Brussels, Belgium

Keeping with my tradition, I’m writing about our trip over a month after we actually went.  I took Chelsea on a surprise weekend trip to Brussels in order to celebrate her birthday.  I’m pretty sure she was convinced that we were going to Paris, especially because we were taking the Eurostar, but we took a slightly longer train over to Belgium instead.

We had so much good food in Brussels, I’m a little sad I only took a picture of this meal.  I guess it even crosses my tourist stereotype limit.  Either that or I forgot.  The meal pictured above is our first one, classic Belgian waffles!  It was really cool to have a Belgian waffle in Belgium.  I’m really glad I got the black espresso to counter the sweetness of the waffle though.  The batter had caramelized sugar in it, was topped with creme, sugar, chocolate and fruit, and amounted to a super sweet mountain of goodness.  Chelsea on the other hand, ordered the sweetest hot chocolate of all time.  Belgium is also famous for their chocolate, and we ate plenty of that too, but this drink was a bit too much for either of us.

Just down the street from where we ate brunch, is this little guy, Manneken-Pis.  Apparently the little peeing boy is supposed to embody the spirit of rebellious Brussels, and the lore surrounding the significance of this act is extensive.  There are also supposed to be hundreds of outfits for him, no idea when they change.  I was surprised at how small the statue is, only about 2 feet tall.  Definitely a tourist trap though, my parents have pictures with him, and there is plenty of commerce in the surrounding blocks.

Speaking of commerce, we also wandered through Galeries Saint Hubert, which apparently is the first mall in the world.  Originally opened in 1847, it houses all sorts of shops, cafés etc.

Being the booze-friendly people that we are, we absolutely had to try some local Belgian beer.  On the recommendation of wikitravel.org, we ventured to the Cantillon Brewery right in town.  The place may have been difficult to find without notes from others, and the building was almost museum like in appearance inside.  We paid for a tour and tasting, but were both regretting that the tour was part of the price because we have been on a bunch of brewery tours at this point.  Well, I’m glad we went on this one.  Cantillon still uses natural yeast open-air fermentation, coupled with oak barrel conditioning.  Above you can see that the yeast get a little to active in the barrels, and often erupt, they take this as a sign that the process is working.

Here Chelsea is enjoying our two tastings.  One was a raspberry and the other gueuze.  Both definitely traditional lambic, and unlike anything we had ever taste before.  Don’t believe any places in the US that have “Belgian Lambic” unless they are super sour.  I might not be able to drink more than two of these bad boys they were so rough.  We were definitely glad to have tried them though.

Naturally the beer drinking didn’t stop at one brewery.  After Cantillon we headed over to the famous Delerium Cafe.  You may be familiar with the two brews pictured above, Delerium Tremens and Nocturnal.  Or you might be familiar with their pink elephant symbol, or the fact that they have 2004 commercial beers available from all over the world!  Their menu is a magazine, and they even had Saranac beers.

A trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Grand Place.  This is a small square that holds some of the last remaining buildings from the old city, some of them are near 300 years old.  Bordering the square are all sorts of touristy places, and it was busy during the day, and especially at night.  I think if you look at the image below you can see why.

Actually, I’m not sure these pictures do this place justice.  The lighting on these buildings at night was spectacular, and the square was packed full of people.  Chelsea and I went there to check out the scenery, people watch, and experiment with the settings on our new camera.

In addition to all the stuff mentioned in this post, we also did quite a bit more.  We ate mussels, frites, steak, and plenty of sweets.  We walked through the city, visited the EU headquarters and spent some time relaxing in a park.

Overall we had an excellent action-packed two days.  I’ll put up a link to our Picasa gallery for more pictures of our trip soon.  We recommend visiting Brussels, and the good news is that you really only need a few days to capture most of it.

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