Unexpected International Trips and the Beautiful Costa Brava

What do you do if you’re studying abroad in Barcelona and your friends are interning abroad in Madrid? Naturally, the answer is to meet up in Portugal. At least that´s what my friends and I decided to do two weekends ago. My initial intentions were to go to Madrid to see the capital city and hang out with some fellow Buckeyes for the weekend. Upon learning that they were traveling to Lisbon, I booked a flight and adventure ensued.

To say that we had a great weekend is an understatement. Lisbon is an incredibly lovely city on the coast, all the sidewalks are tile, the buildings and streets are wide and gorgeous, and there is a fantastic lack of the hustle-and-bustle that surrounds me constantly in Barcelona. The city was not at all boring, however, and we filled our time there will a beach day, city tour on a double-decker bus, pub crawl, and castle exploration. The novelty of meeting up with my friends from home in a country that was foreign even to the foreign countries that we are living in for the summer was fun. I got to meet a group of 15 more Buckeyes, all interning abroad in Madrid, that were traveling with my good friends. It was so nice to go out with strangers the first night and leave them as friends two days later.

I returned back to Barcelona in the hands-down most sketchy flight I´ve ever been on. Coming in hot during the landing, when we touched ground the entire flight let out the most audible gasp I´ve ever heard and we continued to swerve down the runway in a chaotic manner. The most attractive flight staff ever placed on a plane said nothing, so I´m sure we were fine. I am not joking about their attractiveness, by the way. I listened to every word of that safety presentation let me tell you. Fastened seatbelts and emergency exits have never been so interesting.

I left a piece of myself in Lisbon. Namely, the outer layer of my skin that got absolutely scorched to oblivion on the beach of Cascais. I left my weekend of wonder and went through another week of classes, food, and culture in Barcelona until the following weekend. This time, the destination was Costa Brava, the ´brave coast´ of Spain. Commonly regarded as some of the most beautiful water and coastline of the Mediterranean, I was more than excited to visit the small town of Roses. Our first stop in Costa Brava was the town of Figures, better known as the birthplace of one of my favorite artists, Salvador Dalì. Perhaps you´ve heard of him?  We had a guided tour of the Dalì museum that he, himself, designed. This visit was absolutely magical for me. After our visit, we enjoyed a lovely lunch by the sea, despite the first rainfall that I´ve experienced since I´ve been in Spain. From there we got back on the bus and checked into our hotel in Roses. The next morning we boarded our chariot for the day, a boat that drove us around the coast. Needless to say, the water was gorgeous. We even stopped at one point and took a dip by jumping off the boat. It was not warm, but definitely worth it. Our stop was at the quiet white building spotted town of Cadaques, the home of Dalì and his wife Gala. More lunch and beach time ensued before getting back on the boat to get back on the bus to get back to Barcelona. It was a relaxing weekend of aquatic beauty.

Now I´m finishing presentations and preparing for my final exams that I´ll be taking tomorrow and Thursday. I will be joined on Friday by my sister, Heather, to begin the next chapter of my summer travels by showing her around my home of the last month for two days before we set off by train for Paris. This month in Barcelona has been one of the most enjoyable and magical times in my life. From seeing the streets that some of my favorite artists lived and worked to touring areas soaked in history, to traveling not only around Spain but unexpectedly abroad, to making friends and learning to make a new city my home, I wouldn´t trade this time for anything. (Maybe with one exception, that I will explain in a second.) I have perfected Spanish metro-use, gotten myself lost and unlost, improved my Spanish, been attacked by the bravest pigeon that ever did pigeon, gone to museums and parks and clubs and bars and school and a place that I ended up calling ´home.´ Thank you Barcelona, thank you to my program, ISA, thank you to my two amazing professors, to my parents, to my family, to new friends and to old. I´m coming home, but not before I set my eyes upon the sights, sounds, and sensations of more cities and countries in the coming weeks. I can´t wait to go and see what´s out there, and to tell you all about it all the while.

Hasta luego, Barcelona, because I´m leaving you for now but not forever.




