Tag Archives: train

walking in a winter wonderland

Alternately, this post could be called “Bruges”. Not last weekend but the one before, I took a trip to Bruges, Belgium. I was lured by promises of Christmas markets, chocolate, ice skating, beer, boat rides through the canals, and last but certainly not least, waffles. The city more than made good on these expectations–walking through the streets, I felt like I had been transported straight into one of those little Christmas villages you can buy to set up on your bookcase or coffee table or you know, wherever, at Christmastime. It was charming.

And, indeed, we had waffles.

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Weirdly, though, I discovered that I actuallydonotreallyliketrueBelgianstylewafflessosorryforgivemebye.

They were too crispy. I like my carbs doughy, what can I say….

I sampled plenty of chocolate, but more importantly, I saw this chocolate replica of Obama in the chocolate museum!

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To be totally honest, I wouldn’t have picked this out as Obama if it hadn’t been for the sign telling me it was. But it’s still awesome. Even cooler than the chocolate Titanic I saw in Berlin. And that’s saying something.

We spent lots of time wandering through the streets of the city,

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Bruges is actually known for its canals–I was told it’s called the Venice of the North? It certainly wasn’t as canal-ridden as Venice, but we still took advantage of the ones that were there with a canal cruise! This was a great way to see the city, but I was freezing by the end of it…a perfect excuse to go find some cute, cozy little restaurant and order a cup of tea. (Which probably happened four or five times over the course of the weekend. I can’t help it.)

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(I hope these pictures are giving you a sense of how ridiculously charmingly beautiful Bruges is…I couldn’t get over it.)

We saw some famous art, too. Here’s a Michelangelo altarpiece:

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Here’s what actually inspired me most in the church that housed it:

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Why yes, those are small dogs depicted lying at the feet of the dead queen. Does anyone know where I can order at tomb like this?

Of course, one of my very favorite things was seeing the Christmas decorations and lights all over the city. It was the perfect way to welcome December!

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(Got a little artsy on that last one, bet you weren’t expecting that! Things are getting crazy around here….)

It’s my blog, and I’ll fill it with amateur photographs of Christmas lights if I want to.

If there’s something I love more than Christmas lights, though, it’s food, so let’s get back to that. Because guess what I ate in Belgium? No really, guess. Just do it.

It involves these:

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And these:

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MOULES FRITES! I was so happy. So so happy. And in case you’re wondering, those frites were split shared by our table of eight. Just kidding, they were all mine.

No really, we shared them. Even I can’t down that many fries in one sitting.

I think.

Oh, funny story, though. After we left Beligium, my friends (who don’t eat meat except for fish, like me) and I found out that Belgian frites are fried in duck fat. Hehe, oopsie! Bad vegetarian. Pescetarian. Whatever. (I actually hate the word “pesectarian”, you automatically sound obnoxious when the words “I’m a pescetarian” come out of your mouth…I mean I am a pescetarian and I’m not sure there’s another food term that oozes more self-righteousness. Ick. Shudder.)

And Belgium wouldn’t be Belgium without any beer!

We went to this really cool, apparently well-known place called Bruges Beertje. It has hundreds of different beers or something completely insane like that. I really loved the atmosphere–it was very relaxed, and friendly, and there were all these cool old signs on the wall, and it just felt so perfectly and cozily Christmas. Yeah, I just made a beerhouse sound girly. Done and done.

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Bruges was the perfect place for a December weekend trip. It’s not somewhere that I really ever thought about going before I got to Europe, but I’m so, so glad I did. One of the best parts about Europe is that it’s hard to choose a wrong city to travel to, really. But Bruges is no exception!

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P.S. We were super fancy on the way home and ended up in first class…our train may or may not have been the Polar Express. It was.

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adjusting

Well, there’s not much to tell for my last day in London as it was technically only a few hours, but I’ll share anyway! Allison and I had breakfast at Whole Foods (I know you’re shocked). This time we mixed it up by meeting her friend Jana, though. Jana is from Germany and goes to school in London, so she had lots of useful tips on living in and traveling around Europe. It was great to talk to her.

