Category: Times (Page 1 of 2)

5 Reasons Why You Must Visit Lake Bled

I knew it was beautiful. A friend of mine recommended Lake Bled back in November and ever since seeing photos of his trip, I knew I had to go.

But I didn’t know I would fall in love with the lake and that it would be my hardest goodbye. On my most recent trip, it was easy to leave every place except Bled, and for that reason, I know I’ll be back soon.

With a similar lake culture to the Adirondack mountain lakes in New York or the Wisconsin Dells, Lake Bled is Slovenia’s top tourist destination. Despite this, it’s not overrun by soccer moms in fanny packs, nor is it full of university boys only there to drink. Instead, it’s a small village (so small that I could make friends and say “hey I’ll see you at the lake later” and it be true), full of families and couples there to relax and enjoy nature. Here are 5 reasons why you must put Lake Bled, Slovenia on your travel bucket list.

  1. The Lake. Perfectly clear and warm enough to swim in the spring and summer, Lake Bled provides endless  beauty to the town. While there is technically a swimming area that costs 6E for the day, there are endless spots where it’s free and shallow enough to take a dip — see if you can find the rope swing 🙂 Fishing (with a special license) is also a summer activity. The 1.5 hour walk around the lake is there year round and from every angle the views of the island and surrounding mountains are beautiful. I suggest heading left around the lake — this is opposite from what my hostel suggested, but the path is much closer to the water and better for wading/swimming on the this side. Watch the sun rise or set over the water, check out how it changes when a thunderstorm rolls through, sit and read or write on one of the benches that are found along the path. I could have spent whole days taking my time walking around the lake and dipping my feet in when I got warm.
  2. The gorge. When you get tired of Lake Bled, the Vintar Gorge is just an hour’s walk away. The walk there takes you through another small town and up a mountain (so wear good hiking shoes!). There’s an entrance fee of 6E (4 for students) but then you get to follow wooden bridges that crisscross the gorge that’s rushing with clear turquoise water. Great for photos and beautiful in the sun. The way there is signed well and is one of the major tourist attractions so is on every map. There are shuttles from Bled that go to the gorge for between 5 and 10 Euros, but it is walk-able as well depending on your wish for a day hike.
  3. The overlook hikes. Don’t mistake these for a nice after dinner stroll. Real, uphill hikes take you to breaks in the trees where you can see the whole lake and the island, nestled beautifully into the mountains of Slovenia. Outlook point Ojstrica is the one I hiked and is the traditional view, although there are higher ones and different angles situated all over the lake. Trail beginnings are marked on the path that rings the lake and any tourist map you pick up will have the points marked. These points give you photos that are exactly what you’d find if you googled Lake Bled. Check them out at sunset or sunrise, or in foggy weather.
  4. The “other” lake. Lake Bohinj was actually my favorite part of Lake Bled! A 40 minute and 3.60 Euro bus ride away from Bled (schedules posted outside the only bus station in Bled and tickets bought on board, it’s super easy), this lake is the biggest in Slovenia and has a path around that is about a 4.5 hour hike (although be careful and follow a map, because the river feeding the lake can be hard to navigate around…or through).  Again, perfectly clear — I saw my shadow on the bottom of the lake and screamed because I thought it was a fish — the lake isn’t touristed and when I was there, it was almost deserted. When it’s warm, it’s wonderful to swim in. If you’re in Bled for more than 2 days, definitely spend a day here.

    So clear we drank the water from the fast moving river!

  5. The cake (okay, all the food). Slovenian food is a wonderful mix of meat and potatoes, an eastern European style with some Baltic twists thrown in. Bled is famous for it’s Cream Cake, a pastry almost like a French Napoleon or mille-feuille but in different layers that taste as heavenly as the lake itself looks. A slice goes for about 3Euros and is best eaten with a napkin handy for when the sticky goodness goes everywhere.

    Do Witzenia, Sarah



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Free Things: Berlin

Like any capital city, Berlin can get expensive for the traveler on a shoestring budget. But you can still experience all the city has to offer without breaking the bank – check these ideas out!

