Sunshine, Tapas, and the Ocean

by emilyfrankenberry

* Disclaimer—Way too long of a post, feel free to skip the words and peruse the pics, far more entertaining*

 This past week was the first designated study tour week for DIS. For those not familiar with the program, DIS builds in three weeks for travel. Two of these weeks you have free to visit other cities or to relax in Copenhagen and the other you are traveling around with your core course. I happened to have this first week free and took the opportunity to visit Spain and Portugal with a few of my friends on my floor—a trip which easily became one of the most phenomenal trips I have ever taken.

 We started in Barcelona, a quintessential stop in any sort of Spanish exploration.  Immediately I was struck by the colors of Spain- from the clear blue of the sky to the bright contrasting colors of the mosaics that speckle the building fronts to the vibrant clothing choices of the residents of the city.  This was certainly a stark contrast to Copenhagen, who somehow seemingly always entertains an air of grey. The food was even colorful. The first night Sachi’s cousin took us to a tapas place where we experienced a classic Spanish meal—lots of small dishes that we fought to order over the chaos of the restaurant and a fresh cup of Sangria. I was in heaven already. Night one. 

Richa, another friend I was traveling with, is an Architecture student so she was adamant about seeing the works of Gaudi while we were in Barcelona. Obviously I had absolutely no idea who this was, but with a promise of out of this world design I gladly agreed to let her take the reigns. Our first stop was the Sagrada Familia, a church he designed. To say that it was outlandish would be an understatement. An understatement of an understatement. It was magnificent—bizarre and beautiful all at once. It had a mystical tone to it, with bright stain class windows projecting kaleidoscope colors on the white columns as the sun beamed through.  I kept questioning how it was possible to build this sort of structure in 1882—completely awe inducing. I think Richa was satisfied with my response and we planned to go to Park Guell, another one of his works, the next day. 




If the Church impressed me the park blew me away. It seemed to be piled on itself, multiple levels with winding paths and greenery artfully blended with equally captivating structural features. The view at the top was spectacular, and as we felt the sun kiss our cheeks we immediately decided an ice cream would compliment our inextinguishable cheer. You rock, Gaudi. I’m glad you existed. ImageImageImage

Finally, what would Barcelona be without an FCBarcelona soccer game?  While we were in the nosebleeds, we shouted like our encouragement determined the fate of the game. Barca beat Almeria 4 to 1. Clearly our presence meant something.

 Here are a few other shots from Barcelona! 


We took a train to Madrid on Monday morning, a 3-hour trek through the beautiful Spanish countryside. My face was glued to the window the entire trip, a constant state of admiration.

Madrid was a vision of relaxation. We went to an art museum and lounged. Went to the Palace and lounged. Went to a perched park, watched the sunset, and lounged. We napped in the park.  We added churros and chocolate to our repertoire of Spanish food, more tapas, and of course, more Sangria. We wore sunglasses and left our jackets in the hostel. We were more than satisfied. We were rejuvenated.


Our flight for Lisbon, Portugal left early Thursday morning and with a forecast of sunny and 70 we went to sleep on Wednesday night like a 5-year-old boy on Christmas Eve. 

 Portugal got added to the trip as an afterthought, all of us scanning a map of Europe and pondering where we should go from Spain. In returning, I have to recommend with the highest level of severity that anyone that has the time, take a trip to Portugal. Portuguese is the most beautiful of languages. Even without understanding what was being said, I kept feeling as though those around me were whispering love stories.

 On our first day we climbed up to a castle that teeters over the entirety of Lisbon. The climb up was hot and tiring, but I welcomed the sweat— to have sunshine that causes one to overheat is a blessing I only acknowledge after living in Denmark for a month. The view was absolutely breathtaking (or it could have been the climb?).  We could see the entirety of Lisbon and climb up multiple towers. We topped the castle off with another ice cream—a cherry on top if I do say so myself.

 The following day we ventured to a set of Church ruins that had been converted into a museum. Perhaps the greatest thing about Europe is its sheer age.  So much time has been experienced by those ruins—so many seasons and visitors, days and nights. It’s often hard to wrap your head around, but there’s something incredibly humbling in trying.  We ended the day at Cascais beach, where we lounged in bathing suits and actually had to apply sunscreen.  I am sure you can guess the excitement. 



Our final day in Portugal was spent in a neighboring city called Sintra. This hands down was the highlight of my entire trip. The city is oozing with castles and palaces, a sprawling garden falling in its center. I had a moment of eternal gratitude for my situation—to have the opportunity to see what I was seeing. And for the first time, I too was sad. Sad that my family, especially my Mom, could not be with me. Sad that others may never have that same moment—to have their eyes fall onto something that actually can move them to tears.  I feel now more than ever how truly lucky and fortunate I am for this time, and I guess I’ll end this post with a thank you. Thank you to those that welcome us to new places. Thank you to those before me that have created the things of fairy tales. And the ultimate thanks to my parents for giving me this truly extraordinary experience. 


It’s back to class now. I have to write a paper on Fairytales for my story telling class. Seems pretty fitting after this magical trip.