While my family was in Benin, enjoying beaches and nature, I was in France and Spain. It was an 8-day trip starting immediately after school on Thursday the 22nd and got back on Friday the 30th. I brought my suitcase to school on Thursday and was allowed to wear my trip shirt and hoodie to school instead of the usual uniforms. I ended up late to the bus, carying a piece of toast, as all good trips start.
After an hour-long bus ride, we arrived at the Lagos Airport. We arrived at the airport at 5 o’clock, but our flight didn’t leave until 11:55. We had a lot of time to kill. We went to KFC for dinner, and played the smallest game of UNO I had ever seen! Then came the flight.
We arrived in Paris at around 6 in the morning. We were originally supposed to board another plane to fly to Marseille, but a strike at the airport caused such a large delay that we decided to take a bus instead. Thus began, the 10-hour bus ride. It was really nice to see the countryside of France. There where so many fields and trees! It was also really interesting to see the difference in shades of green from Nigeria to Europe. In Nigeria, the greens are really vibrant, while in Europe they are generally more muted.
After arriving at our hotel in Marseille, we went to dinner at La Maison de Handburger, which was actually really good.
The second day of the trip started with a French lesson. We talked about stereotypes when it came to France and compared it to stereotypes when it came to Nigeria. While I was in my lessons with the other French students, the Spanish kids were outside in the cold, playing BS and Go Fish.
When we where all finished up with the lessons we headed to the Aix en Provence city center where we shopped till we dropped and got to look at their amazing market. There where fresh fruits, meat, vegetables, seafood and flowers, all surrounded by actual shops and stores. We then went to the Granet Museum where we got to experience a private tour around the museum and viewed masterpieces from different centuries by famous artists. On the walk to dinner, we met a mime on the street. When someone put a coin in his hat he would twirl the girls around and kiss their hands, and dab and do the wave with the guys.
Day three was a little bit of a shock. I didn’t know that it was daylight savings because I lived in Nigeria. I had lived through them in America, but since being in Nigeria I haven’t had to deal with them. I had set an alarm on my watch to wake me up in time for breakfast. Imagine my surprise when five minutes before we had to leave my friends pounded on the door. I wasn’t alone in this though, several others also had to be woken up only minutes before we had to go. We jumped on the bus and arrived in Marseille at around 10 o’clock. We went to a beautiful church and stayed until just before mass started.
We then walked around the district, Le Panier, and got amazing picture opportunities at the different graphic walls.
After lunch, we headed towards the soap factory. We had an amazing experience there. We first got to look at the different machines that were used to make soap, after we got a tour of the whole process behind making it which ended with each of us getting the opportunity to make one ourselves and decorate it with different stamps. We also got to smell the different kinds of soaps. We ended the trip with some cotton candy that was bigger than my head!
Our day ended with a splendid dinner at Comptoir Des Barons.
Day four was our last day in France. We started the day with another French class, this time talking about the different foods and textiles that are common in France and compared it to Nigeria. We ended the class with the Spanish students joining us and us all learning the song “Sur le pont d’Avignon” so we could sing it later.
We then took a bus to Avignon which was a 30-minute ride from Aix en Provence. First, we visited the Palace of the Popes where we shopped and had lunch during our 40-minute break. Afterward we went inside the palace where we got to explore the different areas of the castle and were able to compare it to the time it was in use which ranged from 1271 to 1792. It was really cool because as soon as you walked in you were given an iPad and headphones. As you walked through the different parts of the castle an automatic tour audio started playing. When you walked into certain rooms the camera would turn on and you would scan a medallion on the floor. It would then pull up a virtual reality image on the iPad. When you pointed the iPad at a part of the room it would show you what the room would have looked like hundreds of years ago. In some parts of the palace, it was so well preserved someone could still live there. I loved the colorful floor tiles and the painted walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any pictures because they don’t want the colors to fade from the light.We got to explore the castle for an hour and a half and bought some souvenirs from the gift shop.
After the Palace of the Popes, we visited the Pont d’Avignon/ The Bridge of Avignon. We got to walk across the bridge through the windy weather and took a lot of pictures. We ended the day with us singing the song we learnt in our class on the bridge. The history of the bridge is actually really interesting because a part of the bridge kept colapsing. They kept on rebuilding it, then it would colapse again, so in the end they just left it. Now, there is 3/4 of a bridge. Our time in France ended with an amazing dinner that consisted of pizza, pasta and mouth-watering dessert!
