By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
Thirty hours doesn’t sound like that much, but it ended up being just enough.
Barcelona, two hours by plane from where I’m studying in London, is a gorgeous, dynamic city that I was lucky enough to see this weekend. While it was a short trip (we arrived at our hostel at 1:15 a.m. on Saturday and landed back in London at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning), we managed to squeeze an unbelievable amount of sightseeing and fun in.
After an extremely late dinner and drinks experience at a bar by our hostel, we went to bed in our 8-person room at 3:30 a.m. and woke up at 9 a.m. Not to be deterred by a lack of sleep, we got up and out quickly and went straight to Casa Batlló in the heart of Barcelona.
The museum, a previously built house resigned by architect Antoni Gaudí (who, as far as I could tell, is basically worshiped by Barcelona’s residents and historians) in 1904, was well worth the visit. While Gaudí’s work isn’t traditionally beautiful, it is certainly fascinating to look at and unlike anything I’ve seen in the U.S., or anywhere else in my travels.
Later on in the day, we saw Park Güell — which was free to enter after 6 p.m. — also designed by Gaudí and also very colorful and structurally interesting. There were tower-like mosaic structures, a mosaic dragon fountain and a huge mosaic lizard that has become a sort of symbol of the city.
No trip to Barcelona is complete without a trip to the famous La Sagrada Família, also designed by — you guessed it — Gaudí.
Still incomplete after more than 130 years, it is a Catholic church visible from miles away. While I personally think the church’s famous side (all four sides of the church are remarkably different and tell a different story) looks like a castle a child would make on the beach, it is extremely impressive in its scale and design. I could have looked at it for hours. We didn’t get to tour the inside, but it was hard to see and do everything we wanted in such a short time.
My favorite part of the day was going up to Tibidabo, a mountain overlooking Barcelona. We took the metro and then walked up a steep hill to catch the Tibidabo Furnicular up the side of the mountain to its summit. There was an amusement park and a massive, beautiful church and a restaurant up at the summit. We got to see the most stunning views of Barcelona, the beach and the surrounding water.
After all this and walking around the piers, the famous Las Ramblas and the city’s financial district, I researched paella restaurants and we ended up at Can Majo by the beach for dinner. We enjoyed raw oysters, white wine and paella “Can Majo” style that was, if you like seafood, life-changing. The seafood was extremely fresh and came to the table in an authentic paella pan.
After dinner, we met up with my friend from high school and her friends who we stayed with at our hostel at Chupitos bar. Hundreds of “chupitos” (which is literally translated to “shots”) were the only items on the menu.
From there we went down to Barcelona’s legendary clubs, which sit one by one right on the beach, before finally grabbing our bags and heading back to the airport. We hopped on the plane without going to bed and, upon our arrival back in London, had a full night’s worth of sleep.
While we rushed around all day in a manner no Spaniard would ever dream of, I greatly enjoyed my time in Barcelona. I would love to go back someday, maybe when La Sagrada Família is finally finished.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
After an absolutely amazing week of travel, I’m back home and safe in South Kensington. My friends and I took spring break to the next level by traveling from London to Budapest, Hungary and then making our way over to Lisbon, Portugal. From there, we jetted on home and back to reality.
Budapest, the capitol of Hungary and home to 2 million of the country’s 10 million total residents, is split in two by the Danube River. With “Buda” on one side and “Pest” on the other, it’s easy to see why people say the eastern European city has dual personalities: Buda is filled with beautiful old buildings like the Citadella and is comprised mostly of narrow, crooked streets while Pest is home to gorgeous, sweeping boulevards and boasts much of the city’s nightlife.
We climbed up to see the Citadella and trekked over to Parliament as well, a sprawling building topped with dark red domes. After a long day of sightseeing, we went to Trofea Grill. Thankfully, it was delicious and well worth the money because we took a wrong turn, arriving finally after trudging through the enormous city park and most of the rest of Pest.
