The fourth day [in Paris], Friday, we went to Saint Chapelle and Sacre Coeur. When we went to the Sacre Coeur, I could see the whole city of Paris from here. It is the highest point in Paris. To get to the top we took a sky ride type machine called the Finniculaire. Then I saw where the up coming artists start to show their work to the public. Later that night, the whole entire group went to dinner at this awesome restaurant by Notre Dame. The dinner was a lot of fun.
Today [in Brussels] we were headed for the churches. The first church we went to was St. Michel. It was gothic style with tall towers pointing to the sky also a grand entryway with high stairs leading to the door. he pillars had statues of the Saints on them. The next church was St. Nicholas. This church was under construction. The church was built in 12 century Roman style. The last church we went to see was Sablon. I really enjoyed visiting the church because of the size and amount of history behind each one. The resort of the day I spent walking around, taking in the new city. For dinner tonight we went to McDonalds. It was different and fun because the whole group went. Tonight we wandered the streets and walked down the restaurant alley.
On museums and monuments...
The fifth day in Paris the group went to Musée D'orsay. The museum had more classical style art but there was a progression towards impressionism... I really enjoyed looking at the slow progression that artists made throughout time. It's crazy that artists are still creating styles through time like that today. After seeing the museum, I visited another museum the Pompidou Center. It was nice to see modern art with random idea and variety juxtaposing thoughts of the past.
Our first destination was the Brussels Museum of Fine Arts. There the exhibition we concentrated on included the classical pieces of the same era as in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. These works, however, were very different from the Flemish style in Amsterdam. In general, these paintings embodied the more common characteristics found in classical style paintings, particularly in the French styles. These included: use of primary colors, geometrical shapes, symmetrical patterns, and predominantly historical, mythological and biblical scenes.
After ... transferring to our hotel [in Amsterdam] ... we took a few minutes to freshen up ... then took off to the Van Gogh museum. This was where I had to give my [on site] presentation. The dubious pleasure o going first was mine. Through my exhaustion I tried to share all of my wonder at Van Gogh and his works and my amazement at being in theis famous Amsterdam museum. The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam houses more Van Gogh works than any other museum in the world. The walls were decorated with quotes from his letters to his brother Theo and the 6 rooms on the main floor displayed his work Chronologically and thematically, working from beginning works, like some of the self-portraits, to "The Potato Eaters," his first masterpiece, and finally to "Wheat Fields with Crows" which is believed to be his final painting. Next we went to the Pantheon. Boy was it nice there. It was really cool, and really cool too. There were interesting murals on the walls, the pendulum to look at and all of the crypts underground. I saw Voltaire's tomb. Now how cool is that?
Today we went to the Rijksmuseum which I fell in love with. I wish it wasn't under construction, it was so beautiful on the inside and out and it was easy to get around and I loved the kinds of paintings on display, which seemed very realistic and that is my favorite.
On the Eiffel Tower in Paris...
After lunch in the Louvre [in Paris] in was on to the Arc de Triumphe. I got the perfect picture by standing in the middle of the busy street. Tonight we went to the Eiffel Tower. It was like a fairy tale. We rode the merry go round and watched as the lights turned on at 11:00. I don't think I will ever forget that night.
We ended up going to the Arc de Triumphe and I really wanted a picture of me in the middle of the Arc so I asked Doreen to take a picture of me but we had to be in the middle of the street so I ran out there and she followed. I ended up getting the picture and to boot there was a nice Porsche turbo right next to me. It just made the picture that much better. After picture taking we all went to the top of the arc. Wow what a hike that was ... but once we got up there it was just breath taking. The view was amazing. I think we were up there for an hour or so and I got a picture taking with the Eiffel Tower in the background and I loved it, because I wouldn't believe I was in Paris until I saw the Eiffel Tower. I had to see the Tower for it to really hit me, I am in Paris.
