European Holiday

Winter break trip overseas creates plenty of memories


Tara Olivia Martens

Wind turbines turn atoo a bluff overlooking the sea near Normandy, France

Tara Olivia Martens, Staff Writer

Nothing seems to be more iconic of coming of age in the United States as doing a backpacking tour through Europe. Then, after you have backpacked Europe, you might find yourself coming back to the “city of love” more than once in your life.

How ever you make it work, Paris is one stop that might catch your eye. I know it caught mine.

My last trip to Europe, I spent in a suburb of Paris conveniently located on the central Metro line. The Metro is the underground train that connects you to all of Paris and also connects to the above-ground trains that can take you to the airport.

One Metro ticket will cost you $2.17, and the ticket will allow you to change Metro lines as long as you don’t leave the Metro station. All in all, the public transportation is effective and affordable.

My time in France was primarily spent in Boulogne-Billancourt, a Parisian suburb hip with people on the go and buildings and parks that look similar to Paris central.

Within the first few days staying in Boulogne-Billancourt the Circus de Sole was performing one mile down the street from me. There is also a famous football (AKA soccer) stadium called the Parc des Princes (The Park of Princes) which has more than twice the square feet that Camp Randall holds for its football (soccer) games.

This Parisian suburb is also where the Rothchild family has one of their famous Château (a castle). Edmond Rothchild funded a spacious park in the city that has winding pathways with ponds and ornate bridges and park benches to overlook the scenery.

When you are in Paris or one of its suburbs, there are countless small shops, something that in the U.S. we would call “mom and pop stores.” Some examples include  fromageries (cheese shops),  pâtisserie (bakery), Fleuriste (flower shops), Cigarium (cigar shops), bars, and restaurants.

The Parisians take great pride in the presentation of their streets and the outside their apartments and business. People in the city are always walking about, so the sidewalks are in good shape except for one thing – dog droppings. In Paris you have to watch out for dog poop as it is always on the sidewalks.

With over 2.2 million inhabitants, keeping a polished image of Paris as classic as a French manicure and a little black dress is partly accomplished by its unilateral expectation of nearly every building painted  a mandatory yellowish- off white paint specifically named: “crème fraiche.”

Many people think of Paris as the “city of love,” but what one might fail to know is that Paris is chronically cloudy and overcast. The weather does not dictate the average zest and style of the people the inhabit Paris, in fact, the restaurants during lunch and after work hours are full of people having lively conversations.

Funny enough, at one restaurant I was at, it was only the two American girls  in their 20s who were on their cell phones, frustrated with their lack of cell phone signal that prevented them from posting on social media. Everyone else at the restaurant (presumably Parisians) were having bustling conversations, catching up without their hand-held devices present.

You can’t have Paris without the Eiffel Tower, just like you can’t have Wisconsin without the milk industry.

The story of the Eiffel Tower is that it was featured in the Paris World Fair of 1889 as a centennial celebration of the French Revolution and it wasn’t actually made by an architect, but by a civil engineer, named Gustave Eiffel.

The people of Paris are referred to as, “La Fête” the party, and similar to life in New York City, where people always people walking on the streets, so too is the life in Paris.

Parisians take great pride in the way they dress and smell and many people in the city where noticeable designer perfumes and as you walk around the streets, there is sometimes this mixture of the moldy smell of cheese shops and the guttural smell of sewer pipes and perfume and car pollution.

Some people refer to being in Paris as a dream, but it’s like being in a gigantic antique shop.

A few days of my journey where also spent in Versailles which is about a 35-minute car drive from the south western edge of Paris. Versailles is also the city of the famous Palace where Marie Antoinette lived (the queen famous for saying, “Let them eat cake”).

If you get the opportunity to tour the famous palace, it is currently about $20 for a day pass of the palace and the gardens. Visiting is like being in an entirely different world. The statues of horses coming out of the Grand Rondeau Fountain and the gardens surrounding the property create a surreal environment where you can easily imagine life as a ruling aristocrat as you walk through the palace.

The rest of my time in France was spent in the province of Normandy outside the city of Fécamp. I toured the perimeter of the ocean than are in the hilly areas that overlook the ocean. There are still bullocks that were used by the Germans during World War II that I got to crawl into.

This area of Normandy is where the famous Étretat rock formation stands against the striking white rocks and vast ocean. Étretat has a walkway that is made for tourist to enjoy with no entrance fee. The walk could take anywhere from one to more than two hours depending on what path you take to get back to the base.

After leaving France, I went to the Netheralands via the Thaly train (the train company). The train had at least three stops before I arrived at Schiphol which, coincidentally, is the train stop that is above Amsterdam’s international airport abbreviated AMS.

One of my good friends lives outside of Amsterdam on the sea-side town of Noordwijk.  Noordwijk has a relaxed feel and is a great place to wine an dine.

If you visit, just remember that the Dutch take their bicycle riding seriously, as old and young alike are riding at rates of 10-15 miles an hour. Culturally, it’s important to have a bicycle if you live in the Netherlands.

Also, the Dutch take great pride in fitness and have numerous mega-gyms which create world renowned kickboxers, dancers and, well, bicyclists.