I’m finally sitting down to write my first blog of 2010 after a couple weeks of technical difficulties with the blog (couldn’t log in–problem is solved, obviously). My Christmas and New Years were packed with traveling, last-minute shopping, more traveling, site-seeing, and very little sleep. I left Palma on December 20th for an 8 day trip home to Boston for Christmas. I love Palma and my life there but home with family is definitely the best place to spend the holidays. After a productive break (I got to see all of my family in the Boston/NH area and a lot of my friends), I flew to what would become my new favorite European city: Paris, France.
I came to Paris with some slight apprehension, as do many Americans. Obviously the famous sites were not the problems but moreso, the people. French people, well, Parisians, tend to have a very negative reputation that precedes them regarding their treatment of foreigners, well, Americans. I’ve heard horror stories of French people not wanting to help American tourists or of them being difficult for no reason at all and also of them refusing to speak English . So obviously I was a little nervous when I stepped off of the plane and realized that I had only gotten through French 101 at HC. What I came to find was that the French were completely opposite to what I had thought previously. They were helpful and actually very kind, especially towards us Americans.
There was a huge group of HC students staying in Paris for New Years, especially in and around the hostel where I was staying. It was nice to be able to travel with a big group to all of the sites and hear all of the stories from the different study abroad programs and from the HC campus. We traveled to many beautiful sites in Paris together: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the Moulin Rouge, the Champs Elysees and the awesome grounds and Chateau at Versailles (which I was lucky enough to visit twice). Paris is another European city filled to the brim with sites and culture.
After staying in Paris for 5 days, Jenny, myself and our friend Kevin all went to Amsterdam together for 2 nights which turned out to be quite the experience. Amsterdam is a very…umm…different city. There are certain, let’s say “privileges”, that one can enjoy during their stay there which would normally be, well, outlawed in other countries. That aside, the ambience of the city is unique and quaint and there are some cool sites to see there such as the Heineken Beer Factory, Vondelpark and Anne Frank’s house. Good times were definitely had.
I then came back to Palma and had another week and a half of first semester classes. I don’t have finals until February so classes were basically halted for the Christmas break. I also had another swim meet last weekend which was a good time. I swam the 100 IM which normally isn’t swum in the U.S. past the age of 12 or 13 but after not having swam for a good 3 and a half weeks prior to the meet, the 100 IM seemed better than the 200 or 400 IM which were my only other options. All went well and fun was had.
Finally, the past few days have been packed with local festivals that are held every year commemorating the patron saints of various villages around the island. Saturday was the festival of Sant Antoni which was held in the town of Sa Pobla. The night was great! There were tons of people packed into this small town to see the traditional show that’s put on full of characters with over-sized heads and devils that run around scaring people and setting off fire works. The night concluded with a huge fire works show and a massive town barbecue in the streets on the multitude of bonfires that were lit.
In addition, yesterday was the festival in Palma named for Saint Sebastian. There were concerts in literally every plaza in Palma with some famous Spanish groups as well as grills for barbecuing and stands selling candy and crepes. Obviously the amout of people in the streets of Palma was crazy! We had a great time listening to the Spanish music and we even entered into what we thought was hell when we were at the Cathedral (funny right?). There were demons setting off fire works and “chainsawing” people as a music group was banging tribal beats. The experience was actually really cool. Palma is awesome.
This weekend the Palma group is going on a HC sponsored trip to Madrid so that should be a lot of fun. Then next weekend I have another swim meet….then finals period starts at the beginning of February. I should be well prepared by the time finals roll around though. I’ll update again soon.