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Published: November 15th 2013
We made it to Brussels yesterday! We took the train from London to Brussels, which meant that we passed under the English Channel (ie, through the "chunnel"). Pretty uneventful train ride, with the exception that my ears kept popping because of the pressure of going into the tunnel. We relaxed yesterday, and just went window shopping around our hotel. We are about a 10 minute cab ride south of the super tourist part of Brussels, and our hotel is in the shopping region - so we are surrounded by stores like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, etc.
We woke up early this morning and took a cab to the Grand Place for our chocolate walking tour (yes, that's right - chocolate. tour.)! Overall, I was really happy with the tour. There were only 7 people (including us) in the group, and they were all super nice. Anyway - back to the important stuff (the chocolate!). Although we started in front of the first Godiva store from 1926, we moved on to smaller, less commercialized chocolate locales. Along the way, our guide pointed out sites like the first Catholic church in Brussels, the oldest bar, the best place for frites (french fries)
and waffles, and how to identify a restaurant that isn't a tourist trap. He also provided a bit of history about the city, country, and Belgian people.
Our first stop was a store called Chocopolis. The guy who started the store was a master chocolate maker at Neuhaus before moving on to start his own company. They are famous for their sea salt and caramel pralines (filled chocolate). From Chocopolis, we moved on to a chocolate demonstration and learned about harvesting cocoa beans, how to identify high quality chocolate, and how to make pralines. We also got to make our own chocolate dipped pineapple and decorate chocolate works of art to take home (pretty sure my creations are not going to last the night). From there, the rest of the group tried a trappist chocolate beer (I had espresso) and learned a little bit about beer in Belgium. Our guide totally loved that Sam was all about the beer drinking. We also tried a white chocolate strawberry truffle from Neuhaus, chocolates that are made without any added sugar from Laurent Gerbaud, and a champagne truffle from Elisabeth's. All were phenomenal, although the white chocolate was a little too sweet.
Caramel sea salt praline
When the chocolate tour ended, we were having such a great time with the group that we ended up going to lunch with most of them. Our tour guide recommended a really good, traditional Belgian restaurant. After lunch, Sam and I explored the shops around the Grand Place and went to find Mannikin Pis. So, one of the larger tourist attractions in this area is seriously a statue of a little boy peeing - legend has it that the boy was a real 6 year old kid that was able to put out a fire by peeing on it.
Tomorrow's adventure is a day trip to Bruges and Gent. G'night!
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