It’s hard to admit that I have just about a month left living in Barcelona. As I write this I can’t stop thinking to myself, where exactly DID the time go? I had been warned by many study-abroad alums that the time would fly by. With trips, classes and many visits from friends studying abroad elsewhere, my four-day school week goes by in a blink of an eye.
It became clear very early on in the semester that traveling to other cities, whether throughout Spain, or across Europe, would become almost an obsession. When I first arrived I looked at a four-month window and thought there was more than enough time to visit all of the countries and places I had researched in the fall. As it turns out, one never has enough time to see all of Europe’s magical destinations.
The ability to travel almost anywhere within Europe with relative ease has allowed me to jet-set off almost every weekend. Though having only a few days in each city is never enough, packing your days with as much sightseeing as you can is worth it. This is probably what I love the most about this semester—getting to live in an incredible city yet at the same time exploring Europe from head-to-toe. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
Of the magical places I have visited, my absolute favorites have been: Paris, Rome, and Interlaken.
Paris was my first journey outside of Spain. The historical and cultural influence that surrounds the city is incredible. The French and Medieval collaboration make the city’s architecture unique to anything I’ve seen in Europe. Among my favorite spots were the Palace of Versailles and its gardens, the Louvre, and the cathedral of Notre Dame, all breathtaking.
One of the highlights of our trip was unexpectedly seeing the Eiffel Tour light up at night. We just happened to arrive at 7:00 PM, when the entire tower became illuminated with flickering lights. It lasted just a few moments and it was beautiful. To end our trip, we dined at one of the most famous steak and fries restaurants in Paris, Le Relais de Venis. For the price of 28 euro, we were able to eat an unlimited amount of the best steak we had ever tasted. An added bonus was that it was topped with an amazing, secret béarnaise sauce which has never been disclosed to the public.
I was lucky enough to travel to Rome with my parents. I can’t decide if I enjoyed seeing the sights of Rome or eating the food there more. Both were incredible experiences. The ancient ruins, the Colosseum, and the Vatican were my favorite stops during two action-packed days. Being able to walk among the ruins, with several parts of the old city still standing and intact, was an experience like no other.
The Italian cuisine was everything that I had imagined and more. While I consider pasta one of my most favorite foods, we were able to do a good job of balancing meat, pasta, veggies and dessert throughout each meal. Our waiters would explain that was the only way to dine. The veal, salted ham, and traditional spaghetti dishes were my favorite of the trip.
Interlaken, Switzerland is truly a winter wonderland. I had the incredible opportunity to go skiing for the first time there. Simply being in the Swiss Alps was enough for me to fall in love with the view. But being able to ski there made for a day I will never forget. I was able to master ski school with relative ease and quickly moved on to the more difficult slopes. The picturesque mountains that surrounded me made me feel as if I was in the middle of a postcard.
The lakes are also beautiful and it is easy to see why Interlaken is one of the world’s best vacation destinations for a sports holiday. In addition to the skiing, the area is ideal for hiking, kayaking, paragliding and many other outdoor adventures. It’s the perfect destination to do some “bucket list”, one-in-a-lifetime activities!
My travels throughout Europe have deeply broadened my understanding of the continent’s importance and its historical and cultural impact on the rest of the world. I have learned so much about the people and their unique lifestyles. Growing up in Indiana, the thought of traveling internationally seemed more like a wish than a possibility. Studying abroad has given me the access and ability to visit places I had only dreamed about. It’s been an amazing journey so far and I look forward to squeezing in the remaining getaways I have left.