First Experiences and Impressions

Written by Andre Grossberg

When I arrived in Paris, one of my biggest concerns was the threat of pickpockets. I’d been warned to keep a close eye on my belongings, especially in crowded places. My adventure took me to Montmartre and the stunning Sacré-Cœur Cathedral. Unfortunately, I was on my own as my dear friend Kingston from Atlanta was recuperating from a night out at a Taylor Swift concert and refused to budge from bed.

A bit nervously, I went around the sights and gawked at all the beautiful scenery. This led me to a famous staircase where as I was walking down, I noticed a guy standing near the stairs. Attempting to be polite, I asked if he wanted to go first to which he replied “No. Please go, go down the stairs.” Thinking that was an odd response, I walked down slowly checking my back when a young woman approached me and began speaking in French. I quickly explained that I didn’t understand French, and she switched to English asking for directions to a place I didn’t know. I continued to get more worried that this situation was going to go wrong. 

Then all of a sudden… she began to sing in full opera to me. She was an incredible singer, and I was completely taken aback. Shortly after, a cello player came to join her, then a clarinet player. As I stood there looking like a complete doofus, a crowd began to draw as they watched these three musicians play for this strange American tourist. As they concluded their impromptu concert, they excitedly revealed that they were musicians who enjoyed playing for strangers. They even asked if they could feature me on their Instagram. We then chatted for a bit where I learned more about them and we went our separate ways. 

Andre with local musicians in Paris

While I could go on and on about tips for those considering GTE (for example, please go to the events where you can get items that past students have left – it can save so much money), I actually want to save that for later blogs and first start a talk about mindset. I still warn you to exercise caution as you travel abroad, but reflecting on my first two weeks, I have already been amazed by the friendliness and kindness you can experience meeting people you don’t know.

Inspired by my surprise concert, I decided that I would begin to get out of my comfort zone and make an effort to meet others. With this changed mindset, I was lucky to meet many wonderful people at GTE with just as interesting backgrounds and interests. This has led me to two weekends where I spent time in Metz, Brussels, and Luxembourg with people I did not know before I came here. I paddle-boated across rivers, experienced my first hostel, and even found a new gym partner who will finally make me do leg day.

Along with students in the program, I decided to try to meet people in each country we went to. On the bus ride to Brussels, there were some rowdy Spanish men on the bus with a bunch of Red Bull merch. I built up the courage to talk with them and it turned out to be the European surfing champion, a finance specialist living in Luxembourg, and an influencer from Spain who were all doing a Red Bull challenge to travel through Europe with no money. We chatted the whole ride there and now I am following their journey online. In Luxembourg, I saw a skatepark and because I used to skate I asked if I could join some local skaters during their session. It turned out one was a student originally from Ireland, and we got to share our love for skating with each other and experience people asking us to do kickflips (though they ask in French in Luxembourg). 

While these are all neat experiences, what I really wanted to say is that I think one of the coolest things about traveling to other places is the people. Everywhere you will find kind, interesting, and happy people who are a pleasure to meet. While you should no doubt explore Europe with and cherish your current friends, I would like to urge those reading to consider talking to that stranger stuck on a long train ride with you, that student who happens to have the same hobby that you do, or even that person sitting right next to you, struggling to complete the math problem that you are also stuck on in your classes at GTE. You never know… you might find yourself struggling to find waffles in Brussels with them and making an awesome friend.

Happy Travels,

Andre Grossberg

Andre with Guillermo Robelo, Professional Surfer, and Gonzalo Montoya,
Spanish Digital Creator, on a train to Brussels Belgium

The Capital of the European Union 

Written by Valerie

I visited Brussels, the capital of Belgium, with three of my closest friends at GTE. Luckily for all the Georgia Tech-Europe students, Brussels is only a little under four hours by train away from Metz. The ride is beautifully scenic as you travel northeast into the country, but we could definitely notice the drop in temperature compared to France once we arrived.  I would have to say that my trip to Belgium was one of my favorites. Belgium may often be overlooked as a travel destination, but it has a plethora of things to offer travelers. 

One of the most unique things about Belgium is that it is considered the “Capital of the EU” and therefore holds a great deal of importance worldwide. It is one of three places where the Parliament works as decided by the European Council in 1992. As you walk along the streets of Brussels, you will stumble upon a variety of notable government buildings, such as the Europa building which houses the seat of the European Council and the Council of the European Union.  

