Weekend 8: Amsterdam & Brussels

So not to say this was a failure of a weekend, but it was riddled with bad weather and poor planning. However, it was so wonderful to get out of Paris and experience completely new places and I’m so glad we went.

Shelby and I getting psyched for the weekend on the Megabus!

Shelby and I getting psyched for the weekend on the Megabus!

Thursday we got on the night bus at 11:30 PM heading to Amsterdam. The company we used was Megabus, which actually is in Europe as well as the US. You can’t beat 12 euros to get from Paris to Amsterdam, even if it takes 8 hours. The bus ride really wasn’t that bad. There was Wifi but we couldn’t get it to work. There were even plugs (but I didn’t have the right adapter). Other than being squished in a tiny space for 8 hours, which is pretty unavoidable on a bus, it was tolerable. I slept on and off the whole night. The bus does stop fairly often, which accounts for why it takes so long. Still, if you want to travel for cheap in Europe I highly recommend it!

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Amsterdam Centraal Station

We arrived in Amsterdam at 7:00 AM on Friday. We were half sleepy, half really excited. We had no idea where to go or start. Our phones were almost dead. We were also really hungry and thirsty. I mentioned before that we were lucky enough to be able to stay with Dov’s brother, Matt, who lives in Amsterdam. However, his family was very busy this weekend, so we couldn’t meet him to get keys to their apartment until 5:30 PM on Friday. So we basically had the entire day to roam the city before being able to settle in with our things, rest, shower, etc.

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Being so early (and also not light out) nothing was open yet. We wandered around the Centraal Station trying to find a map. The best we could find was for a tour bus company, so it was kind of biased because it highlighted the sites they showed on their tour. We couldn’t find any kind of map on their public transportation system, which includes trams, buses, and a metro. We decided to start walking outside straight from the station. It was actually pretty cool to see everything so early in the morning as the sun was rising. We began to get re-energized with excitement.

Fast food is everywhere. They even have Burger King! Also that hotel name.

Fast food is everywhere. They even have Burger King! Also that hotel name.

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I used the last bit of battery power on my phone to find a place for breakfast that I had heard good things about called the Pancake Bakery. It didn’t open until 9:00 AM so we continued to wander around the area until then. We found out the Anne Frank house was right down the street from it. This is when it started to rain. We both had little umbrellas, but we were soon pretty wet. We picked a bench to sit on until the Pancake Bakery opened.

A creative french fry stand.

A creative french fry stand.

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Anne Frank statue

Anne Frank statue

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Hobbit Houseboat!! My new dream home.

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We were so early that we were the only customers. Man was it an amazing breakfast, though! We both got hot chocolate and Dutch pancakes, which I liked even more than crepes. It was amazing, but sadly almost immediately after eating I had some bad stomach pains. The entire rest of the weekend I had bad stomach problems. For some reason my stomach has been really sensitive this time in Europe (remember when I first came to Paris?). When I did the exchange program to Germany 5 years ago, I never had any problems like I have had this time.

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Apple-banana pancake. It was incredible.

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Hot chocolate with a Stroopwaffel! I love Stroopwaffels. I got a package of them that I hope lasts until I get back to the US…

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Shelby cheesin’ at the Pancake Bakery.

Anyway, we planned on going to the Anne Frank house after we ate since it was right down the street and it’s infamous for having an incredibly long line. It wasn’t even open yet so we would be among some of the first inside. It turns out the museum has no coat/bag check, and seeing as we both had our bags with us, we realized we would have to walk all the way back to the Centraal Station to put our things in a locker for the day before being able to do anything else. We trudged back through the now pouring rain to the station. By the time we got there my little suitcase was soaked through. By the time we got back to the Anne Frank house, the line was super long and we didn’t want to stand in the rain so we decided to go to the Van Gogh Museum instead.

We ended up spending a ton of time staring at the map, unable to find it. Eventually we found a tram map and were able to find where it was, but we really could not figure out how the tram system worked. We’ve been spoiled by Paris’ Metro system and the ease and frequency of maps! We took a wild guess and got on a tram.

