Pont des Arts | A Bridge Loaded With Love In Paris

I’m a dude. That means I love football, beer and working out. It also means that I’m not always good at spotting romance. In Paris though — love screams in your face. It’s everywhere. I heard a guy propose to his girlfriend on top of the Eiffel Tower, I watched couples holding hands while walking down the Champs-Elysees, and I saw love literally locked to the side of a bridge — the Pont des Arts.

Pont des Arts in Paris

Pont des Arts

My mom and I started our second day in Paris at Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame Cathedral. After we finished there, we started walking toward the Champs-Elysees. Instead of staying on the main streets, my mom and I walked the foot paths along the Seine River. I highly recommend this, especially if you’re looking for a romantic route around the city. There aren’t many people down there, it’s a really nice stroll, and you get where you need to go.

According to Wikipedia, there are 37 bridges (or ‘ponts’ in French) that cross the Seine River in Paris. All of them have their own unique features, but one of the coolest bridges is the Pont des Arts. As my mom and I approached the Pont des Arts (a pedestrian bridge that leads to the Louvre), we quickly noticed a bunch of small, shiny things (a lame description, I know — I couldn’t think of anything better) glistening on the bridge. We thought it was just the design, but we quickly noticed it was much more than that as we got closer.

Those small, shiny things are actually padlocks attached to the grates of Pont des Arts. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of padlocks, and all have names and/or little messages written on them. My mom and I didn’t know what the purpose was; we only knew it was cool looking. I took several pictures of the padlocks, noted where we were (I didn’t know it was the Pont des Arts at the time), and planned on investigating the bridge later that night. Luckily, my mom is a talker, so my investigation wasn’t necessary.

Pont des Arts Love Padlocks

Love padlocks on Pont des Arts

As we started walking away, my mom sparked a conversation with a couple strolling along the river. My mom asked the pair if they knew the purpose of the padlocks on the Pont des Arts. The woman (who was luckily American and spoke English) knew the answer and wasn’t shy to share it with us. Here’s how it works:

Couples place a padlock (with their names/message on it) on the bridge, lock it up, and then throw the key into the Seine River below. The gesture is meant to symbolize the couple’s everlasting love. The woman and her husband who explained the meaning to us were actually newlyweds, so they were going to take part in the romantic ritual later in their trip.

I had never seen anything like the padlocks on the Pont des Arts before, but I thought it was a pretty neat idea. It seems to be catching on elsewhere too. After our visit to Paris, I noticed bridges in other European cities being used for the same thing (but not nearly to the same level as the Pont des Arts).

The Pont des Arts is just another shining (literally) example of romance in Paris. Around every corner, on top of a tower and even locked to a bridge — love is everywhere in the “City of Light.”

Have you ever seen the Pont des Arts? Even better — do you have padlock on the Pont des Arts? I’d love to hear all about it! You can simply leave a message below, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more fun travel stories and tips. If you can’t travel the globe, experience the world with me!

Eiffel Tower | An Experience I’ll Never Forget

There’s nothing to me that scream EUROPE! more than the Eiffel Tower. It was the landmark I was most excited to see when I was travelling abroad a few months ago (Big Ben in London was a close second). I had seen the Eiffel Tower a million times on television, in history classes and even the replica in Las Vegas, but nothing compares to actually seeing the Eiffel Tower in person.

Eiffel Tower At Sunset In Paris

Eiffel Tower

After three days celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in England, my mom and I took the Eurostar train (through “The Chunnel”) to Paris. We got in to the city in the late afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then headed to dinner on Rue Clare (a popular street for shopping and dining in Paris). After an awesome meal at the Cafe du Marche, we walked directly to the Eiffel Tower.

This might sound stupid, but I was actually giddy to see the Eiffel Tower. I know it’s a cliché, but I felt like a kid on Christmas waiting to open presents. I just couldn’t wait to get there. After a couple blocks — it happened! I was suddenly standing in the Champs de Mars, staring at the Eiffel Tower.

