Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Enchanting European Vacation...

I know it has been a while since I posted a blog and believe me when I say: "I have been anxious to write one". Although I have been able to tell some of you about my planned trip, there are many of you who did not know. I thought about writing a blog before leaving to let you all know, but I did not want to jinx the trip. For a while it was not certain if we would be going, but finally the cards turned out to be in our favor!!

Once again, I have been fortunate enough to go with Uday on another trip! This time he had a conference in Laval, France, called the EICAR Conference (computer software security related), where he was asked to present a paper. His paper is now published in the conference proceedings! You go Uday!!! (We were on this trip from May 2nd to May 12th.)

Anyway, since it is also our 1st year Anniversary coming (on May 19, 2008), and we were already going to be in Laval, Fran
ce, Uday decided for us to also go to Paris for sightseeing and Leigh, Belgium to visit Uday's friend Charles. I decided for us to visit Brugges, Belgium and I can't wait to see the movie called "In Brugges". We also ended up going to the south part of Holland called Maastricht with his friend Charles.

We saw many beautiful sights and met many interesting people and animals. Although it will be difficult to give enough justice to the places we visited, I will try and take you on a journey of a glimpse of our adventures on this European Vacation...

Charming Laval, France

First we took a plane to Brussels, Belgium and then
a train ride to Paris and on to Laval, France. Laval turned out to be a more intriguing, quaint and cute place than I expected. Many people who live in France say that Laval is the real France, and not Paris. I especially enjoyed the "Old Castle" (Vieux-Chateau) and the hidden Park we found with geese, goats, beautiful tulips and many more interesting sights. Uday and I also enjoyed the crepes and pastries. I found some of the food interesting but not my "cup of tea", such as the raw egg on top of the pizza and the raw beef meals that they serve in both France and Belgium. I finally got to put to use the three years of French I took in high school and the one year in college, along with the help of my most recent book I purchased called, "French for Dummies"! Many people did not speak English in Laval, and I was glad that I studied some French before leaving on the trip! (Ou sont La toilletes? Si vous plait).

We had a lovely evening during the Gala Dinner in the "Old Castle" that was hosted by the EICAR Conference that Uday attended. We really enjoyed the company of the people at the dinner who were interesting and funny. In addition to our pictures we will also be making a video of our differe
nt adventures on this trip, so keep checking the blog to watch for these video's they should be a lot of fun!! Click on the picture below to see our time in Laval, France.

J'taime Paris !!

Paris, brought out a more emotional side of me full of great expectations on Uday being romantic. At first I was disappointed in Uday and also a little moody from being over tired trying to see as much as we could in Paris in a short amount of t
ime. After Uday realized this, he made our time more special in France, which was above and beyond my expectations!

During our first night in Paris we checked into a Bed & Breakfast and quickly walked to the Eiffel Tower, which was walking distance and could be seen from our room. That night we decided to go up the stairs of this magnificent Tower that sparkles every hour for 10 minutes. We only walked up to the second level of the Tower and decided to go all the way to the top on a different night when we were more rested. It was beautiful and a fun experience.

The next day we went to the Louvre, as I was obsessed with finding the clues that were discussed in the book and the movie,
"The Da Vinci Code". We did get to see the original painting of the "Mona Lisa". It was framed in glass and it was behind a glass wall and roped off so no one could get too close to it. It was amazing to see the original painting that is one of the most famous paintings in the world.

This was exciting but we were walking all day and both Uday's and my legs and feet were killing us. Even after this we kept going to look at the Oublieux, walk on Les Champ
d'Elysees to the Arch de Triumph. As tired as we were we thought that we could catch a bus back to where we were staying. It turned out that the buses were not running at that time of night and to make a long story short we ended up walking back to our B&B and we did not eat dinner until about 1:00am. The sun did not begin to set until about 9:00pm which was nice and helped to extend our day longer! We stayed at a B&B which felt like the authentic Paris. The owner's name was Sophie and she lived with her daughter, dog and several cats. We would definitely recommend anyone who wants to see Paris and is on a budget, to stay here. When you look at our pictures you will see much of what Sophie's place had to offer. Here is a link to her B&B.

Before leaving Sophie's place we went to see Notre-Dame just a metro ride away and look for the "Hunch Back of Notre Dame". When you check out our pictures you can see for yourself if we found it! I thought it was a beautiful Cathedral but not very spiritual. It is very "touristy"! In fact, someone was getting confession done with the Priest in a big glass room so everyone can watch and take pictures. I could not resist and had to video tape it because it was humorous to me how much the church was set up for tourists.

After walking around the area of Notre Dame and eating crepes we returned to Sophie's to get our luggage and we were on our way to stay in a different area in Paris next to Moulin Rouge and Sacre-Coeur. This was a mix of naughty and artsy with a beautiful church (Sacre-Coeur) in the middle. This was one of my favorite sections in Paris! We enjoyed taking the train ride up and down the large hill to Moulin Rouge and the artsy section. That evening we could not pass up another evening at the Eiffel Tower. This is where Uday really stepped up!