Berlin Wall Memorial

This part-outdoor-part-indoor exhibit is located where the northern border of the Berlin Wall used to be and where many escapes from East to West occurred. The exhibit shows the fortifications on the former border and even puts together a replica of what the border would have looked like that visitors can peer into. It also presents stories of the families who lived in homes on the border, a church caught between two sides, and of the lives directly effected by the wall.

East Side Gallery

Along the south eastern side of Berlin is the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still intact. It has been turned into a free art gallery with murals that portray messages of unity and peace. You can walk along it, take shelter in the shade it provides, or enjoy the art while sitting along the river for a picnic.

Berliner Dom

While not free to go inside except for mass, you shouldn’t leave Berlin until you’ve seen the outside in all it’s glory. Close enough to museum island to make the visit easy, you can also sit on the grass in front and eat or rest your feet.

Museum Island’s Architecture

While the museums themselves cost a pretty penny, the combination of the river and the buildings’ architecture is beautiful and worth a photo or two.  Don’t go out of your way to walk through, but if you’ve stopped by the Berliner Dom, you’re so close to Museum Island that it just makes sense to go look.

Reichstag Dome

This is a must do!  For the best free views of the city, reserve your visit online here at least two weeks in advance. Much more views-focused than learn-about-government focused, take  your camera and enjoy.

Tiergarden Park

Located in the center of Berlin and absolutely huge, it is possible (and I have) to spend an entire day hiking around the rivers, statues and fields in this park. Bring your lunch and just lay in the sun and relax.

Berlin Victory Column

In the center of Tiergarden Park and in the center of a huge street circle is the Berlin Victory Column, a monument designed in 1864. Use one of the four pedestrian tunnels under the street circle to access it, it’s much safer that way. For a 2Euro fee you can climb to the top of the 285 steps, but if you stay on the ground, make sure to check out the view all the way to the Brandenburg gate at the end of the road.

Brandenburg Gate

While no museums accompany this one, the Brandenburg gate is a must see of Berlin, and is totally free. Accessible by metro but also within easy walking distance of Museum Island or Tiergarden Park.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Between the park and the Brandenburg gate is this impressive expanse of concrete slabs of varying sizes, slanting in a wave pattern. Free to walk through, (though don’t parkor through the slabs), it’s easily found and visited.

Food Markets

Okay, so you’re probably going to spend something here, but everyone has to eat, right? Might as well spend your lunch money on a bratworst and fries, or some strudel from a local baker. Check out Keitzerplats and Heidelberger Platz on Sundays.

Do Witzenia,


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48 Hours in Brussels Belgium

The capital of Europe and so much more! Here’s what I recommend for your weekend visit!

Once you get settled in your hotel or hostel, head not to the Grand Place but instead to the Royal Palace – bus and tram stop Royale or the metro stop Trone and walk a block.

Here, you should start at the Belvue Museum which presents an excellent and interactive introduction to Belgian history. It’s perfect for the family who may not already be a Belgium expert and at 7E full admission, 5E 18-25, and free under 18, it’s not too expensive.

From the Belvue Museum, walk around the corner to the Arts Hill. This has one of the best views over the center of Brussels and the hill is also home to multiple museums. Choose one (or more) from the museum of musical instruments, Magritte museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the church of Saint-Jacques sur Coudenberg . There’s typically a yellow waffle truck perched on the top of the hill so you can get your sugar fix in as well.

From the Arts Hill, you can either walk down the hill or continue down the street in the direction of the Palais de Justice (which is easily visible, just look for the massive dome at the end of the street).

If you choose to walk down, note the national library of Belgium on your left and the city-sponsored graffiti wall tucked into the side. Turn right at the end of the stairs and head about two blocks to the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula. This cathedral towers over Brussels and is where the King and Queen were married in 1999 —  check out their wedding photos on the wall!

From there continue on and end your evening with a waffle or coffee at or around the Grand Place. Your choices are endless and it’s beautiful to watch the sun set over the facades.

