24 February 2011
22 February 2011
We arrived into Brussels late on Wednesday night, so we really only wanted to grab something to eat and get to bed. Since Kari and I have made it a tradition to try McDonald’s in every country that we travel to, we figured this would be our best shot. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was 11:05 and it closed at 11:00. Where to then? Across the street was a kebab place, so we decided to stop in there. It ended up being the most hilarious meal of our trip. The men at the counter were very flirtatious. When we placed our order, it went something like this:
Man #1: (pointing at me) My friend, he likes you.
Me: Oh…well, thank you.
Man #2 smiles charmingly while he tends to our order.
Kari is laughing at me. Man #1 notices and turns to her.
Man #1: (pointing at Kari) I guess I like you too.
Kari: That’s OK, you don’t have to.
No, really, you don’t have to.
(Grand'Place with Hotel de Ville)
The next morning, Kari and I woke up bright and early. We headed straight to Grand'Place, which is the heart of the tourist city. We stood in complete awe of the square. The architecture was absolutely amazing and we were blown away. Within moment, we both knew that we loved Brussels. Unable to take our eyes off Grand'Place, we decided to grab out breakfast in the square. We settled on the first coffee shop that also advertised fresh Belgian waffles. Mmmm....It was a great excuse to have a waffle with chocolate sauce drizzled over the top. Yum! I wish I had one right now.
(Grand'Place with Maison du Roi)
From there, we made our way to Manneken Pis. What is it, you ask? It's a fountain of a little boy peeing. This is by far the most popular tourist site in the city. Considering it's everywhere, it was surprisingly small. It's only about a foot high and we almost walked right past it. The Manneken Pis is absolutely everywhere. Seriously -- it is like the Eiffel Tower of Brussels. You can't go into a tourist shop without seeing about 60 different little statues dedicated to him. The best one? A tiny little bottle opener with the corkscrew conveniently placed. We were very tempted to bring one home.
Right near Menneken Pis were numerous stands advertising waffles for only €1. Although we had just downed one for breakfast, we gave in. We each ordered a waffle with nutella and strawberries. With our exorbitant toppings, our €1 waffle suddenly became €4.50. Whoops. Our eyes proved to be bigger than our stomachs. We ended up just eating the strawberries, leaving about half of the waffle behind. What an expensive, delicious whoops.
After eating our second waffle of the day, we of course needed to make a stop at the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat. In the museum we got a real life demonstration. A delightful old man showed us how to make a traditional Belgian praline. Although he spoke in French the entire time, we were still able to follow along. After all, he was still speaking the language of chocolate.
(With my free sample of chocolate)
Our first day in Brussels ended with a stop at a parking garage. We had read about the view from the roof of Parking 58, so we simply had to check it out for a view of the sunset. The view did not disappoint. We got a great panoramic view of the city, but had to cut it short since we both had to pee so badly. Sorry for the share, guys, but when you’ve only had coffee and beer all day, ya gotta go eventually, and sometimes it’s during a sunset!
Since we had such an early lunch, we were starving by 9. So after relaxing in our hotel room, we tried McDonald’s again. We brought our chicken nuggets back to our room and had a small feast followed by Belgian chocolates. Did you know, by the way, that in Belgium you can order a beer with your meal? It was a surreal experience, but we totally recommend that McDonald’s in the U.S. follows suite.
The next day started off the same as the first, with a waffle and espresso in Grand’Place. During breakfast, we both realized that we didn’t have much left to do in Brussels. In the first day, we had zoomed through most of the tourist spots. For the day, we decided on a little shopping and walking around. We started off at Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a massive shopping arcade. It’s a long indoor hallway with shops lining either side. It’s basically a linear mall with beautiful sculptures, a glass ceiling, and pretty pink walls.
15 February 2011
From St. Peter's Church we made our way to the site of Oktoberfest. Conclusion? Kinda lame without the Oktoberfest. Seriously -- it's basically just a huge parking lot. Of course, this didn't stop us from taking pictures. After making our way back to Marienplatz and stopping at a couple more churches along the way, we had to squeeze in our traditional stop at McDonald's. For how much I love traveling, I have somehow managed to go to a McDonald's in every single country I have visited. Impressed? Yeah, I wouldn't be either.
The only way we could imagine ending the evening was with a stop at Hofbräuhaus. This was really cool and fun and probably the best way to experience the Bavarian beer culture. While an oompa band played we enjoyed our Weisse Bier and a massive pretzel.
And here is where I share an admittedly embarrassing story with you all...
Since it was so crowded in the Hofbräuhaus, our waiter was really brisk. Seriously, if you weren't ready to order, he would just walk away and wouldn't come back for another like 15 minutes. For this reason, I was really anxious when I ordered our Weisse Bier. When he repeated the order back to me, I suddenly panicked. I hadn't prepared for this! The only thing racing through my mind was, "Oh my God...He expects me to answer him. In a foreign language...uh, uh!"At this point, "si!" burst from my lips. Apparently Spanish is the only foreign language that I have in my repertoire. In all honesty, I'm just glad he chose to ignore me.
Our next day started with the Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz. The Glockenspiel is basically just a huge cuckoo clock. At 11:00 and 12:00 it chimes for a full 6 minutes. If you're really interested, you can check out a video of it below:
After a quick espresso, we made our way to the palace, or Residenz. In terms of size, it was absolutely massive! I’m seriously surprised that you don’t learn about it more. I feel like we always look to Versailles as a model for decadence, but the Residenz was impressive in its own way. Throughout our tour, we were able to walk through over 90 rooms. One really cool aspect of the Residenz is that it is largely reconstructed. It was mainly destroyed during WWII, so a lot of the rooms were rebuilt in the last 60ish years. We would walk in, ooooh and aaahhh, and then suddenly read a sign that said, “Destroyed in 1944, rebuilt in blah blah blah.” Dang.
(Inside the Residenz)