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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Euro Trip Part 3

If you missed Part 1 HERE or Part 2 HERE go check them out to get caught up or just read on to see how we enjoyed our time in Paris, France and the remainder of our Euro trip.

Paris is really one of those cities that is too big, too spread out, and has too much to explore to get it done in 3 full days.  I had a big bucket list for this trip to Paris and although I did get to mark a lot of things off my list there are some that I just had to accept were not going to happen.  That is all fine and dandy because I think the place my Mom would love to go is to Paris and then I could knock out some of those items that I didn't get to the first time. 

Wednesday March 18, 2015 was kicked off with a fantastic little local bakery for crepes, croissants, and a really yummy coffee.  This little shop was just right across the square and down the street a bit from our hotel which was on the way to anything we were going to see that day and we ended up being regulars here for the remainder of our stay in Paris.  It was packed everyday with locals grabbing bread in the mornings which was hauled in these little trolly buggies.  After our carb induced coma at breakfast we found a pharmacy to get some sinus meds for my head cold I was harboring.  

Like most historic and packed cities in Europe car isn't the way to get from place to place for two reasons.  1. You don't ever want to give up your parking spot unless the need is really great.  We decided under no circumstance would we take the car out again unless it was on the road trip back to Holland.  That left us with many choices...bikes, taxis, metro stations, or buses.  2.  You can't just stop and go whenever you are in a car in a city and you really miss so much of the city.  We wanted to really explore Paris and get in all the nooks and crannies that it had to offer in the areas we were in so we opted for bike rental.  We were recommended by our hotel a local bike shop that catered to visitors and that is what we went with.  We chose to do a 24 hour bike rental which would give us ample time to bike around the areas of Paris that were pretty close to where we were and see tons of stuff.

The main task for the day was the Eiffel Tower then whatever else we could get into.  We headed to the Eiffel Tower along the Seine River and biking in Paris is super easy.  It was March so there was some traffic but nothing like the packed months of the Summer and the traffic wasn't that bad either.  There were clearly marked biked lanes that told you how and where you should be so that really helped a lot.  Europe in general is more exercise friendly than America and really promote that sort of transportation. 

our first view of the Eiffel Tower

Once we made it to the Eiffel Tower we had to find a spot to lock up our bikes.  Once that was completed we bought our tickets and started the journey up the 3 different levels of the Eiffel Tower.  It really is an amazing piece of architecture not only is the shape unique but every piece of metal is bolted to the next.  There is a full team of mechanics and engineers that monitor and check the structure daily for repairs and maintenance. 

the view from level one

Level two looked much the same as one.  On the first two levels there are museum type exhibits that show other towers across the world, history about the Eiffel tower and old machines that were used during the time of the Eiffel Tower's building. 

us at the tip top of the Eiffel Tower

from the top you can really see how Paris is laid out in regards to the working main streets and such...the engineering of the city itself is so pretty

Once back on the ground we took more pictures and wondered the ground around the tower for a bit. 

After our Eiffel Tower tour and wondering around we got back on our bikes to head across the river to Palasis de Chaillot to view the tower from there then we rode onwards towards the Arc de Triomphe.  There was probably the busiest and most unorganized traffic circle there and we took a neat underground tunnel to the Arc and went to view Paris from atop it.  After that we ate lunch down the street from the Arc and had an awesome pizza and club sandwich.  

This was spicy, greasy, pizza-awesomeness
After lunch we headed down Champs Elysees people watching and generally taking in the city.  We rode our bikes past the Louve and on back to the hotel for a bit of rest.  We rode our bikes over 10 miles this day and walked more than 4 miles!!! This vacation I can say we definitely got in our exercise.  I came back leaner and lighter than when I left, which is always a good thing.

