Category Archives: Travel

Macarons, Stupid Pralines, and Raw Fish

If you read my earlier post you’ll know I took a quick jaunt around Europe earlier this summer and went to London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. I’m stating my top 3 favorite and 2 least favorite things about each city and yet I do believe these blog posts are turning out longer than the trip itself!

Paris: ❤ ❤ ❤

+1. It felt like home: An overwhelming wave of nostalgia hit me as our bus took us from the train station to our dinner in the center of Paris. This was the city where I’d shared some of my fondest memories with my family and even adventured by myself as a young teenager. I didn’t feel like a tourist this time around. I felt like I was coming home ❤

It's the obligatory picture every time you go
It’s the obligatory picture every time you go

+2. Macarons: If you have never had a macaroon, (macaron in French) consider yourself a deprived individual and order yourself a box straight away. I hunted down Laduree, the most famous macaron chain in Paris and got a box of them with my family. Worth every centine 😉

Quite possible the most famous macaron vendor in Paris
Quite possible the most famous macaron vendor in Paris
And these are the delightfully delicious aforementioned sweets <3
And these are the delightfully delicious aforementioned sweets ❤

+3. Cinnamon chocolate: I have been dying the last 2 years, deprived of this delicacy I have only every been able to find in France. If you’ve every added cinnamon to your hot chocolate in the winter you have tasted just a fraction of the bliss of what true cinnamon chocolate gives you. If you find a supplier of cinnamon chocolate who ships to the states, please let me know! Thankfully, the chocolate store under the Louvre will serve as my chocolate drug dealer in the upcoming year.

-1. The Lock Bridge: Two years ago it was one of my favorite things about Paris. It’s been my iPhone’s home screen for that long as well. So you can imagine that I was a little distressed to see my favorite bridge go from this:

425565_438814402817405_157966713_n
June 2012

To this:

IMG_3077
June 2014

Shocking huh? They’ve started locking chains onto the bridge so that even MORE locks can go on!

-2. Tourists: I know I know. Technically I was a tourist, but when I’m in France I want to speak French not English! The tourism industry makes it very difficult to speak French since almost everyone there speaks English.

Brussels:

+1. Chocolate: Not as good as French cinnamon chocolate, but when you have entire streets dedicated to chocolate stores who make everything from  dark chocolate to basil honey chocolate you know you’re in heaven!

+2. Waffles: Belgian Waffles.

No words necessary
No words necessary

If that didn’t convince you:

+3. They speak French! Definitely a plus that they speak my favorite language. Especially handy when you need to yell at your waiter for not telling you that it would take an hour and a half to prepare lunch. Ahh Belgians.

-1. Belgian Pralines: I have the unfortunate malady of being allergic to nuts. So whenever I walk into a chocolate shop I make sure to ask (in 2 different languages) if the chocolate I wish to buy has nuts. (Side story: I almost didn’t get into Rice because of an incident that occurred right before my interview!) I was quite distraught in this one chocolate store because everything was labelled as “Praline.” Now I’ve never eaten a praline for obvious reasons, but I’ve always labelled them in my mind as “chocolate things with nuts.” I told this to the shopkeeper, in French, who assured me that Belgian pralines did not have nuts.

So I bought a TON of chocolate from that store.

Unfortunately as I learned by about my 3rd piece, is that sure enough Belgian pralines do not contain nuts, but that Belgium also likes to make normal pralines as well. So I had a bag full of “Belgian” pralines and “nutty” pralines and no way of knowing which was which unless I wanted to put myself in the hospital.

 

"Good" Praline
“Good” Praline
"Bad" Praline
“Bad” Praline

I feel like this kid:

Blame Tumblr
Blame Tumblr

I think I’ll stick to my French chocolate…

-2. Time: We spent a morning there. Maybe 10 am to 12:30? I know Brussels isn’t famous for much, but I wish I could have toured the European Parliament!

Amsterdam:

+1. Raw Fish: I ate raw fish. I ATE RAW FISH AND I LIKED IT.

giphy

Anyways… It was raw herring to be exact. It was delicious.

Tastes better than it looks I promise!
Tastes better than it looks I promise!

+2. Dutch Country Life: Endless windmills and green rolling hills, tulips of all sorts and life on the waterfront. Plus their outfits were super colorful!

IMG_2046

 

IMG_2021

When my dad came to Amsterdam in 1970 he and his family took a family portrait at one of those “dress-up” places:

Approximately taken in 1970
Approximately taken in 1970

So of course we had to take one all together too!

2014: 44 years later!
2014: 44 years later!

+3. Environmentally Friendly: Don’t have to worry about pollution here, you just have to worry about being run down by the thousands upon thousands of bicyclists.

So many bikes!
So many bikes!