If you stayed on top of the hill and headed towards the massive dome, you’ll end up walking by the Cathedral of the Petit Sablon. There’s a daily antique market that is held in the front so make sure you walk around and explore it! Before you get too lost in the Sablon neighborhood however, continue on towards the Palais de Justice.

Wander in and through and marvel at its size, then take the panoramic elevator (the glass one, it’s free!) down to the base of the Sablon neighborhood. Here, you’ll find some of the cutest cafés and hipster restaurants and again, an incredible place to watch the sun go down.

For your second day, visit the government sites! The European Parliament has an incredibly interesting museum called the Parliamentarium that can be found at Place Luxembourg. It portrays the history and complexities of the EP in each of the 24 national languages of the EU! Definitely worth a visit for wonks and non-wonks alike.

From there head behind Parliament to Place Jourdan for the best fries in Belgium at Maison Antoine. Hop a bus or tram to the Bourse area and explore the behind the scenes of the Grand Place. If you did this yesterday, hit up the Sablon area that you missed!

Hopefully, this will keep you from spending hours hiking the city aimlessly, and also keep you from getting stuck only in the overly-touristed Grand Place! Enjoy the quirkiness of the capital of Europe.

Do Witzenia,


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The Manneken Pis

1,960,000 Google hits.

Almost 1,000 handmade, specially-fit costumes.

A few legends, and countless tourists.

And yet, like the Mona Lisa, it is one of the more underwhelming tourist attractions I’ve ever seen. I believe my first reaction was to say out loud “why is this a thing.” However, according to Google, the “Peeing Boy” (or Manneken Pis) statue is the number one “top attraction” of Brussels, Belgium. Here, I’m going to describe the Manneken Pis as I, and many others, find it, and allow you to decide whether it solely is worth a trip to Brussels for.

The Mannken Pis stands 61 centimeters (that is 2 feet, less than the length of your arm) tall and is perched on a fountain about 5 feet behind a fence. The fountain itself is taller than person-height, making the statue itself seem even smaller.

Can you even see it?

The publicly-indecent fellow is dressed occasionally, a few times per month. His costumes reflect a holiday or a particular cause (although if I were a cause I’m not sure I’d want my logo on a tiny statue of a child tinkling), and many of them are on display at the Manneken Pis “GardeRobe.”

A small room on the top floor of the Brussels City Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Manneken Pis and showing off the “original” statue. Cool, right? Well. Between the GardeRobe and the small room, there are at least 200 statues of the Manneken Pis that they use to either show off costumes or illustrate a historical point. Which one is “real,” and if they are all exactly the same, what is so special about the one up on display?

And then, without any explanation, the statue they have under a spotlight, labeled as THE “original,” is missing a part. Namely, the most important part. You know, the part used to pee, the point of the statue in the first place. All that’s left is a hole.

I have so many questions about this — who is currently in possession of this utterly important part, did it break or was it stolen (and if it was stolen has that person ever been properly congratulated), is the loss the reason why the city decided to replace it with a new copy? I think this absence deserves a story more than each of the 900+ costumes do.

If the little boy peeing in the street getting more attention than any little boy needs wasn’t enough, in the 1970’s someone decided that even in public urination there must be equal representation of genders, and created a female “Jeanneke Pis.” This is located across from the famous Delirum Pub, Impasse de la Fidélité 4.  A dog version (equality between species?) is located on Rue de Chartreux. While every inch of me argues for equality, I would not argue for it in this specific circumstance.

So why a Manneken Pis? Why is it so popular?

While there are of course legends that you can find on your good friend Google, I think it comes down to the very complicated Belgian culture. In olden times, the stereotypical idea of a Belgian was the image of a strong and hearty, innately “manly” man (and in this case, the image of a child portraying his ability to become that through his lack of respect for public decency). That concept could have been behind the creation of the statue in the first place. When historical culture is combined with the lack-of-identity that characterizes the divided Belgian society today (clarification on this point in a future post, I promise) and that creates a strong sense of self-deprecation and cynical humor, we get the crazy make-fun-of-itself cultural icon that is the Manneken Pis. Because really, what city wants to be known not for its architecture or additions to high culture of the world, but for a small child permanently relieving himself into the street.

