Category Archives: Europe

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24 Hours in Brussels!

If you only had 24 hours to travel, where would you go?

While in Europe, I chose “Brussels”. Small city, fun city, interesting city, tricky city. The reason I chose that city was to have a taste spicy enough just to let me decide whether I would go back one day… Or not. (And also, because the flights were cheaper).

In my opinion, the city is big enough to make you want to see more, and small enough to get you to see enough in 24 hours. This statement is made in comparison to other European cities where I’ve been, such as Paris, Rome, Geneva, and London.

So if you ever happen to have 24 free hours while in Europe and want to take a jump and try out a new city, go to Brussels, and I’m pretty sure you’d be able to do one of these 10 things (I did all 10, y’all):

1.Free City Tour

A lot of European cities have the concept of “free city tours”, which I like a lot. It’s a good option for tourists to have a bit of a historical background of the city they’re visiting, and this with no commitment (financial and time-related, that is). If you love the tour, stick around til the end. If you get bored, feel free to leave. And if you stick til the end because you find it interesting, you’re welcome to give a tip to the tour guide at the end, with no obligations. Do it… if the spirit moves you:)

Tip: free city tours usually last for 1h to 1h30. They are walking tours, have fixed departure times and are also available in multiple languages. Before traveling, find out, in your destination city tourism website, where the gathering points for the free tours are. In Brussels, a lot of tour groups gathered at the market place. 

2. The Atomium

The Atomium is a 102 m tall building shaped as a molecule made of several circular atoms connected by chemical bonds (well, in this case, physical bonds). It was built in 1958 as part of a scientif Expo (Expo 58) in Brussels. Now, the Atomium is a museum; the top sphere of which includes a restaurant with a panoramic view of Brussels. You could simply stand outside and take a picture around the molecule (which I did), but if you’d like to go in, there is a fee. Interestingly, access to the attraction is sold alongside with access to the Mini-Europe attraction, which might turn out to be a great combo deal for you:

Atomium + Mini – Europe: € 24,70 (adults) and € 16,60 (<12y) € 21,80 (12-18y) for children.

Tip: a good trip to the museum takes “at least” an hour. If you plan on visiting this museum, consider that in allocating your time available for the different attractions you want to see. Also, the Atomium is about 35 mns from the city center, one way, by metro. With that said, it would take you 1h10 mns to go from and to the city. Take this into consideration when making your plans.

3. Mini-Europe

Mini-Europe is rather an interesting concept. It is a miniature park that displays the landmarks of Europe, as well as cities and the most important buildings in the continent. It is located just above the Atomium, so you can easily tackle both attractions at once.

Tip: you can purchase a combo ticket that gives you access to both the Atomium and Mini-Europe. There is also a restaurant around if you want to grab a quick bite, and a movie theater if you feel like being entertained by the latest releases. Very practical for an afternoon out alone, with a friend, or as a family.

4. Brussels’ Market Place

The market place is located in the city center, and is a hub for all tourists. It’s also one of the most active points on the weekends (daytime), and you can easily access all the remaining attractions listed in this article by walking up, down and around the market place.

Tip: anytime is a good time to go there, and there are usually a lot of tourists early in the morning and in the afternoon! If you want to take a free guided tour, make sure to get there early and join a group that speaks your language!

5. Belgian Fries for Lunch

I have a philosophy: just like you can’t go to France and not have French fries, you can’t go to Belgium and not have Belgian fries. This is simply unacceptable. ^_^

I had my first Belgian fries experience at Belgian Frites. I received a generous and delectable portion for less than 5 euros, and my heart (and mouth) were at peace (you know how I feel about food). I also learned that the difference between French fries and Belgian fries was in the cut!

Tip: this is a sample medium portion, and it was sufficient to keep me full for the afternoon (and I’m a food lover). You can choose to add other sauces and dressings to your serving, at an additional cost. 

6. Belgian Beer Museum

Did you know that the average Belgian drinks about 84 liters of beer per year. Yup.

I never realized that Belgium was so big on beers until I went to the Belgian Beer Museum in Brussels, located in the Market Place. For only 5 euros, you get to learn about the beer making process, different types of beers used for different occasions, history of beer, and on top of that, you get a free beer glass (you can even choose which type you want).

