Saturday, February 27, 2016

Brussels Part Deux

We were up and at 'em at about 8:30am on Saturday morning and headed into the center. Obviously in search of waffles for breakfast. We had a walking tour (free!) at 11:00am so we thought breakfast and then walking around would be a great idea. But when we arrived at the Grand Place, it was DEAD. Like no one around and everything closed.

It was the craziest thing. Turns out things don't open until 10am on the weekends. But we did find one place in the center that was open for breakfast called La Brouette Tavern which was a classic brasserie.

It was very cozy inside. And they had waffles.

Real Belgian waffles don't come with a million toppings on them so this place seemed to abide by that rule. But there was a cute little basket of optional toppings like brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, butter, and honey. The breakfast also came with meat and cheese, croissants, chocolate bread, toast, jam, and coffee. 

After that we had some time to kill so we wandered around. Things slowly started opening.

It felt very French all around (even though I've never been to France).

The pictures don't actually do the city justice. 

We went back to the Grand Place to start our 3 hour walking tour. Our tour guide was from the Netherlands and we met people from all over the world. It was very cool. 

Here are some highlights:

Belgium is known for its comics (did you know the Smurfs were Belgian?!) and their funny sense of humor. Tintin is the most well-known and loved. 

Mannekin Pis is one of the most famous statues in the world. It is a little boy peeing. And tiny. They dress him up in costumes most of the year depending on the holiday or what is going on in the city. There was a large crowd of people trying to take selfies with it. Selfie sticks abound.

This the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The architecture was beautiful and it was a long stretch of high-end stores (including expensive chocolate stores). 

The back of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula was more interesting than the front. The front looks a bit like the Notre Dame in Paris according to the tour guide but she wanted to show us the back of it which was beautiful.

These brass shells are to guide those heading to the Camino de Santiago.  They represent different pilgrim routes to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain and are placed in streets and sidewalks all over Europe. People will walk or bike and follow the shells from their destination to Spain and there are shells in Brussels!

Once the tour was over, we were dying for frites. I had read about a place called Fritland and that it was one of the best.

Clearly, as the line snaked into the street. But we stayed strong, held on, and sucked it up in the name of frites. There are all kinds of sauces but it was a bit stressful so we stuck with ketchup and curry ketchup.

We inhaled them. It was freezing and windy but wanted to sit down. 

After that we decided to go see the Atomium on the outskirts of the city as it was the touristy thing to do.

It was a "futuristic" monument built for the World Fair in Brussels in 1958. You can go inside and look out over Brussels but we decided that since it was really raining at this point, it wasn't worth the money to potentially see nothing. 

but hey, we saw the structure anyways.

After this, we went to the Belgian Chocolate Village which turned out to be meh. The website was far cooler than the museum. It was really small and confusing and not really worth 8 Euros each. I mean, don't get me wrong, we love chocolate, but thought we would learn more. I think it is because we both love food and learn about food so much that we knew a lot of the information.

We did get to test some chocolate.

We wanted to warm up and dry off before going out to dinner so we headed back to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours. Then we set off for

Le Bier Circus. I had read about this place and that it had hundreds, maybe thousands of beers to choose from and good food. Perfect.

It was small and cozy inside and luckily not really busy.

I made sure to NOT have any cherry beers this time, thank you very much.

I had a Westmalle Trappist Dubbel beer. There are only a few Trappist (monks) breweries in the world, a few being in Belgium and actually one in Spencer, Massachusetts! 

Tim had the Hercule Stout. What we have noticed about Europe (at least with Belgium and Germany), you always get the matching beer mug to the beer brand. In the U.S., you always seem to end up with like a Bud Light glass no matter what. 

The fare on the menu was Belgian and it wasn't a huge menu which was also good.

I had a the Apple, Raisins, and Orvel Cheese Meatloaf with a side of frites (duh) with Brussels ketchup.

It sounded like a strange mix but the meatloaf was amazing and it came with some kind of onion-y sauce on the side.

Tim had the Old-Fashioned Veal Blanquette which was almost like a beef stew with veal and awesome.

We had a second round of beers (obvi).

Tim got the Monk's Dupont Stout and I got the XXBitter. Both very good. Beer heaven. After that we headed to a bar called the Hair Canary near our hotel which was awesome. It was an English pub and the bartender was Irish. And there was American Golf on TV. The bartender was so nice and we chatted with him as it wasn't busy. He had worked down the Cape at one point so he was familiar with that area. We got tired after the beers and headed back to the hotel as we had a long but successful day.

On Sunday, we didn't have to catch our flight home until 3pm so we had some time to kill in the morning. We walked to the Parc du Cinquantenaire.

We had heard you could go to the top of the arch and get a view going through the Military Museum. We walked into the museum right as it was opening (10am) and saw the arch was closed :(. But decided to go through the museum as it was only 5 euro. It was actually quite an amazing and extensive museum of military history.

We thought it was just some military equipment here. We walked around and then walked out and I noticed the arch being closed sign was gone. I asked if it was open and the woman said it was and gave us directions to find it. Then, there were rooms upon rooms of military history that we had no idea was in the museum. It was incredible. I wish we had more time to look around. It took us a few minutes but we found the (semi-hidden) stairs/elevator to the arch. We took the stairs up, which was a mistake. But we made it to the top huffing and puffing.

It was very windy and freezing but we had nice views of Brussels. After that we walked back to the hotel to check-out and head to the airport.

All in all, Brussels is very fun! We felt like we saw enough in the short time we were there. There aren't a lot of landmarks (like Paris or Rome) so you don't have to run around trying to see everything and can enjoy the culture and food more. I recommend it for a weekend getaway full of food.

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