So when this little vacation adventure was in it’s early planning stages, Bob and I discussed where we might want to go for a side trip. Last year we headed to Edinburgh since it is very close (relatively speaking) to Brad and Emmie and probably my favorite city (possible exception of DC) in the world. This year we decided on Brussels. Actually we decided on Belgium for the chocolate and beer and made Brussels our home base. We did a lot of searching for exactly what we wanted to do before we ever left the states and came up with three things – a specific bar for Bob (2400 beers should mean he has plenty to choose from) a chocolate shop for me (174,000 tons of chocolate processed in Belgium each year, I should be able to find something I like) and maybe see Parliament or visit the museum there. We also decided on a side trip to Ghent (or Gent depending on the map you are looking at) where I picked out a museum and a church I wanted to see.
So how did we do? We made it to Brussels with no problems what-so-ever. We found the hotel on Bob’s map app on his phone and hiked our way there … Only to find that is was the wrong hotel (right name, wrong location). Apparently this happens a lot at this hotel and it was pretty funny after we recovered from the walk. Happened to us since we try to walk just about everywhere. 1.2 miles … No problem. 80 NYC blocks, sure. But the front desk was very helpful, found us a cab and made sure the driver knew where we were going.
Once we had relaxed a bit, we headed back out to the city. First stop – shoes without backs for me. I would be fine walking all over the place with shoes with no backs (blisters you know) so that was a priority. Second Bob insisted we find the chocolate shop I had read about and was so excited to try. It was a little off the path, but still easy to find. What we found was a beautiful shop that smelled exactly like every childhood dream of a chocolate shop and had a very warm staff and amazing chocolate. The shop had a great little menu that gave us a chance to taste a little of the chocolate before deciding how much to buy. Not if, but how much. So we each did a tea over ice and split something called Oliver’s brownie. (See picture above) I can safely say this was the best brownie I have ever tasted and I think I have to give up my quest for the perfect brownie recipe. I will never be able to recreate this brownie and it is sad because it was amazing. Yes, Mom, I shared with Bob but only because I love him so much. I could have easily eaten two of those all by myself. We picked up a large box of assorted chocolates
to bring back to England to share with everyone.
After the chocolate (and before I could eat the entire shop) we went to find Bob a bar I had read about. Delirium is one of Bob’s favorite beers and so when I found a bar in Brussels we had to go. We found a little table in the outdoor area – which is really just the alley, but it works.
We grabbed one of the only empty tables in the area, near the back
and sat for a bit. We noticed something strange as we sat there – small groups of tourists would come down the alley, stop right across from us, look at the fountain, take a picture and leave. Some dropped coins in the fountain, but most came, talked amongst themselves, took the picture and headed back out. It was weird. The plaque near the fountain said it was build in 1985, so we were having trouble understanding.
. It is just a little statue that “pees” into the fountain base. We didn’t understand but decided just to go for with it and not question too much. However, for people watching, we lucked out onto the perfect spot across from that statue.
Saturday we decided to sleep in a little then head to Ghent. This means I missed my museum of Parliament but that’s ok. Outside the train station at Ghent we noticed something
Bikes. Tons and tons of bikes just lined up as though in a car park in the U.S. Not a bad thing at all, just unexpected and a little unusual to us.
Ghent is beautiful and we walked to the old city where we discovered a festival going on (turns out it is the annual music festival). There were stages set up, tents set up and it was a little difficult to figure out where to go and where specific things were because of all of the people. It didn’t help that everything (and I do mean everything) was in, I’m guessing Flemish or Dutch. It wasn’t French and I didn’t see English anywhere. This made getting lunch rather interesting. We found a great little place right on the river.
Lunch proved an interesting experience. Ghent is in the Flemish portion of Belgium which means everything is written in, I think, Dutch. It could be Flemish or German, but I’m pretty sure it was Dutch. Neither Bob nor I speak, read, understand or comprehend Dutch at all. So when the menu was totally in Dutch I panicked just a little. Given that I can’t have fish, I was a little nervous. Bob settled on the lunch special (salmon, steak and ice cream). I made out “vegetarian” in one section of the menu and picked a ravioli dish. Turns out, it was incredible. Cheese ravioli with roasted veggies and a basil olive oil sauce.
After lunch we wandered, looking for the church or town hall museum. We found neither, but we did find a castle.
This turned out to be the “Castle of the Count” of Flanders. It was a smaller castle than some, but well preserved and really interesting – although I know I missed some stuff not being able to read Dutch. The torture room was really interesting if somewhat disturbing. Ok very disturbing, but still interesting.
The views more than made up for the disturbing torture instruments.
After the castle we wandered a little more, enjoyed the town, got more chocolate the headed back to Brussels.
We had dinner in a little square near the hotel, which is across from Parliament. It was so cool just to see the building, listen to all the languages around us and each other for the evening. It was a great way to end our time on the continent.