Brugge – 23 June 2010

Day 1 in Brugge

We grabbed breakfast at the hotel, checked out of ‘t Hotel then it was off to the Central Station to snag the train to Brugge.  We were originally to go through Bruxelles for a layover, but while at the station the information desk person informed us that we could take another train which would get us to Brugge earlier than scheduled.  Check-in at the bed and breakfast was a later check in than some places.  When we arrived, we sort of scared the girl who was there cleaning the place and neither of the owners were in just then.  We left our bags and decided to walk into the central market.  Continue reading

Amsterdam – 21 June 2010

Day 2 in Amsterdam

We stayed at the ‘t Hotel while here which I forgot to mention in yesterdays blog.  We had a nice breakfast in their kitchen down below the hotel (B&B as I called it yesterday).  Walt, Deeb and I went to the Anne Frank House for a tour right after breakfast.  Our timing was perfect because when we had finished the tour, the line was wrapped around the building and into the courtyard.  This is a very somber tour just thinking of the hell the 8 of them went through in the 2+ years they lived in hiding.  Continue reading

Paris – day 5

Day 5 in Paris

Early rise today to get going down to the flea market in Porte de Vanves.  This is the largest flea market I have ever seen.  The part that was the bummer was that we couldn’t really get excited about things we knew we wouldn’t be able to travel back to the states with on the plane.  And, everyone smokes like chimneys which makes it very uncomfortable being in close quarters.  It was a rather chilly day today!  I didn’t pack anything appropriate for the weather today.

Some things to note:  just about everyone smokes in Paris, the Metro is a great mode of transportation to get around everyplace, the streets aren’t kept very clean, people do not pick up after their dogs drop a load on the sidewalk so you must always be looking down so as not to step in a pile, the French are not rude as many over the years have stated, wonderful historical sites, they have stopped allowing smoking inside establishments so it isn’t as bad as in the past for dining and drinking, good walking shoes are a must (I have seen many women wearing their fashion heals and thinking how much they must be in pain), watching music video stations on the television is extremely repetitive, if budget and length of time spent in Paris permits – rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel…ok…that’s all for now.

We had a fabulous dinner again at Chez Toinette where we also ate Thursday evening.  We ended our night with a final drink at Les 3 Coups which was a regular hangout for us while in Montmarte.  We truly enjoyed our stay in this area and highly recommend it for anyone coming to the Paris area!  Now it is time to finish up the laundry (12:10 AM) so that we can get on the train early tomorrow for our visit to Amsterdam.  Dag…I’m tired!  Bon Nuit!

Paris – day 4

Day 4 in Paris

We took the Metro into the city for another tour day.  We first walked through the Palais Royale which was very spectacular but is another building under construction.  Deeb and Joel then went to Les Catacombs while Walt and I went to the Jacquemart-Andre Museum.  Deeb and Joel told me that I would have suffered badly with my claustraphobia in the beginning of the catacombs, but then I would have been okay.  Our tour of the house was wonderful viewing all of the wonderful collections that the couple picked up over the years.  It’s amazing just how much money someone had to get these collections not to mention how they got the items transported to their home back in the day.

Walt and I had a wonderful lunch at the cafe in the museum and had a nice chat with a gentleman from Belgium who was giving us some tips on where to visit while there.

We all headed back to the apartment after our separate tours for a relaxing evening in.  Joel and I walked one direction to pick up part of our meal, and Deeb and Walt went the other direction to pick up the other items.  We chilled in and watched the England and Algeria soccer match with a scoreless game.

We are winding down for the next leg of our trip.  Heading in to bed early tonight (11:00) because the plan tomorrow is to get up early and head across town to a flea market.

Bon Nuit!

Paris – day 3

Day 3 in Paris

Another leisurely morning with no rushing to get out and about.  We rode the train out to Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  We had to walk a bit around the Metro station trying to figure out which leg of the train to take.  The train system is so advanced here with branches of it reaching out to various directions of the city.  Once reaching Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  We toured the Chateau-Vieux (the Old Castle).  This castle was built at the request of Francois I by Pierre Chambiges, who used the pentagon-shaped foundations of a fortified castle which was built in the XIV century by Charles V. Chambiges incorporated the chapel commissioned by Saint Louis in 1238.

We then toured the Claude Debussy Museum.  This is the first museum in France dedicated to one of the greatest composers, (1862-1918) whose innovative work marked a major step in the history of music.

Before heading back, we decided to do the walking tour of the historical dwellings around the town.  This is a neat area to tour with great shops, restaurants and old structures.  We stopped at a patisserie for eclairs.  This was our first experience of them so far on our trip.  Deeb had a chocolate, and I had a vanilla cream.  They were tasty!

We are definitely getting our walking in around these here parts of the world!  The streets are very narrow, so now we are getting a better understanding of why their cars are so small here.

The plan for the evening is to head out for dinner then go and watch France play Mexico in the World Cup.

Joel has been the do-er of good deeds on the trip.  He has taken many pictures of people, helped a bus that was stuck in a street by directing cars to back up and go another direction, guided some Italian travelers to the Metro, got up from his seat on the Metro so people could sit…and the list will continue.  He’s such a good samaritan!

We are hoping to figure out how to add some photos to this blog so you can view some of the sites we are seeing while here.

