This time of year is always filled with family, food, and red wine. You’ve got Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Years, and it’s just like one big long celebration! Being an American in the United Kingdom, Thanksgiving isn’t really a thing here. I mean you’ll get those using it as an excuse to throw a party and eat lots of food and drink glasses on glasses of mulled wine, but it’s not a holiday, you don’t get out of work or school, and most families don’t celebrate it. I spent all day in lectures, and ended the evening with a couple glasses of Merlot and a baked sweet potato.
I have managed to befriend a fellow American through a mutual friend back home. She proposed a weekend trip to Brussels for Thanksgiving, and I could not say yes fast enough! I would get to celebrate Thanksgiving in a new, exciting city, and meet a bunch of new friends?! Basically three of my favorite things all wrapped up into two and a half days of sleep deprived fun!
To save money, since we are all broke university students, we took two overnight busses instead of flying. The bus from London left at 9pm and arrived in Brussels just after 6am. This first bus was an adventure. I had picked up a couple bottles of wine, and snacks, and was prepared to get some work done on my essay that is due in a week and a half. Boy was that wishful thinking. Turns out that only one other person was sharing the wine with me, and we finished the first bottle before we got out of London. The second was gone before we hit border control. Now border control into France wasn’t too big of a deal. They basically wanted to make sure that you were the person on your passport and that you had the right to travel into the country. Easy, all I had to do was try to look like I didn’t just drink an entire bottle of wine. As most of you probably know, England is an island, and there is an underground tunnel connecting it to the rest of Europe. This concept has always kind of freaked me out. I mean there are literally tons of water pressing down on that tunnel. Not only did I have that thought bouncing around in my brain, but the bottle of wine I had slurped down really didn’t help a whole lot either. Needless to say, the tunnel was a less than great experience and I’m glad I managed to fall asleep half way through it.
Brussels itself was a neat little city. With a population of just over a million, it isn’t the metropolis that London is, but it has its own charm. Visiting around this time of year, we also ran into several Christmas markets and got to see the city all dressed up for the occasion. Upon reflection of my trip I’ve managed to comprise a list of my favorite things I saw/ate/experienced in Brussels.
The Grand Palace
This was an absolutely amazing sight. In the heart of the city, beautifully ornate and gold plated buildings surround a sizable square, where you can usually find something or another going on. During this time of year, there is a big beautiful Christmas tree, horse draw carriages all decked out for the season, and a light show on the buildings at night. Historically speaking, this area was originally used for trading and selling goods. The streets around it are appropriately named after different food items that could once be purchased there. Definitely a beautiful sight if you find yourself in Brussels!
The Chocolate Museum
You may know that one of the things Belgium is known for is its chocolate. After enjoying chocolate in many forms (syrup, hot, bar, fountain) during the trip I can without a doubt agree that it is something special. At a cafe, I ordered a special Belgian latte that came with, you guessed it, a fat layer of melted Belgian chocolate at the bottom. It was kind of like a drumstick-you eat all the ice cream and then finally at the bottom you get to the chocolate core. I drank my latte, and then finally, drank the heavenly melted goodness that Belgium has blessed upon the world. We also paid a visit to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. The museum gave us all sorts of information on how chocolate is made, and has some amazing statues and carvings from chocolate. Plus there were samples! The museum also does demonstrations on how chocolate squares are tempered and molded. It was so neat!
The Peeing Statue
Perhaps I’m the only person who was unaware of these statues before visiting Brussels. I still find it very strange that they exist. There is a boy and a girl, but the boy is much more popular and celebrated. The exact origin of why this statue was created is not known, but legends from a lost little boy gifting it to the city to a little boy spy putting out explosives during a siege in the manner of the statue circulate with the locals. The little boy also has a wardrobe that changes with the season and holidays. Various costumes from a Santa suit to Chinese robes can be seen throughout the year. He was dressed in what appeared to be a purple robe when I visited him. Probably one of the strangest tourist attractions I’ve seen.
Okay, so they serve “Belgian Waffles” at a lot of places. But let me tell you, ain’t no Village Inn waffle even coming close to the real Belgian Waffles in Belgium! I’m not quite sure how it’s possible to create such an amazing soft but crunchy, sweet but not heavy treat! There are little chunks of sugar mixed in with the batter that give an amazing mouthfeel. And there are so many kinds! You could literally have any sort of topping you want! I went with a classic Strawberries and Chantilly Cream flavor. And promptly shoved it in my face.