22 February 2011


Brussels was, in a word, wonderful. Now pardon moi while I gush.

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)

There was only one way to follow-up the Cholocate Museum – with a visit to Cathedrale St Michel. In my mind, the holiness of the chocolate was perfectly complimented with the famous cathedral. This massive cathedral looked an awful lot like Notre Dame to us. With its huge towers and gothic façade, we were sufficiently impressed. It seems that every trip that Kari and I take involves going to about ten different churches. Cathedrale St Michel only managed to further solidify our admiration of Brussels – and convince us that it is a smaller version of Paris. With its huge vaulted ceilings and stunning stained glass, we spent almost our entire time in Cathedrale St Michel with our necks craned and eyes glued skyward as we walked slowly down the nave.

(Cathedrale St Michel)

From there we made our way to the beer museum. Located right in Grand’Place, the museum is charmingly quaint. Between the two small rooms, we were granted a view of some shining equipment and a video espousing the popularity and quality of Belgian beer. The best part? The beer at the end of the short tour. The worst part? We chose a cherry beer. It was so sweet that we could barely enjoy it. Warning to all future travelers to Belgium: If you are ever given the option between a cherry and blonde beer, always choose blonde. Always. Otherwise you will find yourself drinking glorified cough syrup.

(Ucky cherry beer in the beer museum)

At this point we had only had glorified and beer the entire day, so we were really in need of some real food. We went in search of the national dish of Belgium – mussels with a side of fries. A little strange, but we had been reading all about it in the guide books so we figured we had to try it. We struggled to spot it, despite it being advertised literally everywhere. There was one point where we approached a restaurant on Grand’Place, and with our backs to the sign bragging about their mussels, we struggled to find mussels anywhere on the menu. We finally found a café and ordered our mussels and (blonde) beer. Without fail, we had a huge bucket of mussels delivered to our table with a heaping plate of fries. To really solidify the weirdness, there was mayonnaise poured over the fries. Again, a little out of our ketchup element, but we went with it.

(Enjoying my blonde Belgian beer with lunch)

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.

From there we made our way slowly to Parc de Bruxelles, which is the big outdoor park in Brussels. It is bookended by Palais Royal and the Palais de la Nation – the royal palace and Belgian parliament. Since it still wasn’t time for spring, the park was still a little unimpressive. Kari and I enjoyed ourselves on the ledge of the Palais Royal. We sat and admired the view while we ate the rest of our chocolates. It was pretty fancy-shmancy. Plus, the palace provided the opportunity to take more silly pictures in front of serious things.

(Palais Royal)

(View of the Palais de la Nation from the Parc de Bruxelles)

Kari and I were both impressed with Brussels. Each of us didn’t know much about it before going, so we really didn’t have any expectations. If given the chance, I recommend you all go and check out the Grand’Place and giggle at the Manneken Pis.

(Cathedrale St Michel all lit up at night)

(Slight disappointment with the size of Manneken Pis)

(Kari and me in Grand'Place)

(Keeping it regal while eating chocolates at the Palais Royal)

(Grand'Place at night)

1 comment:

  1. I now want to to to Brussels. I have never has that desire, but now I do.