Tag Archives: paris

Amsterdam to Brussels to Paris (again)

I took the train to Amsterdam from Paris. My bags were much smaller as I packed only for the weekend and left the rest of my stuff at Eli’s house. I decided to return to Paris after my weekend trip and stay with her and her family again because they were such great hosts. So, I landed at Hotel One to wait for Frieda to arrive from Germany. It was a great hotel if you’re looking for a place to stay in Europe. I watched the sunset from our corner room and then heard a knock at the door. It was so good to see my friend from yoga teacher training in Nicaragua last January! Because it was late, we decided immediately that we needed to get food. I had made reservations at a Dutch restaurant for 9pm. We started the walk and en route found a cute little Thai place to eat instead. Everything about this place was so unique and the details were absolutely amazing, down to the flower tea cups on leaf tea plates that matched all of our dishes and the friendliest, kindest waiter that spoke only a little English. It was called Chutima’s – it receives mediocre reviews for service, but we were in no hurry – we found it delightful. So we sat and chatted over dinner for a couple of hours and afterward walked back to the hotel and slept. We were both exhausted. On Saturday morning we took our time getting around, chatted about life, and found a great little cafe, De Bakkerswinkel, that served bruch. So, we started with a light breakfast of scones, clotted cream, and jam, and then moved right into lunch with soup and a sandwich. We also bought treats for our separate trips home that evening. Then we meandered the beautiful city. The city is clean and manicured and beautiful with the circling canals and bakeries and bicycles on every corner. We were a little disappointed that we indulged so much for brunch and didn’t leave room for all the amazing food we found as we walked. We went to a local grocery store because I talked so much about curry ketchup, and Frieda helped me find a tube of the yummy red sauce and a few other fun treats to take with me. Then we walked to a park and found a cute little restaurant in the middle where we drank mint tea on the second floor overlooking everything green and talked about our lives and maybe meeting up in Spain next year for a yoga retreat. As the sun lowered, we found our way back to the hotel, and had one last gin moscow mule together. Then our short reunion ended and our trains went separate ways.

My train went to Brussels where I met up with a friend of a friend who was from the US but had been working from Brussels for a year. Our first stop took us to an American sports bar to try to find the OSU Cowboys game, but it wasn’t meant to be. I ate a gyro, and we walked through Brussels at night to wind up in Delirium Village and the Grand Square. It was strange to see kids sitting in circles on the hard stones of the square drinking beer and hanging out. We tried a few different beers at Delirium, a beer I have had many times, and took in chaos around us.

The next day, we went to a park on the south end of Brussels and ferried across the lake to a restaurant called Chalet Robinson for lunch. I had steak and frites (Belgium is famous for frites – not the French:). The park was exceptionally green, and I didn’t know how lucky I was to catch a beautifully sunny day in Brussels. The next day I went for a run in the same park.  The day was overcast and threatened rain, but it was still beautiful and green.  Later in the day, I meandered around the town, stopped to write at pub, and then found a great Pho place for dinner. And thankfully, I had an umbrella for the rain that threatened and the came. On my last day there, I took a six-hour group belgian beer tour that lasted six hours and lead to bars off the traditional tourist path. We encountered quaint places with amazing beer, food pairings, culture, and education. For instance, only 11 beers in the world carry the Authentic Trappist Product label. The qualifications for this type of beer are as follows:

  1. The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
  3. The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need. (From the International Trappist Association website)

As the tour continued, I remembered less of the education but had one stop in particular that stood out. The tour lead us to a traditional puppet theater, Theatre Royal de Toone, where political messages used to be secretly passed to the public through the shows. The puppets were elaborate three to four foot tall marianette puppets, and though we didn’t see a show, it was impressive to imagine what it would have been like. At the end of the tour, my guide ran with me to the train station to help me find my way so I wouldn’t miss my train back to Paris. Though I missed eating mussels in Brussels, the town offered more than I expected. It was a great surprise.

I felt a little “at home” as I got back to Paris and returned to my temporary place at Eli’s. Bab (the family dog) greeted me again with her barks (maybe short-term memory?). Though I spent another week in Paris and did some touristy activities, I took more time to walk around, sit in cafes, write, and experience what a typical Parisian might experience.  I ate traditional French breakfast. I met up and chatted with a couple of Parisians that I met through a friend of a friend. I just enjoyed the city. I did go to a French wine tasting and ate my weight in cheese (properly paired with great wine). I also took a cooking class that began with a trip to the French markets. We picked out duck and scallops from the meat and fish markets and then chose our vegetables and baguettes (the proper French baguette market is highly regulated).  We cooked our food, which included vanilla bean mashed potatoes and lava cakes with dark and white chocolate pouring from the hot middle. It was a great meal with great people, wine, cheese, and dessert.  I may have waddled home that night perfectly content to be in Paris. And then my time in Paris ended. I packed my souvenirs in the new bag I bought (too many souvenirs and gifts!), got my backpack and yoga mat ready, said goodbye to Eli and her sweet family, and flew to Morocco.  

