Tag Archives: Belgium

Day 15 – London to Brussels

I got up and left the hostel. Got onto the train without too much trouble, although since I wasn’t going to be using the UK money anymore I tried to spend as much of it as possible. I bought my dad some “Tube” socks (with the Underground map on them), and some other trinkets.

I got on the train, and lucky me had a family sitting with me. On these trains they have two sets of seats facing each other over a table, and this young couple with their child decided to sit next to me. Of course the kid was sitting across from me, and for the next hour and a half he was kicking my legs. The mother of the family kept on telling him to mind his feet, he’s kicking that man’s legs. He had a bit of an attitude, but was mostly sedated the first half of the trip with a gameboy. The father also was sedated with another gameboy. For the second half of that part of the trip, the kid was coloring in a cat. Then the kid got really upset over something and tore up the picture. The mother hit the kid, which was a bit awkward for me to be right across from. Turns out they were going to Euro-Disney. Luckily they got off in Lille Paris, which was halfway to Brussels.

I got off the train into Brussels and almost immediately got lost. I soon found out I started walking about 90 degrees to the right of the direction I needed to be walking. This was hinted to me by the prominent smell of piss and abundance of graffiti, and probably also by the guy in front of me suddenly moving to the side of the sidewalk and taking a piss on the building. Well eventually got back on course, and I walked in the right direction. Maybe got a little bit lost some more, but thats because Brussels is an amazingly complicated city where roads change names every block or so. And they’re in two different languages. There was less piss in the main area of the city, but still an amazing amount of graffiti. I take this as a sign of a strong presence of ideologies among the youth here, which is good. Some was creative, some wasn’t so much. (A side note: I later found out that the rest of Europe is COVERED with much much better graffiti. Brussels was only impressive at the time.)

I got to the hostel and checked in to put my bags down, then went back out to get some food. I found a kabob place, of which there are thousands all around Europe. Ordered one thing and got another (typical) but that was ok, it was very filling and tasted great. I then wandered around, trying to stay not lost, and found myself at a skate park. I sat down and took a few pictures, watching a guy do some pretty amazing bike tricks, and some other guys doing awesome skateboard tricks. Pretty well decorated too. Wandered some more and ran into a church, so sat there for a bit figuring out where I was. Then went back to the hostel.

At the hostel I had a drink at the bar, and started playing snooker. A Lebonese guy wanted to join, so we played a few games. I won two and he won one I believe… But they were well played games. We talked a little but it was difficult since his English was bad. He had stayed in Italy a while so I tried talking to him in Italian, but my Italian wasn’t as good as his English so we went back to that.

After that I might have gone out to eat again, but I can’t exactly remember right now (I’m writing this on day 27). And then went to sleep.

Day 16 – Brussels

Unfortunately, it was Monday. If you’ve been to Brussels, you might know what that means: everything is closed on Monday. No museums, no attractions, not too many shops, nothing except for monuments.
I got up and set out walking. Picked up some chocolate from a small store, which was the cheapest chocolate they had. Even so, it was the most amazing chocolate I’ve had in a long long time. I wonder what the expensive stuff tastes like. There were some interesting shops I saw. Lots of chocolate, lots of lace, lots of toys/puppets.

I went into the famous Brussels square with all the large buildings and shops everywhere. It was kind of nice and a bit of a change from the rest of the city. Lots of good pictures. Very touristy. I walked into a lace store and bought a small thing for my mom for a belated Mother’s Day present.

Then meandered about until I found the Manequin Pis. This famous statue was a lot smaller than I first thought it was going to be, but it was what it was, which is a fountain of a pissing boy. I guess this small little joke is a huge deal there, and it’s admittedly a bit funny, and I did buy a stupid miniature statue of it. I also bought a really, really good wafel from nearby. Belgium is also known for its waffles (they call them “wafels”). It was absolutely delicious. I got it plain (which I think it all it needs, anything more would just be distracting).

