Man, I suck at this blogging thing. Honestly though, I’ve been having a hella good time here and my past two weeks have been full of trips, along with midterms and projects (not very much sleep). So we reached the halfway point of studying abroad, which is bittersweet. I’m pretty excited to go back home (I miss you chipotle) and see all my friends (and eat chipotle), but my time here has been amazing so far. I’ve met some great people, have had life changing experiences, learned a lot about myself, and my Italian is better than ever.
So two weeks ago (March 3-7) I went to Barcelonaaaa! Yes, I sang the song on the streets, as the plane landed in Barcelona, and as it took off to take me back to Bologna. While I was there, I met up with Sunaina, one of my floormates from last year, which was really nice. Barcelona was my favorite trip and I really did go at a perfect time because I’ve been a bit homesick, so to be with a familiar face and to be in a country with 0 language barriers felt very nice and comfortable. We went to AbroadFest there, which is basically a festival for students studying abroad. Not what I expected it to be, so I’m glad it wasn’t expensive, but it was still fun. The first night we saw The Chainsmokers, the second night sucked, and the third night we saw Marshmello, so those two nights were awesome. The day we got there we checked into our hostel, both of our first times staying in a hostel. Honestly, I didn’t mind it at all. We stayed at Hola Hostel in a room of 20 girls, so it got a bit hectic when the night rolled around and one girl wanted to sleep, but I felt very safe, my stuff felt safe, and we were in a really good location since we were close to a subway only one stop away from a main one.
First night: So, we went to the hostel, picked up our tickets at a club which was about a 40 minute walk away so we caught up on each other’s life, and had some AMAZING paella. Seriously, Brower you’ve gotta step your paella game up. Then, we saw The Chainsmokers until 4:30 am at razzmatazz club, it was a bit crazy but somehow we woke up at around 10 am the next day and were out by 11 or so to head over to Sagrada Familia. First, we stopped for some coffee and churros at a bar, where the guy LOVED the fact that I have an Argentinean background, saying “Che hombre!” as soon as he heard my accent. Kinda fun. After, we waited on line for Sagrada for a bit and bought two student tickets, which were I
think 16 euro each. Really expensive to see a church, but the money from your ticket actually goes into constructing the church. It was really a beautiful sight. I just stared at
the ceiling the whole time because it was so amazing to see and really such a sight that can’t be captured in photographs. The way the sunlight hits the stained glass windows and changes the setting of the church with just the change of a ray is truly a magical scene. It’s a magnificent church and so different than the cathedrals I’ve been used to seeing in Italy which are more renaissance, religious, etc. as to where Sagrada Familia is just a totally different experience. Something I definitely recommend fitting into your time and budget. Took about an hour and a half to walk through the inside and outside, and of course, have a photo shoot.
After that, we found a cheap restaurant to go to where I had a really shitty burger and super strong sangria, and we ate some churros we picked up along the way. After, we headed over to the day event AbroadFest was hosting where we coincidentally met some kids from Rutgers and we all chilled on the beach before heading our separate ways. Sunaina and I went back home to get ready for the night, and had food at the restaurant next door. Recommendation: do not get lasagna in Barcelona. It’s just not good especially after eating it in Italy for two months. Just don’t do it, no matter how cheap. We went to the club to see the DJs but the club was empty, so we went back home and called it a night. The club was far so we had to take a cab since the metro doesn’t run late, and it was about 16 euro each way, so we split it.
Day three came around and we realized we hadn’t seen a lot so it’s time to crash course on tourism in Barcelona. We woke up around 8 or 9 to see Parc Guell. Hungover Sophie climbing to the top of Parc Guell is not a pretty sight, but we made it. First we went to the free part where we had a panoramic view of Barcelona, which was scary to climb to the top to, and afterwards we found the real Parc Guell. Ya know, the one in Cheetah Girls 2? So that was 6 or 8 euro to get into, but only a certain number of people can be in the park at once so we had to wait an hour after buying our tickets before being allowed in. We went down to the main street where we had lunch for like 4 euro but it wasn’t good (we tried so authentic sausage thing…), but the freshly squeezed orange juice and cappucino were nice. I also got some fresh strawberries from a fruit market which were so naturally sweet, I loved it. We went back up to Parc Guell when our time came around, where we saw the view, walked through the whole thing, and had yet another photo shoot. After, we went to Las Ramblas, found some dunkin (!!!!!) (iced coffee!!!), and went to the Mercado de la Boqueria. To all my family members reading this: I found Havana alfajores, I found yerba, i found mate. It was truly heaven. Of course, I bought myself an alfajor no matter how overpriced it was. Can’t put a price on love. Sunaina and I walked around the market and found this amazing empanada stand, where I had a carne empanada (meat for all you gringos) and cried some spanish tears. We continued to walk down the ramblas and made our way to the Gothic Quarter. We saw the Barcelona Cathedral and went to a Gaudi museum. This I don’t recommend. It was 12 euro, very few interesting parts, and can be time consuming if you aren’t interested. It wasn’t a lot of Gaudi’s work and there wasn’t very much of Sagrada. It was an audio tour, so every little thing had like a five minute monologue in an annoying not british but not american accent. So we walked through it in about a half hour before making our way to the Magic Fountain. At this magical fountain, every Friday & Saturday there is a light show with music. It’s kind of cute, really cheesy, and super cold. We went to Marshmello after that and then went home, because we
planned for an early breakfast by the water.
