Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Anniversary in Quebec City

Château Frontenac. Old Quebec.This year we had a little bit less time for our anniversary trip than we usually do, so instead of flying somewhere we decided to take a road trip on our own car. We initially thought of going to Montreal, but since we were going without kids we figured we could go a little bit further and add Quebec City to our itinerary.

Vermont capitol building at Montpelier.Plus we’ve been to Montreal only a year and half before and our last and only trip to Quebec City was way back in 2008. At first we were concerned that it’s going to be extremely cold there at the very end of November, but after looking at the map of Europe we saw that we’ve spent our vacations much further north than Quebec and it was fine. That turned out to be not a correct assumption.

Inside the capitol.Another thing of significance of this vacation was the fact that this was the first time that our actual anniversary date fell right on Thanksgiving — just like our actual wedding was. It took 11 years for this cycle to complete. And so our total vacation was 6 days long including the days that we would spend on driving there and back.

From the capitol staircase.Originally we planned to leave on the morning of November 22nd — Wednesday before Thanksgiving. On Tuesday I want to work and learned that we were going to have half a day on Wednesday. It suddenly occurred to me that probably a lot of companies would do the same. I decided to leave a little early from work and asked Alёna to finish packing our bags as soon as possible. I also talked to my mom and she agreed to take the kids a night ahead of schedule.

Entering the province of Quebec.It took me 3(!!!) hours to get home from work. It was maddening. Probably the longest commute I’ve ever had. Even though I was extremely tired I still wanted to leave that night to avoid the same terrible drive the next morning. We ended up leaving at around 10pm and it took us under an hour to pass by my office again. All the traffic was gone by then.

First dinner at hotel restaurant.We decided to start our trip with Quebec City since it was further away than Montreal to make the drive home easier. It was a good decision considering that we managed to leave earlier. Our route ran through Vermont — we wanted to make a stop at Montpelier since we really haven’t seen the capitol during the day time. So we drove for about 4 hours the first night. When we started to get tired we found the closest Hilton chain hotel and were in bed before 2am.

Window view from our hotel.We ended up stopping somewhere in Massachusetts, not far from Vermont border. We drove for about 200 miles out of our total 570 miles and about 140 miles away from Montpelier. The hotel that we picked was Hampton Inn & Suites Greenfield and it ran us around $130 for the night. Nice, clean and pleasant place to spend the night. It was a good decision to leave when we did — we haven’t spend any time in traffic during our overall drive to Quebec at all.

Our hotel in the background.In the morning we set out to finish our journey to Quebec City with a short detour to visit the capital and capitol of Vermont in Montpelier. The capitol turned out to be completely different from what I remembered it to be. I guess I was confusing it with a clock-tower on the main street because last time we drove through this town in the middle of the night. Capitol was completely dark and main street actually had some lights on.

Streets of Quebec City.We walked around inside, looked at some painting, including an official Vermont State House portrait of Howard Dean. And we added another official state capital stamp to our collection — one of the two new ones this trip — another one was for New York at the end of our trip.

Notre Dame de Quebec.Then we ate a small lunch at a restaurant right across from the capitol building and went on to finish our drive to Quebec — about 240 more miles. We got to Montpelier at around 1pm and we left it closer to 3pm. We crossed the US-Canadian border at around 4:30pm and we were in our hotel room at almost 8pm.

Notre Dame de Quebec.LONG drive. I have to say that if before drives like these were fairly easy for me to do it is no longer so. Since Arosha was born our all our trips were cut up in smaller pieces in order not to drive long distances in a single sitting. So I’m no longer used to those.

Our suite. Parliament view.Hilton turned out to be as nice as expected. They upgraded our room to a suite on one of the top floors with a grand view of parliament building from our windows. We also discovered a bottle of champagne on ice in our room and congratulatory note on our wedding anniversary. What a pleasure.

Promenade.The hotel was located only half a mile away from the downtown in the heart of the city. But by the time we got to the hotel we were so tired that we just went downstairs to a hotel restaurant for our dinner. As it sometimes happens with hotel restaurants it ended up being very very mediocre. We ordered several dishes and they were all just off. We haven’t returned to this place again and ate elsewhere. And then we went to sleep to recharge for the next day.

Promenade. On the way to Château Frontenac.The next day was our anniversary day and Thanksgiving at the same time. We didn’t make any plans ahead of time for our special dinner, so we made a little bit of research, read some guides and checked out some videos by Anthony Bourdain about French Canada. And then we set out to Old Quebec — a short walk as I mentioned above.

