Less than two days from now my sister will arrive in Brussels. She has never been to Europe, and her only overseas experiences include a family vacation to the Dominican Republic in 1998 and a trip to Mexico a few years after that. I’m thrilled to be the one to introduce her to this continent that has been such a part of my life for the past eight years, but I’m also a little nervous. Will she like it here? What will she think of the people, the food, and the teeny little cars? Will she be as inspired by the history and architectural beauty of Europe as I am and will she thrive as a cultural outsider as I do? Or will she feel shy about communicating with the locals and nervous about being surrounded by the unfamiliar? How, exactly, do you show Europe to a newcomer?
Our siblings-only European tour will start with two nights in Brussels followed by a weekend in Amsterdam. Then it’s back to Brussels for two days before leaving for Paris, where we’ll spend a few days visiting the main sights as well as my favorite hidden haunts. After returning to Brussels in time for Christmas we’ll have five more days to do with what we like. I’m thinking a quick trip to Antwerp or Bruges could be nice. Or maybe a relaxing afternoon spent soaking in the thermal baths of Spa? In addition to all this train-hopping and sightseeing I plan to work in plenty of local cuisine (hello, French cheese!), visiting of markets, and other aspects of daily life in Europe. My hope is that she’ll return to the U.S. with a good idea of what it’s like to live somewhere else. And a newfound love of French cheese.
For all my anxiety about our pending adventure, she seems to be taking things in stride. Sure, there was the conversation where I had to reassure her that the French will not refuse to speak to her in English even if they know how (only the truly dastardly do that), but she was also excitedly adamant about visiting Amsterdam and is looking forward to seeing the Art Nouveau buildings in Brussels as well as some of the art and design sights in Amsterdam in Paris. As a student of graphic design, and an outstanding interior designer, I know she’ll find plenty to love in Europe. I’m probably worrying for nothing, and I definitely don’t want to over-analyze the situation, but I also can’t help but want her to have a good time. During a recent phone conversation I gave her the following advice: sit back and enjoy the ride. Maybe I should try to do the same.