Not only will you encounter buildings significant to the entirety of the European Union, but you will also see buildings discernable to Belgium itself. Structures like the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Town Hall of the City of Brussels will transport you through time. The City Hall was constructed in the Middle Ages with a beautiful façade representing Gothic architecture. Groundbreaking began in the 9th century for the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral which often hosted important events like royal weddings and funerals. 

On top of all the historically and politically significant buildings, Brussels has many other enchantments. The gastronomy in the city is a foodie’s dream. I was not expecting to go there and find such an amazing and diverse selection of food to choose from. Food halls like The Wolf offered a wide range of cuisines ranging from Syrian to Vietnamese all conveniently under one roof, promoting a sense of community and unity. We ate Belgian waffles a total of three times during the entirety of the trip, and that was still not enough. What goes perfectly with waffles? Fries in a cone of course. What a great feeling it is to hold a warm cone of perfectly crispy fries drizzled in your sauce of choice while the cold gusts of wind brush you on the street.  

This may be controversial, but I think that the cafes in Brussels are unmatched — no offense to France. However, the coffee and pastries there were some of the best I have ever had, but don’t take my word for it. You too can weigh in on the heavy debate about who has the fluffiest croissant if you spend a semester at GTE! 

Where to Rest My Eyes

Written by Swati

March 25th 2023

With UNESCO World Heritage sites on every street corner and historic memorabilia in every city, it’s difficult to give everything the attention and care it deserves. Parts of Europe have developed history and culture over centuries, some over thousands of years in the case of empires, with preserved artifacts marking some of humanity’s most groundbreaking accomplishments. Especially in cities in France, Italy, and Germany, dozens of museums populate towns, and I found myself struggling knowing where to put my eyes. Behold: the black door. This black door found in the room next to Michelangelo’s David caught my eyes in Florence. After about a half hour sat in a corner analyzing the realistic curves and features of David, Googling what he means and why people travel across seas and over mountains to see him, I found myself wandering over to the next room: half in awe, half in mental exhaustion. I stumbled upon the door. It was in the least ostentatious corner in the museum that gave me reprise from the lifelike marble and classical instruments throughout the museum. I found myself wondering what secrets lie beyond. Is it an uncovered exhibition? A storage of old masterpieces? More likely than not it’s a room filled with dusty chairs and stanchions to guide lines of people, but the possibility of something exciting kept me there for a moment longer. 

Guides and walking tours are great wells of knowledge in new cities, and they have information that many cannot amass during their first visit to new places, but it can often get exhausting trying to follow the routes and stay interested in old fun facts and historical tidbits. Don’t get me wrong, the right tour guides and the right instructors can interest you in just about anything, but we all tire of the same things at some point.

In order to break up the monotony, I signed up for a chocolate making class on a whim after talking to a pair of girls on Spring Break in my Bruges hostel. After a few days of admiring architecture, I started to wonder just what else there is to do in new cities any more. Of course there are the local delights: food, desserts, tourist attractions, but after nearly three months of walking up and down streets, you tire a bit. In my head, one thing never gets old: books and waterways. I find water the most relaxing part of nature, and I think the best when I watch waves lap over each other, but to break up the routine I wanted some new experiences that are specific to a place. The chocolate making class ended up being the most exciting part of my Belgian excursion this past weekend. Two and a half hours of sneaking bites of hardened chocolate and swoops of ganache, I was in heaven. I was in a class of fifteen, including a couple from London and about a dozen Americans studying abroad in different parts of Europe. Our instructor was the perfect amount of informative, encouraging, and hilarious, which encouraged me to sign up for more experiential days on my upcoming trips! I hope you’re looking forward to hearing about the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and paragliding in Switzerland soon. 

I realize now that we are hitting the point of exhaustion. Somewhere along the way, streets blur together and the beauty and excitement of seeing new places wanes. It’s not that travel isn’t the most liberating and exciting thing in the world, it’s that the real world checks back in upon our weekly arrivals in Metz and sooner than later homework turns to exams turn into projects that were assigned weeks in advance. It’s later than I thought, with only 6 weekends left. I thought I would tire of the nearly full-time travel sooner. It must be the spring blooms, welcoming in the sunshine, putting on a parade for her. With the strikes and travel delays, we’re wearing out in transit, and there can be too much of a good thing. Sundays that used to be spent wandering cities, expecting to take the last train back, have turned into getting to the train station first thing in the morning and crossing my fingers that all legs of my journey still exist. But hardships wither in the face of comfort. And updating friends on the wild transit schemes and making it back safely are more things I can look forward to.