I felt so enlightened to learn about the different types of beers (thirst quenching and degustation beers), to learn that specific beers are served in specific glasses, and to even realize that some beers are made for specific occasions (like Christmas, for instance).

Tip: the museum is pretty small, and if at the end of your visit you want to sit down inside to sip your beer, then I recommend getting there early, perhaps before 10. Otherwise, there’s a 50/50 chance that you won’t get a seat. But if you don’t mind standing up while sipping, then that’s great!

7. A Belgian Waffles’ Treat

Again, back to my philosophy: just like you can’t go to France and not have French crêpes, you also can’t go to Belgium and not have Belgian waffles. This is simply unacceptable. All along the market place, there is a wide variety of sellers. You can get them for as little as 1 euro, and you get to choose your toppings (additional cost).

Tip: I saw some tourists buying humongous waffles (with 4-5 toppings), and I also saw some locals purchasing a plain waffle. So, it all depends on your budget and the experience you want to have.

8. The Manneken Pis

Going to Brussels, I told myself: “If I don’t see anything, I want to see the Atomium and the Manneken Pis”. And as I was kindly led along the Market Place by two tourists sensitive to my plight and supportive of my desire to fulfill the second part of my goal, I finally encountered… The Manneken Pis: he’s a little boy.

A little boy, but an iconic landmark sculpture in Brussels. The scuplture depicts a naked little boy urinating into a fountain’s basin.

Historically, it was the first fountain that played an essential role in the distribution of drinking water in Brussels since the 15th century.  The sculpture also survived the bombing of Brussels in 1695. The Manneken Pis was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618 or 1619.

It is said that Manne (can I just call him Manne – reads “Manu”, I find him so adorable…) has more than 900 suits in his wardrobe, and before each suit is officialized, there is a full ceremony. He is dressed about 130 times per year, and you better believe there is an official calendar that dictates (ahead of time) when he should be dressed. You can find out more about his wardrobe and costumes here. So, next time someone tells you you have too many clothes, just send them the link to this article and let them know that the Manneken Pis, Manne, has more than 900. Case closed.

Tip: Manne is a VIP, and it might be difficult for you to get a nice clean shot with him, when you go there, simply because there are a lot of other tourists. So you have to be pretty strategic! 

9. Tintin Museum (aka Hergé Museum)

If you are a huge fan of cartoons like I am, you’ll love visiting the Tintin Museum. You know, I grew up watching Tintin and Milou’s adventures all my childhood and early teenage years (well, at least til I entered medical school), and I only discovered that Tintin was Belgian when I went to Brussels. Quite an eye-opening trip! If you have a few minutes to spare, stop by, and if not, just pick up some souvenirs!

Tip: there is a small fee that you have to pay to access the museum.

10. MOOF Museum (Museum Of Original Figurines) 

This one is also a must for anyone who is a die-hard (or die-soft) fan of cartoons! This museum features original figurines of cartoons like The Smurfs, Asterix and Obelix, Tintin, and so many more! I was overwhelmed being there, it felt like childhood again. I’d definitely recommend this.

Tip: there is a small fee that you have to pay to access the museum.

One attraction I’d definitely love to see when I go back “someday”: The Musical Instruments Museum:

After everything had been seen, done, eaten and drank, I hopped back on the train to the airport, and guess what: I wasn’t even late for my flight! 🙂

Linking back to Faraway Flies!

Untold Morsels

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The Colosseum

One of Rome’s #1 touristic attractions and a publicly accepted symbol of Roman resilience, the Colosseum is a double amphitheater which was created under the Flavian dynasty.

Why double? Because it is made of two superimposed amphitheater

Why the name colosseum? Because there used to be a massive status of the then Emperor Claudius Caesar Augustus Nero in front of the building.

The colosseum used to accommodate    50 000 – 80 000 people, and was a famous arena for gladiator fights, parades and the re-creation of classical mythology wars. Try to picture an open “Broadway theater”, Roman style, where gladiators fight for their life, honor and the honor of their King and Queen. Each fight ended up with at least one opponent dead, the body of which was carried through the “death door”.

Today, the Colosseum is also considered as a site for Christian remembrance where homage is paid to the Christian martyrs who lost their life during the Roman revolutions.

Every good Friday, the Pope leads the stations of the cross starting in or near the Colosseum.

In Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2002), the Colosseum was recreated by computer imagery for a few movie scenes. Also, a scene from the movie Jumper (2008) was filmed at the Colosseum.

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing:)

Cheers,

Clem😊


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The Spanish Steps

Category : Blog Posts , Europe , Italy , Rome

A set of 135 steps located at the heart of the city of Rome, the Spanish Steps have been the stage and highlights of several movies, video clips and album recordings by well-known celebrities.

Historically, they are called “Spanish Steps” because they are located at the Piazza Di Spagna, and connect the Spanish Embassy with the Trinità dei Monti church. At the forefront, the steps are beautified by a water fountain, the Fontana della Barcaccia (the fountain of the ugly boat), which is made into the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its sides into a small basin.

Fontana della Barcaccia, Piazza Di Spagna

In Rome, today, every major piazza is surrounded by at least one fountain. To learn more about Roman’s history with water and fountains, click here.

Me walking down the Spanish Steps

Today, I definitely feel like Audrey Hepburn in The Roman Holiday (1953).


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The Trevi Fountain

Category : Europe , Italy , Rome , Uncategorized

The largest baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous in the world, the Trevi Fountain has gained worldwide notoriety through several films including La Dolce Vita (by Federico Fellini), and through its coin throwing legend.  

Historically, it is said that 19 NC, a young “virgin” girl led thirsty Roman soldiers to a source of pure water 13 km from the city of Rome. Following the discovery of that source of water, the then Emperor, Augustus, ordered the construction of an aqueduct that would connect Rome to that water source, and the Aqueduct was named “Aqua Virgo” in honor of the young girl. For over 400 years, the aqueduct served the entire city of Rome.

People say that throwing coins (using the right hand over the left shoulder) is meant to bring luck and make one’s wishes come true. Everyday, 3000 -6000 euros are collected from the fountain, and donated to charities in Rome. Could your luck come from the Gods being pleased by you giving to the poor without even knowing? Perhaps…

Fontana di Trevi at night

The fountain was recently restored (2015), and the works included the installation of more than 100 LED lights for night time lighting. 

If you ever get to visit Rome and have a close look at the foutnain, you’ll notice:

– Oceanus, son of Uranus and Gaia, and Greek Titan god of the ocean and fresh waters. He is illustrated alongside with tritons (half and half mermaid), which are each trying to tame sea horses (hippocampus). The tritons guide Oceanus’  shell chariot, and this work with the theme fountain: Taming the waters.

Of course, all this magic was happening behind me while I was having Romans favourite dessert: Gelato❤

And then I ran into a Pikachu band, which warranted an obligatory picture. 

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and much as I did writing it:)

Cheers,

Clem.


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My Trip to Rome

Category : Europe , Italy , Rome , Uncategorized

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Rome had always been an unknown world to me until I was fortunate to visit this historical city two weeks ago. Since I took that trip, my perspective on so many different aspects of life has changed for the better. I was fortunate to see a lot of historical sites, get to know this city in more depth and really picture and imagine life as a Roman 1000 years ago.

But even with all these things, there is just something about “being in Rome” that just touched me in a specific way that I still failed to explain, but I hope  that when you visit (if you ever decide to), you’ll understand what I mean. Was is it the incomparably preserved history? Perhaps. Was it the fact that the city just emulates a walking museum? Maybe. Was it its transcendent touch with Catholicism and admirable transformation to a christian city despite being a pagan city in the past? Maybe. Or was it the fact that culture and religion still co-exist with respect to each other? I don’t know. It was just something. But until I figure it out (perhaps tomorrow, in 10 years or at my next visit), allow me to share with you the highlights of my trip, coupled with some  uniquely useful advice if you’re planning to visit!

This is how I was able to visit Rome in one week, which was just enough time to make me decide whether or not I would want to come back! Feel free to jump the days and skip to whichever activity you prefer, but don’t forget to absolutely check out the TRAVEL TIPS AND TRICKS and TRAVELING ON A BUDGET sections that are particularly relevant to this trip to Rome!

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Monday: Arrival in Rome in the afternoon. I made my first mistake immediately when I arrived! (check it out here) and I hope this never ever happens to you! Eventually, I had dinner with a friend I had met at the Comics Guesthouse.

Tuesday: I woke up late and was really tired, and because I did not want to lose the day, Walked around and took a quick trip to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. 

