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The past few days, I’ve been to Belgium twice!  Our first trip was to Orval Abbey on a

The Ruins of the 12th Century Abbey

“Discovery Tour” with the MUDEC students.  We took a bus to Orval, toured the ruins, and tried some of the beer that they make there.  (They also make cheese.  I probably would have liked the cheese more—the beer was pretty bitter.)  The ruins became ruins because the French burned down the original buildings during the French Revolution, but most of the walls are still (at least partially) standing.  The current Abbey has about fifteen monks who help run the brewery and cheese factory in addition to learning, praying, etc.  We weren’t able to see the inside (where the Monks live), but our guide told us all about their daily schedule and it was very interesting.  The Abbey was named after a woman named Mathilde lost her wedding ring in the spring there.  She then went inside the abbey to pray about it. When she came back out, a trout appeared with the ring in its mouth and she said something along the lines of “there must be a golden veil here” in French. Then they rearranged two of those words and came up with “Orval.”

The Atomium!

Our second Belgium outing was a day trip to Brussels.  Our train left at 6:20, so it was a pretty early morning, but definitely worth the extra time we were able to spend in the city.  Traveling with two Chemistry teachers, the Atomium was naturally first priority (after Belgian waffles, fries, and chocolate) on our list.  We wandered around a bit to find the tourist office first, but as soon as we had secured maps and directions, we headed off to visit the building build for the 1935 World’s Fair.  The building itself is a 9-atom building block of an iron crystal, and Kayla squealed like a fan girl when she caught her first glimpse.  No judging, I won’t be surprised if I do the same when we visit the Globe later this semester!  Inside the Atomium, there are a number of temporary exhibits.  Right now, the main exhibit was about water conservation, so we visited those.  The permanent exhibit is about the World’s Fair, so we also learned about the Fair’s visitors, events, and buildings.

After the Atomium, we hopped next door to visit “Mini-Europe,” a park with detailed

At Mini-Europe

replicas (at a scale of 1:25) of monuments and buildings all across the European Union.  It was fun to see all of the sights, and amazing to look at the detail in each of the replicas.  Plus they had some fun statues where you could pop your head in!

By the time we finished our tour of Mini-Europe, we were all pretty hungry, so we made a stop for food (Belgian Fries!) before continuing on our way.  We wanted to see the Grand Palace (which was beautiful), but also just wander around the city and see what it had to offer.  By the time we hopped back on the train for our three hour ride back to Luxembourg, we had spent a full day in Brussels and sampled a little bit of everything the city had to offer.