London Day 2 – A Global Tragedy and a Beautiful City 

One year ago today, I was at the Brussels airport, arriving in Belgium for a week long trip that would be my first amazing experience abroad.

Today, I woke up in my hotel room in London to my roommate telling me there were explosions reported at the Brussels airport.

I was incredibly saddened to hear of the terrible attacks in Brussels this morning. Belgium is a country very close to my heart, the first country I visited outside of the states that I fell in love with quickly. It was surreal to think that if what happened today had happened a year ago, my experience could have been drastically different.

I followed the news on the BBC from my hotel room TV and then headed out to a sunny London morning to visit none other than the BBC Broadcasting House, where I saw a newsroom full of journalists researching and reporting on the attacks.

Although my limited internet access kept me from keeping up with the news, it was in the back of my mind all day. We visited Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, where a floor in the lobby gave me a sweet and simple reminder in the midst of the sad news today.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in London. We walked the cobblestone streets and I couldn’t help but admire just how great this city is.

 

Exploring Covent Garden

 

Russell Square

 

Then a group of my fellow travelers and I set out for our own adventure to Covent Gardens for shopping, eating, and finding our way home on the tube before stopping for a necessary picture at King’s Cross 9 and 3/4 platform.

 

Shops in Covent Garden

Tonight, after a long day of fun, laughter and adventures with friends in a great city, I am thinking of those in Belgium affected by the terrorist attacks today. But I am also resting, and I am thankful for this experience I am getting in a new city and a new country to fall in love with.

Sightseeing, Shopping and a Scary Carriage Ride in Brugge – Belgium Day 7

Our last full day in Belgium was very long, but I’m okay with that.

We decided to spend our last day in Brugge, the beautiful and historic town about an hour train ride from Leuven that is more touristy than any other Belgian town I’ve been in.

Brugge is known for chocolate and lace, as well as shopping in general. Just looking at the candy and lace stores was interesting enough, but that didn’t stop me from buying both.

After arriving, we all ate lunch and then decided to pay for a horse and buggy ride through the town. We were a little surprised when we first set off on our ride, as we were going a lot faster than you’d think – which explains why the tour was only thirty minutes long.

Mariah reacting to our fast and scary carriage ride!

But the tour allowed us to see the town and figure out what we wanted to see more once we were finished.

We started on our shopping and I loaded up on chocolate, lace, and souvenirs. Besides these shops, Brugge also has many clothing stores along its main streets.

Our next stop was the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a church that has a vial of blood that they believe is Christ’s. The church was beautiful and we were able to walk up to the vial and see it up close.

When we exited the church, it started to rain, and we quickly found a place to sit down and eat – our last meal in Belgium, with a celebratory dessert!

 

Mariah and I enjoying our dessert!

But the best was yet to come. We walked to the more scenic area of the town at night and were able to get some great pictures.

The falling rain made for an added bonus on my pictures, making the flash against the rain look like stars!

     

 

Great Tour Guides in Brussels and a WWII Bomb – Belgium Day 4

Today was the most interesting day in Belgium so far.

We got on an early train to Brussels, Belgium’s capital, and headed straight for the Grand Place, where we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of the City of Brussels, to view their exhibit called “14-18 Brussels in German time,” which focused on Germany’s occupation of Belgium in WWI.

City Hall on Grand Place

Belgians dealt with the terrible situation they were given through comics, several of which were displayed at the museum. 

Our tour guide, Sarah, was very knowledgeable and absolutely fantastic. She made the tour engaging and incredibly interesting, leading us through what the Belgians went through during this time period.

Following our tour of the museum, we strolled through some of the more well-known parts of Brussels, spotting the famous Mannekin Pis.

Mannekin Pis

We then met with some students from the university and meeting with a few professors for lectures on the Belgian media landscape and the U.S. presence in Belgian media. It’s not hard to see how U.S. media can penetrate Belgian media and other medias around the world.

Then we went to the Bozar, a fine arts museum, to view their portrait gallery called “Faces Then, Faces Now,” which compared portrait paintings from the Renaissance era to photograph portraits now.

I didn’t expect to like it so much since I’m not usually one for art museums, but our tour guide made it very interesting as well as interactive. She got us all thinking and even working to make our own portraits of our fellow travellers, focusing on aspects such as environment, identity, and power.

After a full day, we headed back on the train, only to find out when we arrived that a thousand-pound WWII bomb had been discovered and neutralized near the Leuven train station – the one just feet away from our hotel – while we were gone! It delayed our train back but I am so glad we were not affected and no one was hurt.

All in all, it was an educational day, one that started with learning about WWI and ended with realizing that things from WWII can still affect us today! Only in Europe!