Sightseeing In Europe: Paris, Brussels & Amsterdam

Chad Kirsebom went sightseeing in a few of Europe's most wanderlust cities: Paris, France, Brussels, Belgium and Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

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Chad Kirsebom is a freelance designer born and raise in Minnesota. Growing up, he spent a lot of his childhood up on Lake Vermilion in Northern Minnesota. He credits skateboarding and snowboarding for opening his eyes to the worlds of design and photography.

Though he doesn’t describe himself as a photographer, he loves to travel and started taking more photos with his phone during his impromtu adventures with his wife, Heather.

Chad and Heather, recently took a spontaneous trip to Europe to explore ParisBrussels and Amsterdam. He couldn’t wait to share their Moment shots with us and we’re glad he reached out!

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A spontaneous trip to Europe

My wife, Heather, and I are always looking for adventure. Whether it’s booking tickets to Costa Rica with only a 48-hour notice, or buying a ticket to Europe and figuring out the rest when we land, we live for the thrill of the adventure.

To some, a trip through Europe is something you plan for months, years or it might be a dream that never becomes a reality. For us, a trip across Europe started as an idea and–within four weeks–we found ourselves touching down in Paris.  We had a one-way ticket into Paris and a one-way ticket out of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We had our starting and ending points, 315 miles across three countries, and an unknown adventure in between.

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Navigating Paris by subway

Shortly after landing, we found ourselves learning small bits of French while trying to navigate the subway map. We stuck out like a sore thumb with our packs on our backs, squinting at every sign.

We learned the rail system pretty well in a short matter of time. Once we had the hang of it, we took the trains everywhere around Paris. This shot was taken in the morning when people were just starting to head to work. The train station was close to the Place De La Concordia, a famous, large public square in Paris.  I loved this station because the plexiglass room gave it a wonderful bright, diffused light.

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Early mornings in Paris

We would wake up early and get ready for our day in our small little hotel. We had a tiny balcony that we could step out on and watch the streets below. I’m a sucker for early morning and early evening light. I just love how this light bounced off these buildings. I could get used to a bedroom view like this.

Only spending a few days in each city was frustrating at times. You want to see and do so much, while trying to take it all in. We often would get up early so we could walk the quiet streets before shops would open. Sometimes a shop owner would open early for us so we could sip our espresso while watching the neighborhood come to life. Sitting back and watching a different culture live is our favorite part of traveling.

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The famous Le Louvre

The first time we visited the pyramids of the Louvre it was very crowded, flooded with tourists. We got a tip from some friends that had been there a few weeks earlier about getting there before everyone else, so this time we had the place to ourselves. It was so quiet, besides a few pigeons fluttering around.

The detail on the pyramids was unreal. I found myself with a sore neck because I was staring up at there structure for so long. This wasn’t the sunniest of days that we had in Paris, but it only added to the beautiful architecture as the diffused light allowed the details to pop out more.

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La Boutique

We constantly found ourselves wandering down side streets in Paris. This shot was taken on a narrow back street not far from Le Louvre.  A small shop called ‘La Boutique,’ not yet opened. Something we became familiar with in France was that you don’t expect a store or cafe to be open just because the time listed on the sign said it would be. The French culture is a lot more laid back with time. There could be a high possibility the shop owner decided to just take a holiday and not open up that day.

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The Eiffel Tower

This was one of my favorite views of the tower. My wife and I were alone. With no tourists trying to sell me a keychain. We had the chance to stair and gawk at its beauty.

The Eiffel Tower took me by surprise on this trip. Despite how famous it is–for how many times I have seen it in videos and photos alike–it was still breathtaking in person. Although, walking right under it and touching one of the legs was pretty sweet–a glimpse from a far would stop us in our tracks for a second look.

