My Trip to Brussapestelona
Written by Jillian March 20, 2013
After three academically challenging midterms, it was time for the second 10-day travel break of my study abroad experience. I was especially excited for this break because I was going to places that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, Brussels, Budapest, and Barcelona, or otherwise known as Brussapestelona. My first stop was Brussels, Belgium. The main force attracting me to this place was for the concert called Sensation. Dress code was pretty simple; wear white head to toe. It basically played techno/electrical music and had kids from all over the world attending.
Before going to the concert, us girls needed to help the guys find some white clothes to wear. As we went searching, we found the heart of Brussels. We walked through what is known as the Grand Place. The Grand Place continued to serve as a market until November 19, 1959, and it is still called the Great Market or Grote Markt in Dutch. Neighbouring streets still reflect the area’s origins, named after the sellers of butter, cheese, herring, coal and so on.
We stayed at a hostel outside of the main area of Brussels called Van Belle, and I would not recommend staying there if you want to be on the better side of town. Once you crossed the street and walked about a half a mile, THEN you actually felt safe. I’m not saying the city was dangerous, but you wouldn’t want to be hanging around there when the sun goes down. The city was surprisingly full of life and I realized that there were a lot of locals around, but they blended in well with tourists making it feel like you were part of the culture. One of my friends grabbed a real Belgium waffle for on the go. They looked delicious to say the least.
After the concert, we went back to sleep and woke up to head to our next destination of Budapest, Hungary. I have never heard of this place until I came to Europe and different students were talking about traveling here. I definitely think it is a hidden gem. The bridges, the water, the architecture, it’s all so beautiful. One random thing to mention about Budapest, is that it has one of the most convenient means of transportation from the airport compared to other places that I have been. It is always amusing and frustrating trying to find our hostels in different countries, but here we just got in a “taxi van” for 7 Euros and it drove us to literally the front doors of our hostel called Wombats. Wombats is my favorite hostel and they have about 5 different locations across Europe. I highly recommend staying there, its cheap and very good service.
The next day we walked around enjoying the scenery and visiting the different areas of Budapest. Actually, the city is divided into two parts Buda and Pest by the Danube River. We stayed mostly on the Pest side and walked up and down the river and did some sightseeing for a few hours. We knew that we had a few days to do the walking tour so we decided to just lay low for the afternoon.
At night, all of us decided to embark on a journey down the river in a cruise boat. It is definitely something I would recommend to people who want a great view of Budapest at night. The parliament was lit up and live music played while we floated up and down the river. Another plus is there was an unlimited buffet of Hungarian food. Some food items I wasn’t brave enough to try, but there was definitely some foods that were very tasty and I know were enjoyed by all. It was really nice to see the other Hungarian people on bored, and for once us Americans blended in and were classy… no one thought of our typical stereotype: loud and obnoxious. Later on we continued our night around the town with fellow Cimba students and went to sleep for a long day ahead of us.
This morning, we went to the famous markets and also did a great walking tour around Buda and Pest. For more detail about this, I invite you to visit Connor’s most recent blog. It was a great day of exploring and I learned a lot of fun facts. One being that Hungarians have 44 Letters in their alphabet, and the Rubik’s cube was invented there as well. Another thing that made them unique is that they are known to be typically very happy people and always make sure they focus on their hobbies and leisure activities, which some people in the States may need to learn to do.
Unfortunately it was time to leave Budapest the next morning, and we were on our way to Paris, France. We received an email from the airline RyanAir that our flight has not been delayed…but cancelled. We found out about 3 hours before we were supposed to go to the airport, which was already conveniently at 3:30 am. What we learned the hard way is that RyanAir is known to be unreliable and not responsible for destinations that are point A to point B to point C. They will get you to point C, but if something were to go wrong with point B, its not really their fault. So we got about half of our money back, didn’t get to go to Paris, and had to pay more money to get to Barcelona. So that being said, we had another whole day and night in Budapest, so we went back to our hostel to sleep and had a more relaxing day shopping at more markets and sitting by the water. It is important to not be super upset about things that go wrong while you travel. I didn’t want to call my mom and say “Mom, I have already been in Belgium and Budapest, and now I can’t go to Paris before I go to Barcelona, life is so unfair….” After telling her, she told me just to look at the positives and I realized everything happens for a reason, and to enjoy everything I already had done and will do while on my travel break. Paris can wait, and maybe it’s a sign?
