Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 28

July 24, 2013

I woke up early to meet my INB 300 group at 7:30 in the breakfast room of the hotel so we could finish up our assignment and e-mail it to our professor. We finished around 9:00, so I went back upstairs to study a bit more for French. I felt like I should be more concerned than I was, but I honestly wasn’t too worried. Molly and I had managed to have a 10-minute long French conversation (albeit a slow one with English thrown in occasionally), and I had forced myself to do so many verb conjugations that I felt prepared. The previous night Molly suggested that I add in a few sentences about working in television and my job as Director of TealTV during my conversation.

I caught the bus around 10:00 with my classmates and friends in the upper level French class. We also learned on the bus that the word for film director is “réalisateur.” Our exam started at 11:00 and consisted of a 45-minute written test with some easy questions from a text, verb conjugations, and a few sentences about what we like and don’t like. I realized later on that I’d had some grammar issues, but when in doubt I think “Je déteste Joffery Baratheon.” (from Game of Thrones) is always an acceptable answer. Afterwards we had our one-on-one speaking portion. Mine actually went pretty well. I talked about the things that I’d planned to and my professor asked me about TealTV, my favorite places to travel and how long I’d been taking French. He seemed disappointed that I didn’t plan on taking any more classes, but I tried to explain that I didn’t really have the time. Minus my grammar mistakes on the written part, I think I did pretty well.

I was so glad to be done with summer school! It was only about 1:00, so Molly, Morgan, Rachael and I went to Vieux Port to shop around a market there. Interact was taking a group to the Mucem later in the afternoon, so we planned to meet them there. I got some gifts for people, and we went to the Mucem to wait for everyone around 2:45. We didn’t go inside until nearly 4:00! I love the cool things that Interact plans for us, but sometimes I wish it ran a bit more smoothly. I got to see a Vernet painting, but it was really crowded and I didn’t see much else. My friends and I had planned to leave a bit early anyways to go to Cours Julien, which is like the hipster district of Marseille. It had some neat shops and fun graffiti, but only for 2 blocks or so. We went back to the hotel, out to dinner, and back to Vieux Port with everyone to celebrate classes being over. I didn’t stay for too long; one of my friends was feeling nauseous, so I walked her home.

We did a lot of neat things in one day on top of me having two exams! I’m getting sad that it’s nearing the end of our trip, but at the same time I’m about ready to come home. I’ve been getting e-mail updates from school about this and that, and it’s made me realize that I have a lot of work to do when I get back home. I wish I could’ve stayed here longer, but hopefully I’ll be back someday. 

Day 27

July 23, 2013

I only had to go to French class today. It wasn’t too hard, but I’m freaking out about our exam tomorrow. Our speaking portion is going to be a 5-7 minute long conversation with our professor. To help us prepare he had us write down a paragraph of things we could say during class time. Besides my name, age, and birthday I simply started writing about the different places I’d travelled. When I ran out of that I started listing the places I was pretty sure my parents had visited. I don’t really want to memorize the paragraph (and that’s not the point), but it should give me a good idea of how many topics I can talk about for 5-7 minutes in French.

We also went to Chateau d’If today with Interact. Molly and I have been wanting to go there since we came to Marseille, but decided to save money and go when Interact had planned to take us. I personally think it was poor planning to have a trip by boat the day before many people have final exams (my INB 300 group project is due tomorrow too), but we all wanted to go so we decided to take our notes with us. It was cool to see the place that had been an inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was extremely hot. On one of the neighboring Frioul Islands to Chateau d’If we found a beach and I used my time to sunbathe and conjugate verbs in the present, past, and future.

We got back a little later in the evening and I spent the rest of my night doing group work for INB 300, studying my conjugations, and having practice conversations with Molly in French.

Day 26

July 22, 2013

The end is near. Today was my last day of International Business 300 (Cross-Cultural Communication), and second to last day of French. For our final exam in INB 300 we’re getting a case study about business negotiation and will have to get into groups to write up the answers to 3 questions about the case. It doesn’t seem too hard. I’d much rather have this than a final test. I’m a bit worried about French though. We have a written and oral part to the exam. I’m nervous about both. Hopefully with some studying everything will be ok.

We had a group dinner tonight at a pizzeria near Vieux Port. It was a fun outing, but the restaurant was extremely hot, and some of us (10 or more) were seated at a long booth across from our friends who were sitting in chairs, so for us it was difficult to get up if we needed to. Molly and Morgan have a French speaking exam tomorrow, so they’ve been studying for that while I attempted to work on French and succeeded in procrastinating.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 25

July 21, 2013

Compared to the rest of our weekend, today was quite uneventful. Molly and I woke up at 6:00 to check out of our hostel and get to the airport for our 8:45am flight back to Marseille. We would’ve liked to stay longer, but there’s only one direct flight from Barcelona to Marseille each day. We took the metro to Plaça de Catalunya and caught a bus from there to the airport. A lot of people from UNCW went to Barcelona this weekend, and we eventually met up with all of them on our flight back. We breezed through security, and our flight only lasted for an hour. We were back in Marseille before noon, but were pretty exhausted from our weekend adventure.

