Sunday, May 09, 2004

Fun at the European Parliament

Well the city of Strasbourg finally issued a collective "Quitcherbitchin' Court", and decided to provide me some entertainment.

Of course, the 10 countries recently added to the European Union might have also had something to do with today's event, but as usual, I like to think it's all about me.

The European Parliament hosted an Open House today, inviting the public to take a tour of the spectacular hemicycle and check out exhibits by the various members, most notably the newest EU additions.

We had quite an interesting day, with lots of freebies. What is about free stuff that makes people act like madmen? It's good to know (or perhaps scary) that at least it's universal.

This was a notable day for many reasons. First, we have been wanting to see the parliament for ages but because of security you can't ever go in and look around. Today we finally got our chance!

Second, today marks the first day in a week or two that I have woken up before noon. The day seems so much longer suddenly.

Meg and I set off around 10am, ready to walk in the rain to save money on tram fare, and also ready to stand in the long queue.

We returned (again, in the rain) a few hours ago, and since we've been back home, we've done nothing but dig through our goodie bags. But I have finally decided to tear myself away from my copy of "We Live in Slovania" to put in some quality blogging time.

Here are the highlights:

Europa Park
This is the European version of Disney, not owned by the actual American Disney. Make no mistake. Even though they have a MOUSE as their mascot and a sort of Epcot-looking building, they ARE NOT PART OF DISNEY!!! NOT Disney.

Anyhoo, they had displays set up all over the place outside, and while we were waiting to get in, we got to watch the "Mouse" character walk around with his chicken friend. We also saw a scary Charlie Chaplin. And a cool jazz band. They also gave away free baseball caps and bumper stickers.

God Bless the Irish
Let's hear it for the Irish display, that featured a bartender serving up Murphy's Stout (or "Cafe Irlandais") before 11 in the morning. I don't care what Meghan says, I can't believe it tastes like "a strong mocha."

All this hoopla for a bowl of rice?
Around noon we made our way into a big salon with lots and lots of displays. We also happened to notice lots of people eating funny looking stuff and drinking wine. Feeling a bit hungry ourselves, we squished past a wall and the security guards to get in the queue.

It wasn't long before (in typical French fashion) a bunch of people began to ease over and cut in line.

Fortunately, we were blessed with the chief of the Alsatian food police, an old man who began yelling at everyone, "Faites la queue, faites la queue!!!"

Our first thoughts were "Go you," but after he started muttering about how these people were obviously not French (it was evident HE was) and began to shake and get a bit too intense, we got a little nervous.

The bitter irony of it all is that we were all waiting in line for spoonfools of rice. Granted, rice with three different types of sauce, but rice all the same.

When you're hungry, you're hungry, I guess.

Luckily, the chefs came with more just in time, and they added another server to speed up the process, and all was well.

At this point, Meg and I decided to get out of line. The next station of dried beans were no longer tempting.

Socialists: We Like To Party
Never missing an opportunity to snag a few followers, political parties were out in full today. Most notable were the Socialists, with strings of red balloons and multilingual signs. They also had a big bright technocolor light and a sort-of dance floor, but unfortunately no one seemed to be getting their groove on.

In addition to providing a feel good time, the Socialists also win the prize for the most amount of cool free stuff. I got a red cloth bag with "Socialists" written all over it, a free red Socialist pen, Socialist colored pencils in a cool pack, and a pin. Ironically, I happened to be wearing a red shirt too, so I felt really cool.

But while I was excited about all the freebies, part of me couldn't help but think, "Shouldn't they be saving their money and distributing it to 'the people'?" But then I thought, "Who cares about 'the people', as long as I get mine."

Les Verts
While they did not have much in the way of freebies (you can't make a lot of cool stuff out of recyclables), they did have some hot guys at their booth. We were invited by this young kid to come to the local Green meeting. Being a supporter of the Greens back home, I wouldn't mind going...if I weren't so afraid of being chased out of there with a giant sunflower once they found out I'm American.

Jesus Rules
Yes, even the Christian political group was out, giving away fun little bags, keychains and paraphanelia. For a moment, I thought they were going to run out of supplies, but they just kept was quite miraculous.

Other Random Crap
There were various other organizations giving away fun posters and postcards, and I made sure to stock up. I was especially excited to get the "J (heart) Europe!" poster. I had seen miniature ones on the tram recently, and had to restrain myself from pulling it down. And now I have my own!

So loaded with two sacks of goodies, Meg and I left, tired but happy, stopping at Cafe Brant on the way home. I'll get some pictures up soon.

We did so much and got up so early it feels like it should be 10 p.m. Unfortunately it's only about 5.


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