Mussels and Waffels and Beer, OH MY!!
Trip Start Aug 17, 2009
43Trip End Jul 20, 2010
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Well, I've certainly had an exciting few days, so this blog post will be rather long, but it’s also full of pictures.
On Thursday we left bright and early for Brussels, Belgium. Our train left at 7:20, so we had to be at the station at 7 am, which meant I had to be up by 5:30. Of course I’m sure we all know my feelings on that! Wednesday night, unfortunately, the undergrad in the room next to me decided it would be great fun to have a rave (or something) and so all night the "boom boom" of his music rattled my walls. I think I finally drifted off to sleep about 2:30. Not good! I tried banging on his walls, no effect, and since I have a loft bed with a Mt. Everest-esq climb up and down, I really didn’t want to try to climb down to knock on his door. I found out Thursday this would have been pointless anyway, one of the girls in my cohort who lives on the other side of him tried and he never answered his door
We arrived in Brussels pretty tired and then had to schlep our bags (in business attire, I might add) through 2 changes in metro lines and then about ½ mile to our hostel, where, unfortunately, it was too early to check in, so we dumped things in the luggage room and left. Already running late for our appointment at the European Parliament, our promised 15 minutes to grab coffee and food needless to say never happened. A brisk trip on the metro and jog through Brussels finally brought us hungry, tired, hot, and cranky to the EU Parliament. (FYI, you will notice throughout my trip in Brussels continued mentions to “lack of food,” our coordinators apparently thought we were automatons capable of constantly going without fuel). We had a little presentation by one of the communications officers and learned that there are currently 27 members of the EU, as well as several countries who benefit from EU trade agreements and economic policies, but who aren’t actually members (i.e. Iceland, Switzerland, Norway). Turkey is currently trying to become part of the EU, and has taken some drastic steps to achieve this goal, such as tentative acknowledgement in the last month of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire just before WWI.
1) This whole “pack up all 785 members, with their staff, and move to Strasbourg for one week a month while Parliament is in session,” thing is interesting and seems like an enormous waste of money, but its part of the original treaty and is apparently some concession to the French.
2) Most interesting though is this
Anyway, after our tour of the EU Parliament we were finally released for lunch. Sahara, Nicole and I made a mad dash for food and found this cute pizza place where we had delicious pizza and where I got very excited because they had Iced Tea. Unfortunately, when I opened the can of Lipton tea it was carbonated. What kind of crazy person wants to drink carbonated Iced Tea?!?! However, I’m a poor college student, and so I drank the carbonated iced tea and I’ve learned my lesson. The pizza was good though, although by that point we were so hungry that anything would have been welcome. After lunch we met up with Juliette and went to a museum. I don’t think I’ve introduced Juliette before. She is my law Professor’s wife and is our advisor for our professional seminars. She is about 12-13 years younger than him, in fact he was her professor, and they have love story that is fit for the movies, full of missed connections, then serendipitous moments, war zones, and real true love. They both knew by the second date that they wanted to marry, he told her he would marry her in the year, she wanted to wait as long as possible. They met on June 11th, on June 10th of the following year they were married. How sweet is that! (We managed to pry the story out of Juliette only after she had had 2 drinks)
Like most of Europe, Brussels is covered in cobblestones, which are hell on the feet and succeeded in ruining the heels on my black boots, so my feet were very sore. So after the Museum we returned to the hostel and quickly changed clothes and shoes before running out the door to get a drink and do some more site-seeing before dinner. We headed over to the 'Grand Place Grote Markt,’ which is a large square surrounded by very ornate buildings. Then to a bar where I had Raspberry beer, very yummy. Dinner was traditional, and very Belgian, Mussels and Pomm Frites (French fries). Most of us had planned to return to our hostel and fall into bed afterward, but by the time we were done with dinner we were all on our 12th winds and wired, so it was off to a bar to party with the locals. Alex (our TA, who arranges the trips) took us to Delirium bar, which is the Guinness World Record holder for most beers served (http://www.deliriumcafe.be/)
Friday morning it was up early again and off to NATO. Not surprisingly, NATO does not allow cameras or phones with cameras on premises, we had to surrender all of these at the security checkpoint, so sorry, no pictures inside. And we were all a little nervous of taking pictures right outside next to the razor wire, so my one picture is from across the streetJ. We spent 3 hours at NATO, which we had all been dreading, but it was actually very interesting. We heard from 3 different speakers. One who gave us the background of NATO and the current missions, one who discussed NATO and the EU, and then a U.S. Foreign Service member who discussed NATO and the USA. We also had a special session with one of the NATO interns, who gave us the details about the Presidential Management Fellowships, which I now need to get details on and apply for! After NATO it was off to lunch (oh, btw, did I forget to mention that breakfast at the hostel was toast, so by 1 pm we were all about to pass out again!) and then a sprint to the European Union Council (not be confused with the European Council *rolls eyes*)
On Saturday I got to sleep in and get ready at a sedate pace, before meeting Nicole, Sahara, Luz and Kit for more touristy activities. We shopped for more souvenirs and then headed out for a brewery tour. Thanks to the map that I stole from Alex I found a brewery called Cantillon where we could see how they make beer the same way as it was done 150 years ago, and then have a tasting, all for only 5eurohttp://www.cantillon.be/br/3_14. You can also link through that to their US distributer where you can then track down what liquor stores sell it. FYI, Tipsy’s Liquor World sells this, so go try it!!!
After our tour and sampling of 2 of the many beers that Cantillon produces we crawled back to the metro (by this time we were exhausted and sore) and returned to the main square where we sought out a good place to buy Belgian chocolate, and in the process stumbled upon some sort of festival. After stocking up on chocolate we headed for our hostels to pick up our luggage. On my return to my hotel, however I found a parade, so please enjoy the video
Once we had our luggage, and were loaded down like pack mulls with all our purchases we stumbled to the train station for a late train ride home, finally arriving back in Leiden and our rooms about 9 pm, tired, with sore feet, and rather lighter in the purse. But oh well! It was fun. I did have to sleep about 12 hours to recover though. Most of today was spent trying to first wake up and then to work on my midterm paper for Intro to International Relations, with a lovely interruption when the fire alarm went off. One of the ladies at the end of my hall tried to light her room on fire cooking. So the building currently smells like burned oil. Tomorrow I’ll have to get up early to do some much needed grocery shopping and then back to working on my midterm paper. That’s it for now