Paris and Brussels Weekend

One thing you learn after a semester in Europe is that Europeans really enjoy their holidays. Even though a good many European citizens are Atheist or Agnostic, every time a Christian holiday rolls around, EVERYTHING is closed. That includes school! So the weekend before last (Thursday to be exact) was Ascension Day, and we had a 4 day weekend off school. I took this extra time to fit in a trip to Paris, France as well a short stop in Brussels, Belgium for a concert from one of my new favorite artists, Electric Guest!

Paris would have been nothing without the assistance of my lovely Paris tour guide and host, (other) Katelyn! (This is one of the reasons I go by Kate. In times when 2 Katelyns are in Paris together!) Katelyn has been living in Paris since the fall so she knew everything very well as well as speaks lots of French, which was helpful for a first-timer like me!

Day 1: I arrived in the evening and the first thing I hit up was the French McDonald’s, because I had to see whether that famous conversation about what you call a 1/4 pound cheeseburger in France (from Pulp Fiction) was true. And why yes, it is. Though I have to be specific in that the menu say “Royal Cheese” as opposed to “Royal with cheese.” But maybe McDonald’s France has changed the name during the last 18 years, since the film came out…

Afterwards Katelyn took me to meet up with some of her friends at the Arc de Triomph at night, and afterwards we went to look another famous landmark, the pyramid entrance to the Louvre. Both sights made for amazing, adequately-touristy pictures.

Blurry in the good kind of way.

Day 2: Time to hit the sights! As a first timer with only 2 full days to explore Paris, I had a lot to see in a little time. I saw the Louvre (outside) again, because the line for admission was going to take too long to fit in my schedule. We went to Notre Dame, and stumbled upon a bread festival, where we got to watch the expert breadmakers at work! I also got to try some of the bread with nutella on top- YUM. We ate our lunch on the Seine River and then headed to a shopping district near Katelyn’s school so I could marvel at all the designer stores- Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, the works. We met up with some (I use the term some lightly- I think I met at least 10 people in that hour) of Katelyn’s friends at a cafe for an espresso, and then it was time to see the Eiffel Tower! I just love the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, with all the people (most likely tourists, also) relaxing and enjoying the afternoon.

After a few much-deserved mojitos and tacos (I would go to Paris just to eat Mexican food…) we went back to the apartment to prepare for the night. We met up with more friends at a nice spot on the River Seine and let’s just say, there are some interesting local characters that crawl around there at night. We were even serenaded by a young French guy who played the clarinet. …I promise it’s not as creepy as it sounds.

Adorable children learning how to make bread.

Topsy-turvy sororitayyyy picture. It had to be done.

Found a French poodle. In France. Owned by Americans. How typical…

Time for the Metro! It’s actually one of the most budget-friendly metros, in my opinion.

They had the best mojitos here.

Day 3: We explored a more hipster part of town. Rode a trolley up to the top of an extremely steep hill so we could get a good view of Paris. Then we walked back down, hit up a thrift shop (white blouse + Parisian scarf for 7 euros, scoreeee), a few gift shops, and then took the metro to see Moulin Rouge, the Opera, and finally, grab some lunch. That night, Katelyn had a few friends over to her apartment and we got to hang out on her balcony and watch the sunset. Love.

I love you, in every language.

The trip to Paris was amazing! I am so glad I got to visit Katelyn, meet so many new people, and see so many sights in a mere weekend. It was quite a feat.

But after departing Paris, I had a bus ride to Brussels to conquer! It took a few hours and quite a lot of Whale Trail games, but I survived the brief bus ride and arrived in my “motherland” – Belgium! For those of you that don’t know, my last name is from the Flemish side of Belgium, and my grandfather is Belgian…hence, “motherland.”

Anyway, Brussels is in the French part of Belgium, so I don’t know if it really counts. I wish Belgium would pick a language. Every sign has at least 2-3 (French, Dutch/Flemish, English) and all of the citizens just can’t seem to decide which one they’d like to speak. Other than their obvious inclination towards French, of course.

I think Brussels was a pretty city, when you were in the right parts of the city of course. The center is very nice, with plenty of expensive, touristy (and thankfully delicious) food venues. May I recommend the Belgian fries and the waffles? 🙂

Had to get one of these pictures, of course…

After some city exploring, it was time for the Electric Guest concert at the Botanique, in the Bruxelles Nord area. First off, Electric Guest was AMAZING!

If you don’t listen to them yet, you should (here’s a link!), because they are an infectious musical group. Their stage presence was epic and the lead singer was so energetic. I got to meet him afterwards and he signed my ticket! Perfect end to the night.

