Four days back in Granada did not include much but homework, a few runs, and a hike before it was time to get on a plane again! Today I went for a slow 4 mile run, made coffee, and got ready to write this long post. My posts will probably be a bit shorter now because I won’t be traveling for a few weekends, or I will start writing 2 per week. I’m excited to spend more in Spain and put off traveling far for a little while!
We went hiking on Tuesday after a quick 3 mile run, and I was just following Kayla and Ashley because they had some idea of where the trails were and where they finished. Our last hike was a bit of a let-down, but this one turned out to be much, much better! We started off on Paseo de los Tristes again, and took the walk way like last time, but we turned upward on the trail MUCH earlier. It was a steep hike but I loved it because we felt sore afterwards, and the views were amazing! That’s what I love about hiking, you get a reward at the top for all of your effort. Eventually we needed to cross over a stream, only Alicia and I got our shoes wet, somehow the others stayed completely dry.
There was a clear path for quite a while after that, but we lost it after about half a mile.
We couldn’t see the path, but we could see the lookout point, so instead of following a path we went straight up the mountain to the lookout. It was super steep, and Kayla ran up most of it while the rest of us lagged behind her.
On the way down the path was so orange, it looked like we had left Andalusia completely!
And we were still getting some views pretty much the whole way down. It ended up being a 6 mile hike!
On Wednesday I was going to do a long run again, but I felt like I was done after 7 miles. It’s not like I’m training for anything, so I figured 7 was enough for the day. Anyways, I had a lot to do later on! I needed to print everything I would need for my trip in Brussels and Paris and get everything organized, teach an English class, grab something to eat, and then go to tapas for an intercambio! I was exhausted by the end of the night, but I have gotten used to the idea that I am going to be tired a lot this semester. There is a lot less homework, but there is so much to do. Sometimes it can be difficult because I don’t want to miss out on a single thing, with all that is going on, it’s easy to forget that you need to put aside time to just relax too!
After classes on Thursday and a rushed lunch we left to stay the night in an airbnb in Malaga. Since our flight on Friday was so early, we couldn’t manage to leave from Granada on Friday morning. In fact, we had to leave from the airbnb in Malaga at 5am! The night before I ate a sandwich our host mom had packed for us while some people got Chinese food. On our way to pick it up, we saw the sea, I had not idea we would be that close. I want to come back when it gets warmer because it’s only an hour and a half away from Granada.
A 4:30am wake up was no fun, but our Airbnb host was really nice and offered to drive us all to the airport for an extra cheap price. I was able to pretty much sleep for the whole plane ride, and was quite rested when we arrived in Brussels, Belgium! We went to our next Airbnb to drop off our bags, and again the host was really friendly. She even bought us a bottle of champagne to have later on! She told us how to take the bus into the city, and we left in immediate search of waffles. We were really hungry so we ate at the first place we saw, a sit down waffle bar. I got a waffle with Nutella on it, and Belgian chocolate on the side for good measure.
It was amazing, but the style there is for waffles to be crispy, while I like mine soft usually. Still, it was delicious and I’m glad I tried it! We were annoyed with ourselves when we left because we walked by a ton of waffle places for way cheaper than we got them for, we learned our lesson to look around for a good price before just buying whatever. For the rest of the trip, Camila and I vowed to keep our meals and a minimum cost. It’s nice when you have someone to hold you accountable!
After eating Camila and I walked around the Grand Place while the others stopped by a beer tasting at a little tour. The Grand Place was stunning, I took way too many photos and we walked to all the corners so we could see it from every angle. It was an open-air marketplace in the 10th century and was voted the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010!
We walked into so many Belgian chocolate shops and touristy shops (and got free samples at almost every single one).
When we all met up again we wanted to find the statue of Brussels that we had heard so much about! It’s called Manneken Pis, and finally we found a crowd of people trying to get pictures with it. I thought it was going to be this big grand statue, but it was seriously so small, and it was a little boy peeing! It’s only 24 inches tall but it is SO famous, I had to look it up when I got back because I was really confused. Apparently there are a lot of different legends about why it was made but it was created by Hieronimus Duquesnoy.
We weren’t sure where to go afterwards, so we stopped by an information booth to get a map of the city. The map that we got showed were all the cartoon murals were, which turned out to be a great way to explore! That kind of tour was called the Comic Book Route, and we saw all the best sights.
Once we got hungry again we got burgers and then went to a bar before going back to the Airbnb around 9/9:30. We weren’t sure what time the buses shut down so we decided to go back early, we were tired anyways because we had walked almost 10 miles!
On Saturday morning we left early to get the the bus station in Brussels- we were busing from Brussels to Paris! This was much harder than we expected. First of all, I don’t have even the smallest education in French, so the bus station was difficult to navigate. Even if the station did have English, it still would have been so confusing and disorganized. Running around trying to find the stop was hard and actually a bit scary! We passed by probably a quarter of a mile line of homeless people, covered in blankets and on top of one another. It was actually scary because I didn’t recognize that this mass of objects were people. Two of them were fighting very harshly and I was praying that our bus stop wasn’t next to them. I couldn’t look at this pile of people because it made me feel ill, it was really sad, and it was in addition to already being worried about missing the bus. I had never seen anything like this scene in my life, I felt so innocent, naive, and privileged. We had to exit the station and go across the street and down aways until the stop. There was absolutely no sign for the stop expect for a small sticker on a street pole that said “Eurolines.” While we were waiting there were drunk people behind us, kind of in the distance, but still too close for comfort to me. It was the worst bus stop I had ever seen, and I was more than happy to get on a stuffy bus for 4 hours, we all wanted to leave so badly, I was happy that I had people with me.
