To preface, any preconceived notion of Belgians we had involved crazy fat men in golf hats eating waffles dripping in Nutella. While this may not have been 100% accurate, there are a lot of waffles in Belgium and the people in Brussels are crazy.
Again skipping over the boring details of confusion in the airport, the shuttle bus ride into city center, and further confusion in the metro station (all this confusion in mostly due to the fact that they mostly speak French in Belgium, but also Dutch, and some English so the signs were usually in two of the three. Guess which one they omitted), we made it to our hostel around 5, jubilant to never have to fly Ryanair again and to relax for a bit. After shooting off a few emails and updating the Facebook world of my whereabouts, we ventured into the night for dinner. After some classic indecision, we settled on Chi Chi’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant that was obviously affiliated with the salsa brand even though I was apparently the only one to have heard of it before (people had a seriously deprived childhood without nachos-and-HP-Saturdays with my Dad). Wikipedia told us the things to eat in Brussels were mussels and fries, waffles, and chocolate, but sometimes you just got to have a quesadilla and the big mug of Primus. To really top things off, Nora and I split fried ice cream for dessert, which was scrumptious. We decided to experience some Brussels nightlife that evening so we went to an Irish pub (reoccurring theme?) that advertised 1€ beers and “locals looking some tourist love.” Who could resist? Since we got there around 9:30, we experienced some awkward standing around for about 30 minutes before these crazy Italians (and one old, like wizen, man from Canada) came over and talked with us. They really splurged on a half pint of Maes beer for each of us and further proved themselves to be creepy when their leader, Mario, came over and flashed his gleaming braces. Once they got distracted, we slipped into a booth with two native Belgians to hide us from the Italians. These two proved to be equally crazy. Well, actually one seemed depressed and bored, but once more of them came over, they became crazy again. As soon as the dance floor opened up, we took that as our cue to go and leave the crazies for the rest of Celtica.
The next day we had brunch at a cafe where I devoured a cheese omelet and Nora and I split a waffle topped with all kinds of fruit for dessert. From there we walked around the narrow side streets, popped into various souvenir shops (where a got a porcelain thimble. This may not scream Belgium, but I liked it). We happened upon Grand Place, a large square bordered on all sides by ornate government buildings, restaurants, and chocolate shops. The latter obviously brought much joy to us where we all purchased some authentic Belgium chocolate.
The next stop of the day was the Atomium (I took me about 20 tries until I could pronounce that right), the “building” Brussels built when it hosted the World Expo in 1958. There’s really no way to explain the structure except that it looks like a model of an atom. Once you go up to the top sphere, you can see panoramic views of Brussels, or at least as far as you can see through the fog, which wasn’t too far. It was nonetheless very cool to travel into the different spheres, view the exhibitions, and learn a bit more about a city I genuinely know nothing about, save for waffles.
Which brings me to our next activity: After Atomium, we went back to the area around Grand Place to a waffle restaurant for our second waffle of the day (Leslie Knope would love it here). This time I got a waffle (in there somewhere) with Nutella, strawberries, and chantilly (a really pretentious word for whipped cream). This may have made me slightly nauseous but it was 100% worth it. A short nap back at the hostel later cured any stomach ache and by 7pm (Nora had to finish the second Hunger games) we went out for dinner. We went to the Food Factory, mostly because they had an English menu but also because it was a cheaper option. I enjoyed my cheeseburger immensely (I’m pretty sure I was iron deficient for the past couple of days) as well as the fact that they were playing the Texas A&M basketball game (Go SEC!). We went back to the hostel around 10, showered and packed, and we’re ready for bed by 11. Our hostel mates must that though we were the lamest European travelers ever.
We did have an early morning on Thursday, for we had to get to Amsterdam. This proved to be more difficult since we went to the wrong train station (Julie), had to get rush to the right one, buy tickets, and board the 10:22 train in approximately 30 minutes. Luckily we made it with 2 minutes to spare and journeyed to our final spring break destination. Until next time,