Luckily, we picked the right direction AND the particular tram we were on was announcing what sites were at each stop. We got off to find that this area had several museums and the “I Amsterdam” letters. Since it was pouring, no one was climbing on them. We got in line for what we thought was the Van Gogh Museum, only to realize after at least a half hour that it was actually the Rijksmuseum. So we got out of line and got in line for our Van Gogh tickets. They sell them for advanced times, so we got ours for 1:00 PM and then went over to the museum to do more -gasp- waiting in line. Keep in mind, all while it was pouring!

At this point we were also really cold. I was losing feeling in my feet. I was still extremely thirsty, as I had not found a place to refill my water bottle (water fountains don’t exist in Europe for some reason). After a lot of waiting, we finally got in! The museum is one I definitely would recommend. Despite my extremely tired, wet, cold state, I still had it in me to appreciate some art.

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The Potato Eaters

One of his sketches I really liked.

One of his sketches I really liked.

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

White frames!

White frames!

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

Flowering Plumtree

Flowering Plumtree

After the museum we were so ready to just collapse, but we still had around 2 hours before we were going to meet Matt. We got some food and then I somehow managed to navigate us on the trams back to the Centraal Station so that we could get our luggage out of the lockers, and then from there to where we were staying with Matt. I honestly could not tell you how I figured it out. I think it was a string of lucky guesses.

We had great timing, because as soon as we stood in front of their apartment building, unsure of which was theirs, Matt’s wife Frances walked up with their dog, Starr, and let us in. We were finally able to sit down and drink some much-needed glasses of water. We talked with Matt and Frances for a while, who told us some interesting things about living there. For instance, as we had noticed, the Dutch love to speak English to the point that Matt (not a native Dutch-speaker) said his Dutch is not good because he speaks English at home, work, and people speak it socially as well. Just one of the many differences between Amsterdam and Paris! We went up to our rooms to settle in while they ordered “New York Style” pizza. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep. Once the pizza arrived, we sat watching “The Big Bang Theory” while silently devouring our pizza. Afterwards we went upstairs and it wasn’t long until we were passed out.

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This leads up to the roof!

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View across the street.

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Our new little friend.

Saturday morning we planned to start with the Anne Frank house. We took some time getting ready, showering (for the first time since Thursday) and eating our leftover pizza from the night before for breakfast. Then I used my freshly charged phone to figure out how to get there. We had to wait in line, but it was actually not raining so it was pretty nice. We waited around an hour and a half, which really wasn’t that bad.

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I’ve never seen a cat sleep like this in real life!

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Awesome bench made from books

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You can really see how crooked the buildings are!

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Photography is not allowed in the museum, and understandably so, I think. The building looks modern on the outside, as it is built around the original building of Oscar Frank’s office and the Secret Annex. He requested that the rooms be left unfurnished, so to keep it interesting and informative they are filled with photographs, quotes from Anne’s diary, and short video interviews. It was really amazing seeing the actual space where she wrote her now-famous diary. It has probably been almost a decade since I’ve read it, but now I really want to read it again. What I found both amazing and tragic about all of it was that she dreamed of being a published author, and as a result of her situation she achieved just that, but it also resulted in her death. Also, she was so mature and intelligent for her age! I was amazed at the amount of surviving photographs they had of everyone and everything from that time. It works really well with the museum. At the end, the museum has her actual diary along with pages of her writings and the draft of her book. I highly recommend going to the Anne Frank House, even if it means standing in line! You can get tickets ahead of time online, so if you can you should do that.

The side of the Anne Frank House. The top part is actually apartments that are probably super expensive.

The side of the Anne Frank House. The top part is actually apartments that are probably super expensive.

Afterwards we ate in the museum cafe. Shelby got hot chocolate, which looked great. She said it was the best she had all weekend, and she had maybe 4 or 5 hot chocolates from Amsterdam to Belgium! One thing I’ve noticed in Europe is that unlike in the US, museum cafes are not outrageously expensive and they are usually good quality. So, consider fitting them into your eating plans when traveling, since they’re also very convenient and have free bathrooms and indoor seating.

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We passed this pink car so many times.