And now for the aforementioned exception that I would be remiss if I didn´t touch upon it. Go. Cavs. Go Cavs go Cavs go Cavs. I have been overwhelmed with love, admiration, and inexplicable emotion for my city and my team since the end of game 7. The championship. I stayed up til 5am to watch the game, and immediately did not know how to react. The Nike ad spot perfectly summarizes my feelings at that moment. I have cried each day since, and there was a split second that in my bed in Barcelona I wished to be in Cleveland more than anywhere else in the entire world in that moment. This means so much to my city, to my home, and I´m so glad to be able to celebrate something that is so much more than just having a higher score when the final buzzer sounds. Thank you Cle, hope you´re ready to celebrate again when I get home, because I will be.


Game of Thrones and Van Gogh

Hey it´s Han, back with another update from Barcelona. Aside from focusing on my studies (Mom, I swear I´m doing well in my classes!), I´ve been doing some light traveling, ensuring more stories and photos to share with all of you.

My program took us on a trip starting early in the morning Friday 3 June. We forced our sleepy bodies onto the bus and set off for Girona, a city in northern Spain. Like many places in Europe, Girona boasts architecture from the 1st century, layered with 14th century, existing in stark juxtaposition to the adjacent modern buildings. From exploring castles, churches, and ancient neighborhoods full of history to walking accross bridges built by the architect of the Eiffel Tower, Girona is full of magic. I haven´t even told you the best part yet. We got to see some of sets that main scenes from the current season of Game of Thrones were shot! Anyone that is a big GoT fan like myself will understand my obscene level of excitement for having walked through the streets of King´s Landing and up the steps of Braavos.

Gina and I on the steps where the Game of Thrones ‘Walk of Atonement’ begins.

It’s good luck to kiss the behind of this XII century lioness.

 After some time for exploring on our own and a lovely lunch, we boarded our chariot, aka the most uncomfortable bus I´ve ever been on, and headed to Montpellier in the south of France. We stayed two nights in a hotel, and were able to freely explore the city for dinner each evening. Saturday morning we awoke, devoured breakfast at the hotel, and left for Arles. Outdoor markets, gladiator arenas, and major sites of Van Gogh´s life were all highlights on our city tour. As a great fan of Van Gogh, walking around the city to see the actual courtyards and streets that are present in paintings that I recognized was sensational. There is just so much history packed into the narrow streets that are now full of shops and restaurants. We then headed to Aigues-Muertes, which means ´´dead water´´ in French. This moniker comes from the fact that the water there is not potable. The city is completely surrounded by perfectly preserved medieval walls and we did a bit of walking around and exploring inside. My friend Gina and I saw an opportunity to do something we´ve never done before and took it. Here is a raw photograph of the moment we put our feet into a tank of little fish to get pedicures:

Ancient gladiator arena in Arles

 Sunday morning we left Montepellier for Collioure, our last stop in France. This is where we spent a tranquil day enjoying the beautiful seaside town that I always pictured when the phrase ´south of France´ popped into my head. We enjoyed the beach and the traditional crew boat races in the water. The colorful buildings that line the streets there made for a fun and flavorful adventure and a perfect ending to a nice trip to France.

Things learned on this journey:

  1. If you go to a sushi restaurant in France you get the double-whammy effect of not speaking French or Japanese… and things get a little tricky. Good thing is, you end up figuring it out.
  2. I’m all for cultural immersion, but I just don’t think unrefrigerated, warm milk will ever be my thing. 
  3. Organic, non-gmo, gluten free, vegan, sugar-free-everything grocery stores exist everywhere. And they´re all the same.
  4. Keeping up with a blog while you´re out and about travelling can be challenging, but it´s worth it to stick with it.

 Special shoutout to the love from friends and family I´ve been getting for the blog posts. I´m doing it for you guys and I miss you all. Special shoutout to my little cousins Jack, Max, and Madison, I can´t wait to see you guys when I get back and share even more stories!

Signing off for now but not for long,