Once we were back at our hotel in Marseille I spent several hours uploading pictures of our trip to facebook, updating the blog, checking e-mail, doing laundry, and even took a nap. Molly did roughly the same and eventually went for a few hours to practice her violin. 

Day 24

July 20, 2013

Molly and I stayed in an 8-person room in a hostel in Barcelona because we couldn’t afford much else that was in walking distance to the metro. I believe we stayed with 2 Australians, 2 Germans, and 2 Californians. The 2 girls from California were studying abroad in Madrid, and the 4 boys were backpacking around Europe. I’d been a little nervous about staying in a hostel, but everyone was nice enough, and it could’ve been much worse. The hostel was clean, modern, and just a few blocks away from the nearest metro station. I think I’d still prefer to stay in a hotel next time, but as far as hostels go I’d say this one was really good for being so cheap.

Molly and I woke up at a decent hour, went by Starbucks, and then took the metro for a short distance to the Sagrada Familia! My mother made me watch a 60 Minutes episode about the church before I left for Europe, and I’m so glad she did. It was the main thing that I wanted to see in Barcelona, and I didn’t care how long I had to wait. There is a way to buy tickets ahead of time online, but as you could imagine, we had been a bit more concerned in the previous days with simply getting into the city. We waited in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes, then purchased tickets that included an audio guide. Despite my fear of heights, I’d been hoping to go into the towers, but it was a 2-hour wait! I cannot talk enough about how beautiful this basilica is! The wait in line was worth it; the nightmare of a time getting to Barcelona was worth it! My favorite part of the church was the different colors of stained glass that threw a rainbow of colors onto the walls and floor. The columns branch out like trees near the top to resemble a forest, and it truly did have a relaxing atmosphere about it – like you were in nature and not one of the world’s largest cities. Molly and I walked around with our audio guides, took pictures, and sat and admired for over an hour (maybe closer to two). My pictures don’t do it justice at all; it was truly amazing!

After seeing the Sagrada Familia, Molly and I took the metro to the closest stop to Parc Güell (also designed by Antoni Gaudí). It was quite a hike up to the park, but once again it was totally worth it. It’s probably the most whimsical looking park I’ve ever seen. I wish I hadn’t been so hungry and tired so I could’ve appreciated it a little more. Molly and I had a late lunch of a peanut butter sandwich and peanut butter crackers on a park bench. From one point in the park, you can see the vast expanse of Barcelona below. After a while we made the hike back down to the metro and back to our hostel. We’d thought about going to Casa Batlló (another structure by Gaudí), but were pretty tired and weren’t interested in paying the fee to go inside.

Instead we decided to take a leisurely stroll through the shopping district on La Rambla. We shopped at the local Zara, explored side streets, got gelato, and stumble upon the St. Joseph food market. We’d seen an indoor food market in Avignon, France, but this one was a bit bigger and was full of fresh fruit, spices, and seafood! I was especially happy to see all of the fresh fruit, a part of my diet that always needs improvement when I’m in Wilmington.

After shopping for a bit we took the metro to the beach. It’s probably been my favorite beach we’ve visited so far, simply because it had actual sand instead of small pebbles! The one thing that was rather unattractive about the beach was that there were small bits of trash washed up along the shore. I really wanted to help clean up the beach, but my hands were full and I didn’t even know if there was a trashcan nearby. I think I’ve been taking the beautiful beaches of North Carolina for granted all these years. I never realized how good we had it – sand, nice waves, little pollution.

We had dinner at a restaurant not far from the beach. They were having a nachos special (which I’ve been craving for quite awhile), but when push came to shove I decided to get the vegetarian paella instead. I can have all the nachos I want in a week’s time, but I don’t know many places back home that serve authentic paella. Dinner was delicious! I’ll have to look up some vegetarian paella recipes when I get back.

Even though we only had a day and a half in Barcelona, I think it’s been my favorite weekend trip! I definitely want to come back again someday to see all the things that I didn’t get to this time around. I’ve been thinking about it from time to time while in Marseille, but I think I’d like to try and get better at Spanish. Although I’m very out of practice, it comes back easy enough, and I wish I knew more vocabulary and grammar to better communicate with others. I liked Barcelona though because I was able to understand more of what other people were saying, but if I didn’t almost everyone we met spoke English too. My main concern with the language now is that I’m going to confuse Spanish and French on my French final this week. Hopefully with a bit of studying, everything will be ok.