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After the Anne Frank House I wanted to go inside the Nieuwe Kerk (seen above). However, they’re having a Chinese exhibition throughout the church so they were charging 15 euros to get in. I decided to just stick with peeking around from the entrance. Next, Shelby wanted to do a little souvenir shopping, and we also stopped in at H&M because I had been wearing the same long-sleeved shirt I got in Paris, and after living in it for 2 days straight (including sleep) I figured I should just get another. I also got another sweater, a blazer (the staple of Parisian fashion for men and women), and a cat dress, because you can’t have too many cat dresses! Shelby needed to get souvenirs for a lot of her family so we spent a while in the many souvenir shops near the Centraal Station. I ended up getting some souvenirs as well, the first I’ve gotten since coming to Europe. I have a lot to get considering I’m missing several birthdays while I’m here, and then I come back to the US just in time for Christmas. During this time we also got fries, although this afternoon was when I was also experiencing my worst stomach pains.

Fries! In Amsterdam!

Fries! In Amsterdam!

After shopping we decided to go to the Rijksmuseum, which I really wanted to go to after realizing what it contained. However, by the time we got there, everything was closing, it was practically dark, and it started raining again. Mind you I don’t think it was even 6:00 PM. On a Saturday. I’ve been in Europe almost 2 months now and I still can’t get used to their hours! We were pretty disappointed, but there was nothing for us to do at that point except go back to Matt’s. We dropped off our bags and relaxed a bit before deciding to go out to eat at this Mexican place I looked up. It turned out to be amazing! It’s called Los Pilones, and they have three locations in Amsterdam, so if you’re ever there I highly recommend it!

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I really like this photo 🙂

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At least we got there in time to see the letters just as it started to rain!

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum

Mango margarita that was basically a slushie [=

Mango margarita- my first ever!

After the deliciously satisfying amazingness that is Mexican food, we headed back and packed our things to be ready for our early morning. Little did we know how wrong it would go! I woke up at 6:00 AM which I figured would give us plenty of time to get to the bus station for our 8:00 AM departure to Brussels. We were taking a different company (Eurolines), but I didn’t think it would be that different from Megabus. We left a little before 7:00 AM and waited at the night bus station for a while. Then, a woman came up to us and explained that there was a sign posted (in Dutch) saying that particular bus wasn’t running this weekend. So, we had to take the tram, which I originally avoided because it didn’t go directly to the Centraal Station. We got off at a stop to transfer to another night bus, only to realize that one wasn’t coming either. At this point we were getting worried that we would miss our bus, so we just got in a taxi that took us to the Centraal Station. Once we were there, we grabbed some croissants and then took the metro to the Eurolines bus stop. We arrived right before 8:00 but with enough time that I wasn’t worried. That is, until I saw that there was a line coming out of the station, and unlike with Megabus where you can walk right onto the bus, you have to check in at a counter to get your ticket before getting on the bus. We probably could have butted ahead, but we didn’t think of it, and we watched our bus drive off without us. Once we finally got to the front of the line we had to pay 8 euros more each to get on the next bus at 9:00 AM. It wasn’t that bad, but we would be losing an hour in Brussels, and our originally tickets cost about 8-9 euros, so we were paying double.

The Eurolines bus was not nearly as nice as the Megabus, despite having TVs. The bathroom was completely not functional, and the bus seats weren’t as comfortable. I stared at the bouncing, color-changing DVD symbol on the TV screen until I fell asleep. It poured the entire bus ride, but by the time we got to Brussels I was hopeful it wouldn’t rain too much. We arrived around 11:30 AM. Determined not to make the mistakes we made in Amsterdam, our first priority after getting off the bus was to put our things in a locker. Then, I found an ATM (I ran out of cash the day before), and proudly used some French to get day passes for the public transportation and maps of both the city and the metro system. Off to a far better start than Amsterdam AND having a working phone with Google Maps, we headed down to the Metro towards Brussels’ Grand Place. The Metro there is very similar to Paris’, and is actually in some ways nicer, though it’s probably also newer. It is somehow really calm and clean.

The Grand Place in Brussels really caught us off guard. We approached it from a tiny side street, and as we walked further in, we incrementally kept saying “woah” as we noticed more and more of what was there. We spent a while kind of spinning around and staring at all the buildings. Then it started raining. It was a different rain than what we had in Amsterdam. The drops were less frequent, but heavier. There was also a nice, strong wind accompanying it.

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We were really hungry, so our first priority was getting some genuine Belgian waffles. We picked a place on the Grand Place and ordered the most extravagant waffles possible, along with hot chocolate. We had to wait quite a while which was sort of frustrating since we only had a few hours, but it gave us time to plan out and prioritize what we wanted to do. Once the waffles arrived, we were not disappointed. They were pretty much the best thing I’ve eaten since coming to Europe!

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Devoured!

After that, we stopped in a few shops along the Place and each got these awesome Magritte butter cookie tins. Then we headed to our first destination, the Mannekin Pis fountain. It’s just a statue of a little boy peeing, but for some reason it’s one of the most iconic things in Brussels, so we felt like we needed to see it. Ta-da.

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Then, we headed to the Horta House Museum. It’s kind of on the outskirts of the city in a not-as-nice area, and only 45 people are allowed in at a time, so we got to do our favorite activity of the weekend: standing in line in the rain. I didn’t mind because I was so excited. Once we were inside, we had to check everything we had on us. No photographs were allowed, but once inside you have completely free roam of the house. It was incredible. If we had more time, I would go to every location that he designed in Brussels. They gave us a little brochure of everywhere in the city; there are so many locations!

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The outside of the Horta House Museum

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The door knocker

After the Horta House we went back towards the city center to the Musee Magritte. This museum requires you to get tickets for a certain time, like the Van Gogh Museum, and also does not allow photography. It’s a really interesting museum, though. They don’t have most of his super-well known paintings (they’re probably in America) but the museum is laid out in chronological order of his entire career, so you get to see tons of his lesser-known works, sketches, writings, drawings, and photographs. I especially liked seeing his “Exquisite Corpse” drawings, as well as the evolution of his repeated imagery. For instance, in the first room he already was using pipe imagery and similar ideas to his Treachery of Images work, but it wasn’t until the last room that apples started showing up.

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After Magritte we only had enough time to head back towards the station and get something to eat (waffles again, but quick ones on the street), grabbed our bags, and got some fries.

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We wanted to get to the bus with plenty of time to check in to avoid the morning’s mistake. Of course there was no line and we waited a while, but we got on our bus at 6:30 PM without a problem. We were back in Paris around 10:30 PM and I was home sometime after 11. I then got to stay up until after 1:00 AM finishing homework. Yay.

So to conclude all of this, you can tell that there were several major problems encountered during this trip. The weather was out of our control, but we definitely could have planned ahead much better. We did more things in 5 hours in Brussels than we did in two days in Amsterdam. I just see it as an excuse to go back some day! Despite all of that, it was so refreshing to go somewhere that was basically the opposite of Paris. Paris is full of amazing things related to art and history, but honestly I do not identify with the French lifestyle at all. Amsterdam, on the other, hand is much more my pace of life. It was so fun to observe how people live there. For instance, bikes are definitely the number one transportation method. I saw every type of bike and bike attachment possible. The Dutch are pros, and they continued to ride around in the pouring rain, sometimes while holding umbrellas!

I also really, really have a strong attraction to Belgium. It is the perfect combination of France and The Netherlands. I would love to spend more time there and there are so many cities I want to explore. I am seriously considering figuring out a day trip to Bruges, even though I am so pressed for time here. I also took some of my favorite photographs during this weekend, even though due to the rain and all the museums not allowing photography I only took a total of around 120 photographs. Crazy, right?!

Day 5: Avignon

The key to our hotel room in Arles!

The key to our hotel room in Arles!

We woke up early to check out of our hotel in Arles and get to Avignon with plenty  time to eat breakfast and explore the Palais de Papes as soon as it opened. We only had until my train left at 1:00 PM, so we picked the Palais as our main focus for the few morning hours we would have in Avignon.

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The Palais was much bigger in person than I thought it would be.

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The building itself is basically a giant, empty stone palace. To make it more of a tourist attraction, they have filled it with screens showing little videos explaining the history of each room and its purpose. All of the rooms with intact frescoes were not allowed to be photographed, so most of the photos I have are of empty stone rooms. Still, it was awesome how much of it was original. Some of the wood beams in the ceilings were still there; that’s wood from the 14th century!

