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Study Trip 2008: Bastogne, Luxembourg, Brusells, Versailles, Paris

Brussels, Belgium


Sorry it has been a while since I have been able to post. I have been out of Maastricht for the past week and I did not take my computer with me. I just uploaded a ton of photos so please check those out.

The past week has been one of the best of my life. Last Sunday we all woke up early in the morning to get on a bus and embark on our six day trip. I'll break it down by day because it will be easier for me to remember it that way.

Day 1: Bastogne, Luxembourg City, Brussels
The group started the day off in Bastogne, which is about an hours drive from Maastricht, in Belgium. We went to the American War Memorial there which was quite a site. Bastogne was the site of some of the most intense fighting during the Battle of the Bulge near the end of World War II. An American force which was vastly outnumbered managed to hold off Hitler's army from taking the town, which holds a significant strategic advantage for whoever possesses it. It seems that the Belgians, almost more than any other culture I have experienced have a great respect for Americans, and the sacrifice our people made during the war.

After spending about an hour in Bastogne, it was time for another short drive to Luxembourg City. I have to say, that this was probably the most beautiful city we saw during our trip. The town was originally built as a massive fortress during the 14th centuries, so many of the modernizations had to be done while simultaneously working their way around the massive fortification walls that surround the city. I really wish I had more time to explore, but I took some good pictures of the fortification wall, and the park that now resides where the moat used to be. The final leg of our journey was to Brussels where we arrived in the early evening.

Day 2: The European Parliament and American Consulate--Brussels
The second day of our trip was probably the most educational centric. We spent a good deal of time at the European Parliament where we gained a general knowledge of the inner organs and functions of the EU. It was really quite interesting, and it will be something I will need to know in order to hold any kind of intelligent conversation in my classes. We also visited the American Consulate where we learned about what exactly the consulate does and the life a foreign service diplomat. That evening we were given a tour around the Brussels city center that ended at the Delirium Bar/Brewery where the beer that was elected best in the world is brewed. I have to say, I liked it so much I got a Boot (1L) of it.

Day 3: Bruges
This was probably my least favorite part of the trip. The combination of a hangover, really bad food, and nothing that interesting to see was not necessarily a good one. While In Bruges I went to an art Museum that turned out to be the most depressing thing I have ever seen. All the paintings depicted some sort of torture or suffering. I know why its called the Dark Ages now. We took a short boat tour around Bruges, and that was about it. It was very much a tourist trap and everything was really expensive. I was pretty happy to leave.

Day 4: Versailles, Paris
After a long bus ride to Versailles, we arrived at the palace in the early afternoon. We took an audio tour through the palace, that I went through pretty quickly so I could get to the gardens. The gardens are unbelievable. I wish I could have spent a whole day just walking through them. It literally took me about two hours to walk the length of the reflecting pool, which represents only about half of the surface area of the gardens as a whole.

That night we drove to Paris and had a very nice dinner on CES' expense. I really enjoyed the food, even though I can't say a whole lot of other people did. After dinner and a few bottles of wine we headed down to the river for another boat tour. Paris at night is incredible. People sit on the banks of the river and basically have parties, so needless to say we had a lot of fun that night.

Day 5: Eiffel Tower, The Louvre
In the morning the group headed to the Eiffel Tower, which was a pretty incredible sight. The view of Paris from the top was nothing short of breath taking. After eating the worst chicken salad sandwich I have ever had, it was time to head to The Louvre. I could have spent at least a full day, of not two in the Louvre. I saw the Venus de Milo, and the Mona Lisa because they are the famous exhibits, but in my opinion they were the least impressive. I walked around the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Mesopytamian exhibits where I saw things such as Hammurabi's Code, Mummies, Sphinx, sculptures from temples, and more. Everyone needs to visit this museum once in their life, there really is nothing quite like it.

Day 6: Champagne Tasting and its back to Maastricht.
I'm not sure what town we were in, but it was about an hour and a half outside of Paris. We were given a tour of an estate that was owned by one of the oldest champagne makers in the world. However, the cellars have been converted into a museum of modern art. So we learned about champagne making and the history behind the estate, while simultaneously seeing some of the coolest modern art exhibits that exist. As much as I loved the Louvre, I think this was my favorite part of the trip. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera, so I will have to steal pictures from someone else.

So that is what I have been up to for the past week, I start school on Tuesday so hopefully that will produce some more stories. I hope everyone is well.

Stu

permalink written by  chewstew on August 30, 2008 from Brussels, Belgium
from the travel blog: Study Abroad Trip: Maastricht 2008
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