Brugge was a really cool city in my opinion. It has a medieval feel to it because all of the buildings are old and are made of brick. The reason that they are made of brick is because of all the clay that is in the ground. It didn’t seem like a very touristy city which I liked because I felt like I was able to experience the culture a bit more. The city square had a lot of shops that stemmed off of it. There were too many chocolate shops to count because Belgium is famous for its chocolate. It was remarkable to me that everyone was still riding bikes and out and about even when it was below 30. This made the town have a very happy and excited vibe because there was a lot of energy in the city. I was able to rent a tandem bike on of the nights in the city and ride around looking at all the different architecture as well as seeing the outside of the city. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Brugge and I hope someday I can go back.
Today we began by heading to Notre Dame Cathedral by way of the subway system. The cathedral sits on an island in the middle of the Seine River. After walking through the cathedral, the group split up with some climbing the cathedral towers, some visiting Sainte Chapelle (a small but beautiful chapel), and some just walking around the island. We then walked to the area of the Louvre museum and found a food court in a shopping area next to the museum. Lunch was good, but not cheap!
Once we all got inside the museum, the students were off on their own (in small groups), seeing what interested them the most. The museum is huge and you could never see it all in an afternoon. After that, the students were on their own to explore more of Paris.
Several of us ended up touring the Palais Garnier (Paris opera house). The building is beautiful, both inside and outside. Some of us (4) decided to try and get tickets to the performance of Jephtha tonight. Jephtha is an oratorio written by Handel and in a similar musical style as the Messiah. This one, was acted out more like an opera than an oratorio. It was a great show and it was amazing to watch it for 10 Euros in one of the most beautiful performance halls in the world!
Today started with a walk to the Eiffel Tower. As you can see from the pictures, the top (summit) of the tower was shrouded in clouds today. Sometimes, the summit is closed due to weather and visitors are only permitted to go up to the second level. Even though cloudy, we wer able to go to the summit, so the students were excited. The views from the second level were actually better than from the summit, but it was fun to get to the top.
After the Eiffel Tower, we took the subway to the area of the Paris Catacombs. Before going into the catacombs, the students found some lunch in the area. The catacombs are an old mine/quarry that became the home for the bones of bodies dug up from city cemeteries as the city cleared the land for more buildings to be built within the city. It is a very unique experience to see the bones of more than 6 million people stacked carefully along underground passageways.
After the catacombs, the students were free to go off and explore the city in small groups.
Today we headed into France. After a 4-hour drive, we arrived at our first destination, the Palace of Versailles. Before seeing the palace, everyone was on their own for lunch. The palace was built by Louis 14th and several other Louis kings lived in and expanded the palace, including Napoleon. We could see many rooms and then tour the large gardens behind the palace.
After touring the palace, we had a short bus trip through the city of Paris, seeing many of the famous landmarks. After checking into our hotel near the Eiffel Tower, we headed to the Cafe du Commerce for our supper. Following supper, we learned how to use the subways in Paris and arrived at Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) on a mountain side that overlooks Paris. We had great views of the city.
Today was spent in the beautiful city of Brugge, Belgium. Our first activity was to visit a local firm called BEP-Europe. BEP is part of the Burke Porter Group of companies which ar based in Grand Rapids, MI. Bert Vermeersch and his colleagues gave us an in-depth introduction to the Burke Porter Group and the work they do in Brugge. We then had the opportunity to walk around their shop floor and see the machines they are building. Most of the machines are intended to perform testing of new cars as they are driven off the assembly line. After seeing the impressive machines, they offered us some refreshments before we returned to Brugge’s old city center.
After finding lunch on our own, we met up with two city tour guides that led us around the city, explaining what we saw and describing the history of the city. The weather was rainy in the morning, but the afternoon was partly cloudy and very comfortable. After the tour, all were off in small groups to find some supper and to continue exploring the city.
Yesterday we were given the opportunity to stop in Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands. It was a quiet city and seemed small for a city that was the capital of its province. After grabbing a quick lunch at one of the many restaurants that lined the shopping district, we departed for our next destination. We Arrived in Brugge, Belgium a couple hours later and were greeted by a group meal and buildings that looked like they belonged in the Middle Ages. After the scheduled group time, a number of us explored the city square and some of the less traveled side streets. Overall, it was a plesent day and served as a good introduction to the city of Brugge.
Spending time in Delft and learning about Vermeer Company in the Netherlands was an unforgettable experience. Delft, the original birthplace of the Delft Blue pottery and Delftware, opened our eyes to a world filled with history and small shops and restaurants. We climbed the windy staircase to the top of the church’s bell tower. The church is the focal point of the central square in Delft and can be seen for miles away from town. As we climbed higher and higher, we developed a new appreciation for elevators. However, once we made it to the top, we forgot about the steep stairs and dizziness as we experienced a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding area lying in front of us. The view justified the climb. Below, a picture of the church and a picture from the top of the bell tower can be seen.
Moreover, at Vermeer Company we learned about international business and what it takes to be competitive globally. Vermeer Company designs and manufactures machines that benefit the agriculture, mining, telecommunication and infrastructure industries. The company was started in Pella, Iowa and now operates on every continent except Antarctica. With this, it is key to be culturally aware for success. Continue reading “Netherlands: Learning and Climbing High”
Our day began with a visit to the Vermeer Corp location in Goes, NL. Bob Shuman and members of his staff described the Vermeer corporation and the work they do in Goes. We were given a great tour of the place and were able to ask lots of questions.
We then headed to the Oosterschelde, one of the other major storm barriers keeping the country safe from big storms. Our next stop was the small town of Veere. The town used to be a port city on the North Sea, but when the storm surge barrier was installed, they no longer have access to the North Sea. Students were on their own to find lunch in the city of Middelburg in the Province of Zeeland.
Finally, we returned to the bus to drive to our destination for the night, Brugges, Belgium. After checking into the hotel, we had dinner at Maximilian’s restaurant. Dinner was excellent and the students walked with the professors to the city square after finishing our meal.
Our day began at the Flora Holland flower auction location. It is an amazing place that auctions off millions of flowers every single day, speeding them from the growers to the customers as fast as possible. We walked a catwalk over the areas where flowers on carts are moved around quickly.
Next, we walked through the old castle courtyard in Den Haag which is home to the Dutch parliament and government. Inside the courtyard is Knights Hall, a special building used by the King to give his state of the union address each September.
After a lunch stop in Delft, we traveled to the large storm surge barrier near the city of Rotterdam. The pictures show the impressive size of the barrier. Our day wrapped up when we arrived in Goes, NL for our hotel stay and dinner. This group of students really enjoys playing the game “Rook.”
for a video of some of us driving a “virtual” flower cart click on this link (start at about 0:50)
Today we went on a boat cruise around the canals of Amsterdam. The boat traveled in and out of the canals with an audio tour to listen to. This tour was at 3:30 in the afternoon, so we had all been up for about 30 hours with only maybe a couple hours of sleep on the plane. Professor Brouwer attempted to give us a pep talk to keep us awake to enjoy the cruise, right before he feel asleep. Pretty sure everyone fell asleep for at least a little bit on that cruise, we were all exhausted, and sitting in the warm boat did not help. Overall the boat cruise was fun, and a nice midday napping experience.