Yes, I Do More than Work

As I write this sentence, I am traveling under the English Channel at nearly 200 mph. My last post focused exclusively on my work at Bruegel. That’s fair and reasonable, considering that my last 5 weeks in Europe have revolved around my work. But, an accurate accounting of my trip would be incomplete without talk of how I’ve spent my time outside of work.

I visited Amsterdam my first weekend. I met a high school friend who happened to be studying at Oxford for the summer. Two observations jump to mind from that weekend. 1) I really like Europe’s transportation infrastructure. The Thalys took me from Brussels to Amsterdam in something like 2 hours. 2) I really like Amsterdam. It just may be my favorite large European city. It seems exceptionally livable and its Dutch inhabitants struck me as very friendly and fun. My experience there, admittedly, fell somewhat outside the norm since I happened to be visiting on the weekend of the city’s Pride. To the Dutch, I learned, Pride translates to a weekendlong and citywide party. The central event was a series of floats, which does not sound unusual, except that in Amsterdam, the floats are literal. Barging with people and blasting music, they crisscrossed the city, floating through its famous canals.

Gent

I visited Bruges my second weekend on the recommendation of some of my coworkers. I went with my roommate and fellow Stanford intern at Bruegel, Lloyd. The city center gives the passing tourist the feeling that he might be strolling through a medieval town. This, of course, is hardly my novel observation. It’s one of Bruges’s key features and selling points. I liked the city, but on its merits, I liked Gent a great deal better. I visited Gent yesterday, also with Lloyd. A Bruegel colleague recommended us a restaurant for dinner. The food was fantastic — scampi pasta served with a paprika tomato sauce, chicken pita bread served with Belgian fries. We also had the chance to explore the city center, which had diverse and varied architecture that was beautifully illuminated by the city’s famous lights. It felt a great deal more authentic than Bruges, perhaps because Bruges tries so hard to be authentic.

Scampi pasta in Gent

A welcome consequence of my internship in Europe was that I have had the chance to visit my Hungarian family. I flew to Hungary for one weekend to spend time with my Hungarian aunt, cousin, and grandparents. And I’m currently returning from London, where I spent the day with another Hungarian cousin who calls the city home. Today, somewhat sadly, is my last Saturday in Europe. And tomorrow, on my last Sunday, Lloyd and I plan to take our last trip. Antwerp is the target, and upon a Bruegel recommendation, we’re going to the zoo. Yes, the zoo.

At a park in London

Written by Nicholas Branigan, FSI Global Policy intern through The Europe Center with Bruegel in Brussels, Belgium.