Brugge, Bruxelles, & Normandie

I must say it’s very hard keeping up with a blog when you have the worst wifi in your dorm. Literally sitting in the hallway as I post this because no wifi in my room. First I will tackle Bruges, the “Venice of Belgium” – it was a nice town, more touristy than Ypres & we got to go on a boat tour but to be honest, since I went to Amsterdam before this my expectations were not met. It just couldn’t compete with the beauty of Amsterdam, but the chocolates & beer could!

I tried their world famous beer, only brewed in this single restaurant. It was pretty good but very strong (11% – this beer isn’t like “American alligator piss” as 1 of my advisors likes to call it) & I hadn’t eaten lunch (amateur mistake). To make things even better, I got a waffle smothered in hot chocolate & whipped cream for “lunch” & let’s just say my stomach hated me for that day. I also spent all my life’s savings on the chocolates but I regret nothing 

Brussels is the “Paris of Belgium” & I could tell, it was much more of a city but still had cool architecture with the Grand Place (city center) having buildings gilded in gold. Here I was able to tour the Parliament for the EU but since I didn’t know anything about the EU & I’m not a huge history person, I finished that tour in like 15 minutes. Then I proceeded to try Brussel’s world famous mussels & they did not disappoint! They were the most delicious mussels I have ever had, cooked with tomatoes, cheese, & garlic. I also got a waffle with gelato & I must say this was my favorite waffle because they cooked it fresh & dipped it in a caramel syrup so it formed a delicious glaze on the outside of the waffle & of course the Australian Ferrero rocher gelato was yummy. What is it about Aussi gelato that makes it so much better? I wish I knew. We didn’t have as much time in this city to look around but we got to wander the streets a bit & look in all the different chocolate shops (yes I did buy some more chocolate).

This past Thursday & Friday I did the most spontaneous thing in my life – decided to go to Normandy at about 11 pm the night before. I booked an Airbnb & 4 blablacars (which is like the best invention which saved me over 100 euros in transport) in 1 night for me & a friend & we just went for it! I really didn’t want to go to France without seeing D-day beach or Mont St. Michel & no one was free to go on the weekend so yes, I skipped class. But it’s ok because with 2 absences I can still get an A, although it sucks that when I 1st asked an advisor about going, she said it would be fine, to “have fun”, & gave no such warning about grade deduction. The trip was pretty tiring since it was so last minute, but we got to Caen at around 6pm Thursday & our Airbnb host was nice enough to pick us up from the station, drive us to & pick us up from the beach. He did deceive us in making us think he spoke English though. All the messages over Airbnb he had just put into google translate, & I am proud that I was able to have conversation & understand a lot of what he was saying only having to use google translate for communication a few times.

D-Day beach was huge & absolutely beautiful. It’s so hard to think that a great battle taking so many lives occurred here. When you walk out on it, it just seems like any other beach. We didn’t get to see the museum but we walked miles down the beach, & this was actually Nina’s (my friend’s) 1st time on a beach. It was pretty cold, like 50-60 degrees, & there were tons of marine life. I saw crabs, mussels, clams, shrimp, snails & LOTS of bird poop. There were a ton of birds just sitting in this 1 area & there was piles of poop everywhere we had to avoid. The water was crystal clear with 2 sand bars when we 1st got there & the high tide came up extremely fast. We were able to see the sun set which was so pretty, but unfortunately there was no bioluminescent algae as I was told I would see. This was at Riva-Bella beach, the 1st of the D-Day beaches.

The next day we went to Pontorson where a bus connected us to Mont St Michel. This small town was very cute & we were able to walk around & explore (mostly the pastry stores). We discovered a Normandy specialty, the pepito, which is 10x better than pain au chocolat! It’s sweet bread with chocolate custard filling & we bought all of the pepitos from the bakery xD I also tried a chocolate religieux for the 1st time which I learned about in my high school French class, & it definitely met my expectations from what I heard about it!

We got to see Mont St. Michel & it looked like something out of a fairy tale approaching it – a castle on its own little island. We got to walk up to the top & the view was incredible, you could see out for miles all of the trees & sand & ocean. What I wasn’t expecting was for there to be a bunch of hotels & stores lining the beginning of the trek upwards, but it paid off because we were able to get gelato on the way down. We were lucky the weather was super sunny but still cool; the only thing I regret not doing is taking a tour on that muddy quicksand around the castle, my feet were begging to go in. We were also unable to see the museums on the island because we didn’t have much time there, but our time was still enjoyable although short. Lastly, when we got back to Caen I tried fois gras so I can officially say I have tried like every known French cuisine since being here! Mission accomplished.

As expected, here are some more random observations:
– I’ve realized the French say “pff” a lot after speaking to 4 blablacar drivers & our host. When they’re thinking about something or unsure they’re like “pff” & then start talking. Might sound meaningless but people have done it enough for me to notice it.
– As I mentioned before, I find it so weird that the French listen to American music. I asked my Airbnb host if he understood any of the words & he said no. Also the blablacar drivers who didn’t know English well played American music. It just makes me realize the extent that American culture is influencing other countries. I can’t imagine having the popular music be from foreign artists that I don’t understand.
– The French turn on their left turn signal at a roundabout & then turn their right turn signal on at their exit.
– Mostly all of the cars here are stick shift, I haven’t really seen any automatic so I would be screwed.
– I am so sick of sandwiches & French fries, just putting it out there. & I miss Publix fried chicken.
– There’s KFC here but instead of biscuits they have croissants.
– McDonald’s here (MacDo) is EXPENSIVE! A McChicken is 8 euros & a fish fillet sandwich is 7 euros which are dollar menu items in the States. I’ve heard it’s better quality meat & fish but still, it’s McD!
– French keyboards are annoying.
– Quail eggs look cooler than normal eggs but in reality they’re the same thing just 10x smaller & more annoying to cook.