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They also have some artifacts relating to the Palais and events that happened inside of it. I thought this was pretty cool.

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“Skull of a man killed by a crossbow bolt.”

There was also a room that only the popes could access where they kept their money under secret stones in the floor. They are now covered in glass, but there’s an empty space in the side and people have thrown in lots of their own money:

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More of the Palais:

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The kitchen:

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It was really difficult to accurately depict what this is, but in the kitchen they have this giant tower that they would build fires under. It was huge!

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The view out one of the windows:

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There were also some rooms housing sculptures and religious art from the time:

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The next rooms were all being used to house a contemporary art exhibition titles “Les Papesses” featuring work from female artists Camille Claudel, Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Jana Sterbak, and Berlinde de Bruyckere. The sculptural pieces were beautifully interwoven within the large, stone palace and spread throughout the rest of our tour until the end. There was also a very excellent documentary featuring Louise Bourgeois that we sat and watched for quite a while.

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Camile Claudel

Camile Claudel

One of the largest spaces for the exhibition.

One of the largest spaces for the exhibition.

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Berlinde de Bruyckere

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

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Kiki Smith

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Unsure…

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After several hours at the Palais, it was time for me to head back to Paris. I had an amazing few days in Provence and I am so glad I had this opportunity! My favorite city by far was Arles. I would love to go back there if I have the chance. I definitely recommend it, though I would like to go back to all the places that I visited!

Day 4: Arles, Part II & Saintes Maries de la Mer

So I actually stopped the last post in the middle of exploring the St. Trophime cloister…

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We then went to the top of the cloister which had a beautiful view of the rooftops and looking down into the center of the cloister.

Arles2_46smal Arles2_47small Arles2_48smallI think I also have a thing for beautiful stained glass. Who wouldn't?!

I think I also have a thing for beautiful stained glass. Who wouldn’t?!

Next, we headed out to get something to eat. This was the first day my stomach felt normal since I arrived in France, but for some reason I was still pretty full from breakfast. So, I just shared with my aunt. Of course, we each still had to get deserts and try them!

Across the street from where we ate.

Across the street from where we ate.The meal I shared with my aunt. So good!!The meal I shared with my aunt. So good!!My desert: a strawberry tarte!My desert: a strawberry tarte!

After lunch we went across the street to the Theatre Antique, the ruins of an ancient Roman theater, where they were having Gladiator reenactments. The introduction was this guy speaking in French for at least a half hour, I assume explaining the history and strategy behind the fights, so we didn’t get any of that. But it was still pretty entertaining!

 I wonder if they have concerts here?I wonder if they have concerts here? The first fight..Arles2_58small Arles2_60small

After the gladiator fight we went over to the Amphitheatre, the restored ruins of a giant arena they now use for bull fighting.Arles2_61small Arles2_63small

Arles2_62small Arles2_64small  Arles2_66smallArles2_67small Arles2_65smallRooftop view from the Amphitheatre.

Rooftop view from the Amphitheatre.

At this point we were pretty tired, but it was still way too early in the day to just go back to our hotel. So, we decided to wander back and then drive somewhere else to give our feet a break.

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On the way, we stopped at a few marked sites where van Gogh had painted. I didn’t photograph any of them because they don’t look the same anymore, but there was one that caught my attention.

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The Trinquetaille Bridge – Arles, November 1888, Oil on canvas

The bridge is modern and the road is paved, but other than that this scene looks almost exactly the same now. Except that the sapling he painted over a century ago is now a giant tree! I thought that was so cool.

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Our hotel in Arles.

After we got back to our hotel and freshened up, we decided to drive down to Saintes Maries de la Mer, the Mediterranean beach capital of Camargue, a wetland region south of Arles.

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We stopped at one of the many horse farms along the way.

They have dog bathrooms everywhere so they don't go on the beach!

They have dog bathrooms everywhere so they don’t go on the beach!

Once we got there, we just started exploring. We decided it was like the French equivalent of the Jersey shore. If I were French, I would definitely go here every summer!

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There is an old church in the center of the city, which you can climb to the top of and stand on the roof to get a magnificent panoramic view of the town. It was a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth it!

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Saying hello to Chris!

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Aunt butt.

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The French people were a little unnerved, too.

