Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Chris joined me for most of my recent work trip to Europe. We met each other in Amsterdam and spent a long weekend there. Our hotel was right off Dam Square, so very centrally located. We walked a ton, so much so that we decided not to do a canal tour. The weather was drizzly much of the time. On Friday, I took a day trip to Rotterdam for work, and when I returned to Amsterdam, I got ridiculously drenched in my suit walking from the train station to the hotel. Chris and I bought umbrellas the next day, but of course it didn't rain again. We toured the Palace and Dutch Resistance Museum but decided to skip the Anne Frank Museum because the lines were too long. While I was in Rotterdam, Chris also visited the Reijks Museum and rented a bicycle for the day. There are just as many bicycles in Amsterdam as you'd think, and the riders pedal fast. We actually saw a bicyclist slam into a pedestrian on Saturday. We ate wonderful food: aged Gouda cheese, carmely cookies called Stroopwaffels and thin pancakes with powdered sugar. Chris also stopped more than once for fresh herring heaped with onions and pickles.
Bicycle Garage (in the background)
We stopped at a supermarket one day and were amused by the "Big Americans" freezer meals.
Sunday, we took a train from Amsterdam to Brussels, Belgium, which was the shortest leg on our journey. The central square in Brussels is beautiful - all intricately carved stone and gold. It doesn't hurt that there are plenty of chocolate shops just around the corner. I had to work Monday, but Chris took a train to view the European Parliament (EU Headquarters) and the Atomium, which is a gigantic recreation of an iron atom.

EU Parliament
I didn't get a chance to see all of Brussels, but my overall impression was that city is grittier than other cities we've visited in Europe: lots of homeless people, graffiti and the smell of urine on the sidewalks. That said, the city has beautiful architecture and one of my new food loves: Belgian waffles. Now, these are not your American version of breakfast waffles doused with syrup. These waffles are eaten sans syrup on the street - the outsides crispy but the insides deliciously gooey.
Next up: France! We spent four days in Paris, our hotel within walking distance of Notre Dame, which was incredible. I hadn't realized Paris was so grand - we would walk in the afternoons along the Seine River, as the sun bounced off buildings that were each more extravagant than the next - enormous, intricate, gold. However, perhaps my favorite hours in Paris were the first time we walked west past the Louvre down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees.
Our visit coincided with the unrest surrounding pension reform, and while our travel wasn't significantly delayed or disrupted, we did see university students marching on several occasions. In addition, I took a very early train to Lyon one morning for work (about two hours by train from Paris) where a French colleague was supposed to meet me. He was traveling by train from elsewhere in France, but never arrived due to protesters setting up barricades on the train tracks.

Notre Dame
A strange game in a fountain near the Louvre - people grab the metal balls from the water and throw them back in. I like that in the picture a woman is ducking away from Chris.

Arc de Triomphe
Eiffel Tower - Chris and I took the elevator/tram up to the windy top level, where looking down, all of Paris is spread out in great, whitewashed swathes. While we were at the top taking in the view, a German man proposed to his girlfriend right beside us.

Notre Dame at night
While I was in Lyon, Chris took a train to the Palace of Versailles. He says it is by far the grandest palace he's ever seen and that it's amazing how the monarchy could misuse money so selfishly.

Friday, Chris and I walked around all day and visited the Sacre-Couer church. It was a long walk back.
Late afternoon, we visited the Louvre and walked what seemed like miles through the museum on our already tired legs. The Louvre is huge. Towards the end, I felt as though I couldn't even appreciate any of the art - it all blended together. I think I am supposed to say the highlight was the smaller-than-expected Mona Lisa, but in all actuality, I liked some other paintings better, such as Delacroix' revolutionary painting Liberty Leading the People or the massive painting of Napoleon's coronation.

We went out for a wonderful meal that night at a recommended restaurant around the corner (keep the walking to a minimum).
Before we flew out on Saturday (me on to Barcelona for a conference and Chris back home), we visited the Musee d'Orsay, which displays art from the mid-1800's through the early 1900's - lots of Picasso's, Degas, Monet, etc. There was also a huge exhibit on the painter Jean Leon Gerome, for which paintings were borrowed from other museums. I recognized one of the pieces from the Minneapolis Museum of Art (The Carpet Merchant) because it had particularly stuck out to me when I was a little girl visiting the museum on a field trip. No pictures inside, unfortunately.

We walked around the Gardens of Luxembourg, nearby our hotel before making the long trip to the airport.

It was a wonderful trip. I would love to get back to Paris someday and walk the city again, perhaps see some of the sights we missed: The War Museum with Napoloen's grave, La Defense, other art museums, etc. But it's always great to be home.


Blogger Heidi said...

You're such a great writer Erin! I loved reading about your trip. And, you definitely need to frame that last fall picture of you and Chris! :)

12:47 PM  
Blogger The Charlebois said...

So cool -- loved all of the pictures. Well, except the herring one. That was nasty.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Bonny said...

Sounds like you had a great time! I like the story of the guy proposing at the Eiffel Tower. That must have been fun to see! Did she say yes?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Katrina Custer said...

I didn't know you were in Europe again!!! Glad you had so much fun!

1:08 PM  

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