I guess in retrospect, the phrase "Be careful what you wish for-you just might get it," couldn't be further from the truth, because this trip was epic. Epically frustrating, epically confusing, however, at the same time epically delicious and epically educational. So, without further ado, let's talk Brussels.
This was in fact a place where any sense of direction I had (you can tell how much sense of direction I have from my blog entry about my first day at work...), was gone. I honestly don't know what happened-I managed to master the much more complicated London Underground by myself, why is Brussels so difficult to navigate? For the first two days, every metro connection I took, every street I walked down seemed to be in the wrong direction. Getting lost came to a most unwanted peak when I, trying to navigate from the North Station to my hostel, managed to find myself in the middle of an extremely shady street, lined with houses of ill repute with girls in bikinis posing in windows. And while most teenage guys would be fine to be in such a place, I felt uncomfortable at best and booked it out of there.
I did eventually find my way and got the hang of the metro system, to find a city that's quite odd. Yes, I said it-Brussels is weird, but not in a bad way (and let me be the first to say that I'm quite odd, kinda like Brussels). Just looking at signs tells you it is a multicultural city-in a country where the land is divided by three languages (French, Flemish and German), all signs are in both Dutch and French, but French is definitely the language of the land. It's also the kind of surreal place where you see young girls in oh-so-stylish head scarfs, the teenage backpacker, and the Eurocrat sporting a suit, all at the same crosswalk. Large comics scale the sides of buildings (2009 is actually the year of the comic in Brussels, home of Tintin AND the smurfs-how about that!), right across the street from the elaborate Grand Square. I guess it was this weird-ocity (is that a word? Well, I guess it is now!) that appealed to character Karl Marx, who wrote his Communist Manifesto at a bar right by the Grand Palace. Evidence of this weird-ocity? I need only mention Mannekin Pis, a statue of a little boy, sporting his birthday suit and answering nature's call. It's practically the City's symbol and, as popular as he is, I found myself thinking "Wow, kinda small..." when I first saw the fountain.
I was sure to visit the Grand Market Square, the Horta Museum (devoted to one of the pioneering Art Neuveau architects, and got horribly lost getting there too...), Atomium (model of an atom, created for a world fair Brussels hosted-another national symbol. So they have a peeing boy and a collection of nine balls...is my humor getting a little distasteful? Ok, I'll stop now. :) ), the European Parliament (and no, Aunt Nancy, I didn't submit my application-first things first, I need to carry out my current internship), as well as Europe's first shopping mall-the Gallerie de Saint Hubert. So after that list, let me talk about my favorite part of the trip (besides my trip to Ypres)...the FOOD! Yes, the food was one of my favorite part of the trip. Brussels, being such an international city, is also a mecca for food lovers, like myself. Like the saying goes "Do you eat to live or live to eat?" I was definitely living to eat and loving it!
So let's dig into the Food Files!
Nussohren-Literally translated, "Nut Ears", a nut pastry eaten on my way to Brussels.
Brussels Waffle-Yup, can't go to Brussels without have a namesake waffle. My first was just with powdered sugar. You seem surprised I didn't pile that sucker up with Nutella, but the dough was actually sweet enough by itself (but if you were curious-I did have another slathered with Nutella).
Waterzooi-Funny name, but seriously good dish. I was told it was something like soup and ordered it, just to see what it was. What I got was a broiled chicken leg, in a tasty cream sauce with cut up carrots and potatoes. Washed down with Kriek, a sweet/tart beer made with cherries and you have a meal that's very filling and very vonderful!
Le Continental Breakfast-By virtue of being the a.) the deal on the menu easiest to pronounce and b.) the cheapest, I decided to try "Le Continental Breakfast" at Ekk-an organic cafe near my hostel. What I got was really, REALLY strong coffee, a chocolate coissant, and a j'dorable addition to the breakfast-two individually wrapped almonds, covered in Belgian chocolate. Soooo tasty!
Fries-Now dispite what you've heard about French fries...Belgium is where it is at for these fried, fabulous artery-blockers. For my fries, I went to one of the last Fritoken, or Fry stands. Nothing fussy-just a small stand, some geranium plants and a very friendly Belgian man quelling the public's hunger for fries. A popular option is mayo and fries (hey now-don't knock it till you've tried it!), but I opted for something different-Andalouise sauce, orange and with a slight kick to it.
Mussels-Another popular dish in Brussels, eaten at Chez Leon, a place kitchy enough, but still a good quality.
Chocolate-Now how can I forget the chocolate??? Normally locals just get their chocolate fix at grocery stores for the same quality at half the price of touristy places, but I just had to try the stuff at Neuhaus-one of the original chocolate shops in Brussels. And from the moment I tried the first piece of chocolate-y goodness, I knew that 250 grams was worth every Eurocent I paid.
Now I imagine you're getting rather hungry now, and before I ramble on too much, I have other entries to write, pictures to load, my voice to get back...read all about it in my next entry "A Day in Ypres".
Live Long and Prosper,
PS-I'd also like to give a quick shout out to my lil' bro, Ryan, who is officially a high school graduate!!! Congratulations Ryan-former Charger, future Mankato Maverick!
Now before I continue with my regularly scheduled blog, you need some background information as to how this trip came to be. Originally, I thought a trip to Brussels would be a wonderful way to celebrate my 21st birthday-between the fries, chocolate, mussels and beer, how can you go wrong? However, June 11th was Corpus Christi, a Catholic holiday (the region around Aachen has a strong Catholic presence, and thus, more religious holidays). A coworker explained to me that people at Saint-Gobain normally take Friday off, for a four day weekend. Unsure if I could actually use a vacation day without having worked a full week, a call to HR revealed that indeed, I could use a vacation day. Now was my chance to go to Brussels, and I had some pretty lofty expectations for this trip, hoping it would be epic.