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We then stopped to eat at a Brasserie with live Spanish guitar players singing. It was yummy!

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That heart/anchor/cross/bull poker is the symbol for Camargue. I love it! After we ate, it was time to head back to Arles.

A local Patisserie we passed.

A local Patisserie we passed.

The sunset as we were leaving.

The sunset as we were leaving.

Once we got back to Arles, it was time to sleep! We were getting up early the next morning to go to Avignon, which will be my next post!

Day 4: Arles, Part I

Our hotel lobby in the morning.

Our hotel lobby in the morning.IMG_20130822_223915We started the day early with breakfast at the hotel, then headed across the river into town.

Crossing the bridge again.

Crossing the bridge again.Arles2_3smallGraffiti on the bridgeGraffiti on the bridge

We followed our maps and our noses through the streets.

The old buildings are so amazing. It’s crazy to me that these are part of people’s every day lives, and they’re older than most structures in the US!

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There are also a ton of incredible doors.

There are also a ton of incredible doors.

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We then arrived at the Place de la Republique, which joins the Obelisque d’Arles, Arles town hall, Chapelle Sainte-Anne, and St. Trophime.

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We then entered St. Trophime, which was absolutely amazing. I think I have a thing for cathedrals, seeing as one of my favorite things I saw in Germany was the Kölner Dom.

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After St. Trophime, we went across the Place to Chapelle Saint-Anne, inside of which was part of the current-running photography festival. This yearly festival turns the entire city into a gallery. Each space features a different photographer. Since we were only there for one day, we decided to just go into this exhibition. It was an excellent show featuring Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain. We also bought some merchandise for the festival; I got two posters.

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The exhibition space.

One of the posters I got.

One of the posters I got.

We then headed outside across the Place again, this time to the St. Trophime Cloister. You have to buy a ticket to see it, but it’s worth it because the proceeds go towards the intense restoration they are currently doing!

This guy was out on the Place playing stereotypical French songs on the accordion for quite a while!

This guy was out on the Place playing stereotypical French songs on the accordion for quite a while!

Passed while entering the cloister.

Passed while entering the cloister.The cloisterThe cloisterArles2_37smallA beautiful stained glass window in the cloister.A beautiful stained glass window in the cloister.Arles2_39smallArles2_41small

Now I realize this is an incredibly long, image-heavy post, but I’m only half way through our day! So, I’m going to split it into two posts. Yeah, it was a really long day. I also didn’t put all of my photos up on here, so I think I’ll put them on Facebook, too! Arles, Part II will be coming soon.

Day 2: Exploration

I started off my morning with a mini panic attack because I realized I would need to take the metro to the TGV station at 6:00AM the next morning. Before coming to Paris, I thought my excitement would always be greater than any fears I had about suddenly throwing myself into a strange new culture, but in this moment that was proven wrong. Anne helpfully drove me to the closest metro station so that I could see where it was and buy tickets. Once I got back and stopped freaking out, I realized the only way to reassure myself was to go ahead and use the metro. I picked the Eiffel Tower as my destination and set off. (All the following photos were taken with my phone)

It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. I soon got off at the station and headed in the direction I thought the Eiffel Tower was in. Pretty soon I realized I was wrong, but I kept going anyways.

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If I were rich, I would eat here.

I ended up on the Left Bank of the Seine, and started following it. Immediately as I went down to the bank, there was this awesome floating greenhouse/garden that followed along the river for quite a while.

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I walked along the Seine until I passed the Pont des Invalides and then arrived at the famous Pont Alexandre III, the most ornate bridge in Paris. (This is where I started taking panoramas with my phone and they get a bit funky…)

Pont des Invalides

Pont des Invalides

Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III

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Pont Alexandre III

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Stairs up to le Pont Alexandre III

I then wandered across the bridge to the other bank…

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La statue de La Fayette

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La statue de La Fayette

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La statue de La Fayette

From across the water I saw this giant domed building which turned out to be the Alexandre III Grand Palais. I need to get inside it somehow, but it’s super fancy.

Alexadre III Grand Palais

Alexadre III Grand Palais

Across the street is the Musee des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, which I will have to visit again.

