"I don't sprechen the French."

Trip Start Jul 17, 2010
Trip End Aug 07, 2010

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Flag of Belgium  ,
Thursday, July 29, 2010

From Cari: We checked out of our hotel around 9AM to start the two hour drive to Brussels. Getting out of Cologne was much easier that getting into it, and we made it to Brussels without any real problems. However, getting to our hotel proved to be a challenge, again. We had to stop twice for directions, but each time we had gotten closer and had been going the correct direction (which was a plus from the last drive).

From Greg: Day one in Belgium consisted of French fries, waffles, a great beer, and a little boy pissing. As usual, we had trouble finding our hotel. When we pulled off the highway I took a series of totally random turns for 15 minutes or so before deciding that it was unlikely that we were going to just miraculously drive by the hotel. We stopped for directions (twice) and found the hotel. Though I knew that it would be the case, I did find myself surprised when the locals greeted us in French. Northern Belgium speaks Flemish (I have no idea what that language sounds like but I've been told that it’s a mix of Dutch and French…) while Southern Belgium, including Brussels, speaks French. Too bad, I like trying to speak German far more…

From Cari: We checked in, got settled, and headed out for a quick overview of Brussels and its food. Our first stop (since we hadn’t eaten lunch) was to the frikot (fries stand) that is more or less regarded as the best frikot in Brussels. It was a good twenty minute walk from our hotel. We spent about twenty minutes hanging out underneath a bridge because it began to pour down rain, but it eventually stopped and we made our way to get our cone of frites. We got two large cones for 2.20 each and two different kinds of sauces, the traditional mayonnaise and the special of Maison Antoine which was mayo with a curry sauce. We ended up buying some ketchup before we were finished. The amount of fries seemed to grow as we ate. I really enjoyed the fries; Greg was not impressed. The fries in Belgium are special because (1) the Belgians made fries first and (2) the fries are cooked twice, first parboiled and then fried, giving them a crispy outside and a soft middle.

From Greg: Cari was super excited to find French fries. You see, the Belgians invented French fries. We made our way through the pouring rain to this little hut in the middle of some random plaza. It had, supposedly, the best Belgium French fries. In my opinion, the Belgians may have invented French fries but the United States mastered them. I wouldn’t put these Belgium fries anywhere near the top of my list (for reference, my top French fry makers include: Five Guys, Red Robin, Scotty’s…)

From Cari: After we stuffed our face with fries, we walked toward the Grand Place in search of waffles.

On the way we passed the Royal Palace, a cool clock that happened to go off right when we walked past, and we found a good waffle stand steps away from the Mannekin Pis, a fountain of a little boy peering. We both got a Brussels waffle topped with strawberries and whipped cream. It was really hard to eat because the forks we were given were extremely tiny. About halfway through, I just picked mine up and ate it with my hands. By the time I was finished, I had whipped cream on my nose, on my cheeks, and in my hair.

From Greg: Post the French fry adventure we made our way to the "old town." Another thing that the Belgians supposedly rock at is waffles. I had mine with strawberries and whip cream. This waffle, I will admit, was pretty good. However, they served the waffle to us with these little plastic things that, I assume, they believed were forks. By the time I was finished, I had thrown half of mine on the floor while Cari was wearing half of hers in her hair…The waffle fiasco took place right next to Mannekin Pis (i.e. the statue of the little boy pissing). I liked it, it was fun.

From Cari: While we were taking pictures, two very old men came over to me and started rattling off in French. Once it became apparent to them that I didn’t speak French, they started speaking in English. Greg thought they were hustlers, but I think they were just crazy, old men. We protected our bags just in case, but they just wanted to tell us a story (that for the life of me I can’t remember what it was about). After waffles, we found a beer bar that I had researched that was directly across the street from Mannekin Pis. At the beer bar, they had a lot of different Belgian beers.

From Greg: The third thing that they do in Belgium really well is brew beer. After the statue we crossed the street to this little beer bar where I enjoyed a fantastic lambic. Lambic beers are brewed with “wild yeasts.” More accurately, the lambics of Belgium are partially fermented with a micro-organism called Brettanomyces, or more commonly just called Brett. Brett, if out of control, can yield an undrinkably sour beer. However, when balanced, the acidity of the beer can be both amazing and unique.  

From Cari: After the beer, we were both really full and tired from walking, so we headed back to the hotel. A few hours later, Greg was hungry again, so we went to a Belgian restaurant suggested by the concierge. I wasn’t hungry, so I ordered the T-bone steak. I realize that makes it seem like I was hungry, but the Belgian couple eating next to us had it and it looked really tasty (except I had mine cooked). It was alright. We were tired after dinner, so we headed back to the hotel for the night right after dinner. 
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