It was the perfect time to be there. The sun was just beginning to set, so the colors in the sky were amazing. After all of the years seeing the Eiffel Tower in books, etc., the whole scene didn’t seem real to me. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, I couldn’t stop staring and I just flat-out couldn’t believe I was standing where I was.

I had planned on going to the top of the Eiffel Tower the next day, but my mom pitched the idea of heading up right then. I wasn’t sure about going to the top of the tower at night (I thought the view might be better during the day), but I jumped at the idea (and I’m glad I did — the view is amazing at night).

Eiffel Tower View At Night

A view from the Eiffel Tower

You can get to the top of the Eiffel Tower two ways — you can take the elevator or you can walk. The tickets for walking are cheaper and the line to get up is much shorter. I had NO interest in walking to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so we waited in line to catch the elevator. We had to wait an hour just to buy tickets (you can get tickets online to save time), and then we had to wait another ten minutes to get on the elevator (I’m not complaining — I’m just letting you know what to expect). You can purchase tickets to the second floor, or you can pay a little extra to get to the third floor (the top of the Eiffel Tower). Believe it or not, you can actually get to the top of the Eiffel Tower for just 14 Euro (which is about $18).

It was a perfect night to be on top of the Eiffel Tower (we went to the third floor). It was nearly a full moon and there were some light clouds in the sky, so it made for an awesome atmosphere. There’s a good reason they call Paris “The City of Light,” because the lights literally shine for miles. You can see many of Paris’ popular landmarks (The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, etc.) from the top of the Eiffel Tower as well. I actually took this video to give you a feel for what it’s like to be on top of the Eiffel Tower at night:

I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the Eiffel Tower. It was like a magnet. I took way too many pictures and shot too many videos. My poor mom is scared of heights, so she was ready to go long before I was. My addiction to the tower wound up causing a massive problem. While standing on top of the tower, I suddenly remembered that the Metro (Paris’ subway system) shuts down at 12:30am. I don’t remember exactly what time it was (I think it was 11:45pm), but we needed to move FAST if we wanted to catch our trains.

Tim Lewis Running Down Stairs Of Eiffel Tower

Me messing around as we’re sprinting down the Eiffel Tower stairs

We easily made it down to the second floor, but then we got confused. My mom and I wasted time standing in the wrong line for the elevator to the ground level, and then we couldn’t find the correct line we were looking for. With no better option, we jolted to the stairs. We had experience this amazing, peaceful time on top of the Eiffel Tower, and now we’re suddenly sprinting down the 670 steps of the iconic Paris landmark. While we were running down the stairs, the nightly light show started. You could hear the crowd below erupt in cheers. It was actually a cool experience as the lights flashed all around us.

We finally made it to the ground floor, but the closest Metro station was still a quite a distance. We obviously weren’t the only ones who lost track of time. There were groups of people running in the same direction we were. My mom and I made it in time to catch the first train to Place de Italie, but we weren’t in time to make our connecting train back to the hotel. We tried our best, but a security guard was there to stop us. My mom and I were suddenly stranded in Paris with no clue how to get to our hotel.

We walked out to the street and pulled out our map. It would take forever to walk back to the hotel (we were on the opposite side of the city), so we were just going to flag down a cab. The problem was – it was dead silent — there were no cars on the street at that time of night. While we were staring at our map, a nice man on a bike stopped and asked if we needed help. He didn’t speak much English, but he spoke enough to guide us to a taxi line about two blocks away (so much for the French being rude, right?).

Eiffel Tower Paris, France

Eiffel Tower

That wasn’t the end of the road for us. We walked up to the first cab in line and the driver rolled down his window. He said something to us in French that we didn’t understand, so we responded by asking is he speaks English. He shook his head to say no. There’s no quit in my mom though, so she whipped out our hotel information, pointed at the address, and asked if he could take us there. He looked at the paper for a second and finally nodded yes. After a taxi ride full of praying that the dude actually knew where he was going (I’m still convinced he drove around in a couple of circles to crank up the fare), my mom and I finally made it back to our hotel safe and sound.

