Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 5 churches of France and Benelux

I spent a lot of time in Churches and places of worship in Europe. Here are the top five I think you need to see in order to study the different styles of architecture and magnificence of the people's devotion back then.

An American in Paris

The Louvre and the Glass Pyramids by I.M. Pei
Paris; the city of lights, the city of lovers, the city of bread and cheese. Paris goes by many names but it is a perfect tourist destination. I spent 4 days in Paris and it was the perfect ammount of time to relax, take in the city and see all the sites. I know if I spent longer than that in Paris I would have gotten bored but with 4 days I got to see everything I wanted to see and got to spend ample times in the cafes reading and drinking coffee, which is essential to the Paris experience, I feel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Journies of a Foodie- Prt 2

Foodie journies continue in Paris! The must go place for gourmands and choco-philes. I will go through different categories of what I ate on my journey. I believe I gained weight on my trip as my pants were beginning to feel a little tight at the end; however I got very sick when I returned to HK and actually lost more weight than I gained. Oh well! As most good journies, we start with dessert!

Mousse au chocolat was my favorite thing I discovered in Paris. I had it before I went to France but believe me, having it in Paris is a whole other experience. I have never had anything so good, rich or addictive before. I ate it everyday. Sometimes for lunch and sometimes for dinner. Once I had mousse for dinner. Mousse runs for anywhere from 5-8E for a serving with a coffee at most cafes. You can get good mousse from the grocery store for 2E and it has 5/6 servings in it. I prefer the dark mousse but most grocery store packs have a milk chocolate mousse as well available for sale.
Mousse au Chocolat, I ate it every day in Paris!

Monday, January 24, 2011

10 hours to Luxembourg or Why everyone died on the Titanic

Luxembourg on Chrismas Eve
  The Train Ride from Hell
At 8 am I left Ghent to travel to Brussels. After an hour and half wait my train arrived. We boarded the train and by station 2 we had about 30 people in the aisles and standing in the door area. At 7:30pm I arrived in Luxembourg. It should have taken 2 hours, It ended up taking over 10 hours on the train. It included being stuck in Germany in the snow, people refusing to let people in "when there was no more room at the inn" And trust me when I say they were lying. People stealing seats from old ladies and women with babies! The insanity level of the train ride was set at a pretty high level. Hundreds of people crushed on the platform when only 2/3 were let on the train at each car. This ride brought out the worst in the human condition and I now know why everyone died on the Titanic. Because I was on this train where they refused to let babies on the train (when there were seats available!)

I got to Luxembourg very late on Christmas Eve. This was due mainly to the snow issues but also because my train got stuck in Germany. Having lost the entire day on a train with no food, no bathroom and very angry people I had been looking forward to exploring Luxembourg. I could not that night due to the snow and the dark. Luxembourg is not very well lit at night and is built into a mountain, so walking in the dark was hardly advisable. I got to my room to find everyone sleeping. At 8pm. I had also had my pillow stolen by the cranky Russian woman below me. I hung out in the lobby for a while, ate my Christmas eve dinner out of vending machine (Waffle, chips and hot chocolate. A well balanced meal!) I also tried to watch 'Bridge to Terebithia' in Dutch. Didn't work out so well although I've read the book hundreds of times and have seen the movie version before. So off to bed I went so far disapointed in Luxembourg.

I awoke the next morning to an amazing breakfast. Some of the best bread I had my whole trip. I had a pleasant although slow conversation in French with a couple from Swiss. They eventually switched to English when they realized my french was "tres horrible". Then back to my room I went where I ended up meeting Amanda and Sharon of Taiwan! As you know, I have a deep love of Taiwan and we bonded a while over Taiwan before I had to pack up and go. But they were very sweet girls and agreed with me that the Russian lady was crazy and mean... Something about the cold just makes Russian people more unpleasant than the rest of us. It must be a natural defense for them or something.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

my new obsession of travel websites

Walking through Art

The tunnel in Ghent

After Bruges I travelled to Ghent, Bruges. People were telling me great things about Ghent. How I HAD to go there how it was the BEST place in Belgium. When people tell you these kinds of things you should keep an open mind but you should also caution yourself. I did enjoy my trip to Ghent BUT... because people had talked it up so much I left feeling disapointed.

Ghent is the artistic center of Belgium. It's where the art, theatre and dance school is Belgium is located and is the location of Belgium's largest liberal arts university. Therefore the town is hip, young and very artistic. I liked that part about it. There are a lot of eating options in Ghent due to the college, a lot more vegetarian cuisine then I saw in other parts of Western Europe and a lot of green/eco friendly establishments. One of the hostels in Ghent is an eco hostel where everything is sustainable and the entire hostel is run on solar power. I could not stay there because it was full. Wish I could have because my hostel SUCKED in Ghent.
Gravesteen Castle in Ghent.