Château Frontenac.The day was very very cold. We had our late November vacations in much more northern cities of Europe, but I guess Gulf Stream makes a huge difference. All those cities were fairly warm and Quebec City most definitely was not. So one of the first stops we made when we arrived to Old Quebec was at Dale of Norway store and acquiring a new much warmer hat for me. Dale of Norway brought up some recent memories — those stores were all over Norway which we visited only a couple month before.

Rue du Petit Champlain.The we walked along the promenade in front of Château Frontenac — a hotel that was built at the end of 19th century and looks a lot like a huge beautiful castle. Wikipedia says that the hotel is generally recognized as the most photographed hotel in the world.

Rue du Petit Champlain.We made a short walk from there to a nearby Notre Dame de Quebec. I don’t think we’ve been inside before as it did look unfamiliar. It looked quite beautiful inside because of a huge golden structure or sculpture at the head of the cathedral. We noticed a Christmas market being constructed nearby — such a familiar sight from pretty much all of our European vacations. And then a walk back to promenade.

Christmas tree.My memories of Quebec were kind of fuzzy and I actually only remembered two things — one was Château Frontenac and another one was a street of shops and restaurants under some large hill. So as expected it was in the same part of the city, right under the mentioned above promenade. The street is called Rue du Petit Champlain. I also remember that my parents bought Alёna a pair of artsy necklaces as gift for her graduation from college I think.

Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens.I thought it would be nice to do the same thing — this being our anniversary and her birthday being only a week ago. So after looking in couple of places we found a nice handmade pendant and a matching pair of earrings. Nice mementos of our trip. We also spotted a nice restaurant with some rabbit stews, but we already had different plans for today.

At anniversary dinner.For our anniversary dinner we picked a place called Aux Anciens Canadiens — the name that popped up in a lot of places during our “research” in the morning. It had nice ratings at TripAdvisor and came with a lot of recommendations. Time-wise, this dinner, just as all our other dinners of this trip, fell somewhere closer to lunch than dinner. But we often happen to do this when we travel.

Wild meat pie.I started with a great lobster bisque soup that felt just right on this cold day and then I had a really really nice wild meat pie with a delicious sauce. Alёna had a split pea soup and then some cheesy-melty dish with a bunch of vegetables. And instead of pairing our meals with wine we went with a pair of glasses of draft beer. It was a nice place and a good dinner.

Parliament from our window.Afterwards we walked back to our hotel for some rest — we were already tired and didn’t really want to do anything for today. Later on we walked over to the executive lounge at our hotel for some light snacks, deserts and drinks. Another huge bonus of us staying at Hilton as Diamond VIPs. And that was the end of our 11th anniversary.

Montmorency Falls.The next day we woke up to a white Quebec. It started snowing during the night and the snow was still falling. Even though the snowstorm seemed heavy not much of the snow have accumulated on the streets — but all the rooftops were dressed in white.

On a trail at Montmorency Falls park.We didn’t really know what to do for the day, so we walked down and asked for some advice at a concierge desk. We got a recommendation to see the country side and visit a waterfall on the outskirts of the city. Why not, we thought. We drove out to Montmorency Falls and a large park that surrounded it. Took us no more than 30 minutes.

View from the top of the falls.We started at the foot of the falls, but everything seemed to be closed. Then we noticed a bridge running over the top with people on it. So we drove around and found the park with a bunch of what turned out to be nice trails. The views from the top were great. It was still snowing and it was making everything special. In fact the whole day was somewhat magical — like a nice fairytale. This piece of nature and the city itself.

At Montmorency Falls park.The only somewhat unpleasant thing that happened was my icy slip and fall. The ground was very icy and in most places covered by light snow, so it was not always obvious. Eventually I slipped and fell down right in sync with some other woman several meters away. Probably looked funny from the side, would’ve made a nice video. I got up and didn’t really hurt anything.

Bridge over the top of the falls.And then we happened upon an icy hill. I crouched down and took a nice speedy ride down. Only the ice quickly turned to ground towards the end which brought me to a quick stop and sent me flying with a nice flip. And again I didn’t hurt anything. Alёna wanted to try too, but she decided to just sit down and slide down. That worked a lot better than my feat.

Ice slide.She liked it so much that she decided to do it again. By then a couple of young people came by and saw her doing this. So one of the guys tells his girlfriend that they should do this. And the girls goes — no, that’s crazy! And the guy goes — they just did it! And she goes — oh, OK then, let’s do this.