The “ruin bars,” located in Pest not too far from the Danube, are amazing. Massive bars fill what used to be industrial space all along this district. The first ruin bar in Budapest was Szimpla Kert. With multiple floors with several rooms on each (including a wine bar, hookah lounge and dance floor), you could get lost inside forever, but you probably wouldn’t mind.
The following day, we spontaneously decided to treat ourselves to “fish pedicures,” which are extremely popular in Hungary. I’m not really sure how to describe this without it sounding disgusting, but essentially, little tiny fish eat the dead skin off your feet while you sit in a spa chair, soaking up to your knees. My friend CJ, who had never had a pedicure before, said it was the best 30 minutes of his life.
After that, we bathed in 100-degree water in Budapest’s most famous thermal baths, the gorgeous Szechenyi Baths, which was an excellent way to decompress before our four-hour flight to Portugal the next day at 5 a.m.
Lisbon, the capitol of Portugal, is stunning. I was shocked at how beautiful it was, nestled up against the Tagus River. Built up on seven hills, the houses and buildings (most topped with red roofs) seemed to be stacked up on top of each other, painted white, yellow or vibrant pinks and blues. All the streets and sidewalks were made of small square white stones and were so clean.
We enjoyed an extensive walking tour through our hostel, Home Hostel Lisbon (which I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Portugal), on the first day. The second day, we took a short train ride to Sintra, Portugal, and explored the town and one of its castles, Pena National Palace. The castle, a bit of a hike, was worth the day trip with its mix of architectural styles and its views of the surrounding woods and Lisbon.
After not particularly loving Budapest’s Hungarian cuisine, my friends and I were determined to have an authentic, delicious Portuguese dinner. We settled upon Taberna da Rua das Flores, a tiny restaurant with a 90-minute wait that was completely worth it. We ate the freshest seafood, the most delicious pork and the most decadent desserts (not to mention the homemade fresh fruit cocktails and the Portuguese wine). Some highlights included the steamed mussels, the salmon and scallop ceviche and the passionfruit cheesecake.
While I am very glad to be back in my flat in London (and to start my internship tomorrow), I already miss Budapest and Lisbon. They were two of the most exciting and gorgeous cities I’ve ever visited and I know someday that I’ll be back.
Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
Between learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, embarking on a hilarious journey with new Irish friends and having a spiritual encounter with a particularly delicious burrito, I had a fantastic time exploring Dublin and Galway this week.
When my professor canceled my Thursday class, my roommate and I decided to change our Dublin flights to arrange for a Wednesday night arrival. We took the tube to Heathrow for a quick flight over to Ireland’s capital.
The first night, we explored the Temple Bar area of Dublin — a slice of the city known for its nightlife — that sits just south of the River Liffey. That part of town is comprised of narrow, cobble-stoned streets in their original medieval layout. My roommate and I had a late start and ended up splitting our time between two pubs near each other, one of which had live authentic Irish music.
The third night we were there, we met up with more friends from the BU London program who also decided to visit Ireland this week. We went to one of the same pubs from the night before and then made our way over to one of Dublin’s most popular clubs, which was a blast. We ran into more American friends, coincidentally, and also met some locals in the “queue” to get inside and once we were in.
Much later that night, as we were leaving, we met up with a friend at a nearby late-night Mexican restaurant and had what we described as a “life-changing burrito.” It gave some of our friends the strength to return home to their hostel — they had boldly chosen to bunk in a 16-bed mixed dormitory just north of the river. (We were lucky enough to be able to stay at my roommate’s cousin’s house after just one night in a private hostel room.)
We met new people every night we were out, in places ranging from hole-in-the-wall pubs to the busiest clubs on the street, which was awesome. My new Irish friends, who had known each other forever, took my roommate and I to their favorite spots around town on Saturday night. Against the Grain— a “gastropub” that is known for its varied selection of craft beers — was really fun and was absolutely packed with locals enjoying pints and each other’s company. The Garage Bar, a club in Temple Bar and our next stop after Against the Grain, had a floor covered in sawdust, played mostly punk music and drew a totally different crowd but was just as fun.
