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Archive for March, 2010

All things German

Sorry I’ve been lacking. But, I have been really busy the past week!

So last weekend, we went on our last art trip to Trier, Germany. I didn’t know what to expect of Germany, but it really is a beautiful country. Trier is the oldest city of Germany, and it was pretty small too. But incredible, nonetheless.

In Trier, we saw a couple amazing churches. One was decorated in almost ALL gold on the inside. It was so cool! We also went to the Porta Nigra, which used to be the “gateway” to the city. It’s a huge building with open windows, etc made out of stone! It was really cool.

I think one of my favorite part of Trier, was the vineyard we went wine tasting at! We went to a small family -owned vineyard in the countryside. It has been in the same family since the 1800s. They grow their vines/grapes on the side of a steep hill so that the sunlight hits the grapes just perfectly. We got a quick tour from the owner (who I think had been in the sauce some, haha he was great!), and then we got right into the tasting! We tasted 4 different kinds of their wines and they were all sooooooo good! We also had freshly homemade bread with our wine, SO GOOD. I bought a bottle of wine to take home 🙂

My other favorite part of Trier was the Amphitheater, where the gladiators used to fight! This was fun because Bruns, Molly, Cat, and I did a bit of role playing/charades and chased each other around the arena. Yes, we’re five years old…it was so much fun!

Okay I lied, I have another favorite part too. The Imperial (Roman) Baths were really cool too! We did a lot of climbing on the walls, etc here. It was an awesome trip, even in the rain!

So a while back I applied to volunteer at the Brussels Forum, which is put on by the German Marshall Fund and it’s a big conference where US and EU officials meet and discuss issues and how they can improve the “transatlantic relationship”. The German Marshall Fund started after WWII, as an effort to keep the two Atlantic neighbors friendly. The conference was being held at the Conrad hotel, probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever set foot into. I was volunteering all week with the communications team, which I was SO happy about — I got to do sooo much! I wrote bios for the web, drafted up some press releases, and did a lot of other things too! Did I mention we got free food and drinks all week? IT WAS SO GREAT

Okay so the actual conference was this weekend. again, amazing! I saw so many cool people: Madeline Albright, Herman Von Rompuy, President Barroso, journalists from BBC, editors from The Economist, and the list seriously goes on, and on, and on, and on. I got to work in the actual press conference room all week, so I saw journalists working real-time and it was so fun! In the press conference room, I just answered questions, etc. nothing big — so I was able to watch all the panels discussing major issues too.

Both Saturday and Sunday nights were a blast. Jamie (another volunteer) and I snuck down to the dinner with all the important people. You should’ve seen that spread! Probably the MOST expensive food in the world for FREEEEE!!!! I tried foie gras for the first time…not my cup of tea. But I’m glad I tried it…just probably won’t happen again.

Sunday night was the huge staff party at Club Tribeca, again free food and free drinks…word was I didn’t make it home until pretty late! So, all in all it was a really successful week. I’m really glad I did that, I met so many amazing people and learned so much!!!

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Hootennany to the Hilton…upgrade of the century!

Wow. London.

Well we got in late Thursday night, and immediately started heading towards our hostel…which was located in Brixton…come to find out, that’s a place where people say you SHOULDN’T venture to. Our hostel was called, Hootenanny. I think we were intrigued by the name and the extremely low rate when we booked it. We finally showed up to our hostel…it was a reggae bar. We checked in AT the bar…and walked BEHIND the bar up a flight of creepy stairs. As we walk into our rooms, we see that there are 3 other girls (in each) permanently living there. From what I understood hostels were like hotels…you stay for a couple nights, pack up and move on. But from the sign on the wall “Let us know if you would like to stay here long-term…”, I was obviously wrong. Well, at least about this particular hostel.

