Brussels was a lovely week of meeting up with friends, with some good food and a dash of culture throw in.
The main objective of stopping in Brussels as we wound our way inexorably westwards and towards ‘home’ and the end of the trip was to see our good friends and their respective families.
The focus was on catching up, but we managed to do a few cultural things too.
One day we visited the European parliament and its museum, which was extremely well done although rather bittersweet for the pro-European Brit in me. The museum had a family game to play as we wandered round the exhibits, and the kids ran around looking for answers while the adults tackled some of the more complex questions.
My main sensation was of how the lofty ideals and desire post WWII to create a united Europe to prevent war, has been pushed somewhat off track, but the fundamental values that the EU stands for are still worth fighting for, and that the UK would be better served engaging properly with all the EU does, rather than standing on the sidelines and criticising like a resentful teenageer.
Lofty ideals indeed.
At a time when the EU is under threat, I feel it should be less arrogant, blithely assuming that people understand and support what it is doing, and instead be a pro active advocate for the things it wants to do, and explain the benefits. There are some immensely dedicated technical staff, and MEPs, who campaign long and hard for what they believe in – some of which is beneficial to EU citizens – but most EU citizens, and certainly most Brits, would have no idea that the EU is protecting them or debating policy ideals that they can, through their MEPs, input into. I guess Brussels is suffering from the general frustration and distrust of politicians and bureaucrats that currently characterizes much of Western politics – with the added complication of not being well understood, feeling more remote than national politics, and being easy to critizise as a supra national body.
Another day we had a lovely picnic with other families who live/used to live in Mozambique, in one of the beautiful parks in the centre, and then we went on an ‘underground treasure hunt’ around ancient Coudenberg Palace. It was great fun watching our bunch of 7 kids trying to work together to solve all the various puzzles hidden in chests around the ruins.
The rest of our time in Brussels was spent catching up on everyone’s news over wine, and just letting the kids hang out.
The last night, I took Lauren to the Hard Rock café on the Grand Place, to celebrate the end of our trip, as the next stop would be Lisbon to be reunited with family and start a whole new chapter.