Summer Study Tour to Europe – Day 1 (Part 2)

So after the anxiety of a cancelled flight out of Pittsburgh, arrival at National airport, transferring to Dulles, and the overnight flight to Brussels I have finally arrived in Brussels.  It is so wonderful to be back and I have such high hopes for a stimulating week.  To me, nothing that I do back home can match the excitement of traveling to Europe. I know it is not possible to travel with my young kids but there is just something in the air here that makes what I teach come to life.

After getting to the hotel and dropping off our luggage, we did a walking tour of the city.  It is a complex maze of streets and cobblestone.  We had a fabulous breakfast at a little shop – Le Pain Quotidien with fresh breads and coffee, of course. Everything was scrumptious and seemingly almost decadent compared to my life back home.  The spreads for the breads and croissants were amazing and I think that the group became a huge fan of the brunette spread which was a hazelnut spread (similar to Nutella).  I contemplated bring back some of it home, but the thought of carrying it and having not break seemed overwhelming.

The walking tour of the city brought us to a little plaza with sculptures around it. The sculptures were of Renaissance thinkers built by the powerful guilds of Brussels. We got to see the Mannekin Pis, which is to commemorate the Belgians trying to keep Louis XIV out during his wars of expansion.  In our free time, we went to the local art museum that focused on 15th and 16th century art. It was a great museum in that we were able to walk through it in a short period and it hit upon many of the artists that are covered in European History class.

We had an informal dinner (Tavern du Passage) tonight with two speakers focusing on Belgian politics and culture.  The restaurant was part of the local arcade not far from the hotel and we sat inside at a long table to hear the speaker Dr. William Chew and Virginie Goffauz from Vesalius College in Brussels. Dr. Chew was interesting as he is an American transplanted for several decades in Brussels raising his children here.  I thought that the other speaker, Ms. Goffauz was interesting in that she was a veterinarian by training now working in the director for the Study Abroad program. The college that that work is very small but I think that classes are all taught in English. It sounded like an interesting liberal arts program that my students may like.

Lauren Vales
North Hills High School

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