Views from Porto

Monday, October 25, 2021 | Written by Mira

After a pretty stressful morning including a 200-euro taxi due to a windstorm causing a cancelation of trains, we were in the air, headed to Porto, Portugal! Portugal was not on my wish list at the start of the semester, but when one of my friends asked if I wanted to go, I said why not! And I am so glad I did. 

 DAY 1

The Chapel of Souls with iconic blue tiles was our first sight emerging from the metro.

We landed around noon on Thursday and headed straight for our Airbnb area to have lunch and drop our bags. We had lunch at a small confeitaria, called Confeitaria Belo Mundo (Rua de Santa Catarina 542, 4000-446 Porto, Portugal), where I tried a Portuguese lanche; where a sandwich meets pastry. Compared to France, food in Portugal is quite inexpensive – my whole lunch was 5 euros!

Our Airbnb was in an area called Bolhão, filled with restaurants and shops. We walked around, weaving in and out of souvenir shops and local boutiques, and gaping up at grand cathedrals in awe. With iconic, intricately colored tiles, the building fronts were some of the most unique I have ever seen. We took Thursday kind of slow as we got acclimated to our new surroundings and just appreciated walking around with no set itinerary.

 DAY 2

On Friday, we had two plans: (1) Lunch reservations at 12:30pm and (2) Entry tickets to a bookstore with no set time. We started our day at 11am, and even with our lunch reservation quickly approaching, we decided to head out for breakfast – a pre-lunch treat. Over 120 years old, Confeitaria Do Bolhão (R. Formosa 339, 4000-252 Porto, Portugal) is a retro bakery with traditional Portuguese treats, including the Portuguese egg tart (pasteis de nata), which was a technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off in a recent season, pointed out by one of my friends.  The pastry is best enjoyed with cinnamon, which we actually forgot to add because we were too eager to try it.

Our breakfast/pre-lunch spread including the pasteis de nata.

 After our pre-lunch traditional Portuguese pastry, we headed for our lunch reservation to try a traditional Portuguese meal, a francesinha, a sandwich topped with melted cheese and drenched in sauce. We ate at Brasão Coliseu (R. de Passos Manuel 205, 4000-385 Porto, Portugal) because in our research, this place was recommended and had both the traditional meat version and an alternative vegetarian version. The francesinha was delicious and the ambience of the restaurant was immaculate.

My vegetarian francesinha with a cup of tea.

Our next stop was the bookstore, Livraria Lello (R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal) one of the oldest and prettiest bookstores in Portugal. Allegedly, this bookstore served as inspiration for Harry Potter, but according to some British people in front of us in line, that was just a rumor. Either way, the bookstore is absolutely gorgeous and has a massive staircase and striking architecture. It’s pretty small, so they limited the number of people inside at a time, but it is a must-see destination in Porto. 

 After the bookstore, we went down the street to a lookout point called Miradouro da Vitória. From here, you could see just how hilly the city of Porto is and how the sun glistened off of the Douro River. From the viewpoint, we continued our descent down the road to the river front, where we walked along the river to find a boat tour. At the port, we got tickets for a 5:30pm boat, which was incredible. We went up and down the river, almost to the Atlantic Ocean, and we got to see the sun as it almost set behind the horizon of the sea.

Impromptu photoshoot with this incredible background.

 After the boat, we had dinner at a restaurant on the riverfront, where we officially saw the sunset and the lights of the city shining brightly against the water. 

DAY 3  

We had a slightly earlier start today, and our goal was to explore the south side of the river. We stopped before the bridge at a coffee shop called Esquires Coffee Porto (R. de 31 de Janeiro 215, 4000-543 Porto, Portugal), for breakfast. 

This panorama!

As we crossed along the upper portion of the Luís I Bridge, we kept stopping to take pictures of the view. On the south side of the bridge was a garden, Jardim do Morro, with yet another postcard-worthy view. 

We took the cable car down to the riverfront, with even more exceptional views. There was a little market at the bottom with jewelry and souvenirs. We even found some street art, the Bordalo II half rabbit, made from pieces of scrap and materials from around the city.

Portuguese street art sculpture. Look closely and you can see the metal pieces!

