Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! oops, I mean Brussels.

Sunday March 21, 2010 - Brussels, Belgium

My friends and I have had this day trip planned for a couple months now. Oddly enough, the train ride is faster to another country than it was to Normandy; only a little over an hour! We left Paris early in the morning and had a full 12 hours in Brussels. When we were planning what to see and the "must-dos" all we could come up with was: chocolate, waffles, fries, chocolate, fries, waffles, chocolate on waffles, and beer. I guess someone felt guilty enough (not me, obviously) to google Brussels to find out what else there is to do there. I still don't see where that was leading...more than chocolate? Than waffles? Than fries?!?!?

Case in point. The most famous thing in Brussels (well 5th to all the edible claims to fame) is a statue of a boy peeing into a fountain.

A boy peeing into a fountain.

Luckily, we did that first and got it over with! I stood and politely watched as other tourists took their pictures smiling broadly, so proud to be standing near a boy peeing into a fountain. I wasn't even going to take a picture, but decided in the end that I guess I should, for your sake.

You're welcome.

Other interesting sites in Brussels, on the way to waffles:

A giant horn used to call town meetings?

Dresscode and life lessons: "Life is full of important choices."


This street was where the waffles were so I especially liked it!

Here we go...

Oh ya! Trevor and I, happy as can be, holding our fully loaded warm off the iron Belgian Waffles! Have I looked this happy since leaving LA? Ever?

Me and the girls, Emily and Ari.

Omg. At the stand, I was so excited that I forgot how to speak French. I could only point to the waffle with strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate and spit out a "th-th-th-that one". So much for fighting the ugly American stereotype... Oh shooot! And the fat stereotype too. Man...

There's a happy girl!

Most of the group, here, in front of what I think was a palace of some sort (oops). We went to the museum inside while our stomachs made room for fries. In the museum, there were costumes, dozens and dozens of costumes for, you guessed, the little boy peeing into the fountain. Apparently, they dress him/it up throughout the year. Oh for heaven's sake! *rolls eyes*

The Grand Place, loved the architecture!

In the summer time, this whole square is filled with flowers! I thought of my Mom :)

Fiiiiiinally! We each bought our own custom box of chocolates! The best I've ever had. And, that's saying a lot considering how many chocolates I've eaten.

Sorry, France. Your cathedrals are beginning to blend together. Please see Notre Dame of Paris and Notre Dame of Reims.

So as we sat in a pretty park, indulging in our fresh chocolates, all of a sudden we heard sirens; a ton of loud sirens, more sirens that I've ever heard before! Now as human creatures of "fight or flight", I definitely lean heavily towards flight at all costs. So, 'Hmm, I wonder what all those sirens are for; let's go and find out' doesn't exactly run through my mind....I found myself, thanks to mes amis and much against my better judgement, in the middle of a BLARING fire fighter manifestation (completely non-violent of course). The fire fighters themselves were taking pictures and videos etc. That was fun. Not.

This sign reads "Bois reserve aux jeux d'enfants" which means this park is reserved for child play. What?! In Paris, it's "Pelouse interdit" or no touching the lawn!

The Atomium, built for a world fair, with a fresh warm waffle truck nearby to finish off the afternoon! Yes, we did have another waffle.

The suburbs reminded us of San Francisco:

Predictable but a must:

I saved this one for last hoping one of my enlightened readers could explain it to me:

Ya, you bet it's a speciality.

We had so much fun; returned to Paris late that night with full tummies, empty chocolate boxes, and happy memories to carry through another week of work and school in a slightly sunnier location. :)

Normandy, D-Day Beaches

Saturday March 13, 2010 - Normandy

Nothing like a little procrastination to post a new blog! A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the D-Day beaches in Normandy with my group. It's about a 4 hour drive from Paris, and we were lucky to have some sunshine...much better conditions than experienced by those who arrived and fought for their lives and the lives of others on June 6, 1944.

First stop: Pointe du Hoc
Here, was a point in the cliffs where there are remnants of German construction before the attack and huge ditches and craters where the landscape was scarred by the battle.

The Cliffs

Next Stop: Omaha and Utah Beach

This memorial was built right on the sand. You can see in this photo how far the low tide is from the cliffs. It illustrates just how far the Allies had to fight to finally find cover in the grass and hills.

I love Trevor and Sarah!

The American Cemetery and Museum are right above the ocean coast. It is beautiful and sobering all at once. There are thousands of soldiers buried there from the battle on the coast of Normandy and other places in Europe during that time. There are sets of brothers buried next to one another and one pair of a father and his son. We saw many French families visiting as well as French school field trips. Our guide said that they have an average of two groups of visitors each day that have direct relatives buried there.

The view from the cemetery grounds:

Flags of the Allies

It was an amazing day. I feel absolutely honored and thankful to have visited and very much look forward to sharing it with my parents in a few short weeks.