European spring break: Part deux

Hey there my loyal readers! We’re over two months into this adventure, and if you’re still with me, I give you my thanks! Last week I said I was thinking about continuing my travels by going to France and Switzerland, and that’s exactly what I have done! Last Wednesday, I took the overnight bus from Swansea to Paris to start part two of my spring break!

I didn’t get to Paris till Thursday evening, so really all I did was get some dinner. My hotel was in the northwestern part of central Paris, and the restaurant I went to didn’t have anyone who spoke great English. However, the food looked good, so I just pointed to the item on the top of the menu and was gonna eat whatever it was. HUGE MISTAKE!! Ask for a translation on your food folks, or else you may end up eating andouillette. What is andouillette you ask? Well it is coarse grained sausage, pork intestines, and the stomach lining of a cow in a casing. Wikipedia’s description of andouillette: “True andouillette is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odor related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellant to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees.” I am not a devotee of andouillette, and was able to get two bites down of the urine flavored dish before I had to give up. The bright side? The bread and wine were delicious.

After sleeping off my first experience with french cuisine, I got up bright and early on Friday ready to take on Paris. To start off, I went to the world renowned Louvre Museum. I could write a whole post on just everything I saw in the Louvre, and I didn’t even see it all in the 4-5 hours I was there. The place was huge and packed with artifacts and artwork. Some of the highlights was of course the Mona Lisa, the Lacemaker, Liberty Leads the People, and Venus de Milo. I personally love museums, and the Louvre was so much fun to spend half a day in!

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The Louvre Museum
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“Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci
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“The Lacemaker” by Johannes Vermeer
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“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix
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“Venus De Milo” by Alexandros of Antioch

After spending most the day at the Louvre, I made the walk over to the famous Notre Dame! Now usually I am taken back by the beauty and magnificence of these historic places, but for some reason Notre Dame cathedral didn’t hit the spot with me. It is a gorgeous building, but I’ve seen prettier churches in my travels. Maybe I don’t truly appreciate Notre Dame because I never wrote the book by Alexander Dumas and haven’t watched the Disney cartoon in so long I can’t even remember it anymore. However, it was still a cool thing to see and check it off of my list!

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Notre Dame Cathedral

By the time I got in and out of the cathedral, most of the attractions were closing up so I started the search for a better dinner than the night before! I walked for an hour, really just taking in the sights before I decided to some more french food. I went safe, and got a delicious soup with some more bread and wine. I took my time enjoying my meal and then went back to my hotel with a happier stomach than the night before! I slept in a little later than expected the next morning, and hurried out towards the Eiffel Tower area to reach the top of Paris! Before going up, I got myself a sandwich and a pastry and ate my lunch under the shadow of the tower. I went to get in line expecting quite the wait, but only had to wait about 20 minutes to take the stairs to the second level. The walk really wasn’t that terrible, and it was cool to be able to look out towards the city the higher you went. After getting to the second floor, I took the elevator all the way to the top and got the full view of Paris!

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The Eiffel Tower
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View from the top of the Eiffel Tower

After descending from the tower, I hopped on the longer train out towards Versailles Palace. Versailles Palace was the home of multiple royal families of France, and is a place worthy of its inhabitants. Fully furnished rooms from the victorian area, hallways lined with crystal chandeliers, and a garden the size of a farm all lead to an incredible acreage. Unfortunately, I showed up a little late and wasn’t granted access to the gardens, so I just took a palace tour.

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Palace of Versailles
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The Hall of Mirrors

After touring the palace, I hung around that area of Paris looking around the shops before stopping for some dinner. I had some delicious chicken and of course, more bread and wine. I then had to take a couple of trains to get back to my apartment, and by the time I got back, I grabbed some pastries from the local bakery and called it a night!

For my last day in Paris, I started off by grabbing some lunch to go and taking it to Montmartre, which is a large hill on the north side of central Paris. I ate my lunch on the hill while reading a book and taking in all of the different street performers. It was quite the relaxing atmosphere, and a nice break from the go, go, go attitude I usually have while traveling.

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Montmartre

After having a relaxing lunch, I took the subway towards the Luxembourg gardens where I got some ice cream and strolled around doing some serious people watching. After enjoying my ice cream, I hopped another subway towards the famous Champs-Elysses road towards the Arc De Triomphe. I did not realize how big the arc was until I got up close and personal with it. It is massive! It also serves as the convergence point for many roads in Paris.

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Luxembourg Gardens
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Arc De Triomphe

After hitting all of the major tourist spots in Paris, I went to find my last meal in this giant city. Luckily for me, the last was the best. Braised duck, roasted potatoes, bread, wine, and creme brulée made for a terrific last meal. With more than a satisfied stomach, I gathered my luggage and hopped on another overnight bus to Zurich, Switzerland.

I got to Switzerland this morning, and have been taken away with the beauty and activity that defines this town. There seem to be more people riding bikes than riding cars, people are running up and down the streets, and I did not see one obese person. Not to mention, the city is situated against a lake at the feet of the Swiss Alps. The mountains, the lake, the medieval churches, and the openness of the city make for the most clean and perfect town I have ever been in. This is the closest to a utopian like city that I have ever experienced. The one downside… everything is ridiculously expensive. None the less, following a walk around the lake this afternoon, I splurged and got some delicious Swiss fondue for dinner.

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The city of Zurich
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The Lake leading towards to Swiss Alps

I’m excited to see what else is in store in the beautiful city, as I hike a nearby hill and take in the culture of it these next two days. Wednesday, I will take another overnight bus to Berlin, Germany where I will stay until I fly back to the U.K. Saturday.

I’ll talk to you all on the other side of my spring break, and I will try and eat all the foods and see all the sights on behalf of all of you! Hopefully I’ll some more great stories for you all then! Until then, cheers my friends!

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