03 mai 2006

my many travels...

Well, it has been a crazy past few weeks! I have been to Spain (Barcelona to visit Christen), my parents visited Lyon and we went to Paris, and I went to spring break in Corsica (island in the Mediterranean that is a part of France).

A few highlights from each trip...

I went here over Easter weekend. Christen was a great tour guide! I got to see a little of everything by walking through the city and even stopped by the beach :) The architecture is amazing - Gaudi practically owns that city. The Picasso museum was small, but interesting, with a timeline of all his important periods.

The best thing was all the wonderful food! We had paella, churros with chocolate, and plenty of tapas (including those yummy patatas bravas)! Unexpectedly we ran into her host mom after we went to a Catholic mass on Easter. Host Mom would speak in Spanish, Christen would translate... so there was lots of smiling and nodding until I knew what the question was! They took us out for apertif and tapas afterwards - it was a perfect day to sit at a cafe and laugh at language barriers!

Parents visit to Lyon:
I was glad they could come visit me! They hadn't made a big trip overseas in quite some time, so they were long overdue anyway :) I showed them all the important things in Lyon (Vieux Lyon, the Presqu'ile, Fourviere, the Roman Ruins, etc) and we ate out at plenty of restaurants. It was really beautiful weather for once so they came at a great time! It was cool being the translator - I knew how they felt cause of my weekend in Spain. It was nice to be on the other side of that for once! Then we went to Paris for the weekend - so yes, spring time in Paris! It was great. I got to see the Louvre (I went to the wing with French paintings, which was considerably less touristy than the Venus de Milo section, thank goodness), Notre Dame, the Centre Pompidou, Jardins du Luxembourg, among other things! My mom and I even walked up to the first level of the Eiffel tower! Paris was so much more pleasant with the sun shining and being able to walk around instead of getting stuck in traffic. I would definitely go back and do more things there :)

Picture link coming soon.

Oh my, where can I begin!? Well we (Louise and I) started in Marseille cause that's where we had to take the ferry from. Marseille is gross and dirty and there is nothing to do there, so we were glad to go to Corsica by contrast :) The first place we went was Porto Vecchio on the eastern coast. It is a nice little village in the hillside - not very touristy at all. There were a couple of beaches a few minutes drive away. We didn't have a car, so we had to call a cab, which was actually interesting because it was this funny old Corsican guy who liked to give a tour of everything we drove by. Corsican is like French with an Italian accent. The first day we went to the beach of Palombaggia - which has lots of big red rocks and blue water. Its right next to a nature preserve called Tamariccio which has a trail through the woods and then big granite rocks on the water. So basically you can hike around for hours :) The next day we went to another beach called Santa Giulia. It was like a tropical beach on a postcard and nice and secluded. The water was freezing but I went in anyway, of course! It was just so clear blue and inviting, and I was hot from taking a nap in the sun for two hours anyway! The nightlife of Porto Vec was not exactly hoppin'...I think there are maybe about 50 young people total on the entire island. That was okay though, cause I was always tired at the end of a fun day!

Anyway, so as there is not much of a train system around the island, we took a bus down to the southern tip to a place called Bonifacio. It's another port city, but it's considerably more of a tourist attraction, and by this I mean that there is a handful of tourist kitschy restaurants around the port and in the old town. Still not overrun with garish places :) This was one of my favorite places because there were so many beautiful things to see in a day.

We took a boat trip to a little island nature preserve off the coast called Ile Lavezzi. I was really amazed - the colors in the water were sparkling green and blue, but the best part that is made entirely of granite rocks and hiking trails. So for about 2 hours I did nothing but walk around and take pictures of everything and climb on rocks :) I saw so many little lizards! Not to mention the bees. There are hundreds. You can practically hear the island buzzing from a kilometer a way.

Then when I got back to the mainland I went hiking around the cliffs on the shore ...this was one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life. The sun was setting over the mountains and the citadel...just spectacular, with yellows and pinks in the sky and sandstone cliffs on the shore. The trail along there is really great cause you can go to the top of the cliff and then back down to the bottom so I got to stare up at how high I had been!

Then we went up to the north part of the island, but it took all day. We had to wake up and catch a bus to Ajaccio (in the middle of the western coast) at 6:30am. We were trying to get to a town called Porto, but with the bus system not being as convenient as we had hoped, we changed our plans to go to Calvi instead which is where our ferry was leaving from. Anyway, so we had to spend a few hours in Ajaccio. This was kind of boring because it is not pretty at all. It's totally built up and touristy. We walked around aimlessly, walked by Napolean's birthplace, and then resorted to going grocery shopping at Carrefour when all else failed. At least I picked up a few souvenirs though :) Then our bus finally left for Calvi. It was actually supposed to be a train...and they failed to tell us that it was actually a bus. So we wound our way through the little mountain road in the middle of the island. Very mountainous, very pretty when it stopped raining. A good day to travel really, cause it was one of the only days that wasnt all that pretty.

Anyway, finally made it to Calvi. This was a cool place, I probably could have stayed there longer cause it seemed like there was a lot to do. There was a hiking trail by the beach, lots of boats and sailing in the port, mountains, water, trips to nearby places, a cute little area downtown with plenty of shops and restaurants... a little bit of it all! We went on a boat trip to this place called Scandola island, because the guide book raved about how great it was (basically "you're on the next plane out for being dumb" if you missed it). We should have known from all the old German tourists on the boat that maybe this was not totally our thing... It was okay, but we didn't understand why it got 3 stars!! It was just a boat trip around an island of red cliffs...not really all the wondrous flora and fauna I was expecting. People-watching the other tourists was more exciting ! We did see a goat climbing a cliff and some dolphins though. That was alright. Later at night we met up with a couple of other American students in our program who also happened to be in Calvi - we got a nice dinner at a restaurant and then went out for the best ice cream ever. Yum! Always memorable when you only eat out every so often. We caught the end of the big France soccer game - Paris won (Lyon wasn't in it...sadly). it was nice to meet up with the other girls and hear about all the stuff they had been doing too.

ooh and the next day i went scuba diving! i was so proud that i did that! It was cold and cloudy but awesome nonetheless. We got suited up in wetsuits and sped out into the water on a boat. Then I jumped into the water and put on the scuba gear :) It was a little hard to get used to the breathing at first! It was even a little scary to think that I had to breathe only using this little apparatus under many meters of water! But then I got used to it and it was fun! I saw lots of rocks and fish and plants!

Sadly we had to leave...we stopped overnight in Nice. It was great to walk around and see that city again and have the great ice cream there but it wasn't anything like all the nature I had been seeing. So definitely I will have to take more nature vacations and not see anymore big cities!

Wow, ok, I am quite tired of typing. thanks for reading!

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