Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sitges, Tarragona, Parc Guell (again), and the Soccer Museum

Sorry for my absence fitnessandfroyo followers! It has been a busy week with both school and our last couple weeks of Barcelona activities! I will be on a plane back to Texas one week from today. Like, what? I feel like I just got here and have just gotten into a routine. I am starting to get really sad about leaving this wonderful place, but I am more than ready to see my family and eat a real American hamburger!

Anyway, this week was filled with some great activities. One of Sarah's friends just arrived in Barcelona for the start of a six-month internship, so we have been hanging with him to help show him around the city before he has to start work on Monday. He is an architecture major at UT, so we decided to take him to one of our favorite places in Barcelona: Parc Guell. It has some great architecture, if you are into that kind of stuff! If you remember, Sarah and I went to Parc Guell during one of our first few days here, so I was really excited to go back because I loved it the first time, and I was excited to discover different sights that I had missed the first time. The temperature was a little bit higher than it was five weeks ago, so it made for one very sweaty afternoon, but it was worth it, as we climbed to the top and were awarded with beautiful views of the city that I have come to love so much. 

We also discovered this wonderful place and decided to make the short trek up to snap a picture and take in the views. I still can't believe that I have LIVED here for almost seven weeks. I have been so blessed to have this opportunity!

Sarah and I planned on heading home to do the laundry that we had been putting off for about two weeks, but then we decided to take Blake to our favorite beach restaurant in Barcelona: Ona. We hopped on the metro and walked to Barceloneta where we enjoyed our absolute favorite Spanish meal and watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean Sea. It was beautiful, and such a nice night. These are the kinds of memories that will stay with me forever!

My favorite Spanish dish!
On Wednesday, we had our usual date with the IES Jogging Club, and since we are running a 10K tomorrow morning, we were lucky enough to get to go to the park and run sprints. It was tough, but it felt good to push myself that hard, as I feel like my workouts since being here have not been up to my usual intensity - I can't tell you how excited I am to work out in an actual gym! Sarah met Blake to go watch the semi-finals of the EuroCup (Spain v. Portugal - SPAIN WON, going to the finals!), but I had a big project to work on, so I anxiously tracked the game on my computer. It was so intense - it went down to the penalty kicks! We play Italy tomorrow in the finals! Viva Espana!

Apparently, the soccer game turned us into die-hard soccer fans, so we decided to visit the FCBarca stadium and museum on Thursday after class. Y'all, it was so cool -- there is so much history to the FCBarca team and it really unites the city while also giving back to the community. We read through decades of history about the club before getting to see the actual stadium where the games are played and getting to walk around the visiting teams locker room and sitting in the press box at the stadium. I felt like I was practically an FCBarca player, despite the fact that I have never even watched one game. Sarah and I decided that the next time we come to Barcelona, we are definitely coming during the season so we can experience the fun!

Kubala's bathrobe worn during surgery 
Oldest futbol jersey

We also saw some interesting people -- you could hide a whole lot in that hair! 

After getting some gelato, Sarah and I really had to do laundry, as we were down to our last pair of clean clothes. I also (attempted) to work on my oral presentation that is due next week, but I have all day tomorrow for that! We enjoyed a quiet evening that led to a jam-packed, yet very relaxing, Friday.

I have heard from multiple people that the beach towns of Sitges and Tarragona are just beautiful and they are very worth seeing, so Sarah and I used the last of our Eurail passes to experience some real Spanish beaches. Barceloneta is great, but one, it is a man-made beach and two, there are just so many people. Sitges and Tarragona were absolutely beautiful and there were hardly any people on the beach with us. I brought my Kindle along, thinking I was going to get so much reading done, but I passed out almost immediately. I get about six or seven hours of sleep a night, but with all the activity that we do, that is definitely not enough! At least I got to get some sleep while catching some rays! Here's to coming back with a decent tan!

While in Sitges, we found a fro-yo place, so naturally we had to get some. While not as good as yummynatural (no peanut butter), it was delicious and so refreshing after sitting in the sun for almost two hours. 
My first time trying kiwi. Verdict: Thumbs up!
We walked around the little town of Sitges before heading to Tarragona, well, attempting to head to Tarragona. It was a little bit more difficult than we anticipated, but we finally got there and we were hungry. We really wanted, you guessed it, the Spanish tortilla, and we happened to find a little cafe that sold them. They also had free Wi-Fi - this was our kind of place! We paid less than two euro for this sandwich and it hit the spot -- I was full until dinner time!

We then attempted to find our way to the beach (a little bit more difficult than it should have been!) and laid there reading, or in my case, sleeping, before heading back to Barcelona around 7:00. We were hot and tired, but really glad that we made the trip - it was well worth it!

We are planning on putting in a couple hours of homework before heading back to Tibidabo (no, we are not going to hike it again!) to visit the amusement park, and then to do some souvenir shopping! Enjoy your Saturday!

PS - I have to give a happy birthday shootout to one of my all-time favorite teachers: Mr. Avis! Have fun running your age!