The Poetry of Paris (Week 1)

I took a train through the Chunnel from London to Paris. I thought it would be cool to travel through the Chunnel since I had studied a bit about it in school as an engineer. To be honest, I didn’t even know we had traveled through it until we were already on the other side. Maybe that’s the best way. I arrived to Paris a few hours late because someone had stolen the wires from a part of the train route originally planned, and we had to take a long detour. I arrived to my AirBnB after dark and met Eli, Miguel, Anna, and their little dog, Bab. Eli, saying it was too dark and I didn’t know the city, invited me to have dinner with their family, and I greatly enjoyed eating home-cooked food and learning about their family. What an incredible treat to have met this sweet family. I arrived to Paris with no plans except a bike tour of the city the next day. Since biking is one of my favorite things, I try to do bike tours in new cities to learn the area, see a few sites, and get an idea of what I want to do while I’m there. Luckily, I met Steph, a fellow solo traveller from New Zealand, on the tour, and we planned together to do and see all the touristy things of Paris. Not having great cell service, we decided to meet that evening under the middle of the Eiffel Tower at 6pm (I know, I know, but seriously, it’s pretty easy to find). Before meeting Steph, I wandered over to Musee d’Orsey to take in a few 19th/20th French/European paintings for a couple of hours and then made my way to the tower. We found a place to have dinner and share a bottle of wine and then decided to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a night view of the city, the twinkling tower, and the two-day-old blood moon. I think we waited in line less than 30 minutes and got to enjoy the view in what seemed record time compared to what others had told me about their adventures to the top. Afterward, we met for a drink with a friend of Steph’s from her designer frame convention (that’s why she was in town – she owns her own designer frame shop in New Zealand) at a quirky little restaurant that had three stories and a view to the bottom floor through the middle. We parted ways and decided to visit the Sacre Coeur the next day.

The following morning, we sat in a small cafe with a view of the beautiful church and had omelets, bread, coffee, and juice before our visit. Our bike tour guide had warned us of some of the tricks different people play to get money out of tourists: men from Africa wrapping strings around your wrists when you’re not looking and telling you that you have to pay for the bracelet and then asking, “Why you not happy?” or the groups of gypsy girls with pizza boxes getting your attention by saying they need your signature for a social cause while another girl snatches your phone or wallet from the other side. It’s all part of the traveling experience. Before we walked into the church, we overheard a man heatedly explaining “why he wasn’t happy.” The church was beautifully ornate inside – like so many old churches in Europe – and we decided to pay a few Euro to climb the 90 steps to the top of the tower to have a day-view of Paris. It was worth it. What we had missed the night before from the Eiffel Tower, we got from Sacre Coeur. We climbed back down after getting our fill (commenting on getting back in shape as we went) and ventured on to get some amazing street crepes (mine was chocolate and banana). Then went shoe shopping so I’d have something to wear with the dress Steph loaned me for the Moulin Rouge show that night. After having shoe succes, getting eye make-up done at Mac, and eating a snack at McDonald’s (what can I say, we got desperate), we took an Uber to our crazy dinner show where the tables were so close together, we could hardly get to our seat. We ate, attempted to chat with the two men from Uruguay next to us, and then watched as the craziness began. I hadn’t checked to see what kind of show it was. Steph had booked a single ticket through a travel agent, and we thought it would be fun to go together. Neither of us had any idea what to expect. Balancing acts, comedy acts, musical acts, a woman swimming with pythons, sequence, gems, feathers, lights, and yes, tastefully topless dancers (we were in France afterall), paraded across the stage for two hours performing. I watched amazed as a man with his feet strapped to the seat of a chair and knees bent over the top of the chair rested with his head against the floor while balancing his standing partner in his hands, arms straight above him. Then, he did the most amazing sit-up, still balancing her, and stood up in the seat of the chair himself. I had no words. There are things in life that I will only be able to appreciate and never be able to do. Buzzing from the show, we went for drinks to finish the night and made plans to visit the Louvre the following day, Steph’s last in Paris.

We met at the Lion entrance on the garden side of the Louvre to avoid the big lines at the pyramid entrance (our bike tour guide told us this little secret). Within 15 minutes we were in the museum and taking selfies (it’s pretty much required) with the famous Mona Lisa. We meandered a bit more through the many hallways, and then Steph decided she would rather spend time by the river for her last few hours. We left and caught an amazing free fashion/art exhibit (Dans L’Oeil du Flâneur: Hermès) and had crepes by the river. Then I sadly bid my new friend good bye so she could catch her flight home, and I went back to the Louvre to see more of the place and do some writing. The Louvre itself easily overwhelms the unsuspecting tourist. The maze of hallways and stairwells can lead to endless circles for the directionally impaired (that would be me) and the art without explanation becomes a cacophony of visual noise. I had to choose a few pieces to sit and admire to really appreciate the experience. I closed the evening by wandering the city and eating vietnamese pho in the opera district. The restaurant owner generously refilled the hot water in my tea pot several times after I had finished my meal but continued occupying the spot to do a couple hours of writing in this city of artists. I also thought about the next day and how I would be traveling to Amsterdam to meet with my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher from Germany. But to Paris, I would soon return.