Interviewing Tsipras (Biggest Name in Headlines)… NBD

This summer is a crazy time to report in Brussels, Belgium. At Thomson Reuters we cover a ton of topics, but the Greek debt crisis consumes most of our time and energy recently. It may not seem like that big of a deal to everyone at home, but it has consistently been at the top of media headlines from many countries this summer (including the US). I wanted to share some of the things that I have been working on with everyone at home because the videos we produce are bought by media companies all over the world. So many of the things we put out from Reuters in Brussels ends up on CNN and other American news channels.

So why exactly is Greece a big deal and what exactly have I been working on?

Last night history was made. Greece had been fighting default for five years, but last night Greece missed a payment to the International Monetary Fund and they are the first developed country to do so. The Greek crisis is far from over. Greece is headed down a path to leave the Euro and there is fiery tension between the Greek government and their creditors as well as other EU leaders.

I must say that reporting in a foreign country is difficult, but it is even more challenging to be thrown into such an important and complex story. The past two weeks have been a marathon for political reporters here in Brussels. Here are the three main types of meetings that we covered in regards to Greece.

  1. Eurogroup Meetings – The Eurogroup meetings are between all of the finance ministers from countries that use the Euro.
  2. European Summits – European Summits are meetings between the heads of state of all 28 EU member-states.
  3. Meetings between key EU figures and Tsipras – There were frequent meetings between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and key EU people such as Juncker, Dijsselbloem, Draghi, Lagarde and Schulz.

Working these events can be challenging, but I have interviewed some of the world’s top leaders regarding one of the biggest international stories of the year. I was standing just an arms length away from Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras when he said the highly-used quote about how EU leaders are blackmailing Greece. At this point in time, the world thought that Greece was wanting to reach a deal, but I got to see the expression in his eyes and the demeanor in which he stormed out of the EU Summit first-hand. I told my colleagues that did not see his it up-close that Greece was out. Sure enough, Tsipras called for a referendum later that night.

That video of my interview with Alexis Tsipras was bought by over 75 clients around the world. My video was on top news channels across the world including CNN. Here is the interview published on Reuters’ website (about 30 seconds in).

During the month of June, the Reuters Video News Team in Brussels produced an all-time record of 116 stories in one month. 116 stories does not sound like very much, but I would like to add that there are only 5 real employees and 2 interns at this branch.

I started thinking about all of the world leaders that I have either interviewed, held a microphone up to for a statement or filmed at a press conference. Here is the list.

  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
  • President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz
  • European Central Bank President Mario Draghi
  • President of the European Council Donald Tusk
  • Eurogroup President Jereon Dijsselbloem
  • IMF President Christine Lagarde
  • And countless financial minister

Paris is always a good idea – Audrey Hepburn

… and a good idea it was.

YouWine in Paris have probably heard it before, but I am going to say it again anyway. Paris is absolutely magical. If you are traveling to Europe, I highly recommend spending at least a few days in Paris. You will never run out of things to see.

When we first arrived on Friday, we dropped our stuff off in our AIrbnb and got food at this little restaurant near our place. Of course, we ordered some French wine.

After dinner and some drinks we walked along the river and got to see some of Paris’ major monuments at night. The river was full of cute couples and groups of friends sitting around with blankets and bottles of wine. You could say that it was a perfect idea to get acquainted to the city when we first got it. I just wish that we had some more time to sit along the river as well.

That night, we went to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. I highly highly recommend going to the tower at night because it completely took my breath away.  The tower sparkles for two minutes on the hour every night (but if you’re going be aware that 1 a.m. is the last time it sparkles). It was my favorite thing I have done over my entire month in Europe so far. It is a must-see.

The next day, we got brunch at the cutest restaurant. We tried various breads and spreads and (of course) drank some mimosas. We then set off on our day of art exploring. We went to the Louvre which was so much larger than I imagined. I could have spent hours in there. It is easy to get lost and overwhelmed in the Louvre, but I followed the signs to the most well-known pieces and saw a lot of other great artwork along the way.

After the Louvre, we went to Musee d’Orsay. This museum was much smaller, but it is in an old train station. The architecture of the building was amazing along with some great Monet paintings.

Sunday morning I finally fulfilled my crepe craving and got the foamiest cappuccino I’ve ever seen.

As we were walking to Notre Dame, we ran across the Love Lock bridge. We read in the news earlier that they were taking all of the locks down, so we didn’t expect to see a bunch of the locks still there when we went. I wish that I knew they were still there because I would have brought a lock, but at the same time it would have been a little depressing putting a lock on there knowing it would be torn down.

Then, we went to go see Notre Dame. We planned on taking a tour up to the top to see the bells, but the line would’ve wasted our whole day. Instead, we noticed that there was mass going on because it was Sunday, so we decided that was a better option. I am Protestant, not Catholic, but mass at Notre Dame was a spiritual experience no matter what faith you practice. I’m going to attach pictures because there are no adjectives to describe this kind of beauty.

