Don't Wish for Less Problems, Wish for More Skills.

- Jim Rohn

Monday, January 25, 2010

Paris! Day 3

The final day of Paris was not as momentous as the other two, mainly because we all felt extremely drained from the past two days. We ventured to Sacre Coeur, which was built of top of a hill overlooking the entire city. The weather was not on our side, though. We were not able to see much passed the end of Montmartre. We passed by musicians and merchants enjoying the European feel of the district of Montmartre. The area is known for its past appeal for arts like music and literature, but has recently become less and less clustered with artists. Sacre Coeur was an interesting trip. We walked through the cathedral passing by small chapels and amazing sculptures.

We then walked along a busy street which led us directly passed Moulin Rouge and the like. We only quickly snapped pictures of the red windmill before leaving to go back to the catacombs. We were able to enter the catacombs this time. It was more spooky than anything else. I was very puzzled and amazed by the detail that the French put into the catacombs.

We enjoyed a great lunch/dinner afterwards at a cafe called Indiana near the catacombs. We enjoyed burgers while a french magician put on a show for us. We all felt rested and set for another round of sightseeing, but were unfortunately too tight on time. We got on our bus and made it back to Brussels. Along the way I got to know a little bit more about one of my roommates, Thomas, as well as a man from the Turkish side of Cyprus. It was one of those small world experiences to talk to an American on one side and a Turk on the other in three different languages French, English, and Turkish. I got to learn more about the island of Cyprus, and we shared our views on recent politics.

Paris! Day 2

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On the second day, we as a group had a late start. Don't get me wrong, I still woke up early, but some of the others were hibernating. Thomas McGuire and myself walked along the canal trying to find a place to have breakfast. It took us awhile, but we found a patisserie that we liked. We enjoyed a few French wonders. He had a chocolate croissant and a lemon tart, and I had a chocolate croissant along with an almond pie of some sort. We ate along the canal watching locals row up and down the canal. It didn't fill our American needs, but satisfied us enough.

We eventually woke everyone up and had more to eat. We went to a middle eastern restaurant that served us chicken in a variety of different ways. Afterwards, we took the metro to Notre Dame. When we first arrived we stopped to take some pictures from the outside. We apparently showed up at the wrong time. A huge crowd of gypsy women started yelling and fighting each other. We, as tourists, really did not expect to see such an event. We walked into the cathedral with little worry about the attacks that were happening outside. It was quite an amazing experience. I sat down before doing anything "touristy", and enjoyed some peaceful prayer. Notre Dame is an enormous cathedral, detailed with ornate carvings, frescoes, and gold leaf. It was a marvel to think that humans so long ago had such mastered skills to create Notre Dame. I walked around the entire cathedral with my jaw basically dragging because I was so amazed.

The group then walked down small back streets of Paris to get to the Pantheon. The main level is draped with paintings or frescoes that stood about fifty feet tall. We then went into the crypt and saw the burial grounds of Rousseau, Voltaire, and many other important figures in France's history.

The day quickly went by, and led to some unfortunate events of luck. We walked about forty minutes to the catacombs, but arrived twenty minutes past when it closed. We then took the metro to the Eiffel Tower, and try to climb up the monument. We were met with another closed sign because the stairs close earlier than the elevator. We then stood in line for the elevator for an hour only to find out the top of the tower is not open for a couple more months, go figure?

I ended my day at that point, while the rest of the crew tried to enjoy the nightlife. When I woke up the next morning I found out that they had run into more bad luck trying to get in to a club. I guess Saturday was not our day in Paris...

Paris! Day 1


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This past weekend, I was able to visit the city of light, Paris. It was an amazing experience. I journeyed to Paris by bus with seven others (my roommates and four other friends). We made it to our hostel at around midnight after a confusing debacle with the euroline attendant and the metro ticket machine. I was feeling a little under the weather, but relieved to have been able to make it to Paris. The eight of us were the only users of our room, which was nice because of our unusual sleeping pattern, our sicknesses, and our American ways. The hostel itself was awesome. It was called St. Christopher's Paris Hostel. St. Christopher's was my first hostel experience, and I feel like it set the bar pretty high. The people there were very nice. I met three Brazilians as well as one Argentinian.

