Hello all! In the midst of finals, my family visiting, and many of my friends leaving, I kept pushing blogging further and further down on my To Do list. Today, however, I stupidly kicked the turf instead of the ball (I think that puts me at +3 since coming to France) and now have a swollen foot that has rendered me incapable of exploring, so I figured it was a good day to catch up.
Beginning a month ago…
A couple students from my university organized a kayaking trip around the Cap d’Antibes from a beach in Juan-les-Pins for just 15 euros (if I’m remembering correctly)! Including breakfast! So my roommate, four of our friends and I began my roommate’s birthday with a morning kayaking trip! The weather was sunny and warm, and the water was so blue, I couldn’t believe I was actually kayaking on the Mediterranean Sea! This place never ceases to amaze me, even after 4 months.
View from my kayak
Mid-April my study abroad group went on our last excursion to Île Sainte-Marguerite, the island of the Man in the Iron Mask. According to the story, there was a prisoner on the island who wore an iron mask as he was transported from France to the prison, though in fact his face was hidden by a velvet cloth. The story is popular for its mystery, because at the time no one knew the prisoner’s identity. Some people thought he was an illegitimate brother of the king, but today historians think he was probably employed by some wealthy aristocrat. Still, to this day no one actually knows who it was.
We visited the prison, which has been turned into a museum, and though the prison wouldn’t have been a particularly enjoyable place to live, the island itself is not a bad place to be. The only people who live there are restaurant owners (and I think the island only has about 2), so it’s a nice escape from the touristy parts of the French Riviera I’m usually in (Antibes, Nice, Cannes…). We ate lunch at the beach, after which some people decided to go swimming. It was a little too cold out for me to venture into the water, but I’ll go in soon, it’s really warming up here now.
On Île Sainte-Marguerite
Just before Easter my family came to visit! It was so nice to see them, I wish they could have stayed longer. We went to the Oceanographic Museum (Jacques Yves Cousteau and Prince Albert I of Monaco built it. There are tanks that rise from the floor to the ceiling, filled with sharks and fish and other sea creatures. Some have really vibrant colors, while others blend into the sand so well that they’re easy to miss.) and the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco (at the time there was a tennis tournament going on, so we saw a lot of VERY nice cars). We hiked up the Chemin de Nietzsche (the Nietzsche Trail) in Eze, then visited the town’s medieval village and Fragonard, the perfume factory. I introduced my family to kebabs at a Lebanese restaurant in Antibes, as well as the amazing homemade gelato just across the street.
View from the Chemin de Nietsche
For Easter weekend my family and I went to Barcelona. We had bought tickets to an FC Barcelona match, but their schedule changed so we weren’t going to be able to see a game. We figured we’d at least tour the stadium, so the night before Easter my mom pulled up the Camp Nou website to figure out when we could go. The website said that the hours would be shorter than usual because there was A MATCH! Turns out the schedule had changed AGAIN and FC Barcelona was playing Athletic Bilbao the next day! We were lucky it was Easter, because there were a decent amount of seats available due to so many people traveling for the holiday. It was an exciting game to watch. The score was 0-0 at half, but within the first five minutes of the second half Bilbao scored. Barcelona came back to win 2-1, though, with Messi scoring the second goal. I was excited because I’d gotten a picture of him striking the ball (it was a free kick), but my sister totally one-upped me and got it on video!
The architecture in Barcelona was stunning: there is so much detail on every inch of their buildings. The first time we walked out of the subway station coming from the airport, I turned to my right was like, “Whoah!” Gaudi’s Casa Batllò was right there, next to another building that also had an intricately decorated exterior. My parents and I took a tour of Casa Batllò later on; Gaudi designed both the interior and exterior. I wish more people designed buildings like Gaudi, or at least made an effort to experiment more and build something unique (because if everyone built like exactly like Gaudi it wouldn’t be interesting anymore).
