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Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris

 

The city is decked out with lights, trees, holly, and wreaths which ever way you look. Paris has really put me in the Christmas spirit and I must say it has to be the best place in the WORLD to be at during Christmas time. Yes, better than New York hands down! Last night we went to the Traditional Christmas Concert at Notre Dame. The concert is free but you need a red ticket to sit in the VIP section otherwise you would be in an obstructed view seating. We did not find this out until we arrived and we sulked over to the long line to get in. But then a Christmas Miracle happened, a woman walked up to me in a HUGE crowd of people and handed me two red tickets to sit in the VIP section. I wished the angel a “Joyeaux Noel” and we took our place in the front of a very large crowd for a beautiful Christmas concert.

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I Love Paris in the Winter

I love Paris in the Winter!

Though it is freezing and quite snowy, we have loved our time in Paris. Well, honestly I probably enjoyed it more since poor Jackson has been sick the entire week. We did get a few good walking tours in despite his illness. One was a four hour overview of Paris general walking tour on a gorgeous, sunny day. We started at Place St. Michel, walked to Notre Dame, St. Chappel, crossed Pont Neuf, walked through the Louvre, the Garden of Tuileries, the obelisk, the Champs Elysees, and finally ended near Napolean’s Tomb. We learned more about the Louis’ and the Napoleans of French history and how France fought hardest for its democratic society. Our passionate tour guide Arnaud (from LA!) ended the tour with the moving reminder that Paris might not exist today if it was not for the Dietrich von Choltitz, the Nazi General who ignored Hitler’s request to burn down the city of Paris at the end of WWII. I am sure we all have heard this story at one point in our lives but if you have not, you can read more here.  This of course left me moved to tears and my love for Paris grew even stronger.

Our second tour was a rainy, wet tour of Montmarte (the Mountain of Martyrs).  Though the weather was not what I would have chosen and our guide was not as passionate as Arnaud, it was still a great tour. The Montmarte area is just what I imagined Paris to be like – cobblestone roads, artists painting, terrace cafes, boulangerie’s and flower shops everywhere you turn. This is the area where Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Toulouse- Lautrec, and many other big time artists lived and painted.

If you are ever in Paris, take one of these New Europe tours! The general tour is free and the Montmatre one was only 12 euros. You can find out more info on their website.

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Daytrip to Brussels

Only an hour from Bruges is the capital of Belgium and the European Union. Despite the bitter cold we squeezed in the European Parliament, Godiva chocolates, Manekin – Piss (the Belgian version of Italy’s the David – 1/10 the size with even less modesty), and its greatest site – Le Grand Place. Victor Hugo called it “the most beautiful square in Europe.” While we wanted to sit and enjoy it we were so cold that Haley’s hands turned white and “started to burn.” We thought those might be symptoms of the early stages of frost bite so we figured we move on to some place warmer.

You can see more photos at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=592057&id=648610330&l=a8fe0830d9

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In Bruges

Winding canals similar to Venice, stone house that look like they’re made of gingerbread, and some of the best beer and chocolate in all of Europe, we couldn’t disagree more with Colin Farrell’s description of Bruges in the movie In Bruges (click here to see quote).

Our favorite memories were jogging through this canal filled town early on our second morning, buying a few Havana cigar chocolates (technically illegal but I don’t think customs will mind), touring a Belgium brewery, and munching on some Flemish Fries (some argue fries were invented here).

Oh, and we have to make sure to mention that we caught a fantastic sunset while walking through the canals. It was bitterly cold but we hung out so we could take in the beauty. We then of course ran into the nearest store, which happened to be a chocolateria, and enjoyed some free samples while we warmed up.

You can see our best of Bruges photos at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=16271754&l=ad9109c31b&id=648610330

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Take Me to Geneva

 

Home to the Largest Fountain in Europe, the birthplace of Calvinism, the UN, and the Big Bang Experiment, Geneva had a lot to offer. We spent Thursday and Friday night there and made sure that we bought some of the famous Swiss chocolate and army knives so we could make the visit official. The city was incredible. What made it even better was that it was not only lit up for Christmas but also for Switzerland’s L’ Escalade celebration which took place the weekend we were in town! I’m not sure where Pac-Man fits into the festivities but he seemed to be taking center state. Check out the photos!

Holden and Brittany took the lead for our time in Geneva and began our time with a walking tour led by Marvin and Marge (see finger puppets photos). They took us first to St. Peter’s Church and Calvin Auditorium where John Calvin and his co-Reformists fought for the beliefs of Protestantism. Interestingly, one guidebook said that what the Vatican is to Catholicism, Geneva is to Protestantism. It was a unique experience since all the churches we have visited up to this point have all been Catholic.

Marvin and Marge then led us to a kebab restaurant (Newton’s favorite) and to Geneva’s Jet d’Eau which is Europe’s largest fountain. We ended our time in Geneva with the Christmas Market and some very tasty Christmas crepes.

You can see our best of Geneva photos at

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=590778&id=648610330&l=19cd21f7d2

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Montreux Christmas Market & Freddie Mercury Day 

The next day we decided to head a nearby town we were told had a great Christmas Market. We ordered a taxi and were told it would cost us 100 swiss francs. When we arrived in Montreux, the taxi driver pointed to the meter and asked for 120 francs so I proceeded to question him on the matter. This cab driver proceeded to explain how he was giving us such a great deal. He told that it was a National Holiday and that he should have charged us double. We ended up meeting in the middle and paying 110.

The highlights of the Christmas Market were trying Absinthe for the first time and finding a massive statue of Freddie Mercury (lead singer of Queen). After seeing all the people gathered around it who were leaving flowers and paying homage I began to wonder if this was the National Holiday the taxi driver mentioned. We snapped a few photos and expressed amusement at Freddie Mercury’s epitaph – “Singer of Songs – Lover of Life.” Maybe one day that can be written on a monument in my name. 

You can see our best of the Swiss Alps pictures at

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=590754&id=648610330&l=0c2ee05572

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Sledding in the Swiss Alps

Now as I mentioned in the previous post we found ourselves on a ski resort with no ski runs open. Nonetheless we all stayed positive and found a way to have fun. We did some investigation and found out that the ski rental place had sleds. They also recommended a good spot for us to give them a try. In hindsight, I think it was probably one of the most fun things we did. Check out the next several videos and you will see why!

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