Mar 3, 2015

European Superlatives: Part 2

 Brussels, Belgium post-NYE
You were thinking Venice, weren't you? Nope. Even smelly canals in the middle of the hot summer couldn't touch the smells we experienced in Brussels on New Year's Day 2014. As much as I'd like to, I don't think I'll ever be able to forget the putrid stench of alcohol saturated urine and burnt fireworks that slapped us in the face as we walked out of our hotel that morning. Much of the city was trashed from festivities the night before and not a single soul was awake at 10am to clean it up. Well, no one but we 4 Americans who paced ourselves and we're tucked nicely into bed at 1am. Searching for breakfast that morning ended with us not being able to stomach breakfast at all...so we hopped in the car and made our way back to non-smelly Germany. Pee-ew. ;)


 Lake Constance, Germany
D and I still dream about our 5 day anniversary getaway to Lake Constance. Never heard of it? We hadn't either before moving to Germany. Picture the most beautiful lake--one side of it touching Germany, one side touching Austria, and the other snuggled up to Switzerland and the stunning Swiss Alps. Imagine sitting on the balcony of your lake house watching dozens of sailboats float atop the turquoise-hued lake as the Alps command the skyline just across the water. Your days are spent sipping wine from the surrounding vineyards, wandering the market squares in the quaint lakeside villages, soaking up the sunshine on grassy beaches, and smelling the sweet scents of gardenia and rose wafting from Flower (Mainau) Island. That, my friends, is Lake Constance...our pick for Europe's best kept secret. Guess the secret's out!


  Bruges, Belgium
Belgium, and Bruges specifically, will probably pop up on my superlative lists quite often. There's not a darn thing we didn't love about that city and that country. Whenever I think back to all the fun nights out on the town that we had with friends, Bruges and its bars are the common denominator in all those memories. From the popular tourist-rated bars like Cambrinus, to the hole-in-the-wall & hard to find dives like the Brugs Beertje, we became quite familiar with them all on our numerous visits to Bruges. My favorite? Cafe Rose Red. It's cute, small, and all the locals hung out here. And they loved showcasing unique beers. Of course, we loved trying them, too!


  Dublin, Ireland
I'm not sure whether it's the live folk music, friendly people, or just how much better Guinness tastes IN Dublin, but we fell in love with the bar scene there pretty darn quick. It's no surprise that one of our favorite things to do in each city we visit is try local brews and chill out in bars, so in coming to Dublin, we knew we were in for a treat because of the Irish affinity for the same. Temple Bar is a must (if you can get a seat--or even if you can't), but pretty much any bar in the area will do as long as the music is lively and the pints overflowing. I also tried a real Irish coffee here and now no other coffee will ever compare. Runner-up award well earned!


   Dublin, Ireland
2nd award for Dublin in this post! WOO! From ordering our first pint at Temple Bar all the way to the cab ride back to the airport, the people of Dublin we're beyond sweet & hospitable. I don't know whether it's the their charming accents or just the overall fearlessness in conversation with total strangers, but we thought Dublin locals were just about as nice as they come. Reminded me a lot of the nice people back home in NC, only with much cooler accents. ;) And they were so helpful, too! When D and I needed directions or extra time looking over food menus, locals were so eager to stop and give a second of their time to us. Such a breath of fresh air compared to many places we traveled while in Europe.


  Paris, France
Speaking of unfriendly destinations, Paris ranks up there as the least friendly place we visited abroad. From the argumentative hawkers on the Champ de Mars, snippy and super impatient waiters at just about every restaurant we dined in, all the way to the totally aloof hotel concierge who just couldn't be bothered with questions about Paris attractions (how dare I?)...this Southern girl was not charmed by the people of Paris one bit. Like Germans, I know Parisians aren't as prone to pleasantries (so we expected that), but we didn't expect blatant displeasure amid basic conversations with locals. That being said, Paris is still lovely city and we enjoyed our time there very much, even with all the eye rolls. Would I go back? Of course! Maybe we caught the City of Lights on an off week?


  St. Peter's Basilica - Vatican City
There are so many great cathedrals in Europe. SO MANY. I feel like D and I saw about a million of them. Ok, so, not really. But we did see a lot of them over a 3 year span of time and, of course, "ooed" and "ahhhed" over them all. Even so, the one that always sticks out in my mind is St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. I remember being totally enamored by just how incredibly massive it is...not to mention that it's considered one of the greatest Christian churches in the world. The alter is also quite the eye-catching piece, drawing your gaze immediately from the front door all the way down the never-ending nave. If you ever have a chance to visit, don't forget to look up...the Baroque vault ceiling is simply stunning. Some of the most unforgettable architecture I've ever seen.


   Windsor Castle - England
You thought I was going to choose one of the dozens I explored around Germany, didn't you? All of those castles are great, don't get me wrong, but I'm a total Anglophile. Anything to do with the British Monarchy or England, TAKE ME THERE I NEED TO KNOW! When I had the opportunity to visit Windsor Castle on a girl's weekend to London, I was beyond floored. The history oozing from those stone walls had me entranced. And the ADORABLE town outside the castle was so perfectly British that I couldn't stop my camera from snapping. Did I mention the Queen of England herself was there the day of our visit? I KNOW. Killed me dead. Favorite castle by far!


    Brussels, Belgium on NYE
Brussels on New Year's Eve has made the list twice in one post! I feel a slow clap coming on. Anywho, the winner of this unique category was chosen by D…and while I don't necessarily think it was my scariest moment throughout those 3 years in Europe, it was pretty chaotic and unnerving for an American abroad. If you know anything about Europe and NYE, then you know Europeans love their fireworks. LOVE THEM. They shoot them off in all different direction from dusk until dawn…and if you happen to be walking near someone carelessly setting them off, you could find yourself seriously injured. In Brussels, people were shooting fireworks off in the streets, where crowds of locals and tourists were walking. I remember walking past a group of teenagers huddled around a dumpster. They looked like they were up to something and then, in an instant, they all scattered as if something scared them off. Suddenly...BOOM! BOOM! Fireworks exploding in the dumpster. People screaming, running…total pandemonium. Our ears were ringing for what seemed like hours and we were all a bit shaken up. That was much too close for comfort (and everyone else around us seemed to think so as well--police were summoned, of course). 

After that incident, D was constantly scanning the crowds for hooligans with firecrackers and liquor bottles. Problem was, as it grew closer to midnight, the random fireworks in the streets got more prevalent and the crowds got thicker. D was ready to go even before 11pm. I hardly blame him, but I made us (and our two friends visiting from the states) stay and TRY to enjoy the chaos. The second the big, city-hosted fireworks display was done, D was over it and we spent the next hour shoving our way through droves of people just to get back to our hotel 4 blocks over. If you look at this night from the perspective of a party animal pyromaniac, it was probably the best night ever. But experiencing it through the eyes of a military man, inclined to be a little more cautious in foreign countries and around drunkards and explosive devices, you can imagine why D was on high alert until we were safely back in our hotel room that night. It's a night none of us will ever forget, that's for sure!


 Mykonos, Greece
'Nuff said.


Missed Part 1? Catch up hereMore to come...

18 comments:

  1. That was a good read, and Nice way to look back at your travels!

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  2. love this post! It is such a great way to look back at your travels, the good things, bad things, and funny/scary moments!

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  3. I love Paris, but I totally agree. It is NOT a friendly city!

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  4. Your NYC in Brussels sounds a lot like NYC here, fireworks everywhere! It is crazy fun, and terrifying at the same time. I am with you, I think Paris is the least friendliest city I have visited as well.

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  5. Love the fun bars in Bruges! I want to go Lake Comstance, why does Australia have to be so far?!

    www.alkeksabroad.com

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  6. I love this post, but I actually thought people in Paris were very friendly. I was surprised since I've heard so many people say that they are the rudest! I think it just depends on who you happen to interact with!

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  7. I can only imagine the smell after NYE! Lake Constance looks so gorgeous! My husband and I are heading to Germany next month, wonder if we can fit it in our schedule! lol

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  8. So happy Windsor is your favorite castle. I was in awe when I went there. Such a wonderful, historical place with such personality. Oh, I love it! :)

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  9. Love this! And I TOTALLY agree with the most friendly/least friendly people! Paris as a city is stunning but the people...just...ugh. I'm a southern girl like you so I don't understand people's need to be rude! And like you, I think one of the reasons I love Dublin so much is because of the people! They remind me of the nice people of the South!

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  10. The first time I spent NYE in Berlin was the most terrifying night of my life, haha. Aren't there any fire regulations?! Europeans definitely love their fireworks. The second time around we found a quiet spot in the Tiergarten to enjoy the fireworks from afar. Also, Paris without a doubt is the least friendliest city. I was constantly quoting Stephanie Tanner and saying How Rude under my breath.

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  11. Wow what a great post and so many nice tips for future travel destinations <3 :D

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  12. I have for some strange reason always wondered what the French people are like and what it would be like to go to Paris now I not sure if I want to or not if the people are rude

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  13. Hello!!!
    I found your blog through Google after researching info on Weisbaden, Germany. We moved to Albany Ga from Miami and received orders to Weisbaden and im super nervous and super excited. I loved your blog interview. Your photos are beautiful and it makes me excited to experience life there.
    If you have any information or any advice please please let me know. I would appreciate it so much.

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  14. What a fun post and collection of memories abroad! I agree - Bruges definitely has the best bars! And I second Dublin for the most friendly category!

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  15. I absolutely loved Windsor! Interestingly it wasn't our first choice. I can't remember the particulars but for some reason it wasn't possible to go to Buckingham Palace that day, so we went out to Windsor instead. It did not disappoint.

    Silly Medley: Lifestyle and Travel

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  16. We are headed to Bruges and Dublin this month (yippee)!! Where did you stay at in Dublin? I'm still scouring the sites looking for a hotel or home through airbnb. I'm thinking City Center would be best for walking/exploring. But any suggestions on hotels??

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  17. LOVED DUBLIN! By far my favorite place to visit so far! I went there in 2008 right after graduating college with a friend and I was nervous about two girls traveling only since we had never done it before but we were surprised with how safe we felt and how friendly everyone was. I think I have a picture at the exact angle of the band playing in the bar! I loved the beautiful city and wish I would have spent two weeks in Ireland instead of just three days.

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  18. This makes me want to visit so many different places! oh to have a bottomless wallet!

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I appreciate your feedback, friends! I read every comment and try my hardest to respond to each one, but if your email address isn't attached to your blogger profile, you might find my response in the comment thread instead. As always, thanks for reading!

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