Posts tagged Europe 2012
And the vacation comes to an end! As I am writing this blog, I am once again flying over the Atlantic Ocean heading back to North America – Philadelphia to be exact – where we’ll be taking a connecting flight back to Toronto.
I am actually quite irritated right now, as the lady sitting in front of me – quite the ignorant one, might I add – has decided to recline the seat all the way back, jump in and out of her seat, rustle paper wrap, crush soda cans, and anything that will cause noise and/or discomfort to anyone around her. All I am thinking about right now is five hours left until landing. Clearly, I’ve blessed. Did you catch my sarcasm?
I am saddened to be leaving Europe as it was quite the enjoyable “Amazing Race,” but I am also extremely thrilled to return home to my life, my friends, family, dogs, and work. There, I said it – work. I am, however, not excited to return home to the slew of emails sitting in my inbox. All seven-hundred-and-thirty of them in my WinstonSih.com account alone.
Europe was a great experience for me personally. As I have not been, I was able to learn quite a few things about European culture – something very different from the North American counterpart.
For example, Europeans love to live a relaxed lifestyle. I mean, I know North Americans do too, but Europeans know how to do it well! I love the fact that most cities take Sundays as a day off – something I wish we as Torontonians would do more often. We live in such a rushed society, we rarely get a moment to take a step back, reflect on our daily lives, and to count our blessings. Europeans know how to have fun (*cough* eat *cough*), and make room for family.
Family brings me to my next point of information. I found the people in Europe to be very proud of their country’s culture, traditions and heritage. Now it may sound very cliche – and a great opportunity for the souvenir industry – but in all honesty, I love that a country is able to wear themselves proudly. For example, Paris is proud of their arts and culture; Holland is proud of their countryside windmills/cheese making; and Germany is known for their love of beer. Again they all sound very cliché, but it just shows the true power of tradition and heritage, as well as how it can be presented to visiting tourists.
I also really enjoyed the fact that Europe has a sense of unity. The European Union brings together dozens of countries and bonds them together. It creates a community that unites the continent into one. Living in Toronto, it is not uncommon to see people speak other languages like Tamil, Urdu, Cantonese, Mandarin, and the list goes on. What you rarely see is people speaking our other official language – French. It amazed me that people in Europe are familiar with the multiple official languages of the country, and are able to communicate effectively with other locals.
I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed being a witness to European culture, and I’m also sure there’s a lot I’ve yet to learn. I definitely plan on returning in the future on another journey, exploring a few other new countries, in addition to sharing them with you lovely readers once again. The travel bug has bit me, and I look forward to my next adventure!
Thanks for coming along with me on my March-2012 journey through Europe!
Ever since I’ve been on vacation, I’ve lost track of the day of the week. I woke up realizing it is Sunday, and that stores aren’t open! What were we going to do? I’m so used to being in Toronto, where we can get anything we want, whenever we want, so our touring continued today throughout Germany in what looked like a ghost town.
We left our hotel in Luxembourg, and made our way towards Trier – one of the oldest towns in Germany. We walked around the Ghost-town – acting like “Peeping Toms” in store windows – and visiting some of their landmarks including the Porta Nigra. It was a cloudy and rainy day, so that put a damper on some of our exploration plans.
After, we transferred over to Koblenz, between Bonn and Frankfurt. We walked along the dockside, and visited the remnants of the Berlin Wall. I had a desire to explore some of their local food, so we stopped into a local restaurant where we had their speciality – Braised pig shank over sautéed sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Included with a pint of beer, the meal was only 10,50€. A steal in my opinion.
The rest of the day was spent driving back to Frankfurt, where we spent some time in their old town, grabbing some good eats and browsing their cafes, before heading back to the Sheraton.
We head back to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport tomorrow afternoon for our flight back to Toronto, connecting through Philadelphia; and marks the end of my vacation! It was a blast, and I plan on doing some reflecting on my 12-HOUR journey home tomorrow. Sigh. Stay tuned for the blog post!
For now, I’m turning in for the evening for a long day ahead. Ciao for now!
Paris is history! Today wasn’t as busy as the last two days; we drove from Paris to Reims, France, where we took a tour of their Champagne country.
Reims (/ˈriːmz/; also spelt Rheims; French: [ʁɛ̃s]), a city in the Champagne-Ardenneregion of France, lies 129 km (80 mi) east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.
Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. The Cathedral of Reims (damaged by the Germans during the First World War but restored since) played the same role in France as Westminster Abbey has in the United Kingdom. It housed the Holy Ampulla (Sainte Ampoule) containing the Saint Chrême (chrism), allegedly brought by a white dove (the Holy Spirit) at the baptism of Clovis in 496. It was used for the anointing, the most important part of the coronation of French kings. – Wikipedia
They are also well known for the creation of the sparkling wine, rightly named “Champagne,” after their province.
From Reims, we drove the rest of the day to Luxembourg – the country bordered by France, Germany and Belgium – where we toured many of their Roman Catholic churches. It is also our last stop before returning to Germany to transfer back to Canada.
One will notice that much of their land is below sea level. One would find houses under bridges where typically there would be a running river. If you’re interested in visiting Luxembourg, prepare to do a lot of climbing!
Tomorrow, we will spend the rest of the day in Luxembourg visiting some more of their national monuments. Luxembourg is very much a multicultural country as they speak German, French, and “Luxembourgish.” We’ll also be packing up as we prepare to journey back to Canada on Monday.
Europe has so much to offer tourists, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s up for an adventure. I am also ready to go home and fall back into my regular routine! I hate to admit it, but I’m starting to miss work! We’ll see what tomorrow has in store, but for now, bon soir!
