Posts Tagged With: euro trip

Trois jours à Paris

paris_bw

Here’s the last of the Europe trip travelogue. I’ve been thinking of writing this since long but got caught up with a lot of things.

The worst of weather awaited us in Paris. Wet and cold throughout. Still ‘The city of romantics’ had a lot to offer for the 3 days that we were there. Not a very original line but couldn’t think of any other to describe Paris. A walk along the river Seine can leave you with only one impression of the city with couples sitting and enjoying each others company or doing a tango along the river or partying in one of their boats.
Day1 we went to The Eiffel Tower. Eiffel Tower had been a dream ever since I saw a picture of it in one of the school library books. In fact I used to think that Eiffel Tower should be visible from everywhere in Paris. But the narrow lanes and tall buildings restrict the view and you see it only when you are fairly close to the tower. The top of the tower was a bit of a disappointment though. You do get great views of the city, but the place is very small and always packed. There are always people behind you wanting to take your place at the edge, so you can’t stay till long to enjoy the view. Click and move. I don’t know why someone would want to propose or get proposed on top of Eiffel Tower. The surrounding gardens on the other hand are perfect for that. The Eiffel Tower in the background makes it picture perfect. Get your own bottle of wine or buy one from the small snack kiosk there and enjoy the sight of Eiffel Tower against changing colour palette of the sky. As the sun sets, the sky goes from blue to golden to orange to red and as it gets darker the Eiffel lights up. Every hour the tower sparkles for five minutes, which is absolutely breathtaking. The Eiffel Tower is such an amazing sight; I wonder how unbelievable it must have seemed back in 1889. During the day we also took a boat trip on river Seine, taking in many of city views and passing through 29 bridges on the river. Every bridge has a history to it, just like every building in the city.

Day 2 I toured the Louvre alone as Sikander had work in office. I was amongst the earliest visitors and one of the last ones to leave. But even then couldn’t see the whole of it.
The audio tour was very helpful. All the exhibits have descriptions in French and if you want to know about the exhibits more than just looking at them, the audio is sort of an essential companion. Louvre is not just about Mona Lisa, though that is where everyone heads to first. They even have directions for Mona Lisa right from the entrance.
Louvre is something to be enjoyed at leisure, going through one gallery at a time. I found the Egyptian gallery most interesting. The book of death, the decorated coffins, the inscriptions on the tomb walls describing each day of the deceased’s life after death; his meals, his duties during the day, the secret passage to the living world (if he chose to come back for some unfinished business??). They had no concept of going alone from the world. The tombs were furnished with their furniture, clothes, jewellery, pots and pans, even statues representing servants! It looked more like moving homes ☺
The vivid, lifelike sculptures of the Greek heroes! I wanted to touch and feel the lines and curves on so many of them.. ☺ As Hellen Keller said “ Sometimes I wonder if the hand is not more sensitive to the beauties of sculpture than the eye. I know that I an feel the heartthrobs of the ancient Greks in their marble gods and goddesses.”
It’s fascinating how sculptures can freeze the scene in time. Louvre also has a two-sided painting depicting the biblical scene, “The battle between David and Goliath ” showing the front and backside of a scene giving it a 3-D effect, much like a sculpture. But the unique thing in the painting was that it had a time dimension to it as well. As you move around the painting the scene has moved ahead in time. Quite interesting.
Apart from the exhibits, Louvre itself is a big exhibit. The big halls, now converted into galleries have their own stories. They were auditoriums, courts, stables, training rooms, store houses etc etc. Then there were Napoleon’s quarters that are kept as they were.
Louvre transforms you to a world that existed centuries ago.
Day 3 the weather caught up. Bad cold, headache, fever. Spent the entire day in bed to let the medicines do their magic ☺ Went to Notre Dame in the evening and then Champs-Élysées for the rest of the night.
There was so much to see, 3 days were surely not doing justice to the city. But again beggars can’t be choosers. We wanted to see as much of Europe in the little time left. Wish we had woken up earlier while we were in UK and made individual trips to each of these places without worrying about catching trains every two days ☺.
Anyway, we left for Interlaken next day, 1 and ½ day there and then 2 days in Munich before heading back to Edinburgh.
That was the end of our first Euro trip!

