We'll start with Paris. Paris was really a good time. Chelsey and I searched high and low for vegetarian restaurants and we found two. One, on purpose and the other by sheer luck (we we're looking for an English bookstore). We stayed at the Aloha hostel, which isn't too bad. It's located in the lower 15th and we had two Chinese Roommates and two American Roommates. I had been reading reviews for the hostel and had been slightly nervous about going there. Paticularly where people had written "the showers are outside". Since we had been visiting in late December and Paris was undeniably freezing, this was slightly worrisome. But it wasn't bad at all. The showers were in the unheated hallway, and so the air around them was cold, but they actually produced hot water (if you pressed the button long enough), so all ended quite well at that hostel.
I really like the Pompidou, their collection of art is amazing and even though our feet had been rubbed raw by all of our walking, we shuffled through all the exhibits and loved it. Chelsey and I decided we would not visit the Effiel tower, but really loved Pere Lachaise cemetery. We ate lots of crepes, but Chelsey was slightly unsatisfied of her salty crepe to sweet crepe ratio. We drank coffee, but not in cafes; the best starbucks in Paris is next to the Opera, it is enormous and has cushy chairs and chandeliers; I don't even like Starbucks, but it has a wonderful ambiance.
We went to this place called Joe Allen's which served up a stellar American breakfast. . . even though it was ridiculously pricey. . .but, it was Christmas. We met up with two American girls from my school program and it was a lovely morning.
My host parents called us on Saturday, and Chelsey and I visited them on Tuesday evening (Christmas night). I was so happy to see them, and they told me that they feel like I had never left, which makes me so happy and delighted. My heart was skipping beats between joy and joy. My host mum had cooked endless delights for us, a quiche, a dessert with meringue and candied chestnuts, but she wasn't satisfied that we had had enough! She chased us with papillotes. I really love them. They are so nice and welcoming and even though Chelsey didn't speak French, they kept prompting her and including her. Which was nice and wonderful and why we went, because they remember everything and I will never forget their kindness and how everything was perfect. We went bowling one afternoon: I won.
Bikes! Wonderful cruiser bikes and warm weather were themes of Barcelona. We traveled all over that city happily on bikes and with sweaters (no heavy jackets! :)). It was glorious. I still marvel at the modern work of Gaudi prevalent throughout the entire city, the clash of fun, optimism, and color. Barcelona was a city alive with color and silliness, which was a dramatic change from the gray of France. We tried all the great things that it had to offer. Their thick pudding-like hot chocolate sometimes with espresso and sometimes with chili! I really think it might be one of my new favorite cities in Europe. It has a vibe: a party vibe. We even went and found the 1992 olympic stadium, which was an adventure in itself. I think I shall go back and I'll be sure to ride bikes.
We got home and we were tired. Not only were we tired, but we were sick! Chelsey had caught a bug on our crazy overnight train back (12 hours for 43 euros! :)) it was a price saver, and an adventure to boot. But after all our traveling it set up the perfect storm for a cold to set in. Chelsey got sick, and then I followed. We did end up going shopping and eating wonderful delights even though we were fatigued and mucus-y. Bread from the yummiest and more delicious store in Reims, crepes from the stand, and saucy salads.
Chelsey left the Saturday after we got back from break, and it was pretty sad. After a month ,I had gotten used to her being there and having someone to talk to all the time. It was a really good month. I'm so glad she came. We almost missed her train to go to the airport. Never a dull moment with the Blackmon sisters. My photos are: here and Chelsey's photos are: here.