Friday, June 3, 2011

Les derniers voyages

Now that I've been home for over a week, I am FINALLY coming around to blogging about the last trips that I took while abroad.
Brussels: I took a class on the European Union this past semester and to finish up the course our professor took us on a day trip to Brussels, Belgium.  It was hard to believe that we were taking a casual field trip to a different country!  Known as the unofficial "headquarters" of the EU, Brussels is a gorgeous city with huge influence throughout the European continent.  
When we arrived, we immediately took a tour through the European Parliament, where the majority of decisions for the EU are voted on and passed into law.  It was really interesting to see the center of everything we had been learning about in class. We then went around the city to see the various other EU buildings, such as the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.  I was surprised how modern and industrial all of the architecture was.  I wasn't very impressed until we walked to the Palais Royal, the main square in the city and did a little sightseeing and some serious eating!  Belgium is known for their mussels, beer, and waffles- all of which I thoroughly enjoyed during my 10 hour visit to Brussels.  It was a short trip, and although I wish we had had more time to see everything that the city had to offer, I am so glad that I could check Brussels off of my bucket list :)

Normandie: Our group spent out last Saturday in France in the Normandie region.  Normandie is most known for the beaches where the American troops landed during WWII to liberate France on D-Day, but many people don't know how vast the region is and how much more it has to offer.  On our trip to Normandie, we visited Giverny and Honfleur.
Giverny is a tiny village (seriously, there are only 2 parallel roads!) where artist Claude Monet's home and water gardens are located.  Giverny was an escape for Monet, a place of immense inspiration, and it was there that he painted his Water lilies masterpiece.  After touring the gardens, I can testify that is heaven for an artist.  The colors are so incredibly vivid, from the flowers, to the trees, to the lily pads, and I wanted to spend the entire day in the gardens!
After leaving Giverny, we headed to Honfleur, a beautfiul port town in the region which provided inspiration to many painters during the impressionist period.  While in Honfleur, we had lunch on the water and tasted some of Normandy's traditional cuisine.  We started with a sweet cidre (cider), an alcohol drink which is produced in the region.  I finished off my 3 course meal (which, by the way, I am having a tough time adjusting to life without the 3 course "formule") with 3 classic Norman cheeses, Camembert, Livarot et Pont-l’Eveque.  It was a perfect day, learning about impressionist art, enjoying beautiful scenery and delicious food, and spending my last few days with some amazing friends.

Sainte-Chapelle et le Moulin Rouge: During our last week our group went to a concert at Sainte-Chapelle, the chapel famous for it's gorgeous stained glass.  The small orchestra was amazing, playing the best of Mozart and other famous composers.  It was hard to decide which to focus on, the music or the beautiful chapel.  A few friends and I sought out a different form of entertainment the last week as well, and we went to have dinner and see the show at the Moulin Rouge!  It was like going to see the Rockettes in NYC with a Parisian (and topless) twist.  The show was SO fun, and dinner was delicious!  During the show they had acrobatic performers, the world's fastest juggler, a hilarious ventriloquist, and a dancer who swam in a tank full of boa constrictors!!  We tried to squeeze as much as we possibly could into our last week in Paris, including a picnic under the Eiffel Tower to see it sparkle one last time.  I could watch it sparkle forever :)

Monet's gardens in Giverny. Simply breathtaking

Adorable cottages in the small village of Giverny

Port at Honfleur

Inside the EU Parliament

Main square in Brussels. 
All of the buildings surrounding the square are gilded!

Stained glass in St. Chappelle- Impressive with or without an orchestra concert

Amy, Alex, Sam, and I after seeing Féerie at the Moulin Rouge

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