Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Wonderland Adventure!

Paris's strategic location in the middle of Western Europe makes it hard not to take advantage and go traveling whenever I get the opportunity. And so whenever I get that chance, I take it. 3 of us from school decided to celebrate the culmination of our training with a bang by exploring the lands up north. Just 12 hours after I left Plaza for the last time, I was on a train toward my first destination: Amsterdam.

Magere Brug, over the Amstel River. We walked many a time over this bridge in a vain quest for deliciousness and adventure!

Let Amsterdam be known for a variety of attractions, but if you ask me, these stroopwafels pretty much top my list. The chewy caramel filling between two thin waffle layers is like the ideal "cookie" : soft, chewy, yet also a little crunchy from the waffle.

the street of our hotel (just how cute is it??)

one foggy morning looking across the Amstel river

FEBO. Something I'd read about but never dared to try. A vending machine fast-food chain? Umm, a little sketch if you ask me.

the number of bikes in Amsterdam astounded me. Sure I'd heard about it, but who knew it was difficult to cross a narrow street when you had to look 360° in order to not get run over!

Bloemenmarkt - the only floating flower market in the world. Too bad it was raining, but look at all the bulbs and seeds you can buy!

the Royal Palace of Amsterdam is open again... if only it wasn't still surrounded by scaffolding!

Magna Plaza was more inviting, however.

Anne Frank's house!

and the line to get into it...

it would just be wrong to go to the Netherlands without trying some Gouda

nice welcome into the Red Light District

I wonder if this shop put these cows on the ceiling to mess with people, since they know some visitors' views can be a little skewed if they've been indulging in the city's known speciality... and no, I'm not talking about stroopwafels!

After a couple days in Amsterdam, we headed farther north to Oslo, Norway!

the trek from the train station to the hostel. Definitely reminded me of when I spent some snowy years in Maine.

Sunset our first day, looking over the fjord

"Let's sit outside and enjoy this frigid winter day."

I love this idea, but who, in their right mind, would even consider sitting outside?!

These little gremlins were all over the place

Karl Johans Gate - the city center's pedestrian shopping street. Oh, and if you plan on visiting in the winter - it gets dark by 16h and the streets are generally deserted by 18h. One restaurant closed at 19h on Saturday night!

the three of us (Rana, Ece, me) in front of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Do you notice how I'm wearing two winter coats? It was just a tad chilly...

Vikingeskibsmuseet Roskilde (Viking Ship Museum)

this was one of the 3 ships on display. It was cool because there were little balconies against the wall that enabled you to peer inside the ship.

"Keep away from the rail. Oil spill may occur!"

the famous Norwegian sweaters

Next stop: Stockholm, Sweden.

the sink trough in our hostel

through the gates in Gamla stan (old town)

traditional Swedish candy - love the colorful stripes and swirls

soo icy... it was a wonder we didn't slip.

and this is how the locals deal with the ice: ice shoe grippers

a little taste of home :) unfortunately it was definitely not a "heatwave"

upon reading about their monstrous cinnamon rolls, we had to check out this café, "Saturnus"

we tasted the Cinnamon and the Cardamom - both equally delicious!


Cinnamon. *Note: a normal breakfast of eggs and toast is not needed if you order a kanelbulle... just sharing from experience.

strolling through a park

anyone have any bagels and cream cheese??

more traditional breakfast goodies at Saluhall, an indoor market with prepared foods as well

wish I could've donated my extra pair of long underwear to this postman

our visit to Skansen, Sweden's oldest open air museum, was quite a disappointment (except for the Scandinavian animals exhibit). As Ece pointed out, "Why did they charge us full price when everything was closed??"

much to my dismay, in Sweden, Swedish Fish are not branded "Swedish" as they are in the US. After some research, I discovered that "Malaco" is the name of the Swedish confectionary manufacturer...

Last stop: Lyon, France.

if you peer into the windows of the pâtisseries in Lyon, one thing you'll always see are these brioches aux pralines roses, aka "pink bread." The sugar coated almonds add a hint of sweetness to already delicious brioche...

and if you're not into bready brioche, there's a cloyingly sweet tarte aux pralines

like Paris, Lyon has a number of passages full of boutiques

can you tell who is a real person and who is painted?
[the whole side of one building was painted like a real building!]

basilica on top of a hill dedicated to the Virgin Mary

view from the top

this path leading from the cathedral listed important events of Jesus' life

who knew Lyon was so hilly?

Miniatures Museum - this is a matchstick. Can you believe it?

carved from a single piece of paper

a Lyonnaise speciality, the Coussin de Lyon is chocolate ganache enrobed in marzipan

nice name for the bathroom

Lyon's version of Paris' huge ferris wheel

Hotel Dieu

Sebastien Bouillet's chocolaterie - a wall of running chocolate!

Mystère - milk chocolate cream, Speculoos, meringue, and a macaron base

Bouillet's famous Maca'Lyon: 9-pack

a salted butter caramel macaron, enrobed in dark chocolate

After my 9-day journey, we came back to Paris to do some laundry and rest up before our next big adventure... to Florence!

details in next post...