Hostel de Draeke is one of the biggest hostels in the youth hostel membership club. It has 9 floors and seems more like a college dorm or as I called it, an abandoned mental hospital than a hostel. It was too sterile, too cold and not very inviting. Also, maybe because it was close to Christmas the staff was not very kind, the place seemed overall abandoned and they seemed to take great pleasure in charging me for EVERYTHING from sheets to internet. Hot water also seemed non- existent in this place. I found myself longing for Snuffel and it's walk of shame through the snow!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Journies of a Foodie

I traveled three countries in ten days with my backpacking trip to Europe. My mother is a weight watcher's member and did the points for one of my meals. Apparently, in one meal I ate 75 points. This is enough points for three days according to weight watcher's which is why I probably gained a million pounds in France!
Apple Beneighs in Ghent.

My food retrospective begins in Belgium.

Waffle Van outside the Royal Palace in Brussels
 Waffles can be purchased in many different ways from travelling vans as appears here in Brussels, to christmas market stands (Ala the asian street market style), to out of vending machines as pictured below.
Vending Machine Waffle
There are two kinds of waffles you can buy in Belgium. A square flat waffle known as a Brussels Waffle which is less sweet and not sticky on the outside or a Litz Waffle which has caramelized sugar on the outside which adds a nice crunch to it. You can get your waffles dressed up at street carts but DO NOT do this unless you are a small child or a sugar addict. The caramelized sugar on the waffle is sweet enough, adding the chocolate and whip cream is overkill and makes you look stupid. A waffle in a paper sleeve is the perfect treat to carry around in one hand while your other hand is holding your camera. A christmas market waffle will run you about 2E and a vending machine waffle about 1E but you can go to the grocery store and buy a multipack of 8 for 2E and save yourself a lot of money if you plan on making waffles a major staple of your European diet.

CNY in Taiwan!

I will be heading back to Taiwan for CNY.
I think I shall explore the east side of the island and Kenting further this time!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bruges, Belfrys and Belgian Boys!

I arrived in Bruges to Snuffel Hostel. Hands down, the most personable hostel on my trip. I was greeted by a very cute Belgian boy (who was also the most attractive hostel staff member on the whole trip...) The pros to the Snuffel hostel were location to the town, personality and the fun atmosphere. Lots of fun people, and lots of locals at happy hour in the bar. A nice fun place. But the negatives were... interesting. One, they have a very tall spiral staircase which could be a bit dangerous for travellers with suitcases on wheels instead of backpacks. Also, to get to the showers (which were co-ed, eep!) you had to walk outside in the SNOW across the backyard to a seperate building. I dreaded the shower I took here because you also had to do the walk of shame through the bar with your towel and shower caddy saying hi to all the non-lame people who were not about to freeze their asses off. Snuffel Hostel in Bruges, 5 out of 5 for personality and fun, 3 out of 5 for facilities. Boo...

Snuffel Hostel, note the cute Belgian!
I met two very nice girls at this hostel. One was Angel from Shanghai! The same Angel from Brussels. Angel is a very interesting girl. She studies in Milan, wears high heels in the snow, has very cute clothes to backpack in, and drink her beer dilluted with hot water. A character for sure, so glad I met her! I have never met a more stylish backpacker than Angel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brussels is more than a sprout!

After doing an emergency crash in Paris. I ran to the train station as soon as I could to see if I could go to Brussels that morning and cancel my Eurostar ticket and head off to Belgium a day early! I got on a train that was 2 hours late. (BRR...) Sub freezing train station, I should have stayed in the hotel! I left finally and went off to Lille, Flanders. (Home of Don Lillie's people.) It was a very pretty place but I was only there for about an hour so only had time for a short stroll around before I had to go back on my train.

I got to Brussels and hopped on the train to get to where my hostel was. Geez, was Brussels ICY! For some reason Paris wasn't so slippery. Then I proceeded to get lost... AGAIN. Poor me! I think I spent a majority of this trip lost and wandering. 1 hour later wandering in the snow I found the Hostel Van Gogh located in a dark alley of Brussels, pretty easy to find during the day time but at night time not so easy... The sheets were clean, the owners were (meh), and it was really well heated. I went off to find dinner and the only place close was a turkish resteraunt where I ordered something really yummy by pointing and smiling. (I still have no idea what it was, but it tasted great!)
Snt. Catherine's Cathedral, with shitty construction all over it's lawn!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Trains, Planes and Wedding Bells!

I went to Europe for my christmas vacation. My friend Gaelle was getting married in Strasbourg at a castle, and who's going to turn that down? So, I scrimped and saved- found a cheap ass ticket on Cathay Pacific and flew off to Paris for the wedding. I had made the decision once I got the invitation to backpack Europe afterward- why not? I made a big itinerery, booked my hostels and set off! Little did I know I was going off into the WORST blizzard in European History for my trip... This for the poor girl who has never been in snow! I was in for a wild ride.
This entire vacation felt like it was ruled by the train systems in Europe, and the snow...