Brussels, Belgium does.

To find the two-foot-tall nonsense child whose image has made millions for tourist shops, follow the trail of people holding selfie-sticks marching out of the Grand Place. It’s helpful to know that it’s on Rue de l’Etuve 31, but I promise, following the tourists is all that is necessary. While I have yet to see someone take an inst-worthy photo of them imitating the statue like tourists do all over the world, I look forward to the day that it happens.


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A Girl in Milan

Milan, what a charming city! This Northern Italian city is easy and cheap to get to, and makes for a wonderful weekend trip! Here’s my guide to a full day in Milan on a super budget; perfect for students!

Firstly, budget for the ride to and from the airport! Flights fly into Milan through one of two airports, Malpenesa or Bergamo. The express train into the city from Malpensa takes about 40 minutes andd costs 13Euro  each way. The bus from Bergamo takes about an hour and costs 9Euro round trip. Unfortunately, there’s no real good way to get around this.

Once you arrive:

The Malpensa express train can leave you at Cadorna FN, from which you can see the facade of the Castello Sforzeco and the magnificent fountain that graces it’s entrance. While there are multiple different museums inside the castle (with an entrance fee to all of them for just 3 Euro), the grounds are free to wander around. The castle itself is interesting to walk around, but the park behind it is also worth a stroll through. Walk to one of the old gates to the city that is straight out the castle’s walls, or just to the beautiful bridge that crosses a stream which winds itself through the grounds.

From here, visit a museum! For art, visit the Pinacoteca di Brera! While the fee is 10 Euro for non-EU residents and 7 for EU residents, the art housed here is extensive and very representative of the various Italian art movements. For those a bit tired of the art of Europe, try the Leonardo da Vinci science museum! Unlike anything else in the world, this museum has models of many of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs as well as exhibits on current scientific discoveries (I was able to see an exhibit on nuclear physics and one on space)! It also has a fee of 10 Euro for non-EU residents or 7.50 for EU residents, but is worth every penny for the many hours of interesting material presented.

Balcony of the Pinacoteca

After one of those museums (either North or South of the castle), head to the center to visit the Duomo! While the outside of this gorgeous creation could take you an hour to appreciate, I suggest joining the queue early to go inside the building. Tickets to see the inside cost 2 Euro and are completely worth it (Don’t worry about the audioguide, since as always, a quick Wikipedia search will get you the history lesson you seek). The line can take more than half an hour if you are there at peak hours, which you will be if you’re following this guide. Alternatively, try getting there around it’s opening (8am) to avoid queues.

After the Duomo, walk through the galleries and along the road to the right of the cathedral. This is the fashion district of the city that’s know for it’s incredible fashion and you can find obscenely priced items that are prefect for window shopping. You’ll also find some of the best people watching in the city. In the evening this area truly comes alive.

A visit to Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper mural is also an activity that’s on many people’s must-do list. However, if you’re interested in seeing this masterpiece, it is necessary to purchase tickets multiple weeks in advance (not joking, they really do run out). Tickets that are not part of an (obscenely expensive) tour are available from various sites that often sell them in bundles with admission to other museums (just google for the extensive array of options), but generally cost around 35 Euro for the non-reduced price and 28 Euro for the reduced cost (under 26 EU residents).

Obviously, there are many more things to discover and experience in Milan. Between the multitude of churches you will stumble upon (Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio and Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore are good ones to find!) and the availability of 1.30 Euro coffee, Milan will keep you entertained. Enjoy the pizza, pasta, gelato and pastries.

  So there you go! Practice Duolingo Italian for a week or so and then Ciao! Buon Viaggio! Milan is waiting!

