Friday, September 25, 2009

Paris & Brussels!

Paris & Brussels!

Mark found out that September 21st Monday was a holiday in our canton. With the upcoming three-day weekend, we booked a spontaneous trip to Paris, with a day-trip to Brussles included! The TGV high-speed train runs from multiple cities in Switzerland. The Lausanne TGV trains were booked so we caught one from Geneva last Friday night. It is a 3 1/2 trip from there to Paris. We stayed at the Radisson Blu Le Dokhan's Hotel, in the Trocadero district of Paris. Saturday morning we got on the high-speed train from Paris to Brussels, Belgium for a day trip. That ride is a short 1 hour 22 minutes!

We arrived in Brussels and started our walk into town to see the cathedral. Cathedral St. Michel & St. Guluda, begun in the 13th century, took 300 years to build. The Roman-Catholic church was beautiful! Standing on steps of the cathedral, you can see a view of the city with the top of the town hall building in the distance. From the church we walked through the Royal Park and checked out the facade of the Royal Residence before heading down the hill to the main square. This area of the square is fantastic! It has lots of shops and restaurant to peruse. Our hunger took us to a restaurant for lunch that served Brussels' infamous dish, mussels and fries...yum!

Our day was made even better by the festival that we came across in the main square. It was a cultural festival, and lots of booths were set up serving beer and food. We were entertained with bands dressed in traditional cultural country attire, playing music. We went and saw Mannekin Pis, a statue of a little boy peeing! It is one of Brussel's most well-known sights. The locals have taken to dressing him up for holidays, and this day was no exception. We couldn't really see the statue as the little boy was dressed to-the-nines for the festival! The origins of the statue remain a mystery, but it is a fun sight to see.

We decided to take a break for a little bit, so we sat down and enjoyed a Delicious Belgium waffle! I had chocolate and whip cream on mine, and Mark enjoyed chocolate and caramel toppings! So YUMMY! After that, we went to a near-by chocolate chop, (which can be found on almost every street) for another infamous Belgium treat! After all, you can't visit Belgium without trying at least three things: beer, waffles, and chocolate!!

Our train was due to depart soon, so we headed back to the square to enjoy one more beer. Mark and I both thought Brussels was great! I recommend it to anyone looking for places to visit in Europe!

Sunday: We woke up and prepared for a day of Paris sight-seeing!!! It was my very first time to the city, so I was very excited! We headed to the Eiffel Tower first, as our hotel was just a few blocks away from it. As many pictures as I have seen of the Eiffel Tower, I was still in awe of the real thing. The towering monument was absolutely amazing. The square around it has some beautiful sculptures as well. It is an amazing sight. Although you have the option of going up it, Mark and I passed on that and kept going on our walk to Musee d'Orsay. We walked parallel to the river, and saw a lot of great sights along the way. The thing I love about Paris is so much of the architecture from the past still exists. Everywhere you look, there is something interesting to see! Musee d'Orsay houses an amazing Impressionism collection and sculptures. It was great to see so many Claude Monet paintings that I have learned about in school. :) From there, we went to Ile de la Cite where the the Notre Dame cathedral is located , a magnificent form of architecture to view. After walking around Notre Dame, we headed towards the Louvre. We decided to enjoy the grounds surrounding the Louvre instead of the museum, as we needed a break from walking! (We are headed back to Paris in a couple of weeks so we'll get to see it then.) We bought a box of French chocolates ate them in the park, while resting our tired feet!

We went back to our hotel for a break and then ate dinner at a restaurant nearby. Our last outing of the night was to head back to the Eiffel Tower where we caught a view of it all lit up!

On Monday, we packed up our belongings and checked out of the hotel in the morning. We stashed our bags for a couple of hours while went sight-seeing again before we had to go to the train station. We took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and watched the crazy maze of cars try to circle around the main square! This round-about is one of the few where the cars entering the circle have the right-of-way. It makes for some heart-pounding viewing! From there we walked the Champs-Elysees, one of the most famous avenues in the world. It is lined with high-end shops, restaurants and apartments buildings. After our window-shopping was over, we hopped back on the metro and went back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Our fabulous Paris weekend had come to end. It was an incredible weekend...I can't wait to go back again in a couple of weeks!

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