Monday, March 25, 2013

Brussels, Belgium

My trip to Brussels started in the Czech airport early Friday morning. Since I was meeting Scott at the Brussels Airport so headed to the airport by myself, but was excited when I saw there were at least 10 other students in my program on my flight. I knew a ton of students were coming to Brussels for Sensation also, so it was fun to already run into people I knew. Once both of our flights got in, Scott and I checked into hotel. We stayed at an airport hotel a close to Brussels (saved a ton of money and was much nicer than a hostel), and immediately left to get into Brussels. After a confusing hour of looking for ticket booths (didn't exist) and find the train (wrong platform), we finally asked for some help when a long Belgian joined us at the train station. After reaching Brussels, we headed straight to the main square and walked around the area. Since we were both hungry, we bought some Belgium waffles with whipped crème, chocolate, and strawberries. It was amazing and even better than what I expected. They used actual dough in the waffle iron instead of a batter, and I wish I would have eaten many more waffles. I was worried about eating my weight in chocolate and waffles while in Belgium, but surprisingly enough we were often to busy or forgot to eat some parts of the weekend. Now I dream of eating more waffles.

After grabbing food/dessert, Scott took over on the sight seeing and busted out the hotel map. We started off at the Manequin Pis (one of the most overrated sights I've experienced...I don't get its appeal? And it's on all the postcards, chocolate molds, etc). It was a rainy and we had a moment of being lost--we went inside a really quirky thrift store and were told we were in Brussels when asking where we were, and it was really fun walking around. I should look up some of these sights/buildings/churches/park names for future reference, but for now I’ll just show the pictures:

Scott's genius photo idea

Around dinner time, we decided to walk near the center again and see if anything looked good. One street was composed of an entire row of restaurants that were all competing against each other. I'll admit I'm an easy target for haggling, so I immediately was approached by one of the owners of the restaurant to come in for dinner. He promised his food was delicious, that all the other restaurants are the same, a beautiful meal for a beautiful couple, and finally free drinks. The free drinks got us (mainly me haha)so Scott and I went in to the restaurant to get dinner (we were also starving). We got our little glass of sparkling wine/champagne (?) and checked out the menu. They had 12 euro and 18 euro menus that included a choice of appetizer, entre, and a dessert. I went with scampis for the appetizer, salmon with lobster sauce and potatoes for the entrée while Scott got a salad and steak with potatoes. Both were really good (except I wasn’t positive what Skampis were and was a little shocked when they were shrimp with their eyes and whisker things and legs), but the dessert was the best—it was a smaller Belgium waffle with chocolate and whipped crème as was steaming hot and delicious.
 After dinner, we had plans to visit a particular bar in honor of Scott’s 21st birthday weekend—Scott’s Bar. It was right next to the Brussels University (which meant that my Charles University wifi password worked oddly enough) and was a really relaxed and cool bar. We both got beers, but Scott stepped up our classiness by ordering a glass of an 18 year old scotch. My little sip of it has reaffirmed that I will never ever drink scotch, but apparently once you got past everything about it, it was pretty good (just kidding, Scott I’m sure it was great and very Jack Donaghy of you). We ended up hanging out there for a long time just talking and it was a really good time.

 The next bar, Delirium, we headed to was highly recommended by by people in my program and Trip Advisor. Delirium had a bunch of people our age and had a huge list of Belgian beers. Scott actually saw friends from his Copenhagen program, so we grabbed two seats at their table for the rest of the night. The last train back to our hotel left at 11:22, so we left early to head back home. By sheer luck we got on the right train (by Saturday we figured the schedules all out) and made it back to the hotel.

Saturday morning was the day of Sensation—the reason we made the trip to Brussels—so we had a lazy morning before heading into the city center after noon for lunch. I had read about Houtsiplou on trip advisor (my new best friend), and the restaurant was even better than I had pictured. There was bright art on the wall and played some great music. It also had amazing beer—I had a cherry beer that I can truthfully say I loved and will get if I ever see it again—and amazing food. Even the dip for the bread was incredible (couldn’t decide if it was more hummus or egg salad but either way it was great) and our burgers and Belgium fries were delicious. Definitely the best burger and beer I have had in Europe (and best beer of my life--it was like candy). I wish this restaurant was in Prague because I would go multiple times a week.

After lunch we went back to Manequin Pis, and I began my hunt for a chocolate-based gift to bring back home. Since it was raining pretty hard we also made our way to the covered shopping center to look around there as well. I picked up two chocolates during our trip which made me very happy. Before our train, I (of course) decided the gift I wanted to give was in the very first chocolate store we visited  so we headed back that way to grab the huge box of hot chocolate mix (not powder like in the US, but straight Belgium chocolate flakes). I’m excited to try it with everyone else when I get home.

When we got back we had a very short time to get ready for Sensation. I quickly threw on (lots) of makeup and attached my precious flower crown (best decision ever). Even though it was really cold out we knew Sensation would be really hot so we braved it without coats. The train was filled to its capacity (and truthfully probably a little more) full of people dressed in white, so it was a lot of fun.
Sensation itself was amazing and unlike anything I’ve gone to before. It was so much fun, and the perfect way to celebrate a 21st birthday in a country where you're already legal :) There are so many stories from that night (from dancing on Scott's shoulders to an unfortunate taxi ride), and it was definitely unforgettable. 

Ironic first legal drinks
Since we got back to the hotel at 8 in the morning after leaving the room at 6pm the day before, we didn’t end up going back to Brussels like planned before heading to the airport. It was still nice to camp out in the hotel lobby and watch all our TV shows and snack on some delicious Danish cookies.

Sensation inspired a weekend in Brussels, and I'm so glad I got to spend the weekend there with Scott. It was so much fun, and best place to say (now a veryyyyyy late) happy birthday, Scott!

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