A few days in Belgium

I don’t know about anyone else, but I try to squeeze every little possible activity in when I travel. I was going to Bruges for the weekend but the train stopped in Brussels. So why not spend 24 hours in Brussels?!

While 24 hours isn’t exactly a lengthy trip, it is just enough time to get a taste of a small city like Brussels. If you arrive super early in the morning, you can easily make your way through the majority of city streets, have a coffee and visit several churches. I even took a few hours to indulge in some comics.

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Brussels is basically a hub for banne designee (or comics). As you walk through the city streets, you can quickly stumble upon giant street art devoted to different famous comic strips. The Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art (Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée or Belgisch Centrum van het Beeldverhaal), is the place to visit it you’d like to explore the comic strip as an art form.  I spent a good two hours going through the hip museum learning all about the evolution of comic books and even took a few selfies with les strumfs (the smurfs!)

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The day flew by and I was more than happy to grab my train to Bruges. My feet weren’t used to the amount of city walking I did. My stomach however was on a much happier level if exhaustion.

All I can say is waffles, waffles and more waffles. While Belgium chocolate is a famous luxury, I am all about the waffles. I basically ate a waffle every day and my favorite came out of a waffle truck. It’s a food truck that only makes WAFFLES.

Bruges is technically known more for the Michelin stared restos then killer food trucks. I like to think I had the best of both worlds while visiting. I decided to drop some major dimes specifically on food. To make up for my limited budget, I evened it out by doing very cheap or even free activities.

Being a former tour guide, I love taking city tours. In Bruges, I stumbled upon a free walking tour that had a really devoted local pouring out some great info and amusing anecdotes. I spent nearly three hours with the group. Afterwards I completely knew my way around the tiny city.

To anyone who is planing on visiting Bruges, note that it is a really -I mean a really small city. Unless you are there as a couple and have planned some serious sexy time, you should be able to see everything in the city relatively quickly. I actually went to Belgium alone. So snoozing around my hotel *cough* hostel (never forget that tight budget) was not really an option. So I asked at the front desk about renting a bike.

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Like Amsterdam, Bruges is very biker friendly. The neighboring towns are just a few kilometers away via an extremely flat road, which has a designated bike lane. Taking a little visit around the countryside of Belgium on a cruiser bike was right up my ally. I am always down for some cycling. So I did an unplanned bike ride and it was marvelous. I saw little boats, fat cows and a lot of windmills. If you get sick of all the touristy stuff, take a mini adventure within your holiday and take yourself off the beaten track.  You’ll appreciate the “me time”.

If you don’t have the time to wander through Belgium, how about cycling around Amsterdam? Get great traveling tips and hear about my experiences all over Europe via my monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Amsterdam

A Weekend in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of those cities that was always on my list of must sees. However, being so close to the ‘Venice of the north’, I constantly kept putting it off. Then it got to the point where every single one of my friends had been multiple times and didn’t want to go with me! Finally, I picked a long weekend in November to head to Amsterdam and explore the canals.

Being a budgeting traveler, I decided to get the cheapest tickets possible and ended up taking a over night bus both ways. Note, this is definitely a money saver but it is not very fun. If you can, I advise splurging a little more and taking the train.Amsterdam canals

A cyclist city

My first impression, this is a cyclists city. Whether you’re walking around on foot or traversing the waterways by boat, you’ll notice that there are bikes everywhere! I got off at central station and there was a gigantic parking lot devote to bikes only. So, I decided to do as the locals do and get myself on two wheels. The easiest and most interesting way to get yourself on a bike for a few hours is to take a bike tour. I totally recommend Mike’s bikes. There are a sister company to FatTire bike tours here in Paris and they offer the same great experience.  Having a local guide expose the romanic essence of this city with some fun facts along the way is my favorite way to experience this historical city in it’s entirety.

Hungry belly

After a city tour, I can always find my bearings and know where to go next. Usually I head in the direction of food.  Being a tourist can be exhausting. Refueling is a necessity. I ate a lot of delicious treats in Amsterdam. I don’t really stick to a certain style or type of food. I just follow my nose and my hungry belly makes the choice for me.

I discovered the cutest brunch place where the eating is in the basement and the kitchen is on the ground floor. Best eggs Benedict at Greenwoods. I couldn’t wait to eat it so as you can tell, my photos are limited. Then, I hit up the best pizza place in the city, La Perla, recommended by my bull frog bikes tour guide. It made me think I was back in Brooklyn and with a wood-fire oven cooked personal pies of perfection. I definitely recommend you to take a moment here if you do ever visit Amsterdam. I did keep is classy and went for a romantic candle light dinner for one with very good service and even better food. While the food was amazing, my Amsterdam trip did not revolve around food, but culture.

Lots of culture

For quite a small city, Amsterdam has a lot of culture. There are several museums to choose from and tons of historical buildings to check out. I took advantage of both the artsy side and the history. I made sure to visit  the Anne Frank Museum. It was the most intense and yet gratifying experience. This is a must see in the city. Don’t get scared away by the Q to the entrance. Order your tickets online and grab a hot coco to go before you get in the Q. By the end of the visit you won’t have words to explain the feels this museum evokes in people. I’m telling you it’s a must see.

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Then to lighten up your day, hit up the museum row. This is the area where you will find the big Amsterdam sign but also several museums. The Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijks museum are all lined up right next to each other. I unfortunately couldn’t get into the Van Gogh museum, -way too many people. So I opted for the Stedelijk which is the modern and contemporary art museum and I was very happy I didn’t get into the Van Gough experience by the end of my visit. The permanent collection is interactive and interesting. The traveling Jean Tinguely exhibition was absolutely endearing. I had so much fun!