Galway, a relatively short bus ride away, was a fun day trip as well, even though it poured rain the entire day. We had the opportunity to see Ireland’s gorgeous countryside as well which was nice in comparison to the urban landscape of Dublin.
The last touristy thing we did was tour the Guinness factory, a must for any American in Dublin. We are now certified Guinness pourers and as such retain the right to judge any bartender who doesn’t follow Guinness’ recommended instructions.
All in all, it was an amazing four days and I would highly recommend both Dublin and Galway to anyone visiting Ireland. You’ll never run out of things to do or people to meet.
Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
A week into my semester abroad, I still feel like it’s not really real yet.
I’ve been to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, pubs (so many pubs) and clubs. I took a boat cruise down the Thames and even visited “Platform Nine and ¾.” Everything is gorgeous and so old and historical. It has been so fun sightseeing; we’re off to the Tower of London today. Still, though, it feels like I’m on vacation with a bunch of friends — except, on a budget.
One of the hardest things to adjust to — besides learning to look the “wrong” way when crossing the street — has been living completely on my own. Last semester, I had an apartment, but I was always at The Daily Free Press or my restaurant job and rarely had time to cook real meals for myself. Here, though, it’s been all home-cooked, all the time. We really can’t afford anything else with the exchange rate (which sits at almost two dollars for every one pound) and with our estimated travel budget. So, it’s been chicken and veggies pretty much every night for dinner.
My roommate and I have pooled our spending and split everything from trips to the grocery store, to cooking and dishes. It’s been a great system but definitely has been a big adjustment, along with sharing a kitchen with 14 other girls, all of whom live in my flat.
Before I got here, I decided one of my main goals would be to travel. I’ve been looking forward to seeing all parts of Europe since I can remember and realize this is the perfect opportunity. We’re going to Dublin next weekend, where luckily enough I have a friend there we can stay with for free. We’ve got a bunch more trips planned, too — all around the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands, for now, with our bigger trips still up in the air.
I think what has struck me most about London is how massive and how international it is as a city. Every place we’ve been, we’ve met people from all over the globe. Other Americans, a ton of French people, Lithuanians and — my personal favorite — two businessmen from Copenhagen we met on a pub-crawl. It’s been much harder to meet Brits than I figured it would be, but I think that’s because of the neighborhood we live in (South Kensington). It’s very expensive and not home to too many locals. I’ve set another goal for myself this week to meet more people from in and around London. There are a bunch of local universities around that we might go check out.
All and all, it’s been an amazing first week and I couldn’t be happier with my choice to study abroad in London. As far as classes go, I’m taking a British media and culture class and a class focused on foreign corresponding. I can’t wait for those to begin next week!
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
I’ll be home in less than a month.
Just as this city has started to really get in under my skin in the best ways, it’s going to be over. It’s made even worse by the realization that I’ve only got one weekend left in London.
I suppose it’s for the best that I’m falling in love with the city as I prepare to leave it.
This all just feels like I’ve had two pints of cider at the pub and upon standing I realize I’m a little more drunk than anticipated…but not too far gone for another pint.
One of my favorite buildings in all of London is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Look back on most of my Instagrams of any sort of London skyline, if it’s not featuring Big Ben or the London Eye (or some combination of me trying to break into a palace or join the Royal Family). St. Paul’s Cathedral is there, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, sometimes featured in a glass of wine.
I’ve never actually been inside of St.Paul’s, mind you. It’s on my (dwindling) list of places to go, and my friend convinced me to wait to go until next weekend. Ending my London tourist-ings on a high note, right?
It’s hard to explain my infatuation with this building. William and Kate weren’t even married there (though William’s mother and father were). In a city filled to the brim with old buildings, it’s one of the most noteworthy, sure, but there’s just something about the way it rises above most of the other buildings in that majestic way tall things are tall. It’s a crude description but bear with me.
