Eurotrip, part one: Of waffles and chocolate

A weekend in Brussels to start off our European adventure!

A weekend in Brussels to start off our European adventure!

We started our Eurotrip almost a week after the wedding, once the last of our families finally left. Our original plan had been to catch a standby flight to Paris, taking advantage of the family passes that Chuck’s mom gets from working for the airlines. But when the flights to Paris booked up, we had to look to alternate routes into Europe. We chose Brussels for its proximity to Paris and because the flight was half-empty (getting a row to yourself makes a seven-hour flight not so bad.) I couldn’t say I was upset. In fact, it was probably the first time I’ve ever been happy about having our plans diverted!

The Grand Place, at the happening city center of Brussels

The Grand Place, at the happening city center of Brussels

We knew nothing about Belgium before we touched down, other than what we learned at restaurants and grocery stores: they have beer, they have chocolate, and do they really eat waffles for breakfast every day? If the menus in Brussels were any indication, the answer to that last question is oui or ja (French, Dutch, and German being the official languages here.)

That's no Eggo waffle

That’s no Eggo waffle

Much to my delight, the bit about chocolate was true, too. I insisted on stopping at many of the chocolate stores along the main streets – and there were a lot! Like, every other store was some sort of chocolate or sweets vendor. I was in heaven!

One of the many delectable chocolatier chains. Photo from Visit Capital City, because it seems I was too busy drooling to take my own picture of a chocolate store.

One of the many delectable chocolatier chains. Photo from Visit Capital City, because it seems I was too busy drooling to take my own picture of a chocolate store.

This had the potential to end badly for me, coming off of months of wedding dieting, the last four weeks of which involved completely eliminating sugar and dairy. (Did wonders for my skin, by the way.) After two days in Brussels, Chuck complained that he’d gotten enough chocolate to last the rest of the year, whereas I was like, “oh no honey, we’re just getting started.”

Yes, that is indeed a giant vat of hot chocolate to go with our pastry

Yes, that is indeed a giant vat of hot chocolate to go with our pastry

We also came across what became one of my favorite coffee bars in Europe, Corica. They have a wall filled with different coffees from around the world, and we went back three or four times to try the different blends. We even mustered the courage to try the infamous Kopi Luwak, commonly known as the monkey poo coffee. It tasted like coffee (probably a good thing; I can only imagine what else it may have tasted like!) and was insanely expensive, costing 9 Euros for a tiny espresso shot. One more thing to add to the “crazy things I’ve consumed abroad” list.

That monkey looks quite pleased with itself

That civet looks quite pleased with itself

We did other things besides eat sugar, like checking out the museums and the famous Manneken Pis statue. This was the most crowded part of the city; we saw more tourists here than anywhere else.

Rude boy

Rude boy

This kid is apparently a national icon, for I saw him in several incarnations throughout town. And here I thought this was just some silly sculpture you could order from one of those mail-order catalogs (RIP Skymall.)

Rude sailor

Rude sailor

And of course, in the evenings we would venture out to the bars in search of some delicious beer. I discovered I’m a big fan of Trappist ales. (Who knew monks knew how to brew awesome beer? I guess they need to excel at something, since they sure aren’t good at conversing.) I also learned that “kriek” is the Dutch word for cherry and is a popular, bright red beer. I would file it in the “interesting” category.

Inside the Museum of the Belgian Brewers, over in the Grand Place. Because of COURSE there's a national beer museum!

Inside the Museum of the Belgian Brewers, over in the Grand Place. Because of COURSE they have a national beer museum!

Overall, it was a fun way to spend a weekend before continuing on to Paris. Brussels, I hear, isn’t as exciting as Amsterdam or Bruges (my friends living in Europe have high praise for Bruges in particular) but it’s not a bad place to spend a couple of days. It’s beautiful, the food is great, and the people are lovely. I’d come back, and not just for the chocolate!

Swords and knights await at the Museum of the Army and Military History

Swords and knights await at the Museum of the Army and Military History

 

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