Two weeks ago, I realized that I had one free weekend without any trips planned! Not wanting to waste any opportunity to get around and travel, I called up one of my awesome friends, Sarah, and we planned a trip to Brussels in 24 hours! Somehow, we ended up finding some awesome Eurostar deals and a hotel room with an ensuite bathroom that was the same price as all the hostels!
So Saturday morning before the sun had even risen, we were dashing off to St. Pancras station for our brouhaha in brussels! After 2 quick hours on the high speed train (it goes through the Chunnel! The Channel Tunnel!) we immediately got lost and realized that we had made the huge rookie mistake of not looking up directions before we got to Brussels. I know, completely idiotic. Strangely enough, we had actually made an entire itinerary based off of which locations where close to each other…yet we didn’t write down how to get to any of these places. We solved the problem by finding a Mickey D’s and leeching off of their free Wi-Fi to use our iPhones to look up how to get to the Grand Place. Eventually, we made it, and wow was it a glorious sight:
Thanks to my wonderful big, Lauren, who studied abroad in Leuven last year, we already had a bunch of suggestions of places to go. She had told us that each of the offstreets shooting off from the Grand Place had different ethnic foods such as Greek, Italian, etc. We found food, food, and more food.
We also found the Mannekin Pis! - it’s a famous statue of a little boy peeing and he’s on pretty much every souveneir you can find in Brussels. They dress him up in a different outfit every day it’s pretty funny.
Later, we walked to the Cantillon Brewery which is the only brewery left in Brussels that uses old-fashioned brewing. It was cool seeing such an old facility that was still used - they wanted to keep true to the “real” way of brewing beer rather than speeding up the process to make more money like other companies have done. We got to tour around the entire factory and got two beers with admission!
Hahah here is Sarah drinking all our beers - I let her drink mine since I have the tolerance of a five year old child. If you notice in this picture, the beers are actually a deep red. One is raspberry and the other is cherry (Kriek beer).
After the brewery, we tried to find our hotel, but walked past it and actually walked straight into Occupy Belgium - a protest in relation to Occupy Wall Street that is going on back home.
After the best nap of our lives, we finally went to seek out the glorious Belgium Waffle that Lauren had told us we had to get. She had mentioned a very specific store off of Grand Place and insisted we get Speculoos ice cream on time. Speculoos is a Belgium cookie that they are all completely obsessed with - they have Speculoos McFlurries, Speculoos Chocolate, Speculoos Paste, and what not (oddly enough, we never found any actual Speculoos cookies).
The Belgium waffle is somehow so different…it’s almost carmelized in sugar and has this layer of deliciousness coating it. The warmth of the freshly made waffle combined with the cold of the ice cream was such bliss. There we were, sitting on the curb of the Grand Place, watching the sun set around us, just eating a belgium waffle and people-watching, and I suddenly realized: This is why I came abroad. This moment right now. I don’t know how to explain it without being overly cheesy, but it was this surreal moment where I was perfectly content with my life and not worrying about work or getting lost or any troubles. It was wonderful.
Saturday morning, we embarked on another long adventure to the EU Parliamentarium! The EU Visitor Centre was one of the coolest multi-media things I had seen. They gave us iPods that were set for your specific language. You would hold the iPod up to a little Key image on each display, and start hearing the explanation in English through your headset or have an explanation to read on your personal screen. I made Sarah demonstrate:
We then again stumbled upon another cathedral, the St. Michael and St. Gudala Cathedral which was gorgeous! What a wonderful thing to accidentally come across.
After buying some more chocolates for ourselves and as souveneirs, we took a nice break in the Royal Gardens and then found the Royal Palace along with another stumbled-upon Lottery car caravan!
We then found the beautiful Notre Dame du Sablon which is beyond gorgeous and allows free entrance inside!
After walking around Sablon, a really nice area with antiques and fancy chocolate shops, we finally ended our 2-day trip around Brussels and were back in London by 11pm! When we were going through customs, the officer asked me why I was entering London. I told her I was returning from a trip and was studying abroad at King’s. She responded “So returning home? Okay” and stamped me through. When she said that, I realized how right that statement sounds. It’s been a month which is long or short depending on how you look at things, but right now, London feels like home. When I come back to Stamford Street after a long day out, it feels good to be back. I suppose when you are traveling non-stop (even when I’m not abroad!), you have to find somewhere temporary to call “home” otherwise you’ll go insane!
Overall, I couldn’t be happier that we (almost) spontaneously decided to go to Brussels! Thanks to our rookie move, we got lost more times than I can count, and got to see nearly every part of the city - not just the touristy ones. It was such a wonderful way to kick off my trips, and I can’t wait to explore more in the next months!
Up next, a visit this Friday to Oxford to see Margaret!