That’s what I love about travel — you never know what’s going to happen next. It wasn’t anything like we planned, but it makes for an unforgettable memory and a funny story.

The Eiffel Tower was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it in person. This should go without saying, but I would advise anyone and everyone to consider Paris and the Eiffel Tower when planning a trip to Europe. It’s well worth your time!

Have you ever been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? I would love to hear about your experience! You can leave a message below or connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. And, don’t forget, if you can’t travel the globe, experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

Hofbrauhaus | The World Famous Beer Hall In Munich

I’m convinced Munich is heaven on Earth. Any city on the planet that features beer gardens and beer houses on their maps (marked with massive, overflowing steins) is a place for me. I encourage you to check out several different beer halls when you’re in Munich (they’re all over the place — in the middle of the park, smack dab in the center of a street market — literally everywhere), but you MUST stop by the world famous Hofbrauhaus.

Hofbrauhaus Munich Germany

Hofbrauhaus

Munich was the final stop on my trip to Europe back in June. Germany was the eighth country my mom and I visited on our whirlwind 20 day trip, so I was starting to wear down a little bit. Don’t get me wrong — I could have stayed in Europe forever, but I just couldn’t stomach another art museum or fancy church. I just wanted to eat, drink and be merry in the capital of Bavaria.

My mom and I were doing our best to trek around like tourists on our first day in Munich, but then the rain started dumping down. We’d already stopped at a beer garden in the middle of Englischer Garten, so I figured a pit stop at Hofbruahaus was the next logical step (it makes sense, right?). My mom wasn’t quite as excited about it as I was (she’s not into drinking, so she loves to see me guzzling beers — please note the sarcasm) We walked in the door and the Hofbrauhaus was exactly what I expected. There was oompah music blaring, beer flowing and people everywhere.

Hofbrauhaus Mug Munich Germany

The famous Hofbrauhaus liter mug

You can order your beer “helles” (light — Hofbrau Original), “dunkles” (dark – Hofbrau Dunkel), “weisse” (white (or wheat) beer — Munchner Weisse), “radler” (half light beer and half lemonade) or “russ’n” (white beer with lemonade). The light beer, dark beer, radler and russ’n are typically served in liter mugs at Hofbrauhaus (that’s 33 ounces — equivalent to almost three cans of beer), while the weisse is usually served in a smaller half-liter glass. Be warned — German beers are stronger than American beers. Hofbrau Original carries a 5.1% alcohol content (Hofbrau Dunkel is 5.5%), while a Coors Light is 4.2%. You can get knocked around pretty quick if you aren’t careful.

The common food at a beer house or beer garden in Munich is sausage (I’m partial to bratwurst), sauerkraut (with bacon), large pretzels and pork knuckles (exactly what it sounds like). The menu at Hofbrauhaus goes well beyond that though. It’s a real restaurant and a beer hall. While I stuck with the pork knuckle for dinner, my mom order some spaetzel noodles with cheese (egg noodles with Tegernsee-style grated cheese and fried onions). In my opinion — you can’t go wrong with Bavarian food. It’s the best!

Pretty Patty Lewis at Hofbrauhaus

My mom cautiously drinking a beer at Hofbrauhaus

Hofbrauhaus is committed to its regulars (many who still stroll around in lederhosen). If you take the time to walk around the beer house you’ll see the regulars’ steins locked away in the back. It’s basically a parking spot for their glass when they’re away (locked down like Fort Knox — literally called beer stein safes). There are also reserved tables labeled ‘Stammtisch’ — those are for the regulars/groups that frequent the Hofbrauhaus. You want to avoid those tables if you can. My mom and I knew that when we were there, but the place was packed (which is amazing because it can serve up to 5,000 people at a time). We were forced to sit at a reserved table (or leave — and that wasn’t an option), and no more than 25 minutes later one of the regulars showed up (we could tell by his fancy stein and the look he gave us when he arrived). We offered to leave, but he didn’t understand much English. He shook his head and waved his hand telling us we could stay. It only got awkward when the Hofbrauhaus server showed up and made it very obvious that we were at the guy’s table (even though we understood that before he showed up). It wasn’t a problem though (since it was his reserved table after all); we just got up and moved to another spot.