Eiffel Tower Romantic Movie Experience

Uday bought a bottle of Champagne for us to toast on top of the tower, but we were not allowed to bring any glass bottles to the top. He then came up with an idea and bought a bottle of water and got two plastic cups. After offering me some water, he dumped the rest of the water out of the bottle and replaced it with the Champagne. We sat on a bench in a quiet area away from the crowd and he offered me a toast and said: "this is the most memorable moment to be with you here and I want to capture this moment with a toast... and this toast is for our love, may it last forever... I'm so glad to be with you...Happy First Anniversary..." followed by (french) kiss kiss kiss !! And then I said, "this is my favorite part of the trip so far".

We then decided to save the rest of our Champagne in our water bottle and go all the way to the top of the tower. To our disappointment, when we went to buy the ticket around 10:00pm, the last tickets to go all the way to the top stopped being sold at 9:30pm. This meant that we were only going to be able to take the lift to the second landing where we went our first night in Paris. We decided not to let this ruin our night and we would still go up and be happy on the second floor with our Champagne. As we were inside the Tower waiting for the lift, I got thirsty and decided to open up the plastic bottle with the Champagne... POP!! The Champagne spilled out of the bottle and the popping noise made everyone look at us. I raised up my bottle and said, "To Paris" (with a french accent). The group we were with smiled and said "yeah"!! It was fun taking the lift up the tour but we still felt a little disappointed that we were so close but could not go all the way to the top.

having fun and enjoying every view from the second floor we talked to some of the people who worked there and told them how we wanted to go to the top and how we missed the opportunity to to get the ticket early enough. They must have seen the love in our eyes, (you know the French are suckers for love) and they treated us like royalty and had us cut the rest of the people on the second floor that had been in line for hours and allowed us to take the lift all the way to the top floor. There was another couple that stated they had been in line for hours and did not know that they had to buy the ticket on the first floor, but the workers did not let them go to the top. We felt so special, it was like we were living a very romantic movie and we did make the best of it on top of the world!! The people in Paris knew we were American and treated us very nicely, not like what the movies show! Paris with Uday was truly, unforgettable!

The next day we were back on the train
and on our way to Brugges, Belgium. But before reading on, you may click on the picture below to see our time in Paris, France.

"In Brugges" - "Some Enchanted Evening..."

Since we were so close to Belgium in Paris, we had to go to Brugges as my doctor told me about the movie called, "In Brugges", (which I haven't seen yet, but am really excited to see after being there).

It is a beautiful old world city with Medieval looking Chu
rches and buildings and it is full of castles. In fact we stayed in a Castle called Castle Tudor. We only had time to stay one night but when we got there we were greeted at the door and taken to our beautiful spacious room. When I mentioned I was thirsty the host brought me a big bottle of orange Fanta in a container used to keep champagne cold and it was surrounded by ice and two wine glasses. She also brought up a plate of ham and salami for a snack (all of this at no charge). That night another host drove us into the city of Brugges where we had dinner and walked around this most enchanting city. We ate right next to the restaurant that is in the movie "In Brugges", we liked the menu better at the restaurant next to it. Before eating dinner we made it just in time for the last boat ride on the river and under the small old bridges. It was a very romantic setting and I pictured myself living there in the old days. We also had a Homemade Belgium Waffle (in Belgium) and it was good!!

That evening when we got back to the castle, we used an old-fashioned key for the old fashioned lock, and creped up the creaky stairs to our bedroom. It turned out that besides the owner, we were the only other people staying in the castle that night.
How unbelievable is that? In addition, after we got settled and were trying to sleep, we heard a few creaky sounds and then water came out of the shower head about an hour after I had taken a shower. I must admit I was a little freaked out. Later the next morning the owner of the castle, Marcel, mentioned to us that the castle is haunted (with a wink ;). He later served us a really good breakfast which we ate in the beautiful castle breakfast room. We were served boiled eggs, fresh bread, croissants, pastries, yogurt, cereal, turkey and ham sandwich meat along with some orange juice.

That morning Marcel also drove us into town and later put our bags in the car and took us to the train station. Talk about "star" service
! I felt like we were experiencing what the celebrities experience for not even a fraction of the cost. The stay in the castle is like a fairy tale both inside and outside. I would recommend the Castle Tudor for someone who is on a budget or someone who has no financial constraints. Staying at the Castle Tudor is inexpensive and priceless! The next morning we talked to Marcel and hung out with his dog, "Madam Puppet", walked around the castle and it's enchanted forest and fairytale cows, and then went in town to check out the market place, had a picnic in the park and did our shopping before leaving. Mr. Marcel is a single, nice man, living in a castle, I thought this was unheard of. The Castle Tudor and the village of Brugges was a fairy tale experience and truly unforgettable! Our pictures can not capture the beauty and wonderful experience. Click on the picture below (Castle Tudor) to see more pictures of our experience in Brugges.

