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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 50.8371, 4.36761
We got up this morning for a nice breakfast still a bit groggy from last night, but managed to make it to the train station for our “commute” from Bruges to Brussels. We feared another crowded train (last time we spend the entire journey standing in the vestibule between cars), but this time we had seats just inside of the door and sat in air-conditioned comfort. An hour later, we de-trained at Brussels Central Station, which according to our maps, was very close to our hotel. Unfortunately, we did not know which direction to turn. After a reconnaissance mission, Jake figured it out, and it was all downhill from there, literally.
After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, because it was too early to check in, we decided to pay a visit to the European Parliament via taxi. We've averaged walking 7.24 miles per day, so it was time to invest 10 Euros in our feet. We signed up for a 2:00 tour of the meeting hall and were pleasantly surprised to have a personal English-speaking guide (from Latvia and who had studied at the University of Chicago) who was very well informed about the inner workings of the EU. Of greatest interest to all of us was that MEPs (members of the European Parliament) are seated and act according more to their political group affiliations than their nationalities. Everything was free and we picked up a lot of information. When speeches are given, the speaker always uses his/her native language. The translators first translate into the English, French, and German, then the second round of translators go from those three languages into the remaining 21 languages. So, when something is funny, laughter comes first from those who share the speaker's native language, second from the French, German, and English speakers, and third from those of the other 21 languages.
Next, we visited the Parlamentarium, an interactive museum that highlighted the history of the formation of the EU dating back to the First World War and tracing its history to the present. There were a number of interactive exhibits that catered to our language through the use of an earpiece and smart device. This would have worked the same for any of the 24 languages available. Personal biographies, political affiliations, and committee memberships could be looked up for each of the 751 MEPs. After a few hours, we reached museum fatigue and it was time to head back to our hotel to check in and seek nourishment since we had not eaten since breakfast.
We went out and had seafood, including a bucket of “mussels in Brussels” for Rich and Barb. From there, we wandered into the Main Square and admired the city hall and museum. We breezed through a 3-5 hour walking tour in about 37 minutes, and finished it off with a visit to “manneken-pis” statue… otherwise known as “the little boy pissing” statue. They dress him up with various costumes for various holidays and causes. During prostate awareness week, his stream turns into a piddle. This little squirt has been doing his thing since 1619 to provide fresh water for the neighborhood and was knighted by Louis XV, forcing French soldiers to have to salute his pissiness when passing by.
Now we are sitting out in Place d'Espagne getting ready to turn in early. Tomorrow is a day of travel, from Brussels Midi to Paris Nord, then from Paris Nord to Paris Gare de Lyon, then from Gare de Lyon to Geneva, Switzerland. Belgium has been a delight, but when the Pilgrims gather, we always find something valuable and interesting wherever our journeys lead us.
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