Back in Quebec.So the guy sat down, she sat in his lap and they rode down. Then they stop and she picks something up from the snow — wow, somebody lost their keys! I check my pocket and holy crap! My keys! So glad that we decided to stay and watch them take a ride. That could’ve been very unpleasant and would probably ruin the day.

German market.After that we drove around a little bit — noticed that a lot of houses had tents around their driveways, so they wouldn’t have to undig their cars — never saw this kind of setup in New York. Seemed to make a lot of sense. And then we drove back to our hotel and walked over to the old city again.

Snow and a snowy beard.As it usually happens the market has opened. This happened many times to us. We see a market under construction and then while we are still around, it opens. Right at the center of it there was an open air kitchen grilling German sausages. What a smell. But we wanted to have a proper dinner, so we resisted. We bought a couple of little toys for our kids, albeit at a nearby store, not the market and now we were ready for dinner.

Snow covered Rue du Petit Champlain.We decided to go back to Rue du Petit Champlain and eat at a place that had rabbit stews. TripAdvisor had high ratings for that place, but I guess it was popular on its own — the wait time was over an hour. Nope, that doesn’t work. So we turned back to TripAdvisor and found another well rated place nearby — Bistro Sous le Fort.

Dinner at Bistro Sous le Fort.I had some deer sausage and some duck with french fries I think. When we were ordering the fries they said that they could put some gravy on top and some cheese curds. That sounded weird to us, so we declined. And only later we found out that what they were actually offering is called poutine and is actually a french Canada specialty. Doh! We actually only realized this when we were at Montreal as you will see in the next post.

Bistro Sous le Fort.And in fact this is it for Quebec City. We went back to our hotel, visited executive lounge again and off to Montreal we went the next morning. A great first part of our trip.

P.S. All the pictures for this trip have been taken with iPhone X. While it’s not D700 quality and I was slightly worried about the possibility of ruined vacation pictures my back has been really thankful. They are most definitely Web worthy.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Brussels

Grand Place.The ride to Brussels was fast and easy. We took a cab to the Paris Nord train station and after a relatively short train ride we arrived at Brussel-Zuid station. Our Hilton was located right next to another train station — Brussels Centraal.

Brussel Centraal train station.We did not know it back then, but we could have hopped on pretty much any train going in that direction for free (our tickets from Paris covered it) and would have gotten to the Centraal station in 5 minutes. Instead, we decided to take a local subway, and it took us around 40 minutes to get to the hotel. Oh well, we still saved some money if not time compared to the taxi ride.

Our top floor hotel room.At Hilton, we got an upgraded room looking out to the city center. The hotel had an executive lounge, which is a always a big plus. This particular lounge served not just appetizers, but full dinners in the evenings. The hotel’s staff was also very nice and they sent us a card and a bottle of Prosecco wine at the day of our anniversary. As I said many times before, Hilton does not disappoint.

One of the multiple fry places.We arrived to the hotel mid-day, and were pretty hungry by that point. Since all the travel guides praise Belgian french fries as superb and authentic, we decided to get them for lunch. We randomly picked a small place with a lively crowd. Danya got a burger with fries and I got a salad with the same side. What can I say? It tasted just like plain boring french fries is supposed to. Have you guessed that I am not a big fan? There was nothing special or extra delicious about it in this place, or any other place in Belgium for that matter.

Grand Place.After a quick lunch, we walked around the center and checked the Grand Place for the first time. Funny thing is that during our preliminary research both Danya and I were sure that there was a Grand PAlace — a King’s residence, and not a PLace — an old square in the center of Brussels. I’ve read that the Place looks especially Grand during flower blooming seasons, but with our vacation happening at the end of November the flowers were long gone.

Grand Place for afar.Our first impression was that even though the city center was nice, it was not distinguishable enough to stand out from the other European cities. The thought that we should have spent more time in Paris and less time in Brussels came to our minds more than once. However, Brussels grew on us as days went by. We circled around the center many more times and as the streets were getting more and more familiar, the city seemed more and more charming.

Beer tasting.But back to our first day. After lunch we picked a pub to taste some of those famous Belgian beers. The bar that we chose was cozy, but I think that we made a mistake by buying a sampler instead of just going for the beer types that we typically enjoy. There was probably one or two beers out of 6 that we’ve gotten that were more or less OK, the rest was just too bitter for our liking. We did mention to the bartender that we like wheat beers that are more sour than bitter, but with the exception of one beer she pretty much gave us the standard sampler. What a pity.