Typical Bavarian Beer Garden Lunch

Bavarian beer garden lunch in Munich

That’s another one of the great things about Hofbrauhaus — all the awesome people you meet. Before the regular showed up to claim his spot, I was clanking glasses (Prost!) with the guys at the table next to us. I’m not even sure where they were from, but I’m guessing it was Austria (I have no idea though). At the next table we went to, my mom and I met three guys from New York City who were in Munich for their friend’s wedding. After they left, two guys (they were photographers) from Brazil sat next to us. They weren’t the most talkative, so I sparked conversation with two dudes sitting nearby. It turned out they were from Buffalo, New York, in Munich for business. It’s easy to make friends at Hofbrauhaus and it really adds to the experience.

If you’re a drinker or not — you need to visit the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. It’s the most famous beer hall on the planet in a city where beer is king (just look at Oktoberfest – born in Munich — for crying out loud). The Hofbrauhaus is the best of Bavaria all rolled into one location.

Have you ever been to Hofbrauhaus? What did you think of it? I would love to hear from you! Simply leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

Bruges | A Unique Medieval City In Belgium

I get different reactions when I tell people I visited Bruges, Belgium. There are the folks who have heard about it, and then there are the people who have not. Those who know Bruges want to hear all about it; those who don’t know Bruges just want to know where in the heck it is. At it’s core, Bruges is a beautiful, well-preserved medieval city — packed with tourists.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

When I originally planned my trip to Europe, Bruges wasn’t in the equation. It wasn’t until I invited my mom to join me that the idea came up. I had seen the movie In Bruges (starring Colin Farrell) several times. Bruges looked like a cool little city in the film, so I jumped on board.

After three days in Paris, my mom and I hopped a train to Bruges. There are no direct trains from Paris to Bruges, so we had to stop over in Antwerp first (you can also travel through Brussels). Each leg of the trip was a little more than an hour, making it about a three-hour trek altogether (with the time in between trains in Antwerp included).

Bruges was everything we expected it to be. It’s easily the most unique, picturesque city I’ve ever seen in my life. Often described as “the most well-preserved medieval city in Europe,” Bruges prides itself on its spectacular architecture and flowing canals (Bruges is known as the ”Venice of the North”). You need to have your camera ready at all times, because there’s a picture waiting around every turn. I could try to describe the city’s beauty, but my words won’t do it justice. Bruges is truly incredible.

Bruges, Belgium Buildings | City Center

Buildings in the historic Bruges city center

My mom and I only planned one day in Bruges before we needed to leave for Amsterdam, so we tried to make the most of our time in Belgium. The first thing we did was hop on a canal tour (you can get discount tickets through your hotel). This is a MUST in Bruges, and it’s a great way to learn about the city before you really dig into it. Our canal guide was very informative, and he kept the half-hour trip entertaining. The seagulls in Bruges also made the canal tour entertaining for me, especially when one of them pooped on my chest (it appeared to be a kamikaze attack — the bird dove down toward me, pooped and swiftly flew away). All I could do was laugh and clean myself off (thankfully my mom had tissue on her). It definitely created a good story.

Here’s a quick video I took on our canal tour, so you can get a feel for what it’s like to be in Bruges:

After the canal tour, my mom and I took it pretty easy in Bruges (which was nice after the hustle and bustle of London and Paris). We walked around the cobblestone streets, stopped in the different churches (Basilica of the Holy Blood, etc.), admired the 300-foot belfry in the historic city center, strolled past many of the stores (shopping is BIG in Bruges) and even saw a real windmill in Belgium (that was apparently high on my mom’s list of things to do).