Barcelona is one of the most amazingly beautiful and fun cities I've ever seen! If you ever have the chance to go to, you definitely should!

Day 23

July 19, 2013

When people say that study abroad teaches you about being independent, they were talking about days like today.

I woke up at 6:00 to print my bus tickets from the train station to the airport, and pack my bag. Around 7:00 Molly officially learned that Ryanair had not confirmed her flight from Marseille to Barcelona, but she could not receive a refund from Vueling for her return flight to Marseille. She was therefore forced to spend more money on a flight that was leaving for Barcelona 2 hours after mine. We were both understandably stressed and upset, but decided to take our flights and meet at our hostel in Barcelona. I was technically flying into the city of Reus (Gaudi’s birthplace) and would have to take an hour-long bus to Barcelona anyways.

I had a mini-breakdown at 7:55 when the hotel front desk repeatedly couldn’t print my bus tickets for the airport, but it was sorted and I left the hotel to catch the subway by myself at 8:05. I arrived at the train station at 8:20 and was on a bus to the airport by 8:25.

We arrived at the airport around 9:05 and I was through security at 9:20. By 9:40 I’d used the airport’s free 20 minutes of wifi to contact Molly via facebook and learned that her new flight ticket had been successfully printed.

My flight took off around 10:45 and landed an hour later in Reus, Spain – about 100 km southwest of Barcelona. I had a bit of trouble finding where to buy my bus ticket, but in the end only paid 15 Euros for the bus ride to Barcelona. The only downside was that the next bus was leaving at 1:15, so I had to wait for a little bit. I also realized how rusty my Spanish was and wished I’d refreshed my brain with some common phrases.

I was pretty sure Molly would now be in Barcelona before me and hoped she didn’t have to wait on me too long. It didn’t help much that the Reus airport didn’t have free wifi, so there was no way for me to contact Molly – I really was off the grid.

Because of traffic, the ride took a little bit longer than I’d expected. We didn’t get into Barcelona until 3:00 and were dropped off at the train station. I was so tired by this point that I’d decided to forego trying to figure out a new metro system for the time being and simply take a cab to the hostel. I found a cab by 3:25 and was at the hostel about 20 minutes later.

I started to check into the hostel when I arrived, asking if they’d seen Molly waiting for me, but no one had. As I began checking in, Molly walked through the door! She’d had to take a bus from the Barcelona airport to the train station, gotten onto the metro station there and ridden to the stop closest to the hostel, started walking to our street, got lost and had to turn around, before finally arriving at nearly the same time as me!

It was probably the most stressful day of my life, but we were both so proud of ourselves for successfully navigating to our hostel by ourselves in a foreign country.

We relaxed for a little bit, but then decided to visit the Parc de la Ciutadella that was close to the harbor. We took the metro the closest stop then decided to check out a small market we saw down by the harbor. I bought the most amazing friendship bracelet that was teal, yellow, and navy blue! Afterwards we started following the road that ran alongside the harbor, hoping it would lead us to the park. Instead we found ourselves at the beach and got some freshly made ice cream. We turned back around and eventually found our way to the park after asking for directions. The park was pretty and spacious, with lots of places to run, picnic, or play with your dog. We started walking around and began to hear music from “The Lion King.” We followed the music and found a free outdoor concert comprised of a wind ensemble of young teenagers. It was right beside a beautiful fountain too.

It doesn’t get dark until about 9:00, which is when it seems to be culturally acceptable to start finding a place for dinner. We decided to go to a location featured on our map that was down a side-street several blocks away from the park. We got homemade pasta, drinks, bread, and a dessert for just 6.60 Euros each!

Although our day started out pretty terrible, it ended quite well and we were glad that we’d been able to go to Barcelona, despite all the hassle.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 22

July 18, 2013

We got in a little late last night and I had to be up for another 8:30 class. Fortunately for me I only had one class today - International Business. Originally there had been a barbeque scheduled for today during the time our French class would’ve taken place, but it was cancelled, and we ended up just not having French.

In the afternoon we went with Interact to the Panier neighborhood of the city (the old part of the city). We finally got to go inside the Marseille Cathedral, but I hadn’t realized we’d be doing so much sight-seeing, so I didn’t bring my camera. It was fun to see a different neighborhood, and I finally caved and bought some authentic Marseille soap.

Molly and I also booked our hostel for Barcelona, though planning the trip has turned into a mini-nightmare. We had troubles printing off our tickets (mine finally worked, Molly’s still hasn’t), so we don’t even know if Molly has a seat on the plane tomorrow or not. We called half a dozen numbers, but they were all closed for the night. I miss our 24-hour call centers in America. Hopefully everything will work out and by this time tomorrow we’ll be in Barcelona.

P.S. The girl who got hurt cliff jumping a few days ago went home to the US yesterday.