Bonjour from Brussels. Well that is only partially right because Belgium has an equal split of French and Dutch culture. One half of the country speaks only Dutch and practices the Dutch culture, the other half only speaks French lives in that culture. They read different news sources, eat different meals and different ideals.
It is interesting because street signs are either in french, dutch, english or all three. It’s always a gamble if I’m going to try to speak to a stranger in french or dutch because Brussels acts as the melting pot of this weird de facto split.
We left Paris just before the huge Charlie Hebdo march with all of the various European world leaders (minus someone big from the US…whoops). The crowds were just beginning to organize in the square. We then took a fast train to Brussels. I have never been on a train like that before, so I was interested to see how we all would like it. God, why aren’t there things like this in the US?!!?! They are so efficient and more comfortable than airplanes and it only took an hour for us to take the train from the two cities.
We only had a free afternoon when we got to our hotel, and because it was a Sunday everything was closed. Next day, we went to the US State Department Media Hub. I knew nothing about foreign service especially how that ties to journalism, so it just about blew my mind. I can’t imagine doing tours in multiple countries where I don’t speak the language, but hey, to each their own.
We they practically sprinted to Cantillion brewery to have a tour of one of the oldest breweries in Brussels. Our tour guide was precious and said “Drink water? No no no no. Water is for ducks.” That’s Brussels for yeah.
We had another tour of Thompson Reuters. I got to talk to one of their staff photographer i.e. I stared googly-eyed at a real life photographer working overseas. Dream job in a nut shell. I have some friends studying here for a semester from my school and I actually ran into two of them at Reuters. They are interning there for the semester…in Brussels. K.
We grabbed lunch then headed for the Parlimentarium. This is probably one the most interactive museums I have ever been to. You get a iPod Touch and you just hold it up to various scanners all around the museum and it gives an explanation of the exhibit in your language. Super cool.
What is a trip to Brussels without chocolate and beer. It is really that good I promise. I liked the chocolate at Mary’s and it’s not as expensive as other shops in the Grand Place. Chocolate just doesn’t compare anymore after that experience.
One our last day we had a walking tour of the Grand Place and the infamous Manneken Pis statue. But fun fact: It was 20 degrees out, raining and windy. It was probably the worst day to have a walking tour, so we made it a speed-walking tour.
Yep. That’s it. Brussels’ pride and joy. It’s super tiny by the way. I personally don’t understand why people come from all over the world to see it, yet here I am from America seeing a peeing boy statue. Plus side: There was a waffle bar and a Hard Rock cafe nearby. All was not lost. That night I also met up with some friends who are studying here. It was lovely to see a familiar, American face. Then we went to Delirium and got plenty of cherry beers. Go to Brussels just for that experience alone; forget the peeing statue.
Our flight from Brussels to Amsterdam to Rome had a maintenance problem, so I am typing from the Brussels airport, which I now know very well. But we are finally going to the final destination of this passport series: Rome.