Not interested in visiting Amsterdam anytime soon? How about Venice? Get great traveling tip and hear about my experiences traveling all over Europe via my monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Halloween Night in Paris Catacombs

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Last year I visited the catacombs for the first time ever… on Halloween. I had a friend visiting and we wanted to stick with the spooky theme. There is no better time to stroll through a long dark hallway surrounded by skulls then Halloween.

But apparently this year, you could take it up a notch. Air BNB took my idea and ran with it! They actually held a contest to win an over night stay in the catacombs. The winners get to sleep in what the company calls a “real bed” but there are no toilets…

Twenty meters underground with over seven million corpses to keep you company… I don’t think I would be brave enough. But it does include breakfast so, that’s a plus.

The 2km-long (1.2-mile) tunnels are just a small part of the abandoned quarries. The walls are lined with bones throughout the tunnels. There are also some reassuring quotes. `“Stop here is the empire of the dead ,” states one above the entry way of one endless hallway.

Being one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, over 500,000 visitors make their way through each year. Not one has ever has the opportunity to stay over night. There is a first time for everything!

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il y a anguille sous roche…

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I have spent the majority of my week taking care of a new little kitten! Her name is Micha and she is very mischievous. Every time I entered into the apartment, I kept thinking “il y a anguille sous roche”… She would be sitting sweetly gazing up at me. It wan’t until I looked away from that cute face that I would find something flipped upside down and out of place. The little trouble maker!

il y a anguille sous roche – there is something fishy!

quelque chose n’est pas normal.
EX: Les policiers soupçonnaient qu’il y avait anguille sous roche.

Amalgame

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I was mostly stuck inside on this damp Saturday.  I looked over and my favorite frenchie just happened to be reading the dictionary -yeah he does do that from time to time. So, I asked what his favorite french word was. The first thing that popped into his head was Amalgame. I’m not surprised that he selected such an obscure word for he reads dictionaries for fun -yeahh he is a keeper. We are our own little “amalgame”. I am going to try to implement this one into my daily vocabulary!

Amalgame (Masculine word) – Amalgam!

un melange de deux objets où idées. EX: Une chanson est un amalglame de notes musicales.

Brassens

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The rain has yet to let up in Paris. As I sit and fold laundry I can see rain drops slide down the windowsill. This afternoon I was in search of a little corner of paradise to brighten up the day. How to escape time: music. A french favorite would have to be Brassens.

Brassens

George Brassens is one if the most well known french singer/song writer/poets. Every single french person knows his name and holds his music close tho their hearts. He created a very unique style of song sculpted by simple melodies and anarchist-minded lyrics.

I was introduced to Brassens by a professor of mine. Being a poet, Brassens’s diction is very clear and he pronunciates words with such class. I was told he is the best artist to listen to in order to improve my french accent. The very first song of his I ever heard was, parapluie.

I did in fact spend a lot of time trying to understand the rhythm in which he speaks. I was more the lyrics and the story which really got me hooked. A man seeing a young girl caught in the rain and he offers her some shelter under her umbrella. She excepts and he immediately falls head over heals in love or as the french say, coup de foudre. A small rain shower has brought him a small corner of paradise.

When the fog rolls in and the rain starts to shower down find your inner Parisian and play some Brassens. He will pull you away from the gloominess through light-hearted music. He definitely brightened up my afternoon!

Two hours to Venice

 

Two very good friends of mine from Uni have been hanging out in Venice for a couple of months. This relocation was required for grad program for one and an internship for the other. Being only two hours away from gay Paris, I was therefore required to visit. I didn’t mind escaping this rainy season for a long weekend on the Grande Canal.

No, I did not get in a gondola, even though that was the only thing my mother wanted me to do. This trip was more art history themed, for a had a tour guide who was in the midst of getting her masters in Venetian Renaissance Art History. So, I took advantage -to put it lightly.

The very first thing we did, sipped a hot cappuccino and ingested a fluffy pastry at the bar of a popular cafe in the ghetto. Then once properly fueled, tourist mode kicked in and I started to check off all the major monuments.  I was escorted straight to the piazza San Marco. You can see Doge’s Palace, Torre dell’Orologio and  the Basilica di San Marco in the one square. Luckily, we made it just before palo alto so nothing was flooded just yet. I think inside the Basilica had to be my favorite of the three.

The four original bronze horse statues from the entrance were on display inside. The statues were actually stolen by Napoleon Bonaparte (that guy to gave himself emperor status in France) and placed on top of the Carousel Arch here in Paris. It was very cool not to see another replica but the actual artwork up close and personal. You can truly feel the soul of each horse by looking in their eyes.

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I did not just dwell on the historical and glorious within the city but also the modern and interesting. My second friend in Venice was interning at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Thanks to her, I spent an entire afternoon on a private tour through the museum and it’s latest exposition. It is a must see! The art is displayed inPeggy’s house and the eclectic team of interns basically run the place. It was very hip and intriguing.

My four days in Venice were quite busy and went by way too fast as most holidays do. I ate a lot of gelato. I drank a lot of red wine and had the best risotto in my life.  I perused through the most beautiful bookshop in the world, went to a house party in the ghetto, and climbed to the top of the Campanile.  I can’t wait to go back! Maybe I’ll even get in a gondola next time.

Venice

Parapluie

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So it is raining today in Paris. To wake up to the sound of rain drops pitter patting on my sky lights is lovely, at first. Then it hits that once I leave the apartment that rain won’t be so nice.  Luckily, it is Friday and I am excited to jump through puddles this weekend! The one thing I must not forget, “mon parapluie”.

Parapluie  (masculine word) – umbrella !
Un parapluie est un dispositif, portable et pliable, permettant de se protéger de la pluie et servant aussi à se protéger du soleil.  EX: N’oblie pas ton parapluie!