Electric Guest- I think I was too shaky and excited for a proper photo.

Overall, my journey through French speaking lands was fun, filled with lots of sights, and quite a lot of interesting people.

I will be returning to Paris and other parts of Belgium in the near future 🙂

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Summer Bike Ride in Eindhoven

I wanted to document what it’s like to cycle around Eindhoven so this video is the result 🙂

(check out the guy who crashes his bike at the very beginning. Recording that was a complete accident, btw).

To Scandinavia, we go!

Last week, I finally made my way to Sweden to visit my love, Allie (her study abroad blog is here) via bus from Eindhoven to Copenhagen. Travel time took about 12 hours…yup. Let’s just say I can survive anything after taking a night bus across 3 countries.

Upon arrival in Copenhagen, Allie “Copenhagen Expert” Woodward took me around to show me the best a few hours in the city could offer. We shopped, walked through Christiania (really cool hippie community) and got Nutella-filled crepes (which I proceeded to spill all over myself, so I ended up wearing the nutella…I REGRET NOTHING).

Other highlights include a glass of wine while were serenaded by live music on the canal, as well as some in-ground trampolines near the water, which made for good pictures.

 

After a day in Copenhagen, we took a train back to Allie’s humble abode in Lund, Sweden where she is on exchange at university there. We nommed on some dinner and got ready to go out to the Nations! They don’t really have bars in Lund, just Nations which double as bar/clubs in residential buildings. It’s a big student scene with lots of typical techno and well-dressed Swedes, drinking pricey beers and ciders. One big difference was that everyone dances when they go out there! The Dutch don’t seem to be into dancing as much as the Swedes (which is not a problem for me. I prefer a good chat on a night out, usually).

Our night at the Hallands Nation with Allie and her French friend, Jennifer, was enjoyable though!

The next day, Allie and I did a BIG brunch…American style (eggs, bacon, OJ, coffee, toast & cream cheese…the works). It was nice be able to indulge in American things and talk about stuff from home, after spending so much time without that luxury. I haven’t actually had that much contact with fellow Americans during my study abroad experience.

Allie showed me around Lund and we bought some Swedish snacks at the grocery store to prepare for our trip to the spa the next day! We went a spa in a small town, Ystad, which is ON THE BEACH. The spa was so relaxing and beautiful. The food was amazing as well (although we had a bit of trouble ordering at first…oh, language barriers).

Overall, the trip to Denmark and Sweden was one of my most fun and relaxing trips yet. Sometimes its nice to just enjoy the days slowly instead of sightseeing all day, like a typical tourist.

She’s starting early…

 

Sometime, in Holland…

A bout of insomnia led me to make a short video with a collection of travels through Holland. It is meant to be a first person view of a few different cities in the Netherlands that I have seen this semester! Enjoy.

(PS- the Amsterdam bit might give you a headache…fair warning.)

Springtime in Holland

Being a Southern girl, from Atlanta, GA, I have my fair share of sunshine in what we call “spring” but pretty much feels like summer to everyone else. Georgia is blazing hot & humid almost every day as soon as April hits.

Here in the Netherlands, Spring has temperatures that Atlantans would complain about during winter. It’s May now, and people are still wearing winter coats, boots, scarves. It also rains weekly, at least. However, this just means that when the sun comes out and the breeze is light, everyone makes the best of it!

My favorite activity on a beautiful day in Holland is lunch, al fresco. (Here’s one of my favorite Lily Allen tracks to set the mood).

During the good weather, I also managed to squeeze in a visit to Scheveningen, a beach right outside of the Hague (den Haag), with my lovely kiwi friend Nichola. We explored a park in the city and then hung out on the chilly but still enjoyable (and extremely empty) beach.

I’ve heard the beach is insanely crowded during the summer. I think I might prefer the quietness we experienced.

After a few beachside beers and a nice chat, we retired to our hostel, where we chatted all night with new friends from France, Germany, England, and Italy….some had more to say than others. Communicating in a range of English speaking skills is always interesting.

My favorite question, which came from the French folk: “Do Americans really eat and drink while they are walking/driving?”

“…Yes. And we are experts at it.”

You never realize that eating while walking is a skill until you impress French people with your powers.

The next day, on the way back to Eindhoven, we made a pit stop in Utrecht so that we could add another city on our map of explored locations.

I loved Utrecht! It’s gorgeous and feels very laid back (much like many cities in Holland). I decided I have to revisit, for longer this time, because a few hours was not enough.

I will be making a day trip to Utrecht this week! Can’t wait to revisit one of my new favorite Dutch cities.