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Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

I kept on walking through a park, which was of course beautiful. These flowers made me think of a painting, as does everything else in Paris!

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I then realized I was probably close to the Louvre, so I looked it up on my phone (Yay apps! They have been awesome so far) and started heading in that direction. I came across the great Egyptian Luxor Obelisque in the Place de la Concorde, which is in front of the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens that lead up to the Louvre.

Luxor Obelisque

Luxor Obelisque

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And of course the amazing Fontaines de la Concorde. Coming from the City of Fountains, this kind of puts Kansas City to shame…

Fontaines de la Concorde

Fontaines de la Concorde

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Fontaines de la Concorde

Fontaines de la Concorde

The Two Towers

The Two Towers

I then headed into the Tuileries Gardens, which has lots of beautiful sculptures that each have a unique personality!

Librarie des jardins

Librarie des jardins

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The Pit Smeller

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At lest your day is going better than this guy’s…

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They missed the last ferris wheel ride.

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I also made my first purchase in Paris… Banana Sorbet shaped like a rose!

Yummy

Yummy

Then it was time to finally see the Louvre!

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Funky panorama

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Taking a selfie in front of the Louvre is harder than it looks…

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I thought it was funny how on either side of the pyramids there are things to stand on so it looks like you're touching the tip of the pyramid. Oookay.

I thought it was funny how on either side of the pyramids there are things to stand on so it looks like you’re touching the tip of the pyramid. Oookay.

The museum was closed today, and I actually did not intend to go in anyways, so I just kept wandering around.

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A sculpture in one of the courtyards.

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Through some windows, you can see people installing something!

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By this point I was pretty tired (I don’t even know how many miles I walked or for how many hours) so I figured I should get something to eat. I exited the Louvre through the side and crossed the street, seeing this metro immediately.

Art Nouveau Metro!

Art Nouveau Metro!

Being a super huge Art Nouveau enthusiast, I was really happy to stumble upon this metro station on my first full day in Paris. I kept wandering down the street, which is pretty much all touristy shops. I stopped to get a panini and then kept walking, trying to find a place to rest and eat it.

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This panini was way huger than it looks.

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La Madeleine

This church had caught my eye earlier, so I decided to head down to it and eat in the shade on its steps. Once I had eaten enough, I retraced my steps all the way back to the original metro station I came from and headed back to my new Parisian home. Of course, once I got out of the metro I got lost for a little bit, but I eventually found my way back.

Tomorrow I have to get up at 5AM to leave at 6AM to make sure I get to my 7:37AM TGV train to Avignon. I’m still a little nervous, but after all of my exploring today the excitement is definitely back. I still have to pack, so I’m going to do that and then go to sleep. Bon nuit!

Day 1: Culture Shock

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My first day in Paris was, well, I guess what you would expect it to be for someone who spent from 3:00PM Eastern US time to 3:00PM Paris time traveling to get there. I had a flight from Newark to Oslo on which I slept maybe two hours. I then spent a lot of time wandering around the Oslo airport (which looks like it was designed by IKEA) being really confused because they don’t post the gate to your flight until the plane arrives. Once I finally boarded the flight to Paris, my brain was melting from all the Norwegian/German/French/Swedish?/Everything I’d been hearing since I left Newark, and I began to realize what it must feel like for someone who doesn’t speak English to come to America (it’s not fun). Once I finally got to the CDG airport in Paris, I spent almost another hour trying to find my shuttle bus and avoiding the creepy fake taxi drivers that hang around the exit area. The combination of my exhaustion, thirst, lack of food other than airplane food, and culture shock got a little bit intense by the time I actually entered the city of Paris. On the way to my new Parisian home, I passed the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, and then it really hit me. I still can’t really fathom how I got here in the first place.

I spent the rest of my first day getting acquainted with my new home and the woman to whom it belongs; Madame Anne Zeller. She speaks about as much English as I do French, but we’ve managed to communicate pretty well so far. She showed me how everything works and I tried to explain to her what I do and don’t eat. So far, I’ve learned that she lived in Madagascar for 17 years and because of that she eats a lot of rice. I’m looking forward to learning more about her as my French gets better.

Now I’m going to sleep since I have definitely been awake for over 24 hours. My future posts will be more photos and less words!