Western Europe Discovery #2: From the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum to Belgium!

Our last day in Paris began the only way we know how: before the sun. At approximately 6:45, our day started by heading down to breakfast and loading up on chocolate croissants and buttered croissants because as we found out, carbs are not a choice in Paris, but a lifestyle. We headed to the bus where we used the next hour to catch up on the sleep we missed from the night before from long talks with our roommates or playing catchup with our wifi.


This was the day that was the most anticipated within our trip: the Eiffel Tower day. Our trusty Slovenian tour guide, Gregor, attempted to educate us on the incredible French architecture while most of us were just groggily awakening from our brief yet satisfying naps. Most of the girls and guys, despite the cold weather, dressed up because we were all seeking to attain the perfect Instagram post. If any of you eager families are expecting a souvenir from France, I must inform you that you will be receiving a small keychain of the Eiffel Tower that were sold for 20 cents each at every French street corner!


So after a long line and an even longer flight of stairs, we were all admiring the view of Paris from the Eiffel Tower, and what a view it was. The view got more beautiful the higher we went but after everyone got their fill of pictures, we descended back down just as soon as it started to drizzle, our first rain of the Europe trip. We left the crowded tourist hotspot while our wonderful bodyguard, Marios, who resembles a stuffed teddy bear, escorted us away.


We boarded the bus once more to head for lunch. We broke off into small groups and got some tasty eats. the falafel was surprising good in my group’s experience. There were a lot of Jewish shops in the area so some groups stopped by and some girls snagged some cute Israeli jewelry. Then we hit the streets of Paris for some independent shopping time. There was an awesome underground mall with some sick sales that we were sure to check out but some groups had their own fun by playing soccer with the locals (and getting destroyed by French 12 year old boys), or buying bird noise whistles despite the presence of extreme bird fears among members on our trip.


The vintage stores were incredible too and nobody left France without trying a crepe. We then went to the Louvre. If you’ve checked out the picture for our trip on the BBYO passport website you find an image of the famous triangular glass pyramids of the Louvre. After we viewed the Mona Lisa, which is underwhelmingly small, most people found a resting spot in the museum after such a busy day! For those brave souls that trudged through, the art museum was genuinely very beautiful and its architecture was most impressive, but I would expect nothing less of France.


The Louvre was followed by a very tired bus ride back to the hotel where we had our dinner. After a long day of truly experiencing Paris, we went to bed with a 10:30 curfew and packed our bags to depart for Belgium the next day. Sadly we had to say goodbye to our bodyguard Marios who will not be joining us for the rest of the trip 🙁


Another early wakeup to start another incredible day. By 8:00 A.M, we had already had breakfast, taken our bags downstairs, and left for Belgium. The bus was nearly silent for about half of our 4 hour drive to Bruges, Belgium on account of 38 sleeping Jewish teens. Our skillful bus driver Vito, who hardly speaks English but may arguably be the best bus driver on Earth, stopped for a rest stop so we could all get some snacks and take a bathroom break.


Bus times are actually great for two major reasons 1. Naps 2. Social bonding Many people on the trip consider bus rides to be a great place to get to know people, have fun, and catch up on some sleep. We finally arrive to a quaint Belgian town and go to a fry museum. Since Belgium is where French fries were ironically invented, we couldn’t miss an opportunity to learn about their making.


Most of us never knew that this much information existed about potatoes so we took advantage of the gift shop by purchasing several potato memorabilia including but not limited to thirteen stress balls, hats, coasters, peelers, etc. but honestly, judging from our french fry meal at the museum, American fries are better, simple as that. After the museum, we got some independent shopping time in Belgium. The people were impeccably friendly and speak incredible English.


We walked through the streets admiring the views. There were gorgeous bridges, rivers, and buildings. The streets weren’t too crowded and there were chocolate shops everywhere we looked. Horse-drawn carriages and bikers and people walking their dogs ran through this picturesque place. Gregor gave us the scenic tour which we all were raving about. We were all very sad that we only get to spend a day in this place, everyone says it’s their favorite so far.


Next, given how well known Belgian chocolate is, we went to a chocolate factory and learn about how chocolate is made, and of course, get some free samples and some not so free purchases to take home for our families to enjoy. So get excited for some sweet treats coming your way!! After the chocolate museum we loaded the bus for the final time today to go back to our hotel. By the end of our ride, we ran into some peculiar billboard signs.


Thursday was the first time we got independent dinner so we all got some fancy and expensive dinner. Just walking in the area that our hotel is in, all of the architecture is mind blowing. So far this is everyone’s favorite country of the trip, but we are all looking forward to Amsterdam. Every bit of this trip has been surreal and I am so lucky to share these experiences with these fellow teens.
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