We rested for about an hour and then decided to find a movie theater to watch the newly released Insurgent.  We walked two miles one way to the nearest theater and come to find out the theater only played movies in French. Normally this wouldn't have bothered us but this was a really good movie we were looking forward to so we opted to watch it in English somewhere else later.  Instead we walked around a bit more and watched the night unfold.  We stopped at a crepe stand in front of Bastille and had a really good crepe with Nutella inside.  It was good but I'm a plain crepe lover myself.  After that we kept on walking different streets slowly making our way back to our hotel.  

We had a light breakfast, an early lunch, and a crepe as a snack but I was still itching for a good meal...something to really hit the spot.  I've said a few times before and now again this was the hardest trip for us and dining but on our way back I spotted what looked like a cozy little french restaurant and man was I right.  We hit the jackpot and I can say other than our homemade food in Holland this was the best meal of the trip.  I had the best french onion soup and Hendrik had a sausage with spicy mustard and mashed potatoes with aligot.  This is essentially the cheesiest mashed potatoes of your live with a  garlic butter sauce that you mix in before you eat them.  They are to die for...so much so that when we got back home from this trip I searched high and low for recipes.  I found them but have yet to make aligot, mashed potatoes the french way, or macaroons but one day soon I hope!!! 

After dinner we walked or more like waddled back to our hotel for a goodnights rest.  My sinus meds had finally kicked in and I was starting to feel better already which was a welcomed relief.  

Thursday March 19, 2015 was our last full day in Paris so my bucket list was with us and we were off in a mad rush to mark off as much as possible.  After getting ready we walked to our local spot for breakfast then back to grab our bikes at the storage of the hotel.  The hotel was very accommodating for keeping our bikes safe overnight for us.  The first big ticket item of the day was the Louvre.  After retrieving our bikes we headed straight there.  I've heard the museum is huge and you can spend a full day there if you want.  We got there relatively early and still had to wait in line around 30 minutes before we were admitted.  Once inside the place is a huge student filled maze.  With our maps we roamed the halls and corridors and rooms of the Louvre for a few hours.  I feel like we didn't see all of it but we hit the key points and lets face it this stop was a more lets go because we are in Paris and its the Louvre not necessarily because we are huge museum people and history buffs.  

Nike of Samothrace aka Winged Victory

Mona Lisa


Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Among these famous attractions in the Louvre we also saw Madonna on the Rocks, The Raft of Medusa, and Venus de Milo.  It was great seeing such famed art and also some that was just interesting and I'm sure famous just not as known.  After we saw the museum part of the Louvre we strolled the gardens outside before heading on our bikes to the Lock of Love Bridge.

We rode down from the Louvre along the Seine and browsed the vendor stalls for keep sakes that if I was a junk collector I for sure would have bought. I never buy a lot of souvenirs or things on my travels because once I get home more than likely they are going to go in a closet or box and eventually get thrown out.  I will buy a substantial piece if I know that no matter what it is significant enough from that trip and of that place I will keep it forever.  None of the Paris book and art stalls had such treasures so instead we bought a 2 euro lock for the bridge of love and were on our way.  The Lock of Love Bridge and more like it are almost completely full.  There are boards and wire netting up to keep the bridge railing from collapsing and also there is no actual bridge space open for a lock any more.  We had to lock our lock onto someone else.  I just hope their love holds LOL! 

Locked our love up and threw the key into the Seine

The next most important stop on my Parisian bucket list was to buy macaroons from Pierre Herme which is a famed pastry and dessert bakery in Paris.  We set off hopeful but after many failed GPS attempts my temper and tiredness got the best of me and we turned around.  I said screw it....a macaroon is going to just have to be a macaroon so I settled for some that I found at a cute enough little baker.  I did pay too much for them at 27 euros but what the hell you only live once and those green pistachio and the lemon are A-MAZE-ING!  Afterwards we turned in our bikes and made the trek back towards our hotel.  

the Metropolitan metro station entrance sign
On the way back to the hotel we stopped to do a bit of shopping which is something I NEVER do on vacation but I thought again...what the hell we are in Paris one of the fashion capitals of the world and granted I'm not buying any huge designers but some good deals and cute attire that I'm for sure to wear back home is a pretty good souvenir besides pictures so I did.  I bought a super cute lingerie set, a very cute new swimsuit, a shirt, and a super nice leather jacket that I got a great deal on.  It has more of the motorcycle cut to it and I had been wanting one forever but at home all the ones I had seen where really expensive and still not quite my taste.  This one is amazing!

