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Sunday, January 5, 2014

A taste of Paris, Rotterdam and Amsterdam

A few years ago I had this brilliant idea to visit three countries in about a two week time span.  I learned a valuable lesson - never do that again!  It was stressful and I got sick from trying to do and see too much.

Nevertheless, I stayed with some wonderful couchsurfers and observed many impressive sites.  This tour included France, Belgium and The Netherlands.  I already wrote a post about Belgium, so this one includes Paris, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

My companion and I spent a gloomy weekend in Paris.  The weather didn't cooperate nor did our attempts at speaking French.  Since vegetarian restaurants aren't terribly popular here, my diet mainly consisted of baguettes and cheese:)  I did, however, have decent Indian food at Neelkanth near the Gambetta metro station.

My best-loved activity was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  It's a curious place to wander with beautiful grounds and unique graves.   I simply adored Oscar Wilde's; however, I didn't partake in the kissing ritual.  The burial place that everyone was trying to find was Jim Morrison's, which was quite plain in appearance.  There's a lot of interesting material to read on their website, so check it out.

If you like to indulge in high-end shopping, check out Champs-Elysees Avenue.  It puts Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to shame!   There are even glam car showrooms that will make your jaw drop.  With luck, you will discover very talented street performers to entertain you.

I highly recommend paying a visit to the spectacular Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as Musée d'Orsay.

The worst thing about Paris?  I didn't get one single decent photo of the Eiffel Tower.  A damn shame....In fact, many of these photos aren't the best quality, as you will see.

Don't I do a great likeness?

Would you give this a smooch?

Where the iconic Jim is laid to rest

Chopin's grave

Immense talent

The Basilica
Notre Dame

Gorgeous fountain

 Palais de Justice

I was ill-prepared for transportation from Paris to Rotterdam, and ended up paying an atrocious amount of money for the Thalys train.  Key words - purchase in advance.

I got over it quickly though, because I was so excited to be staying with couchsurfers that I had hosted in Chicago.  My first impression of Rotterdam was bikes - and lots of them!  I completely love that concept.  While I didn't make use of one, I found a great video that will give you an idea of what it would be like.

Rotterdam is a trendy city with notable shops, cafes, bars and architecture.  My favorite place to eat was De Oude Plek.  This was the first time I have encountered a 100% vegetarian Chinese restaurant and the food was spot on!

Exclusive cube houses

Unique architecture in the city centre

A surprise parade of horsemen

Canals aren't only in Amsterdam

Cool building - Het Witte Huis

My hosts took my companion and I to Amsterdam for the day, which ended up being sheer disappointment.  I was pretty sick at that point and the weather turned on us.  We only wandered about half a day, because the rain wouldn't leave us alone.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I was able to experience several intriguing moments.  Condom shops, cannabis cafes and blue lights, oh my!  Upon entering a public restroom, I struggled to find my way to a stall due to the darkness.  My host told me many restrooms are like that so heroin users can't find their veins to shoot up.  Wowza!

I got a lovely hot chocolate at a cool cafe called Greendayz.  How could one not want to explore a venue whose motto is "eat with your head?" 

Nothing but condoms here

Pretty area to stroll

That's all she wrote; therefore, the desire to explore all these cities again still burns.

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