Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Days 39 and 40: Off to see Brussels!

First of all if you have a minute (which clearly you do if you're reading my blog!...check this out... trust me you'll thank me later
Hellooooooooooooo Brussels! 
We woke up nice and early this morning, in order to see as much as we could in the one full day we had. The hostel hooked us up with awesome maps and information, one of which contained  routes showing various sites in Brussels. Unfortunately, we didn't have the best day: cold and slightly rainy. 
First stop, sandwiched in the middle of the bustling city was Botanique. Botanique was a beautiful garden, complete with statues, small ponds and a green house-esque building.

This statue shows a girl being rescued from drowning.....quite uplifting
After checking out botanique, we headed to North Station to buy our tickets to get to Hasselt for the concert. Brussels reminded me alot of a city like Boston or New York, in its modernity and its set up.

We ended up purchasing our tickets, then tried our hand at the Subway system. It really was pretty straight forward, and I took the subway map with me everywhere. 
First stop: Whacky costume shop. These weird little stores were all over the place, but they gave Brussels a cool vibe. The description provided on the map I think says it all:
"Brussels is ugly and we love it. And if we don't love it, we live with it. So don't be suprised that we built a terrible apartment block next to anArt Nouveau jewel in front of the Central Station.
We finally made it to one of the "gems" of Brussels: the Grand Palace", which has their 15th century town hall, and a statue that you can rub for good luck. 

Rub for good luck! 
After checking out the square we went to lunch at a place called Brasserie Du Lombard, where Michelle and I tried our first belgian beers and fries! We got salads as well, but the fries and beers were obviously what we came for. I tried a peach flavored beer which was actually so so sweet and delicious. 
As the Belgians advise "eat first, then dink. We call it 'ne fond leggen' (lay the base) or 'tapisser l'estomac' (carpet the stomach). You need to do it if you want to keep up with your new local friends". I'm unsure what language those phrases are in, but Brussel-ers usually speak Dutch or French!

After lunch, we headed over to the "Manneken Pis" which is a statue of a small boy/ baby well...."pis"sing. He was actually much smaller than I had anticipated, and the whackiness of the whole thing really fit the city. His costumes are changed a few times a month, allegedly by a woman named Jeanine, and his clothing collection is on display at a nearby city museum. 
Even whackier, there was a brigade of people who painted their faces black and wore matching costumes walking around....I think they were collecting money? Strange. Just strange.

Another really cool thing about Brussels was their "Cartoon Walls".  Out on the blue, on top of buildings they had these huge murals painted. You can see below, one is for HIV/AIDS awareness. Supposedly they were spread throughout the city, but we only got the chance to see two of them.
We then made a stop at "De Bier Temple", where they had every type of beer........I think probably possible. Shelves on shelves of the stuff. 

We continued to tour across the city, trying to clear some room in our bellies for another Belgian specialty....

.....WAFFLES. Another fun fact about waffles that you may not know, is that there are different kinds of "belgian" waffles. Theres the "Brussels" waffle, that has powdered sugar on top, the "Liege" waffle, which has sugar on the inside, and the "tourist" waffle, which has extra toppings. Clearly Michelle and I went with the tourist style (hers Brussels, mine Liege). She opted for chocolate sauce, stawberries and whipped cream, while I kept it simple with classic Nutella.
In case you were wondering, yes this was absolutely as good as it looked.

Full as could be, we rolled our way back to the hostel, and took a quick nap before the sleepless night ahead. When we woke up, we got ready, and went to the train. We were a bit rushed, because I misplaced the print out of my ticket so I had to find another one. We finally made it to the train station, and we're fortunately greeted by a sea of white-clad humans, so needless to say it was pretty easy to find our train. After taking a train, and literally being ran over to switch to another, we finally made it to Hasselt.
We then quickly boarded a bus filled with people screaming and chanting in a variety of languages, and made it to the venue in about 10 or 15 turbulent minutes. We made it. (cue angels singing)
The concert was awesome, and the music of course was great too. It also had some theatrical elements (cirque di sole-esque) which made it super entertaining.

After about 4 hours of non stop dancing, and some intense people watching (saw a fight, couples fighting...all great things ), we took the bus back to the train station to wait for our 6 am train.

We had about an hour left until it was time for the train to go, and to our surprise, there was no indoor waiting area for the train. I was 100% sure we were going to freeze. So, when the bathroom attendant was in the other room, Michelle and I both went into the stall, and alternated one of us sitting and one standing so we could be in the heat. When we got a knock on the door, we both looked at each other, Michelle casually started crinkling up toilet paper, and we exited in the most awkward way imaginable. But atleast we were warm.

We boarded the train, and unfortunately had to sit on the floor it was so packed. To add insult to injury, five or so french guys were screaming the whole time, pig piling on each other, and flinging wrist bands at innocent passengers. Like, Hello, its 6 in the morning...go to sleep!

When we arrived we were so crunched for time to make it to the plane. We hopped on the metro...and naturally we were going the wrong way. And the wrong way into a clearly sketchy part of the city. We asked a man driving a stopped metro where to go, he directed us, but either we couldn't find the correct train or it wasn't there. Some woman was shouting at us from across the road in a foreign language as we sprinted back in forth, in all white outfits, in the snow.

We finally went back to the original driver, and he started up his personal metro train and brought us to where we needed to go. We finally made it to the bus, and Michelle only had a card on her no cash. Of course, it was cash only, so she made a bee-line to the ATM, only to return in tears that it was closed. So I pulled a gypsy move, and asked if anyone had ten euro we could result except for embarassment on my end. The bus driver let us ride, and we emptied out all of our change. We managed to scrape together the 20 euro....but totally left behind my dignity.

We sprinted into the airport, and fortunately were able to cut the whole security line because our flight was literally boarding. Things were finally starting to look up, when my backpack kept getting put back and forth through the scanner. Uh oh. The guy pulled me aside, and asked if he could open my bag. Yes. Can I open it for him. Sure. After he removed my carefully, strategically packed belongings, he extracted a HUGE kitchen knife. My jaw dropped. "Zees iz not possible". Turns out I had forgotten that I packed a knife to cut up apples in interlaken....he took the knife and we made the flight.

I know what you're thinking: how stupid! But keep in mind I made it to Brussels with that in who's really the stupid one:)?

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. Got to enjoy some good company, great beers and amazing music. Stay tuned for some Spring Break Action!

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