Our first beer bar.We went to pubs in Brussels two more times during our trip. Second time we picked a bar across the street from the first one and got a pair of Hoegaardens. The beer was nice — draft is draft — but the atmosphere was probably a little worse than during our first day. The bartender spoke Russian to us (we did not inquire where she was from though), and there was a big table with older people who were pretty loud.

Our second beer bar.Our third and final beer pub experience was the best. The bar itself had pretty high ratings, but it was not the beer, but the company that made it more special. We decided to sit by the bar this time around and at some point a young guy, who happened to be an American on a business trip to Europe, started a conversation with us. It was fun to talk to someone about a whole bunch of things, and he also suggested that we should try a sour beer — Belgian specialty, which I ended up really liking. In fact, we tried two different types of sour beer and one of them reminded me of kvas, only with alcohol.

Delirium Café. Largest selection of beer per The Guinness Book of Records.On our fist day we had dinner at a highly rated Belgian restaurant Fin De Siecle, which apparently translates as The End of the Century. It was really crowded and they had a layout similar to beer halls — long tables that people share and all. There was no menus available, just a blackboard with chalk writing on it by the bar, and they did not accept credit cards.

Central. Place.The food was decent and relatively inexpensive, but it was so hot and loud that I was glad when we got out in the cold and quiet of the night. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the city center again and the buildings were lighted up in blue, which looked pretty nice I think.

Metro station.The next day was our 10th wedding anniversary. Yay to the happiness that we’ve had and hopefully will continue to have! We decided to go to Brugge and possibly stop at Ghent on our way back. There will be a separate post about that day.

Atomium.On the third day we made a trip to the Atomium, which was constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair. Travel guides say that Belgians consider their Atomium to be on par with Eiffel Tower, but I beg to differ. I have not heard about Atomium prior to visiting Brussels, and I bet I was not alone in my ignorance.

Inside one of the strands at Atomium.We took a subway ride to the place — even though we had to switch train lines ones, it was easy enough to figure out how to get there. Once we got there, we first took a stroll in the vicinity and took some pictures and then got tickets for the inside tour. It was not especially memorable — mostly a bunch of World Expo posters. The view from one of the spheres was OK, but nothing special as well.

Looking out one of the windows.After Atomium, we walked around some more and went to have lunch at another place rated well by Trip Advisor. It was almost closing, so we could only pick one of the two dishes from the day specials, which actually worked out just fine. I got fish, Danya got meat, and I ended up really enjoying it. I also got a raspberry Hoegaarden beer, which tasted more like compote.

Another window view.Funny thing is that when we were looking for that particular place, we passed a whole bunch of other places where the waiters were quite aggressively trying to lure us in, promising free beer and such. From what Danya read on Trip Advisor, such places turned out to be tourist traps, where people ended up paying high prices for substandard food. Good thing that we skipped those. Although, as a rule, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Park by Atomium.In the evening we took another stroll though the city center and even went to see the silly statue of the pissing boy — Manneken Pis. I don’t know why, but it managed to be in a spotlight of tourist attention for a very long time, and people do not seem to tire of it. Oh well, why not?

Park by Atomium.The next day we just spent a good chunk of the morning staying in bed — vacations without children are the only time when I have a luxury to do this. I actually managed to read three books during the vacation. For me it’s a very fast pace, since I don’t normally have much time for reading for myself — reading for kids is the whole other story.

By Atomium.For lunch we’ve decided to check out a cheese sandwich place — Tonton Garby — which had very high ratings on Trip Advisor. The shop owner is very chatty and attentive, and he obviously knows his cheeses. We liked our sandwiches a lot.

Tonton Garby cheese sandwich shop.The downside is that you have to wait for a long time to get your sandwich since the owner spends roughly 10 minutes per customer. We stood in line for about 40 minutes — there were two couples ahead of us — but I think it was worth it. We ate our sandwiches in Hilton’s executive lounge though — more room, warmer, and who can beat free drinks?

Église Notre-Dame du Sablon.In the afternoon we went to explore the city some more. We walked to the Royal Palace, had a nice stroll in some park and even visited a church, which was probably nice, but does not stick out in memory.

Grand Place.We also stumbled upon a shopping avenue with many famous brands present, but we just passed them by since neither me, nor Danya felt particular urge to buy stuff. We did visit a BMW shop which had a free expo going. There were a whole bunch of historic BMWs, and even though I am not an automobile aficionado, it was interesting to see the car industry evolution through the experiences of this particular company.

