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Published: October 22nd 2010
Flags of the EU
Can you name all the countries that belong to the EU?
We made it to Brussels, by the skin of our teeth might I add. We arrived at the Luxemburg train station with 20 minutes to spare before our train to Brussels was scheduled to leave. However, we still needed food for our journey and Dan volunteered to go find some for us. The train to Brussels came in 10 minutes early and everyone else piled onto the train. So there was Ashley all alone waiting on the platform with all the luggage (2 big backpacks and 2 small daypacks) wondering if Dan was going to make it back on time. Then Ashley spotted Dan running down the platform, his hands full of food, with only a minute to spare. On shear will alone, Ashley grabbed all 4 bags (she’s still not sure how she did it) and ran into the train where Dan met her. Phew! But then the train sat there for another 5 minutes and left late so we panicked for no reason whatsoever.
Our time in Brussels was much less panic-inducing. Once we got settled in the hostel we decided to go on a self-guided walking tour. Again, we didn’t really know what to expect from Brussels
The Grande Place
Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in the Grande Place.
but we thought going on a walking tour was a fantastic way to introduce ourselves to the city. We walked along the “North Walk” which was around our hostel. To be honest, Ashley wasn’t too impressed by this walk. There wasn’t too much to see and the city seemed really dilapidated. This section of the tour ended with the last original frite stand in Brussels, which unfortunately was closed on Mondays during August so we’d have to return for our frites. This was not a great introduction to Brussels or Belgium. However, after the North Walk we did the “European Walk” which was a lot more interesting and more pleasing visually. This section of the city is home to many nationalities since it’s where a lot of immigrants settle. However, there is a rich neighbourhood too with beautiful houses on the lake. Last but not least we learned that Brussels is the seat of the European Union which Ashley did not know beforehand. In one day Ashley learned that the European Union lives in Brussels and that Belgium is the original home of the French fry. This was gearing up to be a very exciting trip. Later that night Dan
One of the murals on a random wall.
met a Spanish girl (whose name slips my mind at this particular point) who was going on a walk that night with a friend to find murals that are painted on the faces of random buildings around town. We thought that sounded pretty different and it would be interesting to see so we tagged along. The first stop was the Grand Place. This was one of the most spectacular squares Ashley has seen in Europe. If you enter from the right corner the City Hall towers above you and gives you a magnificent impression of the square. Why the Grand Place is not part of either of the walking tours we did that afternoon we will never understand. It is a beautiful part of the city and is surrounded by restaurants and chocolate shops. Apparently, at 11pm every night the city puts on a light and music show on the façade of the City Hall. Seeing as we would only have to wait a few minutes we decided to stay and check it out. I must say that it was pretty remarkable. Dan took a video of it to show when we get home. But to see the real thing
Another mural. This one's a little weirder than the others.
you have to go to Brussels. It’s a must-see. After the 10 minute show we began our search for the murals. We found a few of them but they were not as easy to spot as you might think. Sometimes we were wandering around in circles looking and couldn’t find it. Another thing Ashley learned is that TinTin was written by a Belgiumer. Who knew? We found a mural of TinTin too. Ashley was pretty beat from walking around all day long so we headed back to the hostel around midnight (I think) so we’d be fresh as daisies the next morning.
On the 24th we decided to do a day trip to Bruges since everyone we had talked to had raved about the town. Although it is a touristy town it is worth going for a visit. The Spanish girls we mentioned earlier spent 4 days there and never got bored. You certainly don’t need that much time but you could definitely do 2 or 3 days. The train to Bruges was packed; standing room only was available since we got on the train only a couple minutes before it was due to leave. This was the busiest
Those frites are delicious.
train we’d seen in the entire 2 months we’d been away but it cleared out enough to grab a seat half way through the trip. Once we got a bus from the train station to the town centre we walked over to the Friet Museum which tells the history of the French Fry from potato to fry. Our tour of the museum concluded with an order of fries in the museum café. I mean, how can you go to a museum dedicated to the French Fry and not sample the goods? It wasn’t at a fry stand but we got to that later. After the museum we walked through town toward the Archer’s Guild. The walk through town was very pleasant and very typically European with narrow, cobbled streets. Unfortunately the Archer’s Guild was closed but we did find a park so we relaxed in there for a while before going back to the town centre. We found the Chapel of the Holy Blood which is a tiny church in the Burg Square. It’s a double chapel (separate chapels on the first and second floors) and the contrast between the two was astounding. The "basement" was the most unique church
The most photographed part of Bruges, the canal.
