Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Belgium: Brussels and Bruges

Hey everybody-

So the good news is we made it to Cambridge (relatively) safe and sound. After two weeks of traveling and the dirty clothes/lack of underwear becoming a serious situation, it's nice to finally move in to a relatively permanent home, providing a little stability in our lives (and a washing machine). We started class today at Hughes Hall and will tour Cambridge tomorrow.

However, let's talk about our trip to Brussels and Bruges. After three days in London we arrived in Brussels via train that went 100 meters under the English Channel which was cool. We spent three days in Belgium (Monday-Wednesday of last week).

The first day was purely an exploration day in which we could drown ourselves in Belgian chocolate and waffles. The main attraction was the Grand-Place, a neat square with lots of little shops and markets surrounding it.

On Tuesday we attempted to solve the Euro crisis and visited two branches of the European Union: the European Commission and European Parliament. Both places were informative and interesting to listen to as both representatives lectured on their branch of government and how they viewed their role in the European Union as well as the current financial crisis. At the European Parliament we were able to observe the parliament in action, which was kind of like watching C-SPAN live except more exciting. It was interesting to watch as delegates argued their points in different languages (we had headphones so we could listen to a translator in English or test our language skills by switching over to German, French, or Spanish) however the common language to convey one's point on the floor was English. Our trip to Parliament was so successful that our guide sent Mike an e-mail proclaiming that we were the best and most engaging group that he has had since taking his job in December. This is probably more of a credit to Travis Nordgaard ('13), Andrew Tiano ('13) and Mike Chappell's ('14) thought-provoking questions and less credit to Mike Elder ('13) who spent the majority of the time sampling Belgian chocolates in the back row. They are good though.

The crew in the lobby at the European Commission

Posing at the European Parliament

Observing the European Parliament in action. Jens Lillehei ('13) tried to start the wave but was swiftly denied.

On our last day in Belgium we took a trip to the historic town of Bruges. The trip was great for two reasons: (1) the program was gracious enough to purchase bicycles for us so after a week of walking, it felt like in 30 minutes you could traverse the entire continent of Europe on a bike and (2) Bruges is a great town with sites such as a large Bell Tower that always has bells ringing. Visitors are able to climb the 366 steps to the top and look out at the city. The group split up and went their separate ways. Some found suitable napping ground in the park and enjoyed the sun while others channeled their inner Lance Armstrong and rode out to the coast or the Netherlands, both of which are around a 18 km bike ride.
A large group of Carleton students deciding where to explore.
Up next: Paris (bear with me as a collect all the pictures)

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