Tuesday, March 24, 2009

European Parliament

My law class visited the European Parliament on Thursday of last week. We were given a presentation by a representative from Malta. We watched a short video and saw a powerpoint presentation. It was really interesting. There are 23 official languages for the Parliament so it is kind of mind boggling to think of how they have to function together. We learned about how they vote through legislation and how the different countries work together as the EU. It was kind of weird to think about since their countries are functioning similar to our states back home. It's like a similar system but from different perspectives.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Summertime in London and Paris

Last Saturday I picked up one of my Carolina friend from the airport and we headed to London. Summer and I have been friends since the third grade and she decided to come visit me for her spring break. So we planned to go to London with some other people from my study abroad program.We stayed in a Marriott hotel right on Park Lane, right by Hyde Park. It was a really nice place and it felt very classy to be staying there in London. While in London we took one of the bus tours around the city. I had never been on a double decker before so that was an experience to be able to ride on the top. We walked around Buckingham Palace a bit. We of course took tons of pictures. We also saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament, etc.
It really wasn't as awe-inspiring as I thought it would be. I thought that Big Ben was rather small. It was still cool to see all of that stuff though. It started raining really hard about half-way through the day so it kept us from walking around a whole lot. We took a boat ride down the river to Grenwich, where the Prime Meridian is. That was nice just so that we were out of the cold wet weather. To get around London, we used the underground. I thought that their system was a bit more complicated than it had to be but it was still pretty easy to find your way around. there were just tons of stairs. That was annoying when we were dragging our luggage as we arrived and left. It was nice to be in a place where people spoke English again though.
As soon as we got back to Brussels from London, we left for Paris.

Paris was where Summer really wanted to go so we fit that trip in before my second session of classes started. In Paris we stayed at a Marriott on the Champs Elysees. It was even more fancy than the hotel in London and it was right in the middle of everything. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited Notre Dame, and walked around the city some. The full day we had in Paris happened to be a Tuesday. Unfortunately, this was the one day that the Louvre is always closed. So we had to go early in the morning before leaving Paris the next day. the Louvre was absolutely huge and amazing. Of course we only saw a small part of it. I would love to go back one day and explore more. I think my favorite parts of Paris were Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower at night. The tower at night is gorgeous.
This is the Nike ad that was all over the metro in Paris. Summer is actually the one that pointed it out to me. We found it weird that they didn't use the "Just do it" slogan. Also, the "V" thing is different, I've never seen that before and I couldn't find anything about it on the American Nike website. I also took apicture of a warning sign on the metro in Paris. I just thought it was so random that they used a rabbit to warm people about getting their hands caught in the door. In Brussels they use stick figures with very little detail to convey similar messages.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

McDonald's Again

I had forgotten to look at the McD's website the last time I posted. So the main difference between the American and Belgian websites is that the American is in English and the Belgian is in French. Other than that, they are pretty similar for the most part.
The American website has pictures of people being outside, active, and happy while the Belgian website is more likely to list nutrition facts for the food. I think this is because the American culture in general is bigger on exercising than the European population. They seem to eat healthier for the most part over here. Both websites lit more than I want to know.
I think that the differences in the styles of the restaurants between America and Belgium (even Europe in general) was because they seem to target two different audiences. McDonald's in America is usually just a cheap, fast option. It is also accessible to even those who have very little money. Eating out in Europe seems to be something that you don't do unless you have the money and since a lot of stuff is more expensive here, the people who usually eat out are more well off.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


To be honest, since arriving in Belgium I haven't really had any desire to go to a McDonald's. I only know of one McDonald's in Brussels and I always thought it looked pretty American. I actually went inside it last night for our last "fat kids'" meal (that's another story) and it was actually pretty different. I have noticed that, in general, McDonald's over here in Europe are a lot more posh than back in the States. There was one in Galway, Ireland that even had cushioned rotating arm chairs at every table. The restaurant here in Brussels (pictured above) isn't quite that stylish. However, there is a significantly different feel when you walk in the restaurant compared to back in South Carolina. Back home, I always thought of McDonald's as a restaurant made out of bright colors and plastic, geared mostly toward kids. Here the McDonald's looks more high class. It is decorated with more neutral colors and the furniture has a more sophisticated, even stylish, look to it. The menus are generally the same with slight differences in feature items. There is no dollar menu here, which is unfortunate. There is a "euro menu" but it isn't everything for a euro. It lists things for one or two euros. They don't have value meals here but instead sell the sandwich and drinks separately. This is one huge difference--no free refills!! I can't wait to get back to the States and my free refills!! Also, you have to pay for ketchup here, 0,50 euro for a little thing of ketchup. That goes against everything I hold dear. I'm pretty sure that ketchup is a basic human right at all McDonald's so it is almost blasphemous to me to have to pay for it.
It was a crowded day yesterday because Carnival was going on in the middle of the street and everywhere in Brussels. Since the lines at the restaurant were backed up to the doors, one of the McDonald's employees came to the people in the middle of the lines, took their order, and gave them a piece of paper to give to the register, and went on to the next person. I had never seen that happen before. Overall it was a good experience but it was a little expensive.