Barcelona – Paris- Geneva

Barcelona- Paris -Geneva

BARCELONA- The language spoken in Barcelona Spain is Spanish and Catalonian. For the most part it is easy to understand locals because they are taught English as a second language. There were a lot of tourists in the main city centers so to find the locals you have to venture outside of the city. At nighttime the younger generation will go out at 11 pm for dinner and drinks to prepare to go out to the “disco” at. 1 am. There were these discos ….or nightclubs so to speak…. Everywhere! The nightlife was quite eccentric!

Food- there was a lot of tapas places ( Spanish appetizers ) so we ate a lot of ham and bread and patatas bravas …. but mainly Paella ( this is rice cooked with meat or seafood in a big platter) I am not a fan of crab or shrimp in the shell but here they were cooked in the shell and brought out to you as such. I would request the kitchen to take off the heads back there before they brought them out to the table. For dessert a big item was Churros- usually dipped in chocolate.

Tourist sites- The La Grata Familia is the historical church they have been working on for years. Definitely worth seeing. Also there is las hambras which is the downtown area where there are a ton of restaurants and shops. This is very busy and very touristy. I stayed at the Hotel Arts Barcelona ( Ritz Carlton property) this was right by the marina….this was a great area. I walked to mostly everything. Public transport was also readily available.

PARIS- Can I say beautiful?! The city definitely was charming. The sites were breathtaking. The Eiffel Tower of course was beautiful day and night…..the downfall is that there were lines for hours to get in to see that or any of the other sites. Norte dame was a long wait as well but well worth it. The Arc De Triumph was cool to walk to and take pictures next to. The Louve museum — where the Mona Lisa is was a huge sight to see….plan on spending hours in there. We went on a Wednesday which is the day it is open the latest.
—- behind the louve is a downtown area full of nightlife and young people. This was my favorite area to hang out in.

Around the Eiffel Tower and other historical sites, there were men selling purses and keychains and sunglasses. Anytime the cops walked through, these men would grab their belongings and start running and the cops would chase them. One time I saw a cop catch the guy and take all of his keychains. The guy was so sad because that was the way he was going to make his money that night

Food- I was not impressed with the food. I ate a lot of crepes with Nutella and banana and a lot of bread baguettes with meat and cheese in them. For breakfast they ate croissants and espresso. It was on average $12 for a croissant and an espresso. They ate a lot of duck there and a lot of goat cheese.. The goat cheese salad I was okay, but the duck…not so much.

People- I have heard it said that the French are rude—- I disagree….I wouldn’t say that they are rude but rather that they are busy. It reminded me of being in New York. Everybody was on a mission. Busy people don’t have time to talk. and when there is a language barrier it makes it tough. Not very many people spoke English so that made it difficult to interact with the locals. But for the most part, as in any country you will go to, if you approach somebody with a smile and you do not have a barrier up, they will be warm and open to you.

SWITZERLAND- Geneva was a last minute stop on the trip. We didn’t know what to expect. We ended up getting hosted by a local off of the Couch surfing website. He was from Italy which was really cool to get his perspective on the city. He showed us around the town and we rented bikes to go around lake Geneva. He even cooked for us 😉 he was very nice! There were a lot of people from around the world here as opposed to Swiss people. Most spoke french. I didn’t meet very many natives in the city. It was a very expensive city to live in. Minimum wage there is $25. A small pizza cost $23 and a bottle of juice was $8 the cost of living definitely matches the higher wages. Overall the city was beautiful. We went to the city celebration with our host and it was a huge rave- techno fest. There were 5 Starbucks within walking distance of each other in the city center.

Everybody in Switzerland walked around with tiny dogs. The street signs were on the walls of buildings. We are used to them being on the street corners so we got lost a few times. People were usually willing to help. Most of time they would point to a direction because they didn’t speak our language. The Swiss people have international schools. The families tend to have lots of children, the reason being…. the economy is doing so well there they feel that the kids will have a good future there. The children are taught three languages. English, German and French. Our host walked us down the red light district and didn’t tell us that we were there until halfway through. It was a very seedy area.