Bruges, Belgium Canal Cruise

A view of Bruges from the canal tour

Bruges is awesome, but it’s not perfect. The city really isn’t built for a 31-year-old dude (I see why Colin Farrell’s character complained about Bruges being boring in In Bruges). It seems like it’s more for couples and families. Speaking of, there are way too many tourists in Bruges. People are everywhere (not to mention the horse-drawn carriages and bicycles). I know that I was a tourist there too, but it really took away from the experience. My mom and I made it a point to see the main areas, but avoid them as well. Bruges thrives because of the tourism, and the residents know it — that’s why they jack up the prices on everything (Bruges is really expensive). When it rains (which it did when we were there), the canals get a little stinky too.

I actually enjoyed Bruges more at night than I did during the day. Many of the tourists go to bed early, so the city really quiets down. With the canals, bridges and buildings in the city all lit up, Bruges is perfect for a night-time stroll. I honestly think the city is more impressive at night than in the day. Again, my words can’t even describe how aesthetically pleasing this place is.

Bruges, Belgium At Night

A canal in Bruges at night

There’s one final thing I want to touch on about Bruges — the food! It was expensive, but it was delicious. Belgium is famous for its waffles (which they actually eat as an afternoon snack — not a breakfast food), chocolate, mussels and beer (especially white beer). I happily downed all four when I was there, and I highly recommend you do the same.

As you can tell, I thought very highly of Bruges (for the most part). It was definitely worth a stop along the way on our trip, and I would tell everyone to visit at least once (because you’ll never see another place like it). With that said, one trip to Bruges was enough for me. I would honestly never plan another trip there again. It’s incredible, but I don’t feel the need to visit again.

Have you ever been to Bruges? What did you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I’m open to all of your questions about Bruges as well. And, don’t forget — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com.

Cliffs Of Moher | Ireland’s Top Tourist Attraction

Ireland is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful country. Aside from Washington state (where I call home), I’ve never seen so much green in my entire life. That’s exactly why Johnny Cash wrote ‘Forty Shades of Green‘ on a trip to Ireland.  On top of all the green, there are a bunch of great places to see in Ireland. None of the tourist attractions are more impressive than the Cliffs of Moher though.

Tim Lewis KOMO Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Me at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

My mom and I only spent three days in Ireland, but we made sure one of those days was spent seeing the Cliffs of Moher. We stayed in Dublin and we didn’t rent a car, so we had to book a day trip through a tour group (the Cliffs of Moher are 165 miles southwest of Dublin). I would highly recommend doing the same thing. The tour group plans the entire trip for you (you can sit back and relax), you get to see several tourist attractions along the way, the tour guide shares great information, and lastly, you don’t have to drive on the NARROW roads near the cliffs. I don’t know who designed the streets in that area of Ireland (or when — maybe back when there were horses and buggies), but you can hardly squeeze cars past each other on a two-lane road. It was honestly nerve-wracking at times — and I wasn’t even driving.

I promise to share all the details about our day trip in Ireland in a different post, but for now I just want to focus on the Cliffs of Moher by themselves. They’re so darn impressive that they deserve it…

That’s what it feels like to be standing near the Cliffs of Moher. I shot that video to give you at least a glimpse of what it’s like to be there. Unfortunately, that clip doesn’t do the cliffs justice (even though I hope it still portrays how awesome they are). The Cliffs of Moher were honestly one of the coolest sights my eyes have ever seen.

Cliffs Of Moher Ireland Tourist Attraction

The Cliffs of Moher

Named after an old fort that once stood on the site, the Cliffs of Moher rise 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean at their peak. The cliffs have their place in popular culture too. They’ve been featured in movies (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Princess Bride, and Leap Year) and several music videos (most popularly in Maroon 5′s ‘Runaway’ video). On top of all that, the Cliffs of Moher are the most visited tourist attraction in Ireland with nearly one million visitors a year.

There are tons of birds flying around the Cliffs of Moher, including puffins – I thought that was pretty cool. The birds make for a cool atmosphere, because you can hear their calls screaming through the cliffs. When add some tunes from local musicians (trying to collect a Euro or two from tourists), the smell of the ocean, and a cool breeze off the Atlantic, you have an experience that hits all your senses at the Cliffs of Moher.