-1. Amsterdam itself: Unfortunately as we were travelling with a group of 14 year olds, the tour guides thought it wise to find a hotel far outside the city limits to make it impossible for anyone to sneak out and sample some of Amsterdam’s more explicit activities. So I didn’t actually see much of the city. Which is even more unfortunate because they have a museum full of Vermeer’s! Girl with a Pearl Earring anyone??

They made a movie based off of this painting!  AKA I missed seeing a movie star in real life
They made a movie based off of this painting! AKA I missed seeing a movie star in real life

-2. Dutch Toilets:

You walk into the bathroom (that you had to pay half a euro for because of course there’s free healthcare in Europe, but no free loos)  and you see that all of the stall doors are made of glass. Not frosty glass oh no, the completely clear glassy glass.

Thank goodness it frosts over when you lock the stall door.

But still, that was a weird experience…

tumblr_m70b2vhFqs1rziwwco4_500

 

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!

 

Advertisements

Where has Emily been?

London, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam to be exact!

This summer my parents decided to lead their students on a guided tour of Europe.

Blah blah blah all I heard when they told me about it was “trip to Europe!”

EUQ-full
This exactly, except in reverse since we went into London first

I have mixed feelings about my first “big tour” experience. Honestly, The introvert in me didn’t being part of a 80 something strong group. The fact that a majority of these 80 something people were all 13 or 14 year olds did not help either. The biggest thing however was that the entire 8 days I was there I spent yearning to go off and explore on my own. This is the unfortunate thing about a scheduled tour. Everything is set into stone and you cannot deviate from what the tour director has set.

For example, while in London our tour made a stop at St. Paul’s cathedral. Now I’m not religious, but when I see something that in one form of another has existed for over a millennium I would like to do more than stop inside for a group bathroom break.

Exactly.
Exactly.

Also, because we were a group of 80 something people and because we all absolutely had to stick together at all times, dinner was not ideal. There were no menus. We ate what was given to us. This is completely fine if the restaurant happens to be serving a local recipe, but again without a menu you don’t even know the names of the dishes your eating, much less know if there are any allergens inside said dishes. How was I supposed to know that the vanilla ice cream we were served was chock full of ground up nuts? That one made for a very unpleasant evening. If my allergy was more severe or if I had not had my medicine with me, I could have died.

Then again, if you are a person who has not traveled outside of the country before, or are quite young, a tour might be perfect. It provides a safe environment to learn how a foreign country’s infrastructure and culture work so that the next time you decide to travel, it can be on your own.

Thankfully, the next time I travel, I will be on my own. For a year… Oh my.

To keep things as short as this trip was I will give you my top 3 favorite things and 2 least favorite things from each city.

London:

+1. British accents: I could live in London the rest of my life just to hear their accents every where I go. Basically, everything you’ve ever imagined about accents is true. An offshoot of this is I discovered I loved hearing all of their quirky words and phrases that you never hear in America!

tumblr_mbjua1cV1a1ri8wt6o1_250

+2. My inner nerd: I have to admit I was fangirling over the entire city. Especially when I saw the crown jewels…

Watch it. Watch it now.

+3. The varied architecture: London did not have a Haussmann to tear down streets and re-build London with one uniform design. Ironically, one of my favorite things about Paris is what makes London so refreshing to me: the variety!

A bird's eye view... or maybe just an eye's view since this is from the London Eye...
A bird’s eye view… or maybe just an eye’s view since this is from the London Eye…

-1. It was too American: It was just weird to walk into a store and hear Avicii playing on the radio. There’s absolutely no reason for them to NOT play Avicii or American music, but I guess I expected more Beatles and One Direction.

tumblr_m4u22xTT0k1rwcc6bo1_400

Also… There were Starbucks everywhere. More Starbucks than I have ever seen in one place. There were literally 3 on the same tiny street. Two of those three could have fit into a photograph if I’d thought to take one. They were completely separate stores yet less than 100 feet from each other! You think living in London would mean you would miss American food. Nope! They had everything from KFC, to Chipotle and Five Guys!

IMG_3030

IMG_3032

 

-2. Pollution: **WARNING** TMI right here! I started to feel a little sick my second day in London and so while blowing my nose I discovered that all the snot coming out of my nostrils was black. My snot was black. Boy that freaked me out. It freaked me out so much so that I then decided to blow my nose in every city we went to on the trip from that day forward. My snot did not suffer from the same discoloration at any city after London… which means that I was breathing in black stuff in London. Nasty.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an article about pollution in London.

tumblr_n8werejZc01qb70nio1_500
Scary Stuff

 

So now this post is already ridiculously long so stay tuned for updates on my city-soul mate, belgium chocolate, and my secret life as a time travelling Dutch girl which has absolutely nothing to do with those magic truffles I saw in Amsterdam. Promise!

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!