Home CommentaryStudent Life Concordians jet-off over the winter break

Concordians jet-off over the winter break

by The Concordian January 10, 2017
Concordians jet-off over the winter break

Concordians share their holiday travel experiences and tips

by Léandre Larouche

This Christmas, I wanted to celebrate the holiday differently—and different it was.  A friend I met in Montreal last summer invited me to spend some time with her and her family in Mexico, so I decided to go.

Guanajuato city. Photo by Léandre Larouche.

Guanajuato city. Photo by Léandre Larouche.

Our first stop was my friend’s place in Xochimilco, one of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs. I arrived on Dec. 22 and so many family reunions were on the agenda.

In Mexico City, my favourite attraction was the sightseeing from the mirador in the Torre Latinoamericana. This monument used to be Mexico’s largest skyscraper at the time of its completion in 1956. The Plaza de la Constitución and the Monumento de la Revolución are also worth a visit.  I walked 20 de Noviembre Street, a street which commemorates the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.

Although I also visited the del Sol y de la Luna pyramids in the State of Mexico, the highlight of my trip was definitely visiting the city of Guanajuato. About four hours away from the country’s federal capital, this European-like city is charming at first sight. On top of having an astonishing landscape, there is an abundance of cafés, restaurants and bars along the charming, narrow streets. At night, the city livens up even more, with traditional music sung all around the city. My personal must-sees are the Café Tal, Santo Café and the Monumento al Pípila, which honours the eponymous insurgent of the Mexican Revolution.

The State of Veracruz was also worth the detour. Jalapa and Coatepec are fun for a day or two. I visited the beach one in Chachalacas, which is a more underrated beach, in Veracruz. It could still be worth a visit if you prefer a less touristic experience.

My advice for traveling to Mexico is to learn a bit of Spanish before jetting off, and to get to know the locals while you’re there. The country is so much more than its all-inclusive resorts. People are truly welcoming people and, unless you get labelled a gringo for not speaking a word of Spanish, they’re likely to become your friends and show you around.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
by Elisa Barbier

Flowers and bike by a house entrance along one of the city’s main canal: the Keizersgracht. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Flowers and bike by a house entrance along one of the city’s main canal: the Keizersgracht. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Amsterdam lives up to its reputation of offering tourists with different budgets, incredible scenery and experiences.

The city centre is laid out as an amphitheatre looking onto what used to be Amsterdam’s port.  This part of the city can be visited thoroughly in three days. You should factor in a little more time if you intend on visiting museums such as the Van Gogh Museum, which possesses an incredible collection, and the Rijksmuseum embodies Dutch art at its finest. The Anne Frank House is also a great stop, but be sure to reserve tickets online to avoid long lineups for this one.

There is no need for a transit pass in Amsterdam. Sightseeing can be done by walking in between the canals and small streets that are proper to old European cities.

Students can find many affordable hostels in the centre of the city surrounded by pubs and cheap restaurants. One of Amsterdam’s fun experiences is Febo—a fast-food restaurant that serves traditional Dutch snacks to clients via automats. Another surprising singularity, my personal favourite, are the many snack bars that serve tasty waffles topped with fruits or sweets.

The city is also known for its many cafés and the red-light district. Among the 200 cafés in Amsterdam, the Greenhouse Centrum is a must.

If I have the chance to go back, I will spend more time cycling around. It was a great experience but be aware that biking on European roads is quite the adventure. Moreover, the windmills and tulips fields in the countryside would be on my to-do list.

Paris, France
by Elisa Barbier

Photo by Elisa Barbier

Photo by Elisa Barbier

The city of lights is a giant maze filled with endless entertainment for tourists and inhabitants alike.

Paris’ most notable spots are spread out between the first and ninth boroughs. Considering a week is needed to properly visit the city, a weekly transit pass is the best option for moving through the city with ease.

When it comes to museums, the Louvre is a must. However, it takes a full day to visit.  It is best to arrive early in the morning. The Orsay Museum, Branly and Beaubourg also have interesting collections, from classic French paintings to modern art.

It goes without saying the Eiffel Tower, the Arc-de-Triomphe, the Sacré-Coeur, the Garnier Opera, the Bastille or the Notre-Dame Cathedral are must-sees. However, the Great Mosque of Paris, whose tea is a treasure, city hall and the Luxembourg Gardens are also great places to explore, and they can sometimes be forgotten.

Paris’ oldest bridge, Pont Neuf with the Eiffel Tower and the dome of the French Institute in the background. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Paris’ oldest bridge, Pont Neuf with the Eiffel Tower and the dome of the French Institute in the background. Photo by Elisa Barbier

The city of love is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Therefore, small restaurants outside of touristic sites  will be cheaper and are worth the commute. The price of coffee will also change depending on the location. Brasseries are a good way to experience cheap French cuisine for lunch.

For a true Parisian experience, eat at Mexi&Co at 7:30 p.m., then buy some cheap wine or beer from a grocery store and enjoy it in the Vert-Galant Square while watching boats go by. Bar hopping in the Marais or 11th borough are also good options.

As a resident, nothing makes me enjoy the city more than taking a walk along the Seine at dusk. Bubble teas to accompany a shopping day at the Defense or Les Halles is also a good way to enjoy a rainy day.

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