This weekend me and a few of my friends from my program made a weekend trip to Paris! It was so beautiful there and extremely easy but to get around. The subway system is clearly labeled and they have a handy app that will tell you exactly which trains to take. The French are also super helpful if you happen to get lost. All the tourist attractions are close to each other so you can walk between them so we were able to see almost everything in a relatively short amount of time. The Lourve was beautiful and I could have spent an entire day in there. Saturday night we sat under the Eiffel Tower and ate cheese and bread and watched the sunset. After the sun goes down the tower does a light show sort of thing where is changes color and sparkles for about 15 minutes. One thing I wish I would have done though is bought the six euro card from my university showing that I am studying abroad because the admission to most of the important museums would have been free. Including the palace of Versailles which we went to on Sunday before our flight back. The palace was stunning and exceeds my expectations. However, be prepared for extremely long lines! The lines do move quickly though. All in all the weekend was amazing and I can’t wait to go back there some day.
Today we went to the Pyrnees mountains on the border of France and Spain. They were absolutely beautiful! We went on an hour long hike which wasn’t too strenuous and had lunch at the cute cafe with the best lamb chops I have ever had. After we were done with lunch we visited the museum of witches which explained the history of the Spanish Inquisition. Following the museum we were able to see the actual caves of the witches and walk around. It was amazing getting to not only learn more about the history and culture of the country I am living in but also getting to see it for myself. To end the day we went to a working basque farm house. The family was so welcoming and truly wanted us to learn about their lives and family history. They showed us their farm animals and we held a lamb and dead some cows. Turns out cows do not have top teeth which is super interesting.
I am still amazed at how easily it is to make friends here the locals are very helpful and inviting. We are able to sign up for an intercambio through our program which is a local who you meet up with every so often to practice Spanish with. You help them with their English and they help you with your Spanish and it’s also nice since they are able to show you the hidden gems of the city and recommend places you normally wouldn’t go or try.
Today we visited Gipuzkoa where we visited a traditional Basque farm house and learned about how the Basque used to make cider. We also went on a hike with a geologist to learn about the interesting geology of the coast. The coast is unique because of the tilted beds which reveal hundreds of billions of years of Earth’s history. The coast is also an extreme abnormality because none of the layers are interrupted or missing. The geologist taught us about how they figured out the extinction of the dinosaurs and what role this place played in it. It was absolutely stunning and extremely interesting to learn about. We also visited an old basque church where priests hid basque books and photos when Spain’s dictator ordered them to be destroyed. Spain is rich in so many things; culture, history, food, and landscape. Everyday I feel as though I am peeling back a new layer and uncovered a hidden gem. Everywhere I have visited has been beyond beautiful.
Making friends here is also much easier than expected. We all have several things in common and being in a foreign country really bonds a group. Everyone that I have met here has been extremely accepting and eager to make friends. I have known these people for only a few weeks but I feel as though they will be in my life long after we leave here. The teachers and administrators are also helpful and nice. They are locals to the city so they have great recommendations for things to see and do. I am so thankful for this experience already and would recommend it to everyone.