The bus stop exhausted me, so again I was able to sleep almost the whole way. We dropped our stuff off at Julia’s friend’s apartment. I was happy that we didn’t need to pay for any sleeping arrangements, with her friend it was completely free! We realized we hadn’t eaten all day and it was 4:30 in the evening. Camila and I were on a mission to spend less than 5 euros for each meal, and we were able to do so for lunch- at a sit-down restaurant no less!
I just got a ham and cheese sandwich, but it was filling so I was happy. There was Dijon mustard to put on, and not knowing that it was be SO SPICY, Camila and I put way too much on our sandwiches. It was crazy hot mustard, my eyes were watering and I could feel heat coming through my nose. Lesson learned, Dijon mustard is the real deal in Paris! We were able to scrape most of it off but Camila still needed to douse hers in ketchup to be able to eat it, we were laughing so hard at how much we put on because the waiter was amused by our watery eyes throughout the meal.
We took the metro and buses to go exploring! First stop was Notre Dame de Paris. It was incredible, and we learned so much because they had descriptions in Spanish and English for everything inside. A mass began once we were inside, but they don’t close for masses, people are still allowed inside! That doesn’t happen in Spain- there are no tours on Saturday nights or Sundays usually.
Second stop was the Pantheon, which wasn’t open it was still cool to see!
The sun was starting to set, so we headed to the Eiffel Tower because a lot of people had suggested to go at night instead of during the day.
The Tower was so beautiful lit up in yellowish orange light! There was intense security to get in near it (like everywhere else in Paris and Brussels). There is a restaurant on the top of it, and meals start at almost 90 euros, and that’s just for appetizers.
The Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour, so we waited to see that before we went to the Arc de Triomphe! It is in the middle of a rotary, so I was wondering how were were going to get inside! I thought we might have to dart across somehow.
Other people are smarter and found a tunnel underneath the rotary that led up to it.
The sights from the top were perfect, you could see so far in each direction!
Everyone was exhausted by nighttime and we were asleep at midnight. We wanted to get up early to go to Versailles because it was about 45 minutes away by metro! We wanted to get there on the early side because we knew it would be packed.
We stopped at a bakery before getting on the metro, and I got a croissant type thing with creme and chocolate chips in the middle, I miss it already.
Aaaand yup the line was huge, we waited in line on Sunday morning for probably 45 minutes. It was a cold and cloudy morning but I actually didn’t mind waiting in line. I love hearing all the different languages that are brought to the major sights, and people watching is always fun. There was an Italian family in front of us and a French group behind us, so I was trying to pick out words they were saying.
We finally got inside, it was free and with free audio-guides! I like using guides a lot because without them I kind of just wander and have no idea what I’m looking at. But with them I can imagine what people used to do in each room, and it paces you around the Palace.
The Hall of Mirrors was my favorite part!
Eventually the guide led us outside to the gardens that went on for what seemed like forever. We didn’t walk all the way to the end because it was freezing cold!
We grabbed quick sandwiches at a stand so that we would have plenty of time at the Louvre.
We waited in line there too for a while, and then we all picked a place to meet up when they closed (at 6) because we were all going to wander in random directions.
First we all wanted to see the Mona Lisa together! There were guards on both sides and bullet proof glass, it was intense.
Then I went through French paintings, Italian paintings, and French sculptures. Time flew by before we met up to get out coats and leave.
The Louvre is enormous, it would take weeks or maybe months to see everything inside.
It was our last night in Paris so we went to the Latin Quarter, and I got a martini while the others tried Crème brûlée. Places weren’t open late since it was Sunday, so we got back around 12:45 and fell asleep.
Monday was a travel day, but we had a little time in the morning to grab some coffee. I got a very strong espresso and was ready for the day. Julia got a Nutella crepe that I was really jealous of. The place was quiet and empty, but I was glad because we were all so tired.
One flight and a hour ride back to Granada, we were able to catch the sunset- I missed Spain so much! I loved France and Belgium, but I missed the warmer weather, the people, and the language in Spain a lot.
The best part about seeing all that we did in Paris was that it was absolutely free to get in if you were a student, everywhere! We needed to show our University of Granada card and our visa, and we were all set. It was so helpful because if it wasn’t free, we would have spent so much money on that part. Instead we were able to save money and still see a lot.
This trip I learned so much, and I was surprised that most of it happened at the bus station in Brussels. I’m not even sure if that would be considered culture shock, but I hadn’t felt that uncomfortable or out of place until then. I think we managed it pretty well and kept moving forward!
Somehow I gained more confidence in my travels and Spanish after struggling to make my way through French-speaking countries. The comparison of the different languages showed me how much I actually do know in Spanish. I missed it so much and I was excited to speak to my host mom in Spanish when I got back.