Last week I trekked across Europe – Belgium, France and Germany to be exact. While there were a lot of things I would’ve done differently, I still managed to have an excellent time. How could I not have fun? I was in Europe! It was certainly a much-needed break from my everyday stressors. Here are some of my highlights.
1. The epic Brussels beer tour
Belgium is the country of beer, and Brussels is its capital. Let’s be honest, the country’s penchant for beer was my main reason for traveling here. Shocking, I’m sure. I had pretty high expectations for this tour, and they were more than surpassed. If possible, I now have even more respect for Belgian beers. The walking beer tour of Brussels, a guided tasting of eight beers at a variety of bars, allowed for a leisurely walk around the city soaking up the history of beer. Here, they serve each beer with its proper glass as each shape and style is designed to bring out the beer’s optimum flavor. After a few tastings, the ten people on the tour became my long-lost friends. Marc, our tour guide, told us it’s the magnesium’s doing. He not only knows a lot about Brussels and beer, but he made the tour infinitely more fun. If you’re ever in Belgium, look up his company Global Enterprises and expect to have a great time. He even guides a Nepal tour. Mount Everest anyone?
Other highlights of Belgium include seeing Hieronymus Bosch’s Temptation of St. Anthony triptych (my favorite Dutch painter) and many of Pieter Bruegel’s paintings like The Census at Bethlehem, drinking cocktails at Brussels’ oldest jazz club, L’Archiduc (Nat King Cole played here back in the day) and the city of Bruges.
2. Watching fußball in Düsseldorf
I love everything about watching sports – the camaraderie, the competitive nature it brings out in people and even yelling at the ref when he makes an idiotic call. Many of my favorite memories are surrounded by sporting events. My trip to Düsseldorf wasn’t much different. I don’t know how it happened. Some act by the sports gods maybe? Our trip to Düsseldorf perfectly coincided with the Germany vs. Greece game. Watch a football game with a bunch of enthusiastic, beer swilling Germans, and you will question why the U.S. doesn’t get more excited over the sport. Between our “Ich spreche Eine kleine Deutsch” and lots of hand gestures, we became fast friends with the boys screaming “Super Deutschland!” behind us. Looks like magnesium struck again. They were some of the friendliest people we’d come across yet. Even more so when Germany won!
Other highlights of Düsseldorf include devouring a meat platter (grilled and cooked pork knuckles, Bavarian Weißwurst, suckling pig sausage, pork steak, sauerkraut that I actually liked, mashed and fried potatoes) at Zum Schluessel, drinking locally brewed Altbier and strolling down the Promenade taking in the beautiful sights along the Rhine River.
3. Seeing The Notre Dame Cathedral
If you’ve ever read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo poetically describes the architecture of the Gothic cathedral. When I saw it peeking out over the other Parisian buildings, my anticipation skyrocketed. I didn’t expect to feel so anxious over a cathedral. Once you see the Notre Dame Cathedral with your own eyes, you might understand. Then again, maybe you’re more interested in shopping and cheese. I mean, I like cheese, but in my opinion the Notre Dame Cathedral trumps all the cheese of France. From the flying buttresses to the gargoyles or the stained glass windows and the building’s magical story, I fell in love with every nuance of the building.
Other highlights of Paris include the magnificent Eiffel Tower, getting lost on the Metro, walking down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to see the Arc de Triomphe, touring the Louvre (Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa!) and riding a boat down the scenic Seine River. There’s just so much to explore that one day didn’t even do the city justice. Don’t worry, Paris, I’ll be back some day. After all, I did touch Point Zero. Plus, I don’t have a giant map of the world on my apartment wall for nothing!
For more pictures of beer, art and the rest of my glorious trip, check out my Flickr set!