Chocolates, Waffles, and Smurfs (Day Fifteen)

Trip Start Aug 16, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2012

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Flag of Belgium  , Bruxelles,
Friday, August 31, 2012

I woke up quite late and found Chris sitting downstairs in the common room. Today, he was leaving for Amsterdam to visit his cousin who lives and works there. We decided to go grab lunch first at this restaurant called Soul Food. It was featured on this free map of Brussels that we got from the hostel reception; the same map we used to find the peeing dog statue last night.

We wanted to try some authentic Belgian dishes so we ordered the beef stew and two different types of sausages. Both came with a side of french fries, or frites as they call them in Europe (chips in the UK). The food was excellent, and very filling. I have to admit that I don't always make the effort to eat the local cuisine. Due to time or convenience, it's just easier to grab something quick and inexpensive (i.e. sandwiches, fast food).

Over lunch, we discussed his complicated long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, who's 23 and lives in Michigan. He told me she was "the one," but was worried that she didn't want what he wanted (marriage and family) and that she was too immature. I started to realize how difficult it is to meet the "right person." The odds are already against you, and it seems like all the stars have to be aligned.

Chris had been wanting to buy Belgian chocolates to send to his girlfriend once he got back to the States. We went to one of the dozens of chocolate shops near the Grand Place and he spent a good while there picking out different kinds of chocolates and a box to put them in. They had free samples on the counter, so I got to try a few pieces (I was too cheap to buy any).

I walked with him to the train station as I was heading in that direction anyway. On the way, we come across a Smurfs store. We go inside and found out from the lady that the Smurfs were created by a Belgian. We had no idea! I buy a funny postcard for 50 cents while Chris spent 40€ worth of gifts for his girlfriend. Nothing says I want to marry you like a purple Smurf watch.

We get to the train station and Chris darts off to catch his train. He gave me his email so we could keep in touch. It was around 3pm, but I bought a day pass for the metro so that I could see more of the city. Brussels does have old buildings, but it looks more like a modern city with it's glass skyscrapers and shopping malls. I started at the Cinquantenaire, and walked to the headquarters of the European Union. It's incredible how interconnected and interdependent the countries of Europe are today thanks to the EU. It definitely makes travelling a lot easier!

After seeing the Royal Palace and Palais du Justice, I take the metro to the Atomium, Brussels' version of the Eiffel Tower. It's located out in the suburbs and the area was mostly deserted when I got there. I found out that it had closed already, but it was still neat to see it from the ground. It's in the shape of an iron atom and was built 50 years ago for the World's Fair.

I went back to the hostel and checked out the beer festival which had started today. They fenced off the middle part of the Grand Place with all the beer tents inside. It was packed with people and didn't look all that fun. I couldn't figure out how to get inside anyway, so I decide to grab a Belgian waffle instead.

I hadn't had one yet, but everyone has been telling me to try one. There are places everywhere that you can get them and they're fairly cheap as well. I read that the locals usually eat them plain, while the ones that are loaded with toppings (like whipped cream and fruit) are for the tourists. I asked for a dark chocolate waffle which came drenched in chocolate sauce and sprinkles. It was extremely sweet, but I ate the whole thing regardless!

That night, a group of American frat boys with a cooler full of beers were staying in my room. They dressed up in monkey costumes and ran around town videotaping themselves. Needless to say it wasn't a quiet night. But while they were gone, I had a nice chat with a girl from Brazil. She was studying at a university in a small town in Germany and got to travel around in her free time. If I were living in Europe, I'd probably do the same!
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