Christmas market.And of course we ended up in the center again, where we got lucky because the holiday market, which was being built during the previous days, was finally open. We wondered through it for a while, and I even got a nice hand-made pendant on a black rope.

View from our window.After that we made our last visit to the local bar — a place called Delirium. I’ve wrote about our nice experience there a few paragraphs back.

At Delirium bar.I think we had dinner at the Executive lounge, and it was really good as always.

Brussels. Park by Atomium.
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Friday, January 13, 2017

Paris — The City of Lights

Eiffel Tower from the top of Arc de Triomphe.It’s getting to two months since our return from Europe and we have yet to write anything about it. So I will start with Paris — the first stop of our three country vacation and the rest will follow.

Our hotel. Hilton Paris Opera.As most European flights are we left JFK on a red-eye flight to Paris with a stop-over in Reykjavik. For some reason this flight was unusually tiring on us. Neither one of us can really sleep well on a plane and this time around Alёna started to get a huge migraine which in her case usually leads to inability to stand and possible fainting. And the only solution was to sleep which she couldn’t do well.

Streets of Paris. On our way to the arch.During a stop-over in Reykjavik we had to stand in line to go through passport control and I feared that she was either going to pass out or decide to lye down on the floor. Luckily after we went through passport control she started feeling better and the next flight went relatively OK. But we were very very tired after it all.

Streets of Paris.I remember during our trip to Germany we even went out right after our flight to Berlin. And when we went to Barcelona we didn’t feel as tired either. We took a short nap and set out for a long walk. As we did here. We took a taxi to our hotel which was not far from all the things that we wanted to see, got checked in after a small wait — which we spent in an executive lounge — into an small suite via a free upgrade with an “amazing” view of some roof.

Arc de Triomphe.The hotel itself looked grand inside and out. It actually looked like some old opera house inside. So we asked whether it was converted from something else into a hotel. Turns out it was always a hotel which was built at the end of 19th century. It used to be directly connected to a large train station behind the hotel which is still there. The hotel changed ownership multiple times throughout it’s history and was acquired by Hilton group in 2013. Now it’s known as Hilton Paris Opera.

View from the to of the arch.And after a well proportioned nap we got dressed and set course towards the famous Arc de Triomphe which was one and a half miles away from our hotel or a 30 minute walk. This was our first impression of Paris. And it is grand, like no city that we have seen before. The streets seemed old yet cozy. Old churches, old buildings — lots and lots of history.

Another view of the tower from the top.There were a lot of refugees on the streets, but instead of feeling unsafe in these situations you couldn’t help but feel compassion for those families. During the day woman would spent time with kids under the blankets in cold streets and later on a father would join, probably coming back from trying to find work.

Staircase inside the arch.The arch was quite impressive and even though it was dark out there was a large number of people around it. Since climbing atop the arch was one of the things on our list and we would be coming there again anyhow we didn’t spend a lot of time around it and turned back. We tried to find some dinner place and ended up walking through some tiny streets to find a highly rated place via Trip Advisor. But it turned out to be closed on that day of the week.

The Eiffel Tower.We walked back all the way to our hotel and searched again. Ended up going for dinner into some small tapas places, but for some reason we ended up ordering full dinner entries. In retrospect that was a mistake — should’ve gone for things that they specialize in. We did, however, try some interesting red sweet beer.

Right across Seine from The Eiffel Tower.We started our first full day with a walk back to the arch, bought the tickets and took a long spiral staircase up to the top. The view was magnificent. This was also the first time we actually saw The Eiffel Tower with our own eyes. And the vantage point was perfect for photographing it. The arch itself was located in a center of circle to which a lot of streets were connecting, making it look like you are standing in a center of sun with rays running out of it.

Under the tower.We spent a while walking around and taking pictures. Sadly for my photography the sky was constantly gray making for less then stellar end results. But I had my GND filters with me, so I could still make photos without featureless skies. In fact the view was so great that we decided that there was no point going to an observation deck of skyscraper that we originally planned to visit.

Shores of Seine.Our next destination was the famous tower itself — another 30 minute walk. Beforehand we had to do a thorough inspection of a bathroom — none of which are free in Paris — of a large department store. A side note — everything in Paris was within a walking distance, so we didn’t have to use any kind of transpiration at all.

Seine.Right across from the tower there was a set of stairs that one could climb for a nice view of the tower and surroundings. And after taking a couple of photographs from there we crossed the Seine and ended up pretty much right under the tower. It really is pretty huge. To get exactly under the tower one had to go through security gates — there is a fence around the tower — and since we didn’t really want to go up the tower we decided to skip that.