A Sugar Rush in Belgium

August 28, 2022

Written by Lillian

We woke up at 4:30 A.M. on Saturday to catch a 6:00 A.M. train to Ghent, Belgium: a quaint, culture-filled town recommended to us by a graduate student. Traveling is so meticulous, especially when each train relies on one another to get you on each of your connections, and unfortunately, we ended up missing one of our connections because we hopped on the wrong train, so when we finally got to Ghent, we were all starving because of the mishaps and delays to the trip. But before we could stop to get something to eat, I spotted a thrift store near downtown Ghent. The thrift store organized its clothes into four categories: intellectuals (for professional and dark academia styles), strangers (for off-the-beaten path and one-of-a-kind statement pieces), flower child (for florals and cute styles), and rockers (for edgier and punk rock looks). We spent the next hour thrifting in Ghent’s neighborhoods in the various stores we stumbled upon; I was surprised at how many good items I could find! 

Thrift store in Ghent – such a wide range of clothes 

Finally, we stopped by a Portuguese Bakery to cure our hunger. We got Pastel de Natas, an egg custard tart pastry, which was super delicious. We also stopped to get Belgian fries loaded with beef, onions, mayonnaise, and gravy. We strolled a little further and stopped at a waffle shop. I dined on a Belgian waffle with Nutella and whipped cream. There was so much good food around every corner we turned, we couldn’t help but try it all.

When we finally got into downtown Ghent after our many diversions, we stumbled upon a couple of different local events: a Pokémon Go Festival, an Alice in Wonderland App & Cosplay Festival, an annual regatta, and a music festival. The city was teeming with life, and everyone that we saw was either dressed as the Mad Hatter, glued to their phone in search of Pokémon, or disembarking from their canoes. We decided to join the canoer’s on the water and take a boat tour of the city, and our captain spoke three different languages on the tour: English, French, and Dutch. He would repeat everything three times in the different languages for all of the patrons to understand. It was very impressive. We also learned that Ghent has the most number of universities in the county of Belgium; it makes sense why the thrifting scene was so good!

The river Lys that runs through the whole city. Anyone can use the river, so it is filled with boaters, kayakers, and paddle boarders.

We dined on more authentic Belgian cuisine: cuberdon or Gentse neus  (“Ghent noses”). These noses are made of Arabic gum candy in the shape of a nose, and within its hard crust lies a soft and gelatinous filling. These candies originated from Ghent, and the two cart merchants from which you can buy the noses have a history of fierce rivalry which spans fist fights, merchant bans, and hefty fines.

Colorful Ghent Noses with an equally colorful history

Early the next day, we hopped on a train to Bruges, a town in Northwest Belgium. We spent the first couple of hours sightseeing and taking photos before the town woke up. This ended up being a good plan for us because midday brought so many tourists. It’s so interesting to see a city light up with people after having it to ourselves all morning. We decided to rent bikes and explore the river which encircles the city instead of getting caught up in the downtown crowds.

Bruges was inducted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. These gorgeous views definitely helped.

Then, we ate lunch in downtown Bruges. One thing that I found interesting was that it was really hard to find authentic Belgian cuisine. I found the same issue in Luxembourg too. Most of the food was French or interestingly enough–American! We did find many Belgian chocolatiers though— pralines were invented in Belgium and include a chocolate shell filled with softer fillings such as caramel, coffee, cream, and marzipan. These pralines can last about three months uneaten while plain, unfilled chocolates can last six; however, I fully know that these will barely last a week in my dorm!

Chocolatier in Bruges: there were tons of them in Belgium, at least two on every street!

Overall, it was very obvious to see and taste why Belgium is known for so many different foods. Over the course of these two days, I had a sugar overload from feasting on waffles, chocolates, and noses. I absolutely loved walking through the city of Ghent; it has all the charm of Bruges, but with a younger demographic, more lively social scene, and less tourists. In Bruges, I loved biking through the cobblestone roads, dodging the horse drawn carriages, and darting over the many picturesque bridges. My first weekend abroad was a success, and while I may still need more time getting used to the train system, I am looking forward to a more smooth sailing next weekend as I gain more skills on how to live and travel in Europe!

Twenty-Four Hours in Bruges

Join Kaela as she visits the sweet city of Brugge. Her tale of Belgian waffles, frites, and chocolate is sure to make you salivate!

