Brussels: Beyond Expectations a Must Visit!

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Johannes Ong
March 7, 2024
the town square



On the IES Abroad European Union program, we had the unique opportunity to spend a week traveling through Brussels and Paris. Our itinerary was divided with Monday through Thursday morning dedicated to Brussels, before transitioning to Paris Thursday afternoon, where our journey continued until Sunday morning. Although this blog post will focus on our experiences in Brussels, I promise to delve into our Parisian adventures in a future entry.

Initially, I harbored some reluctance about dedicating a substantial portion of our trip to Brussels, especially when compared to the allure of Paris. However, Brussels swiftly dispelled my reservations, revealing itself as a thrilling and underrated gem. The city is a vibrant tapestry of charming architecture, culinary delights, and significant educational opportunities, courtesy of its status as a cornerstone of European Union politics.

Brussels boasts a remarkable array of historical sites, including the majestic Triumph Arch, which captivated me deeply. As a runner, the experience of jogging past these monumental sites and exploring the city’s streets on foot was exhilarating—an activity I highly recommend for those who are able. Beyond the grandeur of historical and European Commission buildings, the old town of Brussels exudes a quaint charm that is simply irresistible. From the culinary wonders of Mozart, an exceptional all-you-can-eat ribs spot known for its warm service, to the famed Delirium bar with its staggering collection of over 200 beer varieties, the city caters to all tastes.

Among the culinary highlights was Tonton Garby, a modest sandwich shop that offers a unique food service experience. Here, customers are granted a personal consultation with the sandwich maker himself, Tonton, who guides them through crafting their ideal sandwich. With a catalog of options and ingredients—many imported from countries through the EU or prepared fresh that morning—the experience is unparalleled. Besides sandwiches, the brothers make incredible drinks such as an energy enriching hot chocolate where they (I kid you not) halt the line and make everyone around the corner as they travel to their upstairs kitchen and make your hot chocolate fresh with a bar of chocolate of your choice. Despite the inevitable wait, due to the shop's popularity and the bespoke service provided by Tonton and his brother, it is an absolute must-visit for any food enthusiast.

The educational aspect of our trip was equally enriching, with the IES Abroad program organizing a series of informative sessions on EU politics. One speaker who stood out was Mr. Damien Meadows from DG Climate Action, an advisor on Legal and Inter-institutional Issues, and the Green Deal. His passionate discourse on climate change was not only engaging but also inspired many of us to consider further exploration of the topic, and even to contemplate careers in this crucial field.

In reflection, my time in Brussels was an amazing and unforgettable experience that has significantly enriched my abroad experience. It serves as a poignant reminder to never judge a book by its cover and to remain open to new experiences.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to the IES Abroad European Union program for facilitating this incredible journey. Stay tuned for more updates on our future adventures!

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Johannes Ong

Hello! I'm Jo, an economics student at Pomona College, originally from New York and later a CA San Diegan since the age of 11. I love to run and am excited about the program!

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