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Venice of the North

BelgiumBrussels was more of a touch and go. We had planned just a day in Brussels but getting lazy at Amsterdam didn’t leave us with much time. We reached Brussels around 7 in the evening. Luckily during summers the light stays till around 9pm, which gave us enough time to enjoy the medieval architecture of the city centre or the Grand Place. Later we just moved from one café to another within the city centre trying out different beers and Belgium chocolates. Next morning roamed at the local market, had waffle breakfast and bought some amazing Belgium chocolates at Pierre Marcolini before heading for Brugge.
Brugge, rightly called the ‘Venice of the North’, was the surprise discovery of this trip. We had no plans, no idea of this place. Though, we later learnt it was one of the most popular tourist sites in Belgium, if not Europe. Went there on friend’s suggestion and were delighted by the charms of the old city. An old town refusing to adapt to modern times and still set in the pre-motorised times. No wonder the entire historic town centre is a UNESCO world heritage site. The people of Brugge have done everything to preserve the medieval city. Cosy little town, to spend a romantic weekend. Narrow cobblestone roads, horse drawn carriages, canals, boats, museums, cafes, beer and chocolate. The city centre can easily be explored on foot. Maps are available at the station and post offices. We walked all along the canal, enjoying the historic buildings and the chocolate shops all along the roads ☺. Now and then a carriage will pass you with a couple enjoying a romantic ride. Since it was a Saturday, the local flea market was also one of the major attractions. For evening, get comfortable in one of the cafes/restaurants at Market Square or Burg and enjoy some Belgium beer and performance at the square if the weather is good. We only had half a day to explore this beauty but Brugge has enough to fill more than a couple of days.

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Amsterdam

AmsterdamAmsterdam is a great place to come in summer/spring (as is most of Europe!). But March to May is the time when tulips are in full bloom and there is colour everywhere. Our first stop in Amsterdam was Keukenhof garden. They say it’s the most photographed spot in the world. I don’t know how one could measure that but yes it’s a paradise for photographers and wherever you turn, there are people clicking happily. Tulips in every colour and numerous arrangements. A tip about visiting Keukenhof; visit the garden early in the morning to avoid big queues at the ticket counter and also big crowds inside the garden. The garden is very big so keep atleast half a day for the trip. It’s big and it’s a maze (there are very few markers) where one can easily lose his/her way. From the time we decided to leave, it took us around 40 mins to find our way to the exit.
The city around this time is brimming with tourists. The best and the easiest way to get around Amsterdam is to rent a bike. The public transport is also very good though a bike is usually more quicker than the tram ☺. Rent a small boat or take a canal cruise on the lovely canals crisscrossing the city. Depending on how good the boat captain is you may learn a few interesting facts about the city, like every house has a furniture hook at top because since the staircases are so narrow when Amsterdammers move, the furniture goes in/out from the window or something like there is a very low fence all along the road to prevent cars falling into the canals but inspite of that 1 car finds it way into the water every week. ☺ Evening finds it’s way into one of the many coffeeshops around the city. Some snack, some Heineken and some street performance. And then as darkness falls, we move towards the red light district to kill the curiosity about the place. And how can we go from Amsterdam without trying a little of the Dutch grass! So Jimmy and me give it a try at one of the coffee shops there. After that it was party till early in the morning!
That was all we could fit into a day. Next day we woke up just in time to catch a quick lunch before leaving for Brussels.

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Off we go..

“Explorers are we, intrepid and bold,
Out in the wild, amongst wonders untold.
Equipped with our wits, a map, and a snack,
We’re searching for fun and we’re on the right track!”

– Bill Watterson, The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes

euro-trip How excited we were when we moved to Scotland last year. We thought we’ll explore Europe in our own time and not rush though it in a 15 days tour. But well looks like that is exactly what’s in store for us. We had made big plans of exploring each country one by one. It’s almost been a year here now and we haven’t even seen the island properly leave alone the mainland. We just couldn’t plan a vacation early enough to get a visa in time! Now when we need to pack up everything in a month’s time and leave, we wake up 🙂 Calls to different embassies to find out which country can give us a visa in a week’s time and then some quick random trip planning to show at the consulate. In the week that followed we booked our hostels, train tickets and explored a little on places to see and things to do. Finally, today we got our visa and we are off on our Euro-trip on thursday! I’ll try to post our stories as and when I get some net access!

Till then a happy journey to us and good bye to all..

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