we’ve been to so far because it’s very small and dark. It’s very morbid feeling with its stone walls, dark paintings, and tiny, high windows. The upstairs was entirely different with the standard floor to ceiling stained glass windows, bright paintings, and gold and silver paraphanalia. We also took a walk to the “most photographed” area in Bruges which is at the canal running through the town. It was really pretty but the most photographed? That might be a bit much hype. Although it did seem to be the most touristy part of town. After admiring the pretty canal we found a street waffle vendor. Since we were in the home of the Belgian waffle we figured we had to get one, which we did; a delicious Belgian street waffle, sugar on the inside
. We tried to go to the Diamond Museum and although it was open no one was there to let us in. So, we settled for finding some chocolate at one of the many chocolate shops lining the streets. Anyone who knows Ashley knows how much she loves chocolate but every other shop was dedicated to chocolate. And that’s not even an exaggeration. That night we went
Why do so many people come to see a fountain of a boy peeing (us included)?
to Delirium Cave which is a bar in Brussels which boasts having 2004 different types of beer available. On the way we saw the Mannequin Pis. I don’t know about you but we thought it would be a big (almost life sized) statue/fountain in the middle of a square. Well, we were wrong; it’s a tiny statue about as big as Ashley’s thumb hidden in a corner somewhere. Not nearly as exciting or controversial as we were lead to believe. Oh well. Once we got to Delirium Ashley tried the Kasteel Rouge which is a cherry flavoured beer. It wasn’t quite as good as Bofferding’s Battin Fruttée but it was a deliciously fruity substitute.
On the 25th we thought we’d explore more of Brussels so we went to the car museum and the free military museum. The car museum was fun and so interesting. Although most of the cars were European so we didn’t recognize a lot of them. There were a few Chryslers and Cadillacs though. Nonetheless it was really neat to see cars from the late 1800s to the present day. The military museum was humungous; you could spend days in there if you wanted to look
Dan counted the number of taps on the main floor to be 27. That's just on the main floor.
at all the displays carefully. We spent most of our time looking at the airplanes because Dan loves planes and flying. Ashley really enjoyed seeing all the planes too. We were even able to go in a military plane and Ashley could sense how the men in that plane must have felt before jumping into a war zone. It was very eerie but eye-opening too. We decided we needed to go for a real Belgian waffle at Mokaffe which is a café near the Grand Place that is really touristy but so good that even the locals go there. And locals we saw! Dan got his waffle the traditional Belgian way with sugar (on top) only and Ashley got a crêpe with bananas and chocolate. It was all so tasty and we definitely recommend going for some of the traditional Belgian food if you ever travel to Belgium. Back at the hostel we met 2 guys from the UK. The Irish guy had heard about a bar in the city that had coffins for tables and served drinks from skulls. How could we pass that up, right? We went to Le Cereuil which was kind of a gothic bar (just
Dan hanging out in a war plane
Don't do it Dan. Don't jump. It's not worth it!
what you’d expect really since we wanted to drink from skull mugs). Although nobody in the bar was gothic which was unexpected; they all looked...well, normal (mind you we didn't get to know them). Our table was a coffin with plexi-glass over it and we did get our drinks in skulls (ceramic of course). Over all it was a fun and different experience which we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t met the Irish bloke. Even though it was about 11pm by that time we wanted to make the most use of our metro pass and go see the Atomium which is a monument built for the Brussels World Fair in 1958. As you can see from the pictures it was built to look like an atom in the age of scientific discovery. It was neat to see but if it hadn’t been for the World Fair it would never have existed.
The next day we went to try and find Dan's water bottle that must have been forgotten in a Belgian grocery store (good luck water bottle). That delayed us long enough to be able to go to one of the original friet stands. The very pleasant vendor
Don't fall, please don't fall
Yet another mural that we found in the middle of the day touring around.
sold us our authentic (we know, remember, we went to the museum) friets, with curry ketchup. Then it was time to head to the train station; hoping to go to Paris. We didn’t buy our tickets online because we got a discount with our Eurail passes so we tried to find the ticket agents at the station. Unfortunatly, when we arrived we learned that the Thalys ticket agents were on strike!!!!! Oh my word! How would we ever get to Paris at this point?
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