Summer Study Tour To Europe – Day 1

Bonjour or Hallo from Brussels! I have the unique opportunity to be the first blogger for the 2011 Study Tour of Europe for Educators. This is quite appropriate considering that this is my first trip to Europe, and I was surely met with many awe inspiring moments as I walked down the beautiful cobble stone streets of Brussels and viewed amazing architecture, storefronts, skylines, markets, hotels, and, of course, chocolate shops.  When I discovered that some sort that chocolate was generally available on every block, I knew this was the place to be!

We’ve had quite an eventful weekend so far. We arrived at the Pittsburgh airport only to find our first flight to Washington, D.C. was cancelled. After some wonderful finagling our fearless leaders from the Council were able to get us to D.C. on time, and we had an uneventful, although a bit uncomfortable, seven-hour trek across the Atlantic Ocean to Belgium. I have to admit, when I reached land, I visualized Pope John Paul II kissing the ground and understood a bit more about that need to take such an action!  We took the train to our hotel which was right in the middle of everything that is significant in Brussels (Hotel Ibis), stored our luggage until our room was ready, and off we went on our adventures for our first day. Sleep? No way! Who needs sleep? We had way too much to experience!

We began our first day in Europe with an amazing breakfast of specialty breads, rolls and croissants at Le Pain Quotidien.  This brightened our plane weary souls and gave us the energy to walk for the next several hours. Who wouldn’t benefit from warm bread, delectable spreads, and strong coffee?! From this point we toured the church of Notre Dame and its gorgeous stained glass windows, sculptures and gothic architecture.  This was a high point for me — to see a church this beautiful and not have it be digital or in print was wonderful. We continued to walk around Brussels to locate key points of interest that we could earmark for return to later. This included for me, and several of my fellow educators, a trip to the Fine Arts Museum, an amazing Belgian waffle with chocolate and whipped cream (which sadly found its way onto the pant leg of my jeans) and some interesting shopping.

While the afternoon was ours for further exploration, we met again as a group for dinner and discussion with Dr. William L. Chew and Virginie Goffaux of Vesalius College. We had a lively discussion regarding Belgian history, politics, culture and the background and nature of Vesalius College.  This was followed by authentic Belgian cuisine. My fish waterzooi was the perfect meal to end a long, but rewarding, day.  As I sign off feeling like I have been up for twenty four hours (wait-we have!) yet feeling like I have experienced a week’s worth of adventure in one day, I say thank you for letting an inexperienced traveler participate in what is proving to be a rewarding week of life long learning opportunities!

Jennifer Wilson
Teacher, North East High School

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