Monday, June 25, 2012

674 Steps: Paris Day 2

Happy Monday morning everyone! I don't have class for another two hours so I decided to use my time to update you on my second day in the city of love. Sarah and I woke up bright and early to shower and enjoy another delicious breakfast before meeting my cousin in front of the metro station that would take us to the Eiffel Tower. We had plans to climb the tower to start off what was going to be a very busy day! Luckily, we didn't have to wait long to start our ascent because significantly less people actually climb the stairs than take the elevator up to the top. Obviously, we can only climb so far before the lift to the top is mandatory, but we decided that climbing was a much better option! We got to see so much more of the city that way, and we weren't packed like sardines in a stuffy elevator.
Beginning the climb!

Second level

Top of the Eiffel Tower!

We owned those Paris hats ten years ago.. not our best fashion decision! 
Roomies, Froomies, Besties in front of the Eiffel Tower! 
Au revoir, Paris, see you in ten years!
We picked a beautiful day to climb the Eiffel Tower, as the views from each level were just spectacular. It was pretty special to be climbing the Eiffel Tower with my cousin at the age of 20 just as we had done when we were ten.

Anyway, after we got to the top and admired the beautiful city of Paris, we headed back down in search of a cafe that would satisfy our intense hunger. Apparently, climbing almost 700 stairs will do that to you! We ended up finding a place by the name of Castle Cafe that looked as though it would satisfy our stomachs and our wallets. I ordered my first omelette of the day (who knew that I liked omelets so much? I am definitely expanding my taste buds on this trip!), and it was delicious. It really hit the spot and I felt as though I could conquer the world.

It is good that I felt that way because next up on our list was the Louvre museum. I am not sure if you have been to or seen pictures of the Louvre but it is HUGE. It would take days to get through all of it, so we decided that we just had to see the Mona Lisa, although none of us are quite sure why the painting is so famous. It isn't particularly beautiful, but I think it is a crime to go to the Louvre and not see the Mona Lisa! We wandered through some of the Egyptian and medieval art, which was surprisingly really cool, as art is really not my thing, before making our way back to the Notre Dame area to find a really cool bookstore that a friend of Sarah's mentioned was worth the trip.

It is a small bookshop called Shakespeare & Company, which used to house many famous authors as they worked on their literary masterpieces. Authors such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and many others lived and worked here. Now, it is a bookstore that has many unique, old books available for purchase, as well as many classic novels. It is an extremely unique place and I felt as though I could have spent hours there looking around, searching for the perfect old book to bring home with me. It was really cool seeing notes from these authors with such literary merit, and it is something that I will be able to tell my future students.

Where the writers worked! 
I had to!
If you are ever in Paris, I highly recommend paying this place a visit - it is well worth it, and who knows, you may find a very old copy of your favorite novel!

We then decided to pay a visit to the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens before beginning the uphill trek to Montmarte for dinner and a beautiful view of the city. Luxembourg Gardens is the second largest park in Paris and it is absolutely beautiful. If I lived in Paris, I would run through this park, I would sit by the fountain and read, in other words, I would be spending quite a bit of time here. It was just gorgeous, and we even managed to snag a few jumping pictures on the lawn before getting told that walking on the grass is not allowed (at least, we think that is what he said - our French is not the best!).

We also wandered over to the fountain at the middle of the garden, admiring the sailboats controlled by various children. It is such a cute activity for the children, and they really seemed to be having fun with it. Europe is just such a unique place, things like this are so common here!

We then decided to trek up to Montmarte, as my cousin wished to get a picture of her and my aunt drawn to give to her mom as a Christmas present. Alexia and I had our caricatures done here ten years ago, and the art is simply fantastic. It is true art and I only wish that I had thought to bring a picture of my mom and I to have drawn. Unfortunately, the artist to whom she went did not do a very good job, so she decided not to spend her euros on it. It is the thought that counts, but it sure would have been an unbeatable present! We then decided that we were hungry, so we wandered off in search of a somewhat American restaurant. I remember this from ten years ago and it still holds true: French food is really not my thing. Sarah and I simply wanted a restaurant that served omelettes, and those could be found essentially anywhere. We eventually decided on a precious pink cafe that served omelettes to satisfy Sarah and me, and french onion soup, brie, and wine to satisfy my cousin. We managed to find a table outside and it was truly the perfect evening. We were far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Montmarte, but we still got to experience the beauty of the evening. I ordered my second omelette of the day and y'all, it was delicious. It was even better than the first omelette I had -- you better believe I looked up an omelette recipe on Pinterest so that I can recreate this deliciousness this coming semester!

We snapped a couple of beautiful pictures of the city of Paris before heading back down to our respective hotels for the night. Sarah and I had an early flight the next morning, so an early night was in the books for us. Well, we ended up pulling a London and staying up to upload our pictures and surf the web, but it was the thought that counts! We truly enjoyed our time in Paris, but we are really looking forward to a weekend (our last!) in Barcelona!
Church at the top of the hill 

Less than two weeks until Texas - it is crazy how time FLIES! Remember when I posted about having two weeks until I left on this adventure?