Our next goal was to see the sunset at the beach. Porto is a little too in-land to walk to the beach, so we found a tourist office and asked what the best way to get to the beach was. She gave us a map with instructions (go up the hill to the bus stop and take bus 15) and we were on our way! We probably could have taken the cable car back up the hill, but why spend another 6 euros when you can walk up a giant staircase in a hurry? In hindsight, we probably should have figured out how to get to the beach before we took the cable car in the first place, so we could have bought a round trip ticket. Either way, we made it to the bus stop, and waited for the bus. Out of all my bus experiences in Metz and Tel Aviv this summer, this was by far the wildest, perhaps scariest bus ride I’ve ever had (this includes the time I was on a bus in Tel Aviv that hit a taxi). This normal-sized bus zigzagged around streets of suburban Porto which it arguably should not have been able to fit through. Pedestrians flattened themselves against the buildings to avoid getting hit. I guess the bus driver was very experienced, but I could not even imagine driving a sedan down these cobblestone suburban Porto-streets. 

The beach was everything we hoped it would be and more. We had a few hours to relax in the outdoor seating of a restaurant and watch the sun as it dropped to sea level. When the main event was about to begin, we went down to a walkway and sat on the edge. The sky lit up with reds, oranges, and yellows, and the sun illuminated the nearby clouds. Since being at GTL, I had yet to sit and really see a sunset. And in about 12 hours, we would see the sunrise from 30,000 feet. 

The sunset was still visible and the band was playing at the start of the bridge. Truly magical!

We caught the last bus back to Porto and walked back from the garden to our Airbnb. Before crossing the bridge, we walked up a hill to the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar, a lookout point in front of a 16th century monastery. The sunset was still slightly visible from up here, and below us by the bridge, a band was playing Portuguese music. How was this real life? 

Coffeeshops in Metz

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | Written by Mira

I love coffee and coffee shops. I made it my mission to spend my Tuesdays exploring Metz, and that includes trying new coffeeshops to do homework in. Some have been more conducive to telework than others. I have searched for other blog posts to help me find ones that are computer friendly (I found one in French:

  1. Fox Coffee Shop Metz (6 Rue Gambetta, 57000 Metz): Location? Amazing. Coffee? Delicious. Ambiance? Immaculate. Fox Coffee Shop Metz is a GTL fan favorite for obvious reasons. Fox Coffee Shop is my happy place, no ifs, ands, or buts. It is definitely computer friendly with very speedy free Wi-Fi, although you can only connect one device at a time with a given email. You can sit outside or inside, both of which provide a unique coffee shop experience. Inside, they have beautiful, ornate, furniture and decorations, and they even have a piano! The music is *chef’s kiss* a vibe – I spent one day Shazaming many of the songs I heard and made an Apple Music playlist for your (and my) enjoyment. You can also find them on Spotify. Outside, they have plenty of tables that spread out along the sidewalk and into the square. Each table has a unique set of stickers, adding to the quirkiness of the place.

    A glimpse inside this magical little shop
  2. Ô Sœur Saveurs (19 Rue Taison, 57000 Metz): A self-proclaimed, woman-run business, this coffeeshop is in the heart of downtown. They don’t open until 11am (and I recommend not going right when they open like I did), but it’s definitely worth a visit. When I went, I accidentally ordered a “lait froid” thinking I was ordering an iced latte… much to my dismay, the server brought out a glass of milk with ice in it. Not what I wanted, but it was what I ordered apparently. After I finished my sad glass of iced milk, it took me a good hour to work up the courage to ask for the menu again. The second time, I ordered a cappuccino and a crumble poivron, tomate, et feta (a pepper, tomato, and feta crumble), and it was delicious! I sat in an outdoor area in the center of the café, which made for a unique atmosphere, even if it drizzled a little bit.