Sunday, we were up and out before 8 am to the Ramblas again, where NOTHING was open. We went to an illy cafe inside a mall across the water where we each had a cappucino and I had an alfajor de maicena (I really couldn’t get enough dulce de leche while I was there). Some shops starting opening up by the time we got back so we had churros & chocolate. Oh my god, I’m telling you it is impossible to finish because it is so rich and sweet. Sunaina had an earlier flight so she headed to the airport around 11, but I didn’t have to be there until 3 so I went to Camp Nou.
Camp Nou is home to the greatest soccer team in the world: FC Barcelona. It was 20 euro to get in but I’m telling you it was so worth it. An hour and a half of just FCB? Count me in. First, it’s the museum part where you see all the history: every trophy that’s been won (a lot), all the old shirts, soccer balls, cleats, old souvenirs, even Obama’s honorary Barca jersey. I got to see Messi’s five Ballon d’Oro (…who’s Ronaldo again?) & his Golden Boots.
It was an amazing sight, here’s where I shed my first tears. Theres also a portion of all of Barcelona’s other teams, basketball, hockey, women’s soccer, but since I was pressed on time I didn’t see it. So after that you get to go into the stadium. YOU GET TO GO INTO THE STADIUM AND SEE MES QUE UN CLUB ACTUALLY WITH YOUR OWN EYES. It was in the stands, and I thought this was the end of the tour. I mean, how much better could it actually get? Oh wait, THEY LET YOU IN THE PRESS ROOM. AND THE LOCKER ROOM. AND THAT HALLWAY WHERE THEY ALL GET READY BEFORE RUNNING OUT ON TO THE FIELD. AND THEN. YOU GET TO RUN OUT ON THE FIELD. THE ACTUALLY FIELD. THE ONE THAT MESSI PLAYS ON. AND YOU GET TO TOUCH THE FIELD AND WALK ON IT AND CRY A LOT. okay so yeah clearly I was very calm walking through Camp Nou. After, you go up for a panoramic view, and get to see more history, but unfortunately, I was pressed for time so I had to skip past a lot of it. Walking out felt a lot like getting off a ride at Disney: you think you’ll just end up outside, but you can’t do that without them trying to sell you stuff, aka the entire FCB uniform, scarf, socks, underwear, keychains, dog collars, you name it and it was there and really overpriced. I was stressed about getting to my flight on time since I spent too much time crying in Camp Nou, so I took a cab to the subway station to ensure I wouldn’t get lost, ran through the subway station to my hostel, got my backpack, and took a cab to the main subway station to take the Renfe to the train. Of course, had a run-in at the subway station because when something can go wrong, it will go wrong, but I made it to BCN on time, and back to Bologna, where I took a bus and train back to Ferrara.
Monday, I had a scratchy throat but woke up early two study for my two midterms that day, which I think (hope) I did well on. Tuesday I think I had an outline or something, then Wednesday morning (3 am…) we left for our flight to Sicily! That’s right people, I was back in Ferrara for two days before getting on yet another RyanAir flight to a lovely island, “the land of the sun”…
Yeah, it rained all five days we were there. We landed in Palermo and immediately had a tour of the city. There were so many stray dogs and it was just the saddest and cutest thing, because most of them are so friendly and just want love. We went to the Cathedral (what else is new, we’re in Italy touring cathedrals), then we saw the theatre which is in The Godfather or was filmed there or something, I should probably watch that movie. After, we went to a restaurant where in the entrance there were so many turtles! I had a shrimp cocktail as an appetizer, and as my promise to push my boundaries during study abroad, I ordered a shrimp and salmon spaghetti. I don’t like salmon or really any fish at all, and it included this dish. I’m sure it was really good, but the bits of salmon were so overpowering, I couldn’t eat it. Granted, I was feeling congested and my throat hurt, so I wasn’t that mad about it. I still tried something! After, we visited a monastery on Monreale, where we had a panoramic view of Palermo. I love panoramic views, man. We visited the inside of the church after, and then we played with more stray dogs. After that, we took our bus to Agrigento where we stayed the night and had pizza. Unfortunately, by this time, I was feeling quite sick and had a fever, so I was really cranky and didn’t have an appetite, so the fact that the food took an hour and a half AND it had no tomato sauce made for an extremely cranky Sophie, and I went back to the hotel and went to bed. I woke up the next day not feeling much better, so my advisors went to the pharmacy to get some tachipirina, which is a really strong aspirin.
