Thursday, April 28, 2011

Euro Trip Chapter 1: Brussels, Belgium

After our fun filled, spontaneous day in Paris, we arrived in Brussels, Belgium, ready to get to our hostel and just crash. After taking the bus for a little over 4 hours, and getting a little lost on the streets of Brussels, as I mentioned before, we did just that.

The next day, having many hours of fun at our disposal, we got up early to get our adventures started. First stop was to the bus station in order to make reservations for our bus to Germany. After making our reservations, we began wandering around the city, making a plan for what we would do that day. We decided that the first order of business would be to go to the Grande Place and see all of the beautiful architecture there. The buildings were truly magnificent. After the Grande Place, we decided to go and fond menneken- pis, a famous fountain that depicts a little boy peeing. We walked around for a while, taking in all the sights and sounds that Brussels has to offer. After walking for a little while, we see this giant group of people gathered around this tiny little corner. As we got closer, we realized that it was indeed menneken-pis, our desired destination. Our first reaction was definitely, "that's it?!?!". It is very hard to understand why this tiny statue of a little boy peeing is so famous, but we were still complete tourists and took pictures with, and of, it anyway.

Afterwards, we decided to get Belgian waffles, because they are a necessity while in Belgium. It was by far one of the nest waffles I have ever had. It was a traditional waffle, like the ones we make at home, but with a richer batter and sugar on top. I thouroughly enjoyed eating it.

Later on in the day, because we had seen every fountain in Brussels that is "peeing", we decided to take this walk that our map had recommended. It had said that the walk was a scenic tour of Brussels, down by the river; it was not. We started out the walk in a very sketchy neighborhood, and continued walking until we decided that we weren't really comfortable with the route we were taking. We then found a park, and sat there for a while before heading back to our hostel to hang out for a while until we had to go meet our overnight bus to Germany.

Brussels was all in all a cool city, and I'm glad we were able to see it.

Pictures to come when I get back to my computer in Angers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Adventure Day 1

This morning marked the first day of our adventure throughout Europe. We started at the Angers train station bright and early (6am!) departing first to Paris, and the on to Brussels, so we thought.

After arriving in Paris, we got on the Metro to the bus station. When we got to the bus station, we tried checking in to the 9am train we were supposed to take, but were told that it was all full, so we would be instead departing at 5pm. Since we had nothing else to do, we decided to wander around Paris, where we finally ended up at the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was truly beautiful.

After spending the day in the jardin, we made our way back to the buses where we were allowed to check in and finally on our way.

When we got to Brussels, we wandered around for a while until we finally found our hostel, with the help of many maps and a hotel concierge. We are doing plenty more wandering around tomorrow, so I'll update you all as the adventure continues.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The City of Lights and the Adventure Ahead

Last week, I had the wonderful fortune of having my lovely Mom come to visit me. She and I made a plan to meet up in Paris the day she got here. So, I departed from Angers by train after my classes planning to take a taxi and meet my Mom at the hotel. I got to the Paris train station, found a taxi, and told him the name of the hotel. For the first time ever, I met a taxi driver who didn't know where my hotel was. After a very stressful hour, and with the help of a kind hotel concierge, I got in another taxi and to the hotel.

The next day, Mom and I took the bus to the Louvre. After we got off the bus, we saw that we were close to Notre Dame so we decided to take a little detour and go see it. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have seen. I love all of the beautiful historical places that I am getting to see here. I can't imagine what it would mean to someone who is catholic to go there, all of the history and religious importance was impossible to miss.

After our tour of Notre Dame, we made our way to the Louvre. Walking around the streets of Paris, we kept noticing all of the beautiful buildings, it is amazing that there is so much beauty in just one city. We got to the museum (which is in an old palace), and took lots of pictures before waiting in a long line to go inside. We walked through the french paintings, saw the Mona Lisa and other Italian masterpieces, and beautiful greek sculptures. It was so inspiring and impressive to see the pieces of art that I've only ever read about.

At the end of the day, on our way back to the hotel, Mom and I decided to stop at the Eiffel tower to see it up-close. It is HUMONGOUS!  After we took pictures and looked around a little bit, we decided to head back to the hotel. On our way to the bus stop, it began to pour down rain. By the time that the bus came, we were drenched and crowded onto the bus with 100 of our closest friends.

The next day, we went to the Arc de Triomphe to take pictures and go up to the top. Since we got there early in the morning (10am) we were among the first people to make our way up the 283 stairs to the top. It really doesn't seem like 283 stairs is that many, but believe me, it is. When we finally made it up to the top, after stopping to catch our breath a couple of times. It was so amazing to get to look out over the entire city, and see just how big it actually is.

After the Arc, we made our way back to the hotel, and then to the train station to go to Angers. When we arrived in Angers, I took my Mom to my host-parent's apartment where had dinner. It was so nice to have my mom get to meet them, but by the end of the evening, my brain was really tired from translating between french and english.  For the rest of the week, I showed my Mom around Angers, she went on a tour of the Chateaux of the Loire Valley, and we just spent lots of time together.

It was quite hard for me when she left because it was strange to not be going with her. But, luckily, I have a wonderful support system while I'm here and I get to talk to my parents every weekend.

This past thursday my friends and I made thanksgiving dinner for the Aumonerie, the catholic youth organization on campus. We made: 5 (yes, 5) apple pies; turkey breast, because we couldn't make an entire turkey; homemade stuffing; homemade mashed potatoes; and green beans. In order to get enough food for everyone (we planned on 40 people, including us), the three of us walked to the GĂ©ant Casino grocery store and then carried all the groceries (about 20lbs a person) back to campus and one friends house. It was really quite a sight, three american girls hefting giant bags of groceries down 3 HUGE blocks. The dinner was very well received, and we managed to make it through without too much stress. It was really fun to share a big part of our culture with french people.

In other exciting news, next weekend I am beginning my two week long spring break! My friends and I will be touring around cities in 7 different countries on a bus. The adventure starts next weekend with a Pilgrimage to Mont Saint Michel with the Aumonerie. I'll keep you all updated on the adventure!