    My cute cappuccino
  3. Columbus Café and Co. (33 Pl. Saint-Jacques, 57000 Metz): In the heart of downtown Metz, Columbus Café and Co provides both indoor and outdoor, upstairs and downstairs seating and a sweet spread of food and drinks. I would describe this as a Starbucks with more personality. If you’re hungry, I’d recommend getting the menu étudiant (student menu) which is a sandwich, a baked good, and an iced tea or soft drink for only 6 euros! My cappuccino classique was a whole 4.50 euros. They have free (and good quality) Wi-fi and plenty of outlets inside. I spent all day studying for my plethora of exams during my exam week here and will definitely be coming back.
  4. Paul (219B Av. de Strasbourg, 57070 Metz): A GTL staple. Located between the Lafayette Residence and the GTL building, Paul is a very popular and convenient stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I usually grab a sandwich to go (à emporter) on Mondays between my class ending at 5:45pm and my class starting at 7pm. I have also had breakfast there (sur place). It wasn’t anything special, but convenient enough to make it worth it.

    A small selection of the many items they offer throughout the day at Paul
  5.  Chalon de Thé (6 Rue de la Petite Boucherie, 57000 Metz): This café is purrfect (pun intended) if you like (1) coffee/tea and (2) cats.You don’t need to pay to get in – you just pay for what you order! If you need productive café vibes, this is probably not the place for you. While they do provide free Wi-Fi, the cats are pretty distracting. I found myself taking pictures of the cats more than I did homework. The cats also have no problem walking all over the keyboard (“zxt6yt5v   5nm” and “./;……•••••••••••••••••••7[‘puy[p-9” were two such instances. How one of them typed bullet points? I’m not sure. Very talented kitty.)

    I could be distracted by this sweet kitty forever

Bonus! Honorable Mention

Look at the colored-windows!

Konrad Café & Bar (7 Rue du N, 2229 Luxembourg): While not in Metz, this café was too cute not to mention. Located in the older part of the city, Konrad café is a prime telework spot. I knew I’d love it when as soon as I walked in, the music was only Frank Sinatra. The staff is so kind (and English speaking), the Wi-Fi is fast, the ambiance is impeccable. You can sit inside or outside, but it was pretty chilly when I came so they had blankets outside for customers. On a Tuesday, I decided to take a solo day trip to Luxembourg to take advantage of my day off from classes, and I definitely don’t regret it! I can highly recommend coming here on a day off or even an afternoon – Luxembourg is only 47 minutes from Metz!

Semi Solo Traveling

Sunday, October 17, 2021 | Written by Mira

I’ve been told by previous GTL students that you must do a solo trip at least once. While some people go hiking by themselves for the weekend or do a day trip to a neighboring city, I opted to do a trip to Ireland to visit a friend from high school who goes to university in Dublin. The solo part was the actual traveling from point A to point B and back, but I did have someone to stay with, so it was a “semi-solo” travel weekend.


The best part of not having class on Thursday is that it gives me an extra travel day, and in this case, more time to reconnect with my friend in Dublin! However, my 4am wake-up call was not ideal and caused me a lot of stress because when traveling alone, no one is there to hold you accountable to actually wake up that early to catch the bus. 

If you’re trying to go to Charles de Gaulle from Metz, you might have to take a bus to Lorraine TGV station and then a train to the airport. This bus from Metz to the Lorraine TGV is located behind the station, and I’m glad I had enough time to find it as I wandered around the Metz train station at 5:45 in the morning. But I found it! The bus was on time, the train was on time, and I made it through the very confusing Parisian airport to get to the gate on time. 

The leaves are just starting to change colors!

My friend in Dublin recommended a few options for me to get from the airport to the city center. I took the Dublin Aircoach to Kildare Street near Saint Stephen’s Park, which had immaculate autumn vibes. After almost getting attacked by a flock of pigeons, I made my way to Beanhive (26 Dawson St, Dublin 2, D02 FY28), a coffeeshop my friend recommended to me. Beanhive claims to have Dublin’s most famous coffee art, and while my latte was pretty standard, their Instagram feed is pretty impressive.

 DAY 2

I was off on my own due to my friend having lab all day. I took this opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and do a solo excursion to the west coast of Ireland. After much research into day trips from Dublin and looking at reviews by solo women travelers, I decided to go for it and book an excursion through TripAdvisor. I woke up at 5am, my second early morning in a row, to walk to the pick-up location for the tour to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. 

The whole view was postcard worthy.

