Day 2: The European Parliament, Brussels City and Dinner at the Scheltema

By , November 5, 2013 23:17

Today – our first full day in Belgium – has been our big political day. After breakfast in the hotel, we boarded the coach and left for the European Parliament building.

I found it very ironic that on Guy Fawkes night I was visiting a Parliament building. You will however be pleased to know that I posed no security risk – there was in fact airport style security at the entrance. All our bags and coats were screened before we could go any further.

Unfortunately, we could not enter the Hemicyle – the main debating chamber – today. That is because some of the beams are cracked… or, to put it another way, the ceiling is sinking. (Only the European Union could build one building that isn’t used for the majority of the year, and another which is now falling apart)!

We did however enjoy some very informative presentations in one of the meeting rooms. A Cypriot official (whose name escapes me) spoke about how the EU works; Syed Kamall MEP spoke about how he got in to Parliament, and my highlight was Geoffrey Van Orden MEP. Very articulate and very well informed (as you should of course expect from an MEP), he spoke about Mr. Cameron’s stance on Europe and why the Conservatives are confident that this will produce a better deal for us in terms of our relationship with the EU.

In the afternoon, now equipped with our European Conservatives & Reformists goodie bags, we re-boarded the coach and left for the Royal Quarter, where we had free time to explore Brussels. I walked around the Park of Brussels, stopped for photos by the Palais Royal and the Place Royal, before stopping for lunch and then going to find my way back to the hotel. Although I did have the option of getting the coach back if I wanted, this would not be for a couple of hours, and it was raining – so most people did not wait and made their own way back.

Back in my hotel room, I listened to my radio show, which I had recorded before leaving the UK, as it was broadcast on Tone Radio. I called home to update Mum on what I had got up to, and got ready for dinner.

Dinner was at the Scheltema Restaurant in Brussels; I enjoyed Beef Carpaccio (that’s basically raw beef) for starter – before a fantastic medallion of lamb in a basil creme sauce… It was so good that I could have spent all evening eating it! For pudding, a very filling (but still brilliant tasting) chocolate moose. I would say it was one of the best restaurant meals I’ve had in a long time. No one can say I haven’t eaten well on this trip now!

Dinner was accompanied with the usual political discussions – tonight a lot of talk about Europe: the EU’s accounts, Britain’s membership etc. Ashley Fox MEP was circulating the tables, along with his Brussels based PA, and I although she didn’t get the chance to visit our table, Julie Girling MEP – former leader of Cotswold District Council – was also present.

Our main after dinner speaker was Dan Hannan MEP – a columnist for the Telegraph (my favorite newspaper), he is someone who would rather Britain leaves the EU completely. Its not a view that I share, but he did make some interesting points. Also rather interestingly, I think most the people I’ve spoken to on this trip aren’t necessarily in agreement with leaving completely (although on the current terms many would vote to leave if there were to be a referendum tomorrow).

That said, I did find that Dan was an excellent public speaker (for some reason as he spoke I just imagined him as the narrator of a radio drama of some sort, maybe a medieval one. His use of tone of voice was brilliant, and very engaging too!

So a very interesting and enjoyable day – I think I’ve learned a lot today, both about how the European Union works and in some ways today has made me think more about my stance on Europe, which I have not been quite sure of until now. I think my stance on Europe can be summed up by the line in Yes, Minister used by Jim Hacker: I call myself Pro-Europe and Anti-Brussels. I don’t think I would vote to leave Europe completely, but we do need to negotiate some powers back and re-evaluate what our relationship with the EU is.

Tomorrow, another busy day – we’re heading to Ypres for a battlefield tour – very appropriate for Rememberance Day coming up next week, and the 100th anniversary of the First World War next year.

I’m off to bed now.

Good night!

Dinner Was Great

By , November 5, 2013 21:47

Out to Dinner

By , November 5, 2013 17:24

Number Confusion

By , November 5, 2013 16:24

The Place Royal

By , November 5, 2013 14:05

Now I’m not sure – because the sign was in a language which I don’t speak Flemish, but I think this is a church. The word ‘Kirk’ is similar to the German word ‘Kirche’. I may be completely wrong though. What I can say, is that this square is called the ‘Place Royal’ – located behind the Palais Royal.

Place Royal

Palais Royal – The Gates

By , November 5, 2013 13:59

It appears that the Palais Royal is very similar to Buckingham Palace! Here’s a photo with a better view of the gates.

There were 2 guards there too, marching up and down.

The only difference is the lack of tourists. Even on a day like today, Buckingham Palace would still have plenty of foreign tourists taking photos of it.

There wouldn’t be cars parked outside Buckingham Palace – that might be considered a security risk – but here it seems normal!

Gates of Palais Royal

Palais Royal

By , November 5, 2013 13:58

This afternoon we’ve got some free time in Brussels.

After walking a short distance from the coach in the Royal Quarter of the city, I think I’ve found Buckingham Palace…

Palais Royal

European Parliament

By , November 5, 2013 07:24

Remember, Remember, the 5th November

By , November 5, 2013 06:24

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