The next morning, I woke up early in excitement. I got everyone else up, and we all enjoyed a free breakfast at our hostel. We had made plans to go on a walking tour through the hostel, but did not make it to the meeting spot in time. We decided to go to L'Arc de Triumphe, which is on the west side of the north bank of the Seine. I climbed to the top only to be met with the best views of the city I had the entire trip. After that the group walked down aux Champs Elysees, sampling the local fare (crepes), as well as stopping at a couple shops. We found ourselves meandering towards the Louvre. After a stop in one of Paris's famous gardens, we decided to venture the great expanses of the Louvre. We marched strong through the first few exhibits, but grew increasingly tired as we progressed through more. My favorite exhibits were the Egyptian relics, as well as the Greek sculptures. I got a chance to see the Mona Lisa, as well as many other insane paintings.


We left the Louvre right around six o'clock feeling drained and hungry. We walked across the Seine onto the south bank of the river. We zigzagged our way towards the Eiffel Tower. We took many photos from the base, but didn't venture to the top. The craziest thing about the monument wasn't the size, or the lights, but rather how irritating the African merchants trying to sell cheap figurines of the Eiffel Tower. We brushed through the crowds and found an empty cafe not far from the tower to enjoy pasta and pizza. I had made it the entire day without complaint, until we got to dinner. I had been taking an extremely large amount of medicine the entire day, and I started to feel it at dinner. We ate and enjoyed people watching from our warm seats for awhile before heading back to our hostel. I decided I needed to go to bed because I was sick, while the rest of the crew went out to enjoy the nightlife.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Walking Through The City

On Sunday, I walked through the city with a couple friends. We started off at a market very much like a flea market in a district called Schuman. We spent some time checking out the local market, then decided to walk around the city and experience the everyday life of a Belgian. We walked on lonely streets, and through parks, and found some amazing architecture including the EU Parliament.


The Tour of the City

Last week, the CUBC group walked around Brussels. We started at the CUBC building and went to a district called Saint Katherine, named after a massive church in the heart of the district. Saint Katherine was used as a dock for large boats bringing supplies into the city. The district now is full of restaurants and bars. The area is littered with people at night, but was very quiet when we walked through. We also saw the tour noire in Saint Katherine, as well as a 360 degree view of the city. Here is a picture the main street in Saint Katherine.
After Saint Katherine, we went into the center of town. We passed by the Stock Exchange, le Grand Place, and Butcher Street. Grand Place is a giant square surrounded by guild halls all dating from more that 200 years old. They are all flossed with gold and statues. Butcher Street is the main tourist trap filled with shops, restaurants and bars. We did not spend much time in this area because our guide hates the tourist traps. Here is a picture of Butcher Street.
We finished our tour in the political district of Brussels. We passed by the royal palace, and got a chance to see the outside of many of the Belgian parliament. Here is a picture of the palace.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parc Elisabeth



Here are a few pictures of the nearby park that I have been running in. It is probably a half mile long and about 500 feet wide. It is in the shape of a cross and has the fifth largest catholic basilica in the world on its ground. It looks like Narnia when all the lights are on in between the trees.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The First Weekend: Record Snow

To All,

I've made it through the first weekend in Brussels. A lot has happened, but the most momentous is the record snow in Europe. Ireland got two feet, and we got six inches. Not only is it the first time that it has snowed in Brussels in four years, but it is the most that some locals have seen in almost a decade. I went running last night and saw one individual cross country skiing in the park.

Living in Europe is a big shock. Everything is different. Food, transportation, road signs, etc. I've been loving it all. I've decided to assimilate as much as possible. Luckily, my French has been a luxury. There has been plenty of times where the CUBC group needed to talk with a local, and my french has made me the official translator, haha. I'm starting to really figure my way around the city.

Brussels is an interesting city. I've seen a few tourist landmarks, like the Grand Place, as well as a little of the nightlife. There is so much in the city that I still need to see. The people have been really friendly.

I've gotten to know a few of the students in my program really well. Luckily, my apartment is the biggest, so people seem to meet up here!

Until Later,

NP

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Welcome to Brussels!





Here are a few pictures from my new apartment. There is another bedroom that I didn't include. Happy already!

In Transit!

For the past two days I have been in four different major cities including Detroit, DC, and Brussels. I got a chance to stop by my hometown of McLean. I went to the two houses I lived in, as well as seeing my elementary school. The area has changed a lot. I logged 18 hours in an airplane or airports! Can't wait to settle in Brussels!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Brussels: Here I Come!


So, this Spring, I'm going to study abroad in Brussels, Belgium. I will be there from January to May. The program is a fast track business program. I will be taking a law, finance, public speaking, and a French course. Hopefully I'll be able to travel to Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, France, and of course Belgium. Can't Wait!

The picture above is La Grand Place, the main square in Brussels
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