Now, we were all really excited to go to our final destination of Barcelona, Spain. After having Paris taking from us because of weather, we knew this wouldn’t be an issue. Once we landed, it was beautiful and I actually saw a palm tree for once (besides the two completely random ones in Paderno Del Grappa in front of my dorm window that someone must have planted by hand). Barcelona is one of my favorite places, it is very clean, the people are very friendly and most students take Spanish in high school, so you can practice that while you are there. (a luxury I did not possess because I took French.
The first thing after checking into our hostel Black Swan, we ate breakfast and met up with a friend studying in Barcelona. Taylor showed us all around Barcelona for the next three days. We first went to the famous Parc Guell. We walked up the many stairs and reached the top of the city of Barcelona. It was originally built for a housing development, but since no one bought it, it has become a beautiful tourist attraction and keeps being built on. Essentially it is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona.
After climbing, we went down to the middle part of the Parc where there were many people running around and enjoying themselves, tables and chairs surrounded palm trees looking out to the beautiful city. It wasn’t very hot, but the weather was perfect.
After a long day in the sun and being slightly tired from our early travels, we took a Siesta (nap) and got ready for the nightlife. If you are looking for nightlife in your travels, Barcelona is definitely the place. There were beaches with bars and clubs down the strip that were so cool and unlike anywhere I have ever been.
The next day we woke up and took the Metra to another famous location called la Segrada Familia. It is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s catherdral, over Gaudí’s design itself. It was breathtaking and one of the most intricate pieces of architecture I have ever seen.
Then, we walked to main beaches of Barcelona and walked up and down the shore. This was very relaxing and we really got to absorb where we were. I have never touched the Mediterranean Sea, so I took my chance while I could.
As we were walking up and down the beach, we noticed a hotel with about 100 Spanish girls wearing purple. Wondering what all the commotion was about, we tried to blend in. They immediately told us that Justin Bieber was staying in the hotel and he “had to come out sometime to eat.” (direct quote) We all thought it was so interesting that these girls who barely spoke English could have such a love for a celebrity. Girls were crying and unable to stand, and he wasn’t even anywhere to be found. I think just the thought that he was within 5 miles of them, was enough to make any 13 year old go wild.
As we left the chaos, we went to our next stop of another beautiful famous park called Parc de la Ciutadella. The main attraction has, from its establishment, has been the animals. This was due to out of the 7,000 animals present along with the albino gorilla Snowflake, who has died in 2004. It is characterized by being a very busy place, crowded with tourists, and locals, who are usually going for a walk or taking their children to the special section for kids found near the upper margin of the park. This park is optimal for sports, like for example boating in the lake, cycling, or jogging.It was my favorite spot because I felt like I was in an African safari except replace the elephants and cheetahs with harmless pigeons.
Then, we walked towards the “Arc de Triomf”. This was as close to Paris that I was going to get, a replica in Barcelona. It was still beautiful and we walked through it for good luck.This beautiful arch was built for the 1888 Universal Exposition, which took place at the Parc de la Citutadella. The Arc de Triomf, situated at the end of a wide promenade, served as the exposition’s main entrance.
Later on that night, we enjoyed more nightlife with our friends and walked along the beaches at night. I ran into so many friends from home, which is so much more interesting when you are in Spain then the States. It is so weird to make a huge world feel small and see people that you know.
The next day, our last day was spent on shopping, enjoying the weather and going to Barcelona’s famous market called La Boqueria. There were so many good foods that we didn’t know where to start. Everything was so fresh, made of fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, hot fajitas, cold sandwiches, anything you wanted.
I could obviously go on for many more paragraphs of how much I loved Barcelona. The people were so kind and although the city is huge, you can make it feel small. It is amazing that when I arrived on Thursday at 8 am, by Sunday morning, you would have thought we all studied there because we knew our way around. I have no complaints about this trip and I advise everyone to try and get to Spain if they can. What I believe is special about Spain is the people really take pride in their natural beauty and preserve their plants, beaches, waters, and buildings so well. It is a beautiful city with history as well as tropical beauty.
I forgot to mention that we wanted a relaxing night before our flight the next morning so…..we all bought tickets to the Justin Bieber concert the night of the concert ….it was quite the experience. There were many teenagers crying but I must admit the 19 year old is a very good performer and I can see why he is a global heartthrob. The arena was beautiful because it was an old Olympic stadium where Michael Jordan played with the 1992 Dream Team. Also I can say I went to two concerts within 7 days even though Justin wasn’t exactly in our age group, but age is just a number right?
My adventures are about two weeks away from ending and it’s heartbreaking that I will be back in the States and back to reality and won’t see half of these great people ever again. Next weekend, onto Prague, another place I have no idea what it will be like, which makes traveling that much more rewarding and fun. <3