each Country, there wasn’t enough time, but instead to get a taste for each and see where we would like to go back to one day and actually spend time in. It was undeniably an experience and well worth it.