Wednesday: The public transport system was on strike, and although most sites were within reasonable walking distance from my accommodation, I was pretty worn out and decided to take the day to rest. I am happy I did, because I never really got the chance to rest after my Trip to Durban (South Africa).

Thursday: This was my favorite day. I did a Rome City Walking Tour, and this put everything in perspective for me. In fact, without that tour, I don’t think I’d have been able to grasp the depth of the city of Rome and understand the meaning of every fountain, every building, every sculpture and every structure as well as I do today.

Friday: I visited the Piazza Venetia, the Colosseum and the Roman Forums. 

Saturday: The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel (The Pope’s personal chapel) were the highlights of my day.

Sunday: I went to see the Pope and received his blessing. I also did a tour of St Peter’s Basilica, which is the Basilica where the Pope celebrates masses on special occasions (mostly catholic feasts). In the evening,I did a tour of one of Rome’s most heartwarming neighborhoods, Trastevere. 

Finally, check out my TRAVEL TIPS AND TRICKS and TRAVELING ON A BUDGET section for new articles relevant to all your travels, including Rome!

Hope you feel inspired today!

Cheers,
Clem.

 


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Comics Guesthouse, Rome

If you’re traveling to Rome soon and I looking for an affordable, conveniently located and interesting place to stay, Comics Guesthouse is your best bet!

I stumbled about this gold mine while doing my research on hostels for my trip to Rome.
What made me pick this place, out of so many other options, was the fact that it was themed from comics and cartoons, which I very much love!

I had never seen a hostel like this before, and the fact that they defined such a fun theme for their decor was simply amazing!

Rest assured, this place works well for people traveling solo, in couple or even for families! While I was there, there were several families who had come to spend a few nights.

This hostel had the perfect location, and I couldn’t and skills for more. The closest station is Lepanto (only a 3 mns walk) and from there you’re 15 mns away from Campo de Fiori, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the St Peters square (including the basilica) and the Vatican museums. This was simply the perfect location for me.

There are also a few cafes and supermarkets in the vicinity, and the hostel has a kitchen and free supplies that you can use  (coffee, tea, sugar, drinks, pasta,etc).

 

Location: viale Giulio Cesare 38 00192 Roma, 00192 Roma, Italy.
Cost:  less than 20 euros/night 

What I loved: The cartoon theme, the perfect location and the amazing staff! There are also a lot of cafes and shopping places in the vicinity.

What they could improve on: the location is not very obvious and the sign at  front of the building is pretty small. I had to stop at the bakery nearby to ask for directions.
Otherwise, I loved the place. The only reason I checked out earlier was because my plans changed, but I stayed at another amazing hostel, the Generator Home, and you might want to check it out here!

 

 

 

 

 


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Generator Hostel, Rome 

One if the best ways to make sure you save while traveling is to go for budget and comfortable accommodation options!

This hostel is like nothing I have ever seen, and in a great way!

They truly know how to redefine the world of hostels and make you feel like you’re staying at a place more expensive than what you’re paying for.

 

 

Location: Via principe Amedeo, 257, 00185 Roma, Italy.

This hostel is very conveniently located. About 7 mns from the Roma termini station.

PS: the neighborhood seems a bit sketchy, but don’t worry, it’s safe. the Radisson Blue Hotel is also around:) I’d recommend using Google Maps and asking locals if you’re having difficulties finding the place.

Cost: about 20 euros /night in a room with 4 beds. For 5 euros suppl, you get breakfast in the morning.

What I loved about itThe elegance, style, uniqueness and decoration of this hostel are all the things that make it so unique. Being in there makes you feel like you’re in a high end hotel! There are also a lot of social events at the hostel, from Monday to Sunday night! A great place if you’re looking to have a good time while meeting people! I definitely met some amazing people there!

What they could improve onproviding towels to Guests would be great, especially if we don’t have to pay for it!

 

 


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The Pantheon

Category : Europe , Italy , Rome

The Pantheon is one of the top 5 touristic attractions in Rome, and certainly one of my favourites.

Being an avid fan of Greek and Roman mythology, it was a unique experience be in the temple dedicated to all the Roman gods. Pan = All, Theos = gods: the Pantheon was the place of worship of all the gods in Ancient Rome. 