The sixth day we spent traveling from Marseille to Barcelona. We got on the bus at 8 in the morning and got off in Barcelona at 5. There was a hold up at around 11 because of a Catalonia strike. We waited at a mall and got lunch there. It was really interesting ordering lunch there because the people who worked there spoke Catalonian, not Spanish. Catalonian is a sort of mix of Latin, French, and Spanish. In the end, I had to order my sandwich in choppy French, Spanish, English, and random hand gestures. We were on the road again at about 12. As we were crossing the border to Spain, a Spanish student noticed that the sign welcoming us into Spain had an incorrect accent. The accent over the N is supposed to be wavy (Ñ). On the sign it was straight. Maestra asked the tour guide and he said it was because the sign wasn’t in Spanish, it was in Catalonian.
After arriving late to Barcelona, we didn’t have much time to check into the hotel, so we left our bags in our rooms and hurried over next to the La Mercat de la Boqueria to have a cooking class. They split us up into teams and helped us each make a different dish. Altogether we made Paella, Gazpacho, Spanish Omelette, Pan Con Tomate, and Crema Catalana.
Let me explain what Pan Con Tomate is, and how to make it because it tastes amazing.
First you toast bread, then you swipe a piece of garlic on the bread three (3) times. No more or it will be to strong, no less or you can’t taste it.
Next you take your tomatoes and cut them in half. Rub the half against the bread until the bread turns pink. I used an average of two tomatoes for each piece of bread.
Then you sprinkle coarse salt and drizzle with olive oil.
Lastly, cut into smaller pieces and enjoy!
The Pan Con Tomate was the thing eaten fastest at dinner that night.
Day 6~ After a restful night of sleep, we started out with Spanish class. The Spanish students went into a classroom and learned about the different famous places in Barcelona, and played some trivia games. The entire time, only speaking in Spanish. The French students explored Barcelona for a while before sitting down near a coffee shop and talking. After Spanish class was over, we reunited and went to a Gothic style cathedral. I really love Gothic Style architecture!
We then got to explore the gothic quarter in Barcelona and see all the different styles of architecture in that part of the city. After we were done with that part of the tour, we got to go to the Barcelona Football Stadium, which made Everett-Roger really jealous. We looked through the museum before going into the actual stadium, then had to walk through another half hour of the museum to leave. I made sure to take a lot of photographs for Everett-Roger’s sake.
After the stadium, we had a few hours of time, so we went shopping, then dinner at a buffet restaurant called Tosca and had tapas, which is a collection of Spanish appetizers.
We spent our last real day in Spain shopping. While the Spanish students were in class we looked at the outside of la Sagrada Família, a huge church that the construction started in 1882. The architect died, so it remains unfinished to this day. It is still under construction, and it is guessed that it will be finished in around 8 years. It was really interesting because each side of the church has different designs. One side will be the main entrance, the opposite barely decorated because that is the side that the alter is closer to. Another side shows the birth of Jesus and has all sorts of plants, flowers, and animals all over it. The opposite side is in stark contrast, with sharp chiseled angles portraying the crucifixion of Jesus. There will be 12 towers representing the 12 apostles, a tower that is taller than the 12 that represents Mary, and a tower in the center higher than all others that represents Jesus. It will truly be beautiful when it is finished.
After the Spanish students were done with their class, we separated into groups. The people who had paid extra to go see inside la Sagrada Família, and the people who hadn’t. Those who had left, and those who didn’t went shopping. After we all met back up again, we had a few hours at the hotel, then we went to learn how to Flamenco. After learning the basics of the dance, we had dinner and a show! There was two women performing and one man. It was really loud because the stage had been designed to amplify the sound of the wooden heels striking the ground. For those that don’t know, Flamenco dancing is mostly feet.
The final day was spent on a plane. After waking up at 2 in the morning, getting on the bus at 3, arriving at the airport at 4, and only actually getting on the plane at 6, it was just getting started. We arrived at Amsterdam at 9 and had a few hours to kill before boarding the next plane at 2. We ate lunch and shopped around before heading to Starbucks and getting a new name. Who knew the names Dannica and Varshini where spelled like this?
After a 6 hour flight back to Lagos and an hour at the airport, we were late back to school. There was a brief panic when I realized my phone didn’t have charge and I didn’t know if my parents knew to pick me up from the school, but only a minute later my Dad walked through the door.
In the end, it was an amazing trip. I learned more words in French, became slightly more confident in my abilities as a French student, accidentally said ‘thank you’ in French when I bumped into someone in Spain, and have renewed my appreciation for the warmth in Lagos. It was freezing in Europe. Seriously, we were huddled together like penguins whenever we walked outside.
It was an amazing trip!