Do Witzenia,


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Top 5 Out of the Way Parisian Museums

You’ve hit the Louvre and seen the Mona Lisa, you’ve visited the Musée d’Orsay and seen countless Monet’s, now what? Here are five of my favorite Parisian museums that are a bit more out of the way but are just as interesting as people watching in the “salle de la Jaconde.”

Musée des Arts et Metiers: Museum of Arts and Professions

For the engineer, tech geek, historian or vehicle enthusiast, the Musée des Arts et Metiers includes three floors of every type of machine ever created. From astronomy instruments to wooden looms, then to exhibits on building materials, photography, computers, then to a former chapel turned into a four story exhibit showing old vehicles and airplanes, this museum is huge and amazing. Plan upwards of 3 hours to make your way through the building — however if one stopped to read and examine everything, this place could take a week to get through. Most descriptions are in both French and English.


Open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm. Open Thursdays until 9:30pm.

Full fee: 8Euro

Reduced Rate for Students: 5.50Euro

Residents of the EU under 26 years of age: Free

Near the Republique and Strasbourg St. Denis areas.


Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme: Museum of Jewish Art and History

An impressive collection of art, artifacts, and current research is presented in this museum that encompasses two upper floors of a building that also holds a library of Jewish documents. While this museum would be extremely interesting for experts of the history of the Jewish people, it also does a very good job of teaching the history and then portraying it through the exhibits. Uncrowded and out of the way, this is a good way to break up the tourist sights with something more unique.


Open Tuesday through Friday 11am- 6pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 7pm, Wednesday 11am – 9pm.

Full fee: 9 Euro

Discounted rate for 18-26 year olds or large families: 6Euro

Residents of the EU under 26 years of age: Free

Near the Centre Pompidou


Musée de Quai Branley

Dedicated to former president Jaques Chirac and located along the Seine just before the Eiffel Tower, this museum shows culture of indigenous peoples from the Americas, Oceana, Africa and Asia through art, clothing, and music. Everything from masks to tapestries, musical instruments and paintings, integrated into a museum space with an interesting architecture. While popular enough that school groups are there often, the museum is different in that it portrays culture from around the world and not just from Europe.


Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11am – 7pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11am – 9pm

Full fee: 10 Euro

Reduced rate for Eu residents under 26: 7 Euro

Free access to the permanent collections children under 18 years of age


Petit Palais

If you’re short on time and want something different, skip the Grand Palais, as the accessible museum section won’t allow you to see the inside of its magnificent glass ceiling. Instead, go across the street to visit the permanent and visiting collections of it’s partner, the Petit Palais. While full of masterpieces, the collection of art housed in this structure is far overshadowed by the architecture of the building itself. Built for the 1900 World’s Fair, the building’s tiled flooring, murals, and golden sculptures surround a central garden that is lovely at any time of year. The museum also holds a café/restaurant, however it is more expensive than my student’s budget allowed for.


Open 10am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday, temporary exhibits open until 9pm on Friday

Permanent collections are free of charge, temporary exhibition costs vary but are typically between 7 and 10 Euro for visitors over 18.

Near the Champs-Elysée

Gallery of Paleontology and Anatomy

This museum is sure to amaze. A part of the Museum of Natural History (which encompasses several buildings and several different museums), it contains three floors full of skeletons of what seems like every animal under the sun, as well as countless dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. Stunningly complete, these skeletons are great practice for art students as well as incredibly interesting for dinosaur-obsessed children or science-oriented adults. Even for those not interested in the science behind the collection, the sheer quantity and display is worth seeing. Details

Open 10am – 6pm Wednesday through Monday

Full fee: 7 Euro

Reduced fee for visitors under 25 years of age: 5 Euro

Free for EU residents under 26 and children under 4 years of age

Do Witzenia,




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But Why Dijon?

When you live in Europe, you’re expected to take advantage of the many countries and cities near you to travel. When I tell French people I traveled to the city of Dijon, I always get the same confused smile and the response of “mais pourquoi/but why,” because apparently Dijon isn’t their idea of a wonderful weekend getaway. I disagree.

Here are three reasons why a weekend in Dijon should be on your list.

