Spring Break Travels : France & BarcelonaStudents travel through France and into Spain during Spring Break.
By: Rebecca Gilbert, Sibley Scribe
Twenty-four French students spent nine days in France and Barcelona over spring break. Our group from Sibley teamed up with a smaller group from Richfield High School for a wonderful and often eventful voyage from Paris down through Provence, and then over the Spanish border to Barcelona.
The trip started in monumental and beautiful Paris, where we had the first day to relax a bit. We met the tour director, Florence, referred to as “Flo.” Everyone loved Flo and her catch phrases such as, “Bye-bye, baby!” The first day in Paris included a walking tour of Montmartre, a visit to Sacré Coeur, and a nice dinner in the Latin Quarter. The next two days were spent in Paris visiting landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, where we climbed to the top for an incredible view of the city, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Conciergerie. TheLouvre is so huge that it is impossible to see even 1/10 of what you want to see, but we at least got to see the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and some of the other highlights. The Conciergerie is where many of the prisoners of the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette, were kept until their death by guillotine. It is dark, somber, and creepy, and provided a totally different feel than the opulent, gold-studded Versailles.
According to several students, the visit to Versailles was one of the biggest highlights of the trip. We spent an afternoon visiting the most luxurious château in Europe and its elegant and gigantic gardens. Some of the students commented on all of the gold, others on the sheer magnitude of the place, others on the beautiful, manicured gardens behind the château. The last night in Paris included a Seine River cruise that went through the major landmarks in Paris and explained some of the city’s history…and also a romantic invitation to prom.
Senior Christina Gordon said, “I did enjoy seeing the many tourist attractions and street performers…Paris was like being in a museum.” Clayton Seidl thought that Paris was too much of a tourist attraction, though, and many other students were struck by the speed of the city and some commented on how rude and indifferent the people were. The most common response about Paris was that, though it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, it was too fast-paced to thoroughly enjoy.
From Paris, we travelled south on the TGV, the fastest land train in the world. We visited Avignon, where the second pope lived during the “papal schism” and danced on the Avignon bridge (a famous French children’s song). We stayed in Nîmes, where we visited the best-maintained fully intact Roman arena in France. We also visited the Pont du Gard, a famous Roman aqueduct, and the beautiful medieval village of the Baux de Provence. We got to try local foods such as varieties of tapenade, nougat and calissou candies. This part of France is much slower paced. Sarah Records remembers, “The people were so much nicer there and they tried hard in restaurants to speak English and accommodate you as much as they could.” Everyone also spoke of the amazing ice cream in the south of France.
After Provence, we left for Barcelona, and en route stopped through the picturesque fishing town of Collioure. It was lovely, quaint, very friendly, and had very good seafood and ice cream. We then arrived in Barcelona and went to the big shopping district, Las Ramblas. We visited the famous market and saw several of Gaudi’s – a famous Barcelonan architect – structures. We visited his Segrada Familia basilica, the Guell Park and saw some other buildings of his. It was raining most of the time in Barcelona, which made getting around a little less convenient. Though most of us spoke French and not Spanish, Karen Bonfil states, “I’m a Spanish speaker so going to Spain was exiting for me. Once we got there I found that our Spanish was completely different. However, I enjoyed it because it was something different.” One highlight of the Barcelona part of the trip had to be the food. We had a great tapas dinner one night with Spanish tortilla, salads, etc. The next night we had a paella dinner..
When the students were asked if they plan to travel abroad again the mutual sentiment was “Yes!” Some plan to go on the next France trip in 2014, and some plan to study abroad in France in college. Some plan to visit France and Spain again, but also to expand to countries such as Norway, Greece and Italy. As a first trip abroad, this one was wonderful, memorable and very fun. It also provides a reference point so that you know how you want to travel – with a large group, on your own, as a tourist, living in a family, etc. Overall, it was an amazing experience.