Belgium welcomed us with chilly, but open, arms on our first full day in Brussels! It was pretty cloudy, but thankfully did not rain and the temperature was really nice – although others may disagree. We began the day with a walking/bus tour of the city. Our first stop was at the Robert Schuman statue – as is expected for our EU group. We all made sure to tell our tour guide that we were great friends with Robert Schuman.
From the statue, we walked down to Schuman square, which is in the center of the EU institutions – European Commission, European Parliament, etc. in the area. We had a beautiful view of the city on both ends.
After Schuman Square, we piled into the bus again and headed to the Atomium. The Atomium is a massive structure that was built in 1958 for the Brussel’s World Fair, an international event that originated as a technology exhibition. After the World Fair ended, the Atomium was supposed to be torn down, but ended up being the only structure left intact. The structure has a great view, especially from the top, but unfortunately, we did not have enough time to actually go inside and/or make it to the top of the Atomium.
While we were there, we had a short break during the tour to get coffee and snacks. There was a waffle truck across the street that a few of us went to – and boy, am I glad I went. That was hands-down the best waffle I have ever had in my life!
After the Atomium, we headed to Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert to find lunch. This is a beautiful shopping center covered by an arched glass roof, which stretches on for miles, and has high end stores, restaurants, and theaters. Because we are a pretty big group, we split into two smaller groups for lunch and went to two different restaurants, but everyone really enjoyed their food!
When we finished eating we were able to walk around the area for a bit to wait for the other group to finish. Dr. Birchfield pointed out a nice, cozy bookstore that she loves. We all piled into it and found the English books. The selection was in a small space, but there were some really great books in the collection!
After our leisure time in the bookstore, we began our Chocolate Tour! On the tour our group went to a number of chocolate shops and for the first store Dr. Birchfield picked out different types for us to try and divided it among us. I tried the milk chocolate option and it had hardened caramel in the middle with another ingredient to balance out the sweetness. It was absolutely delicious! There was also a dark chocolate option that had vanilla in the middle. I did not try that one, but everyone who did said it was amazing as well. At the next two shops, we all were able to go into to the shop with Dr. Birchfield and pick out the individual pieces of chocolate we wanted. Both of the stores had wonderful options and the chocolates were beautifully crafted. The nice thing about the tour was we also got to see more of the city while we walked from store to store.
After the tour, we had a spontaneous visit to a beautiful cathedral. The inside had great artwork, architecture, and stained glass windows. It was particularly nice to be able to compare this cathedral to the previous ones we have seen in Metz and the many we have seen in other cities. We ended the day in a nice, semi-secluded park, pretty close to the cathedral, where we talked for a bit about the highlights of the day. I would definitely say Day 1 was a success!