Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Brussels, Belgium

After an hour and half train ride at the crack of dawn from Paris, we arrived at Brussels. It was still incredibly dark at 9 a.m. and freezing cold. We weren't unprepared for the amount of snow on the ground, but it was still a little surprising. We locked out stuff up in the lockers at the Generation Youth Hostel and explored until our 2 p.m. check-in.

We found a little restaurant off the main drag in downtown Brussels for some Belgian waffles and tea! 'Twas amazing. Then we went off with a handy student map we got at the hostel. It had all kinds of great tips like a parking structure we could sneak to the top of for an amazing 360 degree view of the city. It also told us about some great beer bars (aside from the famous Delirium Cafe, which we will get to soon enough). Some of the sights we saw on the way to the Winter Wonderland downtown:

Then we found the secret parking structure the student backpackers' map told us about, which was awesome. No cars park up there because of the snow, and no wonder! It was 9 inches thick in most spots!

Then we found the Winter Wonderland that Julie, our Belgian roommate told us about. Julie is from Leuven, which is a little over an hour outside of Brussels. Eventually, we are visiting Julie in her hometown after she moves back in February. She said she'd take us horseback riding. Yeah. She's amazing.

In the Christmas festival, there was this vintage carousel. I fell in love with it. Rather than horses, it had a rocket ship, an antique-looking hot air balloon, a pterodactyl to fly on, lions, a submarine and much more! It was incredible. That dark style I am so fond of.

That same day, we walked over to a beer bar called Moeder Lambic. It was suggested that rather than ordering a beer (no matter how well-read you think you are in Belgian beer) you ask them what to drink. So he asked me a series of questions like if I prefer dark or light, sweet or bitter, strong or not. And he came back with a Tournay Noel (a Christmas guest) and it was incredible. Over the course of three days, these are the following delicious Belgian beers I tried (with the help of beer aficionado Alex Ibarra):

Tournay Noel
Chimay Triple (had to say I had one IN Belgium)
Petrus Winter (one of my favorites)
Jupiler (simple, so we drank it at the hostel, hah.)
Delirium Tremens (the Delirium Cafe brew and Chelsea's favorite beer for years)
Floris Strawberry (too sweet for me; not even beer)
Delirium Nocturnum (right up htere with the Petrus Winter. Loved it.)

The very classy Moeder Lambic bar and I:

The following day, we went to Bruges, which will be the next blog entry, but the 28th, we explored Brussels more. As usual, on our last day in a city, we did some heavy but basic sightseeing. First stop? The famous HUGE atom. Yeah. Go Brussels.

Chelsea and I are so weird. We had moments this trip where we were laughing so hard we were crying and no one understood what we were talking about. Typical. It made me miss Collette so much though. That's a regular occurrence for her and I. Then we found a little castle called the Halle Gate which is now a center for Urban Culture and a museum. Go figure.

Then, we went from a castle to a palace. The Royal Palace of Brussels which is the center of the nation's capital, but the kings don't live there anymore; they live in the Royal Castle of Laeken. Oh yeah, we have several palaces, but we'd rather live in this one. No big deal. Royalty! Across from the Royal Palace is a park which is nationally known for hosting a lot of gay sex at night. So naturally, we went over there (during the day) to see what the big deal is. We were sorely disappointed to see nothing but tourists and runners. Sigh.

Once it was late enough to not look like alcoholics, we went back to the very famous Delirium Cafe for a beer before our overnight bus from Brussels to London. On the way, we saw the cathedral near the city center. At nighttime around the holidays, they get these massive projectors and have this intense light show on the walls of the cathedral. Chelsea got a recording of it, so hopefully I can post that soon. But it was very cool and very creative! Great little show on the way to the bar (picture of bar taken earlier, during the day):

Then, we ran back to the hostel, grabbed our luggage from the lockers, barely made it to the bus station on time and began our AWFUL journey to London... But details on that later. Up next? Our day trip to Bruges, Belgium!

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