France

Paris: Jardin des Tuileries to Tour Montparnasse (EuroTrip Day 5)

Continuing with my last post of our day trip to Paris from Brussels. After visiting Notre Dame first thing upon our arrival, we made our way to Sainte Chapelle and the Louvre in the afternoon. We still had several hours left before our train left Paris after 9pm. Our only definite plans were tickets to the Catacombs and making our way to the Eiffel Tower. We had opted not to go up the Eiffel Tower on this visit. I had done so back in 2009 with my sister and really enjoyed it, but it seems like the process is more complicated now and requires a bit more planning or waiting forever in line. Brian said he was okay skipping a visit to the top this time as long as he got to at least see it in person. With the end destination of the Eiffel Tower in mind, we first walked through the Jardin des Tuileries.

The Jardin des Tuileries takes it name from the tile factories (Tuileries) that used to sit where the present day garden is. The gardens stretch from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde making it one of the most popular to walk with locals and tourists alike. While initially it was a royal garden, in the 17th century it became one of the first Parisian gardens to become open to the public. It was a beautiful spring day in April when we were there and the gardens were full of people walking, relaxing, and socializing.

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Paris: Sainte Chapelle to the Louvre (EuroTrip Day 5)

Continuing on our adventures during our 12 hour day trip to Paris from Brussels, we ventured from Notre Dame to the famous Sainte Chapelle Chapel. This was something that I had completely missed on my trip back in 2009 with my sister and seeing pictures recently made me regret it instantly. It’s a famous landmark, so not sure how we knew nothing about this back then. I had read about lines being incredibly long to get in at certain times, so a visit here was a question mark for us this time around, but luckily when we walked in, there was absolutely no line.

Sainte Chapelle is a short walk away from Notre Dame at the other end of Ile de la Cite. It is located within the Justice Palace and you will have to go through metal detectors. I believe the security line is often why it can take awhile to get into the cathedral itself. The chapel was built in less than ten years with completion in 1248 under the orders of King Louis IX to house his relics. While the chapel was damaged in the French Revolution, it has the most extensive 13th century stained glass work in the world. Sainte Chapelle is made up of two chapels with the upper chapel being the portion everyone comes to see. The lower chapel was uninspiring for us and if you didn’t know about the impressive stained glass above, you would wonder what all the fuss was about. The lower chapel was designed for a place of worship for the people living within the palace.

The upper chapel’s stained glass windows are composed of 15 immense windows and is breath taking. The rose window faces west and sunset of course is the best time of day to see the full glory of the rose window. We were there on a sunny morning and I have absolutely no complaints about the lighting coming through the windows. The windows are so impressive that I think anytime of day would be worth going to admire them. It was fairly crowded in the upper chapel when we were there, but you are really only looking up towards the windows anyway, so it wasn’t claustrophobically crowded.

Sainte Chapelle

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Paris: Notre Dame (EuroTrip Day 5)

When we were researching how to spend our four days in Belgium and where to base ourselves, we stumbled across a chart showing time and distances for train trips from Brussels. When Brian realized we could make it to Paris in less than 90 minutes from Brussels, that won his vote on how to spend one day. I had visited Paris back in 2009 with my sister on our 3&1/2 week backpacking trip and had spent 3 days there. Paris hadn’t been my favorite spot on the trip, but a lot of that was due to how much money we had spent in London and we were trying to not completely spend all of our trips budget in the first week, hence we basically ate nothing while in town. We also hadn’t paid close enough attention to days of operation and thus completely messed up our itinerary when Versailles was closed on the day we had planned to visit and weren’t able to visit it. So therefore, I always had a return to Paris in mind at some point in the future, so I said okay to the day trip knowing we could always come back to another city in Belgium another time.

My one requirement for a day trip to Paris, visiting Notre Dame. It was my absolute favorite place my sister and I had visited while in Paris and I couldn’t go to Paris without visiting it. I now also have a third trip to Paris in mind, when I saw that on certain nights in the summer you can take an after hours tour of the Notre Dame towers.

We took an early morning train from Brussels to Paris Nord and took the RER to St. Michel then walked to the cathedral. It was a fairly quick transition and we arrived at Notre Dame less than thirty minutes after arriving at the train station. From the time we arrived, we had about an hour until the towers opened at 10am. There is a limited  number of people they allow up in the towers at any given time meaning the line can get very long for the Notre Dame Towers. I remember waiting for what seemed liked forever when I visited in 2009. Due to our limited time in Paris, I wanted to make sure we were able to go up to the towers shortly after the towers opened. Therefore we kept a pretty close watch on the side of the cathedral and as soon as we saw a couple people get in line around 9:30am, we made a beeline and got in line as well. Luckily while we were waiting to get in line for the towers, we were able to visit the interior of the church and grab breakfast from a nearby croissant and coffee place.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Christmas Ornaments 2016

I meant to have this post come out yesterday on Christmas, but I totally forgot all about finishing it until this morning. Anyways as we have a tradition of buying an ornament from each of our trips (or each country if we visit more than one on a vacation), here is our round up of 2016 Christmas ornaments.

EuroTrip 2016: Klomp shoes from Amsterdam, Beer mug from Belgium, and an Eiffel Tower from Paris

EuroTrip 2016 ornaments

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EuroTrip 2016: Summary

As I finish up posts on our China trip, here’s my summary on our recent trip to Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, and Paris. We were in Europe for just 1 week but due to train travel we were able to visit a variety of places. This is just a quick post on our first thoughts upon returning from our trip. As always, will post a more detailed wrap up and follow up to the planning post eventually!

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Photo of the (yester)Day(s): Brussels and Paris

Spent yesterday eating treats in Brussels and did a day trip to Paris today!

  

  

EuroTrip 2016: Planning

While we technically went to Europe in 2015 (Iceland), we hadn’t been to mainland Europe since Croatia in 2014. When looking for a spring trip, we decided the time was right to finally make it to Amsterdam. We had originally thought about Amsterdam back in 2012, but we went in the fall and went to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest instead. Spring is one of the busiest travel seasons to the Netherlands due to it being the famous tulip season. We figured if we were going to be going in the spring, then we had to try and plan to time our visit for tulip season. While anything in nature isn’t guaranteed, we went with what seemed to be one of the historically best chances of seeing tulips in bloom, the third week of April. While it’s not always the peak blooming week, most years there are at least some in bloom in the fields and at Keukenhof Gardens.

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