That night after shopping we lounged the rest of the afternoon/evening away at an Italian restaurant had wine, pasta, and a mozzarella salad.  We were wiped out from all the walking and biking and were back in our hotel room by 7 that night.  

Friday March 20, 2015 we got up early to pack, check out of our hotel and eat breakfast one last time at the local bakery.  We headed back to Amsterdam for our flight the next day.  We got back to Amsterdam around 2:30 that afternoon and decided we didn't want to turn in the rental car so early.  If we did then we would be trapped in the hotel room for the remainder of the day wasting away before our flight.  We also didn't want to make the trek into downtown so decided to explore the outskirts near the rental car agency.  We walked through a cute little suburb with neat little main street shops and got some last minute Dutch snacks and salads at the Jumbo on the corner.  We then came across an outdoor mall and movie theater.  We shopped around with Hendrik getting some jeans and I snagged a few shirts as well that were on sale.  We also saw the cutest little frozen yogurt stand called Chill Box.  Essentially it is the normal frozen yogurt routine with pick all you toppings but your bowl sits in a little "chill box".  

dressing room selfie as Hendrik tries on his jeans

After wondering the mall a bit more we finally got the chance to see Insurgent.  We were super impressed with Dutch movie theaters. First off the concession area is more like a bar lounge that invites sitting and enjoying time with friends before the movie.  Before the movie start be sure to stop and get any snacks and beer you want and head in to recliner like seats that are super comfortable.  The movie plays like normal but half way through just stops at first I thought there was a problem but NO....only an intermission for like 15 minutes so you can get refills, more snacks, and take a bathroom break without missing any part of the movie.  We had the best time experience this and also the movie was great.  

After our movie was over we had an hour to get the car back before the office closed at 10pm so we headed over.  The rental car office shuttled us to the airport hotel and we had one last luxurious night in Holland at the Sheraton.  Hendrik ate vla (a Dutch pudding/custard...it is really good) and I had an amazing salad from Jumbo and we were happy!

The next morning we flew all day and got home to my mom and Molly who picked us up from the airport.  We had the best European vacation exploring so many new things and old things.  

I loved every part of our vacation each for different reasons.  

Holland was amazing in several ways....
  1. It was the cleanest country ever!  Recycling and all sorts of organic living is in full swing everywhere you look
  2. I loved seeing the difference in houses and country living compared to what I'm used to...same same but different as they say in Asia!
  3. I loved hearing Hendrik speak his first language which NEVER happens at home.
  4. Seeing Hendrik with his family, being introduced to them and welcomed with open arms was amazing.  I felt like I had known all of them forever and they were so accomodating to help me understand the language.  Also seeing places that Hendrik is familiar with through his stories and memories was a lot of fun.
  5. Amsterdam was new to us both and we had a lot of fun experiencing the culture and sights
Brussels was low key and a big city with a hometown feel.  It was a great stopping place between Holland and France.  The one thing I noticed in Belgium was the amount of Muslims...a lot of Muslim women. I'm not sure if there is a specific reason but it is something that was noticeable to me.

France was the dirtiest of all the countries but had beautiful country side.  I would love to tour the south of France where all the wines and such are made and experience the rural part.  Paris was nice but very spread out so find the best mode of transportation for you.  Ours was of course bikes.  Also like I said at the beginning of this post, don't try to fit in all of the Paris sights there are really too many.  I had to let a lot of my bucket list go by the wayside to still enjoy my time and not feel rushed.

This vacation was so busy and we traveled and saw so much I was truly exhausted from vacation when we got home but you know what...those are the best types of vacations.  I can't wait to hit up more of Europe and really the WORLD!!!

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