Walking around some more. Some kid with a toy gun was shooting people passing by and he shot me, so I smiled and did the “‘sup” nod. He shot me again and that time I played out an extremely dramatic dying scene. I think he and his friend found it hilarious, which was great. As I was walking I noticed a lot of shops along this one street that had ancient artifacts from different cultures. Egyptian, African, Asian, what not. I could hear in my head the words of Indiana “This belongs in a museum!” Oh and I also continued to see graffiti everywhere.

Somehow I got to the southernmost point of the city, which didn’t make any sense to me because I definitely did not walk the same amount that I did the day before going the other direction. I was at this giant palace with a pretty good view of the city, and also could barely make out that Atomium (a statue of an Atom a couple miles away). I walked up the city, and then through a park which was a nice stroll. Sat down for a while and watched a fountain go on and off a couple times.

Then went back to the hostel, where I did some laundry and went to the post office. For the life of me I could not find that post office. I walked up and down the street about three times, and then had to ask the guy at the hostel to point and show me where it was. I now know the symbol that Belgium uses to mark their post offices. I shipped off a lot of papers and souvenirs I had gained from the trip to my parents. A funny story: The package was ready to be shipped, and the lady told me how much it was, which sounded a lot like Ninety euros. I figured that was a mistake and she meant Nine euros. I gave her a ten and she said again Ninety. I was pretty surprised, but alright… umm… ok, and asked if I could pay with my Visa card. She said I couldn’t, but she had noticed I had a Twenty bill in my wallet, and said I could use that. OH! Nineteen! Nineteen Euro. I wiped the imaginary sweat from my head and she got a laugh out of that. I’m glad I can make a joke over the language barrier.

Then went back and hung out with some people at the hostel. Met a guy from Denmark who gave me a lot of suggestions on where to go when we get there. Then started talking to Nicole and Karaline from Canada. Told all sorts of stories. I went out briefly to get some kind of pizza, which tasted like an omelet pizza. We drank a bunch, buying each other drinks, and it was fun times. Then we went out at night to explore. We didn’t really find anything, but walked a lot. Came back, and went to bed.

Day 17 – Brussels to Brugge

I got up and packed for another travel day. Downstairs I got some bread and butter with some tea, and eventually met up with Nicole and Karaline. We went out to the Comics Museum, which wasn’t open yesterday but it sounded somewhat interesting. How wrong we were. We went there and walked around, but really it was a bunch of comics that I did not know at all, all in French, and nothing too exciting. There was a lot of Tin Tin, and some Smurfs, and then some other slightly familiar stuff. I kind of want to read this one comic with this cool looking guy wearing a captains hat. Forgot what the name was.

Anyhow, left for Brugge at the train station. I just missed the last train, so I was waiting for the next one. But I didn’t really understand the train situation, this being the first time taking an actual continental train. So I missed that train too. And also apparently it was on a different platform. So I finally caught the right train and got to Brugge.

Brugge is a really cute place. Very traditional cobblestone and small alleyway Europe. This is the small town one might dream of when thinking of “small European town”. I walked for a while to get to the hostel, but not too long since it only takes about 30 minutes to cross the entire town. I got into my room and immediately this girl asks where I’m from. When I said “California” she said “I called it!”, which makes me wonder how recognizable it is. Maybe it’s the long hair curling out of my hat? Maybe its the extremely relaxed disposition and countenance? Who knows. Anyhow, we both had just arrived so we decided to go explore.

First we went to the Belfry, which is a large clock-tower in the center of town. We walked up the 366 steps, which were all in a spiral so it was a little bit dizzying. Up at the top there was all the clock mechanisms and chimes and such, and it looked like one of those miniature song playing wind up toys where you have a central cylinder with bumps and some metal keys which it pushes when the cylinder rotates. While we were up there it actually started to play, which was exciting and really cool to watch. There was also a great view of the city.