After Notre Dame, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it in the daylight.

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Then we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which holds their tomb of the unknown soldier.

I wish we had more time in Paris, but it was an amazing weekend none-the-less! I hope I get the opportunity to go back at some point in my life.

What Happens in Amsterdam Stays in Amsterdam… except the things in this post

This past weekend we took our first trip out of Belgium to Amsterdam (which is in The Netherlands).

I knew Amsterdam mostly for the “sketchy” stuff before I went, but there is so much more to this city than meets the eye. The city is full of amazing architecture, beautiful canals, friendly people and amazing museums.

On the first day, we stopped at the “I am Amsterdam” sign because we are cheesy American tourists and want to take cheesy touristy pictures.

We also went for a canal tour of the city. I have always wanted to go on a canal tour, so that was definitely a great experience. The city has amazing architecture and it is all so much more beautiful by being on the canals. I highly recommend going on a canal tour if you ever get the chance to go to Amsterdam.

We got dinner at this amazing non-touristy restaurant. I couldn’t understand the menu because it was in Dutch, so I thought I ordered pasta. Well… the waiter brought a pear with some raw bacon on top in front of me. You could say I was pretty hungry because I actually ate it and it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

Here is where I am going to leave you in the dark about the rest of that day.

The next morning, we got up at 6:30 to get to the Anne Frank House at 7:30 (yeah, we pretty much didn’t sleep). However, pre-ordered tickets were sold out and we heard that if you go early that is pretty much your only chance of getting in without wasting the entire day in line. Let me tell you, it was worth it. I’ve read the Diary of Anne Frank twice and loved it, so it was really cool to see where they lived when they were hiding. It was larger than I pictured when reading it, but then again there were a lot of people living there for a long time. The saddest part was definitely hearing Otto Frank talk on video about when he found out that his entire family had been killed in concentration camps. I really can’t put the tour into words, but if you ever get the chance, you NEED to go. I will definitely pull that book out for a third-read when I get home.

We then got lunch at this cute restaurant right on the canal across from the Anne Frank House. Every single one of us loved our food and it had a lot of charm. The food came down in a little cater-waiter, which I loved.

Then, we went to the Van Ghouh museum. It was really cool to see all his paintings, but I’m disappointed that Starry Night isn’t at that museum because that is my favorite. Oh well, it was still a great experience.

I would say that Amsterdam was a bit of a risk for the first trip, but we made it out alive and we saw all of the major things that we wanted to see!

My final words for people who want to or are going to travel to Europe: DO NOT shy away from Amsterdam because you think it is sketchy. From my experience, there are so many museums to see, it was much safer than Brussels, and the architecture and canals make it 100% worth it. Don’t judge a book by its cover. From my experience, Amsterdam seems to be the best of all worlds.

First few days in Brussels

We had a few days before our internship began to explore the city and run some errands. I think I didn’t realize that I would actually be living here and would need things like dish soap and toilet paper and trash bags. So that was definitely a hassle and we are nowhere near close to having everything that we need.

The second night we were here, Haley and I met Bell Johnson (who interned at Thomson Reuters last semester) for drinks at this bar that is famous for gin and tonics. She gave us some good advice about what to expect at work and it helped calm my nerves. On our way home, there was a jazz festival that Brussels has once a year, so we stopped in at that for a second. There was an outdoor stage set up where people could relax and enjoy the jazz music (and of course, there were beer tents).

That night we went to Delirium, which is a bar that has the world record for most beers on tap. We heard that this place is really fun, but definitely a touristy place. We figured, well we might as well go because we are tourists. It was definitely an experience. The guys in Belgium are much more forward. They will walk right up to you with no pickup line prepared and jump right in by saying something rudely inappropriate. The guys definitely annoyed me, but it never felt threatening, just annoying.

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We got some beers at Delirium and then we went to another bar next door that has a bunch of types of tequila. It was a lot of fun. We ended up meeting a big group of people from London who were a blast. Overall, it was a great first night out with most of the people from our trip.

One thing that stood out was how late we got home! They don’t go out until so late that before we knew it, it was 4:30 a.m. I guess time flies when you’re having fun?

The next day we went to an area called Flagey, which is near our house. They have this sort of farmer’s market every weekend. We got some fruit there and it was honestly a great environment. It’s not a touristy area, so we finally felt like we were real Belgians. We stopped by a little park right nearby to relax by the lake before heading home.

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After the market, we headed Grand Place. Basically, if you were to Google Brussels, this is the area you would see. I can’t describe how beautiful the area is, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Monday was a holiday (one of the ones that everyone is off work, but nobody really understands why). We had a walking tour planned for us by the program. It mostly at Grand Place again, but I finally got to see Manneken Pis, which is one of the most famous sites. Not sure why because it’s a tiny statue of a boy peeing. I probably should have paid more attention to the tour guide.

