Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A hint of sun and beach... Spain getaway

So... after a lot of work, my first French expose is done, my first French econ exam as well, and several research projects and presentations well on their respective way... Sciences Po really doesn't let you take a break, which nevertheless didn't prevent me from taking one anyway. I had planned this trip since the summer, since my aunt has been living in Spain for more than two years and now, though back in Germany, goes there every vacation. I hadn't seen her for about six years, so what better opportunity than meeting up in Figueres? The Ryanair flight was short, though getting to the airport took about three times longer (refer to the previous post for more info about the magic of Paris Beauvais). But once arrived in Girona, these were four wonderfully stressless and enjoyable days. The first day we visited Girona, the cathedral and the old town, had lunch, walked around and chatted so so much. In the evening, my aunt taught me how to make pan con tomate (so easy and soo yummy) and we had wine, cheese, and macarons that I brought from Paris. The second day was all about sleeping in, breakfasting leisurely, and seeing the Dali museum in Figueres! That was a crazy, crazy artist, man, with an inflated ego just to match his love of attention. In the last years of his life, he actually created his own museum because he was convinced that after his death the world wouldn't be able to properly commemorate him. On the other hand, that ensured that there are really cool installations and art projects to see that you could have never otherwise replicated. He was a genius after all as well - one of those typical cases where the genius and the crazy lie very, very close together. After the museum, we found a little plaza where we sat out in the sun and had gazpacho, paella and sangria... Perfect... Then we hit the shops and I stocked up on very necessary winter clothes, very necessary ...uh.. fall dresses and super... important... jewellery..? My aunt is the worst and best person to go shopping with because she finds all the right things for you - and no reasons not to get it. Finally, we rounded the day off when sharing churros con chocolate (spelled xurros con xocolate in Cataluna) which may just be the best high-caloric food ever. If I ever need to put on weight for medical reasons (hey, it can always happen, right?), just put a huge plate of this in front of me. Actually, it's these little dough fritters that you dunk into really, really thick hot chocolate... Apparently also amazing after-partying-three-in-the-morning food. I heard.
On Saturday was Barcelona day. From the start we had said that you can't see all of Barcelona in one day, and we didn't even try, that was the nicest part. We just took the train in and went directly to Parque Guell, the park area that Gaudi designed. It reminded me a little of the Mont Royal in that it's such an oasis of peace and nature in a hustling and bustling city. Except that Parque Guell has in addition to that amazing art - sculptures, mosaics, little caves and bridges made of natural stone.. You could spend the whole day there, but we stayed strong and left after a couple of hours in order to see the heart of Barca - the Rambla! This pedestrian zone in the middle of a huge shopping street has three parts - the newspaper part, where you can get the world press, the flower part with the most amazing bouquets, and the animal part. Here, I think they play with pity and the adorableness of the animals, since I would have taken every single one home just to save it from the fate of staying in that small cage forever. Later, we meandered around the Barrio Gotico, the old town with teeny tiny streets that only allow the sun to shine in for a couple of hours every day. Walking through the Barrio is a little like a maze, you always turn a corner and see something unexpected - a little church, an accordeon player on a little square, a cafe or a churreria with the odd handful of customers.... Or if you are unlucky, you hit one of the bigger streets filled with loud tourists clamoring for real German Schnitzel (why do I have the impression that all the annoying tourists are German?) and you can only save the atmosphere by fleeing back into the cool, calm alley. On one of the larger squares, it looked like a courtyard with balconies lining the side of the houses and palm trees growing in the four corners, we sat down for a coffee and people watching - the best activity in big cities. And finally we went to the harbor (hello ocean!) and also said hi to the Columbus colon (hello Columbus!).
All of a sudden the last day was already there, and so I packed my bag and... we went to the beach! My flight only went in the evening, so we had another full day of adventure. We decided to drive to Caraques, a little coastal village, near which also Dali's summerhouse is. Already the drive there was breathtaking - the road went in serpentines up over the hills, and after every turn was a new view of the ocean, olive groves or the valley below. Caraques itself has these little whitewashed cottages and a white church that reminded me a lot of Greece, and so did the laidback atmosphere. Dali himself did not live in the village - God forbid!) but in the next bay which he bought up for himself. Yup. He bought a bay. And built a house out of three joint former fishermen's huts. Including his personal fisherman, his cleaning ladies, chefs and gardeners. Well, in any case, his house is super interesting, especially the contrast between some cottagey-simple rooms that work well with the view out of every room, which his wife Gala decorated, and the unusual collections of Dali. In his entrance hall stood a polar bear with a lantern in his hand; in his pool area he has advertizement signs for Pirelli tires, and pretty much wherever you turned there was another artefact. I only pity his wife for having to put up with so much... well, let's call it creativity. Plus he drew here in all kinds of situations, from behind, naked, an expressionist painting with drawers coming out of her chest... she must've been really stiff from all that modelling. Well, finally we walked around Caraques for a while and, as a last meal, had tapas (tortilla for me) and pan con tomate. A perfect end of a perfect getaway. Plus, the fact of not having done any homework resulted in my studying econ on the plane and feeling incredibly superior to all the people reading "Elle" or the board magazine. Is that bad? ;)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why Paris Beauvais is not a real Paris airport... and maybe not a real airport at all

1. The shuttle bus takes off from the very periphery of the city three hours before your flight.
2. Thus, the shuttle bus journey to Beauvais took me longer than the flight to Spain.
3. After the journey of 1h30min (I saw one blogger saying "I thought we were already in Belgium"), you realize you didn't have to be there early anyways because the whole airport is one shack with two security lines, a passport control with empty seats and one coffee shop. The security check line took literally all of 3 minutes.
4. Around the airport, there is advertisement for tourism in the Valle de l'Oise region... but not for Paris. Strange?
5. Landing, I saw not one but two hares run off the runway.
6. After landing back in Beauvais, the pilot said... "and we wish you a pleasant stay in the Paris ... region."