Friday, October 9, 2020 | Written by Kaela


This weekend, we decided to travel to two countries: Luxembourg and Belgium. The bad weather and long day before lowered my spirits slightly so after our day trip to Luxembourg (from my last post), a part of me wanted to skip out on journeying to Belgium. After visiting Brugge, walking on its cobbled streets, looking over the meandering canals, and eating lots of sweets, I will say that I wish I had much more than just twenty four hours. 


3:00 PM 

A delicious waffle from Chez Albert with chocolate and strawberries
A delicious waffle from Chez Albert with chocolate and strawberries

On our way to Markt (the main market square in Brugge), we stopped at Burg Square to admire the grand gothic buildings including the Basilica of the Holy Blood. After gawking at the gorgeous square, only one thing was on our minds, you guessed it, food. Naturally when visiting Belgium, the first delicacy that popped into our minds was the one and only Belgium waffle. We visited Chez Albert, a popular spot for a quick and delicious waffle. The crispy waffle covered in chocolate and strawberries I ate made the long journey worthwhile and made the previously sour conditions nothing but sweet. As we walked further down, we stopped by a beautiful Christmas shop: Käthe Wohlfahrt. I am a Christmas lover and spent more time than reasonable perusing the aisles of ornaments, handmade clocks, snow globes, nutcrackers, and much more. 

5:00 PM 

Kaela at the MarktAccording to my travel group, I spent “too much time” in Markt, but how could I not? I am obsessed with the bustling plaza: historic buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and plenty of eateries. After soaking in all the Markt had to offer, we headed towards one of many chocolate shops: The Chocolate Line. I have a dangerous sweet tooth; I look for desserts after every meal, in between meals, hungry or not, day and night. This chocolate shop was everything from my dreams. I ended up deciding to restrain myself and only purchased some gifts for family and friends and dark chocolate almond bark for myself. 

6:30 PM 

For dinner, we stopped at House of Waffles to get a more savory waffle. Mine had an egg, chicken, lettuce, tomato, and barbecue sauce all placed between two perfectly made waffles. We ended up meeting the owner of the store, who talked with us about school and the store. He kindly gave us tea. It was just what we needed after spending the day in the cold. 

8:00 PM 

We walked around town for a little bit before heading to our hostel to rest and meet other weary and enthusiastic travelers. 


10:00 AM 

Pulled chicken Fries from Chez Vincent

On Sundays in Europe, many restaurants and stores have reduced hours or are completely closed. Add the current pandemic in the mix, and it makes an unpleasant pair for travelers; so many places have shortened hours. We spent some time in Käthe Wohlfahrt yet again and then headed to Chez Vincent. Here, we kicked off our last day with a culinary home run: pulled chicken fries! The weather was finally on our side; the only time it rained was while we were enjoying our warm frites indoors. 

12:00 PM 

After being drawn in by a “family owned sign”, we made a pit stop in a local chocolate shop, Verheecke. The chocolates at the Chocolate Line cost around €4 for 3 so there is, of course, no sampling. I assumed it was the same for other shops, but while I was trying to choose the owner of the shop kindly insisted I sample some chocolate. Even after I purchased a box of chocolates, she gave us cuberdons telling us, “It is a popular candy here, so you have to try it.” She wanted to make sure we did not feel pressured into buying something from her shop. After all of our group made our purchases she gave us a couple more free chocolates. Her genuine desire for us to have a positive experience brightened my whole weekend (and the free chocolates were a definite bonus). 

1:00 PM 

an image of Belgian waffles with ice cream
Ice cream, waffles, do I ever need anything else?

As a dessert lover, I of course had to convince the group to make one more food stop: Oyya. A perfect place to get a belgium waffle with chocolate. After scrutinizing over the plethora of delicious and unique flavors including ferrero rocher, kinder, and speculoos, I chose to top my waffle with kinder ice cream. We spent the next hour indulging in decadence and then headed to the train station. It was a sweet way to end the weekend. 

Adventuring in Antwerp

Blanca is back on the blog, with a new post detailing her trip to Antwerp, Belgium. While she was hunting for the authentic Belgian waffle, she stumbled upon another thing to hunt for. Check it out for a story that will leave you asking, “Where’s Mary?”!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 | Written by Blanca

Last Thursday, partially fueled by a desire to scout out the best, most authentic Belgian waffle, I found myself, at the end of a five-hour train journey, stepping onto my final concrete train platform of the night.  A sign informed me and my travel party that we had indeed arrived in Belgium in one piece, and, huffing a relieved breath of air into the frigid night, we were soon off to our Airbnb.