Went back down and walked to the other side of town where we tried to find the happiest street in town. Supposedly there had been some suicides there (which doesn’t make any sense because it’s such a beautiful place), so they put up a couple signs telling people to have a good day and smile. We only saw one, and I forgot to get a picture. Walked a little past that and found some really cool windmills. Thats when I realized I had no idea what the girl’s name was. It was Celine. Anyhow, the windmills were cool.

We went back to the plaza with the Belfry because our map talked a bit about two competing stands at the foot of the Belfry. These stands sold amazing “fritkok”, or fries. Since there were two of us, we decided to buy one from each and try them to test what was better. We sat down in the square, one fries with ketchup (so touristy american) and one with special sauce (A mix of mayonais, ketchup and mustard). Both fries were absolutely amazing. We couldn’t really decide at first, but eventually I decided I liked mine better. Celine of course thought hers was better. Mine was crispier (though she didn’t think so). Either way, we ate a lot of dust since all this grit blew into the fries while we were eating them.

We then went back to the hostel to chill some more. I took a shower and Celine read Angels and Demons. Eventually happy hour came around and we went down to enjoy beers for 1 euro each. We met up with some others and all ordered two beers each. We got to the table, and while I was sitting down my knee bumped the table and EVERYTHING shook. Each person managed to quickly grab both of their beers except for me, who could only grab one while the other tipped over and poured itself all out into the ash tray and a bit onto the table. So that was quite an amazing party foul and we then had an ash tray full of beer.

Despite that, we had a pretty good time. Played a drinking game called “Fuck You” where it was something with cards and a bit like the card game Asshole. It was also a good way to learn people’s names. After drinking a lot, we went out into the night. Some went to bed, but the rest of us went with the bartender to this other bar across town. It was still open, but when I got there I didn’t really find much enjoyment, and talked in italian with some spanish people for a bit before heading back. I was really tired.

Day 18 – Brugge

We got up and went to the Chocolate Museum with Celine, Alex and Daryl. Alex and Daryl were kind of acting like asses in the museum, but it was interesting. We saw this demonstration on how they make chocolates filled with caramel centers. Then they gave them to us and they tasted absolutely amazing. We walked around the exhibit, up several floors with the various information about the chocolate world. I was kind of hoping for more of a Willy Wonka type experience, but oh well.

We went back to the central plaza where there happened to be a great market with all sorts of meat and cheese and vegetables and fruits. I got a nectarine and some sort of meat/spring roll patty. Good but could have been hotter. We went back to the hostel and chilled there while Alex and Daryl ate their food and Celine finished Angels and Demons. Then Alex and Daryl left for their train to somewhere, and Celine’s sister came some time after. Celine and I wanted to go on this pub tour, so we all went to that area and got some beers to drink. Her sister was pretty cool, and those two had split up earlier in their trip. Lots of interesting stories.

Her sister left and we went on the tour. The guide had a very wry sense of humor and it was quite hilarious. Pretty standard beer tour otherwise, with a short view of the city. It was nice. We got our free beers at the end, and met with some other people traveling. Some people near us left their table without even drinking all of their beers, one of which was completely untouched, so we decided to take it for ourselves.

On the way back we got some spaghetti and other materials for dinner, which we were making with this other guy from California. Got back to the hostel, which had a pretty good kitchen, and started making a huge spaghetti dinner. We needed butter so I went on a long trip to get some. On the way back I saw a store right nearby the hostel I could have gone to, but whatever. We made some buttered white asparagus, spaghetti with a sauce made with all sorts of vegetables, and bread (dipped into the leftover butter in the asparagus pan). It was a feast. So amazing. We hung out for a while, and the other people from the pub joined us, and another guy from Scotland, and suddenly it was happy hour again, and we all drank some more.

After the hostel bar closed we went out to try to find another bar. We were trying to get to a jazz club, but they had just closed when we got there. We went to the other hostel and had a few drinks there. Chilled a lot. Then we came back and chilled at our hostel again, and then eventually retired.