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À Paris, j’avais des vacances scolaires géniales (In Paris, I had amazing school vacations). We had deux semaines (two weeks) au printemps (in the spring), and I wanted to vraiment profiter (really profit from them). I toyed around with lots of ideas, but more than anything, I wanted to go to la Tunisie—Tunisia.
Mon copain (my boyfriend), on the other hand, had a different idea. La Tunisie, c’est bien (Tunisia is nice), he said. But let’s go… to Brussels!!!
I’m assuming you’re as underwhelmed as I was. Brussels? Land of… mussels? La Tunisie, c’est l’architecture, c’est une nouvelle culture, c’est la mer, c’est fascinant! (Tunisia is architecture, a new culture, the sea, it’s fascinating !) J’avais trop hâte d’y aller—I really wanted to go ! What on earth was in Brussels that could compete with Tunisia?
I didn’t know whether to rire (laugh) or pleurer (cry). He said: “Brussels has NATO!” My boyfriend wanted to go see the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (l’OTAN, en français). This was worth giving up Tunisia. Somehow, ne me demandez pas pourquoi*, he convinced me. Off we went à Bruxelles (to Brussels).
En fait (in fact), les vacances étaient formidables (the vacation was great). It turns out that a city predicated on chocolate, beer, and french fries is a great place to go on vacation. We ate du chocolat, drank de la bière, and ate des frites when we’d had too much beer and chocolate (oui, avec de la mayonnaise—yes, with mayonnaise). We had a really good time. We didn’t even see NATO.
Actually, there’s not much to see in Brussels, in my opinion. (Yes, bring it on, Bruxellois! I would love to know what there is à voir—to see—in your city.) Unless you consider la Commission européenne (the EU’s European Commission) and l’OTAN to be attractions touristiques. It’s a marvelous city, but it begins to feel small.
So we took a day trip (une excursion) à Bruges, a small city near Brussels. Here’s what I remember from Bruges:
Is this une liste exhaustive (an exhaustive list)? Bien sûr que non (of course not). Among other attractions, there’s la Grand-Place and Manneken-Pis, the icons of Brussels. La Grand-Place is actually fascinante, an architectural reckoning of centuries of foreign domination, manifest in stone. Go, munch fries and chocolate, maybe drink a beer, and you will have a surprisingly good time. Brussels n’est pas évident— it’s not an obvious vacation choice—but it’s really fun, whether or not you like NATO.
*”Don’t ask me why.” But actually, if you ask, I’ll tell you… and it’s a really good reason.