1. Cathedrals

The old city of Dijon is home to six different cathedrals. For such a small town, this quantity is impressive. All are within very easy walking distance of each other and visiting them makes for a great day activity. Here are two of my favorites:

Notre Dame de Dijon: Located just behind the tourist office, this church is known for it’s carved owl (which is so worn down that it doesn’t resemble an owl much) on one the side walls. Rub it with your left hand (it’s closer to your heart) and make a wish! Built in the 13th century, it also holds a statue called Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoire (our lady of good hope) that is supposed to have brought about multiple miracles. The first occurred when prayers and a parade with the statue supposedly ended a siege in the middle ages, and a second occurred when a prayer vigil with the statue supposedly prevented a German invasion during World War Two. Strangely enough, the second event happened on the anniversary of the first.


Cathedral de St-Bénigne: Home to the tallest spire in Dijon, this cathedral also has a colorful tiled roof that is a perfect example of old Burgundian architecture. The old abbey is now home to an archeological crypt and also includes a pretty courtyard that reminds you that you are certainly not in Paris anymore.



2. Kir

Dijon is the center of the Burgundy wine region and the mustard capital of the world. Wine tours and vineyards are numerous, although you need a vehicle and a budget larger than the average student traveler’s to participate. Instead, install yourself at a nice looking cafe or restaurant (try the cafe called “Chouette” which is right in the shadow of the Notre Dame cathedral!) for some apératifs of the rich red wine and another local specialty called “kir.” A light white wine mixed with black current syrup, this drink is sweet and light. Be careful, it’s easy to drink. The creme de cassis (black current syrup) can be bought in town if you want to bring the beauty of kir to your home.

Featuring both a burgundy wine (tall glass), and a glass of kir (small glass).

Featuring both a burgundy wine (tall glass), and a glass of Kir (small glass).

Mustard can be found at any of the multitudes of shops lining the small cobblestone roads, although the one my Burgundian car-share driver said was the best is called Fallot (here!) Small pots of dijon mustard can be purchased for as little as 1 euro, and although the majority of the mustard is produced in factories away from the city (following the specific recipe is the only requirement for the Dijon label), Fallot sells pots of mustard with ingredients grown only in Dijon. Whether it’s for you or for your friends back home, these little tastes of plain or flavored mustard make great souvenirs.

3. Castle

While technically a palace (I’m keeping with the “k” sound), Dijon is home to the Palais des Ducs which housed the Dukes of Burgundy from the 1000’s to the 1400’s.  Four dukes lived in the palace as it is now — Philip the Bold, Jean the Fearless, Philip the Good, and Charles the Bold. The palace was turned into the Musée des Beaux Arts in 1799 and the grounds also house a café, the tourist office (with the chapelle des élues), the mayor’s office, the school of beaux-arts, municipal archives, and the tower of Philip the Good. Wouldn’t want to waste any space now would they.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts is remarkably well done, teaching the history of the Burgundy dukedom as well as sharing the medieval and Renaissance art that was done in the area. Digital signs and tactile descriptions make this an accessible museum for those who might not love wandering through “yet another” art museum. It is the perfect size — one can spend an hour and a half and not be bored, but also not be overwhelmed. Highlights of the museum include the decorative caskets of Philip the Bold and Jean the Fearless inside decorative ballroom, a display of suits of armor, and the fact that entry is free to all. More details can be found at the website.


The Tower of Philip the Good (or Tour de Philip le Bon in French) is a must do. Tickets for the required guided tour can be purchased at the tourist office for 3 euro (So 100% worth it) and the tours leave from just outside the office. 300 and some steps later (they’ll tell you to count during the tour), you’ll reach the top of the tower that is higher than everything except the tip of the steeple of one cathedral. Built primarily as a boast of power, the tower provides wonderful views of the city.


And one last highlight of Dijon: To discover virtually everything there is to discover in Dijon, one simply has to follow the brass owls inlaid into the streets and read along with either the guide purchasable at the tourist office or download the smartphone app. Super cute, and super easy.