Whether I’m 50 feet or 5,000 meters away, something about that white dome just catches my eye and holds my attention. A friend and I walked around the cathedral on Saturday evening and I couldn’t help but just stare skyward at the beautifully carved exterior, marveling.
Something about St. Paul’s makes me feel centered. I’m by no means a religious person, but the curve of the dome and the beauty that was wrought by Christopher Wren just makes things feel right.
I feel small, but not in a bad way. You get close to the building and look up, until you remember to look where you’re going because another tourist almost bumped into you. You remember your feet are still on the ground and you’ve got another place to go.
Maybe it’s strange to have a semi-religious experience thanks to a building’s exterior architecture and maybe I’m just mostly typing nonsense, but I think it all goes hand in hand with my time in London.
No matter what, I’ll always look toward London. It’ll have a place in my heart, for better or for worse, and now I’ll understand a little better what this city actually is.
Just like getting close to the cathedral, I’ve felt small in London. I’ve felt really small. Never before have I felt so outside my comfort zone in so many situations—but it’s also a beautiful reminder of what life brings.
In no way shape or form should I remain in my comfort zone at all times, and I think I best grow when put outside of my native environment.
I think because of all of this, it’s given me a greater understanding of myself. Sure I’ve bumped into a number of tourists (both physically and allegorically), but it’s all made me realize what’s going on around me—and just how awesome it’s been to be here.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
It has always taken me a little while to feel settled. It took a couple months for that to happen when I came out to Boston from my suburban Minnesota hometown. I still remember the moment too – it was the first time I went for a run on the Esplanade and caught a glimpse of the Charles and the Boston skyline.
This moment certainly didn’t happen during a run, though I did go for a guilt-induced jog through Hyde Park today. Chock it up to one too many nights ending at Burger King. Whoops. I even got lost on my run and ended up at the Speakers’ Corner, where people go to pontificate about their beliefs and ideas in the open air (thanks, Wikipedia). My favorite part of the entire ordeal is that tons of people come to listen and heckle the speakers. Being the digital creature I am, I recorded a Vine while at the corner and actually caught one of the hecklers calling a speaker a “crazy antichrist.” I laughed.
The epiphany actually happened on a relatively tame Friday night. After a day of sightseeing, high tea and Kate Middleton impressions (okay, so I may have made my friend take a ton of pictures of me walking out of the same door Kate did during the Royal Wedding…), my friend, her sister and I decided to explore the South Bank.
The South Bank is a neighborhood or borough directly across the river from Westminster. Coming from the Crofton in Kensington, the easiest way to get there is to get off the tube on what’s technically the north bank — though no one calls it that — and walk across one of the bridges to the other side. We opted to get off at the Embankment tube station instead of Westminster (we had seen enough of Big Ben for the day).
We exited the station at around 10 p.m., so obviously it was dark out and walked up the stairs to a pedestrian bridge flanking the London Bridge. The view from the bridge looking across the Thames toward the City of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral was breathtaking. Electricians have to be rich in this town because all the structures along the river were lit up with these incredible colored lights, with the blue-lit arches of our pedestrian bridge to the yellow lights from surrounding buildings and this incredible pink and purple structure that I think was an art museum, with everything glittering off the Thames’ low tide. The notorious London clouds even parted to reveal a full moon behind the entire spectacle.
I kept raising my camera to capture the view, but ultimately keeping it down as I stood and just tried to absorb the view. It’s one of those moments when you try as hard as you can to take mental snapshots. For me, a camera can’t duplicate that sense of warmth, happiness and even peace that washed over me as we made our way across the bridge, stopping every few feet to soak up the view a little more.
By Marie Goldstein, Staff Writer
Unlike most of the Boston University student population, I have only been out of the United States once in my life. This was on my senior trip of high school to the Dutch island of St. Maarten. My four closest friends and I stayed a week in a villa at the Royal Palm Resort over looking Simpson Bay. This being the first time we were out of the United States and the first time we were away from our parents the trip twisted and turned with unexpected surprises. Nevertheless, this week was full with memories that will last me a lifetime. If you are ever visiting the Dutch side of St. Maarten, here are some of the must-sees.