Alexandre III bridge across Seine.And then we just set course towards our hotel along the shores of Seine. Since it was a weekend a lot of people were out and about — running, cycling or just walking. At one point a shady looking woman bent over in front of us and made it seem like she just found a golden ring. It was obvious to me that it was some kind of scam, so I just waved her off. Alëna wasn’t sure, so we just stood there and watched. The same exact scene repeated itself when she walked up to some other group of people. Things like this are pretty easy to spot to avoid unpleasant situations.

Alexandre III bridge. The Eiffel Tower in the background.After a nice walk we crossed Seine again and even the bridges in this city are grand — magnificent statues and all. We got caught under a bit of rain, but it stopped shortly after it started. And then we ended up on one of the winter markets that we remember so well from Germany. Lots of street food, crafts, drinks and everything else that these markets tend to have. And a lot of people.

Christmas market.This is where we tried one of the “musts” in France — crepes. We ordered a pair of crepes with different stuffing. We wanted to get some Gluehwein — hot German wine, but for some reason didn’t. The crepes were crepes. Nothing unexpected. But now we can claim that, yes, we did try crepes in Paris. And I again had to test out the local facilities — my stomach was acting up all day long — the one and only day when it was giving me problems. I don’t think it’s crepe related though, but it did put a bit of a damper on this fun day.

Parisian crepes.On the way to our hotel we stopped by another very grand looking church with huge columns for a short visit and that was it for exploring on that day. For dinner we went to Restaurant Garnier that was recommended by hotel staff — a place right across the street from our hotel. It turned out to be probably the best dinner of the whole trip. I ordered some insanely expensive fried fish, but it was totally worth it.

Louvre.The main objectives of our second and last full day in Paris were Louvre and Notre Dame de Paris. If the tower and the arch were on the west side of our hotel, Louvre and Notre Dame were on the east. The day turned out to be somewhat rainy, so we borrowed an umbrella from our hotel and were on our way.

Louvre lobby.Louvre was about 2km away — another 30 minute walk through the streets of Paris. When we arrived there we saw the world famous glass pyramid entrance and as expected — no line. We quickly passed through the security checkpoint and saw a coat check by the entrance. We figured since we’re going to spend 2-3 hours were it would be nice to to lug our outerwear with us.

Venus de Milo.The thing is that we hate going through a regular coat check though. Standing in line, getting a number, somebody handling your clothing, retrieving it, tipping and all that. But in Louvre you end up in a large locker room in which you pick any shelf from different sized ones and each one is equipped with a digital lock. You put your stuff in, set the pin and that’s it. Great.

Mona Lisa.And then we wondered through the halls of this top art museums of the world. Among the most famous things we saw was Venus de Milo and DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Mona Lisa was probably the most crowded place of the whole museum. It was not even possible to get close to it. There were two guards, a guard rail, bullet proof glass and a “selfing” crowd.

One of very many halls inside Louvre.The museum is impossible to cover in one day. We usually places like this 2-3 hours and then we tend to get tired. Towards the end of our tour when we sat down on one of the benches for a little bit of rest Alёna remembered that we still haven’t seen the famous painting by Jacques-Louis David — The Coronation of Napoleon. I started looking around and lo and behold — we’re sitting right in front of it.

Streets of Paris.Notre Dame de Paris was another 1.7km away in the same direction — further away from our hotel. Needless to say the walk back was somewhat long. But we keep trying to take different routes and end up seeing a good portion of all the cities that we visit through non-touristy streets. These walks probably are the things that built the feel of the city for us.

Notre Dame de Paris.Notre Dame itself is not all that unusual from the looks of it inside or out to my untrained eyes. But what makes it really special is the fact that it has seen so much history. The construction of it began almost 900 years ago. Napoleon was crowned inside of it, as is depicted by the above mentioned painting. The day was quite rainy so we decided not to go to the roof though.

Streets of Paris.And after that we took a long walk back to our hotel. We were so tired by the day’s end that we decided to grab a late light lunch in hotel restaurant and later some appetizers at the executive lounge instead of going out. And thus our stay in Paris has concluded as the next morning we were leaving it for Brussels.

Streets of Paris.As I said earlier Paris has left a very positive and lasting impression on us. It really is grand all throughout. We did see a lot of things, but there are many many other things to do that we didn’t have time for. In retrospect we really should’ve allocated more time for Paris, especially considering that a train to Brussels only takes an hour. I would like to visit it again in the future.

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