Lovely, Liege, Belgium

"Once again back to the train station with all of our luggage and gifts from shopping. Now we were on our way to Liege, Belgium to visit Uday's friend from Louisiana, Charles. In Liege, we checked into another great Bed & Breakfast place called, Chez Marie. The owner's name is Marie and she is very nice and interesting. She has traveled a lot and spent 10 months in India. She is into the eastern philosophies, massage, and well-being. Her home was surrounded by plants and flowers she grew, a small vegetable garden and a small farm that belonged to her neighbor in the back of her yard. It felt very peaceful at her home and we also enjoyed the large bathtub. Her home was very different than the city of Liege. I was not that impressed over all with the city of Liege but it was really nice getting to spend time with Uday's friend Charles, who I consider to be my friend now too.

We went to dinner with Charles at a typical Belgium
restaurant and afterwards we went for a walk to the bridge and sat on a park bench at night catching up with what has been happening in each other's lives. We talked about religion, philosophy and about the legal heroine use in the Netherlands and how people would also take their drugs into Leigh and use there as well even though it was illegal.

As we walked home Charles told us about the petty theft he has seen happen to some of his friends... And then it hit me as we were about half a mile away!!! We left our camera and video camera on the park bench!! I asked Charles to run after it since he was tall and runs on a regular basis and could run faster than Uday and I. Charles was a very good sport and took o
ff running to see if our camera and video camera was still there. I had already started mourning all of the memories that we took that would be gone!! Charles is very religious and is actually doing ministry work in Liege. He said a prayer that our belongings would still be there and thanks to Charles, his prayers, God, and the very nice teenagers who found it, our camera and video camera was there. Charles was officially our new hero!! It was also nice to know that there were still good and decent young people around. They informed Charles that they were just about to call the police and turn our camera and video camera in to the lost and found. What a relief! Looking back, the happy ending of it all did make our time in Liege and with Charles more exciting! Thanks again Charles and enjoy the pictures! Click the picture below to see our experience in Liege Belgium.

Wholesome Holland

When Charles mentioned to us about how close Holland was to Leige and Marie suggested that we go there as well, we decided to do just that. After walking around Leigh in the morning and hanging out at Charles's place, we took the train to Holland also know as the Netherlands. We went to the south part of Holland since this is all time allowed for. We visited a place called Maastricht in Holland and decided to take bikes around town. Charles told us that "this is the Dutch thing to do". Although Charles and Uday did not seem that excited about this trip at first, I was excited to see the wooden shoes and the windmills. I did not realize at the time that the windmills are in the North section of the Netherlands. Well, I found my wooden shoes right away but the only thing left to find was the windmill. It turned out that there was one windmill in this village and I was hoping to find it. Uday on the other hand, was determined to find it to make me happy. He was trying to be very romantic so he could see me happy. I did not realize finding this windmill was going to be so difficult and when I "got wind of it" (pun is intended) I told him that it was ok if we did not find it, but he would not give up....

"The quest for the Windmill"

Uday called this adventure "The quest for the Windmill". To make a long story short, we rode for miles, asking directions from many tourists and locals, discovered the border between Belgium and Holland, crossed the last ferry across the river, saw a field of wild rabbits, asked more people for directions and finally by sunset found our windmill. I felt bad for Charles during this time because he must have thought we were crazy doing all of this work for a windmill but at the end, Charles got to experience an "Amy/Uday Adventure" and I think he ended up enjoying it as well. It did feel like an accomplishment when we finally found the windmill and it was very beautiful. Click on the picture of the windmill below to see some pictures of our time in Holland.

I hope you enjoyed learning about our adventures in Europe. If and when you go, I also hope I provided you with some interesting places to see and stay! This trip was amazing but also very tiring as you can see with the size of this blog!! When we return from adventures like this and are back at home we rest for a little bit before planning our next adventure!! I am loving my life with Uday! Happy Anniversary honey! Thanks for the gift of the trip!! Cheers!


Sandy Mader (Uday's co-worker) said...

Thanks for sharing. The pictures and blog are great!

Suresh Golconda said...

Hey Uday, nice to see your email after long time man.. Very nice pics mama, Wish you good luck and happy life. Hey especially the video that Amy made are too good, for a second I thought you had some video album song, seriously at the beginning in black & white video. Give my wishes to Amy too... I will be checking you guy's blog... Wish you will have plenty of such happy moments..

Take care,
Suresh Golconda
(Uday's friend from Louisiana)

Teja Palla said...

Hearty Congrats on your first anniversary dude. I see that you are enjoying life to its fullest. Keep it up.

Teja Palla
(Uday's friend from Louisiana)

Steven M. Sabatier said...

WOW, Happy Anniversary you two.

Amy's blog is fun to read. She is a great writer and i encourage her to edit and publish her books. Uday way to go with the champagne-plastic bottle idea!. I am glad you guys were offered to go to the top :) you two are so romantic.

The "quest for the windmill" - loved it.

I think that it is awesome that you shared the places to stay while in Europe, thanks.

Thanks for such an exciting blog and thanks for sharing it all with us. We love you all and hope to see you soon.

Steven M. Sabatier and family
(Uday's friend from Louisiana)

Charles Gravely said...

Hi Uday, I read all about it — in Amy's post... she does a good job with that, and i really liked the way she told the story about finding the video camera. Glad you guys are having fun!

Charles (Uday's friend from Louisiana, and now Amy's friend as well)