There was a big lake with a connecting river with many bridges. There was one bridge where the locals would come to after work and go swimming. And they would jump off the bridge into the water and the current would take them downriver. Then they would run back to the bridge to jump off and do it again….Those are the types of places you find when you walk away from the tourist areas and find the roads less traveled. .It was a lot of fun! Now— off to Italy

Portugal

Portugal

The first portion of my 6 week backpacking trip began in Lisbon, Portugal. For this trip my friend Tricia and I decided to go solo with only a backpack full of items and no set plan. We will be doing couch surfing, hostels, and hotels. The benefit of hostels is that you get to meet travelers who are doing the same thing you are and you can find friends along your journey. Couch surfing is a website where travelers from all over the world take in different guests and host them at heir own home, in hopes that when they travel, others will do the same. Portugal was my 4th couch surfing experience.

Luis – Luis was our host when we arrived in Portugal. Most people said that my girlfriend and I should be weary of staying with a random man in Portugal…. Common sense also said that you should… So … Our experience went as follows- we had originally planned to land at the airport and go to his house at 8 am and leave our backpacks in his house after meeting him- our flight was delayed ( we met some cool people during the delay at the airport that were training with the Portugal Futbal team to be professional soccer players) —- our flight was delayed A few hours so by the time we left Detroit and arrived in Portugal, our couchsurfing host was already at work. When we got to the Airport he told us that we can go drop our bags off in his trunk in the parking garage in city center and we could meet him later in the day to go stay at his place. This seemed very shady for him to be a total stranger… What did we do? We dropped off our bags in the trunk. Throughout the day-we joked with each other about how crazy that situation was and hoped we met him again to get our bags. Turns out -we did! We went to his house and it was a very nice apartment with a great view. Throughout the trip he was a life saver! He gave us great suggestions on what to do and drove us around to places. It was awesome to have a personal contact in the city and somebody to look after us. He drove us around in his
Lexus convertible 🙂 let me just tell you he was VERY attractive- and such a gentleman!!! The next day we met up with the soccer players and hung out at their pool in the beach for the day.

Transportation – The train and metros were a great way to get around. The castles and gardens in Sintra, and the beaches in Estoril- they were all easy to navigate. We took buses taxis train and metros and it was all very easy to figure out. We went with NO plan whatsoever and it all worked out just fine! Be prepared to wear comfortable shoes.. We climbed to Cruz alto ( a high cross in the mountain) and I was wearing flip flops because I didn’t know we would be hiking) bad choice!

People- The people spoke a little English…In the smaller towns they didn’t seem to speak or understand any at all. There was a lot of pointing, hand gestures and smiling and head shaking to communicate. Language barriers make the trip very difficult. They sing fado music during meals at dinner. A the place we went to the waiters would stop and sing to the restaurant but they wouldn’t if people were talking… The only thing I didn’t like about that was that I wanted to have conversations with the people we were eating dinner with but we couldn’t because it was considered “rude” while the people were talking – otherwise the live local music was great.

Food- There were a lot of pastries and cream cakes. Lots of fish and sardines! The late night partying drunk food was sold by people on the street pulling around coolers full of chicken legs. The streets were all uphill-downhill cobblestone. The parties were in the street like Mardi gras. I would never want to live downtown in that city!

Drugs- Everybody will try to sell you drugs on the street

Port wine- I never drank wine before because I don’t like it. But I tried it at Luis home and I loved it. It is a new favorite of mine!

One of the funniest things that my host had said that didn’t translate well, was when he was telling us about his girlfriend. When he told us about why they broke up he said it’s because she made a “big shit”. This translated that she made a big deal out of nothing

One main thing that did not translate well is when I said that I rode a crotch rocket back at home. Here we refer to them in America as crotch rockets sometimes. Race bikes or street bikes. Not cruisers. When I said this the person’s eyes got really big and they didn’t understand how I rode a crotch rocket.

Some key things I learned from a poet I met there…

Sometimes you just have to trust people
-Love can finish ( to be in love can end)
-When you have everything it is hard to appreciate anything
-Once you achieve all of your desires, your dreams will be destroyed – don’t make your goal to have everything.

Did I mention that I love Portugal?! We met two Portuguese men on the train to Venice as well. Showed them our funny videos and pictures from when we visited. They were so nice. That was the first time that we had cute boys our age sit next to us on the train who actually spoke English!