The Cliffs of Moher may be, without exaggeration, the windiest place I’ve ever been to. The farther up you went, the better the view, but the windier and colder it got. The Cliffs of Moher are one of those places where no picture can do it justice. To one side is the blue Atlantic Ocean that blends into the blue sky (we had great weather, no dark rain clouds!), and to the other side, is the country of Ireland, and you can clearly tell why it’s called the Emerald Isle. After walking up the north side of the trail for the postcard view, I headed back down and started on the southern trail. This part was less accessible, with a steeper incline and overall was more of a hike.

I felt like I was walking on the moon!

 Our next stop was the Burren Walk, a rocky coast that looks like the surface of the moon. I didn’t go all the way to the edge, but it seemed other-worldly. From there, we went to the ruins of an abbey and there was a cute Irish cow on the other side of the stone wall. One really cool thing about Ireland is that there are casually thousand year-old ruins on the side of the road, a sight unimaginable in the relatively young United States. The last stop of the day was Galway, a quaint town on the west coast. After walking around a little by myself, I got a cup of coffee and sat in a park until it was time for the bus to depart.

Ireland captured in one image: various shades of green, ancient ruins, and a fluffy cow.

Once back on the bus, my seat neighbor asked me where I was from. I said I was from the US but studying in France for the semester. He said he wasn’t sure if I was British, which I’ll take as a compliment, especially with an American couple belting the Star-Spangled Banner in front of us (the punishment for being late on the bus was singing your country’s national anthem). 

 DAY 3

Since I had already been to Dublin before, about 4.5 years ago, my friend wanted to take me to some smaller towns in the Dublin area. We walked across Dublin to the Dart; a train that took us to a small Dublin suburb called Dún Laoghaire, where we walked along the pier to a lighthouse. It was incredibly windy, so we walked back to the city center and found a lunch spot – The Sunshine Café (107 George’s Street Lower, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, A96 X771, Ireland). This café was the cutest, and they had a beautiful outdoor garden that we would’ve sat at if it were warmer.

The coffee cup imitating real life with the smoke stacks.

From Dún Laoghaire, we made our way back north, stopping in Sandymount, another residential suburb of Dublin. The town square reminded me of Gilmore Girls. My friend told me that they hold festivities in the town square every so often. We grabbed hot chocolate from Strand Fare (4 Seafort Ave, Dublin 4, D04 FC80, Ireland), a “gourmet grocery store,” one of my friend’s favorite places to grab a warm drink. After spending some time relaxing by the beach, we headed back to Dublin city center to her apartment before dinner.

 DAY 4

Our reservation was for when they opened, so we had a calm start to our meal.

My flight for France was in the early afternoon, which gave us enough time to have brunch before I had to leave. Brother Hubbard (153 Capel St, North City, Dublin, D01 V9V0, Ireland) is a very popular Sunday brunch spot for Dubliners, and it did not disappoint. I had a delicious latte with french toast, as recommended by my friend.

Before I knew it, my weekend with her was over, and I was headed back to the airport. Out of all the travel I’ve done so far, this trip was the most meaningful, as I was able to get outside my comfort zone and reconnect with a friend from high school. It definitely won’t be a trip I’ll forget.

A Rainy Fall Tuesday in Metz

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | Written by Mira


A colorful flower stand while walking around town.

Tuesdays have quickly become one of my most relaxing days of the week. Nestled between two heavy class days, my Tuesdays are a chance for me to get out and explore Metz before traveling somewhere else on the weekends. I had been hunting for a bookstore with English books, so I took this Tuesday to see if my google-mapping was correct.

It was a crisp, rainy fall day. So, just after lunch, I hopped on a bus for downtown, equipped with my backpack, umbrella, and scarf. The bus couldn’t take me all the way to the bookstore, but I enjoyed a nice leisurely walk through downtown. I got to see parts of Metz I hadn’t seen before, and I even saw a cute flower stand!

 I found the Atoutlire Bookshop (2 Rue de la Basse Seille, 57000 Metz), the “foreign” bookstore, and while a majority of the books are in English, there was quite a variety of languages. It was a small but cozy bookstore, and I even got to practice my French with the shop owner!

