bonjour, paris (pt. 1)

A couple months ago now, I posted on my blog about all the things I was/am grateful for. One of them was a surprise pair of tickets to Paris courtesy of CheeseWeb, a blog for English speaking expats living in Belgium, and iDbus. Besides the fact that they were making a nine-year dream come true, they were extremely courteous and gracious in every way… so thank you for all your help getting me to France! (And getting me back out…)

Thursday, August 15th

In addition to the miracle of free bus tickets, the friend I invited to come with me (Hi, FP!) had a friend-of-a-friend with an apartment in Paris with extra space for those days. (Thank you too, Anca!) We climbed on the bus at Garde du Midi and landed a few hours later by Bercy. It took us a hot minute to figure out the metro – I was completely unprepared for just how massive that city is. I mean really huge-normous.

After stopping off at the apartment to drop off our backpacks, we decided to waste no time and headed right for the Eiffel Tower. It felt like she became the third travel companion, she kept popping up whenever we least expected it since you can see her from pretty much everywhere on the west half of the city. Of course, a photo shoot ensued.

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We wandered around for awhile, looking for a cafe for lunch. What we didn’t realize was that we showed up on a bank holiday, which means that evvvverything local is pretty much closed. We were a bit annoyed we had to go with Le Pain Quotidien (I could eat this in the US, boo), but we were very happily surprised that each country approaches LPQ differently. So our food was far better than expected, and the waitresses were very excited to hear they had edged out NYC for food quality and presentation, haha.

After lunch we hopped back on the metro and tried to see as many touristy things as possible before it got dark.

The metro signs themselves were heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. You can tell how old they are by how simple the signpost is. The one on the left, above, came before WWII, because it still has a hint of the 1920s artistic influence and it has a lamp post attached. The newer ones just have an M, or Metro with a blue circle. The oldest posts were all kinds of fancy (on the right), but a lot of them have been replaced over the years.

Next up was the Arc de Triomphe. It was actually a pretty good idea to visit all the big, don’t-have-to-worry-about-it-being-closed sites on the bank holiday, it wasn’t even a little crowded. Unless you’re talking about Champs Élysees, which had so many people I couldn’t stay longer than ten minutes, and I couldn’t afford to even walk in half of the stores. Not worth my time.

Our fourth travel companion became the Seine. We took a lot of pictures of her, too. 🙂 (Égalité means equality.)

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But the best part of the day was the end, when we met up with a friend of FP’s who lives in the city (Hi Max!). We went all the way to the other side of Paris, near the library, where lots of people our age hang out on a bridge that goes over the Seine. There are lots of restaurants and bars lining the river, and people just bring their food and wine up to the bridge to share with new friends they make on the way. It was seriously adorable. I loved the wine I had so much I brought some home for my boyfriend for a Paris souvenir. That day someone had set up a projector and they were all watching a tv show (I think Breaking Bad, haha).

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Side note, I found this hilarious. Apparently the architects responsible for the National Library of France didn’t really design the four buildings (meant to look like four open books facing each other) for actual… books. The glass outside was all wrong for its contents because books kept catching on fire when the sun was strong. What! So now the windows have something behind them to block out the sun, and the library has lost its beautiful view of the city. Wompwomp.

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A couple other random parting shots for you, then I’ll save the second day for a new post… that won’t take two months I hope. 🙂

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Day Fourteen & Fifteen: Amsterdam and Utrecht

I should preface this whole post by saying Dutch is a crazy language, and now I really want to learn it.

After a lazy start to our Saturday, Annika and I first went to a small cafe near her apartment. The area is not touristy enough to have English translations on their menus. I ended up going with a goat cheese and honey sandwich, which ended being toast, an entire carton of goat cheese, and a little honey. But it was SOGOOD.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmhm.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmhm.

Until I got a stomach ache half way through and had a sugar high for the rest of the day. #worthit

We metro-ed to Utrecht Centraal, where we caught a high speed train to Amsterdam, only half an hour away. I brought all the rain gear I could and BEHOLD we had a beautiful sunny day. I love when that happens. Annika took me to the top floor of the bibliotheek (library) for a great view of the city. There was a super sweet gentleman playing piano on the first floor (it was up for the public to use, sort of like the ones hanging out in the city in Boston), the design of the place was unreal, and the view was spectacular. An unconventional first stop in a city but a great choice.


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Since we got a late start to the day, we decided a canal boat tour would be the most efficient/awesome way to see as much as of the city as we could. We happened to find a great deal in the visitor’s center when we first arrived  – we got cheaper tickets, to leave whenever we wanted, and they came with a free coffee and food. The girl even switched the coffee to chai for us, you’re wonderful. The company was called LOVERS which made our trip even more memorable, haha. I didn’t see any lovers on our boat. Our table-mates were a mom and her two daughters; the mom promptly passed out cold on the table for an hour, haha. Her daughter kept taking pictures of her with an iPad, which was excellent.

The tour was great, because they explained what we were looking at – the statues on the tops of some buildings (often Neptune), why there are hooks on the facade of the buildings (for a rope and pulley system to get merchandise in and out of the stores – now for moving furniture out of the house – because the stairs are too narrow to bring things up), where the famous homes are (Anne Frank especially), and what the canals names were (I liked the ‘Gentlemen’s Canal’ personally). The announcements were translated into SO MANY languages – we heard at least dutch, english, chinese, indonesian, german (?), and at least two others.  Our captain was a little odd and made a few unplanned stops (?) but aside from that it was worth the money spent.

It wouldn’t be Amsterdam without visiting the Red Light District, so we walked through but most places were closed until the evening. We passed quite a few bachelor parties, with the grooms-to-be all dressed as something absurd. Usually a beer wench, sometimes a terrorist. Yes really. I didn’t get a picture, sadly. And sorry, no space cakes or coffee house visits, I know you’re wondering. 🙂

After some shopping and picture-taking we headed back to Utrecht. I was really proud of myself for remembering a recipe for sausage, peppers, and onions pasta (Bob I hope you’re reading that!) and it turned out DELICIOUS with bratwurst. After a few glasses of red wine we were in no shape to go out that night, and happily so. More late night talking and dreaming of traveling together. Hopefully very, very soon!

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[i was aiming for the name of the boat – ludwig van beethoven – so this picture really was just a happy accident]

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[flag of the netherlands]

[amsterdam centraal]

[amsterdam centraal]

I took way too many pictures, so in the interest of your computer’s sanity…. more Amsterdam photos after the jump!

 

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