Cathedrals, Kir, and Castle — what else could anyone need for a sweet weekend getaway? Thank you Dijon!

Do Witzenia,


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Everyone visits Versailles when they come to Paris. But if you’re in Paris for longer than a week or two, or have been to Paris before, a day trip to Chantilly is worthwhile.

So what is Chantilly? Good question. Before I visited, I didn’t know either.

Chantilly is a small town in the province of Picardie, home to Chantilly cream (a specialized whipped cream), a Medieval Ages chateau, traditional French, English, and Chinese gardens, a horse museum and the major Thoroughbred turf races in France.


Leaving from Gare du Nord in Paris, the Chantilly SNCF trains leave about once an hour (you can find schedules on the SNCF website). Buying tickets at the station is easy enough, just find a yellow machine instead the white ones used for internal Paris tickets. Round trip, the tickets cost me $16. Then follow the signs to the train platform listed on the ticket and follow the line of people onto the train. The ride is only about 20 minutes, so don’t get too excited about the possibility of taking a nap on the train. It won’t happen.

Once in Chantilly, there is no chance of getting lost. Large signs point the way through a little park to the chateau and horse museum as well as to the main street of the town. And of course, the chateau is big enough to be seen from very far away.img_7635

Tickets can be purchased for the “domain” of Chantilly — the Chateau, Horse museum, gardens and audio guide — for 17 Euro, 10 Euro discounted ticket for students, job-seekers and the handicapped. The ticket is actually good for an entire year so if you don’t get a chance to see everything in one day, feel free to go back. When you buy a ticket, you will receive the “livret de visite” which contains maps and has the details for each site in the town. The domain can be visited in any order, I review the different sites here in the order that I visited them.

Museum of Horses:

For a slightly obscure topic, this museum is surprisingly well done. First taking the visitor through the history of the domestication of the horse and then through the different modern uses and portrayals of horses, the exhibit can teach a lot. It contains collections of paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and figurines all dedicated to the horse and the relationship between horse and man. The exhibit has 15 rooms as well as an entrance hall filled with horse stalls where you can whisper hopes and dreams to the powerful creatures that have been partnered with humans for centuries. Take a look around the building outside of the museum, and you’ll find rings and stalls still used today. Younger children won’t be too enthralled with the museum rooms as it is a lot of images and sign reading, but the visit could take upwards of an hour.


Equestrian performances happen at different times throughout the year. They require an extra ticket but will be well publicized so you can make that decision when you buy the Domain ticket.


The Chateau:

A short walk from the “Grandes Écuries” (horse museum) is the Chateau. Simply show your ticket at the entrance and then follow the signs pointing you in the direction of the visit. As you walk through, you’ll find a massive collection of ancient paintings and artifacts that portray the varied history of the building and the country. Make sure you find the library full of ancient books and drawings.

img_7648 Later on, don’t miss the portrait room — you’ll know it when you see it. It’s a strange space because you are surrounded by painted faces staring at you. Near this room is the small climate-controlled room holding two Raphael paintings. If you’re interested in renaissance art, find these two masterpieces that are semi-hidden in the giantess of the chateau. Don’t miss the small but beautiful chapelle on the right side of the entrance dome.

img_7668As you exit the Chateau, wander through the gardens. I didn’t have time to find the Chinese or English gardens, but the traditional french gardens are lovely and much simpler than those at Versailles or in Paris.

img_7633A trip to Chantilly can easily be a day or half day excursion outside of the hustle and bustle of Paris. Restaurants in town are slightly more expensive than my cheap student budget liked, but one could easily get a meal at any of them for 25 euro. Boulangeries are plentiful along the main road and I highly recommend spending the few euros to get a dessert with Chantilly whipped cream. I tried a vanilla cream and an espresso flavored cream and while both were incredible, the vanilla was the favorite. Paired with fruits and pastry, Chantilly cream itself makes the trip worthwhile.

More information about the domain can be found on the Chateau of Chantilly website (available in English, just click the British flag in the upper right hand corner). The website also includes a map of the grounds.


