Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, France

I finally got to Paris a couple of days ago, so I've done a preliminary sweep through photos I took and have time to give a more detailed trip report.

Denmark/Sweden:

Copenhagen, after Bruges, was my favorite place on the trip.  Super clean and civilized (no gates on the metro), like a lot of Scandinavian places, and beautiful color palette on the buildings.  Really charming place.  Not a ton to see in terms of tourist sites but probably a great place to live, much like Singapore.  Best bit was Vor Frelsers Kirke, which has an exterior spiral staircase leading up to the spire that I climbed.  Feels a lot like climbing a skyscraper, if that skyscraper were built in the 1600s and seemed like it might disintegrate at any moment.  That thing creaked and swayed in the heavy and had uncomfortably low railings.  A fun thing to do once.  Also, Tivoli Gardens was a pretty charming amusement park, and had this one cool thrill ride that had a joystick that let you control the ride, flipping and spinning yourself around.  Really cool, and I've never heard of or seen a ride you control yourself before.  

On the first night, I met up with a couple of people that are on my Paris program and happened to be in Copenhagen.  We went out to dinner and then, the next day, I went up to Helsingør (Elsinore), with one of them, then took the ferry to Sweden, train down a bit of Sweden, and then the famous Öresundsbron back to Copenhagen.  It was a good day trip, and I got to see a tiny bit of Sweden.  The next day I went to the aforementioned Tivoli Gardens, and then got on the sleeper train to Amsterdam.

  My room on the Donna Wood, docked in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

My room on the Donna Wood, docked in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  The Donna Wood, docked in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Donna Wood, docked in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  A typical residential street in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A typical residential street in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  Ceramics in Rosenborg Slot in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ceramics in Rosenborg Slot in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  A crown in the Treasury at Rosenborg Slot, Copenhagen, Denmark.

A crown in the Treasury at Rosenborg Slot, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  A statue in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A statue in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  The view from some point in the staircase at Vor Frelsers Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The view from some point in the staircase at Vor Frelsers Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  The top bit of Vor Frelsers Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The top bit of Vor Frelsers Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  Me at Kronborg Slot (the castle in Hamlet) at Helsingør, Denmark.

Me at Kronborg Slot (the castle in Hamlet) at Helsingør, Denmark.

  Our Ferry from Helsingør, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden.

Our Ferry from Helsingør, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden.

  Helsingborg, Sweden.

Helsingborg, Sweden.

  Öresundbron, as viewed from Hyllie, Sweden.

Öresundbron, as viewed from Hyllie, Sweden.

  Me in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Me in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  Me at the gate to Christiana, the autonomous commune within Copenhagen, Denmark.  They had stands selling marijuana and hash right out in the open.

Me at the gate to Christiana, the autonomous commune within Copenhagen, Denmark.  They had stands selling marijuana and hash right out in the open.

  Inside Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Inside Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  Grundtvigs Kirke (made to look like an organ), Copenhagen, Denmark.

Grundtvigs Kirke (made to look like an organ), Copenhagen, Denmark.

  That ride you can control yourself at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark.

That ride you can control yourself at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  The main entrance to Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The main entrance to Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  On the sleeper train from Copenhagen, Denmark to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

On the sleeper train from Copenhagen, Denmark to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  On the sleeper train from Copenhagen, Denmark to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

On the sleeper train from Copenhagen, Denmark to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Amsterdam:

Frankly, Amsterdam is a party city, and it disappoints if you're traveling solo.  I can see it being a good time going back with a friend sometime though (as I think Cha and John L. did once, no?).  Best bit in Amsterdam was probably Annefrankhuis (Anne Frank House).  And my hotel (Mauro Mansion) was cool, in an old building on a canal.  Also, the Apple Store, where I went to buy a hard drive, was very nice.  Haha.

  My room in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

My room in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  Volleyball in Dam Square, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Volleyball in Dam Square, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  Some church in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Some church in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  Pretty homes/businesses along a canal in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Pretty homes/businesses along a canal in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  The Rijksmuseum with the famous "I amsterdam" sign in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Rijksmuseum with the famous "I amsterdam" sign in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  A very long foosball table set up in Amsterdam Centraal train station in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

A very long foosball table set up in Amsterdam Centraal train station in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Ghent:

Ghent was a nice medieval city with a lot of atmosphere but not many amazing sites.  There is, however, a big old castle in the middle of town, and generally neat buildings. One strength is that it isn't nearly so over-run with tourists as Bruges.

  Buildings along the canal in Ghent, Belgium.

Buildings along the canal in Ghent, Belgium.

  Buildings along the canal in Ghent, Belgium.

Buildings along the canal in Ghent, Belgium.

  Puppets in a museum in Ghent, Belgium.

Puppets in a museum in Ghent, Belgium.

  A guy selling garlic at a market in Ghent, Belgium.

A guy selling garlic at a market in Ghent, Belgium.

