So I went to the Netherlands and Paris. I had sort of been to Amsterdam before - one time I had a layover there for like 8 hours so I left the airport and walked around the city. But this was pretty much my first time there. The weather did NOT cooperate though! It was cold and rainy the whole time. It was like 10 degrees colder than LA's winter + rain. My goodness, that place is sooo wet! I wish they could share some of that water with us in California. Our 3 year drought has become a serious problem. It's actually quite bad here.
I visited some of the countryside and smaller cities in the Netherlands. It's a very beautiful place! Of course, I saw lots of windmills. I even visited one that is still being used today to cut wood. It's actually very cool! This windmill in the picture below is not that one. It was a random one that we drove by. Somebody lives in it.
I also visited Volendam, which a day trip from Amsterdam. It's a very charming place, though pretty touristy. I love the houses there though! I was also very impressed with how clean the windows are in that country. I guess the rain cleans them. It's amazing.
I also tried raw herring! Pretty good actually. Salty, but just like sushi otherwise. I guess normally you hold the fish by the tail and drop it in your mouth lol. But we were at a restaurant where they cut up the fish like this:
One of the weirdest things I saw there were these little green leaves that cover the canals. They are so small and so close together, that they make the surface of the water look solid! I heard that tourists often make this mistake and step into it, then end up soaking wet lol.
Close up of these little leaves...
Amsterdam is a very nice city. I didn't have too much time, so I basically took the on and off canal tour like a tourist that I was. Walked around the different locations, and visited the Rijks museum.
The line for the Anne Frank house was insane. I didn't feel like waiting so I took a picture of the line and left. It actually goes back even more around the corner in the back where you can't see on this photo:
My general feeling was that everything is so much cheaper there! I went to the grocery store and was amazed. I think LA is seriously overpriced. I'm spending Euro there, and prices are still much less than LA for everything after the currency conversion! The same chocolate brands cost 1/3 of their prices in LA. Food and drinks at restaurants cost less, while portions are larger. I went to this restaurant called De Kas which I highly recommend. It's inside of a green house! It's kind of gimmicky but cute. They grow their own stuff, and their menu changes weekly. You cannot actually order anything there, it's just a flat rate (I think 50 euro/pp?) which comes with 3 courses. You can also add wine pairing for each course for 27 euro. The food was very very good!
So after a few days, we took the train to Paris. It was my first time in Paris! I have friends there so it was free to stay, plus local tour guide! Lol. I think I saw a whole lot of Paris in just a couple days. And I had such a good time! Apparently August is a great time to go to Paris because most people go visit the beaches at this time, so the city is pretty empty (relatively). My friend said there is ample parking everywhere on the street during August.
On our first night, we went to the Arc de Triomphe/ Champs Elysees, I've seen pictures before, but I thought it was pretty impressive in person!
Had a coffee there and was confused - why such a small amount in a big cup? I filled the rest with milk lol:
The next day we went to Notre Dame cathedral, which was always my favorite church when I studied art history! I was super excited to go there! I actually saw it at night as well as during the day - all these amazingly detailed buildings in Paris are truly impressive. I don't even know if any other city can rival Paris in this aspect. Maybe Vienna?
The Notre Dame did not disappoint in person... I stared at it forever! It's amazing how much detail went into it:
This is the back of it... and me lol:
Of course I had to see the Eiffel Tower as well... It's actually smaller/shorter than I thought it would be! I didn't wait in line to go to the top. I just don't want to waste time standing in line when I'm on a short trip!
I also thought I'd go to the Louvre museum. It's cheap to go and the line doesn't take long at all. Though it would probably take 2 weeks to see all of it. I was there for 2 hours.
The #1 reason everybody goes there... the Mona Lisa. I headed straight to it too. This is what happened lol:
Woah, I might as well just google it. I actually did get up to the front of this crowd at one point. But it was still so far away from the actual painting that I could not see any details. And the bullet proof glass glared. Most overrated thing ever. But, now I've seen the Mona Lisa in person, ha!
Oh yeah, most tourist things... I went to the Sacre Coeur and sat on the stairs like everyone else.
I also squeezed in a trip to the Gallerie Lafayette for some shopping. But I think I was there at the same time as some Chinese shopping tour group?!? Either that or it's like that all the time. All the stores had lines to get in. I was over it in no time even though every single luxury brand had a store there. I think one of the advantages of buying stuff in Paris vs at home is to save tax money since you get the VAT tax back at the airport. But it's really only worth it if the item you are buying costs a lot, which I had no plan to spend. I was very entertained by these Chinese shoppers though. We read quite a bit here about how wealthy Chinese people spend crazy amount of money buying luxury goods in Europe. But this was the first time I've seen it in action lol. I think literally 95% of people there were Chinese, even the sales associates.
The Gallerie Lafayette has a very cool roof though. I also like this hot air balloon guy:
Anyway, I had a really great time in Paris and I already can't wait to go back! Most of my caloric damage done during this trip was in Paris. Food was just so good there! I ate lots of quiche and crepes, and other deliciousness. Like escargot:
...And randomly picked dishes at restaurant without English menu! Lol. It was a placed called Jeanne B at the Montmartre near Sacre Coeur. My friend had to go to his grandfather's birthday so my bf and I were left to fend for ourselves. We ordered "terrine" which we still aren't sure what was in it. It is some kind of pate, mixture of different types of meat I think. We also ordered this rabbit pie in the middle picture, and chicken on the bottom. We knew enough French to figure out what we were going to get. Like "lapin" means rabbit, and "poulet" means chicken. But no idea how they were going to be presented. Turned out to be a great success!
And lastly, I have to mention that the stairs in the Paris subways are crazy! I never had to drag around my suitcase so much up and down stairs. Good thing I workout! This picture was taken at like 6 am (sans makeup, sorry!) on my way to the train that takes you to the airport. The escalator was broken. Argh! But I conquered it! =D
And, 12 hours later, I was home! I feel bloaty from the plane ride and the not-so-good food options from Paris. But whatever, I'll get back to the gym and hopefully everything will get back to normal soon! I hope you all had a great week!