The next morning brought a wave of sleep deprivation that was soon overtaken by excitement; we were off to Antwerp, and ever a sucker for seeing new architectural styles in the flesh, I was eager to take in all of Antwerp’s stepped gable building fronts and perhaps even a peek of the Mosan Renaissance.

After hopping off our train at the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station, which is a stunningly eclectic architectural feat in itself (Mashable even crowned it the world’s most beautiful train station in 2014!), the first stop was brunch.  I’m never one to pass up a meal in a cute café, or a photoshoot of said food, or a pan of shakshuka, for that matter, so on this day I did all three.

A shakin’ shakshuka
A shakin’ shakshuka

Traversing sidewalks and absorbing the buildings lining the streets is perhaps my favorite pastime, and I saw much of Antwerp this way.  If you find yourself in Antwerp doing the same, don’t forget to look up! I soon noticed that there sat perched on many a building corner in Antwerp a Virgin Mary statue, which quickly presented the opportunity for a twist on the classic, “Where’s Waldo?”.  I should warn you, however, that Mary and her cherubs can be quite elusive. Be prepared to run across the street in order to take a photo when you finally encounter one, leaving the rest of your travel party wondering what on Earth is wrong with you.

Where’s Mary?
Where’s Mary?

Later, I found myself passing through the famed Grote Markt in Antwerp’s old city quarter, lined with strikingly Flemish Gothic guildhalls.  No doubt looking quite foolish (and even more like a tourist), I spun around in place to take in the full 360° view, which was still stunning, even on an overcast day.

Grote Markt, Antwerp
Grote Markt, Antwerp

Our meandering path across the city brought us along the Scheldt River next, where we made a stop in the Museum aan de Stroom.  MAS houses collections on nine floors, although making my way around Antwerp with a group of eight other people meant that I wasn’t able to pore over each exhibit as I normally like to do at museums.  I’d been warned of this before, but if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about traveling, it’s that the larger the group with which you travel, the harder it is to agree precisely on how to delegate everyone’s time collectively—which makes perfect sense, since everyone has different desires and interests.  So, while staring longingly at impressionist paintings and gawking over ornate period rooms is absolutely my cup of tea, for others it might seem downright dreadful. Conversely, though, seeing new sights and exploring new environments with friends makes the experience all the more sweet, so no complaints here!  The MAS roof offers an expansive panoramic view of the city, so up we went, viewing the city from 200 feet in the air and tracing the steps we’d taken to get there.

The view from the roof of MAS
The view from the roof of MAS

The rest of my weekend was spent still in Belgium, where I visited charming Ghent and strolled the streets of Brussels, lit up so magically in the night.  Like Antwerp, these Belgian cities were both beautiful and full of character in their own rights, each with their own hidden gems (and each deserving of their own blog posts, if we’re being frank).  

On a final note, in case you’re wondering, did Blanca ever get to eat her Belgian waffle?  Yes, yes I did.

A Race to Belgium

Karsten is an avid Formula 1 fan, and he was able to attend the first race back from their summer break at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which was an exciting and sobering experience. See his photos and learn more about the sport in his latest blog post.

Monday, September 2, 2019 | Written by Karsten

This past weekend was the weekend I’ve been looking forward to since I first decided to study abroad. I knew that in any given semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine, there would be a Formula 1 race in continental Europe, but because I chose the fall semester, Formula 1 would be just returning from their summer break, and the first race back is always at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps just so happens to also be my favorite racetrack in the world, so I knew I had to go, so my mom and I started to plan it. I wasn’t sure who I’d be going with, whether someone from here, my cousin, who I’m really close to and also enjoys cars, or my dad, who I got my passion for cars and racing from. My dad ended up making the trip across the pond because my mom had a bunch of miles that he could use. This ended up being the best option, as neither I nor my cousin nor anyone here is old enough to rent a car, but my dad is. This cut three hours off of the travel time.