Bruges:

Bruges was the best place on the trip.  It's been totally infiltrated by tourists now, but with good reason.  Just a beautiful medieval city with nice canals.  I climbed the belfort, which besides being a fairly common thing to do, also places centrally in "In Bruges," one of my favorite movies.  I also stayed in the same hotel as the two main characters in that movie had, which was cool.  The manager of the hotel in the movie was a pregnant lady, and the real manager was a 60-something man who told me, "I am not a pregnant lady" when I checked in.  Bruges has too much stuff to list, and is totally worth going to.  It's really only 2 hours from Paris, so it's a doable day trip from Paris in a time crunch.  

  The Belfort in Bruges, Belgium.

The Belfort in Bruges, Belgium.

  Bruges City Hall in Bruges, Belgium.

Bruges City Hall in Bruges, Belgium.

  Another view of the Belfort in Bruges, Belgium.

Another view of the Belfort in Bruges, Belgium.

  My hotel (the wood and brick building with the two pointed roofs) with the Belfort in the background in Bruges, Belgium.

My hotel (the wood and brick building with the two pointed roofs) with the Belfort in the background in Bruges, Belgium.

  Gerard David's "The Judgement of Cambyses," 1498, oil on wood, at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, Belgium.

Gerard David's "The Judgement of Cambyses," 1498, oil on wood, at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, Belgium.

  The beguinage in Bruges, Belgium.

The beguinage in Bruges, Belgium.

  Nuns singing at the church at the beguinage in Bruges, Belgium.

Nuns singing at the church at the beguinage in Bruges, Belgium.

  A cross made of plants at the beguinage in Bruges, Belgium.

A cross made of plants at the beguinage in Bruges, Belgium.

  A belgian waffle in Bruges, Belgium.

A belgian waffle in Bruges, Belgium.

  Touring the Henri Maes brewery in Bruges, Belgium.

Touring the Henri Maes brewery in Bruges, Belgium.

  Bottle corks at the Henri Maes brewery in Bruges, Belgium.

Bottle corks at the Henri Maes brewery in Bruges, Belgium.

  Jeruzalemkerk in Bruges, Belgium.

Jeruzalemkerk in Bruges, Belgium.

  Inside Jeruzalemkerk in Bruges, Belgium.

Inside Jeruzalemkerk in Bruges, Belgium.

  Inside Jeruzalemkerk in Bruges, Belgium.

Inside Jeruzalemkerk in Bruges, Belgium.

Brussels:

Meh.  Not much to see.  Not much charm either.  Seems to have the snobbery of Paris without anything to back it up.  Based on this trip, Flemish Belgium is a lot more friendly.  I did, however, get to meet the American Ambassor to Belgium (Dad's former law-partner), and go to the American Ambassador's residence which was really cool. Best bit of Brussels was the Atomium, an atom-inspired structure built for some expo in 1958.  It's a total tourist trap, but it is actually really neat looking.  Not just you're standard Space-Needle-type-thing (or maybe it was and I just personally liked this one).  

  La Grande Place in Brussels, Belgium.

La Grande Place in Brussels, Belgium.

  Part of an exhibit at EU Pariliament in Brussels, Belgium.

Part of an exhibit at EU Pariliament in Brussels, Belgium.

  Belgian beer for sale at Beer Mania in Brussels, Belgium.

Belgian beer for sale at Beer Mania in Brussels, Belgium.

  The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium.

The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium.

  The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium.  

The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium.  

  One of those sky-table things where you can have a meal suspended from a crane in Brussels, Belgium.  I had never seen one in person.  (See:   http://www.dinnerinthesky.com/  .)

One of those sky-table things where you can have a meal suspended from a crane in Brussels, Belgium.  I had never seen one in person.  (See: http://www.dinnerinthesky.com/.)

Paris:

I've only been here a couple days but I'm settling in well.  I like my apartment and the area (5th arrondisement, Jussieu metro, near the Sorbonne).  I walked to the Tuilerie Gardens and the Champs Elyseés shopping area on the first night (which really aren't that close at all but it was a nice walk).  Last night I went to see Jay-Z and Kanye West in Bercy with my friend Alexandra.  It's likely not your kind of music, but its one of the best concerts I've been to.  It didn't hurt that there biggest current song is about Paris, and they did it 12 times in a row at the end.  I'm talking 30 minutes plus of the same song on real-life repeat.  Sounds like a nightmare?  You had to be there.  RollingStone.com even thought it merited mention: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/jay-z-and-kanye-west-play-ni-as-in-paris-12-times-in-paris-20120619.

I've got about a week before orientation starts, and 2 weeks until actual classes begin.

  Arrival from Brussels at Gare du Nord, Paris, France.

Arrival from Brussels at Gare du Nord, Paris, France.

  Kanye West at the concert in Bercy, Paris, France.

Kanye West at the concert in Bercy, Paris, France.

  Jay-Z and Kanye West at the concert in Bercy, Paris, France

Jay-Z and Kanye West at the concert in Bercy, Paris, France