The Crimson Key tour guide stopped near the steps of the Fogg Art Museum, pointed to the building, and began to describe it in English to the group of 47 French-speaking Belgians.
When the guide was finished, Cammille Schmidt, a Belgian teacher who was serving as the group's translator, informed the group with unmistakable awe that "this is the third most important art museum in the United States!"
It was just such a mixture of fact and embellishments that greeted the group of over 250 Belgian students, their parents and teachers, that swarmed through the Yard yesterday afternoon. The Belgians, who are on a two-week swing through the United States and Canada, visited Harvard in lieu of other Boston area attractions during their one-day stay here because, as one Belgian teacher put it, "Harvard means a lot to the world."
The throng queued up in front of Lehman Hall at 2 o'clock yesterday, where it was divided into five sub-throngs. These groups then scattered in several directions, their Crimson Key guides either struggling along in broken French, or relying on the services of amateur translators.
What's a Frisbee?
As the group escorted by guide Paul Williamson '77 passed Weld Hall, a woman yelled "Bonjour!" from a fourth-story window. Several of the Belgians looked up appreciatively and returned the greeting. One Belgian student was then hit in the leg by a Frisbee. He asked "What is this thing?" as he skillfully threw it back to its owner.
The group had visited Yale earlier in the week, and many of the Belgians wore Yale baseball hats and sweatshirts yesterday.
"I prefer the exteriors of the buildings at Yale, but the students here seem much more interested by out visit," said Rikir Felicie, a Belgian French teacher.
Williamson described for the Belgians Harvard's rigorous entrance standards; Schmidt's translation informed the group members that the students they saw walking past them in the Yard were "la creme de la creme." One of the Belgian students asked a Crimson photographer if it was all right to smoke in the Yard.
Harvard's eight million books, Williamson explained, comprise the largest university library in the world; Schmidt pointed to Lamont, and, by way of translation, called it "la libraire la plus grande du monde!"
As the group passed through Holyoke Center, on its way to a tour of the Quincy House hallways, Jeanray Robert, a Belgian architect, loudly informed his wife that he was going to the Coop to buy a Harvard sweatshirt instead. He said he was tired to walking around, and that "ils sont fous! (the group is crazy)"
Their tour of Harvard completed, the Belgians boarded charter buses for the Somerville Holiday Inn, which Felicie called "luxurious." They will hit Canada tomorrow.