Skipping over some details about the trip over and the practice sessions, we arrived at the track on Saturday to watch F3, F2, and Porsche Supercup qualifyings, as well as the final practice session, qualifying for Formula 1, and the first F3 and F2 races. On any given Formula 1 weekend, all of these take place. Formula 1 cars are the fastest. F2 cars, or Formula 2, are next, followed by F3 and finally Porsche Supercup. Call me a fake fan if you like, but I don’t know much about the F2, F3, or Porsche Supercup drivers or teams, but my dad and I do keep up with Formula 1 pretty religiously. It was still very cool to see the qualifyings of these series as that was the first truly competitive driving of the weekend, since it sets the order of the grid for the races. Formula 1 qualifying happened next, and as had happened so far during the weekend, our favorite team, Ferrari, qualified first and second. The joy that followed was soon transformed into gloom, as during the final event of the day, a massive accident occurred which resulted in broken bones of one driver and the passing of Anthoine Hubert.

As you might be able to expect, the mood of spectators and drivers alike on Sunday was rather dampened. However, all races except the final F2 race (the crash the day before happened in F2) still took place. The Formula 1 race is always the most anticipated event of any race weekend, and therefore happens last. Both Ferrari drivers escaped the first corner accident that so often happens, and they stayed first and second for the first stint of the race. On lap 19, the number of Anthoine Hubert, there was a touching moment where everybody watching the race stood and clapped for the entirety of the lap. Fast forward to the end of the race, Charles Leclerc, a Ferrari driver won his first Formula 1 race, and Sebastian Vettel, the other Ferrari driver brought home fourth. After the race, on the way back to our shuttle, my dad and I noticed that there were lots of people on track, and we managed to find out how to get on the track, so we took pictures on the start-finish line. That was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.

Even though a tragedy occurred during the weekend, I’m so glad to have been able to go to my first Formula 1 race in nearly fifteen years, and that I was able to experience it with my dad.

The Tale of Two Countries: Waffles, Fries, Bikes, and History

Points for efficiency: Quinnell visited two cities in one weekend, and was completely charmed by both. Tag along on her whirlwind of a trip – complete with plenty of waffles!


Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

This past weekend, I visited not one, but two countries near France! The first stop of my weekend trip began in Antwerp, Belgium! In Antwerp, I was able to eat some of the most amazing waffles I ever had in my entire life, munch on crispy Belgian fries, go shopping, and embrace the different architectural styles of each city. Something that fascinated me about Antwerp was it had the bustle a big city while still maintaining an old town vibe. Even though there were many tourists visiting all the restaurants, museums, and shopping, it seemed as if the locals were enjoying big tourist spots just as much as well. Another thing I really appreciated about Belgium is their craft for making the best waffles in the world, as I not only had one waffle, but two during my stay!

Architecture in Antwerp


After checking Antwerp of the list of places to visit, next on the list was Amsterdam, Netherlands. Walking out of the Amsterdam Central Station the next day, I was immediately hit with The Fault in Our Stars vibes and was surrounded by tourists

Me in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

early in the morning. The first item on the list of places to see that day was Bloemenmarkt, the famous flower market in Amsterdam. Walking to see the market made me more aware of my safety and the safety of the massive amount of bicyclists in Amsterdam! Bikes where everywhere: cruising down the street, chained all along the canal, and on the sidewalks. As I made it to the street of the market, I saw tulip buds for purchase everywhere, cute cafés on the other side, and a Christmas shop. While the flower market was beautiful and the scents from the flowers wafted through the air, the Christmas shop stole my attention with the “66 days until Christmas sign”! After buying an Amsterdam themed Christmas ornament, my stomach was growling and I knew it was time for lunch. At lunch, I ate a savory chicken curry sandwich from Toastable, a very cute and non-touristy café. After lunch, I saw The Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank lived when she was in hiding with her family during World War II.



Amsterdam had great sights to see, things to do, and museums to visit, however, I was slowly running out of time to do many of the great things the city has to offer. As a compromise, I decided to learn more about the history of Amsterdam and see sights at the same time! That day, I took a free classical tour of Amsterdam that covered many gems of the city, social classes during different times, changes in the industry, and architecture of the city. During the tour, it was interesting to learn more about the history, such as squatting and the Dutch East Indian Company. After my tour, my time in Amsterdam came to a close as the train back to Antwerp would be leaving soon. Once I made it back to Antwerp, I did the one thing I knew I had to do: eat another Belgian waffle! 