The rooftops of Metz.

The bookstore is located right next to a public garden/park on a hill: Jardin des Tanneurs de Metz. There was a small amphitheater, and if the weather was nicer, it would have been the perfect place to relax with a book. As I kept climbing up the park, I realized it overlooked the city of Metz. The view from the top was simply incredible! I hadn’t known there was a good look-out point for the city, but here it was, at the garden next to the foreign bookstore.

One of the many cats at Chalon de Thé.

 I walked down the street to a cat café that one of my friends recommended to me. Chalon de Thé (6 Rue de la Petite Boucherie, 57000 Metz) is such a cute café, with even cuter kittens. My favorite was a little guy named Salem, who proceeded to walk all over my laptop keyboard. I could probably have spent all day sitting in this café, but I needed to get home and change before my evening plans: the Opera!

The day before, my French professor told us about 5-euro tickets to the Opera, secured by the Leonardo Program. I jumped at the chance to have a unique cultural experience (I had never been to an Opera before, even in English). After I got back to my apartment and changed, a group of friends and I headed out for dinner. We scoured google maps for a cheap dinner spot with vegetarian-friendly options that opened early enough near the Opera house.. We ended up finding a burger place called Boogie Burger (1 Rue du Pont des Morts, 57000 Metz), and it was *chef’s kiss* so good. There weren’t any seats, so we ate overlooking the river as the sun set. I would have been content if my day ended there, but there was still more to do!

The definition of an American in France.
 Only at GTL can you spontaneously get 5-euro opera tickets.

The Opéra-Théâtr de Metz is this beautiful building on a small island surrounded by the Moselle River. The show for the night was called “Le comte Ory,” a comedic French opera from 1828, written by Gioachino Rossini. We looked up the synopsis beforehand just so we could have somewhat of an idea of what was happening, and boy is it a jam-packed plot. Luckily, when the performance started the lyrics were displayed above the stage, so I was able to follow along a lot more than I expected. I wish I could see the performance again, honestly, because there was just so much to look at: the live orchestra, the actors, and the text- it was truly an experience. 

 From bookstores to cats to operas, the day had it all… and it’s only Tuesday!

Oktober in Frankfurt

Friday, October 8, 2021 | Written by Mira


Paddle-boating in Frankfurt!

We started our weekend in Frankfurt with a cute breakfast at Café Laumer (Bockenheimer Landstraße 67, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany) before going to the Frankfurt Botanical Gardens.

On our walk to the botanical gardens, we passed by a residential area that resembled the houses on 10th Street across from Piedmont Park in Atlanta in both architecture and ambiance. It truly felt like a piece of home halfway across the world. The Frankfurt Botanical Gardens are only three euro for students and, dare I say, are better than the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The Frankfurt gardens have cute little paddle boats and a butterfly house! After meandering around the gardens and playing various covers of La vie en rose, my friends and I found a little lake with a quaint waterfall and shortly after we found ourselves on the paddle boats. I was the lucky one who sat in the back of the paddle boat so while my friends peddled, I was in charge of taking pictures. There was a little fountain that made a rainbow in the sunlight– it was breathtaking. After riding around in the paddle

The beautiful, colorful, butterflies and flowers

boats, we found the butterfly house which was just breathtaking. The butterflies were so colorful and lively flying around us. I could probably spend all day in this magical little house, but alas, we had more of Frankfurt to see.

 After the nature-filled morning, we made our way across town to one of the many museums in Frankfurt. We ended up choosing the Jüdischen Museums out of the 33 to pick from! In the evening, we went to the Skyline Mall, where we had an amazing view of the city at sunset.

Found the Frankfurt version of Atlanta’s pencil building!

 DAY 2

As much as we enjoyed the first day, I made it my mission to find the older part of the city in our second travel day. What we had seen of Frankfurt thus far had been fairly industrial and modern, and didn’t exactly feel European to me. I am more drawn to an older architectural style, with buildings rich in history, as opposed to glass skyscrapers, as impressive as they are. After some trial and error, we found a quaint café in the middle of the historic square. This is what I expected Frankfurt to look like, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Finally found the old part of the city.

