Well, after months of planning and anticipation, the sister is finally here to visit. I meticulously planned this trip so that when she arrived, she would be visiting Belgium when I was still there. Then we’d head to Bordeaux with a short stay in Paris, and in the end, we’ll fly back to Canada together, for MY vacations. This way, she would get the benefit of experiencing a little bit of both countries while I’d have some company for the long trans-Atlantic flight 😉
It’s been almost three weeks of hopping between cities, most of which I’ve been to already, and I wanted my sister to get the best out of her first European adventure. It certainly wasn’t easy for her to be away from home for so long, all by herself, and it wasn’t easy to plan a feasible route for her, but I enjoyed the process of showing some of the places I loved and exploring new places with her. Of course, food was a big part of our adventure, as you’ll see later! So let’s start with…
I was finishing my 4th session in Louvain-la-Neuve when my sister arrived, and she got to stay with me there for a full week. I brought her to Bruges, a popular tourist destination that I didn’t like when I first visited, Ghent, like Bruges but much more lovely, at least to me, and of course, Brussels, the European capital. Chef tagged along as well, triple the fun!
Sista time! Sherry is 9 years younger than me – quite a huge difference, no? Almost everyone told us that we don’t look alike, and most would agree that I am more like my dad while my sister is more like my mom, both in terms of physical appearance and personality. Do you think we look anything like each other at all? 😉
Since chef was around, I barely ever had to cook…lazy and spoiled, yes! This is just about the only meal I cooked by myself, and that was because chef was out to Antwerp that day. Baked chicken wings, green beans with duck gizzards, and tomato scrambled eggs. Would you eat some?
Yup, eating out just about made me broke, but you don’t go to Brussels without trying mussels. I do admit they are much pricier than the French equivalents, but the ones in Belgium are certainly much larger than the ones in France. Mmm, mussels and fries with a cold glass of beer (not for the kid though, hehe)…so classic!
Here we were at the Grote Markt in Bruges. It was my second visit and after deciding that I didn’t like Bruges too much the first time I went, I figured I’d give it a second chance. The better weather and the company made the trip much more pleasant than the first time around, and I enjoyed the city much, much more.
Second stop, Ghent. Yup, we did Bruges and Ghent on the same day, as suggested before by a few people. Yup, it was a bit rushed, but doable. Yup, I still prefer Ghent over Bruges.
Sherry was lucky to be in Belgium during this period of time because we were just in time for the biennial Flower Carpet at the Grand Place in Brussels! I was looking forward to this event already months before it happened, and now we could finally see it! The Grand Place was already beautiful as it is, but it looked ever so amazing decorated with the splendid and vibrant colours! Just wow!
I really didn’t want to go to Paris if I don’t absolutely have to, but if my sister were to tell people that she didn’t visit Paris during her trip to France, they’d probably laugh at her. Yeah, who goes to France without going to Paris, the supposed epitome of everything representative of the French? This time, in addition to my sister, I had three more friends. Will I like Paris a little more after this trip?
Being under 25 is awesome when you have an identity in France. As a residence between 18-25, you get free admission to places such as the Louvre, the Orsay museum, the top of the Arc du Triomphe, and so many more. Under 18s are free as well, of course. Ah, the joy of being young! Still my favourite panoramic view of Paris, we went up the Arc du Triomphe even though it was a scorching 35 degrees Celsius. How does Sherry compare with the Eiffel Tower?
Here we were at Jardin Luxembourg, a beautiful garden in central Paris. Sherry wasn’t particularly amused or anything in this picture. The sun was just shining directly in her face and she was having a hard time keeping her eyes open while trying to smile at the same time, hehe 😉
Food food food! The friends, the sister and I had several awesome meals in Paris, but I’m just going to show you our lunch at a restaurant called La Gueuze. On the top left is my tasty appetizer, herring with potatoes. Top right is the traditional moules frites with a white wine sauce that doubled as a delicious soup. Bottom left is Sherry’s sirloin steak, cooked to the perfect temperature. Finally, on the bottom right we have May’s mixed seafood soup which I tried and LOVED! Everything was made amazingly with a friendly atmosphere, great experience!
I visited the Louvre with the gang that night and it was my first time seeing the pyramids lit up. It seemed like the sister really liked this place! (By the way, the green dress she was wearing is actually mine. Somehow, strangely, she looks a lot better in a lot of my clothes than I do, even though she’s 9 years younger…O_o)
The Eiffel Tower belongs to Sherry! What better symbol of Paris and France is there aside from the world famous Eiffel Tower? The group of 5 went on a night cruise along the Seine, and we were in time to catch the LAST cruise at 11pm since we couldn’t find the place! It was here that Sherry held the Eiffel Tower in her palm and made it hers once and for all.
A group picture with everyone! From left to right: Jinlong (chef), Sherry, Peiguang, Annie, and May. Our heads could hold up the Eiffel Tower, hoho! It had been so much fun wandering around Paris with these wonderful people, and maybe, just maybe, I liked Paris a little more…?
And now…Bordeaux! There is no doubt that I love, love, LOVE Bordeaux, 100000 times more than Paris. So much more elegant (there’s that word again), more humble, more serene, more FRENCH! I feel so refreshed every time I come back here and I was so eager to show my sister the city, my first point of settlement in Europe, my home base away from home.
Maca-maca-macarons! Still too sweet for me, but we had to get some, since it’s one of the symbolic desserts of France. From left to right we have chocolate, pistachio, coffee, lavender, rose, and coconut.
I brought Sherry to the Miroir d’Eau by the quay and it ended up being one of her favourite spots in Bordeaux. Love it when the mist comes out and wraps Place de la Bourse in a cloud! And yes, I had my green dress back.
Okay Sherry, a little excited there, no? Try not to fling your iPod into the Garonne, it may be slightly hard to retrieve… 😛
One night I brought Sherry to Les Provinces, still one of my favourite restaurants in Bordeaux because of its duck gizzard salad, shown above with the sister. Hungry yet?
Beach time! It was my first time to Dune du Pilat, the largest dune in Europe, during my two years here. Lesson of the day: bring sunscreen to the beach no matter what the weather forecast says! I made the mistake of leaving it at home because apparently it was supposed to be cloudy but NO! It was super sunny all day and I ended up getting a bad sunburn >_< It was still fun chilling in the water with the sister, though I'd prefer a freshwater beach (Wasaga!) any day. It was not pleasant getting splashed with a mouthful of salty Atlantic water…
Climbing back up the dune to get to the bus stop on the other side turned out to be much more difficult than expected, and so it ended up being quite a work-out. I don’t think I will come here again…there are nicer beaches around the area, and that climb was not to be taken lightly! The view certainly was magnificent though!
Tomorrow we head back to Canada for three weeks of nothing but guaranteed hecticness. Let’s hope we get some good mosquito-free sleep tonight.