If I’m ever lucky enough to visit Ireland again, I would definitely take a Cliffs of Moher boat cruise. I can only imagine how incredible the cliffs look from the water up. It’s officially added to my checklist, and you should think about adding it to yours as well.

Have you ever visited the Cliffs of Moher? What was your experience like? I would love to hear your stories! Leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget: If you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

My Unforgettable Trip To Europe

I just returned from my first trip to Europe. I spent 19 days bouncing around the continent with my mom (it’s a lot more fun than it sounds — I promise). It was easily the coolest vacation I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve only been back for a couple of weeks and I already want to get back overseas. I officially have the European travel bug.

I plan on doing several in-depth posts about my trip, but I thought I would at least let you get a feel for where I went first:

Tim Lewis | Cliffs of MoherThe trip started in Ireland. I stayed in Dublin, but I bounced all over the country. I visited the Cliffs of Moher (and the entire Burren area), Bunratty Castle, Galway and Kilkenny. If you like the color green — you’ll love Ireland! It was the first European country I ever visited, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Royal Mile Edinburgh ScotlandThe adventure then took me to Edinburgh, Scotland. This is easily one of the most beautiful/unique cities I’ve ever seen in my life. All of the buildings are old and they’re made of stone. While it’s pleasing to the eye and packed with history, Edinburgh doesn’t bring a ton of fun/atmosphere. The views of the city alone though are worth seeing.

Elizabeth Tower LondonAfter Edinburgh, I flew to London. I didn’t plan on it, but I was there for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Weekend. That means London was packed with people and excitement. I’m not a royal familyaholic or anything, but it was cool to be in England for such a large event. I’ll never forget it. There’s tons to do in London without the jubilee, so we were busy.

Eiffel Tower ParisThe next stop on the trip was Paris. This was probably my favorite location of all. I can’t really explain why though (maybe just because it’s frickin’ Paris). It’s a beautiful place with plenty of awesome sights to see. There’s also the hustle and bustle of a large city. Standing on top of the Eiffel Tour at night, looking out on the “City of Light” is something I’ll always remember.

Canal Tour Bruges BelgiumFrom Paris, I took a train to Bruges (or Brugge), Belgium. This place is catered to tourists, and they flock here in droves. I wish I could have visited Bruges ten years ago…before it was a tourist trap. Don’t get me wrong; it’s an amazing place (especially at night when the tourists go to bed and the city is lit up), but Bruges is geared way too much toward out-of-towners.

Bikes in AmsterdamThe next stop: Amsterdam. This is a cool city. It’s aesthetically pleasing and it’s fun. That’s because the place is full of young, good looking people. It’s also packed with bicycles (they say more than 40% of all residents in Amsterdam ride bikes — and I believe it). Even if you aren’t there to party, Amsterdam is definitely worth a visit.

Salzburg, AustriaI then took a night train to Munich (an interesting experience), but then continued on to Salzburg, Austria. I wasn’t sure what to expect in Salzburg, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the birthplace of Mozart and also where the movie The Sound of Music is centered, so the hills (and city) are truly alive with music. It’s a little quiet for younger folks, but it’s a neat city to see.

A True Bavarian LunchAfter a day in Salzburg, I hopped a train back to Munich. That’s where I wrapped up my trip. I’ve decided that I belong in Bavaria. There are beer gardens/beer halls everywhere, and they’re loaded with people all day, every day. They serve massive Bavarian pretzels and serve bratwurst and/or pig knuckles. I truly think Munich might be a tiny slice of heaven on Earth.

Every city/country in Europe is completely different from the other. That’s what made my trip so exciting. You never knew what you were going to see next, and you never knew who you were going to meet (or if they could even speak a word of English).

I can’t wait to share more adventures from my trip to Europe here on http://allaroundtim.com. In the mean time, be sure to visit my YouTube channel. I posted several videos on there, letting you feel what it’s like to actually be in Europe. Like I always say: if you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me right here on All Around Tim!

Stay tuned for MUCH more…