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.
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.
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.
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? 🙂
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.
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 🙂