 After our leisurely breakfast in the picturesque square, we walked about two minutes to the river for our sightseeing cruise. Apparently, I love boat tours, and this was no different. For less than 15 euros, we had a two hour boat tour on the Main, with explanations of historic and modern buildings spoken to us in both German and English. One building to note was the Frankfurt Cathedral; a gothic style church that rises high among the smaller buildings of the old city and dates back to the 13th century. From the boat, we could see in one panoramic view, the industrial, modern buildings juxtaposed with the 13th century church. This view put in perspective how authentic the two days we spent in Frankfurt really were. 

: Back in the Romer Square with delicious chocolates from the Kleinmarkthalle.

Next stop: lunch. We went back to the Römerberg square (Römerberg 26, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany) for lunch, and my friends got Schnitzel, a German classic (while I opted for a vegetarian faire). From there, we went to the Kleinmarkthalle (Hasengasse 5-7, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany), an indoor grocery store with over 60 vendors. As we walked in, I was immediately transported into another world. The market hall was so reminiscent of a challenge on the Amazing Race – Season 32, Leg 7, Kazakhstan, the Zelenyi Bazaar. I imagined teams trying to run through the market to find their next clue, and I almost felt like I was in the race, just without the stress. Small local venues like the Kleinmarkthalle helped give me a sweet taste of daily life in Frankfurt and helped me feel a little less touristy, and allowed me to embrace more of the culture within the city. 

Living Alone and Doing Chores

Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Written by Mira

I’ve never lived alone before this semester. The closest I have gotten to that is spending last winter break by myself in a 6-person on-campus apartment, but that was only two weeks in total. As a self-aware introvert, I was very excited by the idea of having my own space. While most GTL students live in the same apartment complexes, we each get a studio apartment, with our own kitchenette and bathroom. After spending a little more than a month here, I have finally settled into a housekeeping/chores schedule.

  1.  Laundry: The entire Lafayette residence (GTL students and other college students in the area) share one laundry room which includes exactly three washers and three dryers. I learned on campus in Atlanta that the best way to avoid laundry frustrations is to get it done at unusual times, like Monday mornings. The Monday morning laundry schedule still applies here, thankfully, but please don’t share my secret! My first class starts at 11am, so that’s the perfect amount of time to wake up, throw my clothes in the washer (for three euros and 28 minutes), make and enjoy my French-pressed coffee, go back to the laundry room to grab my clothes, and spread everything out around my room to dry. The “European dry” dryers here, are not worth the one euro and forty minutes that have your clothes go from wet to slightly less wet. After I spread my clothes around my room to dry, hanging them off the desk, nightstands, and chairs, it is still early enough in the morning to go grocery shopping.

    Proof that no one does laundry on Monday mornings (time stamp: 8:33am)
  2. Grocery Shopping: The Lafayette residence is close to two grocery stores: Auchan and Cora. On Monday evenings, GTL sponsors a shuttle back from Cora, but I have class during this time, so I usually end up going to Auchan on Monday mornings. After doing my laundry, I grab some tote bags, throw on my headphones, and turn on a podcast. The roundtrip (to Auchan, shopping, and back) usually lasts the whole podcast, and I have just enough time to unpack my purchases before heading to GTL for class.

    Monday morning walk to Auchan.

3. Cleaning Dishes: One thing I enjoy about living alone is that you don’t have to worry about others leaving dishes in the sink. One thing I dislike about living alone is that there’s no pressure to do the dishes right away. I try my best, but I must admit I keep myself accountable only half the time. I’m trying to get better about doing my dishes as soon as I get them dirty, but as I sit here writing about my dish-washing routine, last night’s dishes are piled in the sink… but I’ll get to them later, when I need to make dinner tonight.

4. The Junk Drawer: I love memorabilia. At my parents’ house, I have boxes full of movie tickets, airplane tickets, museum maps, etc. My personality studying abroad is no different. Why do I need to save my Paris metro train tickets? My Frankfurt Botanical Gardens ticket? The map of my canal cruise in Amsterdam? For the memories. The memorabilia had been piling up on my desk for a while, but with my first physics test came my first tabletop declutter… which meant finding a drawer to put everything in. At least now my things aren’t visible, but the junk drawer is an ever-growing beast.