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The Arc De Triomphe

This monument is in the center of this large round about where 11 different streets all intersect. No stoplights, no painted lanes: it looked like a massive free for all. It’s pretty entertaining to watch from the safety of the curb. I remember standing there and laughing until my side hurt while watching a tourist play a human game of ‘Frogger,’ while running across the multiple lanes of cars. Though he made it, the terror on his eyes will never be forgotten. We told him about the tunnels as soon as he made it across.

To get to the arc, you have to go in these underground tunnels under the road. I felt something special when visiting this. The large, French flag hangs from the center, and people gather to see it. Although we opted out to paying and waiting in line to go on top of it, the view from underneath was more than an image can share.

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From Paris, to Brussels

After Paris we took a couple trains up to Brussels, Belgium. The little French we had picked up became almost obsolete when we arrived in this mostly Dutch-speaking town. Only spending a few days in each city was frustrating at times. You want to see and do so much, while trying to take it all in. At times we felt rushed but it also made us take full advantage of the current city we were in. We saw this trip as travel not a vacation. We weren’t there to leisurely relax. We were there to live like the locals.

I grabbed a quick shot of a local sketching in his notebook outside a small church. We then entered the church and the detail inside this place was breathtaking. The sun was coming in through the windows up above and filling the place full of warm light.

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Onward to Amsterdam

This shot was taken in Diegem, Brussels as we made our way to Amsterdam. We spent a lot of time in different train stations. This one, in particular, we showed up to just around that golden hour.  Our train pulled into a quiet station for a quick stop. There was nothing fancy about these train stations, nor the the trains. They were simple, old, rickety and decorated in graffiti–but it just felt right.

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Canal Streets

When we arrived in Amsterdam, we took a stroll down the famous canal streets. I loved walking around in this part of the city and watching the boats slowly cruise though. There were so many boats that it was like a water parking ramp! Some of the canals had a bunch of house boats on them as well. Heather and I thought it could be pretty cool to live on the canal for a little while.

I also enjoyed walking through the park on our way to the Van Gogh museum. There’s no better way to start a day than a brisk walk with espresso in hand. We were up early so we caught the sun bouncing of the sprinklers in the park.

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Haarlemmerdijk street

This one of my favorite shots from the whole trip. I just love the light on this one. We did some shopping on Haarlemmerdijk street and I was in awe of the amounts of bikes in Amsterdam. They actually have bike traffic! Taking this shot was tricky because while I was trying to frame it, I was also trying to avoid being run over by bikers yelling at me in dutch.

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European Espresso

When on this trip through Europe, it wasn’t a question of ‘when’ we should stop and get espresso, but more ‘where’ and ‘how often.’ Sometimes it was multiple times in a day. This shot was taken in a place called Buffet van Odette. I was looking for some coffee and breakfast while Heather was visiting a museum and stumbled across it. They weren’t open at the time I was peaking in the windows, but they let me in anyways. I guess I was about 10 minutes early, so I was able to hang out while they finished getting the cafe ready.

The sense of design and style that Amsterdam had made me want to move there because everything seemed so well curated and styled. I also couldn’t get enough of these tile floors.

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Before this trip, Heather and I talked a lot about the idea of go– to not just talk about the things we want to do, but to actually go and do them. The words explore and adventure have become the buzz words on social media, but few people actually act; they only dream. We have decided to not only dream, but to make those dreams happen. We started ‘going’. We have started taking more risks, we plan a little less, and we live in the moment more.

There are so many beautiful places we haven’t been, cultures unseen, people unmet. We want to see as much as the world as we can. We met a lot of interesting people on this trip, from Airbnb hosts to local baristas, Instagram followers to train conductors. Europe will forever have a place in our hearts. There is a chance we will go back and retrace our European adventure, but it may be a while before we can do so.

One of my favorite reasons to travel internationally is to meet new people. It puts a new perspective on your own life when you throw yourself in someone else’s culture. You start to speak their language and live like the locals do by following them around while they do simple daily tasks.

Walking off the plane in Paris was exhilarating. Though the unknown can be daunting, when you except adventure and are ready for what ever comes your way, it is actually quite exhilarating.

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