So my winter break started last Friday, when I got on a bus in Nantes with 4 of my friends and arrived 5 hours later in Paris. Surprisingly, this bus ride was very easy, and allowed us to sleep plenty. Luckily, there was a break about half way through where we stopped at a gas station/convenience store and we were able to grab some snacks and a drink before we finished the bus ride. Unfortunately, our bus was a little late arriving in Paris due to traffic. Fortunately, this bus had wifi! It didn't work all the time, but I was thankful nonetheless. We met up with a friend studying abroad in Paris and took the metro from the train/bus station to the stop closest to our Airbnb.
Now, if you don't know about Airbnb, allow me to elaborate. When people have an extra apartment or will be gone for a few weeks/months/years, they can rent out the apartment (or room, or part of a house/apartment) to guests for a certain amount of time. In most cases, this is much much cheaper than booking a hotel and sometimes has more amenities than a hostel (like a full kitchen, laundry, etc). For our whole trip, we booked Airbnb's because it was the cheapest option and it was easy to split the price for each person each night. The house rules provided by each owner are very straight forward and are similar to those of a hotel: clean the place up, take the trash out, leave the linens and towels here, and so on. Airbnb's are a great option for bigger groups (like the 5-6 of us) since it allows us to be in one place (as opposed to multiple rooms in a hotel or hostel) an has great amenities.
Anyways, we dropped our bags off in the Airbnb and then headed out to a cabaret show. When you think cabaret, most imagine scantily-clad ladies dancing and singing, but this was a more traditional, authentic cabaret. In this case, it was a bunch of older males and females sitting around a table next to a pianist (and sometimes a guitarist or accordionist or flautist) and singing various songs of different genres, decades, and artists. Although this wasn't quite what we were expecting when we went, it was well worth the money, and it was a fantastic performance! After the show, we eventually wandered around the area and eventually back to our Airbnb to get some rest.
The next morning, we headed to the train/bus station to take a bus to Brussels, Belgium. This bus ride was another 4-5 hours, but was still a good trip, again with lots of sleeping and resting. Unfortunately, there was no break halfway through, and the wifi never worked (first-world problem, right?). We soon arrived in Brussels and we honestly got a little lost trying to find the correct metro line to our Airbnb. After wandering around the metro station looking for signs, we made it on the tram and eventually to our Airbnb. Since we arrived in the early evening, we just went to the store down the street and grabbed some quick dinner, played some card games, and headed to bed.
The next day we got a late start, since it's nice every now and then to be able to sleep in a little. We planned the activities for the day and set out. For the first day, we visited the Royal Palace of Brussels, Brussels park, Place Royale (a city center with many museums), some cathedrals, and of course, a waffle stand. I still don't understand how they get the waffles to be so sweet and crispy on the outside but still fluffy on the inside. Must be magic. The next day was some more churches, another city center (Grand Place), a park/garden, and a famous French fry stand, famous for its variety of sauce. I discovered that curry ketchup is very delicious, surprisingly.
Each place was magical, and had such a rich history and fantastic architecture. Brussels was hands down my favorite city just because the history and the city in general appealed and interested me more than any other city I visited. I definitely plan on going back to explore this city more and more. After two and a half days in Brussels, we hopped in a taxi at 4am to the airport to catch a flight to Venice, Italy. I really wasn't ready to leave, but I was very excited to explore Europe some more!
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<p>I'm Iggy Takahashi, a junior studying biochemistry and French studies at the University of Portland and studying abroad in Nantes, France. I love baking, cooking, travelling, exploring, and of course spending time with my family and cats. I have traveled to Spain, China, and throughout the United States, and I hope to continue to do so after graduating!</p>