Delicious Belgian Waffle

The next morning began a bit frantically at the train station once I looked to see which platform my first connection train would be on and it saw “afgeschaft” under the train time. Do you know what that means in Dutch? It means abolished! My first train of the day was canceled, however, thankfully there was a train leaving in 10 minutes that went to the same connection station. Besides that little mishap, making it back to Metz was a breeze. I truly did enjoy my trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp because it was relaxing, fun, and involved quick thinking when it came to changes in travel plans. I also greatly appreciated the amount of knowledge I was able to gain from learning more about the history of Amsterdam. Amsterdam and Antwerp truly were great places to eat delicious food and have some good times.

Just Some Twerps in Antwerp

Whether it’s befriending your hosts’ cat or stumbling across a Guinness World Record attempt, Maddie’s has discovered that it’s the little, unplanned adventures that are the most memorable parts of any travels. Check out her post about her visit to Belgium!

Marcel, sitting in a basket being adorable, and the equally adorable wedding album of our hosts!

Last weekend, I went on my first international trip this semester, to Belgium! After arriving late at night on Thursday and fiddling with confusing key mechanisms (a feature that seems to me to be universal among European doors), our merry band of five managed to enter our home for the next three days, a lovely three-story townhouse. We never met our AirBNB hosts in person, but before long I wanted them to be my new best friends: they had fruits and veggies growing on their terrace, lots of board games, a stamp collection, carnivorous plants (!!!), and best of all, a very shy but adorable cat named Marcel. (It became my personal mission to win over Marcel by the end of our stay, which I finally succeeded in doing by giving him his breakfast on the day of our departure.)

The menu may have been in English, but the hot chocolate was decidedly Belgian (and delicious!)

     On Friday morning, we walked into the city in hopes of finding breakfast at an open market that someone had heard of, but when we arrived, we discovered that said market was not a food market at all, but a furniture market with no food to be found. Luckily, there was a delightful (if somewhat touristy) breakfast place nearby. It was here that we had our first taste of Belgian chocolate—the hot chocolate we ordered consisted of fine melted flakes of chocolate stirred in warm milk and had a generous helping of whipped cream.


You know you’re in Belgium when you see shops that say Chocoholic and I <3 Waffles right next to each other. You also know you are a tourist, but that’s ok.

After walking around and exploring the city for some time, we encountered yet another classic Belgian food: frites. Frites are French fries (ironic) and they’re typically sold with any of a variety of amazing sauces. Between the five of us, we tried mayonnaise (the most traditional topping), curry, and curry ketchup—all were delicious, and I ended up quite enjoying the mayonnaise despite my initial hesitation. We ate them for lunch under the Cathedral of Our Lady, near a statue depicting the legend of the name of Antwerp, which is Antwerpen in Dutch. According to folklore, the city was once ruled by a giant named Antigoon until a hero arrived, severed the giant’s hands, and threw them in the river; in Dutch, “hand throwing” is hand-werpen, which eventually turned into Antwerpen. As a result, the hand motif is visible all around the city, from little

The Cathedral of Our Lady was a key landmark in Antwerp, always visible as we wandered the city. You can see it here next to some crow-stepped gables, a traditional rooftop style in Flanders.

hand-shaped chocolates to hand sculptures adorning the walls of the MAS, the museum we visited later that day.


     After visiting the museum and touring a brewery where we learned how beer is made, we continued wandering the city and came across a busy square with jazz and swing dancing! It was wonderful fun to watch, and the songs were in English so we could understand the lyrics. Interestingly enough, in addition to more croon-y and traditional sounding jazzy tunes, they also played “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book! We had our first Belgian waffles later that night (mine with strawberries and cream!), which were even more delicious than I had hoped. Waffles there aren’t made with batter but instead with quite a thick dough, and they were sweeter and more cake-like than waffles in the U.S.

We had a makeshift picnic dinner on the train returning from Bruges. After the conductor came to check our tickets, he wished us “Bon appetit!”

The next day we took a day trip to Bruges, which was about an hour’s train ride away. While Antwerp had been busier and more modern, Bruges was almost like Disneyland, with its cobblestone streets and picturesque facades, the horse-drawn carriages around every corner, and the abundance of gift shops. We wandered the city for a long time and in the process happened upon many unplanned but wonderful things. We stumbled a fencing and sword-fighting tournament between two windmills, where a friendly Dutch man explained to us in detail all the rules of the games, and we also ran into an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest toast ever, with a line stretching hundreds of people long! It’s certainly fun to plan things during travels and to try to see as much as possible, but with all the many pleasant surprises we encountered in Belgium, this trip has made me an advocate of wandering around just to see what wonders you’ll discover.