That night a group of us went to the Eiffel Tower to see what it is like in the dark. It was so awesome, it is kind of like a hangout for people and there are lots of tourists things to do there. We went on a carousel and some people got their caricatures done. Finally we walked right underneath... which apparently is known as the most romantic spot, although it is kind of ugly, but still romantic when the tower starts to sparkle.
We went to see the Eiffel Tower at night. I think that was my absolutely favorite part of Paris! The whole atmosphere was so fun and romantic! Every hour on the hour the whole tower lights up with sparkly lights and it was just so cool. Just the whole experience was so fun; I cannot wait until I have another chance to go back!
Evening at the Tour Eiffel was very pleasant. So many people of all ages out even at 10:30, with "La Vie en Rose" playing at the carousel, it was very nice watching the boats glide up and down the river, everyone out enjoying themselves, a Monet-setting-sun-blue sky and fluffy clouds sky and I little breeze, very Parisian. Makes it hard to think of leaving soon.
On accommodation during the trip...
Today I went on my first train ride ever, and it was definitely a different way of traveling. You had to put your luggage away, no one did that for you, and then you had to be able to get it off fast. Once we arrived in Brussels, we dropped off our bags in a very nice hotel and were off to tour the city, see a museum and eat the best chocolate in the world. Today I woke up [in Amsterdam] feeling very refreshed and went down to a full-coarse breakfast bar! They had fish and cheeses and meats that I am not used to seeing in any American breakfast that I would normally have. It was very delicious.
Today, we woke up early and caught the train from Amsterdam to Brussels. After a few trials with the luggage and some walking, we arrived at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza. The accomodations were spectacular. It was nice to stay in such luxury hotels, which is a huge change from my previous European excursions. However, we didn't have much time to enjoy our comfortable rooms. We quickly set our stuff in the rooms and started making our way into the city.
When we got to the Grand Place [in Brussels] I was just amazed by how awesome it looked. There was a Neuhaus chocolatier shop and a couple of our group members including myself decided to buy some of the world famous Belgium chocolates, and O BOY, O BOY were they good.
Today we got on our 2nd train to Paris... This day we also went to the grocery store and bought different foods for our apartments. It was hard to find some of the things we were accustomed to because they didn't label the aisles like they do in the US and the store was much smaller than ones I've ever gone to. But the groceries bagged themselves, it was really neat and the cashiers were pretty friendly. Half the store was wine also, which is different than the US. On the way back a lot of people stopped at the bread store and got baguettes which became a lunch staple along with cheese for me.
After the museum, Ashley gave her presentation on it. She gave a brief summary of what we had just seen. We then headed downhill, deeper into the city itself. The center of the city was marked by the Grand Place... where Brent gave his presentation, summarizing a brief history and list of facts about the city of Brussels. We then stopped at Neuhuis to try some of their world famous chocolate. After that we had free time, then dinner as a group at a restaurant near the hotel.
I had my first ever crepe. OH MY GOSH!!! SO GOOOOD!! I also had a really good slushy. We then made our way back to the hotel ... cooked a small dinner. With dinner I had my first ever baguette. I honestly don't know how people stay skinny over there! If I lived in Paris I would have to live off of baguettes and crepes!... Everyday literally, I have been eating a crepe with nutella and bananas. I have been to the little place SO much that they actually know exactly what I want when I get there! I have a feeling this has something to do with the 10 pounds I gained during the course of the trip!! But they are so good! And I crave them now all the time!!
We continued to walk around the city [in Brussels], and made our way to the grand square. The sites of the square were beautiful, all of the buildings ornate and towering. Plus, that was where we found Neuhaus. I bought a four chocolates, and oh goodness! Were they delicious. My favorite was the cherise, which had some alcohol in it (that was surprising) and a pit. We went out [in Brussels] and wandered about enjoying the nice night and the sights and smells of the city. We stopped at a little stand and ordered fries ... the fries were phenomenal. They were probably the best fried I have ever had, from this litle tiny shop in Brussels.
