Thursday morning was spent working. Because my colleague and I spent so much time on site on Wednesday, we thought our efforts would be better spent working from the hotel. That way, we weren’t wasting time driving and we had Wifi connection, which wasn’t available at the site (actually, it was available, but we were unable to connect). We worked from the little café, eating croissants and enjoying the breeze from the open windows, which looked out over the beach. If you have to work, this is the way to do it.
After working through the morning, we headed to Brussels. A and I would spend a couple nights in Brussels and my colleague was planning to head out from Brussels and meet up with a friend in Germany. Brussels was insanely busy. So many people, so much traffic. It was a bit overwhelming at first. We stayed at a hotel that my boss recommend and Holy. Moly. I should have taken photos, but it was the fanciest hotel I had ever seen. Imagine an opulent building, sculptures, and Audis and Mercedes parked out front. I was honestly intimidated walking in. Even President Clinton had stayed there during NATO. Anyway, after getting settled in, A and I headed to Grand Place, which is the main square in Brussels. It was very impressive. After walking around Grand Place for a bit, we headed out in search of a restaurant for lunch. I should mention that restaurants were challenging. Many times menus weren’t in English. People speak French in the southern part of Belgium and Flemmish in the north. Most spoke English, but the menus did not reflect that. We found a great little café and were able to sit outside once again. I absolutely loved all the outside seating and I think America is severely lacking in this department.
On Friday, A and I took the high speed train to Amsterdam. I’ve never seen so many bicycles in my life and each street had a designated bicycle lane. The city was bustling and I found the culture really interesting. The people seemed very friendly. The trend among teens and young adults was very “punk” - think dyed hair, tattoos, skinny jeans and t-shirts. I had fun people watching. We started with a canal tour. It was a great way to see the city and relax. After that, we stopped for lunch. We ate outside again (of course!) and then made our way to the Ice Bar. A and I had a lot of fun drinking beer in glasses made of ice and hanging out at the bar, which was also made of ice (go figure). Afterwards, we walked, and walked, and walked some more. I don’t think I’ve ever walked so much in my life. Once we got away from the extremely busy area near the train station, I enjoyed the city much more. The canals, bridges, and architecture were really pretty. We eventually made our way to the Van Gogh museum. I really liked studying Van Gogh in an art history class and I find his life fascinating. I loved seeing so many of his paintings. We also stopped for frozen yogurt and walked past the Anne Frank house. Then, it was time to catch our train back to Brussels. I have to say, A was amazing at following the map and getting us from place to place. With all the canals and signs in Dutch, he did an amazing job and we had so much fun navigating the city together.
Saturday morning, we said goodbye to Brussels and took the high speed train to Paris. Paris had me completely awestruck. I’ve never seen a more beautiful city. Unfortunately, the people were not very friendly (at least to us). The hotel clerk told us she didn’t know when our room would be ready and directed us to the wrong spot for our tour bus. We attempted to ask a lady working at what appeared to be an information booth if she knew where the tour bus pick up was and she just shook her head. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least. We eventually just walked toward the Eiffel Tower and were so excited to arrive. There, we were finally able to board our tour bus. Traffic was insane and after the fourth stop on the tour, A and I decided to hop off the bus and try to find a place to eat. Everything seemed too pricey or it wasn’t what we were looking for (or we couldn’t read the French menu) so we decided we’d get back on the bus and hop off at a different spot. Only problem was we got on the wrong bus. The yellow line was a different route and didn’t stop at the main sights like the green line did. We were still able to enjoy the beautiful city even if we weren’t seeing the most famous parts. After riding the yellow line for over an hour, we eventually got back on the correct bus only to get stuck in horrendous traffic. We drove past the Louvre and we eventually made it to Notre Dame, which was amazing to see. Both because I’m Catholic and because the architecture was stunning. We walked along the Seine and then boarded the bus for the next stop, which took over an hour again thanks to traffic. We hopped off at the Concorde and walked along Champs de Eliasse (which I cannot pronounce no matter how many times I try). We stopped for chocolate crepes during our walk and they were delicious. We also picked up a couple souvenirs for the boys along the way. We eventually made it to the Arc de Triumph – which I later found out you can actually climb and get an incredible view of the city… darn it!! After that, it was back to the Eiffel Tower to get one more viewing. Paris was simply incredible and I really hope I can return some day and spend more time exploring the city. We finished the day eating pizza at a café and watching the Eiffel Tower illuminate.
It was an incredible trip and an amazing opportunity. I’m so thankful I was able to experience Europe with A. I did miss the boys incredibly and being away any longer would have been really tough, but we knew they were in good hands and received daily updates, which definitely helped. Very, very grateful for our parents taking such good care of our little guys.