Our dinner was fantastic!  It has been the best meal yet!  We plan to go back on Saturday for another treat!  After dinner we headed up to Les 3 Coups for the end of the France vs Mexico match and a night cap.  This really is a great area (Montmartre)!

In Paris, day 2

Day 2 in Paris

The day started with getting to sleep in until 9:15 when Walt opened the door and said, “Time to get up!”.  We got ourselves ready for a day of touring.  We headed into the city on the Metro again to go see the Eiffel Tower.  The gypsies around the city are extremely annoying asking, “Do you speak English?”  My response is to absolutely ignore them as if I don’t understand a word they are saying to me.  Get a job and stop begging!

The Eiffel Tower was really cool!  We can actually see it from where we are staying up in Montmarte off in the distance.  At night, it is all lit up.  We decided against paying to go inside the tower and just walked the exterior.  We walked up to a museum from the tower and saw a field where they have a large flat screen for people to sit and watch the World Cup.  This is our second time being in Europe during the World Cup games!

We stopped at this great little place for lunch along the sidewalk in the city.  From there we headed back up to Montmartre to do a tour of the town.  There are so many really great little shops and very historic buildings.  We saw the house where Van Gogh lived for a year with his brother.  We saw Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart)which was a beautiful church!  They are very strict in there about taking pictures or videos or even speaking, so we didn’t get any interior shots.  We did get some great exterior pics though!

We saw the last vineyard in Paris.  We shopped for our dinner in 3 little shops.  And, we enjoyed our dinner very much!  It consisted of some little quiches, a salmon in a shell (capers, tomatoes, salmon and a mayo of a sort), 2 different cheeses and a baguette.  As the night goes on, we are finding more and more things extremely funny.  That is always the case when I get together with Joel.  We came up with a reality show called “Dinner with Joel and Laura” that we feel would be so much more worth watching than “The Real Housewives of ____” (fill in the blank) or the plethora of other really bad shows.

We had a really wonderful tour day and are now enjoying just chilling in the apartment.  Bon Soir! 

In Paris, day 1

Day 1 in Paris

Our flight from Charlotte was not without issues.  We were to leave at 4:50, but we didn’t even start to board the plan until 5:30 or so.  We got on our plane which was an A330.  This is one of US Airways newest Airbus planes.  It was a very cool plane with great sleeping space…although I was not able to sleep as usual.  We arrived in Charles De Gaulle Airport at 7:43 AM.  As luck would have it, we got our bags and did all we needed to do before heading out to the exit of the airport just to find Joel and Walt walking in to greet us!  The journey now begins!  We got on the train from the airport and switched to the Metro in order to make it to our destination of Montmartre.    The Metro gave us a bit of entertainment with a couple shouting loudly on it.  We were mashed in like sardines on the train so my claustrophobia kicked in good and strong.  Walt and I ended up standing up so that people’s crotches and armpits weren’t in our faces.  We had quite a hike up hills from the Metro to our apartment on the top of the town.  It’s a very cute place with 2 bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, and the kitchen, living room and dining room area are all a nice open space.  We are glad we packed lightly because lugging huge bags up the cobblestone roads and hills would have not been too cool.

We took the Metro into the city once we had about a 1-1/2 hour nap so as not to be too out of it causing us not to be impressed by all of the beauty.  Instead, the nap gave us a nice revive and we had a wonderful tour of the city.  We walked around Notre Dame which is so spectacular and going through renovations.  We walked along the Seine to take in some other views.  We saw the department store Le Samaritaine which is seen in the Bourne Identity movie.  We walked down through the court yard of Le Louvre.  It is an absolutely overwhelming building.  The king wanted it built even though the money was not really available at the time, and he bankrupted the city.  We are planning to go see a bit of the art there today since it is open Wednesday evenings.  We walked up Avenue Champs d’Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe…another spectacular structure.  We stopped in the “mall” along the avenue to use the toilettes since we couldn’t find one anyplace else to the tune of 2 Euro per person.

Joel shared their story of another visit here when they were in a bar/restaurant having a cocktail when they looked up and saw U2 coming down the steps.  This took place back in 2000.  Joel walked over and spoke with Bono.  Is that the coolest thing ever?!

We walked around the city a bit more after having a beer in a bistro then headed to find someplace to have some dinner.  We found this great little place that was very fairly priced and tried a sampler of cheeses and a meat and cheese tray.  It was a great way to end our tour for the day.

We got on the Metro to head back home and got to experience another fight between some young guys.  At least no knives are pulled around here!

The evening ended back at the apartment where a bottle of wine was opened only for me to give Joel my glass because my sleep deprived plane ride definitely hit me.

In Charlotte – June 14, 2010

Well, this is my first attempt at blogging.  I guess we’ll see how well I’m able to keep up with it while we on holiday. 

Fortunately our flight from Pittsburgh to Charlotte went without any hiccups.  We are currently spending time in the US Airways Gold Club waiting for our flight to depart for Charles De Gaulle Airport.  As long as there aren’t issues with that flight, we should be arriving in Paris tomorrow morning at 6:55 AM.  Joel and Walt will be there to greet us and guide us to the train that will take us to town.  Joel sent me an email this morning stating that we should pack light considering our walk to the apartment we’re residing in while there is all up hill from the train station.  Since we are not new to the Europe traveling, we already knew to pack light since the vehicles there are so small.

We are SO excited to visit these fabulous places we have yet to experience!

I hope to be able to post something tomorrow for you to give all of the highlights of our day.