Today I ate some of the best chocolate ever. It was so good ... This evening I bid a fond farewell to Belgium by going out and getting some fries ... What passes as fries in America must be sacrelidge to these people. I've never had fried before that were so good.
On French People...
As for Paris, the French or Foe book highlighted some important points to keep in mind like being polite to people. I found that my French improved, comprehension wise, as I spent more time listening. I didn't have many encounters with people besides waiters, but I think people do smile more than the book said. At least they smiled at me.
We saw the high-end stores of the Champs Elysees and ended at the Arc de Triumphe... On the way back to the apartments, me, Raissa and Ashley got confused because one of our stops on the metro was being renovated but it was not indicated on any signs, but an older man came out of nowhere speaking English to us to ask us if we needed help. He took us up to the street and showed us the way to the train we needed to get on. So when people say the French are rude, I have a reason to say that is false. It was also interesting because on the train ride home, we were holding onto one of the poles and every person that got on and held our pole with us happened to be American, it truly is a small world.
Today we took the train to Paris, it was a really nice ride. Unlike the trip to Belgium, I stayed up the whole time and enjoyed the country-side. When we arrived in Paris we took the metro to our "apart-hotel." We had all of our luggage with us so I was really worried about the Parisians being pissed at us on the metro. They were actually super nice about everything, so good.
Arc de Triumphe- great views from top-1st time I've been there. The funnest part was watching traffic maneuver around the Arc! I had fun at the top of the Arc talking with some kids on a school trip. There were 25 of them about 9-11 years old. We talked for quite while (in French) while they tried out a few English words and phrases they'd learned in school. It was cute. One girl showed me the blue metal Eiffel Tower she bought. She told me she'd bought her Mom a fridge magnet and had sent a postcard to her little 5 year old brother. They asked me if I lived near the White House. I said "no" and told them about the Great Lakes.
Some final words...
I really enjoyed this trip and I am glad I took the summer class... I did gain a lot from going. This trop opened my eyes to the world. I believe I have matured a little bit due to this trip, not in a sense that I am going to stop going out and partying and acting like a crazed young 20 year old, because I wont, but that I want to go out and learn a foreign language, learn more about European customs, and maybe even live in Europe for a couple of years.
I think that the metro is the coolest transportation system!! By the second day I felt so comfortable riding and finding my way around!
Today [in Paris] we met for the last time at the fontaine Saint Michel. I was a little sad that this was our last day, but we still had until next morning, so myself and a few others decided to make the most of it. Today, [departure day] we all gathered our things, checked out of our rooms, and took a bus to the airport. I don't know about the rest of the group, but I was quite sad. I love Paris, but there comes a time when you just have to go home. Though the airport was hectic, the plane ride gave me time to reflect. I thought about everything we had seen and done. How, over the course of two weeks, I had learned double of what I had known about art and culture. Also, about how in two weeks, a group of relative strangers became so intimately close. I think some of the relationships built during this trip, as well as the knowledge we all acquired, will stay with us forever.
All in all, I am so glad that I went on this trip. Yes, it was way too expensive for me and strictly money wise, I shouldn't have gone. But, I have no idea when I'll get the chance to do something like that again and besides, you only live once. I can always pay back the loan. Europe is someplace I could really see myself moving to. If I didn't have my dogs, I wouldn't have come back from this trip. I'm absolutely IN LOVE with Amsterdam. I loved everything about it. The people, their culture, how they get around, everything! Paris, I loved it.
[On the last day] we finished packing our stuff, got the last little bit of crème brulée we could want (well, not really, but the last little bit at least) and then finally... it was time. We had to go meet with the group, do the airport thing and come back. Getting back in to the US was harder than getting into any of the other three countries we went to, and that kind of angered me... I have talked about my trip to Europe much since I got back and have seriously considered moving here later on in my life ... I am profoundly happy that I went: the trip greatly impacted and changed my life.
[Last day] I will miss Paris as I already miss Brussels and Amsterdam. Someday, I'll have enough money to return ... I guess this is where this journal ends. Hopefully, it's not the end of adventures overseas.