We also went to the Sagrada Familia, a church that began being built in 1892 and should be finished in another 16 years or so…crazy! The tiling on the towers is amazing: it’s so tiny and so detailed! The style of the front and back entrances of the Church look like they could belong to two separate buildings. When you walk inside, you feel like you’re in a forest. The columns are white, but when the sun shines through the stained-glass windows they become red, blue, green…whatever color of stained glass that they are closest to.
We climbed a tower of the Sagrada Familia, and I thought this part that overlooks the city looked like the back of a dragon’s head.
After my family left I had a couple more days with my friends who were leaving as soon as finals ended (still sad thinking about it). We had a farewell dinner with my study abroad group, and a group of my friends got together to go out to dinner at an Italian restaurant near the beach the night before four of them left for home. Sounds like we’re all going to meet up for Thanksgiving in Boston, though! So it shouldn’t be too long before I see them again.
Hanging out at the beach before our dinner reservation
I hung out close to Antibes for week or so, feeling especially attached to this area as the end of my time hear seemed to be approaching faster and faster. I went to Nice and St. Paul de Vence (literally a town out of a fairy tale) with a couple friends, and spent a lot of time at the beaches in Antibes. and Juan-les-Pins. A friend and I made dinner together one night, and I went out to dinner with my roommate’s mom and aunt who came to visit. Despite how much I love days like that, I do want to continue traveling around Europe while I’m hear, because it’s so much easier than back home.
So this past weekend I went to Zürich! In middle school I read a book that took place in Switzerland called Bloomability, and the descriptions of the countryside were so beautiful that ever since then I’ve wanted to travel there. The book took place in a different part of Switzerland, but the whole country looks pretty nice to me, so I wasn’t picky.
Side note: If you ever have an opportunity to fly SwissAir, I highly recommend it. They give you juice and coffee and lemon pound cake and chocolate and then ask you if there’s anything else you want. Plus I had an entire row to myself so I was quite comfortable. For once I actually wished my flight was longer!
I hung out at this café for a bit while I waited for Fraumünster to open (Giacometti and Chagall designed it’s stained glass windows). Lenin used to come here – it reminded me of Les Deux Magots in Paris.
I couldn’t believe how green Zürich is! And how many different shades of green it has! There are so many parks and forests in and around the city, and lots of rivers as well, which I hadn’t known before. I bought a ZürichCARD for 72 hours, which paid for my public transportation tickets all around the city (including to and from the airport), and my admission into a lot of museums. I arrived in the late afternoon, and there wasn’t a lot open by the time I’d checked into my hostel and everything, so I just wandered around the city, mostly the old town, that first day. In addition to the city’s overall green-ness, I was struck by the number of art galleries I passed: every block seemed to have one!
A “Gypsy Jazz” band that played at my hostel’s bar one night. The next night was a band the described as “Hillbilly Grunge.”
Alberto Giacometti’s murals in Zürich’s police station
My favorite part of Zürich was Uetliberg, a 2851 foot mountain that offers incredible views of Zurich and the countryside beyond it. In hindsight I should have worn shorts the day I decided to hike it instead of a skirt, but it didn’t really matter, I enjoyed it nevertheless. I just had to take my tights and scarf off within the first few minutes, because the hike is entirely uphill (and quite a steep hill at that) so I was sweating profusely. When you get to the top there’s a pretzel/sausage/drink stand calling to you to reward yourself for all that height you just surmounted, but there’s also a tower you can climb to get even higher. I knew if I stopped for too long I wouldn’t want to keep going, plus Swiss prices are not at all cheap, so I just kept going.
I want to go back to that tower. If I lived in Zürich, I’d go once a week. Out of all the places I’ve climbed up to in Europe, that one is by far the best. Plus being up high is always nice, it’s so much calmer and quieter than walking within a city.
And now I’m back in Antibes! I landed in Nice this morning, went to the soccer field in the afternoon, killed my foot, showered, watched my foot swell, and ate an entire bar of the expensive Swiss chocolate I brought back with me.
Really hope my foot is better tomorrow, or at least doesn’t get any worse overnight, because I’m supposed to meet a friend at the airport tomorrow…