So I feel I must apologize, beforehand, for the delay in this post and the fact that I’m going to be posting the two Paris days as one post.
These past two days have been insanely busy. As I had said on Twitter, I think I have done almost everything a tourist could have done in three days. Paris is such a beautiful place, and I can confidently say that nothing I write in this blog could describe how breathtaking France really is. Just take a look at the photos below.
Confession time. I had made a pledge to myself at the beginning of my vacation that I would make an effort to put down the technology throughout my European journeys, but I find myself still picking up my phone to search for free Wi-Fi. As a side note, let me warn fellow travellers that Wi-Fi hotspot, even with the word “Free” in it, probably isn’t; and if you’re looking for free Internet, bee-line over to the local Apple Store.
As I had said to one of my friends via text, I can definitely see myself retiring here in the future. I am in love with their lifestyle, architecture, food, and landscapes that make Paris unique from the rest of the world. I lugged my DSLR around the city with me, and alone I think I captured close to 1000 photos over three days. Mind you, I weeded them down to around 200. Some of which, I’ve posted below.
The list above gives you a taste of some of the places I visited, and is the tip of the iceberg. Throughout my few days here, I visited the following:
- Arc de Triomphe
- Château de Versailles
- Eiffel Tower
- La Seine
- Champs Élysées
- Le Louvre
Paris has been somewhere I’ve always dreamt of visiting, and that became reality this week. Upon setting foot, I immediately noticed a remarkable difference in the way of life, as compared to Toronto.
Architecture and art are really important to them. It’s not just a busy hustle-and-bustle city like New York, but it’s a city that prides itself on its beauty. You’re constantly walking into another palace or monument that will blow you away. Paris is the home to the Louvre, as well as a plethora of other art galleries. Coming to Paris will teach you that art is so much more than just the Mona Lisa. Our visit alone in the Louvre took a day, so that goes to show how much you can learn from art.
Traffic will definitely not go unnoticed. It is one backlog after another. And to add on top of that, the motorcycles and bicycles are weaving in and out at all times, with pedestrians running frantically. I must also say that Paris is quite a large city, and without my GPS, I would have been lost. I tend to be an excellent navigator, but constantly looking at such great monuments, they eventually gave me the illusion that I was going in circles around the block. Luckily, the people in Paris are very hospitable, and are more than happy to help you navigate your way.
For the foodies, this is a must-see place. My CityLine.ca Web Editor, Suzanne Ellis, warned me about the imminent love the food was going to cause – and she was right. Macarons, coq-au-vin, fresh baguettes, hand-made crêpes, and cheese! Far too much to go into detail. The best plan-of-attack for me was to simply talk to locals. They don’t bite, and they always come through with those hidden gems that will blow you away. If you go travelling, try it out. It never fails.
Living in Paris (or even travelling, for that matter) isn’t cheap by any means, but it is an experience that you’ll never forget. Yes, it is a very romantic place – I mean just imagine cruising down the Seine with your loved one, or going on a night discovery tour at night with the beautiful street lights. It’s also great if you’re just willing to have an open mind and learn about a new culture, and believe me, every person you talk to will have a different opinion and experience.
I had a great time, and will definitely be returning. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that on this vacation, but I mean it!
Reims, France is on the list tomorrow, and then staying the evening in Luxembourg. Au revoir!
Today wasn’t as eventful as yesterday – anticipated because of the amount of driving from Amsterdam to Paris – but we were still able to squeeze in a few stops in between.
After departing our hotel in the morning, we began our drive towards Belgium. We made our first stop at the Atomium, a monument in Brussels originally built for the Expo ’58 and the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
“Tubes connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose escalators connecting the spheres containing exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere provides a panoramic view of Brussels. Each sphere is 18 metres in diameter.” (via Wikipedia)
The structure looks bigger in person than it does in the photos below. I remember watching the Amazing Race last year and the Atomium was a “pitstop” at a portion of the race. I thought it was very neat that I was able to see it up close and in person!
I must say, after doing our own mini version of the Amazing Race over nine days, I’ve certainly built a new appreciation for what the contestants do on the show. I know the show is heavily edited down, but I can certainly imagine how they would have struggles with language barriers, cultural differences, and finding their way around a foreign country.
As my loyal readers/viewers would know, I do speak French, and French being one of their main languages, I was able to put that to use there. I should add that I can definitely tell the difference between the European French and the Québecois French.
After leaving the Atomium, we stopped in the heart of Belgium, where we spent a few hours browsing some of the many local shops in the area. There were many neat boutiques with hand-made clothing, etc., as well as countless Belgian chocolate and waffle stands.
As for restaurants, one would stroll down the street and find a string of restaurants selling the same lunch menu specials – all for 10-12 € – so essentially the restaurants would have the managers standing out in the alley, bombarding you with reasons why you should eat at their restaurant versus the rest, and persuading you to sit down inside. That made me quite comfortable as I feel I’m fairly capable at making my own judgements. Most restaurants did that, so I’m sure the locals are used to it and it’s just a cultural difference from North America.
The food itself was great; one would order a lunch special for 10 €, which would include a salad; a main dish (I ordered their “steak frites”); and a pint of beer or a glass of wine.
We, obviously, couldn’t leave Brussels without visiting the Manneken-Pis – the statue of the boy “peeing” into the fountain. I think that the Manneken-Pis could be considered one of the most photographed genitalia in the world; but again that’s a totally different post!
The rest of our day was spent on the road en-route to our hotel in Paris where we will be spending the next few days before heading off to Luxembourg. I continue to be impressed with what Europe has to offer, and I’m sure Paris will have more surprises in the coming days. Stay tuned, folks!