It is almost late afternoon in Brussels and the sun is not yet up and the air is nippy. It is my last day here, participating in the Citadines #30 along with three other bloggers from France, Germant and London. It has been a whirlwind tour, ten days of travelling across the European Union, across France, Germany and Belgium, spending three days in every country. I started with Cannes where bright sunshine greeted me and then I headed to Berlin where it was a mix of cloud and shine and finally at Brussels where after three days of blue skies, its a tad bit cloudy today. But the entire event started with Paris, the city of dreams, romance and fashion.
In my first post, Vote for me, the lone Indian travel blogger at Citadines #30, I wrote about the ten reasons why I am excited about the event. And now ten days later, I want to share with you some of the moments that defined the trip to me.
Personally it gave me a high to be chosen as the only Indian blogger to participate in the event and I was very excited. I loved the concept of travelling solo in every city and being able to do my own thing at my own pace. I was a bit jittery especially at airports (a confession – I hate airports) and lugging a heavy baggage across railway stations, but then the moment I landed in a new city and started exploring it, I forgot all about it, until it was time to leave again. Sigh, now I have to pack !
Home away from home experience
Citadines is not a hotel. It is an apart hotel. It comes with all the amenities of a hotel but with the personal touch and space of an apartment. You can cook a midnight snack if you feel like, keep drinking any number of coffees and teas in your room, stock food in the fridgerator, go to the gym..do whatever you want to do in your own studio apartment. I loved the fact that there is 24 hours of free wifi and I was connected to the world wherever, whenever.
The little details in every apartment
I stayed in a large apartment in Brussels, which felt like a big home and in a studio apartment in Berlin which was cosy and comfortable. The apartment at Cannes came with a large living space attached to the bed room and Paris was just perfect, warm and nice. But it was the attention to details that impressed me. There were chocolates in my room in Paris and in Brussels, orchids in the bathroom in Brussels and in Cannes, they stocked the entire kitchen with oil and groceries so that I could whip up a meal. Every residence is as cosy as a family – Cannes was an absolute delight, as I could spend hours chatting with the people there at the residence, listening to the stories of stars who visit the festival.
Solo travel but also slow travel
We often want to explore a city the moment we land, tick off as many places as we like and indulge in every experience we can. However, I am not a huge fan of this kind of tourism , I like to soak in a place and explore it at my own pace. And I did just that as a “reporting blogger” for Citadines. As this was about sharing my experiences and giving insights to every town by blogging on the go, I chose to delve into a fewer but offbeat experiences besides of course doing the touristy things. I love being in the city centre and sauntering off and taking in the flavour and that is just what I did..I rediscovered slow travel. I lost my way many a time and walked a mile or more longer and then promptly rewarded myself with some chocolates and desserts. Many a time, I travelled without any agenda or just picked up some information on the go and I loved it.
Moments and memories
Each city had its moments and memories that I like to treasure. I was high on nostalgia when I came to Paris, as I had just visited the city a couple of years ago with the husband . The moment I saw the bridges across the Seine, I completely fell in love with the city again. I am told that the original bridges of locks had collapsed a few months ago and so they have started removing the locks from it and tying them up on other bridges.
In Cannes, it was the sea. The salts of the sea tickled my nostrils and I loved walking up and down the pier watching the sunset. I saw pretty sails fluttering in the sky as we ferried to Sainte Marguerita while artists sat and painted the yachts that sailed across the oceans. A quick visit to Grasse to see the perfume factories – was quite intrigued watching an entire museum dedicated to bathing ! The greatest advantage of staying in the Citadines Cannes property is that everything is a stone’s throw away and yet you are far from the melee. Even the bus to Grasse departs next door. I would definitely come to the Cote D’Azur again. The affair with French Riviera has just started.
Read my posts on Cannes
Berlin and The Wall. I went on a six hour walk with Dennis, a historian who told me stories relating to the Cold War, The Wall had not just divided Germany, but had suddenly curbed the freedom of the people overnight. Imagine being told that your home is no longer your home and is a boundary. Imagine being told that you cannot walk on the road in front of your house and your doors and windows being sealed. Imagine jumping to freedom or death from your windows on the other room, because one side of your house faces GDR while the other is West Germany. Rivers and roads became boundaries across countries as the city was divided with a long concrete wall. But now the city is celebrating 25 years of the Fall of the Wall as the East and the West have merged. Well its not just the Cold War stories that ring in my ears. I went to the Jewish Museum, a chilling reminder of the holocaust and the Nazi regime. But if you want a break from all these grim reminders, then a visit to the 17th century Charlottenburg Palace takes you into a world of kings and queens and Roman Gods and Goddesses.. And the best part is it is just two metro stops away from the Citadines residence here.
Read my post on Berlin
Brussels and Bruges …what can I say ? It has been the most appetising part of my trip so far..from attending a chocolate class to gorging on waffles to pigging on fries to tasting beers. But the highlight has been chocolates. You can never have enough of them. They can be as lingerie or shoes or birds or animals or houses or even corpses…but a delicious chocolate is a chocolate, no matter what shape it assumes. I loved Bruges, a town steeped in medieval life with canals and old bridges arching over them. Bruges is just an hour from Brussels and it takes just three metro stops to reach the Brussels Midi station from the Citadines Toison D’ Or residence here.
Read my posts on Brussels
Well, half the day is almost over. I just have to pack and head to the city centre and wander around the streets one last time before leaving to Canada tomorrow. Thanks so much for cheering me on this journey and voting for me. I think the game is on till end of day and if you still have not voted for me, do so now at http://www.citadinesmoments30.com/en/blogueur/lakshmi-sharath/
Thanks Citadines for the opportunity to roam around Europe at my will. It has been an amazing joy ride so far, Catch you later.