city sidewalks, busy sidewalksDublin-TCD, Fall 2009

come on, help me finish…”dressed in holiday style, it’s Christmastime in the city!”  And it’s true, Christmas has come to several different cities in Europe, and I know this because I was in 5 cities this past weekend!  Dublin, Brussels, Bruges, Paris and Antwerp!  Grab your Starbucks’ holiday edition red cup and sit down for a Christmas tour!

Dublin – With Halloween just over, Christmas is the next holiday to be celebrated and not one day after the tricks and treats were over, holiday Santa chocolates had replaced the Halloween candy on the shelves of our grocery store!  I decided this justifies an hour of listening to Christmas music on my walk to and from Trinity.  On my way to school on Monday (this is November 2), we’re still anxiously awaiting the red cups from Starbucks but several other stores on Grafton street have decorated the store windows with giant Christmas ornaments or Christmas toys.  On Wednesday, I’m anxiously anticipating my big solo trip to Belgium and have to squeeze in a medium run before class for the upcoming half-marathon.  I set out early and on the completion of my loop through a neighbouring town pass our Starbucks and am nearly struck by a truck as I gravitate off the sidewalk and into the street towards the store window.  The red cups are here!  Which also means the seasonal drinks, red aprons, holiday decor and Christmas music are too!  It’s going to be a fantastic day!  And it was, I did the normal class routine and managed to get all set for my trip.  I’m going to Belgium because several of my friends from Rhodes studied in Antwerp for a month last year and haven’t been able to stop talking about it.  I was supposed to also go to Luxembourg to see another friend but that didn’t work out……so I squeezed Paris in instead!  It was a crazy weekend with too little time in each city (no more than a day in each :( ) but I loved it!

Brussels I’m not sure why, but this is the capital of Europe.  It’s also very old.  The combination of these two characteristics led to an interesting combination of very old, gothic style buildings and a more modern European district.  The two styles were mostly kept separate (to my liking), so that there weren’t big modern sky scrapers in sight of the main square where the beautiful Parliament building is.  Brussilians as I will call them, are in no hurry to have Christmas arrive.  No shop windows, streets or buildings show any indication of the upcoming holiday.  That’s alright though, it is only November 5.

Bruges This is a tiny medieval town, often compared to Venice because of the many waterways that circulate through it.  When I say tiny, I mean I was able to run along the river that completely surrounds the town for less than an hour and end up back where I started!  Probably because of the small town atmosphere, shops definitely showed signs of the Christmas spirit.  Chocolate Santas and snowmen were in the windows next to wooden nutcrackers and nativity scenes.  Also, Bruges is of Dutch origin so those wooden decorations that spin with the heat from the candles were all over the place too!

Paris Oh Paree.  The first place my friend Olivia took me was to Galleries Lafayette because she knew they had been lit up for Christmas.  This is a giant shopping mall, sort of like Nordstrom or Harrod’s.  We were out in the city for the night and arrived to a gigantic display of lights all around the building that made it look like a cathedral.  Once inside, a giant Christmas tree was in the center of the atrium area and it was only once we wandered through the perfumes on the ground floor that I walked underneath the tree and realised it was completely suspended from the ceiling.  No red cups in Paris though…..

Antwerp Much like Brussels, very little Christmas spirit right now.  That didn’t take away from the charm of this city though.  I was welcomed by a gigantic and beautiful train station and a long street of designer shops.  This time when I say designer shops, I don’t mean Gucci, Prada or the like but traditional shops like H+M, Nike, Vero Moda etc. in very ornate and old buildings.

Dublin When I’m gone on long trips like these, I very much consider returning to Dublin the same as returning home and this time more than any other it was true.  I was back in a land where they can understand me and I them.  It was raining and I didn’t care.  I hopped off the bus at the top of Grafton Street and while I was gone it had rained Christmas all over Dublin.  There are big strands of lights going across the streets from one building to the other, every window I passed had some sort of holiday message or theme displayed in them and I nearly squealed with delight.  As I passed Brown Thomas (our version of the big, fancy department store), their windows were covered with black curtains and only small illustrations on the window of wintry scenes and words at the bottom: “Join us for the unveiling of the windows, Tuesday Novemeber 17 at 6 pm.”  It’s a date.

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