This is the moment we all turned towards each other and in unison said, “we’re not staying here”…we went back down to the bar…got our 11 pounds back…and booked it back to the tube station. This is when the real panic set in, it was 11:30 – the tube was closing at midnight, and we (as of that moment) had nowhere to sleep. We got on the tube, and decided to head back to where we had just came from. A few tube stops in…Molly looks at all of us and says “Where’s my purse?!!!!” ….so did I say we were panicking yet?!… our hearts sank to the stomach and we jumped off at the next stop. We finally got a hold of our friend Lindsay who is studying abroad in London, this is where Bruns and Molly went back to the hostel to retrieve the purse, and the other 3 of us headed to Lindsay’s flat. In the remaining couple hours…Molly’s mom (an angel) helped us book a hotel for the night. So when all was said and done, we were safe and laughing about what had just happened!

The next morning, we met our teacher Gareth in front of Parliament. We got to sit on a debate about tanning beds…what else. Haha, despite the odd topic, it was very interesting. In Parliament, they can’t insult each other so when ever they address one another they say “my humble friend”. After that we went to the Economist and had a chat with the editor. They have the perfect view of London from their conference room, and the most enthusiastic editor I have ever met! She was so great! After that, we went to another debate between two MEPs in the EU. It was VERY interesting, they had a lot to say to each other…not all nice either. Gareth had to interrupt to mediate more than a couple times. During this debate, we found a way to use my friend Carley’s dad’s Holiday Inn points to get a free room for the night. We booked it over there immediately after the debate, and then met up with everyone else for a night out.

Once we woke up, we called another friend we knew that was staying in town, Ralle. We begged to stay on her couch, floor, anywhere and luckily she’s very nice and said yes :). So yes, we switched our sleeping place for the third and final time! After we dropped our bags off at Ralle’s, we started walking around…We went to Westminster Abbey, past Big Ben, and Parliament and headed down the Thames. We walked along the Thames for a very long, trying to make it to the Tower of London before it closed. It was such a nice day, I didn’t mind the walk at all. We stopped in the Tate to see the Andy Warhol collection and then headed home after that. We rested our feetsies and then went to a local pub for some fish and chips and of course a few beers.

The next day, Bruns, Cat and I went on the Harry Potter walking tour. It was a really neat way to see the city, and we got to see sooo many of the spots where they shot the movies like the leaky cauldron, platform 9 3/4, diagon alley, and a few more! We took a boat ride on the Thames too, which was also really cool. After our tour we went to Harrod’s for a couple hours and just shopped around. I bought a new pair of sunglasses, that I was in desperate need of. So that was successful! After Harrods I had to catch my train back to Brussels!

All in all, it was a really good weekend! Next weekend we’re off to Trier, Germany with our art class.

My first batch of visitors!

This past week Aunt Lulu, mom, and Catherine came to Brussels to visit yours truly! Mom and Catherine even made it after they put up a fight with AirFrance. Those French…always messing with your mind. Because of complications with air traffic controllers, or something of the sort in Paris, Catherine and mom’s flight was postponed until Monday morning. I’m just glad they made it here, and got to stay an extra day!

Anyway, the week started with Aunt Lulu’s arrival! I was pleasantly surprised with the hotel room that was essentially bigger and nicer than my apartment. Needless to say, I stayed there most of the week. Once Aunt Lulu arrived I showed her around a bit and then went to Fatboys (the American bar), and had a delicious BBQ burger and Leffe Brune (which is now one of my favorite brews). The jet lag and time difference was catching up with her, so I joined her for a nice little cat nap. After that we met Bruns and Molly in Place Jourdan for some beer and frites and stayed out until 2 am…so proud of her!

Sunday, the plan was to accompany Molly to Bruges, but the hurricane like weather made us change our minds. Especially after Bruns’ umbrella literally broke in half when she was walking to the hotel. So we took the opportunity to have a PJ/movie/study party. (I had my art history midterm Tuesday morning), this was actually pretty successful. Although we did have a very successful shopping spree at the fresh market (mmmmm. lasagna) and ate the first cafe I ate at in Brussels! I forgot about that cute little place.

