Waffles, Chocolate, and Lace, oh my!

Trip Start Jan 21, 2010
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Trip End Apr 20, 2010


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Where I stayed
New International youth Hostel

Flag of Belgium  , Flanders,
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back from Belgium! Our weekend began on Friday at gross o' clock in the morning (aka 4:45 AM). Though the hour was unpleasant, spirits were high, and we practically ran to the bus station– partly out of excitement, partly out of fear that we’d miss our 5:30 bus to the train station in Venray. Once in Venray, we ran into a myriad of hilarious train difficulties on the way to Bruges, but eventually made it there safe and sound eight hours later. Who knew trains could literally split down the middle from underneath you and go to two different places? We didn’t, and ended up on the wrong half at one point. But! After this weekend, I can certainly claim an insider’s understanding of the complexities of the international trains. And those complexities involve lots of running.

We arrived in Bruges in the afternoon, ready to start off our Belgian experience with some waffles! After walking through town and enjoying the splendor a bit, we found a nice, cozy cafe, and ordered waffles with butter and brown sugar. Ask for fruit or syrup, and you’ll immediately be pegged as an American. You’d also be paying for superfluous flavor, since (and I do not say this lightly) Belgian waffles are the food equivalent of falling in love. Granted, we were all ravenous from our journey, but great baby Jesus God, those waffles were so sweet and crunchy and delicious, none of us actually spoke until we were all completely finished.

After waffles, it was on to the Groeninge Museum, where we saw an array of Belgian paintings and other such things I know very little about but still enjoy. On our walk to the museum, we passed a school that was just letting out for the day. It was fascinating to watch all the kids walk out to their bikes (they had a things for bikes here too) and go about their normal days. It made me think about how I could have had any one of their lives, instead of mine. I could be in their shoes, unimpressed by the architecture around me, sick of waffles, wondering why so many tourists desire to climb the narrow 366 steps of the Belfry (which we totally did, by the way). Just a thought.

After the museum, we walked through a couple of parks, which were just as picturesque as the center of town. I’ve included some pictures of the strange trees we saw that looked like people stretching their hands toward the sky. While walking to one of the parks, we stumbled upon a free art exhibit in someone’s house, which ended up being worth the ten minute digression from our schedule. The house itself was pretty amazing, with a big loft room overlooking this really elaborate garden in the back yard.

That night, we went to a pub that offered 300 flavors of beer. Seemed like a smart choice. I was proud of myself for actually liking the peach beer I ordered, having never tasted a beer that I liked. Then some old man walked by as asked why I was drinking "that fruit rubbish", and said it was just syrup. I no longer felt cool.

After the pub, we returned to our hostel utterly exhausted. We were a little worried about our mystery roommate (as we had booked a four person room). I was afraid some crazy old naked man would be standing in our doorway when we returned. But! Our other roommate happened to be a mechanical engineer who told me how to finagle some hot water for my shower. So, much better.

The next morning, we climbed the Belfry Tower, (just like “In Bruges”!). I wish I could describe what the city looked like below, but unfortunately the fog just made it seem like we had climbed into a cloud.

After putting our feet back on solid ground, which was an enormous relief after descending a 366 step tiny narrow wooden staircase, we headed directly to the train station for Antwerp. I’m not going to spend too much time describing Antwerp, as reliving it is a painful experience. That’s right everyone- Antwerp blew. The train station was amazing, but it all went downhill from there. If you’ve ever walked through the Bronx on a rainy day for ten hours in an area where no one speaks English (for some reason), then you’ve been to Antwerp. After getting lost repeatedly, walking through about ninety sinister allies, and waking up to our 65 year old man roommate undressing for a shower...we got the hell out of Antwerp.

Next stop was Brussels, which TOTALLY made up for Antwerp. We went to a fantastic museum, first thing. Then, we did an underground tour of the former Grand Palace of Brussels. That would have been an archaeologist’s dream– we got to walk through what used to be the palace at ground level, got to see the stones used for the old ballroom, the archways that used to be part of the church, all underground. It was incredible.

At lunch, we all knew how to order in French, (The northern part of Belgium speaks French, and the southern part speaks Dutch) which is always fun. It was nice to take a break from Dutch for a while and return to something slightly more familiar. All the food we had in Belgium was delightful, by the way.

On the way to the train station, we walked through the main square. It was a shame we didn’t have more time to spend there– it was absolutely breathtaking. There were groups of primary school kids playing games in circles, shouting at each other and laughing. The buildings stretched up and around us like we had entered some kind of magical kingdom. Amazing.

Last stop was a chocolaterie, where we bought a few pieces of filled chocolate. The perfect end to a few of the most exhausting days I’ve ever had in my life. Totally worth it.

More to come. Off to Venice tomorrow!
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Comments

Mom on

I can't even describe the joy I get from reading your blog. It's wonderful. You make me laugh, you make my day. I can't wait for the pictures. Can you tell I check for updates several times a day?! lol

Gay E on

L-O-V-E your blogs!! I'm sure I'm not as bad as your mama about checking several times a day, but I can't wait till you post the next one! You should write a novel!! =)

Dad on

Wow! What an experience you're having. It's a four/eight year education wrapped up into three months (priceless). I love you, Dad

Matt on

Baby, Bruges and Brussels sounded so amazing, and they definitely loked beautiful. I like how you describe it too. You...you funny. i cant wait to hear about Venice. How is Carnival? ok I love you, have fun!

Sandy and Joe on

Wow! What an experience your having. The pictures are amazing. Joe and I are enjoying reading all about your trip.

MiMi on

Ditto to all the above. When I start to read the new blog I think can she top the last one...Oh yes she can. You are creating a trip of a lifetime for me. Thank you very much. Love you.

CHERYL P on

The blogs are great and I love reading about all the fascinating places you are getting to see. You are an AMAZING writer. Your Mom and I talk everyday about your experiences. Have fun and enjoy your trip. I can't wait to read more.

Prina on

Ok, I crossed Antwerp off my "to do" list.
Everything else I can't wait to see someday!

Ruby on

I want a waffle like that one!!

Lilly on

Cool "People trees"! Does the sun ever come out in Europe? This could explain the women in the 'red box'...their affected by seasonal disorder of depression, their trying to 'escape' by getting an up front view of the sky where some sunshine might be outside...and of course industrious...they're making money at the same time ;)

rita on

fun to read as i am from bruges
but one comment, northern part of belgium speak flemish (dutch) southern part french

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