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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Europe 2014: Brussels, Belgium

The time had finally arrived. After thirty years of begging and two months of 
planning I found myself sitting in the United Club lounge, stashing up on cookies, 
fruit, cheese and crackers, and snack mixes getting ready for my flight to Europe 
with my Mom and Aunt Nancy!  I could not be more excited. Our flight was about 
to board. We had our fuzzy socks, comfy clothes, sleeping pills, headphones, neck
 pillows and everything possible to make a six hour flight a piece of cake. We had 
our plan set, we would wait to eat dinner, pop some sleeping pills and try to sleep for 
the duration of the flight. This way, when we landed we would be as fresh as possible 
and ready to start our adventure...

Except, none of us really slept at all.  I guess we were too excited to sleep. I believe
we each watched 2-3 movies, enjoyed both the meal and the snack and swelled up
like a balloon. I could hardly get my Tom's back on after removing my fuzzy socks.
However, we were still on an adrenalin rush because we managed to get through the
very busy scheduled day as planned. Thankfully, the immigration line was not too
painful and we were in a cab before we knew it and driving through the outskirts
of Brussels. Our cab driver spoke little English but was able to get us to our first
AirBnB of the trip with no problems at all. Thankfully, the cleaning ladies were 
still there and let us in. We relaxed, unpacked, and headed out on our first day!

Thankfully, even though my phone was still on airplane mode, the little blue dot
on Google Maps, still tracks you and tells you where you are after being loaded
when you are on wifi. Not once did we have any issues with where we were or
getting lost. It was a fantastic little trick I learned before the trip. We headed into
city central with one goal on hand, to find Mom and Nan coffee. We looked up
and down and all around and learned right then and there that coffee wasn't such
a huge thing in Brussels. So we found them espresso shots instead. That would
do the trick. We walked through Brussels Park and down past St. Michael's 

into the Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert out onto Rue de Bouchers

where we looked and did not eat, and finally found ourselves smack in the
middle of the Grand Place. It was such a change of scenery in little time we
stood there in awe. We were also in shock because we happened to pick the
same weekend as Belgian Beer Weekend. Ironic for three non beer drinkers.

We walked around the square, found ourselves up and down some side streets,
bought Aunt Debby a beautiful lace bookmark, as lace is one of the popular
items in Brussels, and decided it was the perfect time to have a Belgian waffle.
There were so many decisions to choose from but I went with the strawberries
and chantilly cream.

All three of us finished that waffle within a matter of
minutes. It was good! We headed back out on the streets with our final stop
of this tour being the Manneken Pis. He was even dressed up in a little soldier
outfit. Apparently we missed Elvis day. There are many stories of this little guy.
You can choose which one you believe.

We decided to head out of the touristy area and found ourselves at Halles de 

At this point we decided we were getting a little hungry and headed
towards Place Saint Catherine's where the center of the town used to be the fish
market. To this day the streets are lined with seafood restaurants. Others too of
course, as you know I do not do fish. We just so happened to find ourselves right
in time for the horse drawn barrels of beer parade. I guess this also had to do with
Belgian Beer Weekend. We enjoyed the parade and found a cute little restaurant
to enjoy a nice glass of wine. See, we fit right in with our glass of wine.

After our treat, we headed back to the apartment. Along the way we found the
comic book store where we got Bennett a book, myself a post card and Uncle
Dan a comic book on wine. 

When we finally reached the apartment, all three of us were in our pj's, lying
down and asleep before anyone could say anything. Three hours later we woke
up! What a nap that was! We changed back in to normal clothes, tried to look
and act as normal as possible and hopped an Uber back into City Central where
we had a restaurant picked out thanks to our AirBnB host. Thankfully we arrived
to Fin de Siecle just before the rush and were seated within five minutes of 
arriving. By the middle of our dinner, there was a line half way down the block. 
Dinner was good and the tiramisu was delish! It was cash only, which we were
not quite aware of, and spent most of our cash during the day, so we had to share
meals. However, it all worked out in the end.

We walked home that night. We needed to work off that meal. We visited the Grand
Place so we could see it at night. What a sight! By the time we arrived back to the 
apartment we were all exhausted. None of us had any issues sleeping that night.

The next morning, we were all a little tired and sore. We headed to the
neighborhood bakery for some sweets and headed back through Brussels Park
where we found a comic book fair with blow up figures, candy stands and games and
headed to the upper town where we had a reservation at the Magritte Museum.

Those of you who have seen Thomas Crown Affair will know who Magritte is.
Does top hat and apple ring a bell? It was a great museum. We really enjoyed it.
We headed to the antique district where they had an outdoor market which we
perused and then hopped a cab to the farmers market in Ixelles.

 It was a beautiful
day and the market was hopping with people and vendors. We asked some tourists
how to get to our next destination and ended up walking a good twenty minutes
to the Horta Museum. One of the only Art Nouveau buildings left in Brussels.
It was pretty spectacular. It was such a beautiful building. It is very sad that most 
do not exist anymore.

After the Horta Museum, we stopped for some water and a candy bar fix and
headed on another thirty minute walk towards Jordan Place for the one and
only, Maison Antoine for some frites!

The line was long and painful after such
a long day of walking around with not a lot of food for fuel. Thankfully, they
were everything we hoped for and more. Between the two of us, we could not 
finish the two orders but our tummy's were finally happy and we were ready
to walk it off! On the way back to the apartment we walked through the 
European Quarter and passed Leopold Park, the Committee of the Regions
building which houses the UN and European Parliament. It was a long
walk back to the apartment and we were once again ready for another great

After we woke up, we felt much more relaxed and ready for dinner. Nan had
just found out that an old exchange student from the school she works at now 
lives in Brussels. We did not have time that evening to meet her however, she
did give us a great area for dinner. We hopped another Uber and headed to
Saint-Boniface in Ixelles. It was a very cute area with restaurants all around.
I was in the mood for Italian and suggested Mano a Mano. Everyone agreed
and we sat at a lovely table by the front window. Our server was adorable and
spoke great English. She helped us make our dinner decisions and gave great
recommendations. Everything was absolutely delicious. We were in heaven.
The wine was pretty good too! We walked home from dinner to burn off
some of that food.

The next morning was our final morning. We were flying to our next city
in the early afternoon so we tried to get out a little earlier to get some things
done. Uncle Dan still needed his Brussels shirt and I needed to get a little
something for friends. We also got another Belgian waffle. When in Belgium!
After our gifts were purchased. We met Nan's friend at a little cafe for lunch. It
was a cute little cafe just outside of theGrand Place. After lunch we headed back
to get our suitcases and hop another Uber, our new best friend, to the airport.
Next stop... Prague!! 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing pictures! What a beautiful adventure! Looks so awesome! Glad you guys had a great time!