After it had been destroyed, it was rebuilt by Maxime Agrippa and since Christianity was brought to Rome, the Pantheon became a place of Christian worhip, which is one of the (other) things I love about this place. 

When you step in, directly ahead of you is the altar, on which you can admire a chandelier with several candles. There used to be statues of Roman gods and goddesses, which were replaced by images of the Virgin Mary, which you can still see today. 

The Pantheon, the Altar

Romans were extremely superstituous, and a visit to the Pantheon could be used as a way to appease the gods and avoid being cursed by bad will. 

And then, you look up and… there you have it. The Pantheon iconic dome. 

142 feet from side to side, and in height! Made of concrete  (a Roman invention), it gets wider and thinner as it gets higher. 

This  oculus, or sunroof, is the only light source of the light in the Pantheon, and back then, was also considered as the way of direct communication between the gods and men. 

The Pantheon, the Dome

This dome inspired the Dome of the St Peters Basilica, Vatican, and even, the White House in the USA!

The Pantheon floor, 1800 years old, was designed with holes to allow for water to be evacuated in the event of raining. 

Pantheon, Floor

The Pantheon was not just a place for all gods, but also , religions and all people. 

Today, it is a renowned Christian nonument, a historical site and also the place of burial of some of Italy’s most renowned personalities:
Raphael, renowned Renaissance Painter who worked closely with Michelangelo – was buried there. 

Victor Emanuele II, the Father of the Nation, Italy’s firs thing after reunification was also buried there. 

Tomb of Victor Emanuele II

 Umberto d’Italia: son of Victor Emanuele II, who became King of Italy after his father died.

Interesting fact: his wife, Margherita, is the one after whom the famous Margherita  Pizza was named! 

Tomb of Umberto d’Italia

What I loved about this site: the setting and the background, the pillars, the columns and the design of this structure just made me feel like I was in a medieval movie.

I also loved the fact that it used to be a worship temple for the Pagan gods, and since Christianity was brought to Rome, it is now a Christian temple with a historical background and remains a sacred sightseeing monument.

Cost: Free.


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Week 5/12: 20 hours in Nyon… 20 Best Pictures:)

Category : Europe , Switzerland

Hi Everyone, I hope you had  great/restful/productive/relaxing weekend, according to what your weekend goal was.

For me, it was time for some introspection and reflection. And there was no better place to do this than beautiful, warm, small and welcoming Nyon, Switzerland.

Enjoy the pictures, and hope this will inspire you to visit too.

Cheers, Clem.


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Week 4/12: A weekend at the Queen’s  (Part 2)

After living on the Nature Isle  (Dominica) for a few years, I have grown fond of loving small cities. And so, Visiting Oxford was a pleasure to me.

My brother, photographer and tour guide extraordinaire, made it his mission to show me the coolest architectural buildings in the world (ever) and the top reason why he loves this city.

The Radcliffe square is certainly his favourite spot, a very coveted touristic attraction and one of the famous ones in Oxford. It is located at the center of city and is surrounded by Oxford University colleges.

The Oxford Museum is also a very interesting site to visit, for all the culture and history lovers! 

Being in the city that has one of the largest libraries in the world was more than an educational apocalypse  (words from a bookworm). From speaking with my brother, I got to appreciate how unique the Oxford Bodleian library is. Even moreso, the fact that only 1% of the manuscripts they have are in libraries and the other 99% underground was even more fascinating. 

Sooner rather than later, all this book and architecture talk got us hungry and we decided to meet some of my brother’s friends for burgers at Byron.

From the get go, I noticed that most of their products were custom made: napkins, set tables, and even their pepper sauce  (signature, Byron). However, what really impressed me was this originally designed drinks menu…

Feeling adventurous, I went for their specialty burger: the Cluckosaurus Rex! I am happy I did because that was a unique culinary experience! And if you really want to know where that burger name comes from, stop by at Byron at your next visit to Oxford!

Oxford was one of the cities that I have always (secretely) wanted to visit, and Traveling there last weekend was truly a enjoyable experience, especially with my tour guide and photographer extraordinaire, my brother. 🚩

I really hope to visit Christchurch as well as the Deer Park  (Magdalene College) next time I travel there, hopefully soon!

Thank you for reading.

Love, Clem.❤


Clem’s Fun Moments!

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