After sitting and chatting for a while, we headed back to the hotel to rapidly throw things in our bags so that we would make our 12:00 check-out time. I’m still praying I didn’t leave anything behind. We then headed out for one last pub lunch. As per usual, we loved the pub and thought it was perfectly British. We scored great seats: right by the window, in arm chairs, next to the fireplace. I often test out the uniqueness of U.S. cities by determining whether I could figure out what city I’m in if someone showed me a photograph of only my immediate surroundings. New Orleans passes this test with flying colors. 🙂 London does, as well, and our lunch view was no exception. From our seats, we could see a bus stop for red double deckers, a pair of London-style telephone booths, and the edge of Kensington Gardens. It was the perfect farewell meal.

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sorry for the bad lighting

After a quick stop for a requisite telephone booth picture…

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… we went back to the hotel so that I could catch my car to the airport. This was, of course, the first time I’d driven in a car in London, and yes, I kept finding myself feeling panicked as I’d realize the driver was driving on the wrong side of the road.

He wasn’t.

Despite this little cultural adjustment, it was really nice to be able to drive through London and see everything again (and some areas for the first time!). I was sad to leave, but I’m sure I’ll be back…London’s got a hold on me. 🙂

I took a train from London to Paris, marking the first time I’ve ever actually traveled by train. I sort of forgot to plan for some little things…like, you know, security and passport control. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I’m pretty sure everyone around me knew it. The two fifty pound bags didn’t exactly help me blend in, either. But it doesn’t matter–I made it onto the train just in time. Yay!

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Driving through the countryside (both British and French) was peaceful and very pretty. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures, in part because I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to pull off taking photographs while going 200 mph, and in part because the nice British woman next to me was sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake her to get my bag out of the overhead compartment. But take my word for it, it was picturesque.

I’d been warned that arriving in Paris would be a culture shock, but I think I underestimated just how overwhelmed I’d feel. Between hearing what sounded like dozen of different foreign languages around me to getting yelled at by a Parisian woman to trying to communicate to my cab driver (in my shabby French) where I thought my dorm was, I was feeling way in over my head. Luckily, we managed to find my dorm, and within a few hours I was all moved in and had met my roommate, who is very sweet and who I’m very excited to live with.

Unfortunately, by the time I was all settled in, it was too late to get real food, so I’m sorry to report that this was my first Parisian meal:

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Oh, well. Did the trick!

I’ve felt much less frantic today, but it’s still been exhausting trying to get my life set up here. I’m just really ready to feel settled in. I don’t even feel much like exploring the city yet (which is shocking to me) because I’m just so eager to feel like everything’s all set up for the rest of the semester. It makes me really glad that I got to go to London first…I got a fun European trip where I didn’t have to worry about negotiating the complexities of living in a foreign country for several months. It also helps that I spoke the language!

Anyway, today was fairly crazy. I went from filling out stacks of French paperwork (that I was instructed NOT to lose, or apparently I’ll be stuck in the country forever or sent to prison or something…so bureaucratic), to running from phone store to phone store trying to figure out how to acquire a Parisian Blackberry (in French), to setting up a French bank account (in French), to getting my French social security set up so that I’ll have healthcare while I’m here (also in French). Did I mention how awful my French is?

Luckily, it’s getting better by the second. I’m actually glad that not everyone speaks English as I was told they would. I came here for a reason.

Anyway, I was running around so much that I didn’t get to take many pictures, but I do have a few.

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Walk to my dorm room window, look to your right, and this is the view. Can’t complain about that!


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Finally, my first authentic Parisian macaroon! I can promise these will be a regular feature.


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We found this precious little friend right near school. I desperately wanted to take her home with me. So much. I’ve been really worried about her all day, because she had no tags. 😦 She did look well-fed and well-groomed, though, so I’m hopeful.


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Near school!

Tonight, my school hosted a dinner for everyone at a really cute little restaurant. It was so nice of them! Our table was very international (the whole school is, actually)…I think between everyone, six or seven different languages could have been spoken fluently. I’m so jealous of all the multilingual people. I spent the night quizzing my neighbor on different French phrases. I can’t wait to get better!

I have pictures, but I’m feeling too sleepy to put them up. Until next time!

P.S. I went for my first Paris run today! It was wonderful. In the midst of my arrival in Paris panic yesterday, I was talking to my former roommate/future housemate/always BFF Hayley (aka Squints) and she wisely reminded me that I’d start feeling like myself again the second I went for my first run. As always, she was so right! It was wonderful. It’s always such a treat to run around a new city, especially one as beautiful as Paris.