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Anyway, the tour was okay, but the waffle I got on the tour was what made my day. Now THIS was the AMAZING Belgium waffles that I heard so much about. This picture needs no explanation.

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On Tuesday, everyone started work except Haley and I. Our bosses just got back from a conference in Latvia, so they weren’t ready for us Tuedsay. It gave me time to catch up on my jet lag and run errands. After our friends got home from work, we went to a restaurant. I got lapin a la kriek (rabbit and red beer). Garreth, our program director, said we needed to try it and it was good. It was like a more gamey chicken leg.

I will write an update about my first two days at work soon!

10 things I’ve learned about Brussels

After the first few days in Brussels, I would like to point out some cultural differences.

  1. People here aren’t very smiley and nice (this might just be a larger city thing, but I’m not sure)
  2. People wear mostly just black (my pink Express work shirts stick out like a sore thumb)
  3. You have to pay for water at restaurants AND beer is typically as cheap as water (so naturally, we just order beer)
  4. The workplace is so much more laid-back (my boss wanted to buy us beers in the middle of the workday)
  5. They will not separate checks (so request small bills when you go to the ATM)
  6. Stores close so early (no joke, they’re out of there by 6)
  7. They go out way later than we do (if you leave a bar before 1 a.m. you didn’t even see the peak of the night)
  8. Men are chauvinist pigs (and we thought frat guys were disrespectful….)
  9. Belgium has some of the highest taxes in the world, so employers all buy their employees expensive cars so that they don’t have to pay that money in taxes (so it’s safe to say Belgians like their cars)
  10. This is a city with so many cultures! Everyone here is from all over the world. It truly is an international city and it’s amazing. Everyone I meet has a great story to tell.

Day 1 in Brussels

Well today is the day that I officially moved to Belgium for the summer. We got into Brussels at 9 in the morning there, but it was 2 in the morning in St. Louis. When we got off the plane we all traveled in the big group to the guy holding the Mizzou sign. We took shuttles to our apartments and it was not the drive that we expected. Sure, we saw a few older buildings, but for the most part it was just new modern buildings with lots of shopping. It reminded us of DC or Michigan Avenue.

When we got to the apartments, it was amazing. The living room and the dining room are extremely spacious and kind of modern. We went up the spiral staircase to find 3 bedrooms. They were all a little different, but they are decently spacious. It definitely works for how little stuff we even have right now. The best part about the apartment is our rooftop deck. The walls are pretty high, so it’s hard to see the view, but if you climb up a little you can see that it is breathtaking. I know that will be my favorite space in our apartment.

After we unpacked, a lady from the complex came around checking everything and it was the first time that we had a bit of a culture shock. She spoke no English, so it was hard to communicate with her. We had to tap on her and direct her to an outlet that is broken to communicate. Nobody in my apartment speaks a lick of French, so this will be new to all of us.

Shortly after, the guys came up to our apartment to visit and we all decided to go walk around the city. We went down our street and then left and we eventually ran into all the main shopping. There were a ton of cute stores that I want to check out soon and hopefully they are cheap enough. While we were walking the streets, we ran into a waffle vendor and we knew that we needed to try it. Trying to order the waffle was a little funny because we don’t speak French so we looked at the sign and tried our best to pronounce it.

The waffle was nothing like our waffles. Sure it has the imprints of a waffle, but it was almost bitter and it was drenched in chocolate. It was a complete shock because it’s not what we are used to, but it was great nonetheless.

We stopped by a market to get toilet paper, hand soap and a few essential groceries. We just mainly picked up water bottles and something to eat for breakfast tomorrow.

Then we went to an orientation at our Mizzou office with Garreth. I definitely don’t remember how we got there. He was super nice and funny, but I can tell that our class is going to be a lot more work than I was expecting. I have a feeling when I get home from work on the weekdays, we will be super busy and staying in a lot.

He did answer a lot of our questions about traveling on weekends and he suggests traveling a lot around Brussels. He also said that it would be dumb not to go to Paris, Amsterdam and London because they are about an hour and a half away is all. I still think that I want to try to go to Barcelona because he said it’s one of the best cities in the world and it’s a quick plane ride. However, I think that will be my last flying trip. Anyway, I’m overwhelmed and feel like I need to start planning right away.

We then walked to dinner at this cute restaurant. It was paid for all by Mizzou, which is amazing. He gave us a few Brussels choices and I didn’t know what to pick, but I decided to go with this shrimp and mussels pasta. A lot of people tried rabbit also, but I’ll have to save that for another day. Apparently it was really good. I loved my mussels and the pasta was so great too. We also got a few choices of Belgium beers to try. I tried Kriek, which is a cherry beer and it tasted just like candy. I loved it. The second beer that I got was a Heigen(something) and it was also good.

After dinner, we walked home with the intention of going out, but we physically were drained. Instead we got a good nights sleep.