Do Witzenia,


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Palais Garnier

I know I’m the different one on the metro tonight.

My hair is up. My dress is long and it’s only 6:30pm. Dinner doesn’t even start until 7:30.

So although no one says anything, I know I’m the one getting glanced at, the one that people tell stories about when they get off — “there was this girl all dressed up, I wonder where she’s going.”

But I get off, eventually, and stumble up escalators and crowded stairwells until finally I see the sky. And with the sky, the facade of the Palais Garnier comes into view.

I try to keep calm. I’m Parisian now, these things are normal. Going to the ballet on a Tuesday night — not typical, but not atypical here. I greet my friends, kisses on cheeks and grins on faces. Let’s ask that lady to take our picture, my grandmother will want to see this.

The bell sounds, the lights dim. People crowded on marble steps, heels clicking and stumbling up stairs — higher, higher, until I reach the fourth floor and the attendant points me to a seat that might be wide enough for a 4 year old but certainly isn’t large enough for me. I squeeze in, hearing at least 3 different languages swirling in the air around me.

The music starts. The dancers appear. And the world slips away.

When it all ends, there’s nothing to be said. The words don’t seem right, because nothing in either French or English could describe what it’s like to be a part of that audience while knowing that this is your country now, that you aren’t only there for a day or two squeezing every moment into a 24 hour day. That you’re there learning and loving and throwing yourself off the metaphorical fourth floor balcony, doing things you’re not comfortable doing and speaking words that feel funny in your mouth without knowing the end result. Taking the opportunity to watch something so incredibly beautiful.

And I walk down the marble steps, lingering until the crowd has left and all that remains are the couples waltzing on the steps to a cheesy recording playing from an ancient stereo. And I twirl a little, swaying my dress that feels like magic to the notes. And when a friend asks “Sarah, tu es content?” I respond from the bottom of my heart, “Oui. Bien sûr. Je suis content.”


The Palais Garner (metro stop Opèra) hosts the national ballet of France as well as ballet and opera groups from all of over the world. Tickets are not expensive and can be purchased from their website.


Do Witzenia,


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Hidden Gems: The Jardin Atlantique

Hidden Gems of Paris, that’s what everyone says they’re looking for, right? Well here’s one to add to the list.

The “Jardin Atlantique” is located on the roof of the Montparnasse-Bievenue rail station. To find it, walk inside of the station, follow signs to train queue 1 and then up the stairs following the signs. The Jardin appears on maps, but your GPS placement dot will wander around the edge of the green garden image while you walk all the way around the metro station searching for a park entrance, thinking “I’m right here, there must be an entrance somewhere”. Just walk inside and find the staircase.


Here’s hoping there will be a more permanent staircase than this by the time you get there.


Once there, a visitor can take advantage of the wide green spaces, flowers and some funky architecture. The garden feels exactly like you were on the ground level because the surrounding buildings are all many stories higher than the park — therefore, it feels just like a typical ground level park. If you exit the park and explore the many paths around the edge, you enter a world of apartments and office buildings with exterior doors to their 10th floors. While you can’t enter the buildings without a code, its incredible to see this virtually unknown world above the ground.


It looks like you’re on the ground, right? Wrong. You’re on the roof.


If you’ve done enough relaxing for the day, the Jardin Atlantique also holds the Musée du Général Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libèration de Paris (Musée Jean Moulin). These are two small rooms (unlike their large names) that hold artifacts and signs describing the role of the Free France movement and the French colonies in World War Two, focusing on the liberation of Paris from the Nazi occupation. The museums are free to everyone and don’t take very long (30-40 minutes). They’re also a great source of respite from heat or cold if you’re stuck out and about in Paris.


If you’re early for your train, need a quick picnic spot, or just want to take a nap — Jardin Atlantique has a local feel and semi-secluded area just waiting for you. Oh, and the cherry on top: Jardin Atlantique is part of Paris’ free-wifi network.




Do Witzenia,


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