I can’t believe it’s already been three months since Christmas! Time is just flying by before I know it I’m going to be back in Clearwater. Right now, Strasbourg is so beautiful and warm. Although there wasn’t a “true” winter with snow and freezing temperatures, I didn’t really miss waiting for the snow to melt in order to have a spring. For the past two weeks the weather here has been sunny and 20°C. I really hope it stays warm from here on in!
There are two big things that have happened during the last three months. The first, is that I changed host families at the beginning of January. Although I had grown accustomed to my first host family, I really liked that I got to switch and experience something different. The change has been fantastic. My new host family is really great, now it only takes me 10 minutes to walk to school, and my basketball practices happen right across the street!
The second big event was that I took part in a Rotary bus trip throughout France and Spain for a week during my spring holidays! I knew the trip was going to be amazing because, even though I had never met most of them, I knew that there were going to be a lot of cool exchange students going, and we write the book on having fun. But this trip managed to exceed my expectations it was so great to make new friends and travel around at the same time. Even if that meant running on very little sleep every day!
The first day we all met up in Paris and, after waiting for about two hours in the train station, got on our coach and started a tour of the city. Already, we had all made new friends. That’s the thing with Rotary kids, you could put 500- of us in one room and there would never be a fight. Anyways, we stopped off at major points around the city, like the Eiffel Tower and the Bridge of Love, and then got to have a little free time before returning to the hostel.
The second day was the big Eiffel Tower day that everyone was waiting for. We all got to go up to the second level, and although it was a little foggy, it was amazing to see the view of Paris from above. Everything is so symmetrical! After that we had some free time for lunch, and then we went to the Palace of Versailles. Before I went on the trip, I was skyping with my Grandma and she told me, “Em, nothing can prepare you for Versailles.” She was absolutely right. It was breathtaking. You can see for forever when you look out at the gardens and all of the paintings and rooms in the palace are incredible.
The third day was our last day in Paris. In the morning, we went to the Louvre Museum, which was so cool because I got to see the Mona Lisa painting. However, it was hard to get a good picture because there were so many people surrounding it! After eating lunch at the museum, we started our descent to Barcelona, which meant a long bus ride until our halfway point to eat and sleep (a bit).
The fourth day was mostly a bus day. For lunch, we stopped off at Carcassonne, a little village built into a chateau, which was pretty cute and old fashioned. Then finally, after hours of driving, we passed the Spanish border. It was pretty exciting. But then we got to our four star hotel and that was even more exciting. All meals were buffet style, and all the food was delicious, and somewhat North American style, so, needless to say, this hotel was a perfect place to stay for our last three days.
We didn’t actually stay in Barcelona, we stayed about 30 minutes outside in a city called Lloret del Mar, so every morning we took the bus in and then started our day. The fifth day, and first day in Barcelona, we went to a museum of contemporary art from the area. Then we traveled to Camp Nou or the Barcelona soccer stadium! This was one of the big highlights for me. It was huge and had the same effect as a stadium like the Roger’s Arena. I was just filled with energy and wanted to watch or play a game! After that, we had free time for four hours downtown. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and most stores were closed, so all the shopping we could really do was for touristy things at booths. After that, we returned to the hotel and were inspired to play a soccer game!
Our second day in Barcelona consisted mostly of a tour of the city. We got off of the bus to tour main attractions, like churches and viewpoints, about every half an hour. The architecture throughout Barcelona, which was mostly designed by Antoni Gaudi, is unbelievably unique and beautiful. His best-known work is the bold but unfinished church of the Sagrada Familia, which is set to be finished in 2026. However, even with all the architecture, the best part about the day was that we were given free time at the beach during our lunch break. There were a lot of restaurants around the ocean, but my friends and I simply bought an ice cream cone at a convenience store, and spent the rest of our time relaxing in the sand under the sun! It was really nice to go somewhere so hot in February!
The seventh day of the trip was our last day in Barcelona. In the morning, we toured the Dali museum, which had an amazing art collection, but unfortunately, all of the sleepless nights had caught up to everyone, and no one could stay focused during the tour! Then, after eating lunch and profiting from the cheap Spanish stores, we all got back on the bus and started our climb back up to Paris. We stopped in Millau, a halfway point, to eat dinner, and then continued to Paris during the night. We ate breakfast at a town just outside of Paris, and then were dropped off at our different train stations and sent on our way at 8 a.m. Although parting was a bit sad, most of us are going on the same European bus trip in April, so we knew we would have another bus trip together again. Therefore, we left each other without tears!
Despite the lack of sleep and not-so-delicious travel food, I was able to experience Paris and Spain with 49 other amazing Rotary exchange students, which made this week one of the best of my life so far. I’ve made many more friends from around the world, and now can’t wait to go on my European bus trip at the end of April! I hope you all had a great spring break like I did and I highly encourage all of you to travel to Paris and Barcelona on your next vacation! You won’t be disappointed!
– Emma Persad