Good luck to December me who will have to sift through this mess.

5. General Cleaning: Whenever I would leave my room at my parents’ house for extended periods of time, I always try to clean it to the best of my abilities which involves making my bed, clearing surfaces, and vacuuming the floor, as best I can. (Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this and my room at home is currently a mess… I’m sorry.) I did all this so that when I returned, I would walk in my room exhausted from whatever I was coming back from (a summer internship or a semester at Tech), and see my bed made, room clean and be able to thank past me for not making current me make my bed. I’ve tried to continue this tradition here, so before I leave for a weekend adventure, I make sure to clean the floors, do whatever lingering dishes are left in the sink, clean the bathroom, make my bed, put away any clothes that were left out from drying.

Adventures in Barcelona

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 | Written by Mira

To quote one of my favorite reality TV shows, Big Brother, “Always expect the unexpected.” This is a mindset that you must adopt during study abroad. My trip to Barcelona started off with one of the trains being canceled a few days in advance due to previous inclement weather. I’m not quite sure how inclement weather from the 14th of September causes a train scheduled for the 24th of September to be canceled on the 21st of September, but “always expect the unexpected”.  

Getting a reimbursement for that train was a lot easier than expected, with google translate already pulled up with a French translation of our situation, and what we were asking for. All we had to do was go to the train station, talk to an agent, and reimburse the ticket. We could have exchanged the ticket, but the best alternative itinerary we found didn’t require seat reservations. So I guess I should thank the inclement weather for saving me 10 euros.

 We left for Barcelona Thursday evening and had to take an overnight train; I highly recommend booking an overnight train a few weeks in advance so everyone in your travel group can get a room together. On the train we took, each room contained four beds, and unfortunately my ticket was the one that was separate from my two travel buddies. Overall, the experience was quite interesting, and taking this overnight train was what I imagined the Hogwarts Express to be like.

Barcelona’s beautiful lights

After five trains (and about 20 hours of travel), we finally made it to Barcelona! We had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Dora (Carrer de Provença, 275, 08037 Barcelona, Spain) before heading to a lookout spot. We climbed up the many steps to the Mirador de l’Alcalde, and the view was so worth it! I am a height-junkie, and the most amazing thing about views like this, is that just a mere hour before, we were in the view. From the observation deck, everything looked so small, but the view contained so much life and beautiful bright lights. There were so many things this view captured- too many things to do in just one day. Unfortunately, with the length of our trains, one day would have to suffice for now in this beautiful city.

On our way back to the AirBnB, we emerged from the metro station to a celebration in the streets with bright fireworks and lively dancing. The La Mercè Festival of Barcelona, an annual week-long celebration of the end of summer, was in full swing, and we just happened to be there for the official day of celebration.


Life imitates art or art imitates life?

Our only full day in Barcelona was jam-packed full of adventures! We started off the day with breakfast at a quaint café. The amateur coffee connoisseur in me was ecstatic to try a cortado, a traditional Spanish espresso drink. Next up, the Picasso Museum. Located in the middle of an old, medieval portion of the city (we almost completely passed it!), the museum is home to an extensive collection of Picasso pieces.

 Next stop: the aquarium! I think being from the Atlanta area and having the Georgia Aquarium be my touchstone for aquariums, unfortunately made this aquarium a little bit of a let-down. However, the reprieve from the 80-degree heat was much appreciated! I’ve always known my name is Spanish for “look,” but never before had I realized how often this word is used, especially at the aquarium. There were many parents telling their children to “mira, mira, mira” at the colorful fish. Every single time this happened, my friends and I would have to stifle a laugh, so the Barcelona Aquarium was probably the funniest aquarium I’ve been to.

I had a caprese empanada and it was incredible!

You can’t be in Barcelona without going to the beach! As we mapped out directions to the beach, we walked along the port and came across an art and food market! I found the most beautiful bee earrings, which I just had to buy (Go Jackets!), and these will definitely be what I wear at graduation – my “I got out” earrings. We made it to the beach (after stopping for some delicious empanadas), and it was so refreshing to just relax.