The Town of Phillipsburg
There are few things I have seen that are more beautiful than the beach of Phillipsburg. Not only are there crystal clear waves crashing on the white powder beach, there’s also a huge town full of shops. The shops vary from marketplace-esque to high-end names. In the marketplace you can get authentic Caribbean jewelry. I bought bracelets made out of coconuts that I am in love with! The high-end brand names back home don’t have tax, so they are way cheaper. I bought a Longchamp bag, and my best friend snagged a Michele watch for cheap.
The Royal Palm Resort Lagoon
This private lagoon only for the Royal Palm guests was definitely a private paradise. It was the perfect place to go for a senior trip because it was quite, and there weren’t many little kids around. There were lounge chairs set on the beach that you could move in the water if you wanted to. The water was the perfect temperature for the crazy heat we braved on the trip. Aloe vera massage, anyone?
Lady Sea is a bar that is on a sailboat! This is seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen. A huge sailboat travels from island to island bringing a unique bar atmosphere to visiting tourists! The sailboat has a bar, tables, a stage and a place to dance if you’re not to scared of falling overboard. This is a must-see on your trip, and there is no doubt that you will make your best memories at Lady Sea! Last I heard Lady Sea is still in the same location across the street from the Royal Palm Resort, but I hear that it may be traveling to a new island in the near future!
By Amira Francis (@Mircatfrancis), Staff Writer
We hear horror stories each year about students studying abroad. Whether you’re leaving home sweet home to pursue studies or just to get a taste of the world, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when learning how to survive in an unfamiliar place.
As someone who backpacked alone around Ireland for three weeks this past summer, I can say with confidence that it is better to be safe than sorry. Always—especially in those foreign bars and clubs you know you’ll be at—stay on your guard. Here are a few major things you should keep your eye out for when exploring the land beyond America. Hopefully these tips will help you have a safe, fulfilling time abroad.
1. Keep a lookout for shady characters
Okay, okay, this one seems like a given. Of course you’re not going to walk past that large, muscular man with his hood up, stumbling through the streets at one in the morning. Common sense, right? And you should follow your common sense. If someone doesn’t look quite right to you, by all means, stay away. Sometimes, though, these shady characters can be a lot subtler. It could be the well-groomed, smooth-talking Italian man who turns out not to be the white knight you think he is. Or it could be the seemingly trustworthy Spanish saleswoman who you thought was kindly chatting you up to help a foreigner out. Hours later you can’t find your wallet, which leads to my second and third point.
2. Never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with a stranger
A stranger could be someone that you met a day ago, a week ago or even a month ago. For the purpose of playing it safe, it’s better to stay in the public eye. If you want to go on a date with the dashing English guy you just met, stick to restaurants to start with. (And watch your drink!) If that beautiful girl wants to show you some place that all the other tourists haven’t seen yet, politely suggest somewhere a little more familiar. If you do choose to go somewhere alone with a person you have just met, which could happen in a spur-of-the-moment surge of adventure, at the very least let a friend know where you’re going and who you’re going with.
3. Keep your money and your passport close
A study abroad nightmare is a lost passport. Keep it in the most secure place you can think of, like in that safe pocket on the inside of your purse. I met an Australian man who even kept a padlock on the zipper of his backpack. The same kind of thing goes for money. Keep an eye on your wallet. It’s tough enough recovering a lost wallet in Boston. I can’t imagine doing the same successfully in a foreign land.
4. Follow your gut
If you have a bad feeling about something, don’t do it. If your gut is telling you not to trust someone, don’t trust him or her. Your intuition is wise, so make sure you learn to listen to it while traveling abroad. Err on the safe side and, by the end of your trip, you won’t regret it.