Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Our first visitor; Feet!

Our first visitor came only a month after we moved into our new apartment. Feet (Forest), was on his way back home after living in the Middle East for a year, where he worked on establishing and improving a paramedic program.

Feet was very excited about the “cool” summer climates in Holland, after spending so much time in the hot dessert. He was also excited to eat pork again. We showed him around Rotterdam as best we could, with having only limited knowledge of the city ourselves. It was fun to explore the city with a friend from home.

Pics from Feet's visit:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our First Anniversary; Paris, France

June 6-11, 2008

What can I say about Paris? People have written books trying to capture the character and atmosphere of the city. So I will not attempt to do so in a couple paragraphs, but I will recap what we did. It really is a charming city, a photographers' paradise, and such a romantic place to celebrate our first anniversary. We couldn't believe it had been a whole year, because all of the fun we had at the wedding was still so fresh in our memories. Who knew then that within the next year we would be packing up and moving to Europe, and we'd end up spending our anniversary in Paris.

Despite popular belief, most people in France are incredibly friendly if you give at least a bit of effort to speak French, and don't act like an obnoxious tourist. First of all, thanks to my 5 years of traveling with FedEx and staying in Hilton chain hotels, I had saved up enough points to book the Hilton Arc de Triomphe for 5 nights! Score! We probably could have never afforded to stay in this hotel otherwise. It was only two (long) blocks from the Arc, and they even put little chocolates on your pillow. Yet another thing that made our experience there so cool.

For 5 days we just wondered around the city from one amazing site to the next. We strolled down the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. The size of the Arc is very impressive, especially when you are standing directly under it. It is also neat to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance peaking up over the buildings. Outside the Louvre, there are beautifully landscaped gardens full of Romanesque statues and large water fountains. We found a café and had some wine while we soaked up all of the beautiful things around us. Formerly the residence of royalty, the building of the Louvre is itself a piece of art. It is enormous, encompassing an entire block. Inside the painted ceilings and marble doorways and floors are really something to see. You could easily spend several days in this museum and not see everything, but we were able to see the main things that we wanted to see. Our favorite part by far is the statue gallery in the left wing, which is a huge open area with dozens of large marble and bronze statues.

Some of the best parts of Paris, though, are not the landmarks or tourist spots. One afternoon we bought a bottle of wine and sat in the lounge chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg, a large garden in the city, talking for hours. It was nice because there were not many people there, so it was quiet and private. Another day we got lost in The Third, and ended up finding a really neat part of town. We stumbled upon a quaint little street with shops and cafes where we stopped to have a glass of white wine to cool off. And, when we walked around the corner, bam, there was Notre Dame! That is the neat thing about this city, you never know what you will encounter around the next corner.

Notre Dame is a beautiful cathedral, inside and out. It still has a medieval feeling to it. We bit the bullet and waited in line to go up in the bell towers. It was well worth the wait, because it provides a beautiful view of the city, including the Eiffel Tower off in the distance. It is also just interesting to see the inside of the towers with their tiny worn down spiral staircases, and gargoyles everywhere. I can't help but think about the Hunchback of Notre Dame when I'm up there. Haha.

The Eiffel Tower is obviously at the top of most peoples' list of things to see in Paris. It is just one more thing that made us say "wow." It is nice to see in the daylight, but you absolutely must visit it at night, too, as it has a completely different atmosphere. The parks and gardens surrounding the tour and nice to lay around in and drink some wine. Then about every half hour they have a light show where the whole tour sparkles. Talk about romantic…Our first anniversary was definitely memorable, and I'm sure we will be just as happy on our 50th. I would highly recommend adding Paris to your must-visit-list. You won't be disappointed.


Pics from our first anniversary in Paris: