Cologne and Aachen

Yesterday was the five week marker of my arrival in Brussels- eeeek!! Where has the time gone?! Of course, my parents will laugh and tell you about how I called them twice within the first three days in tears, begging to come home. And now, I can’t believe that I’m almost halfway done with this incredibly adventure! As the first round of assessments are taking place, I’m so excited to be traveling with my European Studies course throughout Europe! I’ve attached below the itinerary from my weekend in Cologne and Aachen (14-15 September), along with the photos I took. ¬†I tried to upload the pictures after each of the stops, but please bear with me! ¬†Spent a wonderful day Bruges yesterday – look for those photos soon!! Love to all and thanks for following my blog xo ūüôā

Saturday, September 14

8:00 a.m.         Get on coach (De Strycker or Bus & Co) in front of Vesalius College.

8:10                 Departure.

We watch the beginning of the BBC series I Claudius based on Robert Graves’ eponymous novel. An amateur historian, Claudius, Rome’s fourth emperor, recounts the intrigues at the imperial court.  The story begins with the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the battle of Actium (31 BC) by his grand parents, Augustus and Livia.

**This is actually a great movie! I highly recommend it for all history buffs (and even those like me who like an exciting plot twists!)

¬Ī10:00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Student presentations on Roman Burial rites

10:45               Arrival in Köln. The bus drops us near the Cathedral (Dom).

First, we get in the Choir because it closes at noon. There, you will see the 10th c. Gero crucifix, the shrine of Nicolas de Verdun (1184) and Stephan Lochner’s altarpiece of the City patrons (1440). Then we see the nave before looking at the exterior of the Dom. Student presentation on the Cathedral (**that was me! I rocked it!!)


12:00               Break for lunch (picnic lunch provided)


13:00               Go to the entrance of the Praetorium (Kleine Buddengasse) where a tour guide will be waiting for us. She will show us the excavations of the praetorium and what remains of the Roman sewers.  Then we will walk to the Romisch-


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      Germanisches Museum where our guided tour continues.

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15:30               The guide leaves but we stay to enjoy among others the glass collection.

16:30               Pass by the modern Ludwig Museum and enjoy the view of the Rhine.

17:10 ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Take the Hohenzollernbr√ľcke that leads across the Rhine to Deutz where is our hostel and where the Romans had a fort called¬†Divitia¬†(the word became¬†Deutz).

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18:45               Meet in lobby. Take the bridge in opposite direction to go to dinner.

19:15               Dinner at Gaffel Haus restaurant, Altermarkt 20

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After dinner you are on your own to enjoy Cologne by night.  There is no curfew at the hostel but remember that you need some sleep to be able to get on the next day.

Sunday, September 15

8:15-9:00         Breakfast.

9:00                 Place luggage on bus, then walk across the Rhine.  Walk to the Dom.

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9:30                 All courageous students are invited to climb up the towers (500 steps!).  

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10:00               Walk to Fischmarkt (where was the medieval Fish market) and the nearby

Romanesque Church Gross St Martin.

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10:20               Visit the Wallraf Richartz Museum (Obenmarspforten street).

We will see first the 15th c. paintings of the Cologne region.

Student presentations on Stefan Lochner

Afterwards, we will see the highlights of the rich museum collection.

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12:30               Leave the museum. Just in front is the ground of extensive excavations that will soon be a museum to the Jewish past of Cologne.  In this neighborhood lived the Jews since the 3rd c. In the Middle Ages they built a Synagogue that was razed down after their expulsion in 1424. The 12th c. Jewish ritual bath, the Mikwe, survived.  This is situated close to the Rathaus (town hall) built on top of the praetorium we visited on Saturday.  There took place the meetings of the Hanse.

                        Most of the Rathaus was destroyed in WWII except for a Renaissance wing.



12:45               Break up for lunch.

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(The railing at the top of the tower is where we climbed earlier!!

13:45               Meet by the Roman North gate in front of the Cathedral and walk to where our bus is parked to go to AACHEN.

Student presentation on Roman Leisure

We start watching Gladiator (Directed by Ridley Scott, 2000). The movie begins with the victory of the Roman army against the Germans on the Danube and death of emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180), who, in the story, planned to appoint the victor, general Maximus, as his successor but his son Commodus takes power.

14:50               Arrive in Aachen.  Walk by the Rathaus that was built on the location of

Charlemagne’s palace. From there we walk to the Dom.

Student presentation on Charlemagne

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15:30               Guided visit of the Cathedral and the Treasury.

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17:00               Tour is over.

Coffee or tea break.

17:45               Walk back to the bus where you will receive a snack before we start driving back.

On the road to Brussels, we will watch the rest of Gladiator or at least most of it.

¬Ī20:00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Arrival in Brussels.

Top Host Family Meals

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my host mom, Marie-France, is an AWESOME cook! Like to the extent that I pass up French Fries and the chance to grab a bite to eat with friends to rush home for dinner by seven every night (and for anyone who knows me, this is huge!) Because I typically don’t eat breakfast, and simply grab a sandwich to go for lunch, having the luxury of a home cooked meal not only brings comfort and routine to my day, but gives me the opportunity to interact with my host family, practice my French, and poke fun at various topics, countries, and people with my super sarcastic, yet genuine and caring host. ¬†

Being a lover of food (and eating), I wanted to make sure I recorded a couple of my favorite meals that my host mom has made, especially so I can make them again upon my return to the states. Note that this is a working list and will change throughout the semester; I won’t be able to post pictures of the meals, but if you want the recipe, let me know and I can get it for you! The meals themselves are really simple, but only made with whole foods- it’s actually really hard to find processed foods at the grocery store- and are incredibly clean.


  • fetteccini with vodka sauce and nova
  • broccoli quiche with nova as the bottom crust
  • homemade pizza (with real cheese!)
  • fish sticks, cream of spinach, and boiled potatoes
  • chicken pot pie with french fries


To be continued…

Fairy Tales, Beer Festival, and Farmers’ Market

What an AWESOME weekend! With the intention of breaking the cycle of merely going out and doing homework, my friends and I decided to branch out and engage in more events catered to locals. ¬†And while we did find ourselves at Brussels’ notorious beer festival, I must say I had the most fun this weekend than I’ve had yet this semester!

Friday: Date Night in the Forest

While my friend, Caitlin, may not get all her homework done early, she as a knack for finding really neat events and restaurants that, of course, she talks me into trying with her! Friday night, we ventured out to Chalet Robinson, a restaurant located in the middle of Terkameren Bos / Bois de la Cambre (Belgian forest). ¬†The restaurant is located on a little island that is surrounded by a lake, and the only way to access the restaurant is to take a small pontoon boat! ¬†After making quite the trek to the restaurant itself, we were led to a table on a beautiful terrace covered by umbrellas and string lights. ¬†We ordered, chatted away, and enjoyed what was hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had! I ordered a salad with warm goat cheese, apricots, and candied walnuts and it was to die for. Seriously, I’m planning on going back before leaving and very much considered ordering another salad to go. ¬†After our leisurely dinner, we made our way back through the way-too-dark forest, and caught the bus lines back to our homes, bellies full and excited for the adventures that lay ahead that weekend (and, of course, with six more restaurants Caitlin is determined to have me try with her!)



Saturday: Comic Book Parade, Belgian Beer Festival, Easy Tempo, and Braderie

After meeting up with friends at the bus station, we took off towards the center of town (where the Grand Place is located at the Bourse bus station) in lieu of viewing the Comic Book Festival’s Balloon Parade, which was humorously described on their website as ‘modeled off of the 1824 New York annual balloon festival’ aka the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.) ¬†As you may know, Brussels hosts one of the world’s largest Comic Book conventions yearly in September, and while we agree it was not really our scene, my friends and I totally took advantage of the parade! Consisting of six or seven balloons, we laughed to see many American icons (Superman, The Lorax, etc); we were also lucky to be standing at one of the spots where all the bands, dance groups, and military brigades performed, which was really neat! Became quite emotional when a group of men representing the Belgian Armed Forces did a gun salute- missed my Pepe, and remembered all the years of proudly watching him march in parades on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. ¬†

After the parade, we were back to Grand Place to partake in Brussels’ Belgian Beer Festival! In a word, it’s a lot like a smaller Oktober Fest; there are maybe 25 tents set up around the Grand Place, representing various French and Flemish breweries from around the country. ¬†You can purchase so many tokens (which are actually beer caps!) and trade them in at the various tents for different types of beer. ¬†From the Boon Brewery, I enjoyed a Cherry Kriek, and from Lindemans had this amazing peach beer called Pecheresse. ¬†We made several new friends, including a group of fifty year old men from Canada, a group of college kids from Paris, and a mystery man in a red body suit. ¬†Lots of laughs!

Starving, Ben and Alex led the way to Easy Tempo, this great pizza place that they had previously been to.  Thin crust pizza, Caitlin and I split a pizza with ham, artichokes, mushrooms, and pesto. Delicious!

We then headed back to a neighborhood near ULB, where a huge block party had been advertised for the past several weeks. ¬†Braderie, meaning ‘street sale’ was filled with clothing, jewelry, cheese, sausage, and ice cream stands, mixed with various carnival rides, tiki bars, and extended table seating from the restaurants. ¬†Between sampling more beer, watching Emily and Ben dance with locals, and trying to persuade one another which carnival ride was the best (ended up not riding any of them), the Braderie made for a great end to an exciting day! Oh! and we got ice cream before the parade that was amazing! ūüôā



Tomb of the Unknown Soldier



Sunday: Farmers’ Market

Sunday, the same group of five headed to Ixelles near the Wiener stop to a huge (and I mean huge) Farmers’ Market that stretched about four blocks! ¬†Cheese stands, bakeries, fresh fruits and vegetables, Thai and Greek cuisine tempted our taste buds and stomachs until we finally caved in and made purchases for a picnic lunch!