That day, we saw the Valley of the Temples, which are grecian ruins on the island of sicily. It rained that day too, but it didn’t stop us from having a photoshoot in front of the amazing temple, and it didn’t stop me from wearing my floppy hat, which channels my inner Carmen Sandiego.
We had MORE food after, but I didn’t have any fish this time. We took a bus to our final destination, Catania, where we would stay the rest of our trip, and then had dinner. WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING HOW IS ANYONE HUNGRY??? We stayed at the Sheraton which was on the beach, and went to a restaurant down the road. Ate some noodles, felt like poopy, and went to bed.
Day three of our trip was to Syracuse. We had a really annoying tour guide who wore all beige and sounded like Nigel Thorneberry. We couldn’t do anything without him being a tour guide. Example one: “Here are some apartments. People live here. They’re private so we can’t go inside.” Example two, on our way to a restaurant: “These are stores, if you have some money, and would like to go shopping, maybe you can go in. Ah yes, stores. Stores keep the economy flowing.” Example three, when our bus was trying to pull into a parking spot but people were in the way: “Here we are in our parking spot. Ah yes, there’s a Turkish group. The Turkish people are not moving out of our spot. Ah, yes, Tuurkish group. They are definitely Turkish.” !!!! I was so tired of him, but I guess he really found his calling in life which was to guide tours…and that means guiding everything. So the first day was torrential down pour. We went to an archaeological museum but it was really heavy and boring so I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it. I must say, this experience has made me better in appreciating museums and art, but I’m no where near mature enough to appreciate museums of things I don’t care about when I’m sick. Will I ever be? Stay tuned. Eventually the sun came out so we toured archaeological sites of ruins of arenas and stones and such before stopping to have some lunch. I think this was the first time during the whole trip I was a bit hungry. Here, I ate some amazing gnocchi with red wine risotto, and the waiter gave us some liquor similar to fireball? Tasted like Rutgers. After, we toured more of Syracuse including the Temple of Athena, which was cool, but we were all tired at that point and I really wanted gelato. During our free time, we did just that. I think this gelato was my second favorite out of everywhere I’ve been to: I had the flavors “terre dell’Etna” and “notte di Sicilia” which was kind of like an oreo cookies and cream and pistachio with orange, which tasted like pound cake. We ate by the water and dipped our feet in (Linn and Mackenzie dipped their feet in). We returned to the hotel which was about an hour away for dinner, which was in the hotel (not a very good dinner), but it was nice to not have to leave. I got into a bit of an argument with someone in my program who I didn’t think was being respectful, but thankfully I had the luxury of being able to meet with my friends and vent to them. It felt like being in the dorms again which was nice, and definitely a bonding experience.
Last day we spent in Taormina, where it rained yet again. We had the same tour guide this day (boooooo). We saw the arena, the coastline, and some small streets. It ended up turning into a beautiful day – so nice we didn’t even have to wear our jackets. We had lunch and I tried to eat some authentic Sicilian food (lacking the seafood), so I ate eggplant parmesan and meat rolls, which was veal steak rolled up with some potatoes. The restaurant had this beautiful view where you could look out on the coast line. After, we drove to Catania, where we had a short tour of the city because thankfully, the advisors saw that we were bored and wanted free time. We didn’t do much here besides an attempt to shop, and went to Sephora and all got face masks. At night, we all hung out and tried our masks out but they really just felt like wet baloney with a slit for your eyes, lips, and a nose hole. Twas a funny time. The next day, we left Catania and spent literally all day traveling because we had to get back from Milan Bergamo to Ferrara, so we ended up back here around 7:30 pm. I had finally start to feel better, but I still slept a lot that night before waking up early the next day to do my homework.
So now it’s Wednesday, I’m really sick. Super congested, no more fever, but a terrible cough, fatigue, and a tired body. Tomorrow I’m going to go to the doctor, which I’ve heard sucks here, but I’ll keep yall updated. Thankfully, I had no trip planned this week so hopefully I can give my body some rest. I have a trip to Modena for class on Friday, but there’s a train strike so I’m not sure how that’ll go. This time next week, I’ll be getting ready for Spring Break though!!! I’m going to be headed to Naples for five days then Paris, so I’m excited for that. I’ll try to post again before then, but no promises that I won’t be having too much fun (or die from an overdose of eating too much mozzarella).