Running to catch trains, being gross from long travels, eating some of the best food I have ever eaten in my entire life, seeing architecture my eyes only ever dreamed of, and experiencing moments of a lifetime is what my fall break consisted of. In comparison to Georgia Tech’s fall break, it is actually a break, a week to just relax without having to worry about school. I really appreciate how during fall break, I was not required to do a lot of schoolwork and had time to get it done beforehand so I could enjoy my travels fully. And so for fall break some GTL students and I decided to take a mini-tour of Portugal and Spain.
The first stop on my fall break was Porto, Portugal. I arrived in the city around 8 AM and did the one thing I knew how to do best: search for food like the hungry college student I am. I was able to find a café that was open around that time of the morning and was able to eat a nice, hearty breakfast and get my daily intake of coffee. Porto was a lot different from I expected it to be. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the amount of Portuguese being spoken, however, something very unique to Porto was that since it is so close to France and Spain, there are many languages spoken there even though Portuguese is the national language. Some of the things I enjoyed doing in Porto were seeing the beach and watching my friends surf for the first time in cold waters, visit the bookstore with the red staircase that inspired the Harry Potter books, and eat traditional pernil con queijo sandwich from Casa Guedes. Porto was a lot windier than I expected, but so beautiful at the same time with the yellow and pink tones cascading through the hills on houses with red rooftops.
The morning we arrived in Lisbon was the day I got the workout of the century, as we woke up late to catch our bus to Lisbon, and all the public transportation was not running at the time. We only had 30 minutes until our bus would leave, and too many hills to climb in Porto to reach the very top of our destination. With a “we can do this” and fitness instructor enthusiasm we made it to the bus station just in time! Once we arrived in Lisbon, the city was full of food and beautiful sites to see. I believe the highlight of my time in Lisbon was getting to try the local fish and traditional custard tart pastries. A sight I could not miss while in Lisbon was the one from Castelo de Saint Jorge, as I was able to see a panoramic view of the entire city of Lisbon from one of its highest points and learn more history about the city as well.
The next stop on my fall break trip was Spain! The country is absolutely gorgeous and a place I dreamed of going to since I was younger. I have always had a deep admiration and appreciation of Hispanic culture. Spain was a dream: I was able to visit Valencia, Madrid, and Barcelona for a few days. On Halloween night, Valencia came to life with parties for college students and satisfied my paella dreams, as I ate two different styles of paella while I was in Valencia. By the time I reached Madrid, I was exhausted from traveling to so many places, and I was only halfway through fall break! In Madrid, since we arrived later in the day and it was raining, I did what most locals do during this type of gloomy day: I went to Primark! For those who may not know what Primark is, it is the store of your fashion dreams as everything has very low prices for pretty good quality. After shopping, I had some amazing tacos at Takos and the best churros and chocolate in the city. Lastly, I made it to Barcelona with the group I was traveling with. I would have to say that Barcelona was the highlight of my trip, as we spent the most time here, and I did not feel rushed to eat and see everything in one day. While in Barcelona, I was able to meet new people at the hostel we were staying at, take a walking tour in the city, see Gaudi’s architecture casually decorating the streets of Barcelona, and of course see the infamous Sagrada Familia!
Overall, my fall break consisted of a lot of traveling, satisfying my hunger, seeing historical landmarks, and making new memories with fellow GTL students. From traveling to different cities in Spain and Portugal, I was able to see how different each one was from the people, slight variations in culture, and food. I have gained a new perspective and appreciation of those countries from traveling there. When planning fall break, I would recommend making plans early to save money on travel, and to visit fewer places because traveling can be exhausting, and it minimizes all the things you can see and experience of each city.