Monday, Catherine and mom arrived early morning! We spent no time lolly gagging… and headed straight for the Grand Place. We saw the Mannekin Pis first, and Aunt Lulu and Catherine had a street vendor waffle (the best kind). We also did some chocolate shopping around the area. I showed them the beautiful square, and went to Chez Leon for moulles et frites! After Chez Leon we did a bit more chocolate shopping, and then headed to Delirium for a beer. It was weird being at Delirium during the day, but I liked it…a nice calmer vibe and we actually got a table. I introduced them to the famous Kinder happy hippos, and they all fell in love — I knew they would. Mom and Catherine were exhausted…so they wanted to take a nap, which was perfect because I needed to study.

Tuesday, was my art history midterm at 8:30 am, barf, and then I had to work afterwards. The other 3 ladies went to Bruges! After getting a bit lost, they found their way and had a really good time I think. I’m glad they liked Bruges so much, and had good weather for it too! After they got back we went to this pizza place Mamma Roma and had suchhhh good pizza and a couple bottles of red wine! I had my first slice of truffle pizza, it was actually pretty good…but I probably couldn’t eat more than one piece of it.

We went to the comic museum Wednesday! Did you know Brussels is famous for it’s comics? The Smurfs and Tintin were created here! Although all the comics were in French, I still had a really good time admiring the artwork, and laughed at the ones I could actually figure out! After the museum we did some shopping at the City 2 mall that was really close by. After that, I showed them where I worked and a couple of my favorite parks.

Thursday, was perfect weather and we went to Ghent! It was the most beautiful city I think I’ve ever been to. Yes, I know I said this about Bruges…and yessssss I really mean it about Ghent! We went to the biggest church I have ever seen, St. Baafs Cathedral. We also went to Graveensteen Castle…I’ve never been to a castle before so it was really neat! I think my favorite part was walking up and down the canal just admiring the dutch inspired architecture…picking out my future homes and such. I definitely want to go back, perhaps tour it on bike this time.

Friday, I showed them Cantillon Brewery. I liked my second trip with them a lot better because it was in a WAY smaller group and we got t see a bit more. The were actually in the process of brewing too, so we saw it all in action! I think this brewery is one of the coolest things Brussels has to offer. It’s the last family owned brewery in Belgium, and they ferment the beer in the open atmosphere. So it can’t be produced anywhere BUT Belgium. I did look on their distribution map and noticed there’s a spot in St Louis, MO where I’ll have to get my fix of Cantillon Geuze…after I turn 21 of course. After the brewery I showed them my favorite town in Brussels…Sablon! I showed them the cathedral, and park full of tradesmen…I think they really enjoyed it. It’s practically impossible not to. After this we headed back to our new favorite bar in Place Jourdan and got frites with samurai sauce from Maison Antoine and enjoyed Aunt Lulu’s last night. After a few drinks, Catherine and I met up with my friends and headed out to a few bars…including Delirium where I met Franziska who was out for her birthday!

Saturday, Lu left very early in the morning…sad to see her go 😦 The weather was once again perfect, and we headed back down to Grand Place to look in some comic book stores and walk around. We found a cool one, and I bought a new Banksy coffee table book. I’m obsessed with it! We then wandered around and listened to a bunch of different street performers…it was pretty interesting. I’m always amused by street performers. We found a veryyyyyy VERY yummy cookie shop, and picked up a few and headed home. We then met up with my friends at Fatboys to watch the Mizzou/KU basketball game. Unfortunately we lost, but the beer and company (and mexican nachos!) were all very good!

The next morning Catherine and mom left…I didn’t want them to go AT ALL! I was so happy they came! It really does give you a new perspective when you play tour guide…the “oohs” and “ahhs” from visitors really gives you something to be proud of. A somewhat “homey” feeling. Brussels has become my home, and I love it more and more everyday.

This Thursday we’re off to London, and I’ll be there until Sunday! I can’t wait! We get to see Betsy, Wolf, and Strick!!! FISH AND CHIPS FISH AND CHIPS HARRRRRRYYYYY POTTTTERRRRRR!