Memories from Week 3

Not a full post, but a few memories and photos that are fun and worth sharing! ūüôā


Glenn, the other host student living with us, has decided to teach our host mom’s cat, Mister Gris, how to do tricks, specifically, ‘give paw.’ And while my host mom shook her head, sarcastically joking about how Americans always try to do the unthinkable, Glenn sat in the backyard with Mister Gris, playing cat videos from his iPad and training our cat. ¬†The result? A huge scratch on Glenn’s hand and more jokes from my host mom about stupid Americans ūüôā



As mentioned in another post, my friend, Caitlin, has a knack for finding really neat places to get food in Brussels; however, she seems to bring bad luck about her in terms of getting to and from the locations before the buses stop running! ¬†We set off Thursday night to Maison Antoine, a three generations fries place located about twenty minutes from school. ¬†While the fries themselves were pretty good (not as great as Scal Frites, but still tasty!), the real adventure was transportation; getting there, the bus was fifteen minutes late, meanwhile leaving us to choose between walking down a sketchy street or forfeiting our trip all together, and coming back, the bus never came after a forty minutes of waiting, leaving us to split a taxi back to the university so we wouldn’t miss or buses home! ¬†Full stomachs and laughs made up for the hassle, along with a new pact to split fries when we go out to avoid belly aches! ūüôā


Louvain-la-Neuve (31st August)

Really behind on this post, but better late than never!

Last weekend, after an eventful bar crawl with the other 250 study abroad students at Vesalius College, my friend, Emily, and I decided to spend our Saturday afternoon venturing to Leuven. ¬†Leuven, or Louvain, is located in the Flemish region of Belgium, and is situated approximately 25 kilometers from Brussels; it’s also the city where my dad attended grad school. ¬†With great intentions of exploring the city and visiting the places my dad had illustrated in my mind growing up, Emily and I arrived at Central Station in Brussels, asked the man behind the counter for two tickets to Leuven (in French of course), and boarded the train for the 20 minute ride. ¬†Little did we know that we had it all wrong…

45 minutes later, we arrived in Louvain-la-Neuf at the train station located on the Universite Catholique de Louvain (Catholic University of Louvain) Campus. ¬†Immediately, we were taken by how large the university’s campus was- it was like a town in itself! Loads of restaurants, various banks, grocery stores, and a movie theater filled the lower level of the buildings, while the tops floors appeared to be apartments that housed the student body. ¬†Having remembered reading that close to 30,000 students attended Belgium’s largest French-speaking university, I was impressed, but not surprised that the campus seemed to stretch on for miles. ¬†On the buildings hung signs that read ‘Grand Place’ and ‘Bibliotheque,’ which gave off the impression that once we headed in the respective direction indicated by the signs, we would find ourselves in the middle of the town of Leuven. ¬†Satisfied by that, Emily and I took to finding lunch, and enjoyed delicious crepes!

After lunch, we set off in the direction of the signs to find the list of sites my dad had indicated were worth visiting. We located what we thought was the square behind the library where he had said hosted a bunch of little shops; there ended up being a bizarre there that day, and we enjoyed looking at the fresh fruit and vegetable stands, the waffle cart, the jewelry being sold, and all the sausages!¬†¬†However, after walking about a mile off the campus to try and find the Town Hall, we began to realize that we were in the middle of nowhere- really, nowhere. ¬†We noted the main highway that ran along side the park we were walking in, and how beyond the highway there really wasn’t anything other than farmland. ¬†We headed back to the center of town, looking for a map, but we were unsuccessful. ¬†We then revisited the signs that pointed viewers in the direction of various landmarks, and realized that they all pertained to different parts of the University’s campus: the Grand Place (central courtyard) of the campus, the school’s library, etc. ¬†We then caught site of a town sign, which read Ottignies – Louvain-la-Neuve… not Louvain or Leuven… Confused, we kinda assumed that the town was probably in close proximity to the center of Leuven, and, not wanting to risk getting on a bus or metro and losing our way back, we decided to simply spend our day exploring the college campus. ¬†We ventured around a beautiful park that housed so many swans and ducks, visited several novelty shops that sold different quirky kitchen appliances, sampled the sausage at the sausage stand, and, personally, treated myself to my first taste of Belgian chocolate!! (orange slices covered in dark chocolate by Leonidas) ¬†We made it back to our train station and home in time for dinner that night!

Here’s what we were able to piece together upon our return home as to why we ended up where we did…

Leuven is indeed different then Louvain-la-Neuve.  As a result to the linguistic tensions between the Flemish and French population in Belgium, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (the Dutch Catholic University where my dad attended school) split apart in the 1960s, and founded a French sector of the University in Louvain-la-Neuve.  Located about 10 kilometers from each other, there is really no way to get to the center of Leuven without driving or taking two different trains from Louvain-la-Neuve to Leuven.  Because we had purchased our tickets in French from the Central Station in Brussels, and were clearly college students, the gentlemen at the ticket booth must have assumed that we were students studying at the French University.  Had we had done our research prior to this adventure, Emily and I clearly would have noted the difference between Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve.  Yet, while we may not have made it to our intended destination, we now have another day trip location for later this semester!