The colorful, bustling Mercado de La Boqueria.

Next stop: Mercado de La Boqueria (La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain). I HIGHLY recommend this place. This market is a mixture of food vendors including street food but also meat, produce, fish, etc. where locals can come for their regular grocery shopping, and tourists can enjoy a real feel for the city. The market reminded me of the markets (shuks) in Israel, and it felt like a piece of home. 


Our final stops of the day: The Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia Basilica. Two absolutely beautiful structures! If I do come back to Barcelona, which I hope I do, I will come back to La Sagrada Familia in the daylight. We were there after the sun had set, and the basilica wasn’t really lit up as we expected, but it was beautiful all the same.

 Barcelona definitely can’t be done in one day – I could probably spend a week there and still not feel like I fully experienced it. So, instead of a “goodbye” to Barcelona, the trip home was an “until-next-time.”

A Midterm Week in My Life at GTL

With all of the travel that happens in a semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, it can be easy to forget that it is still school and with that comes the occasional midterm week, and in Mira’s case midterm day. Read more about Mira’s experience relaxing in Metz and studying for her midterms in her latest blog post!

Friday, October 1, 2021 | Written by Mira

My color-coded google calendar for midterm day might have been too colorful for one Wednesday…

The best thing about having class only on Mondays and Wednesdays is  having class only two days a week. The worst thing is having assessments only two days a week. And naturally, this week, they all decided to test my knowledge on the same Wednesday. 

My upcoming midterm week (day) meant that I would spend the weekend in Metz. It is more than okay to take a weekend to slow down. There’s so much travel involved in studying abroad, especially at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, that you might feel like you’re missing out by staying home. I mean, I definitely felt like that. As I sat at home, studying all weekend, I saw on social media other students hiking in Switzerland, eating amazing food in Berlin, paragliding in Annecy… FOMO is real at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, but the semester ebbs and flows for everyone. While my midterm week was this week, a lot of people (the same people I saw on social media) have their midterm week next week, which means while they’re staying in Metz, I get to travel to Barcelona.

Coffee shops, like the Columbus Cafe featured here, are my favorite study spaces!

As I mentioned, I stayed in Metz this weekend. I had a very relaxing weekend… minus being stressed for midterms. Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early and went to my happy place, Fox Coffee (6 Rue Gambetta, 57000 Metz), to study. This was my third time this week here, and my goal is to become a regular. Saturday night, I finished a book! I actually get to read for pleasure here, and my younger self is very proud of my current self. I’m not quite sure yet whether it’s because I have more downtime or better time management, but being able to prioritize leisure activities (like reading) has been a welcomed surprise. 

Monday morning, I stopped by Paul (a chain bakery in Metz) on my way to class to get some non-apartment-made coffee. The rest of my Monday was full of lectures preparing me for my assessments on Wednesday.

Tuesday, I searched for a coffee shop that wasn’t Fox to study. I found a café in the center of downtown that was perfect (official coffeeshop review coming soon), and spent the afternoon working on an international business presentation, making a formula sheet for statistics, doing practice problems for both statistics and physics. One of my friends had met me there, and afterwards we went to Auchan for some grocery shopping. 

Wednesday arrived, and so did my midterm day. I walked to the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus early to practice the international business presentation in front of the beautiful glass building on a crisp fall day.

Practicing a presentation with this beautiful backdrop.

After the presentation, I studied for a French vocabulary quiz, and did some last-minute review of statistics. After the statistics assessment, I went directly to Paul to grab a cheap dinner to-go so I could eat before the physics exam. Physics at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is distance learning from Atlanta, so our exam is done in our own room through Gradescope and Microsoft TEAMS proctoring, which also means I had to clean my desk. My desk was piled with metro tickets, train tickets, postcards, and other memorabilia from my travels so far, so I had to find a home for these things while I ate dinner and studied the last bit for the physics exam. The exam was over by 9:00pm, and so was my midterm day! I finally breathed a sigh of relief because, on the bright side, my stressful week was over and my weekend was just beginning – Barcelona, here I come! One of the amazing things about Georgia Tech-Lorraine is that so much happens in a week, and you get to celebrate the end of a stressful week with a new adventure.